Could Gay Issues Save the French Left From an Embarrassing Electoral Defeat?
On March 23, French voters will head to the polls for municipal elections, and gay issues will likely play a key role. In fact, the conflict over gay marriage, which dominated French domestic politics in 2013, may well save President François Hollande’s Socialist Party from electoral embarrassment ... at least in Paris.
Since 2001, Paris has had an openly gay mayor, the Socialist Party’s Bertrand Delanoë. At the time of his election, Delanoë was not a star, but, rather, a hard-working political insider who had come out as gay only in 1998. Delanoë's administration has been LGBTQ-friendly, but not excessively so. It has given financial support to an expanded LGBTQ community center, but it refused requests for municipal funding for a national LGBTQ archive. Municipal support for the 2018 Gay Games bid was outstanding, but the first Paris bid for the 2010 Gay Games received much more discreet backing, with little public engagement from the mayor, who at the time was bidding for the 2012 Olympics.
Denis Leary’s New Sitcom, Sirens, and the Five Stages of Gay TV Watching
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross identified the five stages of grief as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. In the second decade of the 21st century, we can now say that gay viewers have responded to television with those same emotions. We just experienced them in a different order.
First came bargaining, when we would look at an unmarried career woman—say, The Beverly Hillbillies’ Miss Hathaway—and talk ourselves into seeing her as a stealth lesbian. Then we moved on to denial, a painful stage in which we were so desperate for representation that we told ourselves that mediocre sitcoms like Ellen or Will & Grace were good, and that ground-breaking (which they were) was more important than funny (which they often weren’t). A few years later, we drifted into acceptance: The L Word was a nightmare, but at least its presence on the TV schedule proved that the straight world knew we existed. (Though judging from the show’s sex scenes, it didn’t have a clue what we do in bed.) When The L Word morphed into The Real L Word, we tasted anger. Like straight consumers of reality television before us, we looked at the tortured souls chosen to represent us to the world at large and cried out: I’m not like that! Now, we seem finally to have reached depression: There are quite a few homosexuals on television, but we find them boring.
A Polite Homophobe Is Still a Homophobe
On Wednesday, the Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf penned a lively response to my recent piece explaining Ross Douthat’s canny and dishonest defense of homophobia. In my original post, I casually noted that when a business owner denies gay people service because they’re gay, he qualifies as a bigot. Friedersdorf takes issue with this claim, which he believes “is itself prejudice rooted in ignorance.” I beg to differ.
At the heart of Friedersdorf’s article is an insistence that there are reasons other than homophobia that explain why a business owner might refuse service to gay people. But he doesn’t actually name any; instead, he justifies his assertion by pointing out that Elaine Huguenin, the now-infamous photographer who refused to shoot a lesbian wedding, is exceedingly polite over email. Friedersdorf excerpts an exchange between Huguenin and the would-be lesbian client, Vanessa Willock, highlighting how courteously Huguenin phrased her rejection of Willock’s request for service. As Friedersdorf puts it:
Willock was wrong to perceive “hatred,” which doesn't come across in the exchange, or even “blatant” opposition to same-sex marriage—it was so subtle that a followup email was required to clarify—this all happened in a state, New Mexico, that didn't permit gay weddings. (The event was technically a commitment ceremony for the lesbian couple.)
U.S. v. Windsor Must Be This Generation’s Brown v. Board of Education, Not Its Roe v. Wade
Recent judicial decisions have made one thing very clear: Gay and lesbian couples will soon be able to marry in all 50 states. Even Maggie Gallagher, one of the staunchest opponents of marriage equality, has admitted defeat—sort of. As she’s said, the only remaining question is whether the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor will be this generation’s Brown v. Board of Education or its Roe v. Wade. In other words, will the ruling come to be broadly accepted as an affirmation of basic equality and fairness (Brown), or will it become a flashpoint for serious and sustained pushback (Roe)?
A recent spate of anti-gay bills in red states (including Kansas, Idaho, Mississippi, and—most famously—Arizona), which use the mantle of religious freedom to counter the march toward equality, has planted a flag firmly in the soil of Roe v. Wade. If passed, these laws would have undermined the promise of Windsor by allowing a wide range of folks to opt out of having anything to do with gay and lesbian unions simply by claiming that forcing them to be involved would run counter to their religious beliefs.
Why Doesn’t Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade Allow Gay Groups to March?
Until yesterday, it looked like gay groups would be allowed to march in Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade for the first time in two decades. Under pressure from a new mayor who announced that he won’t participate in the parade unless the gay exclusion ends, the Allied War Veterans Council, which sponsors the event, had agreed to allow an LGBTQ veteran’s group to participate—but only if the word gay was absent from their clothing and signs. (By that logic, they might as well hold the parade in rural Tennessee.) On Monday, the deal fell apart when AWVC claimed the gay group was trying “to enter this parade under false pretenses.”
