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Tag: "gay and lesbian rights"

The Trajectory of the Gay Rights Movement

[ 150 ] June 29, 2015 |

Supreme Court Gay Marriage

The rise of the gay rights movement to popular acceptance is probably the most amazing political event of my lifetime, perhaps outside of this nation electing an African-American president. Social movements in American history are for the most part SLOW in advancing, with often decades between any positive institutional change. Then there can often be a big push forward thanks to specific historical circumstances that leads to a certain amount of institutional change, followed by another period of stalling, even as activists continue to fight for change. As I always tell my students, the African-American freedom struggle did not start in 1954 and end in 1968. It started in 1619 and continues today, and if we consider slave resistance broadly, as an identifiable movement for the vast majority of that time. But there have only ever been two periods in American history when enough white people wanted to push forward those rights that the movement could achieve major victories, 1863-70 (or so) and 1954 (or so)-65. Otherwise, too many white people have simply not cared or have been openly hostile for institutional change to create more equal conditions for African-Americans. It’s the same for other movements. Organized labor hasn’t won a nationwide comprehensive pro-worker bill since the Fair Labor Standards Act 77 years ago. The environmental movement can still win big victories in executive action but major environmental bills can win in Congress no longer, and as today’s EPA decision shows, hostile courts can undo them. Lilly Ledbetter was a rare legislative victory for the women’s rights movement in the last few decades.

This story is not entirely untrue in the gay rights movement. After all, there was a tremendous amount of suffering and oppression until fairly recently (and especially in the transgender community, continues today). Gays were routinely murdered on the streets of almost every American city. Clearly the murder of Matthew Shephard was a transitional moment here, akin to the murder of Emmitt Till, that finally started to move heterosexuals toward greater tolerance. Why this particular murder? As with much of history, it’s really impossible to say. After all, my basic theory of change in American history is that you just never know what will capture the attention of the general public, but activists have to fight like everything will in order to be ready to take advantage of that attention. And the gay rights movement does have identifiable antecedents back into the 1950s through the Mattachine Society and other pioneering groups.

But the gay rights movement has advanced at a shockingly fast rate. Even 10 years ago, national gay marriage seemed impossible. I grew up in Springfield, Oregon. In 1992, the Oregon Citizens Alliance passed a city ordinance allowing gays “no special rights,” which was really the right to be recognized as humans. My high school friends were on the streets holding up signs advocating the oppression of gays. That fall and the next couple of election cycles, statewide laws based around that Springfield law nearly passed. In Oregon. Not Texas or Mississippi. Oregon. And one did pass in Colorado. How did we go in 23 years from widespread hatred and revulsion of gays to clear majorities supporting for gay marriage and the Supreme Court granting them that right? That’s a question historians will be debating for a long time.

I also am of the fairly strong belief that the gay rights movement is not going to enter into that long period of stagnation that plagues other movements, although there is some sort of end point toward gay acceptance and legal victories. There’s obvious a lot of fights that still need to be won. First, given Hobby Lobby, it’s entirely possible that the Supreme Court is going allow religious exceptions to corporations for recognizing these gay marriages. Right now, the South is basically going full George Wallace/Orval Faubus against this ruling. We already know that the LGBT community suffers from significant discrimination in housing and employment and in many states there is nothing they can do. And transgender community still suffers the routine murders that killed gay men for years. There’s a long ways to go.

Continued victories are hardly inevitable. It once seemed that the Equal Rights Amendment was a sure thing and support for the women’s movement not only stalled out, but in fact that movement went into decline, taking a defensive posture against declining reproductive rights, fighting against pay inequity that remains stubborn, and dealing with continued misogyny throughout society. Scott pointed this out the other day, cautioning that the only things standing between LGBT people and renewed marriage oppression are the life of Anthony Kennedy and the 2016 presidential election. In a strictly legal sense, this is true. Yet the public support of gay marriage has risen so quickly and really shows little sign of abating. Again, this was also true of abortion in the 60s and 70s.

