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A.J. Walkley: Why Would Someone Not Want To Identify As Bisexual?

Bi the Bi: Two Bi Writers on Big Bi Issues

This blog post is part of an ongoing conversation between two bisexual activists. A.J. Walkley and Lauren Michelle Kinsey are both monogamous, bisexual, cisgender females who are in long-term relationships. A.J. is in a relationship with a cisgender male, and Lauren is in a relationship with a cisgender female. Both A.J. and Lauren are committed to remaining visible as bisexuals in spite of society's tendency to want to label A.J. as heterosexual and Lauren as a lesbian. Together they came up with the idea for "Bi the Bi: Two Bi Writers on Big Bi Issues" as a way to help eliminate stereotypes and bias against people in the bisexual community.

Question: Why would someone not want to identify as bisexual?

A.J: The stereotypes, the biases, the invisibility, the lack of inclusion: These might be considered the top four reasons that many individuals who would otherwise readily identify as bisexual decide to maintain a distance from the label. Due to a general misunderstanding of bisexuality, a large part of society views bisexual individuals as cheaters, confused, indecisive, greedy and incapable of monogamy; members of the straight community and LGT communities don't trust entering into relationships with bisexuals in some cases, believing that we will ultimately leave them for someone of another sex or gender; when in relationships, bisexuals are seen as the sexuality that goes along with their significant other at the time (heterosexual if in a seemingly opposite-sex relationship, or homosexual if in a seemingly same-sex relationship); and due to all of these aforementioned assumptions, bisexuals often feel left out of both the straight community and the overall LGBT community. When you consider all of this misinformation surrounding bisexuals, it becomes a lot clearer why someone might not want to associate with the identity at all.

At the same time, bisexuals who are out and outspoken about their sexuality get gruff for throwing it in peoples' faces. Lauren, you yourself spoke about this issue in your blog post "My Bisexual FAQ" a few months back.

Lauren: When I think about this topic, so many stories come to mind. For example, I have a bisexual friend who's married to a man. She'll tell straight people she's bisexual because she knows she's giving up straight privilege when she comes out as bi. However, she won't tell lesbian or gay people. She doesn't want them to think she's a heterosexual who's lying about being part of the lesbian and gay community in order to gain access to the support those communities have built up for themselves. A bisexual woman who's with a man or a bisexual man who's with a woman might share my friend's fear of what lesbians and gays will think of them for claiming the identity of bisexual.

As a bisexual woman who's with another woman, I'm concerned that lesbian and gay people will assume I identify as bisexual because I'm ashamed to be lesbian. I'm also concerned that transgender people and gender-nonconforming people will imagine that I'm prejudiced against them. The idea that bisexuals are more transphobic than other groups arises because some folks mistakenly believe that all bisexuals are only attracted to cisgendered and gender-normative men and women. Other people may share my concerns about being misunderstood by gays, lesbians and gender-nonconforming people, and having those concerns may keep them from wanting to identify as bisexual.

A.J.: I can definitely attest to the fear of coming out to lesbian and gay individuals as bisexual for similar reasons, Lauren. Instead of being seen as ashamed of a lesbian identity as you fear, however, being that I am in a "straight-seeming" relationship with a cisgender male, I have an internalized biphobic fear that the lesbian and gay communities will not accept me whatsoever. I don't want anyone to think I am straddling any fences in order to enjoy the "best of both worlds," taking advantage of straight privilege while also identifying with the greater LGBT+ community. I try to be as vocal as possible about my bisexuality in order to distance myself from the possibility of being seen as enjoying straight privilege of any kind.

And yet, being vocal can bring even more grief, which in turn might cause some bisexuals to be less likely to outwardly identify as bisexual. As an activist, I have received hate mail, hate tweets and vitriolic comments on my posts and blogs. It takes years to develop a thick skin against a lot of the biphobia we encounter, and even then, certain comments can sting. For the youth who are still coming to terms with their bisexuality, I can imagine how reading hateful comments online regarding bisexuality could make them crawl right back into the proverbial closet.

Lauren: I'm so sorry you've had hate mail and attacking comments, A.J. Thank you for being a courageous out bisexual despite the hostility you've faced. Knowing you has made me prouder of my identity and more protected from the wounds inflicted by biphobia. I'm sure you've given that gift to many.

I could write about today's topic forever. The longer I think about it, the more reasons I think of. No wonder the bisexual community has a visibility problem. It's a vicious cycle. The invisibility supports ignorance, the ignorance supports intolerance, the intolerance makes people want to stay in the closet, and the closet makes our community invisible. How will it ever end?

