Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation

July 22 2014 2:22 PM

Catholic Writer Espouses a Penetrating Argument Against Gay Marriage

First Things is one of my absolute favorite magazines, largely because its writers make such an admirable effort to come up with fresh, fun ways to justify their religious-based prejudices. Remember when they took over 4,000 words to say that gay people don’t exist at all? If that didn’t convince you, try this bit o’ logic: Because anuses aren’t vaginas, gay marriage is not a civil right.

That’s the thrust of a new piece out by Stephen H. Webb, best known for his work on “Mormons obsessed with Christ” and intelligent design. Webb’s article begins with an attempt to illustrate why the gay rights movement is distinct from the black civil rights movement. “Gay marriage advocates,” Webb argues, “have convinced millions of Americans that gay marriage is just the same as straight marriage.” But “[i]f the argument of sameness works for gay rights, could it have worked for Civil Rights?”

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July 22 2014 11:05 AM

Tony Dungy Brings Some Late-Breaking Homophobia to Michael Sam

On Sunday, the Tampa Tribune quoted former NFL coach Tony Dungy saying that he wouldn’t have drafted the openly gay Michael Sam. Dungy added that his stance wasn’t “because I don’t believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it.”

Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams despite similar comments earlier in the year from NFL executives and coaches, mostly anonymous, who believed the rookie would “chemically imbalance” the locker room. For his part, Dungy believes Sam is a pro-caliber player, but wouldn’t want him on his team because of the inevitable controversy. This isn’t just unreasonable, it’s blatantly homophobic—a perfect example of the anti-gay animus that many LGBTQ people fear from their employers. It’s the reason why President Obama felt compelled to issue an executive order prohibiting anti-LGBT workplace discrimination.Dungy believes Sam is a pro-caliber player worthy of drafting, but wouldn’t hire him because of the inevitable controversy surrounding his decision to play as an openly gay man. This isn’t just unreasonable, it’s blatantly homophobic—a perfect example of the anti-gay animus that many LGBTQ people fear from their employers. It’s the reason why President Obama felt compelled to issue an executive order prohibiting anti-LGBT workplace discrimination.

July 22 2014 8:42 AM

Yet Another Study Proves It: Truvada Is Incredibly Effective

The results of a massive, years-long, worldwide study on HIV-preventing drugs (PrEP) are in, and the news is unsurprisingly great: PrEP is highly effective, extremely safe, and unlikely to lead to a drop in condom usage.

The new study, called iPrEx OLE, reinforces two important—and frequently challenged—facts about PrEP. First, not a single participant in the study who took PrEP 4-7 times a week contracted HIV. (The drug is meant to be taken once daily.) Taking PrEP only 2-3 times a week still resulted in a 90 percent reduced risk of HIV acquisition. Taken together, these figures suggest that PrEP truly does reach near-perfect levels of effectiveness when taken as prescribed.

July 21 2014 3:42 PM

The Trouble With “Lady Parts” 


Last week, Lizz Winstead, a writer, comedian, and activist, launched Lady Parts Justice, an organization with a mission to educate the public about the ongoing assault on reproductive rights in America. The group's cause is both noble and needed in the wake of the Supreme Court's 5–4 decision affirming Hobby Lobby’s right to decline covering certain forms of contraception in employee health insurance plans, which came at a time when an increasing number of states are limiting abortion access and the far right continues its misinformation campaigns.



Despite my support for all of the issues Lady Parts Justice stands for, I have one big problem with Winstead’s new project: Its name.



I understand that Winstead and her colleagues are using the term “Lady Parts” as a playful euphemism for much more clinical-sounding terms like “uterus,” “vagina,” and so on. The problem with this name—and with use of terms like “lady parts” or “lady bits” more generally to refer to reproductive organs that have been typically associated with women—is that it reinforces biological essentialism, tying gender to genitals.


July 21 2014 2:25 PM

Hillary Clinton Should Be a Gay Rights Icon—So Why Isn't She? 

Hillary Clinton’s LGBTQ supporters desperately want her to be a gay rights icon--or at least a staunch advocate for the community. But given that Clinton is emphatically not a gay rights icon, or even a particularly steadfast ally, this desire has led to some awkward cognitive dissonance. Her apparent position on gay marriage—leave it to the states—is about as progressive as Dick Cheney’s circa 2004. (It’s alsoconstitutionally incoherent.) Her biggest gay rights achievement to date is a single speech that doesn’t mention marriage. In fact, until 2013, Clinton’s public views on marriage equality seemed to be about the same as Brendan Eich’s.

July 21 2014 10:40 AM

Obama Signs Historic LGBT Non-Discrimination Order

On Monday morning, President Obama signed an executive LGBT non-discrimination order, barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity among federal contractors. The order also protects all federal employees from discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Crucially, Obama did not include the broad religious exemption that some faith leaders had begged the White House for. (These requested exemptions would have allowed religiously affiliated corporations to fire gay and trans workers with impunity.) The executive order does, however, preserve a Bush-era exemption that allows religiously affiliated contractors to continue to preference workers of a certain religion.

