Category Archives: Maine

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.


Truth* Academy Instructor Series: Peter LaBarbera


On April 1-2, 2011, Mission America and Americans For Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH) will be cosponsoring the second Truth* Academy in Columbus, Ohio. I thought it might be helpful to see what tone and substance attendees can expect from each of the instructors before the conference begins. You can find all of my Truth* Academy posts at this link.

Peter LaBarbera is absolutely NOT a Big Flaming Homosexual and certainly does NOT have a desperately unrequited crush on Joe Jervis. I don't know why you would even suggest such an outrageous notion.
Peter LaBarbera of AFTAH
(A Hate Group)

Peter LaBarbera will be giving a speech at the Truth* Academy in Columbus, but more importantly he’s the ringleader of this circus. He’ll certainly set the tone for the two half-days, so let’s look at his tone. But where in the world should we begin?

Do we start with how he defaced Good As You proprietor Jeremy Hooper’s wedding photo?

Do we start with the Box Turtle Bulletin’s LaBarbera Award, given for the “most outrageous, offensive, malevolent, crazy, or excessive statement or claim”?

Do we go back to 2009 and see how LaBarbera was so extreme and so hateful that the anti-gay forces gathered there asked him not to come, and when he came anyway, they denounced him before his press conference was even over?

How about we start with an interview LaBarbera did in July 2010 with radio host David Pakman. About six minutes into part one, LaBarbera starts scolding Pakman because the show‘s producer didn’t tell him that Pakman isn’t anti-gay. It’s a really weird interview, and LaBarbera lets his hood slip a bit.

One interesting tidbit that I was surprised Pakman got out of LaBarbera is that he really thinks that anal sex between consenting adults should be illegal in the United States. More on that in another post.

(Here’s a follow up interview the tragically heterosexual cutie pie David Pakman did with Truth Wins Out‘s Wayne Besen, who LaBarbera mentioned in part one.)

Then there’s Peter LaBarbera’s unabashed devotion to the work of Paul Cameron.

For those who don’t know, Cameron is chairman of the Family Research Institute, an SPLC-certified hate group like LaBarbera’s AFTAH. (Birds of a feather and all that.)

In 1983, Cameron put forth a booklet that soundly vilified gay people. For example, the lines about gay men having 100+ sex partners a year and a life span of 42 years come from Cameron. He’s behind the gerbil thing too.

Cameron’s claims have long since been disproved. Read more about that in this exhaustive 12-part series by Box Turtle Bulletin’s Jim Burroway. Importantly, Cameron’s research methods (such as they are) were revealed and soundly denounced by anyone with a passing knowledge of statistical methodology.

He was drummed out of the American Psychological Association the same year he brought his claims, in 1984 by the Nebraska Psychological Association, and in 1986 by the American Sociological Association. Even still, Cameron’s claims are a major source of material for anti-gay hate groups today.

Fast forward to 2010, when researcher Walter R. Shumm, an associate of Paul Cameron, claimed to have duplicated some of Cameron’s findings. While their claim that LGBT families are more likely to produce LGBT kids is patently ridiculous to reasonable people, it does perpetuate the deeply held right wing belief that gay people are predators and steal your children at night.

And for that reason, Peter LaBarbera and other hate group leaders got all tingly when they read the news.

It came as no surprise when we found out that Shumm had reused Cameron’s preposterously unscientific methods to reproduce Cameron’s findings, as detailed here, again by Box Turtle Bulletin.

Shumm’s results, in other words, are nonsense.

But that didn’t stop Peter LaBarbera from hailing Shumm’s work in a radio interview and deriding reasonable people for not accepting it at face value.

This just confirms what we already knew: Truth is irrelevant in Peter LaBarbera’s world. All that matters to Peter LaBarbera is the validation of his hatred of LGBT people.

Kind of makes the April Fool’s Day scheduling of LaBarbera’s Truth* Academy especially appropriate, don’t you think?


