Tag Archives: LGBT

Milbloggers Release A Statement

Uncle Jimbo at Blackfive:

JOINT STATEMENT FROM MILITARY BLOGGERS                                                      12 MAY 2010

We consider the US military the greatest institution for good that has ever existed. No other organization has freed more people from oppression, done more humanitarian work or rescued more from natural disasters.  We want that to continue.

Today, it appears inevitable to us that the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and law restricting those displaying open homosexual behavior from serving will be changed.  And yet, very little will actually change.  Homosexuals have always served in the US Military, and there have been no real problems caused by that.

The service chiefs are currently studying the impact and consequences of changing the DADT policy, and how to implement it without compromising the morale, order and discipline necessary for the military to function. The study is due to be completed on Dec. 1st. We ask Congress to withhold action until this is finished, but no longer.  We urge Congress to listen to the service chiefs and act in accordance with the recommendations of that study.

The US Military is professional and ready to adapt to the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell without compromising its mission.  Echoing Sec. Def. Gates and ADM Mullen, we welcome open and honorable service, regardless of sexual orientation.

Matt Burden- Warrior Legacy Foundation & BLACKFIVE

Jim Hanson- Warrior Legacy Foundation & BLACKFIVE

Blake Powers- BLACKFIVE

Fred Schoenman- BLACKFIVE

David Bellavia- House to House

Bruce McQuain- Q&O

JD Johannes- Outside the Wire

Diane Frances McInnis Miller- Boston Maggie

Mark Seavey- This Ain’t Hell

Michael St. Jacques- The Sniper

Mary Ripley- US Naval Institute Blog

John Donovan- Castle Argghhh!

Andrew J. Lubin- The Military Observer

Marc Danziger- Winds of Change

Greta Perry- Hooah Wife

Bruce McQuain at Questions And Observations:

The expected pushback is already beginning to mount in the comment section of the link above.  I’ve thought about it long and hard.  I’ve actually changed my mind from years ago.  I guess that’s because I’ve known of and served with soldiers I knew were gay.  And every one of them were good soldiers who served honorably and did an excellent job.

I’ve also come to understand that it isn’t going to be the activists or those who want to flaunt their homosexuality who are going to seek to serve their country. Being a Soldier, Sailor, Marine or Airman is a hard, dirty and dangerous job.  Those that choose to serve are not going to do it because of who they love, but simply because want to serve their nation and the military is their chosen method of doing so.

This is a cultural change thing.  And the culture has been changing for years to more and more acceptance of homosexuality in terms of offering equal rights and protections.  This is simply an extension of that.  If I thought it would seriously effect readiness, I’d probably oppose it – but I don’t think it will.  Will there be some problems and some objections to overcome?  Yes.  But the military can and will overcome them.

The institution of the military is important to me, I’ve thought about this in some depth and come to the conclusion this is the right thing to do.  I agree with SecDef Gates and the JCS that DADT is a policy which needs to be repealed.  But I also support their recommendation that it needs to be done thoughtfully and at their own pace.  It also means that Congress will need to enact legislation to makes changes the UCMJ and some other necessary legislative steps to make this come to pass.

Sexual orientation should never be a bar to serving your country honorably in the profession of arms.

Ben Smith at Politico:

The community of “mil-bloggers” — often hawkish, critical of White House and military leadership, devoted to both the First and Second Amendments — isn’t easy to define politically, but has proven an increasingly powerful voice from the ranks. The statement, which says that there have always been gay soldiers and that “very little will actually change” with the repeal of “Don’t Ask,” carries the signatures of the authors of some of the most prominent: Blackfive, Q&O, Outside the Wire, and the US Naval Institute Blog, among others.

Rachel Slajda at Talking Points Memo:

Jim Hanson of BlackFive, who organized the effort, told TPM that not everyone who signed the statement wants repeal.

Instead, Hanson said, there was a sea change earlier this year when Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen announced their support for repeal. That’s when, for many who serve in or cover the military, repeal became inevitable.

“We wanted it done right,” he said. “We’re of the impression that if it’s gonna be done, that Congress doesn’t do it precipitously.”

Gates and Mullen have warned Congress against legislating such a change before December, the deadline for a Department of Defense review into how to best implement repeal.

The bloggers said they support waiting.

“We ask Congress to withhold action until this is finished, but no longer,” they wrote in the statement. “We urge Congress to listen to the service chiefs and act in accordance with the recommendations of that study.”

There are “a bunch of issues that need to be worked through if it’s gonna be the non-problem I think it’s gonna be,” Hanson said. “Let the service chiefs figure out how to do this, pass legislation that mirrors that and I think you’ll have a much less painful transition.”

Armed Services Chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-MO), however, said yesterday that he will put repeal into the Defense Authorization Act in committee markup this month if he can get the votes for it. That could lead to passage months earlier than Gates and Mullen want, but Levin said he’d make the effective date of repeal after December 1.

Hanson said he thinks including repeal in the authorization bill is a “horrible idea, because the military hasn’t had a chance to weigh in yet.”

“There’s no need for people to be chaining themselves to the White House fence,” he said, referring to Lt. Dan Choi, who recently did so to protest how slow repeal is moving. “Relax, and let’s do a good job of it.”

Vodka Pundit at Pajamas Media:

We’ve come a long way in just 15 years. By and large the troops support repeal, and I’ve never met a better or smarter group of people (even if we were in Vegas at the time, and I’m even including Uncle Jimbo ) than the folks at BlackFive and the other milbloggers. If they all say it’s time, then it’s time.

Allah Pundit:

I think it’s an impressively bold move, not only because they didn’t have to make it but because the bulk of their readership, I assume, comes from vets and hawks, both of which are perceived (fairly or not) as being cooler to repealing DADT than the average joe. But then, as Uncle Jimbo says of those who disagree, “no one’s going to lose their mind over DADT.”

Tom Maguire:

My *guess* was that the repeal of DADT would actually be easier in wartime when soldiers are focused on more important issues such as not getting blown up.

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Filed under LGBT, Military Issues, New Media

Lift My Luggage, Baby

John Byrne at Raw Story:

A Christian leader and prominent neuro-psychiatrist who co-founded the Family Research Council with evangelist James Dobson took a ten-day European vacation with a callboy he met through RentBoy.com and was caught in an airport with the escort by a Miami newspaper.

The escort said he had met George Rekers, professor of Neuropsychiatry and Behavioral Science at the University of South Carolina, on RentBoy.com. Rekers, when confronted, didn’t deny that he’d met the callboy online, but said he had hired him to help him carry his baggage and didn’t learn he was generally hired for “private company” until mid-way through his European vacation.

“I had surgery,” Rekers told Miami’s New Times, “and I can’t lift luggage. That’s why I hired him.” (The paper noted that it didn’t stop him from pushing a “tottering” pile of luggage through Miami International Airport.)

The callboy, identified by a pseudonym, told the New Times‘ Penn Bullock and Brandon Thorp that Rekers claim that he didn’t know his “line of work” seemed spurious.

“He should’ve been able to tell you that,” he said. “But that’s up to him.”

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:

George A. Rekers cofounded the Family Research Council with religious right icon James Dobson. And he’s been a key leader of the “ex-gay” movement for years, even testifying on behalf of the states of Arkansas and Florida in defense of their laws banning adoptions by gays and lesbians. Alas he was caught a few days ago coming home from a ten day European vacation with a male prostitute he’d found on Rentboy.com.

