Category Archives: LGBT

DADT Dead, And Only Seventeen Years Old

Scott Wong at Politico:

The Senate voted Saturday to repeal the ban on gays in the military, marking a major victory for gay rights and an impending end to the 17-year old “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

The bill now heads to President Barack Obama, who plans to sign it into law, overturning what repeal advocates believed was a discriminatory policy that has unfairly ended the careers of thousands of gay members of the military.

The 65-31 Senate vote marked a historic — and emotional — moment for the gay-rights movement and handed Obama a surprising political triumph in the closing days of the 111th Congress. The legislation had been left for dead as recently as last week when Senate Republicans blocked efforts to advance it. But on final passage, the bill won the support of eight Republicans, an unexpectedly high total.
Paul Mirengoff at Powerline:

Earlier in the day, the Senate voted 63-33 to invoke cloture. Six Republicans voted in favor of doing so: Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, Mark Kirik, Scott Brown, Lisa Murkowski, and George Voinovich. On the final vote, two conservatives, John Ensign and Richard Burr, joined in to support repeal.

Of that entire group, the only Senator whose view on the subject I credit even slightly is Scott Brown, who has served for 30 years in the National Guard. But Brown must run for re-election in left-liberal Massachusetts. And, political calculation aside, I do not credit Brown’s views nearly as much as those of, for example, John McCain, a true expert in military affairs whose son serves in the Marines and opposes repeal.

It’s clear to me that there will come a day when DADT can be repealed without an appreciable risk to the military and its personnel, such as the risk described by Gen. James Amos, Commandant of the Marines, of American soldiers dying on the battlefield as a result of the decrease in unit cohesion he thinks repeal will produce. The testimony of Gen. Amos, and the data contained in the Pentagon’s study showing the views of the people who actually fight for this country, led me to conclude that day has not yet arrived.

Andrew Sullivan:

It’s been more than three decades since Leonard Matlovich appeared on the cover of Time magazine. It’s been more than two decades since this struggle began to reach the realm of political possibility. From the painful non-compromise of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, through the big increase in discharges under president Clinton, via the wars and civil marriage breakthroughs of the first decade of the 21st Century to the calm and reasoned Pentagon report of December 2010, the path has been uneven. We need to remember this. We need to remember constantly that any civil rights movement will be beset with reversals, with dark periods, with moments when the intensity of the despair breaks the hardiest of souls.

But we should also note that what won in the end was facts and testimony and truth. There is no rational basis to keep qualified and dedicated gays from serving in the military. It was confidence in this truth – not assertion of any special identity or special rights – that carried us forward. And the revelation of the actual lives and records of gay servicemembers – all of whom came out of the closet and risked their livelihoods to testify to the truth – has sunk in widely and deeply. These men and women had the courage to serve their country and then the courage to risk their careers, promotions, pensions, salaries and, in some cases, lives to bring this day about. They represent an often silent majority of gay men and women who simply want to belong to the families and country and churches and communities they love, and to contribute to them without having to lie about themselves. This, in the end, was not about the right to be gay, but the right to serve America. Like all great civil rights movements, it is in the end about giving, not taking.

William Kristol at The Weekly Standard:

Now that the lame duck Democratic Congress has repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), the new Congress will have to see to it that the Obama administration manages the implementation of repeal responsibly, and that the concerns of military leaders and troops are taken seriously. But over the next two years Congress can do something else. It can take an interest in ensuring that discrimination against ROTC on college campuses ends.

Though ROTC was kicked off campuses like Harvard, Yale and Columbia before gays in the military was ever an issue, DADT became the excuse offered by those universities in recent years for continuing to discriminate against ROTC. The excuse is gone. One trusts the presidents and trustees of colleges that have been keeping ROTC at arm’s length, allegedly because of DADT, will move posthaste to ensure a hearty welcome and full equality for ROTC at their universities. One would expect that patriotic alumni of those universities would insist on quick action. One would hope that prominent individuals, like Yale alum Joe Lieberman, who played so crucial a role in ending DADT, would lose no time in writing president Richard Levin to urge the re-installing of ROTC at Yale, that Crimson alums like Chuck Schumer will be in touch with Harvard president Drew Faust, and that Columbia graduate Barack Obama will weigh in with Fair Columbia’s Lee Bolling

Doug Mataconis

Bryan Fischer:

It’s past time for a litmus test for Republican candidates. This debacle shows what happens when party leaders are careless about the allegiance of candidates to the fundamental conservative principles expressed in the party’s own platform.

Character-driven officers and chaplains will eventually be forced out of the military en masse, potential recruits will stay away in droves, and re-enlistments will eventually drop like a rock.

The draft will return with a vengeance and out of necessity. What young man wants to voluntarily join an outfit that will force him to shower naked with males who have a sexual interest in him and just might molest him while he sleeps in his bunk

This isn’t a game, and the military should never be used, as is now being done, for massive social re-engineering. The new Marine motto: “The Few, the Proud, the Sexually Twisted.” Good luck selling that to strong young males who would otherwise love to defend their country. What virile young man wants to serve in a military like that?

If the president and the Democrats wanted to purposely weaken and eventually destroy the United States of America, they could not have picked a more efficient strategy to make it happen.

Rarely can you point to a moment in time when a nation consigned itself to the scrap heap of history. Today, when the Senate normalized sexual perversion in the military, was that moment for the United States. If historians want a fixed marker pointing to the instant the United States sealed its own demise, they just found it.

It won’t happen overnight, but happen it will.

And Republicans did not just stand around and watch as our military was shredded before their very eyes, they helped it happen. Shame on them all.

Confederate Yankee:

Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association wrote that, either fearing that the most combat-hardened military in world history is ripe for the picking, or perhaps, he’s just guilty of a little fantasizing of his own.

His is an absurd position, one that portrays gay soldiers as uncontrollable rutting beasts, and our straight servicemen as docile sheep waiting to raped. Such a point of view is hysterical and illogical and shows that those holding such views think very little of the professionalism of all soldiers regardless of their sexual preference.

It also taps into a deep-seated phobia that some seem to have that homosexuality is a communicable disease, and that soldiers that serve with gay soldiers could be “turned gay.”

I wish I was joking, but the folks who hold these views are dead serious. Some are borderline frantic, apparently unaware that tens of thousands of gays serve in the military right now. This kind of freakish paranoia brings out the worse in some people, and in some, it simply seems to be striking fears that their own sexuality isn’t quite as black and white as they profess it to be.

I find a gay soldier willing to sacrifice his life for my family’s safety to be on much firmer moral ground than a sputtering viper like Fischer the serves up division and fear.

Perhaps that is the greatest irony; a professed Christian, Fischer certainly seems to be batting for the other team.

Oliver Willis:

Finally, the idiotic and anti-freedom “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy has been rightfully placed in history’s dustbin. Sure, it took too long to happen and shouldn’t have been in place in the first place (lasting all the way to the 21st century!) but at the end of the day it will be signed into law by President Obama and that’s a good thing.

Kudos to Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid for this passage, and even to the Republicans who kept their promise for a change and voted for repeal.

Getting rid of discriminatory policies like this are part of the neverending American move towards progress and while regressive demagogues like John McCain and Louie Gohmert will always do the best they can to halt the inevtiable – they will ultimately be defeated.

America just got better.

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:

McCain distinguished himself doubly this weekend, opposing the Dream Act and leading the opposition to “Don’t Ask,” despite the very public positions of his wife and daughter on the other side of the issue. I used to know a different John McCain, the guy who proposed comprehensive immigration reform with Ted Kennedy, the guy–a conservative, to be sure, but an honorable one–who refused to indulge in the hateful strictures of his party’s extremists. His public fall has been spectacular, a consequence of politics–he “needed” to be reelected–and personal pique. He’s a bitter man now, who can barely tolerate the fact that he lost to Barack Obama. But he lost for an obvious reason: his campaign proved him to be puerile and feckless, a politician who panicked when the heat was on during the financial collapse, a trigger-happy gambler who chose an incompetent for his vice president. He has made quite a show ever since of demonstrating his petulance and lack of grace.

