Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation

July 2 2015 11:34 AM

A Libertarian Professor’s Incomprehensible, Inaccurate, Embarrassing Critique of Obergefell

Richard Epstein is a beloved theorist among libertarian conservatives, an advocate for the complete dismantlement of virtually every progressive reform and New Deal program of the last century. On Monday, Epstein also cast his lot with the social conservatives who have decided that marriage equality presents a dire threat to their religious liberty. His criticism of the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges is meant to be a smoke signal to social and libertarian conservatives that they must join forces to combat gay persecution of Christians. It is an absolute embarrassment, an unintelligible, inaccurate broadside that tries—and fails—to pass off intolerant hand-waving as serious intellectual concern.

Epstein begins by disputing the legitimacy of Obergefell, claiming that same-sex relationships “undercut” the “social imperative” to have children. He states that “historically,” government prohibition of same-sex conduct has “found a constitutional home.” These allegedly “ancient roots” of anti-gay sodomy bans, Epstein says, form the basis of Bowers v. Hardwick—“whose historical accuracy remains unquestioned.”

Unquestioned? It has been debunked. 

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July 2 2015 10:03 AM

Here Are Some Catholics Who Feel Oppressed By Same-Sex Marriage

A group called Catholic Vote has made a video. It is a PSA video about marriage and how the Catholics in the video know what marriage is. They know it is not gay. They know they are sad because other people, important people, have now said it can be gay.

They think that pretending this is a video about “coming out” before revealing their true purpose is clever and profound. They are wrong. It is offensive and stupid. They think that saying they have gay friends will protect them from criticism. They are wrong. I will criticize them, at the very least, for being bad friends. They think that they are being persecuted. They are not. In fact, they have no idea what actual persecution feels like. But sure, let’s “break down all these barriers”—maudlin sanctimony is best treated with fresh air and a dose of perspective. 

July 1 2015 4:56 PM

The Girl Scouts Support Trans Girls, Even When It Costs

We’ve known the Girl Scouts of America are awesome on transgender issues since at least this past May, when the organization rejected criticisms from the Christian right regarding its national guidance on encouraging transgender girls to participate. At the time, a spokeswoman for the group put it succinctly: “We don't serve our critics. We are proud to serve all girls.”

The Girl Scouts are in the news again, and this time, they’ve backed up their commitment to trans issues with money—the losing of it, to be exact. According to Seattle Metropolitan Magazine, the Girl Scouts of Western Washington were recently forced to return a $100,000 donation when the donor stipulated that the money not be used to support transgender scouts. “Please guarantee that our gift will not be used to support transgender girls,” a letter from the donor read. “If you can’t, please return the money.” Given that the cash represented about a quarter of the group’s annual fundraising goal, turning it down undoubtedly hurt. But, according to CEO Megan Ferland, the decision wasn’t hard: “Girl Scouts is for every girl, and every girl should have the opportunity to be a Girl Scout if she wants to,” she told the magazine.


Luckily, the story has a happy ending. Ferland went to the Indiegogo crowdfunding platform for help making up the deficit, and the response they received was huge—as of this writing, the campaign has earned more than $260,000, far surpassing the original retracted gift. An update to the page reads: “Thank you for sending the loud and clear message that Girl Scouts is for EVERY girl!”

July 1 2015 1:17 PM

Bobby Jindal’s Religious Liberty Executive Order Is Probably Illegal, Definitely Anti-Gay

On Tuesday, Louisiana civil liberties groups filed a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent “Marriage and Conscience” executive order, which allowed businesses and government employees to refuse service to gay couples. The order, these groups claim, exceeds Jindal’s power under the Louisiana constitution. Jindal’s executive order named a certain class of people—marriage equality opponents—and granted them a special right to discriminate against gay couples. But the Louisiana constitution doesn’t authorize the governor to impose a substantive right by executive order. Jindal’s “Marriage and Conscience” order should thus be rendered invalid.

It’s hard not to feel a little sympathy for Jindal here. As the lawsuit notes, the state constitution is designed to prevent the governor from usurping legislative functions—namely, making laws. Had Jindal claimed his order was merely an interpretation of already existing legal principles, he might’ve gotten away with it. Instead, the governor issued his order soon after the legislature failed to pass a nearly identical measure. Jindal then declared that his order was designed to “accomplish the intent” of the bill. He didn’t just revive a failed piece of legislation through executive fiat. He bragged about it. 


As I explained in May, Jindal’s willingness to legislate from the governor’s mansion is especially galling in light of his criticism of the president:

Jindal has been a vituperative critic of President Barack Obama’s executive orders, especially his order deferring deportation for many undocumented immigrants. In a press release, Jindal castigated Obama for “bypassing Congress” and “ignoring the American people,” slamming the order as “an arrogant, cynical political move.” Jindal seemed to be keenly concerned that Obama imposed his policy preference by executive fiat rather than allowing the people, through their elected representatives, to have their say. Now, though, the people’s representatives have firmly rejected Jindal’s bill—and rather than persuading the legislature to reconsider the measure, Jindal has simply imposed it by executive decree.