Rekers first claimed he didn’t know the man was a prostitute, then said he’d hired him to carry his luggage and finally went with he was trying to bring him the message of Jesus.

Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs

Andrew Sullivan

Joe My God:

Rekers is part of the fake pediatricians group created by NARTH.

Rekers is a board member of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), an organization that systematically attempts to turn gay people straight. And the Huffington Post recently singled out Rekers as a member of the American College of Pediatricians — an official-sounding outfit in Gainesville that purveys lurid, youth-directed literature accusing gays of en masse coprophilia. (In an email, the college’s Lisa Hawkins wrote, “ACPeds feels privileged to have a scholar of Dr. Rekers‘ stature affiliated with our organization. I am sure you will find Prof. Rekers to be an immaculate clinician/scholar, and a warm human being.”)

Congratulations to the Miami New Times! Here’s Rekers’ Facebook page, should you care to write him a note congratulating him on his excellent taste in boy hookers.

UPDATE: I’ve just put a call in to the Family Research Council to see if Tony Perkins has anything to say about their co-founder. I’m not holding my breath, but it was a fun call to make.\

UPDATE II: I have revealed the identity of the male hooker.

UPDATE IV: My click-out thingy tells me that thousands of you have hit Reker’s Facebook page. Gee, could that be why it’s now GONE. Snork!

Dan Savage at The Stranger:

Rekers is also the author of Shaping Your Child’s Sexual Identity. I haven’t read the book but I’m guessing it encourages parents to believe that they can shape their children’s sexual identities. Which, of course, they can’t. (Lord knows my partner and I tried.) Rekers is also a member of the American College of Pediatrics, a fake pediatricians organization formed by religious conservatives to counter the reality-based American Academy of Pediatrics (which opposes “curing” gay people, argues for more support for gay youth, and backs gay marriage and adoptions by gay couples). Let’s pause to savor this moment… and then let’s get to work. We have to do all we can to make sure “lift my luggage” enters the lexicon alongside “hike the Appalachian trail.

Richard Lawson at Gawker:

Rekers has been speaking out against all things gay for many years now, so vehemently that one is led to assume that he’s overcompensating for something. And indeed that looks to be the case. Rekers traveled to Europe on a vacation recently and hired an escort through Rentboy.com to “carry his luggage.” He claims he recently had surgery and thus couldn’t do the lifting himself. Why he found a porter through a gay prostitution website — the only place where Lucien, as the rentboy is called by the Miami New Times (who broke the story), offers his services — remains unexplained.

Not that we can blame Rekers, really. Listen to the a description of the lad, from the New Times:

The pictures on the Rentboy.com profile show a shirtless young man with delicate features, guileless eyes, and sun-kissed, hairless skin. The profile touts his “smooth, sweet, tight ass” and “perfectly built 8 inch cock (uncut)” and explains he is “sensual,” “wild,” and “up for anything” – as long you ask first.

Gurgle. Rekers claims that he only found out the fellow was a hooker halfway through the trip. That must have been a fun discovery, Georgie! Though how he couldn’t have known, given how explicit Rentboy.com is, is a little confusing.

Wonkette:

Rekers was a driving force behind the whole gay-to-straight conversion rehab idea. And you’d think that since he basically founded this thing, he could’ve landed a stint in one of them himself.

UPDATE #2: Penn Bullock and Brandon K. Thorp at Riptide 2.0

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Filed under Families, LGBT, Religion

Not, Of Course, That There’s Anything Wrong With That

Ben Domenech at The New Ledger (and CBS):

Update: The White House has seen fit to take the effort to respond to my description of Elena Kagan’s sexuality, and Howard Kurtz asked me to comment. Here’s how I responded:

Since the position opened on the court, there have been abundant numbers of commenters and bloggers on the Left arguing openly about the potential political reactions of appointing either Sullivan or Karlan as the first openly gay members of the court. The idea of history-making appointments always has great appeal, and it’s one reason I supported Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination, a lonely position for any conservative — and when the first openly gay nominee is advanced, it will be a true statement about how far we’ve come as a society. When that does happen, it will be an issue of political discussion, whether we like it or not. It obviously has nothing to do with whether they are a good nominee or not [Note: Sens. Cornyn and Sessions are right on this].

I offer my sincere apologies to Ms. Kagan if she is offended at all by my repetition of a Harvard rumor in a speculative blog post. But if I were her, I’d feel pretty good about the fact that the White House specifically responded to this — it seems like a clue as to who the pick will be, doesn’t it?

1. Elena Kagan (49), Solicitor General of the United States. The likeliest candidate, and it was somewhat of a surprise she didn’t get picked last time. Pluses: would please much of Obama’s base, follows diversity politics of Sotomayor with first openly gay justice (so would Karlan and Sullivan). [Update: While Karlan and Sullivan are open about it, I have to correct my text here to say that Kagan is apparently still closeted — odd, because her female partner is rather well known in Harvard circles.] [Update: see my apology to Ms. Kagan at Huffington Post] Minuses: Seen as too moderate by some on the left; people like Arianna Huffington and Glenn Greenwald strongly dislike her because of her positions on executive power and anti-terror activities. Could be seen as a thumb in the eye of the civil liberties folks.

Sources numerous and equally dismissible report that President Obama has a “Top Ten” list of potential SCOTUS candidates to replace the outgoing John Paul Stevens. Since no one can honestly claim to know what the president is thinking, here’s my stab at his top ten (after conferring with a few TNL friends) as potential choices, with pluses and minuses for each. Trust me – you’ll want to stick around for the 10th.

Howard Kurtz at WaPo:

The White House ripped CBS News on Thursday for publishing an online column by a blogger who made assertions about the sexual orientation of Solicitor General Elena Kagan, widely viewed as a leading candidate for the Supreme Court.

Ben Domenech, a former Bush administration aide and Republican Senate staffer, wrote that President Obama would “please” much of his base by picking the “first openly gay justice.” An administration official, who asked not to be identified discussing personal matters, said Kagan is not a lesbian.

CBS initially refused to pull the posting, prompting Anita Dunn, a former White House communications director who is working with the administration on the high court vacancy, to say: “The fact that they’ve chosen to become enablers of people posting lies on their site tells us where the journalistic standards of CBS are in 2010.” She said the network was giving a platform to a blogger “with a history of plagiarism” who was “applying old stereotypes to single women with successful careers.”

The network deleted the posting Thursday night after Domenech said he was merely repeating a rumor. The flare-up underscores how quickly the battle over a Supreme Court nominee — or even a potential nominee — can turn searingly personal. Most major news organizations have policies against “outing” gays or reporting on the sex lives of public officials unless they are related to their public duties.

Greg Sargent:

CBS unquestionably deserved to take a hit for this. But what’s more interesting than CBS’s role is the White House’s aggressive response. People who follow the ins and outs of nomination battles closely are interpreting it as a sign that Kagan has a very good shot at being picked. As one of these people put it to me this morning, this is the most hard-hitting pushback by the White House to misinformation being spread about any nominee.

A White House official told Kurtz that Kagan is not a lesbian. That won’t matter, of course; the whisper campaign from the right is likely to continue. But the White House has now signaled that they’re prepared to go to war against it.

Ben Domenech at Huffington Post:

I erroneously believed that Ms. Kagan was openly gay not because of, as Stein describes it, a “whisper campaign” on the part of conservatives, but because it had been mentioned casually on multiple occasions by friends and colleagues — including students at Harvard, Hill staffers, and in the sphere of legal academia — who know Kagan personally. And as the reaction from Julian Sanchez and Matt Yglesias shows, I was not alone in that apparently inaccurate belief.

