Thursday, December 2, 2010

It's Just Fairness, Y'all. That's All.

At 1:50pm yesterday, the Illinois Senate concurred with the House and approved the civil unions bill. I am proud to say that the effort in the Senate was led by my own representative, Peoria Senator David Koehler. C and I will probably be seeing Senator Koehler this Saturday at a downstate Illinois LGBT scholarship fundraiser breakfast we are attending; I imagine the room is going to give him a standing ovation :-)

Here is a fun clip from one of the speeches given on the floor of the Senate yesterday. This is Ricky Hendon, one of the Senators for Chicago's West side, whose rose to counter some of the anti-civil union speeches given yesterday by opponents of the bill.

I hate the hypocrisy! Aren't you sick of the hypocrisy by now? When I sit here and hear adulterers and men cheating on their wives and down-low brothers saying they gonna vote against this bill it turns my stomach! The hypocrisy dripping in this chamber right now! We know what you do at night! [applause, cheering] And you know too.

So let's not play the games. At least tell the truth. You know I'm a Christian. You might not believe it, but I'm a Baptist, saved and sanctified, dipped in the holy water when I was 12 years old. I'm a go to heaven when I die. But I'm gonna vote for this bill. [laughter] It ain't gonna send me to hell, and it ain't gonna send you either...

Don't be a hypocrite... We should pass this bill. We should do it now and get it over with. It's not gonna destroy America. It's not gonna destroy our great state.

It's just fairness, y'all. That's all.

hat tip: Joe.My.God.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Illinois Next for Civil Unions

For the past four years, a bill to legalize civil unions for gay and lesbian couples has languished in the Illinois House. Last year the Senate passed the bill, but political maneuvering prevented it from coming to a vote in the House. Not so this year :-)

Last night I tuned in to the live video stream from Springfield as the House underwent the final debate of the bill before the vote. The normally bustling general assembly chamber fell silent to listen to the impassioned speeches.

One speaker referenced Larry McKeon--a U.S. army veteran, Sheriff's lieutenant, and the first openly gay member of the Illinois legislature--who was forced in 1991 to leave his dying partner's bedside because he did not have the appropriate paperwork.

When Larry resigned from the House in 2006, his seat was subsequently filled by Greg Harris, who became the second openly gay member of our legislature. Greg has been re-elected to that seat ever since. Greg authored the civil unions bill four years ago and has been its chief sponsor in the House ever since. Last night, Greg made the first and last speeches of the debate, at one point breaking into tears as he requested his colleagues vote for justice for their gay and lesbian fellow Illinoisans.

Pat Quinn, our recently re-elected governor, himself entered the chamber to witness the vote. (Quinn has long been a supporter of the civil unions bill and stated multiple times this year that he will sign the bill should it reach its desk.)

The chamber was silent and my heart was pounding when the Speaker of the House called for the vote. Seconds later as the electronic voting was tallied, the galleries erupted in cheering. I couldn't see the electronic voting summary that the galleries could, but I knew what the cheering meant.

The Speaker announced that the bill had passed.

The bill now goes back to the Senate today for a concurrence vote. I remember speaking with Peoria Senator David Koehler about the civil unions bill during a town hall meeting two years ago with my parents in the audience. I was proud to learn that that Senator Koehler is in fact the chief sponsor of the bill in the Senate. He was responsible for its passage in that chamber last year, and this year the vote is expected to be easy--not nearly the struggle that it was in the house.

It now appears that Illinois will become the 6th state in the union to create civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. We'll know more later today when the Senate is expected to vote on the concurrence bill.

I am beside myself with excitement. I felt like I was witnessing history yesterday.

Of course I immediately phoned my husband to excitedly tell him the good news. Looks like he and I may soon be adding a third anniversary to our relationship :-)

Illinois religious marriage June 14, 2008
Iowa civil marriage July 5, 2009
Illinois civil union ? ?, 2011?

It's complicated and fun to have so many great days on our calendar to celebrate :-)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

God Hates Bags

Hee hee :-) I want one.

Encouraging News from Paul Cameron

Five years ago I ordered a pamphlet titled "Medical Consequences of what Homosexuals Do" from Paul Cameron's "Family" "Research" "Institute" in an effort to find the source of a bizarre statistic I had been told in Exodus: that most lesbian and gay Americans die before their mid-40s. The statistic appears in the pamphlet, but an examination of the tortured logic Cameron used to compute it reveals it to be utter hogwash.