What a guy.

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Filed under Legislation Pending, LGBT, Military Issues

Asking, Telling, Continuing

Uri Friedman at The Atlantic with the round-up

Greg Sargent:

Earlier this afternoon, just before Harry Reid went onto the Senate floor and gave a speech calling for a vote on repeal of don’t ask don’t tell — which has now failed — he turned to a Senate aide and shrugged his shoulders.

“I have to go to the floor, but I’m not going to like giving this speech,” he said, according to the aide.

Reid then went to the floor and called for an immediate vote on the defense authorization bill containing repeal, in the full knowledge that it was likely to go down. As Reid knew, he had not agreed to Susan Collins’s demand for four days of debate time, giving several Republicans who support repeal an excuse to vote No, dooming the bill to fall short of 60 votes needed for passage, 57-40.

I have now spoken to a senior Senate aide and put together what happened and why Reid did this.

Reid concluded that even if Collins was sincere in her promise to vote for repeal if given the four days of debate, there was no way to prevent the proceedings from taking longer, the aide says. Reid decided that the cloture vote, the 30 hours of required post-cloture debate, and procedural tricks mounted by conservative Senators who adamantly oppose repeal would have dragged the process on far longer.

“It would have been much more than four days,” the aide says. “Her suggestions were flat out unworkable given how the Senate really operates. You can talk about four days until the cows come home. That has very little meaning for Coburn and DeMint and others who have become very skilled at grinding this place to a halt.”

After spending several hours thinking it over today and consulting with other members of the Dem caucus, Reid decided to push forward with the vote today, the aide says.

The aide rejected the claim that Reid should have extended the session another week in order to accomodate GOP procedural demands, as Joe Lieberman and others had asked, arguing that extended debate would actually have dragged the session into January, what with other things on the Senate to-do list.

“Why do we need to extend the session?” the aide asked. “Republicans have blocked this bill since February. We’ve made offer after offer to try to reach agreement on this. Going through those procedural motions along with the START treaty and tax cuts would have taken us until January 5th.”

Andrew Sullivan’s round-up

Jonathan Bernstein:

Yes, Republicans could have dragged things out until January…but so what, if ultimately it gets done before the clock runs out?  And what exactly is the downside if they try and just can’t quite finish?

Meanwhile, Mark Udall just went to the Senate floor and said he’d like to see either another bite at this, or an attempt to bring back DADT as a standalone bill.  Reid’s office apparently believes that, too, could be blocked, but I’m not really sure why they believe that, if there are really 60 votes for it and, say, ten calendar days remain after the rest of their business gets done.

More Bernstein

Bradford Palmer at TNR:

Two Republicans in particular, Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, had earlier said they were committed to DADT repeal. But both ended up voting against it, claiming they wanted to see the tax-cut bill resolved first and more time to debate. Principled! Meanwhile, West Virginia’s newest Democrat, Joe Manchin, also voted no, but here’s what one Democratic aide toldHuffington Post‘s Sam Stein: “I would say that if he was somehow the 60th vote, I do not think he would have voted the way he did.” In other words, there actually were 60 senators who wanted to end discrimination against gays in the military, it just didn’t work out that way because…

So is that it for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell? It looks that way. Collins, Reid, and Joe Lieberman are planning to sponsor stand-alone repeal legislation that’s separate the defense spending bill, but as one Senate aide told the Post, the odds of success are slim because, once again, “such a move would be ripe for all sorts of procedural shenanigans.” What’s that? But repealing DADT would be the right thing to do, morally speaking? As if that had anything to do with anything.

Ezra Klein:

The bill repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell didn’t fail: The Senate did. The bill got 57 votes, not 49. As Dylan Matthews pointed out, a procedural failsafe that’s theoretically meant to protect the rights of minorities was just used to restrict the rights of minorities — which is how it’s always been, of course.

The various players are excitedly blaming one another. Anonymous aides to Harry Reid are arguing that Susan Collins’s demands would’ve meant so much conservative obstruction that there wouldn’t have been time for a vote. Collins was just on the television saying that if Reid had only given her more time, the bill would’ve passed.

I don’t care who’s right. And nor should anyone else. The diffusion of responsibility that comes from deciding law through complex parliamentary gamesmanship rather than simple majority-rules votes is the problem. What happened today is that a majority of the Senate voted for a bill that the majority of Americans support. The bill did not pass. Neither Harry Reid nor Susan Collins are ultimately responsible for that. The rules of the Senate are.

Dan Savage:

Well, gee. There’s still time—in theory—for the Senate to act. But fuck ’em: here’s hoping we get a ruling from a judge that stops all expulsions under DADT. That’s what Defense Secretary Gates warned the Senate about during his testimony; if they didn’t pass the DADT repeal, a judge was likely to step in and order an immediate end to DADT. (Hey, did you know that the bill being debated didn’t actually end DADT?)

And that will, of course, be good for the Republicans. They’ll get to scream and yell about judicial tyranny, liberal judges, and legislating from the bench—all because they successfully blocked all efforts to, you know, legislate from the legislature.

Allah Pundit:

Even more hope for Lieberman’s bill:

On Manchin, aide says: “I would say that if he was somehow the 60th vote, I do not think he would have voted the way he did”

If that’s true, then Reid doesn’t need Brown and Murky. He needs only one, and then the pressure of being the deciding vote will flip Manchin to yes too.

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“We Have A Gay Guy. He’s Big, He’s Mean, And He Kills Lots Of Bad Guys. No One Cared That He Was Gay.”

DOD page

Andrew Sullivan with a round-up.

Sullivan:

And the report is absolutely clear that straight servicemembers by large majorities have few problems with openly gay servicemembers. 69 percent of them acknowledge they have fought or worked alongside gay men and women already. A staggering 92 percent of those were fine with lifting the ban. Again: when you know someone is gay, all the fears and stereotypes tend to evaporate. This is not a surprise. The men and women of the US military are among the finest in the land; they want to do the job at hand, not deepen social division or posture politically. They are not bigots. I note one colorful quote from a special ops fighter:

“We have a gay guy [in the unit]. He’s big, he’s mean, and he kills lots of bad guys. No one cared that he was gay.”

And why would they? The other critical point is the inherent conservatism of many gay servicemembers. The last thing they would want to do is make a fuss about their orientation. The overwhelming majority will stay largely closeted in the workplace and battlefield – not out of fear but because it is irrelevant, and they are discreet kinds of people. Rand found that “even if Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell were repealed, only 15% of gay and lesbian Service members would like to have their sexual orientation known to everyone in their unit.”

Kevin Drum:

It turns out that although 30% of respondents think that repealing DADT would affect their unit’s ability to train well together (a number that shows up pretty consistently on every question about the effect of repeal), only 10% think it would affect their own readiness and only 20% think it would affect their ability to train well. In other words, there’s pretty good reason to think that even the 30% number is overstated. It seems to include a fair number of people who are assuming that DADT repeal would have a negative effect on other people even though it wouldn’t have a negative effect on them. My guess is that a lot of this is reaction to a small number of vocal traditionalists, which makes opposition to repeal seem like a bigger deal than it is.

Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon’s chief counsel, agrees, saying that surveys about personnel changes “tend to overestimate negative consequences, and underestimate the U.S. military’s ability to adapt and incorporate within its ranks the diversity that is reflective of American society at large.” I suspect he’s right. In the end, real opposition is probably more in the range of 10-20% than 30%, and even that will probably produce nothing more serious than occasional grumbling and discomfort for a year or two at most. There’s really no further excuse for inaction. It’s time for Barack Obama and the Democratic leadership to figure out a way to cut a deal and get repeal passed before Congress recesses.