Look, it’s 2010 — no one should care if a nominee to any position is gay. The fact that conservative Senators John Cornyn and Jeff Sessions have recently expressed openness to confirming an openly gay nominee to the Court is a good thing. Senators should look at things that actually matter — evaluating a nominee’s decisions, approach to the law, their judgment and ability — to see whether there are actually good and relevant reasons to oppose the nomination. That’s all.

But that’s about getting the job. As a political matter, there are ramifications for nominations to the Supreme Court, and the core elements of a nominee’s biography, like his or her family life, are inescapable when the nation focuses on such a high-profile life-tenured appointment. Making history is a noteworthy thing: many in the Latino community were pleased when Sonia Sotomayor (who I supported) was nominated, and many in the LGBT community would welcome the opportunity to confirm an openly gay justice. Glenn Greenwald and others agree with me on this point, and I can’t think why anyone would disagree.

That’s why I listed it as a positive: after so much frustration with the White House from the gay community on lack of action on other policy fronts, an openly gay nominee might serve to mend that strained relationship.

As I told Howard Kurtz, and I say again here, I offer my sincere apologies to Ms. Kagan if she is offended at all by my repetition of a Harvard rumor in a speculative blog post. It still seems odd to me that the White House would single out this statement for attack, adamantly slamming closed a door that nobody was trying to open, as opposed to issuing a mild correction. As Yglesias notes, “I’d like to think we’re past the point where saying someone’s a lesbian counts as a dastardly ‘accusation,'” and it certainly was not intended as such.

But on the other hand, if I were Ms. Kagan, I’d feel pretty good about the fact that the White House specifically responded to this, and did so in such an aggressive and forceful manner — after all, it seems like quite a clue as to who the pick will be, doesn’t it?

Sam Stein at Huffington Post:

Even before the CBS post, a top conservative religious group was already insisting that a nominee’s sexuality would play a major role in his or her confirmation process. This past week, the organization Focus on the Family abruptly reversed its position from the last Supreme Court confirmation battle by declaring it would oppose a gay Supreme Court pick, no matter who the nominee is.

“We can assure you that we recognize that homosexual behavior is a sin and does not reflect God’s created intent and desire for humanity,” said Tom Minnery, the group’s senior vice president. “Further, we at Focus do affirm that character and moral rectitude should be key considerations in appointing members of the judiciary, especially in the case of the highest court in the land. Sexual behavior — be it heterosexual or homosexual — certainly lies at the heart of personal morality.”

The fact that the rumor campaign surrounding Kagan has been settled doesn’t necessarily mean that the issue is off the table, Republicans still seem poised to make gay rights a prominent feature of the confirmation process — should she be chosen as Justice John Paul Stevens’ replacement. Already conservative websites are latching on to a brief signed by Kagan and 40 Harvard Law School professors in which they argued that the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy was discriminatory against gay troops.

“Let’s just say that if somebody is gay, it clearly becomes political fodder,” said Navetta, when asked if the effort could damage Kagan’s chances for the court or confirmation. “And I’m not implying one way or the other that she is or is not [gay]. I’m just saying that its no myth that people’s sexual orientation can and does become an issue in political campaigns. We’ve seen it before.”

Moe Lane:

Having reviewed the completely voluntary decision of the White House to freak out over Ben Domenech’s mention in passing of now-probable USSC nominee Elena Kagan’s rumored sexuality – and before anybody freaks out in their turn, note this passage, please:

…as the reaction from Julian Sanchez and Matt Yglesias shows, I was not alone in that apparently inaccurate belief.

…one wonders what all the fuss was about.  After all, Ben, Sanchez, Yglesias, Glenn freaking Greenwald – and for that matter, myself – are all more or less in agreement that a strong reaction to this is at least a bit odd.  In a world where Senators Cornyn & Sessions can both readily and for the record state that sexual orientation is not a barrier for a Supreme Court spot, why would the White House jump on this issue with both feet?  And why did they, by the way, do so in a manner that explicitly and authoritatively denies that Ms. Kagan is gay?

Digby:

Everything I’ve heard is that Kagan is not a lesbian. Not that there’s anything wrong with being gay, obviously, or anything shameful in being called that. But I know far too many straight, single women who are assumed to be gay simply because they aren’t married or don’t have an active dating life. It’s hurtful to them, and not because they have any prejudice against gay people but because it’s an assumption about them that isn’t true. Everyone deserves to be seen the way they really are, whether gay or straight.

Marc Ambinder, a blogger for the Atlantic, wrote Monday about what he called “a baffling whisper campaign” about Kagan “among both gay rights activists and social conservatives. . . .“So pervasive are these rumors that two senior administration officials I spoke with this weekend acknowledged hearing about them and did not know whether they were true. . . . Why is she the subject of these rumors? Who’s behind them?”

Why? Because every woman who isn’t married after a certain age is assumed to be a lesbian by some people, even if she isn’t, especially if she doesn’t look like a fashion model. And social conservatives and gay rights activists (for different reasons) have a vested interest in her being seen as gay. It’s not an insult but it is a misconception and one that isn’t entirely benign to the person who is the subject of it. If she says anything publicly to deny it, it sounds as though she has a prejudice against gay people and if she doesn’t deny it, she becomes known as something she isn’t. It’s not fair.

Ben Domenech is right wing hit man and always has been. And he’s succeeded wildly here. The rumors are now “out there” and Cokie’s Law is in effect. How a known plagiarist came to be employed by CBS is the more interesting story, actually. Especially for a man who’s known to hire hookers to powder and diaper him and then sing him to sleep. Or at least that’s the rumor. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan

Joe Conason at Salon

Allah Pundit

Amanda Terkel at Think Progress

UPDATE #2: Ben Smith at Politico

Digby

Jules Crittenden

William Saletan in Slate

UPDATE #3: Bill Scher and Matt Lewis at Bloggingheads

UPDATE #4: Scott Johnson at Powerline

UPDATE #5: Michael Kinsley at The Atlantic

Kevin Drum

Andrew Sullivan

UPDATE #6: Richard Kim and Reihan Salam at Bloggingheads

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Filed under LGBT, New Media, Political Figures, Supreme Court

Making Decisions About Making Decisions

Robert Levy at Cato:

President Obama has ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to craft new rules that would facilitate hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples and smooth the way for gays and lesbians to make medical decisions on behalf of their partners.

On public policy grounds, the president’s directive is indeed welcome.  Two people who have joined in a long-term, committed, and mutually reinforcing relationship are entitled to equal treatment, regardless of sexual preference.

Regrettably, however, the president has exceeded his constitutional authority.  His order to his health secretary is deficient in two respects:

First, the government is invoking its power to spend for Medicare and Medicaid, then demanding that all hospitals receiving such funds adopt the new rules.  But there is no explicit power to spend in the Constitution.  Despite the Supreme Court’s contrary pronouncements, spending is permitted only as a “necessary and proper” means to execute other enumerated powers.  Quixotic though it might sound given post-New Deal jurisprudence, there is no enumerated power for the federal government to be engaged in providing health care to private citizens.

Second, the Constitution requires that “All legislative Powers … shall be vested in a Congress.”  That means laws conferring benefits or imposing obligations on private parties are supposed to be passed by the legislature, not the executive.  Yes, the Court has condoned delegations of legislative authority for a vast array of programs, but that merely reinforces the need to interpret the Constitution as it was originally understood.