However, ever since that $5 pamphlet order, I have been on Paul Cameron's mailing list and have received his occasional newsletters.

I have observed a trend in his newsletters over time: a steadily growing sense of desperation for donations. This desperation has become very strong in recent months.

Here is an excerpt from Cameron's latest newsletter, which arrived yesterday:
FRI needs your help--really, really badly. Times are very tough and we at FRI are having great difficulty meeting our expenses. If you will send a donation of $25 of more, we'll send you a copy of my 1978 article.

Please. I know the economy is bad, but I assure you, times are even tougher at FRI. Could you, would you, please help? [underlines in original]
This is good news. What great news it will be the day FRI closes its doors and the misinformation of Paul Cameron is finally silenced.

DADT Photography Exhibit

Jeff Sheng is exhibiting "Don't Ask Don't Tell", a moving collection of photos of gay and lesbian Americans currently serving in the U.S. armed forces with their identities thoughtfully concealed. This work is beautiful and sad all at the same time. I came close to tears at some of the photos.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Races Joe is Following

It's that time of year again: election eve. I've replanned my morning to make sure I stop by the neighborhood Lutheran church on my way to work tomorrow so I can vote.

Yesterday my husband and I spent a couple of hours studying candidates and ballot measures and determining who we will vote for (he and I live in different cities in Illinois, so we vote in different races). I considered posting who I will be voting for tomorrow, but I figured at least one of the votes I will be casting my rankle one of my readers. So instead, I've decided to play people-pleaser and instead post what races I'll be following as results come in over the next few days.

Illinois Governor
Illinois U.S. Senator

Both of these races are extremely tight with the Republican candidates leading in the polls going into tomorrow. Illinois is usually reliably Democratic, so this is an interesting one to watch. Not only are Illinoisans frustrated with Democrats at the national level, but we're frustrated with state Democrats as well. Democrats have controlled the governorship, both houses of the state legislature, and both Senate seats for the last several years... and we're sitting on the second worst state debt in the nation. I've never lived in a swing state before nor voted in such tight races before. I'm kinda enjoying the fact that I get to cast my vote in these two races; for once I feel like my one single vote is actually important :-)

Iowa Supreme Court Judge Retention

The justices of the Iowa Supreme Court are appointed by governors, but they are retained by popular vote. Tomorrow three of the justices are up for retention. Judge retention races are usually yawners, but this races has drawn national attention and lots of money from outside the state. Last year the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously determined that my marriage is legally equivalent to all others. This has raised the ire of some, and there is a chance that Iowa may remove one or more of the Supreme Court justices tomorrow.

Illinois Constitutional Amendment

My buddy Pomoprophet lives in a state where the state constitution is modified by sometimes dozens of ballot initiatives every election. Not so here in Illinois. This election is rather unique in that we will have a constitutional amendment on our ballots. The amendment provides for the ability to remove the governor by popular recall--in addition to the legislative impeachment process already in place (which was exercised for the first time a year ago when Blagojevich was removed following his arrest). I'm going to tip my hand on this one: I plan to vote NO on this amendment for one reason: I am generally opposed to direct democracy. I don't want Illinois to evolve into another California.

Other races that interest me (but I'm far too sleepy to write about now):

Pennsylvania U.S. Senator
Florida U.S. Senator
Nevada U.S. Senator
California Proposition 19 (the marijuana legalization measure)
California Proposition 20 and 27 (which contradict each other--and yes, people can vote in favor of both; isn't direct democracy crazy?)
Washington Income Tax Ballot Initiative

One race I will not be watching is that of the U.S. Representative for Peoria. Let me not mince words here: I don't like Aaron Schock. The way he votes against justice frustrates me, but the way he discusses issues absolutely infuriates me. When Schock speaks, he doesn't contribute to rational debate; he adds to the noise. I would love to see him voted out of office, but alas he is Peoria's favorite son. This community has been electing Schock to various legislative roles since before he graduated from high school. There isn't a snowball's chance in hell that he will lose tomorrow's race (unfortunately), so there's no point in watching it.