John McCormack at The Weekly Standard:

Early reports on the Pentagon’s survey of the troops on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” were nothing but roses for repeal supporters, but the details of the survey complicate that narrative somewhat. While only 20% of troops who have never been deployed to a combat zone say that repeal of DADT would “very negatively” or “negatively” affect their “immediate unit’s effectiveness at completing its mission,” more than 44% of combat troops say repeal would have a negative impact on unit effectiveness:

An exception to the pattern was the response of Service members deployed to a combat zone now or in the past to the circumstance of being “in a field environment or out to sea.” Among all Service members in this group, 44.3% (and 59.4% of Marines—see Q71a in Appendix E) said performance would be “very negatively/negatively” affected in this situation. Of note, among all survey items related to the review’s major subject areas, this item had the highest percentage of Service members reporting negative perceptions about the impact of a repeal.

About 11% of all combat troops surveyed said repeal would “positively” or “very positively” affect performance, while 19% said repeal would have “no effect.” Another 26% of combat troops surveyed said repeal’s affect wold be “equally as positively as negatively.” These troops–who see both negative and positive effects of repeal–are lumped together with those who believe it will have “no effect” under the survey’s “neutral” category.

Spartan living conditions on combat zones may be one reason why combat troops see repeal more negatively than non-combat troops do

Joe.My.God

David Kurtz at Talking Points Memo:

Defense Secretary Bob Gates just called on Congress to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell before the end of the year — while asking that Congress give the military time to implement the change.

Asked by reporters how much time he would need, Gates conceded he didn’t know. But he indicated the the President would keep a close eye on the Pentagon and make sure it didn’t slow roll the implementation.

As expected, the Pentagon’s review of DADT found that repeal of the flawed policy would not have an adverse effect on unit morale or cohesion. But Gates’ unequivocal call for repeal by Congress was perhaps a surprise. The argument he made for repeal cuts particularly sharply for Republicans: if Congress doesn’t repeal DADT in orderly fashion, the federal courts may do it in a haphazard and disruptive way.

Steve Benen:

Commenting on the Pentagon report, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, added, “We treat people with dignity and respect in the armed forces, or we don’t last long in the armed forces: No special cases, no special treatment.”

Igor Volsky has more, including a variety of related highlights from the survey findings. The entire report has been published online here.

As for the larger legislative context, remember, Senate Republicans recently refused to even allow a debate on funding U.S. troops because they wanted to wait for this report. They took a gamble, of sorts — maybe the survey results would show servicemen and women agreeing with the GOP’s anti-gay animus, thus giving the party a boost fighting pro-repeal Democrats.

The gamble failed. We now know a majority of U.S. troops, a majority of U.S. civilians, a majority of the House, a majority of the Senate, the Commander in Chief, the Secretary of Defense, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs are all ready to see DADT repeal move forward.

If John McCain and other anti-gay senators hoped to gain some leverage, those hopes were in vain. They’ve run out of excuses. It’s time for the Senate to do the right and decent thing.

Remember, Democrats only need two Republicans — literally, just two — to break ranks. These GOP senators, if they exist, don’t even have to vote for the spending bill that includes the DADT provision; they just need to let the Senate vote up or own. If this report doesn’t lead two Republicans to drop the nonsense, nothing will.

Gabriel Arana at Tapped:

Two points. Part of the argument for keeping DADT — and the criticism that’s been directed at its opponents — has been that the military is special, that the rules for civil society are not the same as those necessary for a well-disciplined and effective military force. There’s some sense in this; it’s probably why, for instance, we don’t ask military members to vote on each tactical move they have to carry out, or leave the decision of whether the country goes to war to them. If the rights and responsibilities of military members need be different from those of civil society in any way, following decisions made along the chain of command seems to be the most important for maintaining cohesion. Surveying the troops about a policy matter is, in that light, a departure from the military M.O.

But the larger question is whether the rights of any minority group should be put up to a vote. In this case, the results of the study tip the scales in favor of repeal, but that needn’t have been the case — and it shouldn’t matter anyway. Anti-gay activists rely on the prejudice of voters to suppress minority rights — and call it undemocratic when a court rules that the electorate does not have a right to vote on issues like gay marriage or in this case the DADT repeal. But a fundamental feature of our democracy is that the system is reined in from pure mob rule by the (at least in theory) inalienable guarantees of the Constitution. You don’t want the Bill of Rights put up to a vote every time the courts want to extend its protections to a marginalized group, whether public opinion is on your side or not.

Allah Pundit

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Open The Closet And Walk To The Outside

Marc Ambinder:

Ken Mehlman, President Bush’s campaign manager in 2004 and a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, has told family and associates that he is gay.
Mehlman arrived at this conclusion about his identity fairly recently, he said in an interview. He agreed to answer a reporter’s questions, he said, because, now in private life, he wants to become an advocate for gay marriage and anticipated that questions would arise about his participation in a late-September fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the group that supported the legal challenge to California’s ballot initiative against gay marriage, Proposition 8.
“It’s taken me 43 years to get comfortable with this part of my life,” said Mehlman, now an executive vice-president with the New York City-based private equity firm, KKR. “Everybody has their own path to travel, their own journey, and for me, over the past few months, I’ve told my family, friends, former colleagues, and current colleagues, and they’ve been wonderful and supportive. The process has been something that’s made me a happier and better person. It’s something I wish I had done years ago.”
Privately, in off-the-record conversations with this reporter over the years, Mehlman voiced support for civil unions and told of how, in private discussions with senior Republican officials, he beat back efforts to attack same-sex marriage. He insisted, too, that President Bush “was no homophobe.” He often wondered why gay voters never formed common cause with Republican opponents of Islamic jihad, which he called “the greatest anti-gay force in the world right now.”
Mehlman’s leadership positions in the GOP came at a time when the party was stepping up its anti-gay activities — such as the distribution in West Virginia in 2006 of literature linking homosexuality to atheism, or the less-than-subtle, coded language in the party’s platform (“Attempts to redefine marriage in a single state or city could have serious consequences throughout the country…”). Mehlman said at the time that he could not, as an individual Republican, go against the party consensus. He was aware that Karl Rove, President Bush’s chief strategic adviser, had been working with Republicans to make sure that anti-gay initiatives and referenda would appear on November ballots in 2004 and 2006 to help Republicans.
Mehlman acknowledges that if he had publicly declared his sexuality sooner, he might have played a role in keeping the party from pushing an anti-gay agenda.
“It’s a legitimate question and one I understand,” Mehlman said. “I can’t change the fact that I wasn’t in this place personally when I was in politics, and I genuinely regret that. It was very hard, personally.” He asks of those who doubt his sincerity: “If they can’t offer support, at least offer understanding.”
“What I do regret, and think a lot about, is that one of the things I talked a lot about in politics was how I tried to expand the party into neighborhoods where the message wasn’t always heard. I didn’t do this in the gay community at all.”
He said that he “really wished” he had come to terms with his sexual orientation earlier, “so I could have worked against [the Federal Marriage Amendment]” and “reached out to the gay community in the way I reached out to African Americans.”
Mehlman is aware that his attempts to justify his past silence will not be adequate for many people. He and his friends say that he is aware that he will no longer control the story about his identity — which will simultaneously expose old wounds, invite Schadenfruede, and legitimize anger among gay rights activists in both parties who did not hide their sexual orientations.

Michael Triplett at Mediaite:

Ambinder was apparently pushed to run the story two days early after Mike Rogers, whose track record on outing conservative politicians is very good, reported on Blogactive that Ambinder was preparing a story that would confirm that Mehlman was gay and the story was slated for Friday or early next week.

Within an hour of Rogers going public with his scoop that Mehlman was about to come out as gay, Ambinder posted his story.

It’s a rumor that has circulated around Washington, D.C., for years.  Mehlman–who was recently in the news for buying a condo in New York City’s very-gay Chelsea neighborhood–has previously denied he’s gay but now he tells Ambinder that he “arrived at this conclusion about his identity fairly recently” and “anticipated that questions would be asked about his participation in a late-September fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the group that supported the legal challenge to California’s ballot initiative against gay marriage, Proposition 8.”

[…]

In 2006, Mehlman’s sexual orientation led to an uncomfortable moment for CNN after they edited a transcript and a video that featured Bill Maher outing Mehlman on Larry King Live. That story was later told in the documentary Outrage, which featured Rogers and his work to “out” closeted  gay conservatives who work against the LGBT community.