Dan McLaughlin at Redstate:

That problem comes in two ways. One is that sometimes, pervasive federal regulation means that taking a position on a divisive social issue is unaviodable. I explained at some length previously why Obama’s healthcare bill rendered neutrality on abortion impossible; either you have an enforceable ban on the money going to fund abortions, with the collateral consequence of reducing insurance coverage for abortions generally (as part of the broader phenomenon of reducing the available pool of insurance coverage that’s not under the federal thumb) or you do not. The Bush Administration’s decision in 2001 to begin federal funding for embryonic stem cell research created the same problem: either Bush would fund research into stem cell lines from destroyed embryos, or not, or (as happened) he would have to draw some unsatisfactory middle-ground position between those two poles.

The second hazard is what’s at work here: when Uncle Sam isn’t content to make those unavoidable decisions and starts using the power of the federal purse to nationalize all sorts of things that have no business being matters of federal concern. Here, there’s no rational connection to any expenditure of federal expenditure; Obama just figures that because Medicare/Medicaid money is too much for the hospitals (or the states) to turn away, he has them over a barrel and can dictate terms on unrelated matters like visitation. This Administration has likewise used federal strings attached to impose controls on the states that restrict the ability of state governors to present a competing model of governance, as we’ve seen with the stimulus and healthcare bills.

And lest liberals complain that Republicans do this too: that’s part of the problem. You leave power sitting around, it’s gonna get used.

Sometimes, it’s nanny-state moderates, as with the campaign that established the legal precedent for this kind of mischief, Elizabeth Dole’s project as Reagan Administration Transportation Secretary to use federal highway funds as leverage to compel states to adopt a 55 mile per hour speed limit. Sometimes it’s neoliberalism, as with No Child Left Behind using federal education dollars to put more strings on local schools. And sometimes, it’s conservatives, as with the Solomon Amendment (which likewise passed muster with the Supreme Court), requiring universities that accept federal funds to let the ROTC on campus (something many colleges have refused to do, ostensibly on grounds of protesting Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell but in some cases likely due as well to a more general antipathy to the military and its missions). The Solomon Amendment, at least, vindicated a compelling interest of the federal government (military recruitment), but it nonetheless was yet another example of how the universities’ dependence on federal money left them vulnerable to dictation from Washington.

How would liberals like it – they may live to find out – if a future GOP president used the same authority to ban federally-funded hospitals (effectively all of them) from disconnecting feeding tubes, regardless of contrary hospital policies or state laws? The Terri Schiavo contretemps in Congress and the courts would have been resolved with a single stroke of the President’s pen. Or imposed restrictions or disclosure requirements on their performing abortions? Or a ban, for that matter, on visitation rights for gay couples? While in some cases the Left would undoubtedly rely on having federal judges’ policy preferences on these issues trump those of the federal executive branch, the resolution of the drinking age and Solomon Amendment cases underscores the fact that they would not in every case succeed with that strategy.

James Joyner:

Now, it’s a long way from a directive memo to enforcing regulations.  But it sounds like Obama is ordering a very broad right of hospital visitors to designate whomever they wish be allowed to visit and carry out medical decisions.  This will have a disparate impact on homosexuals, of course, but it bypasses the “special rights” argument that opponents of gay rights typically cite.  And they’d have a point in this case were Obama to privilege homosexual couples over non-married heterosexual couples.

If my interpretation of what Obama is doing is correct, then I wholeheartedly support the policy outcome.  It’s long past due.

I am, however, a bit concerned about the implementation on at least two grounds.

First, I agree with AllahPundit that this is a matter for legislation — i.e., Congress — not executive order or regulation.  This isn’t a clarifying instruction on enforcement of an existing law.  It’s a rather broad law in and of itself.  That’s beyond the reasonable scope of presidential power.

Second, it demonstrates the darkest fears of those of us who are suspicious of the expansion of government control over the healthcare system.  Inevitably, the creation of even limited government programs provides a wedge to allow government to control the entirety of an enterprise.  So, the existence of Medicaid gives government the right to dictate all manner of unrelated hospital policies — even for the vast majority of patients not on Medicaid.  (It’s not just healthcare. The existence of school loan programs or the GI Bill gives the government the power to dictate all manner of unrelated educational policies.)   It’s the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent.  And, if the president can, on a whim, dictate something as mundane as hospital visitation policy, what can’t he dictate with regard to healthcare?

Pam Spaulding:

Countless tragedies have occurred because of denial of access or ability to decide on the health of a loved one because the hospital would only recognize the rights of a blood relative.

I’m happy to report that my state, North Carolina, recently put this into place on its own, as you’ll see in the memo.

According to the White House, these measures could require substantive changes to the visitation policies of hospitals in at least twenty-five states whose laws do not currently require the extension of visitation rights, and will hold hospitals participating in Medicaid or Medicare to the highest care standards nationwide.

The changes in this official memorandum also benefits widows and widowers without children, members of religious orders, and others whom otherwise may not have been able to receive visits from good friends and loved ones who are not immediate relatives, or select them to make decisions on their behalf in case of incapacitation.

David Dayen at Firedoglake:

The order seeks to give health care providers the best access to patient’s medical histories from their loved ones, and to get the proper intermediaries to communicate medical decisions for those incapacitated. And it provides some basic fairness to all patients, but particularly those in the LGBT community. This would be enforced by applying it to any hospital receiving Medicare or Medicaid funding, which makes it virtually universal.

Hospital visitation is important, and this is a compassionate order. But it’s a small step in the grand scheme of things, one that the President has offered in the past in place of movement on marriage equality or repealing the Defense of Marriage Act. AmericaBlog’s Joe Subday, reacting to this order, said he’d rather the President get around to those weightier issues.

The President will probably not be able to get by along the edges, given the harm alrady done in the relationship with the LGBT community. ENDA’s prospects look decent in the House, but repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell seems stalled, as the military has apparently succeeded in delaying it. Unless and until there’s movement on those issues, these lesser orders will be met with a smile and a tapping of the foot, waiting for the campaign promises to be kept.

Joe Sudbay at AMERICABlog:

Last June, when NBC News anchor Brian Williams asked the President about marriage equality, Obama gave an answer instead about hospital visitation:

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Do gay and lesbian couples who wish to marry in this country have a friend in the White House?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think gays and lesbians, uh, have a friend in the White House (pause) because I’ve consistently committed myself to civil unions, making sure that they have the ability to visit each other in hospitals, uh, that they are able to access benefits, uh, that they are, uh, have a whole host of legal rights that they currently, uh, do not have. Uh, I don’t think that, uh, it makes sense for, uh, the federal government to get in the business of determining what marriage is, uh, that isn’t, uh, traditionally the federal government’s role.

Weak answer. And, some of us are still wondering if we have a friend in the White House. Obviously, making sure gays and lesbians have “the ability to visit each other in hospitals” became a key issue for the President. At least he’s starting to deliver on that one. It’s nice. But, frankly, I’d prefer he work on repealing DOMA and finally get around to supporting marriage equality.

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Filed under Executive Branch, Health Care, LGBT

Ease On Down, Ease On Down The Road

Spencer Ackerman at Washington Independent:

When the Pentagon’s leadership announced a process to end the military’s ban on open gay service before Congress, Defense Secretary Robert Gates played the cautionary role. Gates told senators that he would put together a study group, led by Army Lt. Gen. Carter Ham and Pentagon general counsel Jeh Johnson, to study the least-disruptive ways to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

That study hasn’t concluded. Nor has the Senate taken up Joe Lieberman’s (I-Conn.) bill to repeal the ban. But Gates has some unilateral tools at his disposal, and this week he intends to use them.