That's OK; I have plenty of other races to watch :-)

Happy voting, everybody!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

It Gets Better

Tyler Clementi

Last week, at least five gay teenagers took their own lives
  • Sept 19: Seth Walsh, 13 - California - hung himself in his backyard
  • Sept 22: Tyler Clementi, 18 - New Jersey - jumped off a bridge
  • Sept 23: Asher Brown, 13 - Texas - shot himself in the head
  • Sept 29 - Raymond Chase, 19 - Rhode Island - hung himself in his dorm room
  • Sept 30: Billy Lucas, 15 - Indiana - hung himself in his family's barn.
This news breaks my heart. It is near and dear to my own life experience. Every day when I change clothes I am reminded of the dark night of my own soul when I came near death myself: my chest and arms still bear the scars of the two years I cut on myself with razors, steak knives, and meat scissors. I am so glad to have survived that wretched time of my life, but this news reminds me that many are enduring worse times... and some are not surviving.

I've often wished I could go back in time and talk to myself 10 or 15 years ago. I've wanted to tell myself what I would eventually learn and how much better life would become after I finished high school and Baptist college, exited reorientation therapy, and left my childhood faith that I found to be false.

Dan Savage and his husband decided to do something along just those lines. In response to the recent spate of gay suicides, they have created the It Gets Better Project, basically a YouTube channel where LGBT people young and old can provide encouragement to those in our community who are suffering and who may be contemplating suicide.

Check out the YouTube channel for yourself--it's fantastic. Many of the videos are so touching I came close to tears watching them.

Hundreds of videos have already been posted; here are a few of my favorites:

Dan and his husband of 16 years, Terry. (a bit on the long side at ~8minutes, but really sweet. I love their stories of how they met, their marriage, and their son DJ)

Members of the cast of touring broadway show Wicked (~2 minutes)

Gay cop and a gay marine (Kinda awkward at first, but really sweet at the end. ~1 minute)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Iowa: Cooler than California since 2009

T-shirt seen at Peoria Pride this past Sunday.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bearing False Witness

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
--Exodus 20:16
There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: [#6] a false witness who breathes out lies.
--Proverbs 6:16,19a

Tony Perkins of the Family "Research" Council:

  1. Federal challenge to state law is entirely legal, legitimate, and provided for in the constitution.
  2. The judge who presided over the Prop 8 federal trial did anything but "throw out" all the opposing evidence in the Prop 8 trial. Exhibit 1: the proponents entered into evidence depositions given by opposing witnesses and even called one of the opposing witnesses to the stand. Exhibit 2: I've read the decision--and I encourage you to read it too--and the judge specifically cites opposition testimony. Why? Because the opposition testimony supported the plaintiffs' case.
  3. Judicial review is a constitutionally established check by one co-equal brand of government (the judicial branch) on another (the legislative branch). It is an example of our democracy functioning as designed, not a threat to our democracy.
  4. It is dishonest to take one line from the 138-page Prop 8 ruling out of context and use it to misrepresent the larger ruling. It is fear-mongering to say that the 14th amendment will now trump the 1st.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Jesus had two dads...

...and he turned out just fine :-)

Gotta love this flyer from Faith United Church of Christ in my husband's hometown. Have I mentioned recently that I love Iowa City?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Identical Twins Do Not Have Identical DNA

My husband just sent me an article about a 2008 study that has reported monozygotic ("identical") twins do not have identical DNA.
Until recently, any differences between twins had largely been attributed to environmental influences (otherwise known as "nurture"), but a recent study contradicts that belief.
Geneticist Carl Bruder of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and his colleagues closely compared the genomes of 19 sets of adult identical twins. In some cases, one twin's DNA differed from the other's at various points on their genomes.
For example, one twin in Bruder's study was missing some genes on particular chromosomes that indicated a risk of leukemia, which he indeed suffered. The other twin did not.
"Maybe we shouldn't call them identical twins," Harvard's Bieber says. "We should call them 'one-egg twins.'"
The implications of this study are interesting to the study of orientation, perhaps explaining why monozygotic twins are far more likely to have identical orientations than the general population, but do not always have matching orientations.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Witness Stand is a Lonely Place to Lie

Some great stuff is coming out in the wake of last week's repeal of California's Proposition 8. Among the great stuff is this video, in which David Boies, one of the plaintiff's lawyers, exposes the "junk science" routinely claimed by the Family "Research" Council routinely to oppose gay parenting.

This is awesome.

It’s easy to sit around in debate and throw around opinions and appeal to people’s fear and prejudice, cite studies that either don’t exist or don’t say what you say they do. In a court of law, you’ve got to come in and you’ve got to support those opinions. You’ve got to stand up under oath and cross examination.

And what we saw at trial is that it’s very easy for people who want to deprive gay and lesbian citizens the right to vote [sic] make all sorts of statements in campaign literature or in debates where they can’t be cross examined. But when they come into court and they have to support those opinions, and they have to defend those opinions under oath and cross examination, those opinions just melt away.

