GOProud, the conservative group for gay conservatives and their allies, just appointed Andrew Breitbart to their board. However, Breitbart and his contributors at his BigPeace, BigGovernment, BigJournalism and BigHollywood sites have repeatedly engaged in incendiary anti-gay rhetoric. Additionally, his contributors have actively opposed the repeal of Don't ask Don't tell, and opposed GOProud's inclusion in the conservative conference CPAC.
Next up for Obama: Marriage equality for gay Americans
Less than a month after President Obama repealed "don't ask, don't tell," his Justice Department filed its latest brief defending the so-calledDefense of Marriage Act - the law that makes gay Americans second-class citizens by outlawing federal recognition of their legal marriages.
This action underscores the point that the battle over gay rights is just beginning.
There is a serious flaw in the president's position of viewing civil unions as a path to giving same-sex couples equal relationship recognition: The federal government does not recognize civil unions for the purposes of spousal benefits. In fact, no legislation to formalize civil unions exists at the federal level.
That means that advocates of civil unions, Obama included, are suggesting for lesbian and gay couples a status for which the federal government has no definition and no frame of reference within its codes, and one that provides no path to legal recognition.
Meanwhile, his administration continues to defend a law that expressly prohibits the federal government from honoring same-sex marriages, which are legal in five states and the District of Columbia.
With equality legislation stalled in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, one of the most significant advances Obama can make between now and his 2012 reelection campaign is to evolve fully on marriage equality.
The repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" was a turning point in the marriage discussion. It poses a major challenge and an opportunity for the president.
While he, like many Americans, grapples with the fact that civil unions provide no remedy for gay taxpayers with regard to federal spousal benefits, he has enlisted the most powerful lobby in the nation to work on behalf of gay rights - the U.S. military.
Once repeal is implemented, the military will begin to move toward eradicating the inequalities endured by gay service members.
Indeed, 67 percent of service members told the Pentagon's study group that lifting the ban would have a positive effect or no effect at all on readiness - surely those service members will care that their comrades in arms get equal treatment. I would bet they will insist on it.
From the January 19 broadcast of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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In a recent post, Mediaite's Tommy Christopher suggested that President Obama speak about the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) and his own "evolving" position on marriage equality at the State Of The Union (SOTU):
At Tuesday's White House briefing, Robert Gibbs fielded several questions about the status of the repeal of DOMA (The Defense of Marriage Act), which he said, "given the current makeup of the Congress," would be "inordinately challenging."
Given President Obama's recent remarks about his "evolving" opinion on same-sex marriage, and the fact that he used last year's State of the Union address to promise the repeal of DADT, I asked Gibbs if the President might address the DOMA repeal, and his personal views on gay marriage, at this year's SOTU.
Rather than make an obviously empty promise to repeal DOMA, or even to hold a symbolic vote (that would, let's be honest here, put many Democrats in a tough spot, let alone Republicans), the President could speak honestly about his own struggle with the issue of same-sex marriage, and the ideas and stories that have influenced his personal feelings on the matter. In doing so, he would also bring into stark relief the fact that, even after the landmark repeal of DADT, equality under the law is still outside the grasp of many Americans.
It's true that, as it stands, there seems to be little that can be done to change the law, but an orator of President Obama's considerable skill could definitely change a few minds.
In a January 18 Washington Times op-ed, Robert Knight attacked the memorial service for the victims of the shootings in Tucson, Arizona, calling it the "first major campaign event of the 2012 presidential election" and asking, "When, for instance, have you been to a memorial service where cheers and yells punctuated the eulogy and where political campaign T-shirts were draped over seats or given out to mourners at the door?"
In fact, contrary to Knight's claim that the shirts provided at the service were "political campaign T-shirts," PolitiFact noted that "officials at the University of Arizona said the White House had nothing to do with the name or the logo."
Moreover, Knight attacked Obama for using the phrase "life partners" during the service, calling it a "calculated element" of Obama's speech and that "[i]n the not too distant past, a president would have paid homage to the victims' marriages without stretching for politically correct 'inclusion.'"
Knight further attacked Obama for his comments about 9-year-old victim Christina Taylor Green:
"I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it. I want America to be as good as she imagined it. All of us, we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations."
Well, hold on. Children, God bless them, are not morally superior. In fact, they plot and hoard and steal and throw tantrums. It takes a lifetime to burnish away the layers of selfishness that plague us all. Psalm 53 reminds us that "there is none who does good, no, not one." This idea that we can learn from innocent children is a liberal fallacy originating in Rousseau's myth of the noble savage.
I have been attacked by Rush Limbaugh on the air, an experience somewhat akin to being gummed by a newt. It doesn't actually hurt, but it leaves you with slimy stuff on your ankle.
However, every once in a while Limbaugh digs deep and comes up something really, really terrible. Today, for example, he said this:
LIMBAUGH: The 1980s were just a vitrolic as they were today. Reagan was called a Nazi just like Bush was. Nothing's different. It was -- folks, if you weren't alive then or if you weren't old enough to be paying attention, do not doubt me. The hatred for Ronald Reagan was universal in the Democrat Party and throughout the media.