Readers, it's your turn: Are you bisexual but afraid to use that term to describe yourself? Are you monosexual but able to empathize? Can you understand why someone who can be attracted to more than one gender might want to avoid calling themselves bisexual? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments.

If you have any questions that you'd like us to discuss as part of this series, please email us at bithebi.blog@gmail.com.

31
Jan
2013

Dennis Bogorad: Finding Support

I met my partner, Ron, in Detroit in 1973. We lived together, moved across the country and shared everything, including a simultaneous double diagnosis of prostate cancer in 2003.

Meeting just a few years after Stonewall, we did not feel safe sharing our secret relationship with anyone. We daily feared being caught. Five years later, we moved to Los Angeles where we could live a more open life, but still we shied away from gay causes or politics. By nature, we were the kind of people who relied exclusively on each other. Only after we were overwhelmed from our mutual struggle with cancer did I turn to the gay community for support. I then searched for gay role models with cancer and for support groups. I found neither.

Ron and I were diagnosed at the same time but the course of treatment for our prostate cancers was radically different. I had my prostate removed and needed no follow up treatment.

However, Ron's cancer was far more aggressive and his treatment options did not include surgery. He endured chemical castration, testosterone deprivation, and 45 rounds of Taxotere, a chemotherapy drug that is also used for breast cancer treatment. My life partner of 33 years, Ron Winokur, died in 2006. He was 58 years old; I was 56. I looked for prostate cancer support groups for gay men while Ron was still alive, then for support groups for gay men who had lost their partners. There were none. I felt alone.

I was reminded of my loss when I recently learned that Huell Howser, California's TV version of Will Rogers and a gay man, died of prostate cancer. He was a great story teller and I wish he had taken the opportunity to tell this last story before he passed. There is a growing list of public figures who presented themselves as role models when they were diagnosed with prostate cancer. This list includes Senator Bob Dole, Robert De Niro, Warren Buffet, General Colin Powell, and California's Governor Brown, to name a few.

It would have been an invaluable message if the much loved Huell Howser went public with a simple message encouraging gay men to get regular PSA testing. If caught early, prostate cancer does not have to be a terminal disease. Early detection can often lead to a complete cure, but early detection is the key. And too many gay men are not getting tested. According to the CDC, 28,088 American men die annually of prostate cancer. Statistically, one in six men will be diagnosed in their life time. And even more dramatic, one in five men of African descent will be diagnosed in their life time. How many of these are gay? We don't know.

Why didn't Huell Howser go public with his prostate cancer diagnosis? He never publically addressed being gay either, but he never kept it a secret from the gay community of Los Angeles. Did he fear a negative response from the viewing public, his sponsors, friends and doctors? Was he cared for by a life partner and did they find support for the toll that his treatment (or lack of treatment, we don't really know) and death took on their relationship? Was he brave enough to ask his doctors about the impact of cancer treatment on his sexuality? If he did ask, did the doctor know the answer?

Rejection, discrimination and stigma are the near-universal triumvirate for gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people. Many LGBT people build their lives on an early foundation of rejection and it can take its toll later in life in mistrust/avoidance of the healthcare system, lack of openness with one's doctor's and poor skills at taking care of our bodies. As a group, we smoke at approximately twice the national rate and we are far more likely to use and abuse alcohol. Both of these increase our prostate cancer risk. Add to all this the dramatically lower rate of health insurance coverage in this population and it makes me wonder if Howser received regular PSA tests. He was known as an intensely private person and we will never know.

I am grateful today for organizations like the National LGBT Cancer Network, founded just one year after Ron's death. Their mission includes educating the LGBT community about our increased cancer risks and the importance of screening and early detection. They also created a national directory of LGBT-welcoming free/low cost cancer screening facilities that is available on their website. They want to keep expanding the database until every LGBT person is in driving/subway distance of one. I am still waiting, though, for a prominent and beloved gay man to speak out, encouraging us all to get an annual PSA test, to take good care of our bodies.

I have come a long hard way from that closeted gay man who met his partner in Detroit. I didn't understand for many years that we have to all work together to make a change in the lives of the next generation of gay men. My own personal experiences have opened my eyes to help do my share. In May, 2011, I started the LA Gay Men's Prostate Cancer Support Group, followed by the Gay Men's Sexual Dysfunction Support Group. I started both of these groups from ground zero by financing them myself and by volunteering my time in building and promoting them. All my work is dedicated to my late life partner, Ron Winokur. I know if he were alive he would be the first to help with my effort to stamp out prostate cancer by offering this one simple message: an annual PSA tests is a simple thing to do. It may even save your life. If you would like to help me in my mission to develop more gay men's support groups around the country please contact my organization at GMSHF@yahoo.com or the National LGBT Cancer Network at www.cancer-network.org

This post was written with the help of Liz Margolies, LCSW & Executive Director of the National LGBT Cancer Network.