And that’s what happened here. There simply wasn’t any evidence. There weren’t any of “those studies.” There weren’t any empirical studies. That’s just made up. That’s just junk science. And it’s easy to say that on television, but the witness stand is a lonely place to lie. And when you come into court, you can’t do that. And that’s what we proved. We put fear and prejudice on trial, and fear and prejudice lost.

Unfortunately, the Family "Research" Council's bogus claims that "studies" show that gay people should not be allowed civil rights are nothing new. Such claims have been used for years as a talking points by Focus on the Family, NOM, the American Family Association, the Family "Research" Institute, and other similar organizations. Leaders of Exodus made such claims repeatedly during my 5 years in ex-gay therapy. It wasn't until grad school when I finally began reading the scientific literature myself that the big hoax was revealed.

That's what happened on the stand of the Prop 8 trial, under oath and cross-examination, even the expert witnesses for the Prop 8 defendants admitted that science, if anything, supports civil rights for gay people.

I encourage you to please read the decision yourself. There's a lot of spouting off about this decision (from both extremes of the political spectrum), but few have actually read what Judge Vaugh Walker wrote.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


This video was recorded yesterday at the libertarian Cato Institute. It's of a speech and debate on the topic "Is There a Place for Gay People in Conservatism and Conservative Politics?" It is fantastic.

The headline speech is from Nick Herbert, an openly gay, civilly partnered MP from the UK. I love the part of his speech where he shows his ring :-)

The following debate is between Andrew Sullivan and Maggie Gallagher. Andrew speaks passionately about his libertarian, non-Republican convictions and quite emotionally about his own marriage to his husband. (For the non-Catholics out there, yesterday was ash Wednesday. Sullivan is a practicing Catholic, which explains the ashes on his forehead.) Maggie Gallagher... well, I'll let her speak for herself.

Some of my own thoughts:
  1. I disagree with Herbert's statement that heterosexual couples as parents are superior to gay couples. In fact, many studies have investigated this area and have found that on virtually every metric studied, children of gay parents fare as well or better than children of heterosexual parents.

  2. Gallagher stated "if gay rights are understood as liberty interests and rights they are extremely compatible with American conservatism. But equality rights and arguments lead to the expansion of government power to repress, stigmatize, and marginalize those who advocate for and institutionalize around ideas that are contrary to basic democratic norms of equality." I think there is a nuance here that I don't quite understand, and I hope someone can explain it to me. I'm trying to substitute any other equality issue (e.g. race, gender, national origin) into her second sentence and make it make sense, but I can't.

  3. Gallagher lamented her perspective that the view that heterosexual marriage is superior to gay marriage is considered bigotry or a modern equivalent of racism. I don't think this is actually the case (yet) in the majority of the country, but I do think this public attitude is on it's way. And I actually think such a public attitude is acceptable--in the public sector. By the same token, I will happily fight alongside Gallagher (just as the ACLU would and indeed now does) for her to teach such things to her children in her home or teach other like-minded people in her personal club or faith community.

  4. Herbert bombed responding to a statement from the audience that implied hate crimes legislation was contrary to conservative values because they "give a different penalty for the same crime if it aimed at a gay person or a straight person." The correct response to this question is to identify that the claim is based on popular misconceptions of hate crimes law. Most people have not read the actual law, which makes it clear that American hate crimes legislation assign equivalent punishment intensifiers to crimes committed against straight people and gay people, provided the motivation for the crime is shown to be based on the victim's orientation--regardless of whether victim's orientation is gay or straight. So a gay criminal can be charged with a hate crime against a straight victim provided a jury is convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the crime was motivated by the criminal's opposition to the victim's heterosexual orientation.
I haven't quite finished the video, so I may have some more thoughts to follow. This is really good stuff. It was especially good for me to hear Maggie Gallagher articulate her opinion on the matter. I wish for more open debate like this instead of the slanderous soundbytes that have dominated the "culture war" on this issue.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Quest for the Most Awesome Workout Playlist

So it's past 8 on a work night. I have a little less than an hour of free time left in my day. Tomorrow is the day of the Illinois primary election; I probably should be online looking up candidates for obscure offices like County Coroner (they really have Republican and Democratic candidates for this?) or trying to figure out why Illinois has both a state Treasurer and a state Comptroller and what the difference is (totally baffled).

