Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation

July 1 2015 1:17 PM

Bobby Jindal’s Religious Liberty Executive Order Is Probably Illegal, Definitely Anti-Gay

On Tuesday, Louisiana civil liberties groups filed a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent “Marriage and Conscience” executive order, which allowed businesses and government employees to refuse service to gay couples. The order, these groups claim, exceeds Jindal’s power under the Louisiana constitution. Jindal’s executive order named a certain class of people—marriage equality opponents—and granted them a special right to discriminate against gay couples. But the Louisiana constitution doesn’t authorize the governor to impose a substantive right by executive order. Jindal’s “Marriage and Conscience” order should thus be rendered invalid.

It’s hard not to feel a little sympathy for Jindal here. As the lawsuit notes, the state constitution is designed to prevent the governor from usurping legislative functions—namely, making laws. Had Jindal claimed his order was merely an interpretation of already existing legal principles, he might’ve gotten away with it. Instead, the governor issued his order soon after the legislature failed to pass a nearly identical measure. Jindal then declared that his order was designed to “accomplish the intent” of the bill. He didn’t just revive a failed piece of legislation through executive fiat. He bragged about it. 

As I explained in May, Jindal’s willingness to legislate from the governor’s mansion is especially galling in light of his criticism of the president:

Jindal has been a vituperative critic of President Barack Obama’s executive orders, especially his order deferring deportation for many undocumented immigrants. In a press release, Jindal castigated Obama for “bypassing Congress” and “ignoring the American people,” slamming the order as “an arrogant, cynical political move.” Jindal seemed to be keenly concerned that Obama imposed his policy preference by executive fiat rather than allowing the people, through their elected representatives, to have their say. Now, though, the people’s representatives have firmly rejected Jindal’s bill—and rather than persuading the legislature to reconsider the measure, Jindal has simply imposed it by executive decree.

By the way, Obama’s immigration executive orders are actually materially different from Jindal’s anti-gay one. Through those orders, Obama simply instructed the Department of Homeland Security to defer deporting the parents of American citizens and lawful permanent residents. Why is he allowed to do that? Because Congress gave him permission to do so. Federal law explicitly directs DHS to establish such “national immigration enforcement policies and priorities,” thereby granting the president discretion over deportation policies. Far from seizing legislative authority, Obama is just following Congress’ directive. That’s how an executive leads without breaking the law. Jindal should take note.

Want to hang out with Outward? If you’ll be in or near New York City on Monday, July 13, join June Thomas, J. Bryan Lowder, and Mark Joseph Stern—and special guests Ted Allen, of Queer Eye and Chopped fame, and marriage-equality campaigner extraordinaire Evan Wolfsonfor a queer kiki at an Outward LIVE show, hosted by City Winery. Details and tickets can be found here.

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July 1 2015 10:20 AM

The Thing President Obama Didn’t Do That Helped Bring About Marriage Equality

When the Supreme Court handed down its decision in King v. Burwell, the health care case, last Thursday, there was no end of talk about how the court had just cemented a critical part of President Barack Obama’s legacy. But the health care decision wasn’t the only one that will rightly be considered an important part of Obama’s legacy. The other is marriage equality—and not only because of what the president did, but also because of what he didn’t do.

Obama made headlines in 2012 when he revealed that his opinion on marriage equality had “evol[ved]” and that he now supported it. (Vice President Joe Biden may have helped speed along the president’s public evolution when he announced a few days earlier that he was “absolutely comfortable” with the idea of marriage equality and that gay and lesbian couples “are entitled to the same exact rights” as heterosexual couples.) This was a huge moment, and the president and vice president both deserved the considerable credit they received for making their support for marriage equality public. Even though their views surely reflected what was then an ongoing shift in public opinion, their announced support likely helped continue the move toward greater support for marriage equality. Indeed, by the time the Supreme Court heard oral argument in the marriage equality case in April, support for marriage equality was at a record high.

But that’s not the only reason Obama deserves some of the credit for last week’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (along with the justices who reached it, the marriage equality advocates who’ve been fighting for this day for decades, and the Framers of the 14th Amendment who embedded a commitment to equality and liberty in our Constitution). Another reason Obama deserves some of the credit is because of a decision he made the year before he announced his support for marriage equality: the decision not to defend in court a key provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman for purposes of federal law. Because of that provision, same-sex couples who were legally married under their state’s law still couldn’t enjoy the numerous and important federal benefits enjoyed by other married couples. 

July 1 2015 9:48 AM

Two Clerks Resigned to Avoid Issuing Gay Marriage Licenses. Good for Them!