The president’s action on job discrimination is probably his biggest single gay rights accomplishment since signing the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” As the gay marriage battle draws to a close, Obama repeatedly targeted LGBT job discrimination as the next frontier of gay rights, urging Congress to outlaw it through federal legislation. But the Republican-controlled House has refused to countenace any sort of LGBT non-discrimination law, even after a bipartisan coalition pushed a weak bill through the Senate. That bill recently lost support from gay rights groups in the wake of Hobby Lobby thanks to its broad religious exemptions, officially flat-lining the effort for the foreseeable future.

Obama’s executive order won’t help nearly as many workers as federal legislation would, though it’s estimated that his ordinance will protect an impressive 20 percent of the American labor force. His order is also a moral victory for the LGBTQ movement, which fretted that Hobby Lobby would lead to a new era of discrimination under the guise of religious liberty. Although the debate over religious exemptions remains fierce and unsettled, Obama’s refusal to hand religiously affiliated companies a special license to discriminate suggests his administration has not bought into the notion that legalizing bigotry is necessary to preserve religious freedom. 

July 18 2014 4:30 PM

The Legal Argument for Gay Marriage Just Hit Its First Major Bump

For better or for worse, the constitutional theory providing equal rights to gay people is entirely authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy. As everybody now knows, Kennedy penned the trilogy of gay rights opinions that lie behind an unbroken streak of judicial wins for gay marriage in the states. At first glance, today’s 10th Circuit opinion affirming the invalidation of Oklahoma’s marriage ban continues this streak seamlessly. But just below the surface of the ruling lies a bear trap that could mangle the legal theories that have brought gay marriage so close to the finish line.

Here’s the biggest problem with Kennedy’s gay rights opinions: They’re notoriously, ridiculously, unjustifiably vague. When Justice Antonin Scalia described Kennedy’s reasoning in the DOMA case as “legalistic argle-bargle,” he wasn’t entirely wrong. Although Kennedy bases his opinions in venerable constitutional concepts—namely, substantive due process and equal protection—he refuses to explain precisely how these concepts guide the case at hand.

July 18 2014 12:13 PM

Why Britain’s Abuzz About Same-Sex Ballroom Dancing

LONDON—Last Friday, for the first time in many years, a story about British ballroom dancing made national headlines.

The flurry of attention—and outrage—was occasioned by a proposed rule change being considered by the British Dance Council, competitive ballroom dancing’s governing body. The change, which was first discussed in March, would redefine a dance partnership to be “one man and one lady in all adult amateur and professional competitions and championships unless otherwise stated.” The nearly 40 members of the council are expected to vote on the issue on July 21, if the measure is not withdrawn before then.

July 17 2014 3:22 PM

Gay Couples Can Now Get Married in Florida. But Only in the Keys.

On Thursday, Florida Circuit Judge Luis M. Garcia invalidated Florida’s gay marriage ban, holding that the state’s anti-gay constitutional amendment violates the U.S. Constitution. Garcia’s tart 14-page opinion describes marriage as a fundamental right protected by the 14th Amendment’s due process clause—and finds that denying that right to gay people violates equal protection guarantees. Ignoring the “animus” behind the law and allowing the ban to stand, Garcia notes, would reduce the Constitution to “just a historical piece of paper.”

This is great news for those (like me) who lived through the trauma of Amendment 2, Florida’s version of Prop 8, and couldn’t imagine marriage equality reaching Florida before the middle of the century. But it’s not quite time to start celebrating—unless you happen to live in the Keys. As a circuit judge, Garcia’s jurisdiction is severely limited, and his ruling only applies to Monroe County, which stretches from the Everglades to the tip of the Keys. So while Key West should get the party started posthaste, mainland Floridians have little reason to cheer.

They will soon, though. The Monroe County lawsuit was one of three gay marriage lawsuits currently pending in the state, and marriage advocates are pretty confident they’ll win the other two. One of those cases found its way to U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle’s docket. If Hinkle, a Clinton appointee, strikes down the ban, his ruling will apply to the whole state. At that point, the state’s attorney general, Pam Bondi, will have to decide whether to request a stay and appeal the ruling. Bondi, who has been married two or three times, has struggled mightily to find an anti-gay argument that passes the smirk test, and she may be tempted to abandon this whole debacle after Hinkle rules. That surrender, of course, would bring marriage equality to the sunshine state for good. 

Update, July 17, 2014: Bondi has now appealed the ruling and suggested that she will appeal any future pro-gay rulings as well.

July 17 2014 2:51 PM

Perfume Genius’ “Queen” Is the Gay Anthem of the Year

Seattle-based pop artist Mike Handreas has released two jarring, gentle albums under the moniker Perfume Genius. But for his latest single, “Queen,” which comes from the just-announced third album Too Bright, he’s packing a much louder punch. And, in doing so, he may have just created the year’s best gay anthem. “Queen” is a majestic, psychedelic sonic kaleidoscope that handles insults often hurled at gay people—“heathen,” “riddled with disease,” “cracked”—with the best retaliation: confidence.