But no. Tonight there is a higher calling. Tonight is the night of [fanfare] The Quest for the Most Awesome Workout Playlist Ever.

One of the fitness blogs I follow recently posted its "definitive workout playlist." It has inspired me to do the same (although I hesitate to call what follows "definitive" by any stretch of the imagination--it's definitely a work in progress). BTW, just a disclaimer if you follow the link: I don't particularly like the guy's taste in workout music. I'd rate his list about a 4; he's way more into rock than I am.

Me? I prefer hip-hop, R&B, electronica, and the occasional loud, angsty white anthem (like "Uprising" by Muse, see video below). Basically anything with a driving beat that I can use to keep my heartrate up and my mind focused on the task at hand.

Okay, enough preamble. Here are some of my current favorites:

  • 3OH!3 "Don't trust me"
  • Asher Roth "I love college"
  • Beck "Diamond dogs"
  • Black Eyed Peas "Let's get it started"
  • Blu Cantrell "Swingin"
  • Bono, Gavin Friday, & Maruice Seezer "Children of the revolution"
  • Danzel, "Don't leave me with the light on"
  • Darude, "My game"
  • Eminem "Lose yourself"
  • Eminem "Till I collapse"
  • Enur "Calabria 2008"
  • Evanescence "Bring me to life"
  • Evanescence "Going under"
  • Fatboy Slim "Because we can"
  • Fatboy Slim "Right here, right now"
  • Finger Eleven "Paralyzer"
  • Geri Halliwell "It's raining men"
  • Glee "It's my life/Confessions part II"
  • Jazmine Sullivan "Bust your windows"
  • Justin Timberlake "Cry me a river"
  • Justin Timberlake "Lovestoned"
  • Kanye West "Stronger"
  • Katy Perry "I kissed a girl"
  • Lady Gaga "Poker face"
  • Linkin Park "Hit the floor"
  • Linkin Park "In the end"
  • Linkin Park & Jay Z "Numb/Encore"
  • Marc Anthony "I need to know"
  • Mary J. Blige "Family affair"
  • Maroon 5 "Shiver"
  • M.I.A. "Paper planes"
  • Muse "Uprising"
  • Nelly Furtado "Say it right"
  • P!nk "Cuz I can"
  • P!nk "So what"
  • Rihanna "Disturbia"
  • Rob Thomas "Lonely no more"
  • Sisqo "Thong song"
  • Studio All-Stars "American boy"
  • The Pussycat Dolls "Don't cha"
  • The Veronicas "Hook me up"
  • TI & Justin Timberlake "Dead and gone"
  • Timbaland & Justin Timberlake "Give it to me"
  • Timbaland & Justin Timberlake "Carry out"
  • Toby Mac "Gone"
  • US3 "Cantaloop"
  • Workout DJ's "Closer (workout remix")
  • Yellowcard "Only one"

I'm always looking for new stuff to complete the Most Awesome Workout Playlist ever. You guys have any suggestions? What's on your iPod when you hit the gym?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Vancouver in Time

Stunning time-lapse photography of the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, site of the 2010 winter olympics and home to my good friend John and was the site of one of my most memorable road trips with my dear friends Burke and Darren. Watching this video brought back memories from a trip I took to Vancouver with three of my best friends--John, Burke, and Darren. I remember a wonderful day we spent walking the beaches and watching the ships move into and out of the harbor. Mesmerizing.

One of my dreams is that C and I would make our home--at least for a few years--in Seattle, Washington, not far from Vancouver. Watching this video makes me realize I'd also be a happy man if we lived in Vancouver.

hat tip: Joe.My.God.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Obama State of the Union Drinking Game

LOL this is awesome (click for a more legible version):

hat tip: Joe.My.God.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

How to Respond

Speaking of uncomfortable initial coming out conversations...

~10am today: a elderly widow from my parent's church friends me on Facebook
~3pm today: I accept the friend request
~5pm today (presumably after reading my profile, which includes a great photo of me and C together and our status as married): widow sends me the following message on Facebook:
(no subject)

[Joe], I will always love you, but it will have to be from a distance now. Take care of yourself and please, please pray for clear direction for your life.
How would you respond? How should I?

on Mulligans

I'm a big fan of Misty Irons over at More Musings on Christianity, Homosexuality, and the Bible. She's just posted a good piece about evolving perceptions and convictions. Excerpt:
One thing I have found to be true for myself, and for many straights who think seriously about gay issues, is that it's perfectly natural for your thoughts to be constantly evolving. Once you learn to tune in to the debate, you become aware of how many different angles and perspectives are being discussed all time: gay marriage, gays in the military, hate crimes laws, the teaching of the Bible, the attitudes of the church, coming out stories, ex-gay ministries, and so forth. For the thoughtful person, these debates have a way of injecting small insights into your brain bit by bit so that you are constantly adjusting your attitude toward homosexuality. You confront contradictions in your thinking. You make connections. You have mini "aha!" moments that hit you at odd times of the day.