Tim Tebow’s Deal with the Devil

Much interweb ink has been spilled over Tim Tebow’s anti-abortion commercial scheduled to air during the Super Bowl. To be honest, I don’t have too much of a problem with it, even though CBS rejected a completely innocuous gay-inclusive United Church of Christ commercial six years ago. The real test will be next time a credible gay-positive ad is presented. Until they show us differently, I’m inclined to accept CBS’s statement that their standards have changed with the times.

As I see it, the real problem is that millions of people will be tuned in on Sunday not knowing that Tim Tebow is lending his credibility (such as it is) to Focus on the Family (FoF), a dangerous, homophobic organization built on a doctrine of prejudice and fear.

Here is a short, incomplete list of positions that Tim Tebow supports through his association with FoF and by extension FoF’s sister organization Family Research Council (FRC). (FoF and FRC were split in 1992 solely for tax reasons.)

  • In February 2009, FoF official affiliate Family Policy Council of West Virginia ran a commercial that said that same sex marriage was “attacking” marriage while showing a heterosexual family in crosshairs.
  • In March 2009, FRC President Tony Perkins said that the United States should sign an anti-gay rights statement offered in the United Nations, thereby joining with GWB’s “Axis of Evil”.
  • In May 2009, FoF founder James Dobson claimed that the Matthew Shepard Act (now Law) protects pedophiles because the law doesn’t define “sexual orientation”. Of course, current law already defines the term, so there was no need for a new definition. This was explained in committee before an amendment ordering definition was rejected as unnecessary.
  • In July 2009, FoF celebrated the “findings” in a “study” by NARTH that said that Ex-Gay treatments are “beneficial”, a statement that every credible source rejects outright.
  • In September 2009, FoF organized a rally in support of Maine’s anti-gay civil rights campaign. They were so frightened of having their words on the record, they barred the press from the event.
  • Not only that, they refused tickets to people who didn’t fall in lock-step with their agenda.
  • In February 2010, five days before the Tebow commercial was set to air, FRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs Peter Sprigg told Chris Matthews’ audience that gays should be thrown in jail. Two years earlier, Sprigg told a reporter that he wanted gays “exported”.
  • In February 2010, three days before the Tebow commercial was set to air, FRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs Peter Sprigg unambiguously advocated kidnapping if a non-custodial parent doesn’t like the judge’s order.

These positions and more (I’ve barely scratched the surface) are supported by Heisman Trophy-winning Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow through his association with FoF. And don’t give me any guff on the harshness; we’d say the same thing if he did a commercial for any other supremacist group.

Hopefully next time Tebow’s on the field he’ll put Matthew 23:23-28 under his eyes. He (and they) could use the reminder.

P.S. Another reason I’m in favor of CBS running the commercial: That’s $2.8 million they won’t have to spread more vitriol against the LGBT community.

What We Can Gain From NJ Senate’s Vote Against Civil Rights

The civil rights movement has seen some remarkable losses in the last few months. In early November, voters overturned a marriage law in Maine. A month later, the New York Senate voted against civil rights in marriage. Then yesterday, after a brief period of debate, the New Jersey Senate voted against a similar civil rights bill. David Badash of The New Civil Rights Movement was good enough to put some of the speeches online. Below are four of them.

[wpaudio url=”″ text=”NJ Sen. Bill Baroni:"Unequal treatment by government is always wrong."”]

[wpaudio url=”″ text=”NJ Sen. Nia Gill: "I believe in the constitution."”]

[wpaudio url=”″ text=”NJ Sen. Gerald Cardinale: Straight people are "disenfranchised."”]

[wpaudio url=”″ text=”NJ Sen. Bill Kean: The Worst Kind Of Hypocrite”]

And so to the question: What can we gain from this experience? I think we can use this failure (theirs, not ours) as an opportunity to reconsider our strategy.

We need to remember that we never chose this war. Remember, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) came about 14 years ago because the Hawaii Supreme Court ordered that the state must show compelling reasons to exclude lesbians and gays from marriage. Anti-gay forces recognized the repercussions if that battle didn’t go their way, so they got DOMA passed to preempt a potential loss.

