Category Archives: DOMA

Edith Bunker To Anti-Gay Voters: “I can’t believe you’d do anything that mean.”

Time for a history lesson and a strategy session all in one, everyone. This week marks 35 years since Norman Lear brought a lesbian to his legendary TV series All In The Family in an episode that most of you have probably never even heard of. The episode is still remarkably, depressingly relevant, and I think we can learn something about how to frame the argument for marriage equality and civil rights in general from the writers of this award-winning piece of television history.

First airing on October 9, 1977, episode Cousin Liz guest-starred future Superman’s Mom K Callan as Veronica, the long-time partner of Edith Bunker’s recently-deceased cousin. You can probably guess how Archie reacts to the news, but (spoiler alert) Edith stands up to him, at one point delivering his famous catch phrase “Case closed!”

The writers made a special point of mentioning that Liz and Veronica are schoolteachers, drawing on the then- (and unfortunately still-) contentious issue of lesbian and gay teachers being fired because, you know, they’re all child molesters out to “recruit” kids to be gay.

But the episode also remains relevant as four states prepare to vote on marriage equality next month. In the episode, Edith has all the legal rights as Cousin Liz’s next of kin, leaving Veronica to decide whether or not to fight in court for the modest inheritance that should be hers, a battle she would have undoubtedly lost, and a battle many lesbian and gay partners and spouses are still losing today.

Here’s the entire episode (sans theme song). If you’re impatient, the meat of the episode starts at 7:45. Two choice quotes below the video.

Veronica explains her and Liz’s relationship, leading to this bit at 14:46. Jean Stapleton’s delivery makes me cry every damn time:

Edith: Oh, Veronica, I wish you hadn’t told me about this.

Veronica: So do I.

Edith: Oh, no! I didn’t mean that! I mean, it’s so sad. It must have been terrible, lovin’ somebody and not bein’ able to talk about it. I– You can have the tea set; I mean, it belongs to you. You’re really her next of kin.

Remember, this was just a few years after Stonewall. Recognizing that lesbian and gay relationships were equal to straight ones was nothing short of revolutionary. Edith was decades ahead of her time.

Later, Archie threatens to take Veronica to court for Liz’s heirloom silver tea set, exposing her as a lesbian and threatening her job as a schoolteacher. Edith intervenes brilliantly, and in my view, the last sentence of her argument should be a major talking point in Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, and Washington ahead of marriage equality votes on November 6. (19:20)

Archie: Well who the hell wants people like that teaching our kids?! I’m sure God don’t! God’s sittin’ in judgment!

Edith: Well, sure he is, but he’s God; you ain’t!

Edith: Archie, listen, you wouldn’t want to be the cause of somebody losin’ their job! Archie, she’s all alone in the world now and she’s got nobody to take care of her like I have. And she can’t help how she feels. And she didn’t hurt you, so why should you wanna hurt her? Archie, I can’t believe you’d do anything that mean.

Writers Bob Schiller, Bob Weiskopf, Harve Brosten, and Barry Harman received an Emmy Award for Cousin Liz. Not only that, according to Harman, the episode was re-aired in 1978 on the night before California voters famously defeated the Briggs Initiative in a landslide that stunned both sides of the issue.

I doubt any network will rerun Cousin Liz this November, but hey, we have YouTube now. LGBTs, you know what to do. Straight allies, you can help too. Do all of us queer people a solid and send this video to friends and family in the “movable middle” of Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, and Washington before the vote next month. Ask them to watch it before they cast their ballots. Ask them to think about what their vote will do to their lesbian, gay, and bisexual neighbors. On our behalf, ask them if they’re really still meaner than Archie Bunker.


For Christians, President Obama Said Much More Than You Think He Said

Well, he finally did it.

This afternoon, President Obama said in an interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts that he supports the right of lesbians, gays, and bisexual people to marry the person they love. Here are the three short clips ABC has shared, followed by the reason I think this matters. (Hint: It’s a game changer, and not for the reason you think.)