So if your friend or family member has already come out to you as gay and if, at the time, in your panic, you were only able to produce some half-audible, highly dissatisfying mumble, don't let that response stand as a Monument For All Time representing your attitude toward homosexuality. You were taken off guard. You had a brain freeze. You hadn't had a chance to get out of the starting blocks in this journey. But now you're off, slowly jogging along, taking in the sights.
I heartily agree, and I think the same observations hold for gay people themselves as they come out. My first coming out conversations didn't go so well. That may be partly due to the fact that I had them with very conservative very religious people. But I know it was also partly (largly) due to the fact that I was new at telling the truth. I had shamed, denied, and buried the truth about a part of my identity for years and had presented a fake image of myself, and it was difficult and awkward for me to tell people I had basically been deceiving them for years.

I also wasn't accustomed or very good at discussing orientation. Heck, I had never really discussed it with anyone before except in ex-gay ministry with others who were in my same situation. I wasn't good at discussing being gay with people who were straight.

I've often wished I could go back and redo some of my first coming out conversations with people.

For one, I would have done far less over email. I let distance be an excuse for avoiding face-to-face or phone conversations and a lot of intentions, reassurances, and inflections on both sides were lost in electronic text that would have been present had the conversations had a human face or voice to go along. I took offense from emails I received that may not have been intended to sound mean. People thought I was a completely different person, had abandoned God and faith, etc. when that was not the case at all. Etc. etc. etc.

For two, I would have made the conversations far simpler, shorter, and less defensive. When I was first coming out, I felt like everyone was going to throw a bunch of "yes but what about"s at me, so I tried to anticipate these and shoot them down. Now, after years of coming out conversations, all I feel is to say the truth: "I'm gay. I'm married to a guy. How's work going for you?" If someone wants to make the conversation longer or more complex, they can totally do so, but it's up to them.
Now that you've had a chance to recover and think a little, you can let that gay friend or family member know that the gears of your mind are turning upstairs. Just because you botched it when they first came out to you doesn't mean you can't recover. In fact, you should just take for granted that most people botch it--and that's forgivable--but now you're on your feet ready to think coherent thoughts. They don't have to be profound. This is bit by bit, remember?
Hmm. I know I would welcome people to revisit coming out conversations with me.

I wonder if the reverse is true. Would people who I had uncomfortable first coming out conversations be at all interested/willing to revisit the issue with me? I dunno.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Latest story on I'm from Driftwood:

“You and Aba are gay,” my son said to me.

We were in the car, on the way to school.

“Yes, we are,” I said.

“I think I want to be gay.”

“Well, you’ve got plenty of time to figure that out,” I replied (he’s four). “And you know we’ll love you whether you’re gay or not.”

A pause.



  1. Adorable :-) I wonder if C and I will ever have a conversation like that.
  2. Just for reference--as discussed in the Prop 8 trial last week--children of gay parents wind up identifying as gay in the same percentages as children of hetero parents.
  3. I wish my parents would have said that.

Comment Changes

This blog has been hit with spam comments recently, so I have decided to make some changes. Ironic as it may sound, Joe Moderate doesn't really want to moderate comments, so I'm taking the intermediate step of requiring word verification on comment entry. Hopefully this will stop the majority of spammers. If not, I'll finally have to live up to my last name and Moderate comments.

On a related note, in the sea of comments (221 and counting) on my unexpectedly most popular post have been numerous calls for commentators to identify themselves by a moniker other than Anonymous. Several people have been holding comment arguments under "Anonymous" and it has become confusing for people to know who they are speaking to. So I've decided to require some form of identification for posts. It doesn't have to be a google account, it can just be an "open ID".

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Things Getting Interesting in the Prop 8 Trial

The first week of testimony in the federal trial of California's Prop 8 came to a close Friday, and things have become quite interesting. Three items of note:
  1. Four of the six Prop 8 defense witnesses have dropped out.