By the way, Obama’s immigration executive orders are actually materially different from Jindal’s anti-gay one. Through those orders, Obama simply instructed the Department of Homeland Security to defer deporting the parents of American citizens and lawful permanent residents. Why is he allowed to do that? Because Congress gave him permission to do so. Federal law explicitly directs DHS to establish such “national immigration enforcement policies and priorities,” thereby granting the president discretion over deportation policies. Far from seizing legislative authority, Obama is just following Congress’ directive. That’s how an executive leads without breaking the law. Jindal should take note.

Want to hang out with Outward? If you’ll be in or near New York City on Monday, July 13, join June Thomas, J. Bryan Lowder, and Mark Joseph Stern—and special guests Ted Allen, of Queer Eye and Chopped fame, and marriage-equality campaigner extraordinaire Evan Wolfsonfor a queer kiki at an Outward LIVE show, hosted by City Winery. Details and tickets can be found here.

July 1 2015 10:20 AM

The Thing President Obama Didn’t Do That Helped Bring About Marriage Equality

When the Supreme Court handed down its decision in King v. Burwell, the health care case, last Thursday, there was no end of talk about how the court had just cemented a critical part of President Barack Obama’s legacy. But the health care decision wasn’t the only one that will rightly be considered an important part of Obama’s legacy. The other is marriage equality—and not only because of what the president did, but also because of what he didn’t do.

Obama made headlines in 2012 when he revealed that his opinion on marriage equality had “evol[ved]” and that he now supported it. (Vice President Joe Biden may have helped speed along the president’s public evolution when he announced a few days earlier that he was “absolutely comfortable” with the idea of marriage equality and that gay and lesbian couples “are entitled to the same exact rights” as heterosexual couples.) This was a huge moment, and the president and vice president both deserved the considerable credit they received for making their support for marriage equality public. Even though their views surely reflected what was then an ongoing shift in public opinion, their announced support likely helped continue the move toward greater support for marriage equality. Indeed, by the time the Supreme Court heard oral argument in the marriage equality case in April, support for marriage equality was at a record high.

But that’s not the only reason Obama deserves some of the credit for last week’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (along with the justices who reached it, the marriage equality advocates who’ve been fighting for this day for decades, and the Framers of the 14th Amendment who embedded a commitment to equality and liberty in our Constitution). Another reason Obama deserves some of the credit is because of a decision he made the year before he announced his support for marriage equality: the decision not to defend in court a key provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman for purposes of federal law. Because of that provision, same-sex couples who were legally married under their state’s law still couldn’t enjoy the numerous and important federal benefits enjoyed by other married couples. 

July 1 2015 9:48 AM

Two Clerks Resigned to Avoid Issuing Gay Marriage Licenses. Good for Them!

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling that every state in America must grant marriage licenses to gay couples, at least two clerks tasked with issuing such licenses have resigned—one in Mississippi, one in Arkansas. Both will undoubtedly be chastised by the LGBTQ community for their blatant display of homophobia. But I think these clerks should be praised for their integrity. In other states, clerks are begging for a special right to discriminate against gays. At least these two had the courage to admit that their prejudice prevented them from honoring their oath of office.

The first clerk, Dana Guffey of Cleburne County, Arkansas, announced her resignation when she realized the court’s ruling would require her to fill out paperwork officially recognizing same-sex couples’ marriages. “It is definitely a moral conviction for me,” Guffey said.

June 30 2015 5:42 PM

Some Suggested Lyrics for Stonewall, the Musical

When it was announced last year that openly gay director Roland Emmerich—of Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow fame—would be helming a film covering the Stonewall riots, some observers sounded a note of … concern. Perhaps the flashpoint of the modern LGBTQ civil rights movement was not ideal material for an artist who seems to prize world-ending disasters over small-scale defiance? Nevertheless, the production has continued apace, and today we’ve been granted the first stills from the set.

Stills from Stonewall.

Stonewall Facebook page.

An initial reaction here at Outward HQ: Good god, Emmerich has turned Stonewall into a musical.


What follows is an edited version of our internal conversation regarding the stills, which, as you’ll see, quickly turns into a very productive brainstorm of lyrics for the show. Roland, you know where we can be reached!

Bryan Lowder: But for real, why does this look like a musical? I am concerned. It’s like a cheaper Rent, which is not a good thing.

June Thomas: Just the words “Roland Emmerich” in close proximity to Stonewall are kind of problematic. Also, major American Horror Story vibe. Like, are some of those homeless kids actually zombies?

