Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation

Oct. 22 2014 4:43 PM

Anthony Culler Warns: Beware the Gay Gremlins!

At the risk of giving this silly person more press than he deserves, we draw your attention to Anthony Culler, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Congress, running in the 6th district of South Carolina. Culler is challenging—with little chance of winning—popular Democrat incumbent James Clyburn, but his dim prospects haven’t stopped him from deploying creative (to put it generously) strategies in his quest to appeal to voters. In a recent Facebook post, Culler insulted the intelligence of his would-be constituents by childishly comparing gay marriage supporters to “gremlins”—yes, those gremlins. “Do not buy the ‘cuteness’ and ‘What will it hurt?’ arguments whispered in your ears and marketed to our children,” Culler exhorted. “Same-sex couples that seek to destroy our way of life and the institution of marriage are NOT cute and cuddly but rather (for those of you that are old enough to remember the movie), Gremlins that will only destroy our way of life.”

This is scary stuff, to be sure, so we at Slate have decided to help Culler get the word out, pro bono. If you’d like to warn your God-fearing neighbors about the gay gremlin threat, feel free to send them this PSA—it’s the decent thing to do.

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Oct. 22 2014 12:51 PM

Ask a Homo: Why Are the Gays So 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. Today, we consider the rather charming notion that gay men might “have more fun” than straight men. 

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.

Other Questions Asked of Homos:

Oct. 22 2014 10:37 AM

Judge Upholds Puerto Rico’s Gay Marriage Ban in a Comically Inane Opinion

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Juan Pérez-Giménez dismissed a challenge to Puerto Rico’s gay marriage ban, holding that “no right to same-gender marriage emanates from the Constitution.” Pérez-Giménez, a Carter appointee, is only the second district judge to uphold such a ban since the Supreme Court’s 2013 Windsor ruling, and the first Democrat-appointed judge to do so since then.

But don’t be too alarmed by Pérez-Giménez’s decision. Although the judge seems to think he is taking a courageous stand for constitutional principles, his actual opinion is a hopelessly muddled mélange of casuistry, magical thinking, and almost comic inanity. Pérez-Giménez centers his opinion around Baker v. Nelson, a 1972 case in which the Supreme Court dismissed a challenge to Minnesota’s gay marriage ban “for want of a substantial federal question.” TheBaker decision was a summary affirmance of a lower court’s ruling and consisted of a single sentence. Still, Pérez-Giménez insists, summary affirmances are considered binding on lower courts, so he was forced by Baker to dismiss a challenge to Puerto Rico’s ban as well. (Judge Jeffrey Sutton of the 6th Circuithas also fretted that Baker gores the constitutional case for marriage equality.)


Oct. 22 2014 9:00 AM

Wailing Against the Pansies: Homophobia in Whiplash

From time to time, a movie comes along that everyone feels is about something.

Such is the case with Whiplash, writer/director Damien Chazelle’s panic-attack-provoking new film that follows the sadomasochistic relationship between a conservatory teacher, Fletcher (J.K Simmons) and his driven, jazz drumming pupil, Andrew (Miles Teller). Most reviews of the film, which is currently rolling out in theaters across the country, pick up on one “about” or another. Slate alone has already offered two compelling readings—the latent twistedness of pedagogical relationships and the nature of creative genius. But another of Whiplash’s preoccupations remains underexplored (if consistently mentioned in passing) in the critical conversation: its aggressive inclusion of homophobia.

To be clear, this is not to say that the film or Chazelle are themselves homophobic; rather, I’m interested in the way the film relies on homophobia—as rendered in speech and gender ideology—for so much of its dramatic intensity. And, more important, I’m curious about how that dependency might complicate the film’s widespread adoration.

Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM

The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way

At the end of October, Notre Dame University will host a two-day conference bearing a name that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. “Gay in Christ” will feature Catholic speakers who self-identify as gay and lesbian, along with allies who are actively seeking more inclusive pastoral strategies for dealing with the gay faithful. The conference’s opening remarks and final presentation will be given by one of these allies, Professor John Cavadini, a former chair of Notre Dame’s department of theology who was appointed to  the International Theological Commission (a select group that advises the pope and his bishops on theological matters) by Pope Benedict.

Signs and signals that the church may be shifting its position on homosexuality always make headlines, but behind the scenes, the church is actively searching for new ways to address LGBTQ issues. More often than not, that means church leaders turn to celibate gay Catholics to help them find a way forward. “There are a lot of people realizing that the condemning approach was not working and was not a good reflection of Christian love or charity,” Ron Belgau, who runs the celibate Christian blog Spiritual Friendship and is scheduled to speak at the Gay in Christ conference, told me. “A lot of people are interested in talking to celibate gays about [other approaches].” Although they don't share all the values of secular LGBTQ activists, celibate gays serve as advocates for the worth and dignity of LGBTQ people and their relationships in a context where outside activists are still viewed with suspicion and hostility.

Oct. 20 2014 2:19 PM

A Procedural Rule Could Keep Gay Marriage From Ever Reaching SCOTUS Again

One of the great benefits of the marriage equality debate is that it has forced Americans to learn way more about constitutional law than they probably ever wanted to. In just a few years, terms like “heightened scrutiny” and “liberty interest” have wriggled their way into the demotic parlance, to my unceasing delight. But the schooling, it seems, will not end at the 14th Amendment, because Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne just cited a rule of civil procedure in refusing to defend his state’s ban on same-sex marriage. And if  his theory is correct, opponents of marriage equality may be procedurally barred from ever getting a gay marriage case to the Supreme Court again.

Here’s the thrust of Horne’s unexpected argument: Under Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, attorneys must certify that any motions they file are “nonfrivolous” and aren’t designed to “cause unnecessary delay.” If you violate that rule, you might face sanctions—a pretty embarrassing and sometimes expensive penalty. For months, the conventional wisdom dictated that states could appeal gay marriage rulings without stumbling on Rule 11; the Supreme Court, after all, has yet to issue a definitive ruling on the matter.

Oct. 17 2014 5:26 PM

Judge Begrudgingly Strikes Down Wyoming’s Gay Marriage Ban

On Friday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Scott W. Skavdahl struck down Wyoming’s gay marriage ban, making it the third pro-marriage equality decision of the day. Skavdahl, an Obama appointee, essentially had no choice but to invalidate Wyoming’s ban; the state falls within the 10th Circuit, where marriage equality is now officially law. A decision upholding the ban would have been legally unjustifiable and judicially impudent.

While Skavdahl ruled the right way, he made it quite clear that his heart wasn’t in it. First, Skavdahl stayed the decision until Oct. 23—a completely pointless exercise since marriage equality is already law of the circuit. Second, he closed the principal portion of his opinion with an awkward, cranky kiss-off to his judicial superiors:

The preferred forum for addressing the issues presented by Plaintiffs in this case is the arena of public debate and legislative action. However, that ship has sailed. It is not the desire or preference of this Court to, with the stroke of a pen, erase a State’s legislative enactments. Nonetheless, the binding precedent of [the 10th Circuit’s decisions] mandate this result, and this Court will adhere to its Constitutional duties and abide by the rule of law.

Not exactly a love letter to marriage equality, but it’ll do the job. And since Wyoming’s Republican governor has already refused to appeal the ruling, wedding bells will soon be ringing in Liz Cheney’s adopted home state. It’s about time, too. When gay couples can exchange vows next to Old Faithful, you know the marriage equality fight is drawing to a close. 

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.

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.