31
Jan
2013

Michael G. Long: Coretta’s Big Dream: Coretta Scott King on Gay Rights

If Bernice King, now head of the King Center in Atlanta, wants to advance her father's dream at this year's 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, she can do no better than to follow the courageous example set by her mother, Coretta Scott King, a longtime advocate for LGBT rights.

Mrs. King was -- and remains -- a hero in the LGBT community. And with good reason. For more than twenty years before her death in 2006, she fought tirelessly for gay rights and linked the civil rights movement with the LGBT rights movement, believing all the while that her work was a faithful expression of the inclusive dream shared by her husband.

Mrs. King's first public foray into the gay rights movement occurred during her steady leadership of the 20th anniversary of the 1963 march. During the run-up to the anniversary, King withstood the tide of social conservatism and pledged her support for the Gay and Civil Rights Act then before Congress -- a groundbreaking bill that would have prohibited discrimination against gays and lesbians in housing, employment and public accommodations.

Encouraged by gay and lesbian leaders, Mrs. King also made space for the black poet and openly lesbian Audre Lorde in the anniversary rally's line-up of speakers. Given the homophobia of some civil rights leaders taking part in the rally, King's decision to make room for a lesbian speaker was nothing short of prophetic. So was Lorde's brief speech:

I am Audre Lorde, speaking for the National Coalition of Black Gays. Today's march openly joins the black civil rights movement and the gay civil rights movement in the struggles we have always shared, the struggle for jobs, for health, for peace and for freedom. We marched in 1963 with Dr. Martin Luther King and dared to dream that freedom would include us, because not one of us is free to choose the terms of our living until all of us are free to choose the terms of our living.

Mrs. King's public advocacy for gay and lesbian rights increased after the Supreme Court ruled, in Bowers v. Hardwick, that gays did not have a constitutional right to engage in consensual sodomy. After that shocking decision in 1986, King's longtime friend, Winston Johnson, came out to her and asked her to speak at a Human Rights Campaign Fund dinner in New York. She happily agreed and took the occasion to express her "solidarity with the gay and lesbian movement."

In the mid-1980s, Mrs. King also counseled and comforted gay friends suffering from the ravages of HIV and AIDs. With help from her special assistant Lynn Cothren, an openly gay man, she created a welcoming environment at the King Center and used the Center's resources to educate the local community about the disease. King was so touched when one of her close gay friends died that she hosted his family and circle of friends for a quiet day of sewing stitches on a panel that would become part of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. The green panel with gold stitching, still available for viewing at the Quilt's website, offers a simple message: "Michael Genser -- Living the Dream."

Mrs. King's advocacy continued into the 1990s and the twenty-first century.

In 1993 she held a press conference urging President Clinton to stop the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. Many gays and lesbians, she stated at the time, had marched in the civil rights movement, giving her every reason to return the support they had so freely offered African-Americans in the 1950s and 60s.

In 1994 Mrs. King stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Sen. Ted Kennedy and Rep. Barney Frank as they introduced the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), which would have prohibited discrimination against workers based on their sexual orientation.

And in 2002, after a vicious beating of a gay man at Morehouse College, Mrs. King roundly denounced the "toxic" virus of homophobia and called for an increase in public funding for diversity education.

Her fearless approach to gay rights reached new heights when she publicly denounced President George W. Bush's support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and defining marriage as "a union of a man and a woman as husband and wife." Speaking before a college audience in 2004, Mrs. King stated: "Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union." Even more pointedly, she added: "A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage is a form of gay bashing and it would do nothing to protect traditional marriages." The implication of her point was clear: President Bush had wrongly endorsed gay bashing.

From the earliest days of her advocacy, Coretta Scott King remained firmly convinced that her husband would have supported her campaign for LGBT rights. She frequently cited his claim that "justice is indivisible," and often stated that she took inspiration from his inclusive dream and the awful ways it remained unfulfilled.

At last, Coretta Scott King believed that by fighting for gay rights, she was simply helping to build "the beloved community of Martin Luther King, Jr., where all people can live together in a spirit of trust and understanding, harmony, love and peace."