I’ll let others talk about why this is a monumental step from an LGBT point of view. Joe Jervis and Pam Spalding had particularly insightful reactions over at the Village Voice. Over at America Blog, Joe Sudbay and John Aravosis outlined the history that led us to today’s statement. And David Badash has official reactions of many Gay, Inc. leaders. And of course, anti-gay industry leaders are uniformly apoplectic. Jeremy Hooper has those statements.

As for me, I’d like to recognize what Obama said to religious Americans, because it was something different than most people think, and that difference could help craft the discussion going forward.

Religious Americans, particularly Christian Americans, are the ones holding back LGBT rights in this country. Just yesterday, Pam’s House Blend ran this picture of a church marquee at a church that doubles as a polling place in Wilmington, North Carolina. It was a pointed declaration to Christians going to vote on an anti-gay marriage amendment that if they wanted to be “good Christians,” they had no choice but to vote for the amendment.

This is what we call "passive electioneering."
This is what we call "passive electioneering."

(It’s a United Methodist Church, because of course it is.)

Planned or not, this is the context of the president’s statement, so it’s important to note exactly what he said to Christians who have been told for generations that as Christians, they can’t be in favor of civil rights for LGBT people. Watch the second video again and notice what he’s not saying.

He isn’t saying “I’m a Christian, but I think LGBT people should have rights.” He’s not even saying, “I’m a Christian, and I think LGBT people should have rights.”

No, President Obama is saying, “I’m a Christian, and that’s why I think LGBT people should have rights.”

Linger on that for a minute. The difference between those three statements is not inconsequential. In fact, it’s hard to overemphasize the importance of that nuance.

As offensive as “God is in the mix” was during that debate about civil marriage rights in 2008, the way he said it gave religious people permission to question their cradle-born beliefs about gay people. And as frustrating as “I’m evolving” has been for those of us who could really use (and deserve) equal rights right now, it has given Christians who might not know any out LGBT people permission to find room within their faith for new understanding.

And now, President Obama has called on Christian Americans to take the next step. He hasn’t told them to throw away their faith; that’s a fool’s errand. Rather, he has pointed out to them that LGBT inclusion very easily blends into the core of their faith as it already is. Just as importantly, he has given a voice to Christians who have already made that journey but have been intimidated into silence.

Will he convince the religious right? Of course not. I daresay that wasn’t even his goal. But there are people in the pews whose anti-gay positions are just an unconsidered default, and he might convince them to adjust their thinking to a more Christ-like attitude. He might get pastors in Middle America not to go quietly along with what Maggie Gallagher and Tony Perkins say they have to do. He might give closeted LGBT kids, teens, and adults who are steeped in anti-gay Christian dogma a new perspective that leads them safely out of the closet.

Like I said, this could be a game changer, far beyond just a conversation about legal rights. Well done, Mr. President. I’m impressed. (Now don’t make us push so hard for the next one. Deal?)

NOM’s Magic Half Hour — Are They Lying About #DumpStarbucks Signatures?

Last Wednesday, the National Organization for [straight] Marriage sent several people to the Starbucks shareholders’ meeting to challenge chairman and CEO Howard Shultz about the company’s views on civil marriage, namely that it shouldn’t be restricted to straight people only. As expected, Mr. Shultz handled the publicity stunt wonderfully, reaffirming the company’s commitment to treat their gay employees and customers fairly.

Also as expected, NOM immediately began a petition campaign against Starbucks. It’s not going very well. Really, really, not very well. At all.

In the five days since NOM’s petition at went live, they’ve managed to amass nearly 19,000 signatures for their petition. That’s not horrific, though pretty not-great in terms of heavily pushed international social media campaigns. On Sunday evening, NOM crowed through their DumpStarbucks twitter account about a new signature count.

Sunday bragging
Sunday bragging

I challenge their reporting. See, I’ve been checking in on NOM’s signature updates over the weekend, and they don’t pass the smell test. Something…fishy happened around noon on Saturday. At 11:57, their automated tweeting application announced 8,048 signatures.