Lowder: Gay, mafia-supporting zombies … in a musical. Wait, let's write the songs!

Thomas: That guy’s got an amazing butt/ If only I hadn’t gotten a disease from the filthy glasses in the/ STONE-waaaaaal! (I guess, strictly speaking, Stonewall should rhyme with ball.)

Lowder: Here’s a song title: "Burying Judy, Unearthing Resolve." Our drinks are watered down/ but I won't sport a frown/ instead I'll shake my ass/ except when coppers pass

Thomas: MAFIA BARMAN: I hate these effin' ‘mos/ Why don’t they wear appropriate clothes/ We have to pay off the fuzz/ Good job the drinks are too weak to give off a buzz (Super-complicated music playing, hence the wordiness and APPARENTLY non-working rhyme scheme.)

Lowder: I want the mafia bar man to have an unexpected emotional arc.

Thomas: But that guy in the Mod Squad dress/ And the Judy Garland tress/ He’s kind of a loner/ But he gives me a boner

Lowder: Uh oh, here comes the Village Voice reporter: Up in my office, having a smoke/ look out the window, think it's a joke/ the fags are all fighting, who woulda thunk?/ there's one in heels! that boy-girl's got spunk!

Thomas: High prices, bad hygiene/ But the men—oh, hey, hi Gene!

Lowder: This is a guaranteed hit. 

Want to hang out with Outward? If you’ll be in or near New York City on Monday, July 13, join June Thomas, J. Bryan Lowder, and Mark Joseph Stern—and special guests Ted Allen, of Queer Eye and Chopped fame, and marriage-equality campaigner extraordinaire Evan Wolfsonfor a queer kiki at an Outward LIVE show, hosted by City Winery. Details and tickets can be found here.

June 30 2015 4:09 PM

John Roberts’ Gay Marriage Dissent Is Wrong About Polygamy—and the Constitution

In his wide-ranging dissent in the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on same-sex marriage, Chief Justice John Roberts set out a simple proposition: “If same-sex marriage, then polygamy.” Indeed, the chief argues boldly that it would have been less of a stretch if the Supreme Court had embraced not same-sex but plural marriage, declaring, “[F]rom the standpoint of history and tradition, a leap from opposite-sex marriage to same-sex marriage is much greater than one from a two-person union to plural unions, which have deep roots in some cultures around the world. If the majority is willing to take the big leap, it is hard to see how it can say no to the shorter one.”

The chief justice is on to something important that goes to the heart of the constitutional controversies that now swirl around traditional marriage, monogamy, and same-sex marriage. Elsewhere in SlateWilliam Saletan says Roberts is wrong to link same-sex marriage with polygamy, but from the perspective of the constitutional vision defended by the chief justice, polygamy is indeed far easier to swallow than same-sex marriage. From the point of view of an alternative framework that Justice Anthony Kennedy seems to accept, however, same-sex marriage and polygamy appear in very different lights, with the one contributing to and the other undermining the Constitution’s core commitment to equal liberty.

The problem, in other words, lies not only in Roberts’ flawed description of marriage and its history—though he does err there—but rather in his approach to interpreting the Constitution. Only by seeing this can we appreciate why the court’s same-sex marriage decision strengthens marriage as a constitutional matter.

June 30 2015 1:06 PM

Istanbul’s Gay Pride Parade Broken Up by Police

Over the weekend, thousands of jubilant marchers poured onto the streets of many major cities, including San Francisco, New York, and London, to celebrate pride month and the Supreme Court’s recent legalization of same-sex marriage throughout the United States. Things were considerably less joyous at the annual pride parade in Turkey’s most populous city, which was cut short when the police used aggressive force to break up the gathering.

As Quartz reports, “For more than a decade, the Turkish city of Istanbul has held one of the most visible gay-pride events in the Muslim world.” This year, the government denied permission to the organizers since the parade coincided with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

While the police claimed to have use proportional force, they fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons to disperse participants. This episode is the latest in a series of alleged incidents of police brutality under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and is reminiscent of the 2013 Gezi Park protests. Amnesty International accused Turkey of committing human rights violations in their brutal treatment of the Gezi protestors.

June 30 2015 12:05 PM

Will Same-Sex Couples Reinvigorate the Declining Institution of Marriage?

In his opinion for the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges, recognizing same-sex couples’ constitutional right to marry, Justice Anthony Kennedy referred to marriage as “a keystone of our social order” and “a building block of our national community.” Is this still true today? In the late 1940s, nearly 8 in 10 households in the United States were headed by married couples. Now it’s less than half. Marriage is in steady decline.

Perhaps Kennedy’s language is more specifically directed at same-sex couples, who have made marriage a cornerstone issue in the LGBT movement. In the last year alone, the number of married same-sex couples in the United States tripled.