Here’s what I think the gay rights movement is different. First, lots of gay people are wealthy white men. This is a different kind of underclass than African-Americans and women. These are people who are the overclass except that they are gay. That these are people with access to real power matters. Second, the political campaign to get people to come out to their families and friends has obviously been overwhelmingly successful, even at a sometimes high personal cost to the brave people doing this. The reality is that almost all of us today know people who are openly gay. It’s a lot easier for white people to not know any black people than to not know any gay people. Obviously, we all know women, but as several commenters noted in yesterday’s thread, abortion just cuts differently because of the ability to frame the fetus as a baby. There’s nothing equivalent to this in the rest of American society. That helps explain the stagnation of abortion support versus the still growing support for gay marriage–a support that most importantly skews very heavily to younger voters, suggesting an almost near universal acceptance for people under the age of 30.

Abortion is hardly the whole of the women’s movement and that gets at the potential challenges of the LGBT movement in achieving future victories. As many others have noted, the gay marriage movement was a successful campaign because it was fundamentally conservative. It tapped into the most basic rights in American society, even if marriage politics have always been hotly contested. The African-American freedom struggle also succeeded when asking for the most fundamental of rights: voting rights and the end to the daily routine humiliation of Jim Crow. It’s when you start getting into challenging economic power and personal choice that it gets much harder for social movements to win in the United States. Housing discrimination can be a tough victory. Equality at the job even harder. African-Americans still face routine discrimination in job interviews over something as simple as their name. The women’s movement fight for pay equity has been a decades-long struggle and still has not achieved parity.

So again, you never know what is going to happen. But all trends point toward increasing support for gay rights and the acceptance of gay people into the fabric of American society.



[ 82 ] May 23, 2015 |


Good job America. The Irish have now passed you in civil rights.

Ireland appeared poised on Saturday to become the world’s first nation to approve same-sex marriage by a popular vote, with early vote counts showing strong and broad support for a measure that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago in what traditionally had been a Roman Catholic stronghold.

Not long after counting began at Dublin Castle, a government complex that was once the epicenter of British rule, the leader of the opposition, David Quinn, the director of the Iona Institute, conceded the outcome in a tweet: “Congratulations to the Yes side. Well done.”

Both proponents and opponents said the only remaining question was the size of the victory for approval. Ronan Mullen, an Irish senator and one of only a few politicians to oppose the measure, predicted the win would be “substantial.” The official results will be announced Saturday afternoon.

The referendum changes Ireland’s Constitution so that marriages between two people would be legal “without distinction as to their sex.”

Same-Sex Marriage Pre-History

[ 38 ] March 27, 2015 |


Reasonable Moderate Sam Alito and other theocrats claim that same-sex marriage is illegitimate because it is a brand new perversion of a perfect and long-lasting institution. This is of course hooey. First of all, much of the history of the United States is based around the right to marry the person of your choice and live a dignified life with that person. Let’s not forget that slaves could not marry.

If you have access via a library to the latest edition of the Journal of American History, I highly recommend Rachel Hope Cleves’ article on the prehistory of same-sex marriage. And if you can’t read it, she did a podcast you can listen to. She basically tracks down a long history of gay marriage, going back to berdaches among southwestern indigenous peoples through gold miners in 19th century California and to many cases throughout American history of people accepting marriage and marriage-like arrangements between same-sex couples. So much of our gay history, even from gay activists, comes from a touchstone that the past was a horrible place and that only after 1969 did things improve. This is not so dissimilar from our popular history of sexuality. Both on both counts, the history is much more complicated and if the 1950s and early 1960s were a period of repression of gays (and sexuality more broadly), before World War II, it’s a whole other country out there. Take the image above, which is in her article. This is a circa 1820 marriage silhouette of Sylvia Drake and Charity Bryant. Such silhouettes were common among married couples at that time. Drake and Bryant made a life together and maybe not everyone was comfortable with it, but they made it work, living as active church members in their Vermont community.

Even the New York Times could speak positively of same-sex marriages, at least in theory. This comes from Cleves’ article and the reference is an 1883 story uncovered of two women married to each other, one of whom was passing as a man.

