Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation

Oct. 17 2014 3:15 PM

Houston’s Sermon Subpoenas: Bad Lawyering, Terrible Politics

It does not look good—no matter how you frame it, no matter how you justify it, no matter how logically you defend it—for the government to subpoena a pastor’s sermons. Before this week, I would have thought that was common knowledge among humans over the age of, say, 4. But apparently it is not, because news broke on Wednesday that attorneys defending Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance, an LGBTQ anti-discrimination law passed last May by the Houston City Council, subpoenaed five conservative pastors, demanding that they turn over all sermons discussing homosexuality or gender identity.

Video Advertisement

Oct. 17 2014 12:24 PM

Judge Criticizes Supreme Court, Strikes Down Arizona Marriage Ban

On Friday, U.S. District Judge John Sedwick struck down Arizona’s gay marriage ban, holding that the law violated the equal protection guaranteed by the 14thAmendment. He refused to grant a stay, meaning marriages can begin in the state immediately.

The ruling was entirely inevitable: Arizona falls within the 9th Circuit, where marriage equality recently became law. Still, Sedwick’s decision is pretty amazing—a terse, 4-page order that throws some serious shade at the Supreme Court. Normally, a judge issuing such a consequential ruling based on a circuit court decision would put his own decision on hold; the judgment of the circuit court, after all, could be reviewed and reversed by the Supreme Court. But Sedwick refused to stay his decision. Instead, he noted the Supreme Court’s recent refusal to review a group of major gay rights cases, and then proclaimed: “It is…clear…that the High Court will turn a deaf ear on any request for relief from the Ninth Circuit’s decision.”

Oct. 16 2014 1:17 PM

Hear Liberace Defend His Flamboyant Attire in 1968

Blank on Blank is a fabulous little web series produced by PBS Digital Studios, in which old celebrity interview tape is gorgeously animated; each segment features the star discussing a particular issue, the second “blank.” In the most recent release, Liberace explains his kitschy sartorial choices to journalist Jay Kent Hackleman in the summer of 1968. The conversation, which crackles with a kind of adversarial energy from the start, is telling: The interviewer’s initial annunciation of “garb” is soaked in knowing hostility, and Liberace immediately defends his super-gay style in terms of currents in men’s fashion: “The male peacock is beginning to show his true plumage.” Indeed.

From there, Liberace quickly reframes the discussion in terms of wholesome American values like hard-work and self-determination—God and country make a number of appearances. “You must realize that I once was poor myself,” he explains. “I worked to get where I am today, and I’ve worked hard to spend $100,000 a year on my clothes … I feel I have a perfect right to spend my money as I damned please.” By the end, Liberace’s determination to contextualize his campy, effeminate clothes in any terms other than homosexuality leads to a rather bizarre discussion of social welfare programs and the moral value of the entertainer in society. The snippet is a fascinating look inside the closet (both kinds) of the man, and one that proves Liberace was as talented a rhetorician as he was a piano player.

Oct. 16 2014 9:00 AM

Why We Need “Queer” 

Despite its widespread use in classrooms, pride parades, and LGBTQ blogs like Outward, the term “queer” remains contentious for some—and confusing for many more. We’ve devoted two segments of “Ask A Homo” to clearing things up, but it’s important for those who actually identify as queer to explain why that term fits better than any other in their own words. This documentary short from filmmaker—and queer person—Ainara Tiefenthäler offers that perspective.  

Oct. 15 2014 2:24 PM

Why Are We Celebrating? The Catholic Church Still Hates Trans People

Since his papacy began in March of 2013, Pope Francis has been lauded by moderate Catholics, liberal-minded religionists, and even the occasional non-believer as a breath of (77-year-old) fresh air. At the time of his election, the Catholic Church was just beginning to pick up the pieces after its decades-long child abuse scandal had been exposed, and religious identity and church attendance among American Catholics was at a record low. Here was someone exciting, someone (supposedly) different—a smooth-talking Cardinal from Buenos Aires with a more politically polished style than his by-the-book predecessor.