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling that every state in America must grant marriage licenses to gay couples, at least two clerks tasked with issuing such licenses have resigned—one in Mississippi, one in Arkansas. Both will undoubtedly be chastised by the LGBTQ community for their blatant display of homophobia. But I think these clerks should be praised for their integrity. In other states, clerks are begging for a special right to discriminate against gays. At least these two had the courage to admit that their prejudice prevented them from honoring their oath of office.

The first clerk, Dana Guffey of Cleburne County, Arkansas, announced her resignation when she realized the court’s ruling would require her to fill out paperwork officially recognizing same-sex couples’ marriages. “It is definitely a moral conviction for me,” Guffey said.

June 30 2015 5:42 PM

Some Suggested Lyrics for Stonewall, the Musical

When it was announced last year that openly gay director Roland Emmerich—of Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow fame—would be helming a film covering the Stonewall riots, some observers sounded a note of … concern. Perhaps the flashpoint of the modern LGBTQ civil rights movement was not ideal material for an artist who seems to prize world-ending disasters over small-scale defiance? Nevertheless, the production has continued apace, and today we’ve been granted the first stills from the set.

Stills from Stonewall.

Stonewall Facebook page.

An initial reaction here at Outward HQ: Good god, Emmerich has turned Stonewall into a musical.

What follows is an edited version of our internal conversation regarding the stills, which, as you’ll see, quickly turns into a very productive brainstorm of lyrics for the show. Roland, you know where we can be reached!

Bryan Lowder: But for real, why does this look like a musical? I am concerned. It’s like a cheaper Rent, which is not a good thing.

June Thomas: Just the words “Roland Emmerich” in close proximity to Stonewall are kind of problematic. Also, major American Horror Story vibe. Like, are some of those homeless kids actually zombies?

Lowder: Gay, mafia-supporting zombies … in a musical. Wait, let's write the songs!

Thomas: That guy’s got an amazing butt/ If only I hadn’t gotten a disease from the filthy glasses in the/ STONE-waaaaaal! (I guess, strictly speaking, Stonewall should rhyme with ball.)

Lowder: Here’s a song title: "Burying Judy, Unearthing Resolve." Our drinks are watered down/ but I won't sport a frown/ instead I'll shake my ass/ except when coppers pass

Thomas: MAFIA BARMAN: I hate these effin' ‘mos/ Why don’t they wear appropriate clothes/ We have to pay off the fuzz/ Good job the drinks are too weak to give off a buzz (Super-complicated music playing, hence the wordiness and APPARENTLY non-working rhyme scheme.)

Lowder: I want the mafia bar man to have an unexpected emotional arc.

Thomas: But that guy in the Mod Squad dress/ And the Judy Garland tress/ He’s kind of a loner/ But he gives me a boner

Lowder: Uh oh, here comes the Village Voice reporter: Up in my office, having a smoke/ look out the window, think it's a joke/ the fags are all fighting, who woulda thunk?/ there's one in heels! that boy-girl's got spunk!

Thomas: High prices, bad hygiene/ But the men—oh, hey, hi Gene!

Lowder: This is a guaranteed hit. 

Want to hang out with Outward? If you’ll be in or near New York City on Monday, July 13, join June Thomas, J. Bryan Lowder, and Mark Joseph Stern—and special guests Ted Allen, of Queer Eye and Chopped fame, and marriage-equality campaigner extraordinaire Evan Wolfsonfor a queer kiki at an Outward LIVE show, hosted by City Winery. Details and tickets can be found here.

June 30 2015 4:09 PM

John Roberts’ Gay Marriage Dissent Is Wrong About Polygamy—and the Constitution

In his wide-ranging dissent in the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on same-sex marriage, Chief Justice John Roberts set out a simple proposition: “If same-sex marriage, then polygamy.” Indeed, the chief argues boldly that it would have been less of a stretch if the Supreme Court had embraced not same-sex but plural marriage, declaring, “[F]rom the standpoint of history and tradition, a leap from opposite-sex marriage to same-sex marriage is much greater than one from a two-person union to plural unions, which have deep roots in some cultures around the world. If the majority is willing to take the big leap, it is hard to see how it can say no to the shorter one.”

The chief justice is on to something important that goes to the heart of the constitutional controversies that now swirl around traditional marriage, monogamy, and same-sex marriage. Elsewhere in SlateWilliam Saletan says Roberts is wrong to link same-sex marriage with polygamy, but from the perspective of the constitutional vision defended by the chief justice, polygamy is indeed far easier to swallow than same-sex marriage. From the point of view of an alternative framework that Justice Anthony Kennedy seems to accept, however, same-sex marriage and polygamy appear in very different lights, with the one contributing to and the other undermining the Constitution’s core commitment to equal liberty.