She was right about that, and I was glad to see her daughter Bernice, known for her opposition to gay marriage, finally showing public signs of support for it. Let's hope she follows the example of her mother's bravery and dreams anew -- with love, justice and peace for all -- as she celebrates the 50th anniversary of the March.

31
Jan
2013

Perry Brass: Confessions Of A Gay Boy Scout

Recently The New York Times reported that the Boy Scouts of America leadership was considering lifting the national ban on gay scouts and scout leaders and leaving it to local scout troops to decide the issue for themselves. I think this is a wise choice for several reasons. Basically it means that troops at evangelical Christian churches all over America (and, believe me, they are no longer just in the Bible Belt; they are all over the U.S.) will not have to be disbanded. The same goes for Mormon troops, Seventh Day Adventist troops and basically any troop connected to one of those fundamentalist organizations that hate queerness no matter how much of it is embedded in their members' DNA. Now these organizations will not have to start organizing their own versions of the Boy Scouts, which is a good thing, because I guarantee that those alternative scouting troops would not be out there to "help other people at all times," although they would still swear to be "morally straight" -- or at least sexually so. It also means that Boy Scout troops at many public schools, Unitarian churches, progressive synagogues and other progressive religious groups can now openly admit gay scouts (and there are a lot of them; kids are now coming out as young as 11, 12 or 13). And as for gay (or gay-ish) scout leaders, they're still going to be around and can now exhale.

Scouting has always -- always -- been as queer as a $3 bill. It was founded in England in 1907 by Robert Stephenson Smythe Baden-Powell (that's Lord Baden-Powell to you), one of those hairy-chested confirmed bachelors of the Victorian era who adored the rugged outdoors and the "boy's life." Baden-Powell modeled scouting after a cadet corps of white boys formed during the Second Boer War against the Zulus in South Africa. The idea was that these strong-hearted, loyal chappies could take certain burdens off the real fighting men (fetch them water, clean their guns, etc.), and Baden-Powell found himself hugely impressed by the ability of these boys in a quasi-military environment to discipline themselves, do real work and take on the jingoistic ideals of regular white guys against the Zulus.

According to biographer Tim Jeal, Baden-Powell loved the boy's life so much that one of his great joys was watching naked boys exercise, and he kept and treasured pictures of these young guys through most of his life. Baden-Powell did marry later in life -- much later, at 55 -- to a young woman named Olave St. Claire Soames, who was 23. After they were married, Baden-Powell started having extremely painful headaches, which a doctor told him were psychosomatic. He cured the situation by sleeping away from Olave, but they managed to have three kids: a son, Peter, who became the next Lord Baden-Powell, and two daughters. In 1908 Baden Powell published Scouting for Boys (the basis for the Boy Scout Handbook), which was an instant success. It has sold about 150 million copies and is the fourth bestselling book of the 20th century. Scouting for Boys was recently re-released by Oxford University Press. It is one of the great hoots of any period. The tone of it has a sincerity impossible to duplicate in our era of Bravo reality-show snideness.

"A scout has to be able to notice small details just as much by night as by day and he has to do this chiefly by listening, occasionally by feeling or smelling" (Lord Robert Baden-Powell, Scouting for Boys, 1908).

I was a Boy Scout for two years when I was 11 and 12. I loved scouting. For any boy growing up in Savannah, Ga., in the 1950s and early '60s, there were basically three models of boyhood: Christian fundamentalism (congratulations, you're now a church eunuch!), Little League baseball or pee wee football (all-American brain-dead ladhood) and the Boy Scouts. The Boy Scouts opened up everything, with a wider range of acceptable feelings, behaviors, experiences and relationships than you could experience anywhere else. It was an escape from Little League baseball, church indoctrination, and anything else you really wanted to escape, like your parents, especially your mom. Moms were den mothers for Cub Scouts, but at 11 you became a real Boy Scout, and then you got to wave goodbye to her as you left for weekend camping trips, summer scout camp and the National Jamboree, a wonderful event held every four years.

I never got to a Jamboree (my parents were way too poor to send me to something like that), but the amazing thing about them was that they were racially integrated decades before scouting as a whole was, so that white scouts from the Deep South could meet black scouts either from the North or from all-black troops in the South -- if these troops could afford to send their boys there, of course.

Part of being a scout was reading Boys' Life magazine, published by the Boy Scouts of America in Washington, D.C. For me it was the distillation of what wholesome boyhood should be about; it was like a constant Doris Day movie for lads. According to Boys' Life, boys -- that is, real, bona fide scouting boys -- were heroic, always kept their cool in a crisis, were in tip-top shape, had no fear of anything except possibly girls (there was never a vagina in the entire magazine, except for a mom or two, and we were sure they didn't have one), were loyal to the U.S. in the midst of the Cold War and had a modesty that, in the age of Justin Bieber, seems right out of Ivanhoe or a biography of the Venerable Bede.