Saturday, 11:57 am
Saturday, 11:57 am

A mere 23 minutes later, the automated tweeting application announced 15,157 signatures.

Saturday, 12:20 pm
Saturday, 12:20 pm

So NOM claims that they trucked along at a steady pace of about 2,500 – 3,500 signatures per day from Wednesday through Saturday morning, had a burst of 7,100 signatures in a half hour, then abruptly returned to their previous rate. In 23 minutes, according to NOM, they got almost as many signatures as they had in the previous three days combined.

That kind of sudden increase and identically sudden reversal are, to be polite, unlikely. Factoring in that the burst of support supposedly happened on one of the slowest internet traffic days of the week, it becomes even less likely. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume for a moment that the claimed sudden burst of support happened. Why would it happen?

NOM has been pushing their DumpStarbucks Twitter account pretty hard, so it’s reasonable to figure it’s coming from there. The problem with that is that their Twitter campaign has been, in a word, horrible. They currently have a grand total of 137 followers. Even worse, a Topsy search for the auto-filled DumpStarbucks tweet you’re given after signing the petition turns up only 63 tweets so far (Monday 3:00 AM), and that includes people deriding the campaign. Saturday morning before NOM’s magic half hour? A whopping two tweets. The burst, if it were true, simply couldn’t have come from there.

There’s surely some traffic from Facebook, and Maggie Gallagher’s NOM post on Friday afternoon was shared on Facebook over a thousand times by Saturday morning (Thanks to Jeremy at GoodAsYou for the Saturday morning screencap.) But are those thousand shares enough to explain 7,100 new signatures in a magic half hour? I don’t think so. If they did, how would you explain the precipitous drop at the end of the half hour? It just doesn’t add up.

What happened? It’s worth noting that the Saturday tweets during the magic half hour were automated and Sunday’s were manually tweeted. (See the notation under the tweets.) In fact, the 15,157 tweet was the last from the automated application. It’s not unreasonable to consider that NOM’s automated system may have malfunctioned in its reporting before it was caught and shut down. Come to think of it, we know it malfunctioned on Friday; in two separate tweets it reported zero signatures.

Another possibility is that the system under-reported for three days, corrected itself during the magic half hour, then started under-reporting again. (Remember, the sudden drop is as suspect as the sudden increase.) That seems even less likely.

Then there’s the third option. Someone saw that NOM’s campaign was a dismal failure, knew they’d need something to brag about at the start of the week, and thought doubling the count over the weekend would do the trick.

And make no mistake, NOM’s campaign is a failure. By comparison, the PumpStarbucks petition at SumOfUs, which thanks Starbucks for supporting civil rights, has 12.5 times more signatures than NOM’s corporate-backed petition. At 3:00 am on Monday (I should really be in bed, you guys), their independently tallied signature count is sitting at 222,043 to NOM’s 18,725.

3 Years Ago, Candidate Obama Was For Marriage Equality

Every once in a while I pull this video back out to puzzle over it. It’s an interview President Obama gave with NBC News’ Brian Williams on October 30, 2008, just five days before the election. I have it cued up to the relevant portion (1:38 – 2:01), but the entire question regarding Supreme Court Justice nominations is embedded if you want to see the context.

I mean, the— the right to marry who you please isn’t in the Constitution. But I think all of us assume that if a state— decided to pass a law saying, “Brian, you can’t marry the woman you love,” that you’d think that was unconstitutional. Well, where does that come from? I think it comes from a right to privacy— that may not be listed in the Constitution but is implied by the structure of the Constitution.

I’m not the only one who sees the direct contradiction between this and “God is in the mix,” am I?

Incidentally, I’ve long thought we should be using the “right to privacy” argument instead of the “love is love” one when talking about the right of civil marriage. It doesn’t hit people’s emotions as well, though, so we’ll just struggle along with “love is love.”