    Prior to the first week of the trial, several of the witnesses for Prop 8's defense had indicated they would not testify if the federal court continued with its plan to release videos of the trial on YouTube. These concerns were laid to rest--at least temporarily--when SCOTUS put the kabosh on the YouTube idea early in the week (see item #3 below). But that hasn't stopped the defense witnesses from heading for the hills. By the end of this first week of the trial, four of the defense's six witnesses have decided not to testify. Timothy Kincaid speculates these decisions may have come after the potential witnesses observed how the plaintiff's witnessed were grilled on cross-examination.

  2. Lineup of plaintiff expert witnesses are systematically presenting and defending the research that has led the scholarly communities to conclude gay and hetero relationships are equal.

    The single most important factor in my own coming out process was information. From 2005-2006 I spent roughly 9 months in the stacks of university libraries poring over the scholarship of the last 100 years that has led the academic and medical communities to conclude that gay and hetero relationships are equal. Study after study overturned the myths and misinformation I had been told about gay people growing up in a religious community in rural Texas. At the time, I attempted to capture this information in a little volume I assembled called "If Only I Had Known" that I shared with my family.

    A far better presentation has played out in the Prop 8 courtroom this past week. The Plaintiffs have called to the stand experts in a variety of fields that have testified about the science of orientation, the history and rationale of marriage law, the quality of gay relationships, and the equal ability of gay people to rear children. Prop 8's defense lawyers haven't given them an easy time, attempting time and again to trip them up on cross-examination. But the scholars are presenting science, not opinion, and the scholarship has withstood the opposition. It's exciting for me to read the transcripts of the expert witness testimonies--particularly under cross-examination--as the conversation playing out in the courtroom is similar to what occurred in my own life 5 years ago: careful, systematic, scientific deconstruction of myth and misinformation. It's fantastic stuff. I strongly encourage you to check out the live blogs of the trial or read Timothy Kinkaid's daily summaries of the trial.

    Regardless of the immediate outcome of this trial, it seems clear to me that the testimony from this trial will be a reference point for many legal debates for years to come. I hope the full transcript of the trial becomes available, as I would love to share it with my family. I imagine the conversation/argument format will be much more accessible than the compilation of academic papers I sent them several years ago.

  3. The Supreme Court of the United States has issued a ruling related to the trial that may telegraph how the Court will lean if/when it hears the appeal of the case.

    If items #1 and #2 above seem to be favorable to the plaintiffs, this item favors the defense. As alluded to above, the federal court was initially planning to release videos of the trial on YouTube each evening. SCOTUS, however, nixed this plan in a 5-4 ruling they released on Wednesday. The Supreme Court's opinion on the video plan is being scrutinized carefully for any indication how SCOTUS may rule on the case if/when it is appealed to their level. The LA Times thinks this may not bode well for the good guys:
    Legal experts on the left and right gleaned three insights from the high court intervention: First, the justices are following this case closely. They typically rule on appeals after cases are decided. It is rare for them to intervene in a pending trial. Second, the court's conservatives do not trust Walker to set fair rules for proceedings. Their opinion described how he had given shifting explanations of his plans. This suggests Walker's ruling on Proposition 8 may be viewed with some skepticism. And third, the majority has a distinct sympathy for the foes of same-sex marriage. The justices cited a series of newspaper stories reporting on the threats and harassment faced by those who have publicly opposed gay unions...

    Last week's intervention in the San Francisco case "suggests the majority has a very strong sympathy for Prop. 8's supporters," USC law professor David Cruz added.
Things are indeed turning interesting in the courtroom in San Francisco.

Hat tips: Box Turtle Bulletin, Joe.My.God.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Prop 8 On Trial

Proposition 8, the California ballot measure that banned gay marriage in that state, is on trial this week in federal district court. The plaintiffs are widely expected to win the trial at the district court level, but regardless of the outcome the case will most assuredly be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Paul Hogarth has become my personal hero of the month for live blogging each day's proceedings. If you happen to pass my desk during the day and wonder what I'm checking on my iPhone once an hour it's his blog. You might want to add it to your blog reader.