This does not mean that in scouting, hanky-panky did not exist. A lot went on in the tents that you'd never tell Mom, Dad or anyone else about. You could call it "normal sexual exploration," with some circle jerking, but I saw nothing that was either coercive or predatory. (I know: Keep your blood pressure down, Ye Sons and Daughters of the Driven Holiness School of Kidhood.)
But there was often the "boner" possibility, and after lights out, things were done with them.

I had my first crush on a boy at summer scout camp when I was 11. I didn't even know it was a crush, but I loved meeting him in the woods, where we'd hike together, talk about school and smile a lot. It was wonderful; I can still remember what he looked like. Scout camp was about wood lore, marvelous (bloodless) fictions of American Indian life and learning how to tell directions using the sun. I learned how to sharpen a knife, pitch a pup tent, start a fire and suck poison from snake bites (I'm grateful I didn't have to practice that one), and I learned that some boys would be your wonderful friends and others revolting bullies -- unfortunately, another part of boyhood.

But what I never learned was to dislike anyone, nor to judge people by anything other than how "brave, clean and reverent" they were. What 11-year-old kid growing up in poverty after the recent death of his father would not love that?

Many years later, when I was about 24, I had a boyfriend who, during our third or fourth sleepover together, confessed to me that he was a "lifelong scout." He'd been a Life Scout (a rung below Eagle) and never left scouting. He went on Jamborees and was attached to a troop. I thought he was nuts. By this time, when the Vietnam War was still news, not only was I too old for scouting but I was sure that it was, as I told him, "a proto-fascist organization." He was deeply hurt. His name was Jim, and I hope he's happy now, and I hope he's still a scout.

I am also happy that boys all over America can have an oxygenating alternative not just to Little League and fundamentalist churches (even if they're still the sponsors of many troops) but to the heavy metal cynicism and childhood-destroying irony that has stopped too many boys from seriously dreaming about the next Jamboree.

Perry Brass is the author of 16 books. His latest is King of Angels: A Novel About the Genesis of Identity and Belief, which was awarded a Bronze Ippy for Best Young Adult Novel of 2012. His previous book was The Manly Art of Seduction. Both books are available as ebooks and in print. He is currently working on a book about the power of desire and can be reached through his website, perrybrass.com.

31
Jan
2013

Former NFL star revealed to be gay

Kwame Harris, football, NFL, San Francisco 49ers, gay news, Washington Blade

Kwame Harris (Photo courtesy San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office)

SAN FRANCISCO — Kwame Harris, a former lineman for NFL teams the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders, was charged with attacking his ex-boyfriend this week. Harris was not known to be gay prior to the arrest.

According to the Mercury News, an argument over soy sauce in the parking lot of a Menlo Park restaurant turned violent and Harris is now facing felony domestic violence charges for assaulting Dimitri Grier of Los Angeles, breaking bones around Grier’s eye sockets. Grier and Harris had been in a four-year on-again-off-again relationship.

Harris’ attorney claims Grier threw the first punch, and claims Harris was acting in self-defense. Harris plans to plead not guilty to the charges.

31
Jan
2013

Openly Gay, Female UFC Fighter Makes History

When MMA fighter Liz Carmouche signed to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in December, she became the first openly gay fighter to join the organization. In February, she'll add another accomplishment to her sports roster when she competes in the UFC's first-ever female fight, going head-to-head with Ronda Rousey.

On HuffPost Live Thursday, Carmouche acknowledged that she's had a lot to be proud of lately.

"Everybody from the fans I had before to the new supporters have been nothing but positive," Carmouche told HuffPost Live's Alyona Minkovski.

Carmouche has only been competing in mixed martial arts for three years. Prior to that, the 28-year-old served in the Marine Corps, completing three tours of duty in the Middle East.

Carmouche, who served during the era of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," said it was a difficult period of her life.

"Unfortunately, I wasn't in a command that embraced homosexuality at all, and in fact, most of them were homophobes," Carmouche said. "It was very difficult to come into my own and come into my own sexuality in the military under that policy."

Now that her focus is fighting in the UFC, Carmouche told HuffPost Live that she is grateful to have found such an "incredibly accepting community."

"Here I am thinking I was going to receive a lot of animosity in mixed martial arts, and I've found quite the opposite," she said.