Why Values Voter Summit 2011 Should End Presidential Campaign 2012

Last weekend, every Republican Presidential candidate with a chance of winning (plus Rick Santorum) appeared on stage at the Values Voter Summit, a meeting sponsored by two certified hate groups on par with (and one with ties to) the Ku Klux Klan and the Council of Conservative Citizens.

Family Research Council and American Family Association have both been considered hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center for some time now, and with good reason; both groups push their shared agenda with dangerous propaganda and outright lies about LGBT people.

To repeat: Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum all accepted the invitation of these hate groups (as they have for years), hoping to get their endorsements and the votes of like-minded individuals.

Do you really need more information before you cast your vote in the 2012 presidential election? What stance on which issue could possibly make it okay to vote for a candidate who has actively courted bigotry?


An Important Civics Lesson For North Carolina’s Legislature

I could say so much about the anti-marriage constitutional amendment that the House and Senate of North Carolina approved this week. There are so many avenues, so many little bits of information that needs to be remembered now that the bill has been passed and placed on the May 2012 ballot.

I could talk about how the Republican majority in the House snuck the amendment onto the floor, disguising it as a bill on an unrelated and uncontroversial issue until the last minute on Monday afternoon, when the bill changed chambers, committees, bill numbers, content, and ballot date in less than 75 minutes. (Fortunately someone leaked the actual text late Friday.)

I could talk about how the Republican House Majority Leader Paul Stam refused to allow public comment before the vote, openly breaking North Carolina’s open meeting laws, saying that people would get to comment at the polls next May, so, you know, fuck ’em.

I could talk about how Senator James Forrester, the major Republican sponsor in the Senate, went to a church last Thursday night and perpetuated the lie that gays live 20 years less than straight people, after which he said, “We need to … get them to change their lifestyle back to the normal lifestyle which we can accept,” as if he’s Big Daddy on the plantation.

Oh, and thanks to ThinkProgress, it’s on tape.

I could talk about how UNC Law Professor Maxine Eichner told the North Carolina Legislature that the vague language of the amendment endangers laws against domestic violence involving unmarried straight couples. Apparently that human collateral damage is okay with the Republican majorities, because both bodies voted the amendment through anyway, with eight Democrats joining the Republicans.

I could talk about how Community College instructor Johnny Hunter stood up in a press conference last Wednesday and banged two locks together to show how weird gays having sex is. That’s on tape too. (Don’t worry, it’s cued up.)

(And I’m sorry, that’s nowhere near as poetic as Dr. Camilla Bowner’s electric socket analogy.)

I could talk about how Republican House Majority Leader Paul Stam had such contempt for the process and for the American taxpayers whose rights he was taking away that he literally snacked on popcorn during Monday’s brief debate.

I could talk about all those things, but (378 words later) I won’t.

Instead, I’ll share some unfortunately relevant words from Rachel Maddow. It’s a quote that I’ve had in rotation over there on the right since she said it last year. (Image shamelessly stolen from Brian Gets Clarity.)

What part of that don't you understand?

Feel free to pass it on.

[box]Major thanks and sympathy to North Carolinian Pam Spaulding, who’s been on top of this whole mess from the start, saying a whole lot so I wouldn’t have to. You should definitely follow Pam’s House Blend to its new home at Firedoglake.[/box]

Ex-Gays Meet, Hilarity Ensues On ‘Web Therapy’

web-therapy-lisa-kudrow-meryl-streepLately I’ve been re-watching Lisa Kudrow’s acclaimed improv series Web Therapy. The previously internet-only series relaunched on Showtime last month, so a whole new audience is being introduced to Dr. Fiona Wallice’s brand of psychological help.

Michelle and Marcus Bachmann (and other closet homosexuals/ex-gays) have been all over the news lately, so what better time to showcase my favorite episodes of the series, which skewer the subject quite expertly. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Meryl Streep guest stars.

Here’s the final of the three ex-gay episodes, in which the inevitable happens. Oh yes it does. As Camilla says, there is a lot of backsliding, literally.