Ambinder seems like a natural to break the Mehlman story.  In 2006, he wrote about the challenges that Mark Foley scandal created for gay Republicans, including the lavender mafia that surrounded Foley and reached into the Republican establishment. A well-connected openly gay reporter, Ambinder would have the connections inside the web of gay Republicans to convince Mehlman to give him an exclusive.

According to the story, Mehlman and Ambinder have been talking for a number of years about Mehlman coming out and his views on gay issues.

Honestly, I thought the guy came out years ago. Remember when Bill Maher talked about the rumors surrounding him on Larry King’s show — back in 2006? I guess you were the last to know, Ken.

He’s doing this now, it seems, because he wants to drum up publicity for the cause of gay marriage and figures that “Republican whom everyone thought was gay actually is gay” headlines will do the trick. Could be, although Ambinder’s careful to remind readers of the sort of social con initiatives that the GOP pushed during Mehlman’s RNC tenure. That won’t endear him to gay activists, and his newly public identity won’t endear him to social cons. Maybe he should have just worked for gay marriage like Ted Olson and kept his orientation private?

Joe My God:

Andy Towle is reporting that Mehlman has already agreed to chair a “major anti-Prop 8 fundraiser” for Americans For Equal Rights, Ted Olson and David Boies’ outfit. Gee thanks, shitbag. That’s like offering to help rebuild a house when YOU were the fucker that helped BURN IT DOWN.

Towleroad:

Just got off the phone with Chad Griffin, Board President of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the organization challenging Proposition 8 in federal court, regarding former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman and reports that he is about to come out of the closet.

Griffin tells me that Ken Mehlman is chairing a major fundraiser in late September that has already raised over $1 million for the organization battling Prop 8. The fundraiser is co-chaired by prominent Republican donors Paul Singer and Peter Thiel and will be held at Singer’s home.

A large number of other Republicans are co-hosts of the fundraiser including Mary Cheney, Margaret Hoover, and Steve Schmidt. Dick Gephardt is also among the hosts.

Said Griffin to Towleroad:

“Mehlman has committeed his own resources and been an integral part of the team at the American Foundation for Equal Rights. Our goal is to get as many people who aren’t on the side of gay marriage on our side, and once they are here, to welcome them.”

Said AFER board member Dustin Lance Black:

“Ken represents an incredible coup for the American Foundation for Equal Rights. We believe that our mission of equal rights under the law is one that should resonate with every American. As a victorious former presidential campaign manager and head of the Republican Party, Ken has the proven experience and expertise to help us communicate with people across each of the 50 states.”

John Aravosis at AmericaBlog:

Good for Ken. I know a lot of people will want to criticize him for heading up the GOP as a closeted gay man. He says he only recently came to terms with being gay. I suspect he always knew he was gay, but recently came to terms with accepting it, and embracing it. And good for him. He’s now doing the right thing, helping support marriage equality. I’m not going to fault him for that. Coming out is a horrendously difficult and complicated thing. It’s not rational.

Now, does that mean I oppose efforts to out people who are hurting our community? Absolutely not. I was there with the rest of them calling Mehlamn out for being a closeted gay man running a homophobic political party. Our long-time readers will remember Mehlman Mondays on AMERICAblog. I long talked about Mehlman being the only closet-heterosexual I’d ever heard of – a man not willing to admit he’s straight.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t embrace him now. And not just for strategic reasons. Mehlman, from what Ambinder says, is doing the right thing. He’s now using his position in the GOP to help our community on our number one issue: marriage. For that, he deserves our thanks.

Now, let me say, the GOP was happily anti-gay under Mehlman, so I don’t buy his story that he helped temper their nastiness. They were still homophobic bigots, regardless of what Mehlman did or didn’t do, and he chose to remain as their head. For that, he gets no thanks. But is he making up for it today? You betcha. It’s a start, and a damn good one.

As for the Democratic party, I hope someone at the DNC is starting to sweat. We now have the former head of the Republican party who is to the left of Barack Obama on gay marriage. There’s a virtual groundswell of senior Republicans coming out for marriage equality. It can’t be going unnoticed in the gay community. And while it doesn’t mean 70% of the gay vote will now go Republican instead of Democrat, it does mean that growing numbers of gays and lesbians will starting thinking of the GOP as a legitimate alternative to the Democratic party.

And finally, how about that religious right? The Republicans lied to them about Mehlman for years. And Mehlam himself admits that he used his position as RNC chair to help stop the GOP gay-baiting. The religious right was totally pwned.

Ann Althouse:

Journey? Oh, I hear the dog-whistle. He’s calling the Oprah crowd. Family, friendssupportive… he wants Democrats, women, etc., to care about him. Don’t hate me because I’m/I’ve been a Republican. Love me, because I’m gay, and oh! how I’ve anguished in the company of Republicans.

UPDATE: Michael Calderone at Yahoo

Peter Wehner at Commentary

Gabriel Arana at Tapped

Maria Bustillos at The Awl

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Introduction To Catholicism And Modern Catholic Thought Not Being Offered For Fall Semester

Associated Press:

The University of Illinois has fired an adjunct professor who taught courses on Catholicism after a student accused the instructor of engaging in hate speech by saying he agrees with the church’s teaching that homosexual sex is immoral.

The professor, Ken Howell of Champaign, said his firing violates his academic freedom. He also lost his job at an on-campus Catholic center.

Howell, who taught Introduction to Catholicism and Modern Catholic Thought, says he was fired at the end of the spring semester after sending an e-mail explaining some Catholic beliefs to his students preparing for an exam.

“Natural Moral Law says that Morality must be a response to REALITY,” he wrote in the e-mail. “In other words, sexual acts are only appropriate for people who are complementary, not the same.”

An unidentified student sent an e-mail to religion department head Robert McKim on May 13, calling Howell’s e-mail “hate speech.” The student claimed to be a friend of the offended student. The writer said in the e-mail that his friend wanted to remain anonymous.

“Teaching a student about the tenets of a religion is one thing,” the student wrote. “Declaring that homosexual acts violate the natural laws of man is another.”

Howell said he was teaching his students about the Catholic understanding of natural moral law.

“My responsibility on teaching a class on Catholicism is to teach what the Catholic Church teaches,” Howell said in an interview with The News-Gazette in Champaign. “I have always made it very, very clear to my students they are never required to believe what I’m teaching and they’ll never be judged on that.”

Don Suber:

He taught “Introduction to Catholicism and Modern Catholic Thought.”

Teaching Catholicism and Modern Catholic Thought to students in an “Introduction to Catholicism and Modern Catholic Thought” class is against the law in Illinois.

David Freddoso at The Examiner:

The e-mail in question discussed the differences between consequentialist moral thought (the idea that an act’s morality can be determined by its consequences) and morality based in natural law, which depends only on the acts themselves. It’s pretty hard to discuss morality without having this discussion.

The email offered homosexuality and other sexual behaviors that are against church teaching (everything from the use of contraception in marriage to sex with children) as examples of things that a consequentialist might approve of under the right circumstances, whereas a Catholic cannot approve under any circumstances.

Unfortunately, this conversation about the class’s subject matter is verboten. Someone who apparently doesn’t even take the class or understand the subject matter decided to report this academic conversation to the campus gestapo. This is what we call the Dictatorship of Moral Relativism. We live in America, where only Islam receives such deference.

Emily Zanotti at Chicago Now:

First off, let me say that I am Catholic – hardcore – and that I’ve had a significant amount of instruction on the subject of Catholic Social Teaching, which is why when this story came out, I went to find the emails, which, of course, had been conveniently posted for me on the Interwebs.

I have to say, I’m not buying the kid’s side of the story for a couple of reasons.

