Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation

Jan. 23 2015 11:57 AM

I Am Ready to Declare a Truce in the Gay Cake Wars

The gay cake wars are, by a long shot, the stupidest thing I have ever covered. They are so inane that they make me want to quit my job and become a bricklayer in a faraway country with no Internet connection. I, along with the rest of America, would surely be much happier, healthier, and more fulfilled if we never had to contemplate the gay cake wars again. In light of this exhaustion, I am offering a truce.

Here is the latest skirmish in these wars, which, again, are astonishingly dumb. Bill Jack, a Christian customer at a gay-friendly cake store in Colorado,recently asked a baker to craft a cake depicting a gay couple holding hands—with a large “X” over them, along with the words “God hates gays.” The baker refused, citing her personal beliefs. Now the customer has complained to state officials, claiming he was subject to religious discrimination.

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Jan. 22 2015 3:28 PM

Mike Huckabee Just Can’t Stop Sounding Like Segregationist Orval Faubus

For a man with presidential ambitions, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has a strange habit of sounding a lot like one of the most bigoted, contemptible, despised politicians in all of American history. The trouble started last May, when Huckabee called for the impeachment of an Arkansas state judge who ruled in favor of marriage equality—echoing another Arkansas governor, Orval Faubus, who famously resisted integration and called for the impeachment of any judge who enforced it.

Now Huckabee has taken a new tack in his quest to demean gay Americans. In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, Huckabee insisted that states can ignore any future Supreme Court ruling declaring same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional—and continue to enforce their own bans—because “one branch of government does not overrule the other two”:

One thing I am angry about ... is this notion of judicial supremacy, where if the court makes a decision, I hear governors and even some aspirants to the presidency say, “Well that's settled, it's the law of the land.” No, it's not the law of the land.
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What Huckabee is really disputing here is the validity of Cooper v. Aaron—and, in turn, the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution. Cooper arose in 1958 after the school board in Little Rock, Arkansas, refused to enact an integration plan as required by the court’s 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. Faubus, then governor of Arkansas, declared that his state wasn’t bound by Brown and could shrug off the ruling. The Supreme Court disagreed, unanimously ruling that, thanks to the supremacy clause, states (and state officials) are bound by the court’s interpretation of the federal Constitution.

Faubus, of course, disagreed. According to his constitutional interpretation, a “Supreme Court decision is not the law of the land.” Faubus is also reported to have informed white schoolchildren that “the Supreme Court is not the law of the land and [you don’t] have to obey it.”

Sound familiar? If so, that’s because this is almost exactly what Huckabee said about a hypothetical gay marriage ruling. This similarity is not particularly surprising: Conservatives tend to get quite gung-ho about nullification where the equal protection clause is involved. But it is a bit odd to see an allegedly savvy politician repeat, nearly verbatim, the words of one of America’s most vicious racists. Perhaps Huckabee looks to his gubernatorial predecessor as a role model; perhaps he’s just utterly clueless. Either way, I suppose it makes a certain amount of sense to adopt the philosophies of a segregationist when you’re championing a form of segregation yourself. 

Want to hang out with Outward? If you’ll be in or near New York City on Feb. 3, join June Thomas, J. Bryan Lowder, and Mark Joseph Stern—and special guest Lea DeLaria ofOrange Is the New Black fame!for a queer kiki at the first ever Outward LIVE show, hosted by City Winery. Details and tickets can be found here.

Jan. 22 2015 3:20 PM

Jeopardy! Sends Up the Silliness of Civil Unions

You might not typically think of Jeopardy! as a source of opinion on the hot-button political issues of the day, but on the Jan. 21 edition of the game show, a saucy clue challenged that perception. Under a category called “Civil” the $800 clue read as follows: “Some opponents of same-sex marriage say, hey gay folks, how about these? Wouldn't these be good enough?”

The correct answer, of course, is “What are civil unions?”

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The clue writers’ flippant tone in the rhetoric attributed to gay marriage opponents is clear evidence of how they—like most gay people—feel about civil unions as an alternative to full marriage equality: They are a weak attempt at placation that suggests second-class citizenship, if not a kind of segregation.

This is not the first time Jeopardy! has given a nod to gays: Last year, the typically reserved show included “shade” among its clues, spurring much consternation over the mainstreaming of gay (and African American) slang. But there should be no such hand-wringing over the civil unions clue. With marriage equality poised to become the law of the land this year, Jeopardy! is wagering on the right side of history.