But style is not policy, and in that regard, Francis has actually done little to distinguish himself from Benedict. Like past Catholic leadership, this pope opposes abortion and believes marriage is strictly between a man and a woman; and, for good measure, Francis even excommunicated an Australian priest who happened to support women's ordination and marriage equality. Meet the new boss … who is basically the same as the old boss.

Oct. 15 2014 9:15 AM

Ask a Homo: Are You Gay?

Welcome back to Ask a Homo, a judgment-free zone where the gays of Outward answer questions about LGBTQ politics, culture, etiquette, language, and other queer conundrums. In this edition we consider whether it’s ever acceptable to ask someone if they’re gay, or is the polite thing to wait until they self-disclose.

If there are questions you’ve been dying to ask a member of the real rainbow coalition, this is your chance. Send your queries—for publication—to slateoutward@gmail.com, and please put “ASK A HOMO” in the subject line. Note that questions may be edited.

Oct. 14 2014 4:56 PM

Magistrates Who Refuse to Grant Gay Marriages Are Law-Breakers

Same-sex marriages became legal in North Carolina on Monday morning, and so William Locklear and Randall Jackson planned, quite reasonably, to solemnize their 31-year relationship on that day. But the pair encountered an ugly surprise at the Pasquotank County Courthouse when they arrived: The magistrate refused to marry the two men—because, he informed them, his religious beliefs forbade him from doing so.

And so it begins. The fight over legalizing anti-gay bigotry in the guise of “religious liberty” has finally moved from the marketplace to the courthouse. The baker who wouldn’t make a cake for lesbians is old news; the hot new homophobia revolves around marriage licenses, not flour and frosting. Already, conservatives in red states are drafting legislation granting anyone authorized to perform marriages—including civil servants—the right to refuse a marriage certificate to gay couples. And as courts bring marriage equality to deeply conservative states like Idaho and West Virginia, an increasing number of magistrates and county clerks will likely start refusing marriage licenses to gay couples based solely on their own personal prejudices.

Oct. 14 2014 3:11 PM

Conservative Cardinals Push Back Against Church’s Reported Softening on Gays

As I reported yesterday, a conference of bishops is currently underway at the Vatican, the subject of which is the contemporary family. Monday saw the release of an interim report called “relatio” that, among other things, suggested that the Church was considering revising its approach to homosexuals in a way that might recognize their “gifts and qualities” and offer a means of welcoming them more affirmatively into the Catholic community. Many media outlets, including Outward, presented these statements as a sign of a potential shift in tone, if not fundamental doctrine—but if the response of a number of conservative clergy today is any indication, even that is an overstatement.

Oct. 13 2014 1:39 PM

Vatican Softens Stance on Gays

In a move that has been called “an earthquake” in the Roman Catholic Church’s approach to homosexuals, the Vatican released a document on Monday that urged clergy and parishioners to treat gay Catholics—especially those in committed relationships—with more respect than had been previously condoned. The statement, called “Relatio,” was the result of a week-long conference on the contemporary family organized by Pope Francis. The 200 bishops who participated called on the church to recognize the “gifts and qualities” that homosexuals can contribute and suggested that it is possible for the Catholics to make a “fraternal space” for gays without necessarily compromising on basic doctrine, which continues to view homosexual sex acts as sin and to deny the validity of same-sex marriage.

“[A]re we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a further space in our communities?” the document asked. “Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home.” According to Reuters, the statement will continue to be discussed over another week of meetings, and a final, possibly changed version, will be produced in the end.  

Oct. 13 2014 10:14 AM

What’s Happening to LGBTQ Rights in Macedonia?

For the third time since it came to power in 2006, Macedonia’s ruling faction is trying to amend the nation’s constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage. Amendment 33 would also prohibit civil unions or any other registered form of life partnership for same-sex couples.

Should the efforts of the ominously named Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization—Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity, known by the less imposing initialism VMRO, be successful, Macedonia would join Serbia and Montenegro as constituents of the former Yugoslavia that have exclusivist constitutional restrictions.