Carmouche will face off against Ronda Rousey in the first-ever female UFC fight on Feb. 23, 2013, in Anaheim, Calif.

Watch the Full Interview on HuffPost Live.

31
Jan
2013

Top strategist to depart HRC

HRC, bomb threat, gay news, Washington Blade

Human Rights Campaign headquarters in Washington, D.C.(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON — The top policy and strategy strategist at the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy organization will depart this summer, according to a statement released earlier this week.

David Smith, who joined the organization in 1995, led efforts to make the Human Rights Campaign “a household name,” according to a statement on Smith by HRC President Chad Griffin, who also credits Smith with helping to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” and the passage of federal hate crime protections, as well as helping create the HRC National Dinner, where Bill Clinton became the first sitting U.S. president to address an LGBT advocacy group.

“Those of you who have worked with David directly know him to be incredibly passionate, kind, hard-working and generous,” Griffin’s statement reads. “He’s been a mentor, a sounding-board, and an advocate for good ideas wherever they emerge.”

31
Jan
2013

Anti-gay groups speak out in Prop 8, DOMA briefs

The Family Research Council, headed by Tony Perkins filed briefs in the Prop 8 and DOMA cases (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Family Research Council, headed by Tony Perkins, filed briefs in the Prop 8 and DOMA cases. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Anti-gay groups — ranging from the Family Research Council to the Westboro Baptish Church — filed friend-of-the-court briefs before the Supreme Court this week asking justices to uphold California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.

The briefs filed on Tuesday assert the same arguments seen repeatedly in opposition to a fundamental right to same-sex marriage, such as the inability of gay couples to procreate and the argument that being gay isn’t an immutable characteristic.

The Family Research Council, one the more prominent anti-gay groups opposed to same-sex marriage, filed briefs in both the Prop 8 and DOMA cases. In the Prop 8 brief, the group argues that the California ban on same-sex marriage isn’t discriminatory, among other reasons, because it enables any person to marry — so long as the other person is of the opposite sex.

“Proposition 8 treats men and women the same,” the brief states. “Both may marry someone of the opposite sex; neither may marry someone of the same sex.”

As Right Wing Watch points out, Family Research Council makes arguments on the political power of gays and lesbians that are contradictory. In the Prop 8 brief, the group notes that 30 states have amendments defining marriage as one man, one woman while arguing that “there is no ‘emerging awareness’ that the right to marry extends to same-sex couples.”

But in the DOMA brief, the group notes that three states voted in favor of marriage equality and Minnesota rejected an anti-gay marriage amendment to argue gay people aren’t a “politically powerless” group that need protection from discrimination.

“So when voters reject gay rights at the ballot box, they are reflecting public opinion,” concludes Right Wing Watch blogger Miranda Blue. “But when they vote in favor of gay rights, they have been ‘enlisted’ to the cause by powerful gay rights lobbyists.”

William Duncan, director of the Marriage Law Foundation, filed a brief on behalf of the National Organization for Marriage in the DOMA case, but identifies himself as a “scholar of history and related disciplines” in the Prop 8 case.

“When the People of California adopted Proposition 8, they acted to retain in their law an understanding of marriage that, until very recently, was recognized universally and without exception throughout time and across cultures,” Duncan said. “That conception of the institution of marriage has consistently been understood to advance crucial social interests in procreation, understood as the bearing and rearing of children.”

Duncan cites in his arguments a series of philosophers who’ve had an impact on American thinking, including Noah Webster and David Hume. The brief also cites a 1690 piece of writing from British philosopher John Locke, who said marriage “has no necessary form or function beyond this ‘chief end’ of procreation.”

Another brief in the Prop 8 case was filed by a coalition of black pastors, including the Coalition of African-American Pastors USA and the Frederick Douglass Foundation. That brief argues at length that the 1967 Supreme Court ruling in Loving v. Virginia striking down bans on interracial marriage shouldn’t be applied to gay couples.

“Loving can be distinguished from the current dispute over same-sex marriage,” the brief states. “Laws against miscegenation were designed to segregate the races, reinforcing the socially disadvantaged position of African-Americans. … By contrast, the traditional definition of marriage calls for mixing of the genders — integration not segregation — and therefore cannot be understood as an attempt to disadvantage either gender.”

During a news conference in September, Rev. William Owens, founder and president of the Coalition of African-American Pastors, admitted that he has limited financial ties to NOM. Owens said the group provides him and his wife a salary of $20,000 a year.

Notably, the brief isn’t signed by black pastors. The attorneys who signed the brief are Lynn Wardle, a law professor at Brigham Young University, and Stephen Kent Ehat, an attorney who does business as the Utah-based California Research Inc., and is a graduate of BYU law school.