Now that the Waupun public has succeeded in ascertaining that Mr. Dubois, the husband of Mrs. Dubois, is really a woman, it is assumed, as a matter of course, that the pair must separate. Public opinion will not tolerate the marriage of two women, and Mr. Dubois has escaped probable imprisonment and threatened tar and feathers by confessing her sex and agreeing to abandon her wife. At this distance from Waupun it may strike unprejudiced people that Mr. and Mrs. Dubois have been subjected to rather harsh treatment. If Mrs. Dubois chose to marry a woman, whose business was it? Such a marriage concerns the general public less than the normal sort of marriage, since it does not involve the promise and potency of children. It has been well established that if a woman chooses to wear trousers she has a right to wear them, and no one will venture to deny the right of any two women to live together if they prefer the society of one another to solitude. Why, then, has not Mrs. Dubois the right to live with another woman who wears lawful trousers, and why should so much indignation be lavished upon Mrs. Dubois’s female husband? There are many women who, if they had the opportunity, would select other women as husbands rather than marry men. The women who regard men as dull, tiresome creatures, incapable of understanding women, would find sympathy and pleasure in the society of female husbands.

These stories are important in fighting back against the false history of marriage pushed by theocrats. Yesterday’s passage of a discriminatory bill in Indiana shows just how important this is. While gay marriage seems like it will soon be universal, the theocrats will not give up and equal rights for all will need defense. A usable past is a key part of that defense.

….Another summary of the article in the Washington Post for those without access to the original.

Good Job Maryland

[ 89 ] January 24, 2015 |

Thanks to an unfortunate combination of factors, Maryland has elected a Republican governor. They are already getting what they asked for. Larry Hogan has already withdrawn from regulations of phosphorous releases from the state’s many poultry farms that protected the Chesapeake Bay from massive pollution. He blocked air pollution regulations that would reduce carbon emissions from coal-burning power plants. And he withdrew from regulations that would bar Medicaid providers from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Expect another 4 years of this.

Of course, as Maryland is showing both parties are the same and that’s why the only true progressive candidate in 2016 is Rand Paul.

The Right to Discriminate

[ 59 ] July 2, 2014 |

Who could have guessed that the Hobby Lobby case would lead to religious groups citing their right to discriminate against groups they think Jesus doesn’t like? Oh yeah, pretty much everyone.

This week, in the Hobby Lobby case, the Supreme Court ruled that a religious employer could not be required to provide employees with certain types of contraception. That decision is beginning to reverberate: A group of faith leaders is urging the Obama administration to include a religious exemption in a forthcoming LGBT anti-discrimination action.

Their call, in a letter sent to the White House Tuesday, attempts to capitalize on the Supreme Court case by arguing that it shows the administration must show more deference to the prerogatives of religion.

“We are asking that an extension of protection for one group not come at the expense of faith communities whose religious identity and beliefs motivate them to serve those in need,” the letter states.

This completely fits the worldview of Alito and Thomas, where people can discriminate against whoever they want so long as the discriminators follow the policy points of the Republican Party and those discriminated against vote for Democrats.

“I am an openly, proud gay man.”

[ 160 ] February 9, 2014 |


Michael Sam, an All-American defensive lineman from Missouri Tigers and the Associated Press’ SEC Defensive Player of the Year, said that he is gay in interviews with ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” and the New York Times on Sunday.

Sam stated publicly what his teammates and coaches at Mizzou have known since August: “I am an openly, proud gay man.”

Sam is eligible for the NFL draft in May. Assuming that he is drafted, Sam could become the first openly gay player in the history of the NFL.

“I understand how big this is,” he said. “It’s a big deal. No one has done this before. And it’s kind of a nervous process, but I know what I want to be … I want to be a football player in the NFL.”

What happens next is going to be fascinating. Sam is not quite an elite draft prospect. According to the linked piece, he’s the 12th rated outside pass rusher, which I assume would make him a mid-round pick. If he’s not drafted, we will know why. Perhaps the most underreported sports story in the last year is what happened to Kerry Rhodes. The excellent safety was blackballed from the NFL this year after he was outed by a magazine who had pictures of him and a boyfriend at a resort. He couldn’t get a bite. Think of the terrible pass defense in the NFL. Rhodes is a well above-average player. And he could barely get a workout.

And then think about the Richie Incognito bullying of Jonathan Martin. Think of the stupid things NFL players still say publicly about gays, such as the Panthers’ Steve Smith when asked about Rhodes. And then we all know how much NFL owners, coaches, and GMs hate a spectacle. Chris Kluwe couldn’t get a tryout this year either, even though he’s a reasonably average punter and he was allegedly driven out by a homophobic special teams coach and management indifferent to this behavior while hostile to Kluwe’s own soapbox.