Then they got busy on individual states. In every single case (someone correct me if I’m wrong), the Religious Right pushed us into a marriage battle, most notably in 2004 under the direction of twice-divorced Karl Rove. Now Maggie Gallagher uses lies to continue their assault on civil rights.

Understand, even if civil rights were to win at the ballot box, you can bet they would be ready to drop another load of lies that we would waste another couple million dollars defending against, and then we’d lose. Again, that’s not because we’re doing something wrong, but because bigotry and fear are easy sells, especially when the opponent has no relationship with the truth.

My point is that we’ve been on the defense from the start. That’s a losing plan. After 31 popular votes and I-don’t-know-how-many state legislature votes, it’s time to start playing offense.

And that’s not the only reason.

The biggest problem is that when the votes from the legislature or the people are counted up we’ve still encouraged either the legislature or the people to vote on someone’s rights, regardless of who wins. That’s not just unethical, it’s downright Unamerican.

You know what I’d really like to see? The next time the question goes to the public, we make one ad, not telling people to vote for us, but telling them not to vote on the issue at all. We should acknowledge up front that we anticipate a loss but have made that sacrifice in favor of the greater constitutional principle. Then we take the millions we would have spent on a losing campaign and give it to the homeless or some other worthy cause.

In other words, stop playing the game. Opt out.

I think we win something if we opt out of their battle and lose. We’re 0-31 in the popular vote, and the last one in Maine was lost by a nearly perfectly run campaign. We will continue to lose that battle regardless of what we do, so why not turn that energy toward a different battle, one of our choosing?

We should pour some money and effort into finding the best attorneys to fight the best court cases, like the upcoming challenge to Prop 8 (more on that later) and the case being brought by Lambda Legal and Garden State Equality against yesterday’s decision in the New Jersey Senate.

In the end, that’s where we’ll win.

Taking Marriage Seriously: A Study in Contrasts

Simplistic arguments sometimes call for simplistic responses. Such is the case with the argument that lesbians and gay men don’t take marriage as seriously as do their straight counterparts.


With that in mind, I offer this comparison.

Straight wedding:

Gay wedding:

Which of these couples takes marriage more seriously?

(Thanks to Dorian for letting me use his wedding video. And yes, that is Matt Alber singing at their wedding. It was a surprise gift from one groom to the other.)




Learning from History: In the end, we win.

Jeremy Hooper of Good-As-You posted an article this afternoon pointing out some similarities between our struggle now and the women’s suffrage movement in the early 20th century. It’s a great post focusing on the Maine suffrage vote (which they lost) in September 1917. Go here to read it before reading on here.

Of course, when I saw it I did a quick face palm. I’ve had a similar post roaming around in my head for the last few weeks. So at the risk of looking like a big copycat, take a look at what I found a few weeks ago on the National Woman’s Party. As in Jeremy’s research, the parallels are startling.

The National Woman’s Party (NWP), was a women’s organization founded in 1916 that fought for women’s rights during the early 20th century in the United States, particularly for the right to vote on the same terms as men. In contrast to other organizations, such as the National American Woman Suffrage Association, which focused on lobbying individual states and from which the NWP split, the NWP put its priority on the passage of a constitutional amendment ensuring women’s suffrage. Alice Paul and Lucy Burns founded the organization originally under the name the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage in 1913; by 1917, the name had been changed to the National Woman’s Party.

1917 NWP protest for the right to vote
1917 NWP protest for the right to vote
Click for full and high resolution photograph

Women associated with the party staged a suffrage parade on March 3, 1913, the day before Wilson’s inauguration; they also became the first women to picket for women’s rights in front of the White House. The picketers were tolerated until 1917, but when they continued to picket after the United States declared war in World War One, they were arrested by police for “obstructing traffic”.

Many of the NWP’s members, upon arrest, went on hunger strikes; some, including Paul, were force-fed by jail personnel as a consequence. The resulting scandal and its negative impact on the country’s international reputation at a time when Wilson was trying to build a reputation for himself and the nation as an international leader in human rights may have contributed to Wilson’s decision to publicly call for the United States Congress to pass the Suffrage Amendment.