Yet another brief was filed by three gay individuals who believe same-sex couples shouldn’t have the right to marry. They are David Benkof, ex-owner of the gay press syndicate Q Syndicate and now a resident of Israel; Robert Oscar Lopez, a bisexual award-winning writer who’s written comedies about same-sex couples raising children; and Doug Mainwaring, a gay writer who rethought the capability of same-sex unions to raise children after realizing the importance to his teenage sons of their mother’s presence in their lives. The brief is signed by Herbert Grey, a private attorney based in Beaverton, Ore.

“We, and they, believe gay people should be free to love and live as they choose but we also recognize that society has a right to express a rational preference for the kind of unions necessary to the survival of the whole society, and to the well-being of children,” the brief states. “Some gay, lesbian and bisexual people will benefit from this preference as they may marry a person of the opposite-sex.”

The brief by the Westboro Baptist Church, a virulently anti-gay Kansas-based organization known for picketing the funerals of service members with signs reading, “God Hates Fags,” makes arguments characteristic of its organization in briefs both for the Prop 8 case and DOMA case.

Westboro Baptist Church, gay news, gay politics dc

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

“This nation has gone astray, letting fornication, adultery, abortion-for-convenience-on-demand, divorce, remarriage and sodomy become the norm,” the church says in its DOMA brief. “Homosexuality is destructive in every way, to the individual and to the nation. Government should not put its seal of approval on that unholy union by issuing a marriage license. Government’s interest is in doing the opposite, for the good of the people and the nation.”

The brief is signed by Margie Phelps, daughter of church founder Fred Phelps, who has represented the church in a lawsuit against it before the Supreme Court.

Mary Bonauto, civil rights director for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, said the “anti-gay machine is alive and well,” but noted that each of the briefs takes a different approach to supporting Prop 8 and DOMA.

“As you would expect, some of the briefs were based a particular religious view,” Bonauto said. “Others claimed they were secular but simply reasoned based on certain religious principles. Others raised the religious freedom argument that it is a burden for objecting members of the public to have to deal with the existence of married gay people.”

Bonauto added, “Overall, none of these briefs raise a new issue and several are helpful to us.”

31
Jan
2013

Gay couple seeks to block U St. liquor licenses

Marc Morgan, Log Cabin Republicans, Republican Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay Republican activist Marc Morgan said a moratorium on liquor licenses would hurt economic development in his area. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Gay former Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Ramon Estrada and his partner, civic activist Elwyn Ferris, are playing a key role in what many believe will be a heated battle over whether the city should ban all new bars and restaurants with liquor licenses from opening in the rapidly developing 14th and U streets, N.W. corridor.

The recently formed Shaw-Dupont Citizens Alliance, for which Ferris serves as secretary and Estrada is a member, and the lesser known Residential Action Coalition, filed a petition in December with the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board calling for the moratorium.

Gay nightlife advocates, who strongly oppose such a moratorium, acknowledge that the proposal isn’t directed at gay bars or the gay community. But similar to their straight counterparts, they say the proposal would stifle economic development in a vibrant area where large numbers of LGBT people have moved because they embrace the nightlife amenities.

Neither Estrada nor Ferris returned a call from the Blade seeking their views on the issue.

Joan Sterling, president of Shaw-Dupont Citizens Alliance, said Estrada and Ferris are working with her in advocating for the moratorium. She said the moratorium is needed to help reverse what she believes is an alarming rise in crime, parking problems, trash and neighborhood disturbances due to the “over concentration” of liquor serving establishments.

“The issuance of further licenses in the zone would only exacerbate the problems that already affect our neighborhood,” said Sterling, who co-signed the 18-page petition her group and the Residential Action Coalition filed Dec. 10 with the ABC Board.

Opponents of the moratorium have lined up close to 800 people who signed an online petition urging the ABC Board to reject the proposal. Many of them, including gay nightlife advocate Mark Lee, argue that it’s unfair to blame all or most of the crime and other neighborhood problems on bars and restaurants.

They note that existing liquor license moratoriums in Georgetown, Dupont Circle, and Adams Morgan have not curtailed the problems they were supposed to address and, in some instances, resulted in vacant buildings that could have been occupied by restaurants.

“The Logan Circle, U Street and Shaw neighborhoods with large numbers of gay and lesbian residents overwhelmingly support the diverse dining, socializing and entertainment options we enjoy much more than we are willing to tolerate a tiny pseudo citizens group claiming to represent us while pressing for a liquor license moratorium,” Lee told the Blade.