One, the Catholic Church does actually believe that homosexual acts violate the natural laws of man, and Dr. Ken does a pretty fantastic job of laying out about ten years worth of education on the matter. Like it or not (and I’m guessing, in the general population, you’ll find more people siding with the latter), the Church has some strong feelings about two men or two women doing it, and those strong feelings are not open to interpretation, though I’m sure there are some modern scholars who like to pretend that Catholicism has a liberal American brand that is a fully competing dogma rather than the slips of paper in a Vatican suggestion box they happen to be. Fr. Pfleger comes to mind. At any rate, the Catholic Church is pretty damned clear on this stuff, no pun intended, and Dr. Ken was stating, pretty comprehensively, the party line. Better than a lot of people, I might add. In other words, Dr. Ken wasn’t just making sh*t up for the purposes of pissing off an entire demographic. And, for what it’s worth, the discussion never went into a judgment on the people having Teh Gay Sex, just the nature of the act itself, which is frankly unusual when people discuss this stuff. And admirable, because it’s pretty clear he’s trying to discuss this matter in a way that doesn’t disrespect the reader.

Two, I find it hard to believe that, when one signs up for a class on Catholicism, even at a major university, that one won’t expect to be taught the tenets of Catholicism. Call me crazy, but generally, a course on Catholic teaching would probably involve teaching what the Catholic Church believes. I would suspect students might also be required to regurgitate this on a test. I suspect that some students may disagree with the subject matter. But I also suspect that by age 20, you’re more inclined to take sources into consideration and approach the subject from an academic, professional standpoint. Put more concisely, if you take a class on a religion knowing you disagree with the tenets of that religion, perhaps you shouldn’t get your panties in a bunch when the professor outlines those tenets. Professors should not be required to preface every culturally “controversial” statement they make on any subject with “If you cannot handle a viewpoint that differs from yours, please stand in the hallway until I can safely call you and your fragile viewpoint back into the conversation.”

This sounds like a disagreement between this kid and the Catholic Church with Dr. Ken caught in the middle, punished for just being a member. The disagreement is understandable. I mean, I get it. Try rectifying a libertarian viewpoint with a strong Catholic faith, and yeah, I get it. The firing over the disagreement, however, is not. If you don’t like the Catholic faith, take it out on the Catholic faith, not the people teaching about it. You’re not going to like the result of that little game; if it’s true that speaking the realities of a faith are enough to disqualify a professor from academia, then honesty about sex is going to disqualify pretty much every professor of any dogma at any academic institution anywhere in the United States.

Like it or not, the world is not full of people who subscribe to the happy-clappy, Sesame Street, “everyone in the world is friends and nothing you do can ever be judged as objectively wrong” progressive liberal understanding of the universe. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to deal with it, and you’re going to need to be prepared. The whole point of a university is, shockingly, to give people an education: to teach students to think critically about reality and their beliefs, and, more importantly, communicate in the real world where there are, occasionally, ideas and actions that make us uncomfortable. At least, that was the whole point. If you use “people being uncomfortable hearing something they disagree with” as the golden standard for firing professors out of a university, you’ve got a big problem on your hands. The standards of academia and the exchange of ideas that drives them will be pretty much all but lost to a four-year indoctrination program on how to become overly sensitive, easily outraged and how to petition any semblance of authority for the redress of even the most basic of grievances. Not to mention, all sense of critical thinking and rational argument will be erased. That’s cool if you’re, say, in Cuba, but notsomuch in the Western world.

So here’s the gist of it: maybe Catholicism is wrong about homosexual sex (we can hash that puppy out another time), but that doesn’t mean that someone should be fired for teaching an authentic viewpoint. When someone tries to beat an academic institution over the head with idealism, forcing professors to scrub out all the parts that their precious little angles’ ears can’t bear to hear, things get f**ked up. Look at Texas and imagine if this situation were reversed and a “liberal” professor’s head was on the chopping block for teaching the realities of evolution to a student who didn’t like how a fossil record conflicted with his carefully sheltered world view. The effect, and the result, is exactly the same.

PZ Myers at Science Blogs:

I hate to say it, but I think the student was wrong. I read the professor’s email, and I don’t think it is hate speech at all.

It’s stupid speech.

A letter that condemned students, that threatened students if they didn’t agree with his views, that discriminated against a segment of society, or that denied people full participation in the culture for their views or background or private practices…that would be hate speech. This letter, though, is a pedantic and polite explanation of the views of the professor and of the Catholic church and of his interpretation of utilitarianism, and in fact is careful to say that he isn’t condemning any individuals. We can’t endorse using this kind of discussion as an excuse to expel people from academia — we want professors and students to be able to communicate freely with one another, without fear of retaliation. I see no sign that the professor was discussing the matter in a way that disrespects any of his students.

And the student complaining was doing so poorly. The professor’s ideas made him uncomfortable. He disliked what he said. He thought the professor was insensitive.

Those are not good reasons. If a student is never made uncomfortable, that student is not getting an education.

Bad reasons are given, but I still think UI made the right decision in not renewing this guy’s contract. Kenneth Howell is in ignorant fool who mistakes his religious dogma and his personal prejudices for knowledge.

Here’s an example. Keep in mind that this fellow is a professor, supposedly teaching college students something about philosophy. Here he’s trying to explain why homosexuality is wrong.

But the more significant problem has to do with the fact that the consent criterion is not related in any way to the NATURE of the act itself. This is where Natural Moral Law (NML) objects. NML says that Morality must be a response to REALITY. In other words, sexual acts are only appropriate for people who are complementary, not the same. How do we know this? By looking at REALITY. Men and women are complementary in their anatomy, physiology, and psychology. Men and women are not interchangeable. So, a moral sexual act has to be between persons that are fitted for that act. Consent is important but there is more than consent needed.

One example applicable to homosexual acts illustrates the problem. To the best of my knowledge, in a sexual relationship between two men, one of them tends to act as the “woman” while the other acts as the “man.” In this scenario, homosexual men have been known to engage in certain types of actions for which their bodies are not fitted. I don’t want to be too graphic so I won’t go into details but a physician has told me that these acts are deleterious to the health of one or possibly both of the men. Yet, if the morality of the act is judged only by mutual consent, then there are clearly homosexual acts which are injurious to their health but which are consented to. Why are they injurious? Because they violate the meaning, structure, and (sometimes) health of the human body.

REALITY, huh?

Here’s reality. A penis fits nicely in the hand, and a hand is usually better at stimulating the clitoris than a penis in the vagina, and our anatomy is such that our arms are of the right length to comfortably reach our genitals. Therefore, masturbation is a moral sexual act. We can extend this to point out that a man’s hand can stimulate a clitoris and a woman’s hand can stimulate a penis, and therefore, mutual masturbation, as is being practiced by tens of thousands of teenagers on this Friday night, is also a rightful act. There is no practical difference in anatomy or physiology between mutual masturbation between a heterosexual couple and a homosexual couple, so these acts are also entirely natural.

This reasoning can be extended to a great many sexual acts: oral and anal sex, frottage of various kinds, fantasy play, sadomasochism, etc. There are more aspects of male and female anatomy in which they are alike than in which they differ, and in fact the only act which can be uniquely performed by a male and female couple is penile-vaginal intercourse. So this one act out of many is all that this professor can point to in order to justify heterosexuality as the only proper interaction, but this requires ignoring the majority of human sexual behaviors. I have to wonder if all Catholic teaching permits in the bedroom is genital-genital contact. How sad for them.

Rod Dreher:

Read the professor’s own account of his dismissal. I hope we hear the university’s side. Before people take their usual culture-war positions, understand that if the facts are as the professor relates them, this is not essentially a question of whether or not one approves of homosexuality. This is about academic and religious freedom. The professor was teaching a course on Catholicism and Catholic morality. The Catholic Church unambiguously teaches that homosexual expression is immoral. You are perfectly free to disagree with that in a university, but that’s what the Church teaches, and the professor is obligated to present that teaching in a course on Catholicism. According to the professor, students in the past have argued against that position in class, always respectfully. This was the first time an aggrieved student went to pieces over it, and demanded that the university take action against the professor — which it did.