These people blamed AIDS on Reagan. Sound familar? They blamed homelessness on Reagan -- you know why they blamed AIDS on Reagan? Because he didn't care. Because he never delivered a speech about it. And because of that, AIDS was spread. They actually wanted us to believe that Reagan had the disease, was sneaking into gay people's houses at night, and impregnating them with the disease and running out. And when we left their houses he went over to Grant Park, or wherever it was, Lafayette Park and stole the pork and beans of the homeless and took them back to the White House and fixed them up and at them. That's that kind of stuff they were saying about Reagan. [emphasis added]
That's right, Democrats and the media "wanted us to believe Reagan had [AIDS], was sneaking into gay people's houses at night, impregnating them with the disease, and running out." Just take a minute to let that sink in.
First of all, lots of people and groups, including the then-director of San Francisco's Department of Health Mervyn Silverman, Reagan's biographer Lou Cannon, Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA), then-Senator Lowell Weicker (R-CT), and the National Academy of Sciences, have criticized Reagan's response to the emerging AIDS epidemic. Reagan refused to mention the disease for seven years -- while thousands of people were dying -- instead of educating the public about the disease. After finally mentioning the disease in 1987, the President reportedly proposed cutting funding to the National Institutes of Health program that was heading AIDS research. Reagan's Surgeon General C. Everett Koop was even initially prevented prevented from addressing the crisis publically and reportedly stated that he was personally cut out of all AIDS discussions in the White House for the first five years of Reagan's presidency because the president's advisers felt that the AIDS victims "are only getting what they justly deserve."
So yes, the government failed to educate the public about a deadly contageous disease for what Reagan administration officials have said were political reasons, and people placed the blame for that failure at the feet of the president. Limbaugh clearly feels that was undeserved, but instead of having a rational discussion about that, he decided to say something terrible.
And that's pretty much been a theme for Limbaugh. For example, in 2004 -- also while complaing Reagan was unfairly attacked for failing to act on the AIDS epidemic -- Limbaugh said:
LIMBAUGH: And remember, back then in the '80s, one of the accompanying -- there -- there -- there -- there was a lot of fear-mongering going on around -- about AIDS, as a lot of people were scared about it. And one of the things that -- that the -- the AIDS activists said regularly back then was, oh, this is only a matter of time before it spreads to the heterosexual community. It's only a matter of time.
And they used that as -- as one of the weapons to try to get people like Reagan to start talking about it from their standpoint. And of course it -- it hasn't. It -- it didn't, and it hasn't, other than in Africa, and in Africa it is -- it is being spread not just by -- it -- it -- it's promiscuity that -- that -- that spreads this, if you want to know the truth. It's promiscuity.
But it -- it hasn't made that jump to the heterosexual community. [emphasis added]
Actually, by 2002, 75 percent of the women and 15 percent of the men who contracted AIDS were infected through heterosexual sex.
Additionally, in the late 1980's Limbaugh ran a segment for a month called "AIDS update." The segment was often introduced by Dionne Warwick's "I'll Never Love This Way Again." Limbaugh later apologized for the segment, saying that the bit "missed the mark totally and ended up being very insensitive to people who were dying. That was not the purpose of it, and I stopped it after a month."
And the list goes on. Limbaugh's latest screed only served as a reminder that whether or not our national discourse was more civil in the 1980s, his rhetoric was just as hateful then as it is now.
Fox Nation has a long history of promoting anti-gay rhetoric, like the time they pulled an Obama administration official's comment that "gay sex is morally good" out of context to gin up outrage among some of their more colorful commenters, or the time they promoted WorldNetDaily's extremely classy "Homo Depot" article attacking Home Depot for daring to provide a kids' crafts table at a gay pride event.
In fact, posting something homophobic is usually a pretty reliable way to get promoted by Fox Nation. That's what made a recent Weasel Zippers post so impressive. Apparently, in the wake of the tragic shooting in Arizona -- while most people were still decrying the tragedy and taking the opportunity to talk about working to bring back more civility in our national discourse -- Weasel Zippers felt the time was right for a pointless homophobic attack on Congressman Barney Frank:
Police Given Pics of Giffords' Shooter Wearing Red G-String Posing With Gun...
In related news, Bawney Fwank has demanded to see the evidence.
TUCSON -- Law enforcement officials said Friday they have multiple photos of Jared L. Loughner posing with a Glock 9mm pistol next to his naked buttocks and dressed in a bright red g-string. It is the same model of weapon as the one the police say Mr. Loughner used last Saturday to kill six people, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl, and to wound 14 others, including an Arizona congresswoman.
But using a national tragedy to fling homophobic attacks is apparently where Fox Nation draws the line, because when they linked to the Weasel Zippers post, they omitted the part about Frank:
At least now we know there's a line. Congratulations to Weasel Zippers for coming up with something offensive enough that even Fox Nation won't reprint it.
From the January 18 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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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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