“He will announce changes to the way the current law is being enforced that make it more difficult to begin investigations and kick people out,” said a defense source who would not speak for the record ahead of Gates’s announcement. Spokesman Geoff Morrell hinted in his briefing yesterday that Gates would make some changes, but did not specify any.

Gates has speculated for at least a year that he was considering unilateral steps, ahead of a congressional repeal, to ease the burden “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” places on gay servicemembers. Civil-rights groups have urged him to take such steps, particularly on the process for beginning investigations of servicemembers’ sexual orientation that can drive people out of the military. It’s not clear yet when this week Gates will make the announcement [see update], nor is it clear yet just how enforcement will change. But those who worried that there would be no movement on “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” in 2010 while the study commences, despite President Obama’s call for repeal this year in his State of the Union, can probably take heart.

Update, 7:30 p.m.: OK, I’ve got many more details for what Gates is about to announce. This is going to happen in an announcement Gates will make at the Pentagon tomorrow.

According to a knowledgeable source, Gates will effectively limit enforcement to those cases where a servicemember actively outs himself or herself and “leaves the chain of command no legal choice but to proceed” with an investigation while the law remains on the books. That means the clear majority of cases for discharging someone under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — so called third-party based investigations — will no longer be in effect. While the change won’t apply retroactively, it will apply to “ongoing active cases,” my source said. That means, effectively, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” investigations based on third-party outing will slow to a snail’s pace and the criteria for pursuing them will be “much more stringent.”

Andrew Sullivan

David Dayen at Firedoglake:

I think we’ll see whether or not DoD prefers the repeal with a delay in implementation to account for their study, or a “moratorium” on discharges, with the vote on repeal pushed off until later. Given the probability of Democratic losses in the midterm elections, repeal when the size of the majority is large would be preferable if you actually want to see the policy end.

Ackerman with the details:

In a major victory for opponents of the military’s ban on open homosexual service, Defense Secretary Robert Gates significantly revised how the Pentagon will implement the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, effectively making it difficult to remove a soldier, sailor, airman or marine who does not out himself or herself as gay.

Gates said the changes, endorsed by Joint Chiefs of Staff and vetted by the Pentagon’s top lawyer, would add “a greater measure of common sense and common decency” for service members negatively impacted by the law. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an advocacy organization for gay and lesbian service members, considered Gates’ changes a “major step toward the end of the law,” according to spokesman Kevin Nix.

Starting today, only a general officer in an accused service member’s chain of command can discharge someone for a violation of the ban, and only an officer with the rank of commander or lieutenant colonel or higher can conduct a fact-finding inquiry to recommend a discharge. The standards of evidence provided to those inquiries will become far less burdensome on the accused, with what Gates called “special scrutiny on third parties who may be motivated to harm the service member.” Entire categories of evidence will no longer be admissible, including testimony from clergy members, physicians, abuse counselors, security-clearance review personnel and mental-health personnel — a move that also significantly improves troops’ quality of life.

“A good friend of mine just left the Navy as a Navy doctor,” said Christopher Anders, a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Anders said that while his friend never turned in service members for violating the ban, the gay ban “was an obstacle to medical care,” as some personnel opted not to pursue certain medical care out of fear that treatment might be used against them in a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” hearing.

Seated beside Adm. Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who forcefully endorsed repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, Gates said at a press conference this morning that the new procedural changes apply to all ongoing investigations related to the ban on open gay military service. Gates clarified that he would not endorse any changes to the law until he sees the results of a review led by Pentagon general counsel Jeh Johnson and Army Gen. Carter Ham due by the end of the year. But Gates also clarified that the Johnson/Ham review “is about how you implement” a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and “not about ’should we do it.’”

James Joyner:

While I think it’s time to lift the ban on gays serving, I’m dubious of this half measure.

Unless military law has changed radically over the last two decades — or I was woefully misinformed when I served as a junior officer — chaplains, doctors, counselors, and intelligence officers are military officers.    Gates has thus created a bizarre paradox:  Under the UCMJ, homosexual conduct is illegal.  And it remains the policy of the armed services that openly gay service members should be discharged.   But, now, you’ll have soldiers revealing to serving officers that they are homosexual and yet allowed to continue serving.  That simply makes no sense.

Marc Ambinder:

The changes themselves are essentially what Gates outlined when he testified at a Congressional hearing in February: anonymous complaints won’t trigger investigations, investigations won’t be witch hunts and will be reviewed by senior officers, and hearsay testimony won’t be allowed. Slim pickings: if a soldier declares he is gay, then he can still get kicked out. But the moves by Gates suggest that there will no longer be an investigatory zeal, a prosecutorial mode, or a policy designed to search for serving gays. A small step, but it will help change the culture, which is one reason why Gates is proceeding.

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Filed under LGBT, Military Issues

Paging The Lesbians At Smith College

Alex Knepper:

My colleague Nate Gunderson caught me as I was nearly out the door. I was walking back from the bloggers’ lounge with a friend in the Virginia newspaper business, and Nate tapped my shoulder to tell me that Ryan Sorba, the kid who embarrassed himself in front of the world by denouncing GOProud to a round of boos, was standing twenty feet away from me. He had a few people near him, probably curious about who he was and what he stood for.

After deliberating for a few seconds, I decided to let Adam Brickley and a couple of guys from The Lobbyist walk to Murphy’s, where the FrumForum party was being held, by themselves. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet this guy.

[…]

My recollections are not perfect, of course, but Nate should be able to help me fill in the details. The exchange is roughly as follows.

“So, you’re the infamous Ryan Sorba,” I said.

“Yep!”

“You’ve made quite a name for yourself.”

“Haha, yeah. Where are you from?”

“I go to college around here, American University.”

“What are you studying?”

“I was double-majoring in Political Science with a political theory focus and International Relations with an Islamic Studies focus, but I think I’m going to drop the latter. I can’t take the relativistic preaching, the whitewashing of the burqa, Sayyid Qutb, the entire religion.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean. So what did you think of my little tirade, then?”

“Oh, I thought it was quite evil, actually. I’m gay.”

“You mean you think you’re gay.”

“No, I’m gay. Do you think it’s a choice?”

“I think it’s the result of a complex process of social and environmental factors, but that it’s reversible.”

“So, like, why is it that over one hundred animals have been observed engaging in homosexual sex in nature?”

“Well, only 0.2% of animals are known to do that — ”

” — I mean, mammals, obviously, not ants, birds — ”

” — you know, animals masturbate, your dog humps your leg. Does your dog talk with a lisp?”

“Do I talk with a lisp?!” I yelled.

“A little bit.” (I later asked a couple of gay friends if I have a small lisp; both of them said I have no lisp whatsoever. Aron, who is straight, has said my voice is sometimes theatrical, but that I don’t have a lisp.)

“Rudy Giuliani has a lisp — is he gay?”

And then he went off on what he affectionately called “his tirade” — giving the same mangled pseudo-Aristotelian spiel about how natural rights have to be grounded in natural law, meaning substance, and the final result of the reproductive organ must be a reproductive act, and all of that.

“Yeah, yeah, I get your argument, I understand it, ” I tried to interrupt, But he said that I didn’t, and he finished.

“But the vast majority of married couples partake in sodomy — oral sex, anal sex, fetishes. Hasn’t your girlfriend ever given you a blowjob? I think the government should just get out of the whole marriage business!”