Again, we await the university’s side of the story. But if the facts are substantially the same, then we have a case in which a professor cannot even teach his subject in a straightforward, accurate manner, without putting his job at risk. Is this really the kind of scholarly atmosphere we want? Is it conducive to a free exchange of ideas, and actual learning? As Beckwith writes in his blog commentary, imagine the reverse, and that a Catholic student complained to the university that he felt “excluded” by a gay professor’s arguments in favor of the licitness of homosexuality in a class on LGBT Studies. In what conceivable world would the university fire the professor? What kind of university lets a whinypants student dictate the content of a professor’s course?

I well remember sitting in a history course at LSU in which the professor, an avowed secularist, was making fun of the medieval church. One student stood up, yelled at him for “anti-Christian bigotry,” and stomped out. I felt that the professor really had been laying it on thick re: the Church, but he was an excellent professor, and I could put up with his prejudices because I learned so much from him. Besides, we could dispute him in the classroom with no problem. This isn’t exactly the same thing as the University of Illinois case here, because this history prof could have taught his subject matter that day without snarky editorial commentary about medieval Christianity; it’s hard to see how a professor teaches a class on Catholicism while ignoring the Church’s teaching on sexual morality. Still, that people are so willing to be grievously offended by thoughts that conflict with their own beliefs, and universities and other institutions are willing to kowtow to the most delicate student sensibilities — provided they are expressed by members of politically approved demographic groups — is dreadful for robust, honest discourse, to say nothing of actual scholarship.

Stories like this make one see the university as an increasingly Orwellian place where “tolerance” means putting up with people who already agree with you. To paraphrase Dorothy Parker, their tolerance for religious and academic freedom runs the gamut from A to B.

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And How Are The Kids?

Dana Stevens at Slate:

Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right (Focus Features) is the movie we’ve been waiting for all year: a comedy that doesn’t take cheap shots, a drama that doesn’t manipulate, a movie of ideas that doesn’t preach. It’s a rich, layered, juicy film, with quiet revelations punctuated by big laughs. And it leaves you feeling wistful for at least three reasons: because of what happens in the story, because the movie’s over, and because there aren’t more of them this good.

Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nic (Annette Bening) are a middle-aged lesbian couple in Los Angeles with two teenage children, Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson). Nic, a physician, is the breadwinner of this stable, well-off family, while the unfocused Jules has vague plans to start a landscaping business on her partner’s dime. Near the start of the movie, Joni, at her younger brother’s urging, calls up the sperm bank that provided their mothers with genetic material 18 years ago. Behind their mothers’ backs, the siblings make contact with their hitherto anonymous biological father, Paul (Mark Ruffalo), a hedonistic restaurateur who’s flattered by the attention but unsure how to proceed. Gradually, Paul is incorporated into the fringes of the family: The children bring him home for an excruciatingly awkward lunch, and against Nic’s wishes, Jules takes on the job of landscaping his yard.

It’s fitting that gardening—Jules’ landscaping project, Paul’s achingly trendy farm-to-table restaurant—plays such a large role in The Kids Are All Right, because the movie is at heart about the ecosystem of a family, and the way that system changes when an exotic species is introduced. The presence of Paul changes everything, exposing fault lines in Nic and Jules’ relationship and forcing the children to defy their mothers and reassess their peer friendships. (A subplot in which the introverted Laser finally stands up to his jerky best friend is particularly well-handled.)

Rob Hunter at Film School Rejects:

The Kids Are All Right is a bright and beautifully acted look at what it means to be part of a family. The ups, the downs, the relationship with your partner and kids… the specifics of it may seem like ingredients for a niche indie picture or even worse, a “message” movie about tolerance, equal rights, and the evil liberal agenda, but it never even comes close to such things. Instead the movie is simply about the challenges of family life. Nic is a doctor who enjoys both her wine and her control streak a bit too much. Jules is the more relaxed and carefree half of the relationship who floats between “careers” with a mix of indifference and enthusiasm. Together they’ve raised their kids as well as any parent could which means there’s plenty of room for doubts and concerns. Joni has just graduated high school and is mere months away from heading off to college, and as nervous as she may be her parents are even more terrified. And then there’s Laser who seems well adjusted but may be exploring his sexuality in some unexpected ways. And by unexpected ways I mean with a ginger of course.

As wonderfully written and directed as the film may be the picture’s real power is in the acting. All five of the lead performers are giving some of the best work of their careers. Granted, that’s not saying much for Hutcherson, but even with a limited background he’s never seemed as natural as he does here. Wasikowska shines as the child on the cusp of adulthood torn between home and the outside world, and she manages more with a quivering lip then many of her peers do with their entire body. Ruffalo is almost always the most watchable and intriguing actor in any of his films and that trend doesn’t change here. His character is an inexcusable dick at times but you can’t help but want to forgive him. A lesser actor (with harder features and without his sad, puppy eyes) would have a hard time accomplishing the same.

Bening and Moore both give fantastic and believably real performances as a couple who love each other, warts and all, and can convey that long history together with little more than a glance. I joked about Moore above (no I didn’t), but she imbues Jules with such a goofy and effortless charm that you could easily see yourself falling into her smiling embrace. But as good as everyone else is the performance of note here belongs to Mrs Dick Tracy herself, Annette Bening. As the most authoritative adult of the three Nic is tasked as straight-man to the more loose and casual performances of Moore and Ruffalo and the childish behaviors of the kids. She never becomes unlikable though, and as her grip on things begins to crack it’s a slow tremble of emotion that begins to spill out. A certain dinner table scene is a masterclass in itself in the art of acting as Nic navigates some surprising revelations and comes out wounded and scarred on the other side.

Andrew O’Hehir in Salon:

By making a movie in which a pair of married lesbians are played by well-known hetero actresses Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, and in which one partner (Jules, played by Moore) has an affair with a straight man, Cholodenko and co-writer Stuart Blumberg capitulate — in some people’s view — to a whole set of “Celluloid Closet”-type homophobic stereotypes, and possibly lend aid and comfort to the right-wing view of homosexuality as a “lifestyle choice.” Furthermore, Cholodenko doesn’t seem terribly concerned about it. Before our Sundance interview, I read her a few examples from the first wave of critical comments and she laughed them off: “Maybe those people need to take their pink megaphone somewhere else.”

Ultimately, this might not even rise to the level of a tempest in a teapot: Lesbian and gay viewers, along with everybody else who actually sees “The Kids Are All Right,” are likely to find it a sympathetic, honest and frequently hilarious film about the challenges of marriage, parenting and contemporary family life, with one highly topical twist. But if some queer-radical types object to the film on political or ideological grounds, there’s a sense in which they’re right to do so. This movie definitely isn’t aimed at them.

In other interviews, Cholodenko has joked that she’s more interested in drawing in straight male viewers than in placating every possible segment of lesbian opinion. That makes the film sound a lot more calculated and Hollywoodish than it is, but the point she’s making is that “The Kids Are All Right” has a dramatic agenda but no political agenda. It’s not attached to a set of talking points about gay marriage and sexual identity, it’s not advocating some revolutionary artistic or social paradigm and it’s not a seminar in LGBT self-esteem.

Jules and Nic (Bening’s workaholic doctor character) and their teenage kids and the Peter Pan man-boy who threatens to come between them (a scene-stealing Mark Ruffalo) are flawed, selfish, fascinating characters you’ll sometimes like and sometimes hate. This is one of the most compelling and rewarding portraits of a middle-class American marriage in cinema history, as well as one of the funniest. The fact that the people in this particular marriage are both women is important to the story, of course. But perhaps, Cholodenko suggests, it isn’t all that important to the universe.

Dan Gifford at Big Hollywood:

This film is essentially selling a lite version of the leftist utopian political fantasy of not needing men and rejecting male patriarchy.

And what does a hetero guy in Hollywood know about any of that? Please allow a brief digression to establish bona fides.

Del Martin, founder of the modern lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender–rights movement, was my great aunt. It was she and her life partner, Phyllis Lyon, who received California’s much publicized first same sex marriage license in San Francisco.