Part 1 | Part 2

[box]Reverse Psychology: In the final installment, Fiona gives Camilla a hands-on demonstration of the effectiveness — or otherwise — of Camilla’s therapeutic techniques when she arranges a meeting with Camilla’s husband.[/box]

Special Bonus Outtakes!

More Hilarious Mockery Of Ex-Gay Therapy From Lisa Kudrow & Meryl Streep

web-therapy-lisa-kudrow-meryl-streepLately I’ve been re-watching Lisa Kudrow’s acclaimed improv series Web Therapy. The previously internet-only series relaunched on Showtime last month, so a whole new audience is being introduced to Dr. Fiona Wallice’s brand of psychological help.

Michelle and Marcus Bachmann (and other closet homosexuals/ex-gays) have been all over the news lately, so what better time to showcase my favorite episodes of the series, which skewer the subject quite expertly. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Meryl Streep guest stars.

Here’s the second of the three ex-gay episodes. I have to say, Kudrow is a wonderful straight man. (So to speak.)

Part 1 | Part 3

[box]Healing Touch: Fiona is eager to join Kip in his recovery, but discovers that his treatment with Camilla has progressed quickly — and alarmingly — beyond the usual talk and aversion therapy.[/box]

Meryl Streep & Lisa Kudrow Talk Ex-Gay Husbands On ‘Web Therapy’

web-therapy-lisa-kudrow-meryl-streepLately I’ve been re-watching Lisa Kudrow’s acclaimed improv series Web Therapy. The previously internet-only series relaunched on Showtime last month, so a whole new audience is being introduced to Dr. Fiona Wallice’s brand of psychological help.

Michelle and Marcus Bachmann (and other closet homosexuals/ex-gays) have been all over the news lately, so what better time to showcase my favorite episodes of the series, which skewer the subject quite expertly. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Meryl Streep guest stars.

Here’s the first of the three ex-gay episodes. Best line of the episode goes to Meryl Streep, for her husband’s book “No One Said You Have To Like It: Sex Tips For Ex-Gays.”

Stay tuned! More to come next week!

Part 2 | Part 3

[box]Aversion Therapy: Renowned sexual orientation therapist Camilla Bowner contacts Fiona about her new client Kip Wallice, who happens to be the most resistant man to the female form she’s ever encountered — and she’s convinced Fiona is to blame![/box]

Could Charlene Strong’s Heartbreak Happen Again? In Wisconsin, It’s Closer Than You Think.

This is an important week in Wisconsin; not just for Wisconsinites, but for the rest of us in the United States as well. This Tuesday is the recall election for three of the Republican State Senators who voted to strip Union rights last winter through illegal votes under the false pretense of a budget crisis.

Since then, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and the Republican Wisconsin Legislature have passed laws making it harder to vote in poor and minority areas that tend to vote Democratic and easier to vote in white and wealthier areas that tend to vote Republican.

In the build up to Tuesday’s important vote, I want to draw your attention westward to Seattle’s Charlene Strong. Like Janice Langbehn, Ms. Strong’s wife’s death was compounded by the unmitigated cruelty of hospital staff.

She told her story recently at a gathering of The Moth. (Don’t worry, the video isn’t pixelated like the image.)

What does this have to do with Wisconsin? In May, Governor Walker asked a Wisconsin court to allow him to stop defending a law that affords lesbian and gay couples similar rights to hospital visitation that straight people have always had.

Governor Walker is going out of his way to make sure that lesbians and gay men die alone in a hospital bed with their most significant others on the other side of the wall.

The good news is that this is mitigated to some degree by new Health and Human Services rules that require hospitals, if they receive federal funding (including Medicare and Medicaid), to let patients choose who they want to have access.

Unfortunately, those HHS rules are only guaranteed as long as President Obama is in office, and they don’t apply to hospitals that don’t receive federal funding.

Wisconsinites, vote to recall Republicans on Tuesday. There is little question that your state’s Republicans will line up behind Walker on a new anti-gay law. Our lesbian sisters and gay brothers deserve better than what Wisconsin Republicans have planned for them.