Everyone around us agreed with that statement. Sensing some momentum, I went on: “I’m the one who says that my values shouldn’t have anything to do with government. It’s you who wants to impose his own biases upon the rest of the world!”

Nate Gunderson pondered why it was such a burning issue for Ryan.

“Because conservatives should not be upholding groups who support homosexual marriage and sodomy.”

I said something I don’t quite recall, and he mentioned something about how he could “take me on” physically if he needed to, to which I mentioned that his quick resort to force and threats said a lot about his political philosophy.

He said at around this point that he needed to go, and put out his hand to say goodbye. I stared at him, refusing to shake his hand, and he said “Well, I don’t really want to shake your hand, you’re intrinsically evil.”

We all started walking away, with him talking to his girlfriend, and me talking to Nate, blasting Sorba more.

Someone who was with him asked Sorba: “Really, though, he had a point: why do you care about this so much when the economy is in shambles and the debt is growing and spending is out of control?”

“Because it corrupts the youth and the culture,” he replied.

When we reached the area near the escalator downstairs, he turned on his camera. I put out my arms, striking a mocking pose, but realized he kept holding the camera at me.

“Wait, are you recording or taking a picture?” He was recording.

“Ah! OK…Well, I’d like to say, then, that the person behind the camera is a Hitler Youth waiting for a fuhrer to sweep him off his feet into a grand national project so he can sacrifice individuals like stock-fodder to his own biases.”

He turned off the camera and approached me. I told him he should get his girlfriend to give him a blowjob so that he could experience the joys of sodomy. He put two of his fingers an inch from my face and said that he’d want to fight me if a girl wasn’t around. “Ah, the use of force!” I said again.

It essentially ended, there. May this story make the rounds to further expose Sorba’s blithering idiocy!

John Guardiano at FrumForum:

Ryan Sorba’s brief remarks before CPAC inadvertently depicted social conservatives as an angry, snarling bunch. For starters, of course, he “condemned” CPAC for accepting co-sponsorship from GOProud, a group that represents gay Republicans. When the CPAC audience booed him, Sorba retorted:

“Bring it! The lesbians at Smith College protest better than you do!” And to someone in the audience named Jeff, I think, Mr. Sorba said: “You just made an enemy out of me; thanks a lot.”

There is a principled conservative case to be made against conferring special legal privileges, and a consequent special legal status, on gay men and women. However, that’s not the case that Sorba made. Alex Knepper, then sought out Sorba and the two almost came to blows.

I hope, as they grow and mature, that Alex and Ryan will realize that good and decent people can harbor seriously mistaken but well intended views.

I know and like Alex. I especially liked this post by Alex, which prompted me to email editor David Frum with a note that said in effect: “Wow, who is this guy? He does great work!”

Unfortunately, Alex’s post about his CPAC altercation amounts to a tasteless and nasty ad hominem attack on Sorba, whom he calls a closet homosexual.

Here are two young men, understandably quick-tempered. But the conservative tradition which both young men inherit is not so young. I hope that Alex and Ryan will study and learn this tradition and benefit from it; for it has much to teach them. Among its myriad lessons: the importance of social and intellectual tolerance, good humor and good cheer, and personal grace and decorum.

Knepper responds at FrumForum:

FrumForum contributor John Guardiano and many others have criticized me for accusing Sorba of being a closet homosexual. Growing up gay, I know what it’s like to want to hide it — and I know every trick in the book that’s used to go about doing so. There are certain behaviors that only those of us who have been there can really pick up on — it’s a dog-whistle kind of thing. When I was closeted, I opposed same-sex marriage, figuring that it was the ultimate way to hide my sexuality. When I was 14 and 15, I would spout the typical anti-gay lines, albeit less eloquently than Sorba. All of the gay men I showed the transcript to were laughing their asses off, recognizing exactly what was going on.

But the greater, more important point is this: my insults and Ryan Sorba’s are not morally equivalent. He is wrong about what he is telling me: homosexuality is not a “lifestyle,” and it is not an ideology. This is not an opinion. And when he tells me that he wants to use the force of the state to ban sodomy — including oral sex, anal sex, and fetishistic sex among consenting married couples — he is advocating a regressive, authoritarian policy that has no place in conservatism, libertarianism, or any belief system that honors freedom.

As I told a radio host earlier: even assuming Sorba is right, he hasn’t a clue how to go about reversing homosexuality. In the meantime, he wants not for us to engage in loving, monogamous relationships, but to condemn us to loveless, sexless lives, devoid of passion, romance, and sexuality. I cannot fathom the warped sense of life that a person must possess to want to tell his fellow beings to deny such an essential part of what makes them human. So yes, I absolutely rained down ad hominem attacks on Ryan Sorba: for there can be no respect toward the disrespectful, no kindness to the cruel.

Michael C. Moynihan at Reason:

When a California conservative activist named Ryan Sorba denounced homosexuality from the lectern, he was roundly booed and forced to slink off the stage (muttering “bring it” and warning a heckler that he had “just made an enemy of me, buddy”). GOProud member Alex Knepper confronted Sorba after his speech and was told that his homosexuality was an immoral choice, not a genetic predisposition. When Knepper attempted to shake Sorba’s hand, the Golden State’s foremost amateur geneticist replied: “Well, I don’t really want to shake your hand, you’re intrinsically evil.” So wait, is he intrinsically evil or, with a bit of counseling, can Knepper be “fixed”?

Megan McArdle:

Andrew Sullivan has been doing a lot of blogging about Ryan Sorba, the [expletive deleted] who got up on stage at CPAC to condemn them for inviting GOProud.  Andrew’s mostly given a lot of space to illustrating what a [censored] [redacted] Ryan Sorba is, and I fully agree.  One can only cherish the hope that thirty years from now he will writhe in shame at this performance, and given the vagaries of youth, there is a good chance that eventually, he will.

But [expletive deleted]s getting up at political conferences and saying asinine things are not exactly a surprising happening.  To me, the news story was this:  Sorba got booed off the stage.  At CPAC.  This seems like great news.  So why focus on the sad truth that yes, there are still homophobes out there?  Maybe this is just heterosexual privilege, but this seems like a genuinely great moment in gay rights–and the gay conservatives and libertarians who sent met that clip seemed to take it as such.  The culture war may not be over, but the allied forces are advancing on Berlin at an astonishing pace.  I feel like we should be kissing nurses in the street (male or female!)

E.D. Kain:

That’s pretty astonishing if you ask me.  While Andrew and others lament how awful conservatives have gotten lately, I see quite the opposite.  Never before in the history of this country have gays and lesbians received such support from conservatives – and that support is growing at a pretty incredible pace.

John Aravosis at AMERICABlog:

We’re talking about our lives. And when the Republicans increasingly say the right things, like repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell now, and even supporting marriage, and all the Democrats show is political homophobia, gays get the message.

Some gays and lesbians will vote for Democrats regardless of how blatantly the Obama administration and the Democratic party back away from their promises to repeal DADT, repeal DOMA, and pass ENDA. Regardless of how clear it is that the White House will appoint an openly gay cabinet member or an openly gay Supreme Court justice when hell freezes over. But I think, come November, and come many more Novembers in the future, a lot of gays and lesbians, are going to realize that we’re talking about our lives, rather than our right to attend a cocktail party. And when it comes to our lives, and voting for someone who treats us with the same kind of shame every single one of us grew up with, I think you’re going to see an increasing number of gay Americans distancing themselves from the Democratic party with their donations and their votes. They may not vote Republican, nor should they – they simply may not vote at all.