“We don’t want to freeze development in a huge swath of our city with a rapidly growing population,” he said. “We want existing venues to grow and new establishments opening to meet rising demand and attracting other retail businesses…We want to preserve the vibrant community life that caused us to make these areas our home.”

Lee is a regular Blade columnist.

Sterling dismisses these arguments, saying there are 107 existing liquor licenses in the proposed moratorium zone.

“How can anyone claim this won’t remain a vibrant area for bars and restaurants?” she said.

The proposed moratorium would cover a circular area with an 1,800 foot radius, with the middle of the 1200 block of U Street being at the center. Small sections of neighborhoods in Dupont Circle, Logan Circle and Shaw would be covered along with U Street between 15th Street and 8th Street and surrounding streets.

In its northern most point, the area would extend to Clifton Street and its southern boundary would extend to R Street.

Gay ANC Commissioner Alexander Padro, who also serves as executive director of the community group Shaw Main Streets, Inc., said the proposed moratorium’s ban on new restaurants would have a harmful impact on Shaw.

“Restaurants are an important part of the quality of life that residents are seeking and supporting with their dollars,” he told the Blade. “Making it impossible for a newly constructed or newly vacant retail space to house a restaurant or bar could result in a long-term vacancy that would have serious repercussions for the property owner and the community.”

Under provisions of the city’s liquor law, the ABC Board is required to give “great weight” to the views of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions on liquor licensing matters, including a proposed moratorium. Padro’s ANC, ANC 6E; ANC 1B, which covers the 14th and U Street area; ANC 2F of Logan Circle, and 2B of Dupont Circle will all be weighing in on whether or not the moratorium should be approved.

Representatives of each of the four ANCs told the Blade they are currently assessing the views of the residents of their districts on the matter. Matt Raymond, chair of ANC 2F, and Noah Smith, a member of ANC 2B whose district is within the proposed moratorium area, said the four ANCs may hold a joint public hearing on the moratorium proposal in the next month or two.

“If we come to similar conclusions, our great weight will be ever greater with the ABC Board,” Smith said.

Gay Republican activist Marc Morgan, who was re-elected in November to his ANC 1B01 seat, said he too believes a moratorium would hurt businesses and economic development in his ANC area.

“We want to come up with a strong plan to address the problems raised by the advocates for a moratorium,” he said. “I don’t think a moratorium is the best way to address those problems.”

None of the ANC officials contacted by the Blade were willing to predict how their commissions would vote on the moratorium. However, sources familiar with the ANCs impacted by the moratorium have said at least three of the four ANCs are leaning against such a moratorium and would likely vote to oppose it.

If the ABC Board should vote to deny the moratorium petition, the matter would end, according to observers familiar with the process. However, if the board votes to approve it, the D.C. City Council has the authority to make the final decision on the matter.

Gay D.C. City Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who chairs the committee that oversees liquor licensing matters and in whose ward most of the moratorium zone is located, said he wants to hear from his constituents on the issue before taking a position. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) feels it is “premature” to weigh in on the issue, according to his communications director Mark Bjorge.

Kathryn Eckles, president of the Residential Action Coalition, told the Blade that although she and her group strongly support the moratorium, the RAC did not hold a meeting to officially vote to file the moratorium petition with the ABC Board.

ABC licensing consultant Andrew Kline, who specializes in liquor licensing and liquor law issues, said the law requires organizations filing a petition seeking a liquor license moratorium to hold a meeting with an advance notice to give all members of the organization an opportunity to vote on the issue.

It couldn’t immediately be determined whether the RAC’s apparent failure to hold a meeting to vote on the issue would disqualify the group from having legal standing to file the petition.

31
Jan
2013

Wyoming DP bill dead

Wyoming State Capitol, gay news, Washington Blade

Wyoming State Capitol Building (Photo by Babymestizo via Wikimedia Commons)

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — According to the Star-Tribune, a bill that passed out of committee earlier this week that would have extended domestic partnerships to same-sex couples in Wyoming, was voted down before the full house 35-24.

A Senate version of the bill is up for debate soon, but the fate of that bill is now in jeopardy with the House’s rejection.

Lawmakers in the Wyoming House Corporations Committee voted 7-2 to approve a bill that would create a domestic partnership system in the state, after first rejecting a bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in the state, 5-4.

The bill would have allowed same-sex couples to obtain the “rights, responsibilities, protections and benefits provided in Wyoming law for immediate family members,” according to the text of the bill.

31
Jan
2013