That outed, I will note that lesbianism, at least according to my aunt and many other other leaders who defined the movement, is a leftist political statement of female bonding against hunter-gatherer maleness that does not necessarily have anything to do with sex. In my aunt’s own words, a lesbian is “a woman whose primary erotic, psychological, emotional and social interest is in a member of her own sex, even though that interest may not be overtly expressed [sexually].”

That’s what comes through in Moore’s Jules character since she so hungrily embraces heterosexual sex, the thought of which apparently disgusts her parther, Nic. Pure sex aside,  lesbian feminists have always told me that the object of women’s politicized sexual links is to overthrow the patriarchal order and replace it with a feminist culture. “Just as sexism is the source of all our other oppressions, maleness is the source of sexism,” according to a statement from the Dyke Collective. Implicit in that rant is a rejection of males as fathers that provide anything positive to the raising of children.

Can that be true?

A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found “… children in lesbian homes scored higher than kids in straight families on some psychological measures of self-esteem and confidence, did better academically and were less likely to have behavioral problems, such as rule breaking and aggression.”

Maybe the kids are all right.

But critics say that considering this research was “funded by several lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocacy groups, such as the Gill Foundation and the Lesbian Health Fund from the Gay Lesbian Medical Association“  plus the obvious fact that the political left dominates all media, even the scientific media, whatta ya ’spect?

So, maybe the kids aren’t all right.

Irin Carmon at Jezebel:

The action happens, so to speak, when the couple’s children track down the sperm donor that is their biological father — and apparently Julianne Moore has an affair with him. (In the trailer, this looks like chaste kissing.) With this twist, writes O’Hehir, “Cholodenko and co-writer Stuart Blumberg capitulate — in some people’s view — to a whole set of ‘Celluloid Closet’-type homophobic stereotypes, and possibly lend aid and comfort to the right-wing view of homosexuality as a ‘lifestyle choice.'” That, at least, appears to have been the complaints of some of Salon’s commenters — not a famously enlightened bunch, alas, but an interesting claim nonetheless.

In other words, does every Hollywood movie involving a lesbian have to suggest she really needs cock?

As a San Francisco Bay Guardian interviewer put it to Cholodenko, “We don’t see a lot of queer characters on screen, and so when we do, many want them to be perfect: the queer voice, the lesbian, the gay man. And when they step outside those boundaries, suddenly it becomes an issue, politically.”

Cholodenko replied that she (also a lesbian mother) identified strongly with the film and felt that it was true to her, and also that she didn’t find the boundaries between straight and gay to be so rigid. She went on,

I feel like, it’s kind of an interesting intermingling of straight and gay. I felt like, if I really want this to be a mainstream film, that’s good. This is really inclusive of gay and straight, and I like that. I like that personally and I like that for this film. I was much more interested in reaching out to the male population than I was concerned about alienating a sector of the lesbian population.

In other words, this was explicitly, at least in part, a capitulation to having more people identify with the story — but in a way that felt narratively true to Cholodenko, at least by her own account. If the film does succeed with “mainstream” (giant scare quotes around that one) audiences, then maybe the next time won’t be such a hard sell. And it won’t have to stand in as the “perfect” representation of a given group, not being the only one.

Judy Berman at Flavorwire:

The greatest strength of co-writer and director Lisa Cholodenko’s (who, it’s worth noting is a lesbian parent) script, as well as Julianne Moore and Annette Bening’s pitch-perfect portrayals of the couple in question, is that it paints its lead characters as very specific, likable but fallible people. Nic (Bening) is a resolutely Type A OB-GYN with strict rules for the kids, a tendency to be called away to work at just the wrong time, and a nasty habit of drinking too much to take the edge off of stressful situations. Jules (Moore) isn’t quite her opposite so much as her counterpart: a sort of free spirit with a lighter touch who’s never exactly managed to launch a successful career. They argue, like all couples do, but the love and deep attachment between them is always palpable. Oh, and they watch guy-on-guy gay porn together while they get it on. In a spectacularly awkward clip that is nonetheless true to the characters, Jules explains to their 15-year-old son that human desire is a strange and unpredictable (not to mention inexplicable) thing.

It’s easy to understand why oppressed groups can be so protective of the way they are portrayed in media. Movies like The Kids Are All Right, which may be rocketed to mainstream success on the strength of its two A-list stars (and equally strong supporting performances by Mark Ruffalo and Mia Wasikowska), might have a chance at getting Middle America to empathize with a lesbian-led family. But that shouldn’t mean Bening and Moore’s two moms should have to be perfect. Any film with flawless main characters is bound to be a forced, boring one more concerned with being politically correct than telling a powerful story.

The Kids Are All Right plants the viewer right in the center of this family in flux’s most difficult summer. By creating characters we feel we know, not in spite but because of their shortcomings, Cholodenko and her stars will undoubtedly win over viewers and rise above stereotypes.

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D.A.D.T. D.E.A.D.?

Kerry Eleveld at The Advocate:

The Advocate has learned that concurrent meetings took place Monday morning at the White House and on Capitol Hill that could help clear the way for “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal to be attached to the Department of Defense authorization bill later this week.

LGBT groups met with officials at the White House while legislative affairs representatives from the White House and the Department of Defense met with the staff of House and Senate leadership offices on Capitol Hill along with those of Rep. Patrick Murphy and senators Carl Levin and Joseph Lieberman.

A White House aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity confirmed the White House meeting. “Our understanding is that Congress is determined to act this week and we are learning more about their proposal now,” said the aide.

A Democratic leadership aide called the development “promising” but said discussions were ongoing. The House Democratic leadership is expected to meet to discuss the proposal later this afternoon.

Ed O’Keefe and Michael Shear at The Washington Post:

President Obama has signed on to a “don’t ask, don’t tell” compromise between lawmakers and the Defense Department that is likely to clear the way for repeal of the 17-year-old ban on the military’s policy banning gays and lesbians from serving openly in the armed forces.

Under the compromise, worked out in a series of meetings Monday at the White House and on Capitol Hill, lawmakers will proceed to repeal the Clinton-era policy in the next several days, but the repeal will not go into effect until a Pentagon study about how to implement it is completed.

In a letter to lawmakers pushing for a repeal, the White House wrote that “such an approach recognizes the critical need to allow our military and their families the full opportunity to inform and shape the implementation process through a thorough understanding of their concerns, insights and suggestions.” (See the full letter below.)

Gay rights advocates hailed the White House decision as a “dramatic breaktrhough” that they predicted would dismantle the policy once and for all.

The Senate Armed Services Committee is set to vote Thursday on adding a repeal to the defense authorization bill. Committee Chairman Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) favors a repeal, but at least six senators on the panel are considered undecided. The House may also vote on a similar measure this week by Rep. Patrick J. Murphy (D-Pa.). House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) declined to include Murphy’s bill in passing the House version of the defense spending measure last week, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said she will allow a floor vote if there is enough support in favor of a repeal. Congressional aides said it’s unclear whether Murphy has the votes necessary to pass his bill.

Any repeal would take effect only after President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen review the Pentagon study and certify that the new law can be implemented without a negative impact on military readiness, recruitment and retention, according to the sources.

Dale Carpenter:

The repeal is limited in one sense. It does not ban discimination against gays in the militery. It returns the status quo ante DADT in 1993 when the president had sole authority to set military personnel policies on gays. The difference is that now the president has promised to reverse the old policy after a study is issued in December on how to implement the change.

In theory, the next president could reassert the ban. But that’s very unlikely to happen once gays are serving openly. Liberalization of anti-gay public policy tends to be governed by one-way ratchet. Plus, the experience in other countries has been that allowing service by openly gay personnel presents no real problems for recruitment, retention, or discipline, and controversy about it quickly subsides.

Joe My God:

While some see lots of holes in the compromise, most LGBT and progressive groups are responding favorably.