Burning President Wilson's speeches in January 1919
Burning President Wilson's speeches in January 1919
Click for full and high resolution photograph

Are the situations totally analogous? Of course not. But the similarities are undeniable, right down to a national lobbying group that wants to go slow with a state-by-state approach and a president who swore he was on their side.

So buck up, fellow LGBTs. We can learn from our nation’s history. We can be successful as they were by fighting as they did. It’ll take work, but we’re on our way.

2009 Election Wrap Up

So how about that election? Let’s throw the results up and see how it shook out.

  • Allison Downey and John Austin celebrateWIN! The trans-inclusive anti-discrimination ordinance in Kalamazoo, Michigan passed by a landslide 24 point margin. An exceptional cap to the campaign that saw our opposition predictably return to public bathroom fear-mongering. Kudos to Kalamazoo for seeing past the nonsense! (photo from
  • WIN! According to Chuck Wolfe, 50 of the 79 openly gay political candidates endorsed by the Victory Fund in 2009 have been elected. That’s 50 City Councilmembers, School Board members, Commissioners, and Mayors elected across America, in most cases with their gender preference used as a weapon.
  • WIN! (Well, probably.) Washington’s Referendum 71, which approves the Everything-But-Marriage Law passed in May. There are still a few hundred thousand absentee ballots to be counted, a process that may not be completed for several days. The current (Wednesday 3:00 pm PST) count is 51%-49% for passage. We have reason to be hopeful, as election officials have revealed that the majority of uncounted votes are from counties that generally supported the referendum. So tentatively, congratulations to Washington for letting lesbians and gay men get everything except get married.
  • LOSS! A major losses for the feminist and LGBT communities in the Virginia gubernatorial election. Liberty University graduate Bob McDonnell handily defeated his opponent, even after his amazingly anti-woman and anti-gay master’s thesis was uncovered. In 1989 he wrote that, “…when the exercise of liberty takes the shape of pornography, drug abuse, or homosexuality, the government must restrain, punish, and deter.” As others (even FOX, for goodness’ sake) have pointed out, McDonnell’s thesis is a blueprint for his record so far as an elected official. LGBT people (and women) in Virginia, be on your guard!
  • I'm sorry, guys.LOSS! In the greatest loss of the night, Maine voters stripped their lesbian and gay neighbors of their marriage rights. With 98% of votes counted, Maine’s Question One passed by 53% – 47%. Once again the majority has decided that the minority group doesn’t deserve the same rights they enjoy. The Yes on One campaign, funded and directed largely by the Catholic Church (probably with help from the Mormons), ran a campaign centered almost completely around lies, fear-mongering, and more lies. Their television ads focused almost exclusively on statements that state officials and legal experts directly disputed. More details (and photo at right) from Rex Wockner.

We had some good results, but when you ask people if lesbian and gay relationships should be treated like theirs, the answer is still a resounding NO. Even when the Washington legislature passed a law that complied with bigoted requirements, we can barely eek out a majority vote.

Either we’re fully equal or we’re not. Either the 14th amendment protects us or it doesn’t. I say we are, and I say it does.

What say you?

Bloviating Morons Treated as Experts

I just hate politics so much. So. Much. Seriously.

I hate that we have to ignore the fact (yes, fact) that NOM is funding the anti-equality campaign in Maine through less-than-ethical, less-than-legal means.

I hate that in Washington, we have to ignore the fact (yes, fact) that the anti-equality measure got on the ballot by falsifying signatures. (Special thanks to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy for putting a lock on this one till after the election.)

I hate the fact that we participate in putting civil rights laws up for a popular vote in the first place.

And today, I hate that we all have to act like stupid arguments from blustering fools are worth our time.

On October 14th, a marriage equality debate was held in Maine where the “expert” from the anti-gay side was retired community college instructor and failed 2008 candidate for Congress John Frary. He’s the one in the dopey hat who thinks he’s Garrison Keillor.

Chino Blanco had the video on Friday, but I didn’t get a chance to watch it until today. This is part three of seven, so please go over to Chino’s to see the rest. God bless MCLU Executive Director Sheena Bellows and host Paul Mills for attempting to have a reasoned debate around Frary’s community theater grade theatrics.