Want to hang out with Outward? If you’ll be in or near New York City on Feb. 3, join June Thomas, J. Bryan Lowder, and Mark Joseph Stern—and special guest Lea DeLaria ofOrange Is the New Black fame!for a queer kiki at the first ever Outward LIVE show, hosted by City Winery. Details and tickets can be found here.

Jan. 21 2015 12:21 PM

Ask a Homo: Is My Lesbian Co-Worker Transitioning?

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 our correspondent wants to know if a lesbian co-worker, who appears to be growing a beard, is transitioning. 

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.

Jan. 20 2015 9:57 PM

LGBT Comes to the SOTU

Despite the impending Supreme Court showdown over marriage equality, President Barack Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address contained only three references to gay rights. Most notably, Obama praised same-sex marriage as “a story of freedom across our country” and “a civil right.” He also said that Americans now “value the dignity and worth” of gay citizens.

But that doesn’t mean Obama’s speech wasn’t historic for the LGBTQ community. Toward the end of his address, Obama declared that Americans “condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.” This marks the first time a president has used the words transgender and bisexual in a State of the Union address (in addition to the explict use of the term lesbian rather than the generic gay).* In 2010, Obama became the second president to use the word gay in a State of the Union address, regarding his efforts to end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy. (The word made its first appearance in a State of Union address when President Bill Clinton used it in 2000 in reference to a hate crime.)**

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This shout-out is a considerable victory for both bisexual and transgender Americans, who have struggled to achieve mainstream recognition—especially in Washington—for decades. It’s an especially exciting achievement for the trans community, which just closed out a year of astonishing victories, both political and cultural. With his respectful, equality-minded embrace of the trans community on Tuesday, Obama likely gave this once-maligned group a significant boost in visibility. 2014 was an amazing year for trans rights. 2015 may be even better. 

*Update, Jan. 20, 2015, 10:30 pm: This post has been updated to note that Obama's speech also marks the first time a president has used the word lesbian in a SOTU address. Of course, his previous references to gay people implicitly encompassed lesbians along with gay men.

**Correction, Jan. 20, 2015: This post originally misstated that Barack Obama was the first president to use the word "gay" in a State of the Union address. He was the second; Bill Clinton was the first.

Want to hang out with Outward? If you’ll be in or near New York City on Feb. 3, join June Thomas, J. Bryan Lowder, and Mark Joseph Stern—and special guest Lea DeLaria of Orange Is the New Black fame!for a queer kiki at the first ever Outward LIVE show, hosted by City Winery. Details and tickets can be found here.

Jan. 20 2015 4:50 PM

Let’s Not Overreact to Billy Crystal’s Comments About Gay Sex on TV 

The gay press is abuzz today over comments Billy Crystal made on Sunday at the Television Critics Association winter tour, parts of which have been interpreted as homophobic. When Crystal answered a question about his groundbreaking 1977 role as Soap’s Jodie Dallas, one of the first openly gay characters on network television, his response was indeed unfortunate, but was it outrageous? From where I sat in the auditorium, the remarks provided a fascinating insight into TV history and a reminder that smart people sometimes say dumb things.

Crystal started off all right, recalling audience members’ reactions back in 1978, whenever Jodie expressed affection for his boyfriend, played by Olympic gold medalist Bob Seagren:

See, I did it in front of a live audience, and there were times where I would say to Bob, “I love you,” and the audience would laugh nervously, because, you know, it’s a long time ago. … I’d feel this anger. I wanted to stop the tape and go, “What is your problem?”

One of Crystal’s companions on the stage, Larry Charles, who is an executive producer and bit player in Crystal’s upcoming FX show, The Comedians, then proved that 38 years later, people still respond to things they’re not used to with nervous laughter. At Crystal’s mention of Seagren, Charles declared, “He was the Bruce Jenner of his time,” which, for some reason, caused some people on the stage and in the room to laugh. To his credit, Crystal did not join in the guffawing, and simply said, “I’m not going to say anything” on that topic.

Jan. 19 2015 2:00 PM

Chuck Lorre Explains Two and a Half Men’s Gay Marriage Storyline

Last summer, when Chuck Lorre announced there would be a same-sex marriage on the final season of his long-running CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men, a predictable uproar followed. The problem was that the union involved two heterosexual men—original co-star Jon Cryer and Charlie Sheen’s replacement, Ashton Kutcher—undergoing what Lorre openly called a “scam” marriage in order to adopt a child, a process the show suggested was next to impossible for a straight, single man, even a billionaire like Kutcher’s character, Walden.