To the White House, the DNC, and our leadership in Congress: You are messing with people’s lives, and we know it. And the day that an anti-gay bigot gets booed at CPAC, you all better start being very afraid.

Bruce Carroll at Big Journalism:

This moment at CPAC is even more important for the conservative movement as it happened at an important time when there is already a generational change going on in America.  Boomers are fading, Xer’s are ruling, and Millenials are finding their way.  Forty-eight percent of those who participated in the CPAC straw poll last week identified themselves as students.  They are the future of conservativism.  And they shouted down an anti-gay bigot.

There will surely be other homocon-related clashes within the conservative movement, just as the Democrat Party has regularly used the gay community as pawns in their re-election schemes for decades.  But as the late gay political icon Harvey Milk, who started out as a Republican, famously said:

Gay people, we will not win our rights by staying silently in our closets… We are coming out. We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions. We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I’m going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it. You must come out. Come out to your parents, your relatives.

Last week at CPAC we saw the many years of work by dedicated conservative gays and lesbians standing up for their values and the principles of freedom and liberty finally pay off.   There was a tipping point for gays in America last week at CPAC.  It happened because they have been coming out to their parents, friends and relatives over time… as American conservatives who just happen to be gay.

Ashley Herzog at Townhall:

The lack of bigotry must be painfully puzzling to liberals. My fellow Ohio College Republican Jesse Hathaway, a white, Christian, “anti-choice” straight guy, sat on the panel with Sorba.

“Every single person on stage with him was fighting the urge to facepalm,” he told me. (Urban Dictionary’s definition of “facepalm”: A spontaneous reaction to an amazingly stupid statement, where the face of the listener meets with his palm in a smacking manner.”)

That sentiment isn’t just shared by college-aged conservatives. On HotAir, a site founded by Michelle Malkin, a blogger had this to say:

“We are all stronger together, and gay conservatives are as much an ally of the conservative movement as heterosexual conservatives are. We are stronger by emphasizing our important commonalities rather than our less important differences. Fortunately, it appears the attendees at CPAC ‘10 agree.”

Another video you won’t see on any liberal blog features Alexander McCobin, the founder of Students for Liberty and one of Sorba’s co-panelists.

“In the name of freedom, I’d like to thank the American Conservative Union for welcoming GOProud as a sponsor of this event,” McCobin said. “If what you truly care about is freedom, limited government and prosperity, then this symbol is a step in the right direction.” His remarks are met with applause. In fact, one of the only people booing is Ryan Sorba.

Bryan Caplan:

Ryan Sorba, author of The “Born Gay” Hoax, was recently booed at the CPAC convention.  Since I recently read all of the main twin and adoption studies of sexual orientation, I wondered what he had to say.  He focuses on Bailey and Pillard’s 1991 twin study, which he correctly reports, “found that 52% of the identical twin brothers of gay men were gay, as were 22% of fraternal twin brothers, and 11% of genetically unrelated brothers.”  Sorba’s critique:

[I]n order to show that “homosexuality” is genetic using identical twins, one must demonstrate that when one twin is “gay” the other will also be “gay” 100% of the time. The results of this twins study however, fell a long way short of the mark.
If the claim is that 100% of the variance in orientation is genetic, then Sorba’s right.  But by this standard, no complex human trait is genetic!  Identical twins are not 100% identical in height, IQ, personality, or criminality, either.  In each of these cases, however, identical twins are much more similar than fraternal twins, indicating that these traits have strong genetic components. We are not “born gay” any more than we are “born tall,” but our genes definitely push us in these directions.  Sorba’s just attacking a straw man.

His other complaint is better: “[T]his study shows that unrelated step‐brothers are both ‘gay’ more often than genetically related brothers.”  This is indeed a piece of evidence against the genetic hypothesis.  If Sorba had merely observed that the results of this study were “inconsistent” and then turned to the broader literature (which confirms a strong genetic component, a mild family environment component, and a lot of randomness), I’d commend him.  But instead, he bizarrely picks one hole in one study, then claims complete vindication for environmentalism.

Razib Khan at Science Blogs:

Until they find the “gay gene” Sorba & company will reject the behavior genetics findings. Unfortunately, if the “gay gene” hasn’t been found yet, we might have to a wait a while (i.e., probably not a common variant of large effect). It would be nice to do a survey of the rejection of specific behavior genetic results as a function of ideological differences. The is-ought problem doesn’t seem to be a problem for most people; it seems a background assumption, so that what is is actually back-derived from what ought to be.

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Filed under LGBT, Politics

Bloggers Both Ask And Tell

Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic:

When Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint of Chiefs of Staff, testify before Congress today, they are expected to announce a series of first steps in the direction of preparing the military for the integration of gays and lesbians. According to an administration official, the most visible of those steps will be to revise the rule that allows third parties — other soldiers or outside accusers — to “out” soldiers and precipitate investigations that lead to their dismissal. Basically: if someone else outs you, you won’t be dismissed. It’s not clear what percentage of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell dismissals would be effected by this revision.

Sources said that Gates will tell Congress that he plans to appoint a commission, including civilians, to plan for an array of changes to military procedures and codes. Will sexual harassment laws have to be revised? How will sexual tolerance be taught in military academies? What will disciplinary procedures entail for soldiers who harass gay soldiers? What does it mean to declare oneself “gay?” What about partnership benefits for spouses?

The commission will report back within a year. Why so long? For one thing, Gates and Mullen will argue that full integration of gays and lesbians must be pursued carefully, in order to protect the rights of gay soldiers and to make sure that the policy, when finally implemented, is well accepted and seen as legitimate. Civil rights groups are likely to protest the delay, but the White House is on board with the timetable, and it’s not clear whether Congress can pass a full repeal.

Melissa Harris-Lacewell at The Nation:

Military service is at the heart of citizenship.

The implied social contract that binds a nation to her people is most fully realized in two primary acts: tax paying and military service. Those who labor and pay a portion of their income to the government have a particularly strong claim on government services and recognition. Those who willingly risk their lives to protect the borders and the ideals of their country also have a thick claim on citizenship.

This is why the armed forces have historically been the terrain on which marginal groups have sought full inclusion into the American project.

Enslaved men who escaped to freedom behind Union lines demanded the right to fight as soldiers against the Confederacy. President Lincoln’s reluctance to arm these black men was rooted not only in his deep racial prejudices, but also in his concern that their service would give legitimate claims on equality. After the Civil War, Lincoln himself came to support the franchise for freedmen who had served in his army. In fact, his public declaration that black soldiers should have the vote precipitated his assassination.

During WWI, W.E.B. Du Bois urged African Americans to rally behind the flag and volunteer for military duty. He believed the services of black men could not go unnoticed by a grateful nation and felt that black soldiers would give the race stronger claims on the vote, equal education, and full citizenship. But in the years following WWI African American servicemen were regularly harassed, beaten, and lynched for wearing their uniforms on America’s streets. A black body in an American uniform was a statement against Jim Crow; it was a claim to full citizenship and it was viciously punished in a country still unwilling to fulfill its promise of equality.

American historians have argued that we must locate the initial impulse of the mid-century Civil Rights Movement in the radicalizing effect that WWII battles against Nazi Germany had on black soldiers. Unwilling to accept segregated service in a war against genocide and imperialism, these soldiers were unwilling to accept Jim Crow and racial violence at home.

Similar stories can be told about European immigrants who became fully American through their initial inclusion in the armed services. It can be told about young people who used their service in Vietnam to win an extension on the right to vote to 18-21 year olds. It can be told about women who moved from support roles to combat duty even as they shattered glass ceilings back home in the states.