The problem, in other words, lies not only in Roberts’ flawed description of marriage and its history—though he does err there—but rather in his approach to interpreting the Constitution. Only by seeing this can we appreciate why the court’s same-sex marriage decision strengthens marriage as a constitutional matter.

June 30 2015 1:06 PM

Istanbul’s Gay Pride Parade Broken Up by Police

Over the weekend, thousands of jubilant marchers poured onto the streets of many major cities, including San Francisco, New York, and London, to celebrate pride month and the Supreme Court’s recent legalization of same-sex marriage throughout the United States. Things were considerably less joyous at the annual pride parade in Turkey’s most populous city, which was cut short when the police used aggressive force to break up the gathering.

As Quartz reports, “For more than a decade, the Turkish city of Istanbul has held one of the most visible gay-pride events in the Muslim world.” This year, the government denied permission to the organizers since the parade coincided with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

While the police claimed to have use proportional force, they fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons to disperse participants. This episode is the latest in a series of alleged incidents of police brutality under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and is reminiscent of the 2013 Gezi Park protests. Amnesty International accused Turkey of committing human rights violations in their brutal treatment of the Gezi protestors.

June 30 2015 12:05 PM

Will Same-Sex Couples Reinvigorate the Declining Institution of Marriage?

In his opinion for the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges, recognizing same-sex couples’ constitutional right to marry, Justice Anthony Kennedy referred to marriage as “a keystone of our social order” and “a building block of our national community.” Is this still true today? In the late 1940s, nearly 8 in 10 households in the United States were headed by married couples. Now it’s less than half. Marriage is in steady decline.

Perhaps Kennedy’s language is more specifically directed at same-sex couples, who have made marriage a cornerstone issue in the LGBT movement. In the last year alone, the number of married same-sex couples in the United States tripled. 

June 30 2015 11:34 AM

Obama Administration: Federal Benefits Can No Longer Exclude “Gender Transition Services”

A hard-won victory was granted to the LGBTQ community last week when the Supreme Court decided to strike down state bans on same-sex marriage. But the battle for LGBTQ rights is still an uphill one—a fact that John Oliver highlighted on the most recent episode of his HBO show Last Week Tonight, in which he dedicated 16 minutes to transgender civil rights issues. “For all the strides transgender people have made lately, let’s not get too complacent about how far we’ve come,” Oliver said. He pointed to official rules that legitimize prejudice, such as laws that force people to use bathrooms corresponding with their biological sex and DMV practices that make transgender women remove their wigs before being photographed for licenses. Oliver noted, “When you’re transgender, any interaction with bureaucracy can be humiliatingly difficult.”

Bathroom laws and disrespectful treatment are just two examples. The transgender community faces a slew of social and legal difficulties that have been systemically dismissed by the government. But at least one particular difficulty has finally been taken seriously—the issue of transgender-specific health care. More than a half-dozen U.S. states, including New York and California, recently began offering health insurance coverage to state workers for transgender-related treatments such as gender reassignment surgery and hormone therapy. Starting this week, Nevada is the latest state to adopt such policies. And thanks to a quiet announcement last week by the Obama administration, change will soon come at the national level: Beginning next January, all transgender federal employees will be eligible for at least some forms of transition-related health care coverage.

June 30 2015 11:17 AM

A Progressive Agenda for Married Queers

Since the Supreme Court constitutionalized a right to marriage for same-sex couples last Friday, most social critics have cautioned that there remain many more items on the gay rights to-do list: enacting antidiscrimination laws, addressing transphobia and the high incidence of homelessness among LGBTQ teens, allaying the disproportionate number of LGBTQ people in immigrant detention, ending homophobic bullying and violence in the schools, and remedying the over-criminalization of people of color in the LGBTQ community. The list, as you can see, is long.

But as we redirect our energies and resources to those causes, it’s also important to recognize that marriage itself remains a space worthy of ongoing critical attention. Once the gay pride dust has settled, we should expect to see “nose-holding” pragmatists marry to protect their legal and economic interests even as they remain ambivalent about the institution—and in that, we have an opportunity to put progressive politics to work from the inside of marriage.

June 29 2015 12:31 PM

Why the Oxford English Dictionary’s Addition of Cisgender Matters

While Friday marked a historic victory for the LGBTQ community, it turns out there’s another advancement to celebrate: Last week, the Oxford English Dictionary released a list of 500 new entries, and among the more notable additions was cisgender. The word—which is defined as “designating a person whose sense of personal identity matches their gender at birth”—is seen as an opposite and complementary term to transgender.

To be considered for the OED, a word must have been in use for several consecutive years. While cisgender has been around since the 1990s, The Cutpoints out that until recently it was largely used by academics in scholarly circles and was not widely known.