This green-tinted anti-gay animosity isn’t limited to Boston, of course: New York City’s new mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he would boycott the world’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parade
Does Pope Francis Support Gay Civil Unions?
The pope’s statement could easily be interpreted to mean the extension of legal rights to a caregiver living with a terminally ill loved one. Some civil unions also allow widows who wish to remarry to keep Social Security survivor’s benefits. To give you an idea of how slow things are moving here, this itself represents progress: Church leaders previously suggested that widows should “have consecrated to God their remaining years in the unmarried state.” Being exceedingly careful not to issue any errant endorsements of a loving commitment between same-sex partners, the pope only suggests that the Vatican should examine and evaluate the circumstances of governmentally recognized relationships.
Bigoted lawmakers in many U.S. jurisdictions used similar logic when drafting anti-marriage equality amendments during the mid-aughts. In 2006, focusing on the perceived illegitimacy of same-sex marriages, Virginia voters approved a referendum that prohibited the “[recognition of] a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage.” In other words, lawmakers made sure that civil unions (including those entered into in other states) didn’t provide a backdoor method for recognizing same-sex partnerships. By denying the very legitimacy of certain relationships, one may also deny the legal rights associated with them. The Catholic Church uses the same logic today.
The Shamelessness of Professor Mark Regnerus
The state of Michigan this week paid Mark Regnerus to testify in defense of its ban on same-sex marriage. A sociologist at University of Texas at Austin, Regnerus gained notoriety after publishing a 2012 journal article arguing that children of same-sex parents faced substantial disadvantages compared to those of different-sex parents. The study catapulted him into conservative stardom, making him a credentialed mouthpiece for the claim that LGBTQ equality harms kids and can be blocked not because of anti-gay bias but out of noble concern for children and families.
Regnerus’ article made waves because it appeared to buck the trend of three decades of research showing kids with gay parents fare just as well as others. In his study and accompanying articles—including one Regnerus wrote for Slate—he touted his large, nationally representative sample size, which he said trumped the quality of research of the numerous prior studies finding that the kids are all right.
Abusing Foucault: How Conservatives and Liberals Misunderstand “Social Construct” Sexuality
Where does sexual orientation come from? It’s a tired question and, frankly, a tiresome one, since it always seems to lead us back to the same familiar (and likely inextricable) tangle of science, culture, and ideology. That said, it’s at least worth trying to keep the terms of the debate, well, straight, and “social construct”—the notion that sexual orientation is a modern invention, with which a person might or might not choose to affiliate—is a concept that has been greatly misunderstood.
To wit: last month, the religious journal First Things published a controversial essay by Michael W. Hannon called “Against Heterosexuality,” which offers an ultra-conservative take on the issue of whether our sexual orientations are natural conditions or chosen constructs. Hannon’s piece is just the latest in a number of recent articles in the “choice wars.” Brandon Ambrosino, writing for theNew Republic, set off a small firestorm in January when he described his homosexuality as a choice, not a biological fact. His article provoked vitriolic responses from, among others, Gabriel Arana andSlate’s own Mark Joseph Stern. Clearly, the biology vs. choice (or nature vs. culture) debate remains a point of serious contention within the LGBTQ community and beyond.
But does “construct” mean what these new adopters think it does?
That Media Circus That Was Supposed to Be Following Jason Collins? It Doesn’t Exist.
One of the most heartening things about Jason Collins’ signing with the Brooklyn Nets was that everyone on his new team instantly embraced the backup center. The only word of caution came from guard Deron Williams, who noted, “I think it’s definitely going to be a media circus.” Williams continued by saying it wasn’t Collins’ fault, but “it’s just the media coming along with it, because every city you go to, it’s not just like you answer a question once and then it’s over with. It’s a recurring thing.”
Oh, that distracting media circus. Lions! Tigers! Digital recorders! Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News wrote that by signing Collins, the Nets are “going to be inviting the media circus to come their way. Do they really need that?” Dan Levy of Bleacher Report also invoked the big top, arguing that “the media circus that was certain to follow [Collins’] signing very well may have precluded teams from taking a serious look at signing him in the offseason.”
Dallas Buyers Club Oscar Winners: It’s “People With AIDS,” Not “Victims”
Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews’ utterances from the Oscar podium Sunday night were among the most spontaneous of the entire ceremony. Actors and directors have agents, business managers, and countless retainers to help them polish their acceptance speeches to a high-buff finish. They’re public figures used to speaking to journalists and investors, while nominees in the makeup and hairstyling category—in which Lee and Mathews triumphed for their work on Dallas Buyers Club—are not.
So, when a very excited Mathews casually used a term that was once considered verboten, it didn’t seem disrespectful. Instead, it was a sign of how much we’ve forgotten about the early days of the AIDS crisis.