Gay soldiers are part of this long history. Their open and unfettered participation in America’s armed services is a necessary part of the struggle for full inclusion in America. When gay men and lesbians can openly and proudly point to their sacrifices for our country then they can call upon our country for full first-class citizenship.

Let’s end DADT during Black History Month. President Obama’s presence in the White House was made possible by the broken bodies of black soldiers who believed and sacrificed for a country that shackled and segregated them. They willingly bled for this country and with that blood they bought for all of us a country where a black man could be president.

William Kristol in The Weekly Standard:

Here is contemporary liberalism in a nutshell: No need to consider costs as well as benefits. No acknowledgment of competing goods or coexisting rights. No appreciation of the constraints of public sentiment or the challenges of organizational complexity. No sense that not every part of society can be treated dogmatically according to certain simple propositions. Just the assertion that something must be done because it is in some abstract way “the right thing.”

John McCain’s response to Obama’s statement was that of a grown-up: “This successful policy has been in effect for over 15 years, and it is well understood and predominantly supported by our military at all levels. We have the best trained, best equipped, and most professional force in the history of our country, and the men and women in uniform are performing heroically in two wars. At a time when our Armed Forces are fighting and sacrificing on the battlefield, now is not the time to abandon the policy.” Whatever its muddled origins and theoretical deficiencies, the fact is “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” works pretty well at accommodating the complex demands of a war-ready military nestled in a liberal society.

The advocates of repeal say, it’s a matter of basic rights. No, it’s not. Leave aside the fact that there are difficult and unresolved questions of how our society should deal in various areas of public policy with questions of sexual orientation. There is no basic right to serve in the military. That’s why forms of discrimination we would ban in civilian life are permitted: Women have less opportunity to fight than men. The disabled are discriminated against, as are the short, the near-sighted, and the old.

Advocates of repeal will say sexual orientation is irrelevant to military performance in a way these attributes are not. But this is not clearly true given the peculiar characteristics of military service.

We’ll hear a lot, as the debate moves forward, about gay Arabic translators being discharged from military service. A decision to separate from the military someone who is sitting in an office in Northern Virginia may look silly. But the Obama Defense Department is entirely free to ensure that those men and women continue to use their skills to serve their country in those same offices as civilians. And translators who are uniformed members of the military are subject to the usual demands of training and deployment, so the questions about the effect of open homosexuals on unit morale and cohesion in training and combat situations remain relevant.

Andrew Sullivan responds to Kristol:

I presume he means that he thinks that straight servicemembers would be traumatized by having to serve alongside gay servicemembers because they harbor absurd fears that they will be sexually harassed or even “assaulted”, as his ally Tony Perkins recently asserted. So soldiers who can take on al Qaeda are too weak-kneed to deal with a gay buddy in the next bunk? Most Americans in 2010 have a higher opinion of the maturity and professionalism of today’s volunteer military than Kristol does. The younger generation, for the most part, finds such bigotry ridiculous. Of course, any sexual misconduct by gay servicemembers should be dealt with as severely as with straight servicemembers. But the bigotry of others is not a reason to prevent the honest service of so many Americans. It wasn’t right in 1948 when Truman ended racial segregation. It isn’t right now.

And then, the final canard – the idea that now is not the time to do anything because we are at war. But remember that Kristol believes our current war is permanent; and if one war ended, he would be doing all he could to advance the next one. And so this is mere rhetoric – rhetoric to disguise Kristol’s core belief that gay citizens should be permanently ghettoized outside civil society and public institutions, prevented from forming families, stigmatized for forming stable relationships, encouraged to be cured or stay closeted, rendered as invisible in society as they were decades ago.

Max Boot at Commentary:

The vast majority of service personnel are stationed at giant bases, whether in Iraq and Afghanistan or in Texas and North Carolina, where it is not hard to get privacy and where their jobs resemble those of civilian workers in many ways. Going to the bathroom involves, literally, a visit to the bathroom — not to a slit trench. Sexual issues are already raised on those bases by the presence of women. In fact the problem is more serious because women in heterosexual relationships have the potential to get pregnant — as some servicewomen do, thereby having to go home and creating a vacancy that has to be filled by someone else. There are also issues of sexual harassment and discrimination that need to be tightly policed — whether involving homosexuals or heterosexuals.

One of the adaptations the military has made is to allow women into most billets but not into tight-knit combat formations — nuclear submarine crews or infantry squads. They live in close quarters and often-unpleasant conditions where privacy is nonexistent and trust and esprit de corps are all-important. I remember discussing the issue last year with a Special Forces team deployed in the field and was struck by the unanimity of opinion against lifting the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The special operators were horrified at the thought of gays in their ranks. This may be rank prejudice, and perhaps the result of ignorance, since there are already probably some gays in their midst. But the attitude still exists and higher authority can tamper with the policy only at the risk of causing a drop in morale.

Special Forces is one of the areas in which women are still not allowed to serve even though most jobs in the military have been opened to them. Why not simply extend to gays the same policy applied to women? That is, let gays serve openly in most billets but not in a few combat designations. It seems like a reasonable compromise.

John Aravosis at AmericaBlog:

I’m sorry. I recently wrote that Barack Obama was not our president, but in fact Secretary Gates was president. In fact, I was wrong. It now appears that Phyllis Schafly is in charge of the Pentagon, and our entire government. Otherwise, why is the Pentagon putting out talking points about whether lifting the ban will force them to recognize gay marriages? Can they make this issue more incendiary? First segregated showers, now gay marriage.

Gotta hand it to them, when DOD decides to screw over their commander in chief and a key constituency of the Democratic party, they do it with gusto.

A series of telling stories out tonight, all of them bad. It appears that Secretary Gates is going to announce a special team of advisers at tomorrow’s DADT hearings in the Senate, and that team will take a good year or so to think over all the really hard issues confronting us with the potential repeal of DADT, such as gay marriage.

Their review is expected to look at several sensitive issues, including whether the military should extend marriage and bereavement benefits to the partners of gay soldiers, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

There is no gay marriage at the federal level, and DOMA forbids the federal government from providing marriage benefits. So why is DOD even bringing up gay marriage – and they do in this second story too, so this is clearly part of their prepared talking points – unless they’re simply trying to be sensationalistic.

Oh, and in the meantime, they’re going to implement the discriminatory policy in a more humane manner.

Funny, but I don’t recall that being Barack Obama’s promise to my community. To more humanely discriminate us against us. He promised to lift the ban. He promised to get ENDA passed. He promised to repeal DOMA. And none of those are currently being discussed. What is being discussed is another study to add to the pile of studies we already have. What is being discussed is a proposal to “change” DADT, rather than repeal it – just as Joe and I have been predicting.

Dan Savage:

Great, good, feeling hopey again about the repeal of DADT. But, again, Obama could suspend the enforcement of DADT today while Congress works on a solution, just as his head of Homeland Security suspended enforcement of the widow’s penalty while Congress works on a solution. And Obama described the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as abhorrent and promised to repeal it but his administration nevertheless defended the law in court. But I’m prepared to take yes for an answer, of course, on DADT. As depressing as the lack of movement on the big promises—end DADT, repeal DOMA—there has been action on ending the HIV Travel Ban (set in motion by the Bush administration), and hate crimes legislation.

UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald

DiA at The Economist on Kristol

UPDATE #2: Tom Diemer at Politics Daily on Petraeus

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