So let’s see what happens. It’s probably going to take the right kind of coach (say, Pete Carroll perhaps) who has generated a locker room atmosphere that is more accepting than, oh I don’t know, the Dolphins. If Sam isn’t drafted, it’s going to be a disgusting shame.

(PC): It’s noteworthy that the seven previous SEC defensive players of the year were all first round draft choices. Of course being a great college player doesn’t guarantee that someone is necessarily a top pro prospect, but the SEC is by far the best conference in college football, and it seems odd that the conference’s top defensive player would slip all the way to the last couple of rounds, let alone go undrafted. The story NFL scouts were giving out before Sam’s announcement is that he’s not big enough to be an NFL DE and not fast enough to be an OLB. There’s some reason for suspicion though, as apparently Sam’s orientation was an open secret in Columbia and was therefore known to NFL teams prior to his announcement, so the existing pre-draft evals were probably already reflecting the league’s prejudices.

Marriage Equality–In Utah?

[ 149 ] December 20, 2013 |

I am not the resident LGM expert on these issues. But I have to think that marriage equality in Utah of all places is basically the tipping point for it spreading across the whole nation very quickly. Maybe I am too optimistic.

That Pro-Liberty Rand Paul

[ 129 ] November 7, 2013 |

All I hear from the brogressive crowd is that Rand Paul is a great defender of civil liberties unlike those evil Democrats. Let’s remember Julian Assange after all:

“The libertarian aspect of the Republican Party is presently the only useful political voice really in the U.S. Congress…[I] am a big admirer of Ron Paul and Rand Paul for their very principled positions in the U.S. Congress on a number of issues.”

Today, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed the Senate by a 64-34 vote. How did the greatest defender of civil liberties of all time in the Senate vote on banning discrimination in employment based upon sexual orientation or gender identity?

No of course
. And this after trying to tack on an amendment to create a national right to work law, giving workers the definition of true freedom–exploitation by their employers. But I’m sure Matt Stoller and Conor Friedersdorf and Glenn Greenwald and Julian Assange will still talk about Paul as the only senator willing to stand up against tyranny or something.

Christians for Gay Marriage

[ 115 ] September 5, 2013 |

Glad to be friends with Evan Hurst, who is leading this great campaign.


[ 78 ] August 16, 2013 |

I’m not particularly comfortable with the idea of boycotting the Winter Olympics in Russia because of the nation’s anti-gay laws. Mostly, I don’t think it’s fair to athletes to be used as pawns in a political game and I do think that athletes can become Tommie Smith and John Carlos, protesting in very powerful ways. What would be more powerful, a boycott or athletes on the medal stand making clear statements in solidarity with gay Russians? The latter by far.

That said, the idea that U.S. athletes should “comply” with Russia’s anti-gay laws, as suggested by United States Olympic Committee chief executive Scott Blackmun, is deeply offensive. His point is that athletes should always comply with the laws of the country where they visit. 99% of the time that is absolutely correct. Complying with laws that violate basic standards of decency and discriminate against people, well that’s a whole other thing.

Nation’s Least Friendly Schools to LGBT Students

[ 91 ] August 11, 2013 |

Schools are listed here with no comment provided.

The list of most LGBT unfriendly schools is largely a repeat of last year with 16 returning schools and four replacements (in bold):

Grove City College, (Grove City, Pa.)
Hampden-Sydney College (Hampden-Sydney, Va.)
College of the Ozarks (Point Lookout, Mo.)
Wheaton College (Wheaton, Ill.)
University of Notre Dame (Notre Dame, Ind.)
Brigham Young University (Provo, Utah)
Wake Forest University (Winston-Salem, N.C.)
Calvin College (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
University of Rhode Island (Kingston, R.I.)
University of Dallas (Irving, Texas)
Texas A&M University (College Station, Texas)
Baylor University (Waco, Texas)
Trinity College (Hartford, Conn.)
Auburn University (Auburn, Ala.)
Colgate University (Hamilton, N.Y.)
Wofford College (Spartanburg, S.C.)
Hillsdale College (Hillsdale, Mich.)
Catholic University of America (Washington, D.C.)
Pepperdine University (Malibu, Calif.)
University of Wyoming (Laramie, Wyo.)

A Journey

[ 17 ] June 30, 2013 |

If you haven’t read E.J. Graff’s personal history of moving from a radical queer activist to “mainstream and married,” you owe it to yourself to do so.

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