For a very thoughtful overview of the trial from the plantiff's standpoint, check out Newsweek's cover article "The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage: Why same-sex marriage is an American value" written by Ted Olsen, lifelong Republican, and former U.S. Solicitor General under the second Bush administration. An excerpt:
I understand, but reject, certain religious teachings that denounce homosexuality as morally wrong, illegitimate, or unnatural; and I take strong exception to those who argue that same-sex relationships should be discouraged by society and law. Science has taught us, even if history has not, that gays and lesbians do not choose to be homosexual any more than the rest of us choose to be heterosexual. To a very large extent, these characteristics are immutable, like being left-handed. And, while our Constitution guarantees the freedom to exercise our individual religious convictions, it equally prohibits us from forcing our beliefs on others. I do not believe that our society can ever live up to the promise of equality, and the fundamental rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, until we stop invidious discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

If we are born heterosexual, it is not unusual for us to perceive those who are born homosexual as aberrational and threatening. Many religions and much of our social culture have reinforced those impulses. Too often, that has led to prejudice, hostility, and discrimination. The antidote is understanding, and reason. We once tolerated laws throughout this nation that prohibited marriage between persons of different races. California's Supreme Court was the first to find that discrimination unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously agreed 20 years later, in 1967, in a case called Loving v. Virginia. It seems inconceivable today that only 40 years ago there were places in this country where a black woman could not legally marry a white man. And it was only 50 years ago that 17 states mandated segregated public education—until the Supreme Court unanimously struck down that practice in Brown v. Board of Education. Most Americans are proud of these decisions and the fact that the discriminatory state laws that spawned them have been discredited. I am convinced that Americans will be equally proud when we no longer discriminate against gays and lesbians and welcome them into our society.

In addition to Paul Hogarth's live updates, check out Timothy Kinkaid's daily summaries of the trial proceedings over at Box Turtle Bulletin. Another excerpt (Olsen's piece really resonated with me, can you tell? ;-) ):

California's Proposition 8 is particularly vulnerable to constitutional challenge, because that state has now enacted a crazy-quilt of marriage regulation that makes no sense to anyone. California recognizes marriage between men and women, including persons on death row, child abusers, and wife beaters. At the same time, California prohibits marriage by loving, caring, stable partners of the same sex, but tries to make up for it by giving them the alternative of "domestic partnerships" with virtually all of the rights of married persons except the official, state-approved status of marriage. Finally, California recognizes 18,000 same-sex marriages that took place in the months between the state Supreme Court's ruling that upheld gay-marriage rights and the decision of California's citizens to withdraw those rights by enacting Proposition 8.

So there are now three classes of Californians: heterosexual couples who can get married, divorced, and remarried, if they wish; same-sex couples who cannot get married but can live together in domestic partnerships; and same-sex couples who are now married but who, if they divorce, cannot remarry. This is an irrational system, it is discriminatory, and it cannot stand.

Americans who believe in the words of the Declaration of Independence, in Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, in the 14th Amendment, and in the Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and equal dignity before the law cannot sit by while this wrong continues. This is not a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American one, and it is time that we, as Americans, embraced it.

Hat tips: Ameriqueer, Box Turtle Bulletin, Pomoprophet, and Joe.My.God.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Glenn Beck Uses Vicks to Cry on Demand

The other day I saw a clip of Glenn Beck crying "for lost America" in a clip on the Daily Show and I was struck by how much his seemingly artificial crying reminded me of videos of televangelist Robert Tilton doing the same. So I was searching for videos on YouTube of Beck crying to do further Tilton-Beck comparisons.

I came across this video of a makeup artist applying Vick's Vapor Rub under Beck's eyes to cause crying-on-demand for a photoshoot. This may be old news to everyone out there, but it's my first time seeing it.

So my question is, does he use this same technique on air?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

James Dobson to Start New Organization, Radio Show

James Dobson's name is virtually synonymous with Focus on the Family, a socially conservative family values organization he founded in 1977. Dr. Dobson, now 73, resigned from Focus last year. The New York Times is reporting that Dr. Dobson has announced on his Facebook page that he is founding a new organization, to be called James Dobson on the Family, which he will co-host with his son, Ryan.

I have mixed feelings about this. Following the death of Jerry Falwell, Dobson is arguably the most powerful and widely-heard voice of misinformation about gay people and our families. I am sad to learn he will again be on the air regularly.

However, I am encouraged that this development may ultimately reduce the spread of misinformation, as some but not all of Focus's donor base is likely to switch to James Dobson on the Family. It is unclear whether together the two organizations will have the combined income that Focus has presently, but my hope/expectation is that some donors will be confused or disillusioned by the move. It's too early to be sure, but my guess is that two small voices will be less effective at spreading misinformation than one large voice.

We'll have to wait and see.

Hat tip: Ex-Gay Watch