What bothers me most is that this incident is far from isolated. There’s also new video of a debate at Hofstra University in New York with NOM President Maggie Gallagher changing the subject and making false statements lying about the horrible effect of civil rights while MENY Board President Cathy Marino-Thomas does her best to inject reason into the discourse.

Why does our society continue to lend respectability to these idiots? Their arguments are gibberish. I don’t mean that I think their arguments are silly, I mean that they’re silly on their face.

Is it because they give comfort to people afraid to face the world as it is? I suppose it’s easier to be a bigot when you have other bigots around teaching you what to say.

I suspect the reason is that people just don’t care. They’d rather we disappear from the face of the earth and stop interrupting their dinners, so why should we expect them to complain about people who agree with their ultimate solution?

I just… I just hate it so much.

Marriage Opponents: Knowledge Base

We’re in the home stretch in Maine’s battle for marriage equality, with eight days to go. I don’t usually make this kind of post, but a mountain of information on Stand for Marriage Maine (SFMM) and National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has been shared in the last several days from multiple sources.

As usual, following the money has produced some insight into the campaign. Here’s a list of what you need to know for the vote in Maine and the in next battleground state.

American Hero Fought at Omaha Beach for Equality of ALL People

This video has been bouncing across the gay interwebs at lightning speed this morning, as goddamn well it should. It’s from a Maine Senate Committee hearing in April before the Maine legislature voted to recognize equality in marriage.

I dare you not to cry.

We have two weeks left to fight before the people of Maine and Washington vote. Donate to Maine’s No on One campaign here and Washington’s Approve Referendum 71 here.

(transcript for posterity and search engines. I’ve made a few minor adjustments where Mr. Spooner misread; I’m fairly certain they’re correct.)

PHILIP SPOONER, SR: Good morning, committee. My name is Philip Spooner and I live at [redacted] in Biddeford. I am 86 years old, a lifetime Republican, and an active VFW chaplain. I still serve three hospitals and two nursing homes, and I also served meals on wheels for twenty years. My wife of 54 years, Jenny, died in 1997. Together we had four children, including one gay son. All four of our boys were in the service.

I was born on a potato farm north of Caribou and Perham, where I was raised to believe that all men are created equal, and I’ve never forgotten that. I served in the US Army 1940-1945 in the First Army as a medic and an ambulance driver. I worked with every outfit over there including Patton’s Third Army. I saw action in all five major battles in Europe including the Battle of the Bulge. My unit was awarded Presidential Citations for transporting more patients with fewer accidents than any other ambulance unit in Europe, and I was in the liberation of Paris. After the war, I carried POWs back from Poland, Hungary, and Yugoslavia, and also hauled hundreds of injured Germans back to Germany.

I’m here today because of a conversation I had last year when I was voting. A woman at my polling place asked me, “Do you believe in equality for gay and lesbian people?” I was pretty surprised to be asked a question like that; it made no sense to me.

Finally I asked her, “What do you think our boys fought for at Omaha Beach?” I have seen so much blood and guts, so much suffering, so much sacrifice. For what? For freedom and equality. These are the values that make America a great nation, one worth dying for.

I give talks to eighth grade teachers about World War II, and I don’t tell them about the horror. Maybe I have to invite them to the ovens at Buchenwald and Dachau. I’ve seen with my own eyes the consequences of caste systems, and it makes some people less than others, or second class.

Never again. We must have equal rights for everyone; it’s what this country was started for. It takes all kinds of people to make a world. It doesn’t make sense that some people who love each other can marry and others can’t, just because of who they are. This is what we fought for in World War II, that idea that we can be different and still be equal.

My wife and I did not raise four sons with the idea that three of them would have a certain set of rights, but our gay child would be left out. We raised them all to be hard-working, proud, and loyal Americans, and they all did good.

I think if two adults who love each other want to get married, they should be able to. Everybody’s supposed to be equal in this country. Let gay people have the right to marry.

Thank you.