Although the show has generally taken the low road in its 12 years on the air, Lorre made an effort to avoid offense with this storyline—by Two and a Half Menstandards at least. As when the show introduced a lesbian character in 2013 and when it explored a transsexual storyline that same year, the writers for the most part avoided the kind of cheap humor that permeates the rest of the show. When Walden proposed to Cryer’s Alan back in November, he told him he had “nine of the 10 things” he wanted in a wife. However, the 10th ingredient was off the table: “We will actually be a same-sex married couple, and like most married couples, we will not have sex,” Walden told Alan.

“Sensitive for Two and a Half Men” doesn’t quite equal sensitive, of course. Many viewers felt the storyline desexualized gay love and trivialized the struggle for marriage equality—and having lesbian character Jenny voice those precise objections didn’t remove the sting. So, last week, when I had a chance to talk to Chuck Lorre during an event at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, I asked him how the creative team had decided to explore this theme.

Jan. 19 2015 9:00 AM

For Some LGBTQ People, Indignities Don’t Stop After Death

Earlier this month, Pastor Ray Chavez of Lakewood, Colorado’s New Hope Ministries was performing a funeral service for Vanessa Collier when he abruptly stopped. All photographs of Collier with her wife, Christina—with whom she shared two children—must be immediately removed, Chavez insisted, along with any other indications of her sexual orientation. If the photographs remained, Chavez declared he would be forced to cancel Collier’s funeral.

Outraged, Collier’s friends and family promptly took the photographs—along with Collier’s open casket—to a funeral home across the street, where the service continued. Chavez has yet to refund the cost of the service, or to apologize for his unexpected cancellation. The deceased’s loved ones describeChavez’ move as “humiliating” and “devastating.”

Humiliating and devastating, yes—but not particularly surprising.

Jan. 16 2015 3:51 PM

In Praise of Isaac Mizrahi’s Camp Genius

If you fancy yourself an aficionado of camp—the aesthetic sensibility associated with gay people, not the place with tents and s’mores—like I do, you should be watching gay designer Isaac Mizrahi’s show on QVC. Called, naturally, Isaac Mizrahi LIVE!, the show features Mizrahi and co-host Shawn Killinger hawking various garments, shoes, and accessories while models process awkwardly around the pair as if taking part in some sort of garish stripmall cakewalk. Killinger plays the perfect gal-pal counterpart to Mizrahi’s delightfully overzealous queen, both of them gushing absurdly (and clearly cynically) over items that are more chintzy than the oft-repeated adjective chic. Palpably middlebrow callers are occasionally tolerated, and discussions of “infinity scarves” and other objets d’kitsch often devolve into the peculiar syntactic fantasia (remember “a treat is happening”?) for which QVC is famous. Suffice it to say, I have passed many an evening with only a bottle of wine and this program for entertainment.

For those that haven’t yet made an acquaintance with the campy joys ofIML!, a new bit of viral content offers an appropriately outré entrée.

Jan. 16 2015 3:33 PM

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Gay Marriage Cases

On Friday afternoon, the Supreme Court agreed to review the 6th Circuit’s decision upholding gay marriage bans in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky. The decision will bring the question of marriage equality before the court for the first time since 2013’s United States v. Windsor, when five justices voted to strike down a federal gay marriage ban as a violation of the Constitution’s equal protection and due process guarantees. This time around, the court will consider whether state-level bans against gay marriage, as well as state laws forbidding the recognition of gay marriages performed in other states, violate the 14th Amendment.

Most court-watchers—myself included—expect the five justices of the Windsor majority to reverse the 6th Circuit’s decision and declare that all state-level gay marriage bans qualify as unconstitutional discrimination. In doing so, the court would validate the decisions of the four circuit courts and several dozen lower courts that read Windsor as a clear command of constitutional equality. The Windsor majority, after all, held that the federal gay marriage ban “degrade[s]” and “demean[s]” same-sex couples; there is no logical reason why state gay marriage bans should “degrade” gay people any less.

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Still, a handful of federal judges have caustically criticized the idea that the same-sex marriage debate is effectively settled, pointedly noting that the Supreme Court has yet to declare all gay marriage bans unconstitutional. Today’s decision means the justices will soon have a chance to do just that, likely settling the legal aspect of the marriage equality debate once and for all. Expect the case to be heard in April, with an opinion arriving at the end of June—and the argle-bargle accusations commencing shortly thereafter. 

Want to hang out with Outward? If you’ll be in or near New York City on Feb. 3, join June Thomas, J. Bryan Lowder, and Mark Joseph Stern—and special guest Lea DeLaria of Orange Is the New Black fame!for a queer kiki at the first ever Outward LIVE show, hosted by City Winery. Details and tickets can be found here.

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