The Palm Center:

“The President’s statement today keeps his promise to lift the ban by establishing the terms on which ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ will be dismantled,” stated Aaron Belkin, Palm Center Director. “For the past seventeen years, every expert who has studied this policy has emphasized that dismantling it would require leadership. Leadership is what the President showed today.”Servicemembers United:

“This announcement from the White House today is long awaited, much needed, and immensely helpful as we enter a critical phase of the battle to repeal the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law,” said Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United and a former U.S. Army interrogator who was discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” “We have been making the case to White House staff for more than a year now that delayed implementation is realistic, politically viable, and the only way to get the defense community on board with repeal, and we are glad to see the community and now the administration and defense leadership finally rally around this option.”Human Rights Campaign:

“We are on the brink of historic action to both strengthen our military and respect the service of lesbian and gay troops,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “Today’s announcement paves the path to fulfill the President’s call to end ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ this year and puts us one step closer to removing this stain from the laws of our nation.” “Without a repeal vote by Congress this year, the Pentagon’s hands are tied and the armed forces will be forced to continue adhering to the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law,” said Solmonese. “A solution has emerged: Congress needs to vote to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ now.”Servicemembers Legal Defense Network:

“The White House announcement is a dramatic breakthrough in dismantling ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ The path forward crafted by the President, Department of Defense officials, and repeal leaders on Capitol Hill respects the ongoing work by the Pentagon on how to implement open service and allows for a vote this week. President Obama’s support and Secretary Gates’ buy-in should insure a winning vote, but we are not there yet. The votes still need to be worked and counted. If enacted this welcomed compromise will create a process for the President and the Pentagon to implement a new policy for lesbian and gay service members to serve our country openly, hopefully within a matter of a few months. This builds upon the support Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed for open service during the February hearing in the Senate, and further underscores that this Administration is committed to open service.”The full language of the DADT repeal legislation can be found at AmericaBlog Gay.

David Dayen at Firedoglake:

Advocacy groups appear to be pleased with the agreement, though one could obviously see pitfalls. A Pentagon ruled by those with a different ideological perspective could overturn the new open service policy, if they have the authority to do so. But this would be arguably less likely (or at least as likely) than a future Republican Congress, which would probably waste no time attempting to ban openly gay service. Once the new policy is in place, new restrictions become a harder sell.

All of this is apparently predicated on getting the necessary votes in the Senate Armed Services Committee (Three of these five swing votes – Robert Byrd, Bill Nelson, Evan Bayh, Jim Webb, Scott Brown – would be necessary for passage). If that is handled, then the House would adopt similar language, probably through an amendment to the defense authorization bill which the House Armed Services Committee completed work on last week. Once repeal is embedded in the defense authorization bill, it would take 60 votes in the Senate to remove it, and opponents don’t have that.

It’s puzzling that it took this long for a deal like this to be struck. This is basically what Carl Levin has been offering for months – repeal with a delayed implementation. Perhaps the White House realized the damage they would incur if they did not push repeal after announcing it with great fanfare in the State of the Union address.

The other complicating factor here is that Robert Gates has recommended a veto of this defense bill for totally different reasons. He feels that it consists of too many unwanted military spending projects. It’s unclear how the President would handle the delicate topic of vetoing a bill with a major gay rights initiative and explaining that there were different reasons for the veto.

Allah Pundit:

Any guesses as to why the left is eager to do this now instead of waiting until December for the Pentagon to finish its review?

The impetus for the meetings is a push in Congress, which passed the measure under President Bill Clinton, to add a repeal of the policy to the upcoming defense authorization bill.

Repeal “had been on a slow track awaiting completion of a Pentagon study at the end of this year,” reports CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin. “Gay rights proponents and their Democratic allies on Capitol Hill and in the White House have decided it’s now or not for a very long time since the elections this fall are expected to bring in a more conservative, more Republican Congress.”

The only thing that might stop it at this point is if Carl Levin can’t get 15 votes to attach the repeal to the appropriations bill. CBS says he’s a vote or two short, but several committee members on the fence. And who are those members? On the GOP side, you’ve got Graham, Scott Brown, and Susan Collins, any or all of whom should be ripe for the picking. (McCain, the committee ranking member, will surely vote no to keep Hayworth at bay.) I’m fascinated to see how many Republican votes are going to pop for this in the general floor vote, especially since Gates and Mike Mullen have endorsed repeal and doubly especially since it’s unclear how much tea partiers will care about a social issue as hot-button as this.

A group of military officers from U.S. ally nations told the Brookings Institute last week that they had no trouble integrating gays openly into their armed forces. Expect that talking point to figure prominently if this blows up in a couple of days. Exit question: Is it time?

Marc Ambinder

James Joyner:

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.   While homosexuality has been normalized enough that we have a president, SECDEF, Joint Chiefs chairman, and probably a majority in Congress willing to go on the record to support gays serving in the military — something that decidedly wasn’t the case when Bill Clinton took office in 1993 — it’s still a hot button issue in much of the country.   Referenda to ban gay marriage, for example, seem almost always to pass easily.

Will Republicans mount a filibuster on this issue?   I doubt it.   And it’s going to be very difficult to mount a credible argument opposing lifting the ban once the Pentagon certifies — which it almost certainly will — that doing so will not harm morale or be prejudicial to good order and discipline in the military.

Andrew Sullivan:

My major fear up to now has been that the repeal could get lost legislatively if the GOP made big gains in the House and Senate this fall, as is historically almost certain. This compromise removes the basis for that fear, while allowing the military and the defense secretary to manage the transition to ensure a smooth ride. I hope it works. If it does, it really will be a feather in the cap of Jim Messina, the good folks at SLDN and Servicemembers United, and the Obama administration. It will also redound to the credit of those who did not give up on this, who refused to concede that this was not a civil rights question of the first order, and to the countless servicemembers, past and future, who put their lives and careers on the line for this change.

It’s been a long two decades. So long one almost feels numb at exactly the moment one should feel exhilarated. But that’s probably how all such breakthroughs feel, when they eventually happen. For the first time in American history, gay people will be deemed fully worthy of the highest call of patriotism – to risk one’s life for the defense of one’s country.

John McCormack at The Weekly Standard:

The Boston Globe reports that Senator Scott Brown will vote against a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell on Thursday:

“I am keeping an open mind, but I do not support moving ahead until I am able to finish my review, the Pentagon completes its study, and we can be assured that a new policy can be implemented without jeopardizing the mission of our military,” Brown said in a statement provided to the Globe.

Brown, who is also a lieutentant colonel in the Massachusetts National Guard, said he came to his decision after hearing the views of multiple officers and enlisted personnel.

“For some time now, I have been seeking the opinions and recommendations of service chiefs, commanders in the field, and, most importantly, our junior soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines,” he said in the statement. “I believe we have a responsibility to the men and women of our armed forces to be thorough in our consideration of this issue and take their opinions seriously.”

But the AP reports that Senator Susan Collins will vote in favor of repeal.

There are 28 senators on the Armed Services Committee (16 Democrats and 14 Republicans). So, if Collins supports repeal and all other Republicans oppose it (which seems likely), the Democrats can afford two “no” votes and and still pass it out of committee with 15 votes.

Jim Webb, Ben Nelson, and Robert Byrd seem like potential Democratic “no” votes, but we’ll just have to wait and see how it all works out on Thursday.

Kevin Drum:

This is actually not much of a compromise. It’s basically a complete win the DADT repeal forces, since implementation always would have taken some time no matter when repeal was passed. Pelosi and Reid already support repeal, and now, with Obama’s active support, the chances of getting it through Congress are excellent. Adam Weinstein has more here.

So if things go the way I think they’ll go, by later this year Obama, Pelosi, and Reid will have passed a historic stimulus bill, the Lily Ledbetter Act, healthcare reform, college loan reform, financial reform, repeal of DADT, and Obama will have withdrawn from Iraq.1 Not bad for 18 months of work. And who knows? There’s even a chance that Obama’s Afghanistan escalation will work. If it does, what president since LBJ will have accomplished more in his first term?

1Except for the pesky “residual force,” of course. Still, once the combat forces are gone, it’s hard to see a scenario in which they’re ever sent back in.

UPDATE: John McCormack at The Weekly Standard

Igor Volsky at Think Progress

Adam Bink at Open Left

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