Monday, December 22, 2008

Rick Warren's Invocation Options

Poor Rick Warren. After President-elect Obama selected the evangelical minister to deliver the invocation at his inauguration, gays and liberals kicked up a ruckus. I bet the California megachurchster hasn’t had a moment to think about what he’ll say to America and the world on that cold January day in Washington, D.C.

I’ve taken it upon myself to help. What follows are several possible invocations I’ve whipped up on behalf of the Rev. Warren. He can use whichever one he likes best. I’m not fussy.

First invocation option: We ask God’s blessing on this most historic day. For this is the day that America fulfills its promise of opportunity for all. Lord, we know it has not always been so. Our nation has been guilty of the sins of bigotry and discrimination. Many good men and women have been held back, defeated, prevented from contributing for purely base reasons.

But on this day we all gather to celebrate the historic elevation of one man to a position of rare prominence and importance. He is a man, Lord, who is marked by wisdom and conviction and compassion. We thank you for touching him with greatness.

This man, oh God, is . . . me! I get to give the invocation! I’ve made it to the top! Eat your hearts out, Billy and Franklin Graham! The gig doesn’t belong to your family anymore! Oh, and God, do me a favor and look out for what’s-his-name who’s becoming president.

Second invocation option: As we gather here today, let’s thank God for our country, our leaders, and above all our democracy. In a democracy citizens disagree. We have different opinions, and we’re free to express them.

The man we’re inaugurating today knows that a goodly portion of America’s citizens did not vote for him. But he has pledged from the beginning to be everybody’s president. He has a rare talent for bringing together people of different views to work for common cause. Barack Obama truly is a uniter.

Folks, look at his decision to have me offer the invocation today. Gays are livid because I fought for Prop 8, and a bunch of conservative Christians have bugs up their butts because they think I’m an opportunist. Both sides are pissed. If that’s not uniting people, I don’t know what is.

Third invocation option: God of all people, we humbly ask you to bless the citizens of this nation. We come together today as Americans, each and every one of us. We put aside our differences to celebrate what makes America great, the orderly, peaceful transition of power from one administration to the next. Lord, that transition makes this day the perfect example of true democracy.

My being here today is another darn good example of democracy in action. If you were listening, Lord, you just heard me mention differences. Take a gander at these facts: Homosexuals helped get the new guy elected, and I believe gay marriage is right up there with polygamy and incest, but here I am anyway! I helped lead the fight to take away gays’ civil right to marry, but here I am anyway! I believe that even if homosexuality is biological, gays should just squelch it their entire lives, but here I am anyway! You, and democracy, both work in mysterious ways.

The new president wanted me here to let religious conservatives know his administration won’t ignore them. Gays see me as a slap in the face. I’m a symbol to both sides. Blessed are the symbols, for they shall wine and dine in D.C.

Lord, is this a great country or what? Amen.

Monday, December 8, 2008

It's an Off-the-Wall World

As 2008 winds down, the worldwide wackiness level jumps up.

In Paris, armed robbers made off with $100 million worth of jewelry from a Harry Winston store near the Champs-Élysées. Police said the heist ranks among the biggest jewel thefts in French history.

That wasn't all that made the robbery monumental. Of the four thieves, at least two were men in wigs and women's clothes.

Who knew there was so much money to be made in drag?

Bizarreness is also alive and well across the English Channel in London, where Boy George, the former Culture Club singer, was convicted of falsely imprisoning a male escort.

Boy George, 46, was tried under his real name of George O'Dowd. More appropriate for legal proceedings, I suppose, than Boy George or Middle-Aged George.

Norwegian hustler Audun Carlsen said that, following a naked photo shoot, George handcuffed him to a wall at the singer's apartment and beat him after he got loose. George admitted handcuffing him, but denied assaulting him.

It must've been difficult for those watching the trial to refrain from breaking into "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me."

George's sentencing will be in January, and odds are he'll see jail time. Two years ago he swept streets in New York City after pleading guilty to filing a false police report. On that occasion he'd called the cops with a bogus story of a burglary by a male prostitute in his Manhattan apartment. What the responding officers found was cocaine.

In the London case, George believed the escort had stolen pictures from him. Mixing hookers, drugs and paranoia makes George an un-dull Boy.

Let's turn now to a different kind of court case, and a different brand of bizarre. In India, the Delhi High Court has been hearing arguments about whether to scrap the country's law against homosexual sex, the infamous Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.

The federal government, a big fan of the law, declared in a recent submission to the court that homosexuality is the result of a perverse mind.

Well then.

This claim fits in snugly with similar statements from the government during the legal proceedings. In October the government stated homosexuality is a disease that's responsible for the spread of AIDS in India.

A disease. The result of a perverse mind. How encouraging to hear this up-and-coming world power has such a firm grasp of science.

Now back to Europe for other ridiculous claims, thanks to a man who specializes in them. Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov is Russia's homophobia poster child. For the last three years his administration has banned Pride marches, and he'll always be remembered for calling gay parades "Satanic."

Speaking in early December at an international HIV/AIDS conference in Moscow, Luzhkov pledged to continue putting the kibosh on gay parades. "We have banned and will continue to forbid this propaganda by sexual minorities, as they could turn out to be one of the factors in the spread of HIV infections."

There you have it. Pride parades spread AIDS. Must be something in the paint on the banners.

The mayor added, "Certain homegrown democrats believe that sexual minorities can be a primary indicator and symbol of democracy, but we will forbid the dissemination of these opinions in the future as well."

An autocrat only Stalin could love.

Luzhkov offered another piece of wisdom when he declared, "Certain manufacturers state that condoms are reliable protection against AIDS, but modern science has proven this is untrue."

The assembled HIV/AIDS experts from around the world must've thought the translating mechanism was on the blink. But only the mayor was.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Signs of the Times

After California voters passed the odious Proposition 8, gays took to the streets to protest. In the process America's gay community not only helped itself, it helped me. No need for me to make the funnies this time around. I couldn't do one giggle better than the protesters who carried signs turning anger into amusement.

Rallies took place in a few states shortly after Election Day, and then occurred nationwide on Nov. 15. Join the Impact, which instigated the Nov. 15 fandango, has lots of photos on its Web site apparently taken across the entire feisty period.

One guy holds a sign reading WOULD YOU RATHER I MARRIED YOUR DAUGHTER? I hope that sign made the evening news and discomfited assorted fathers.

Propped in front of a young, pink-clad girl sleeping on the sidewalk, a sign says MOMMY & MAMA, PLEASE MAKE THE SCARY BIGOTS GO AWAY! Sweetie, the monsters under your bed your mothers can handle. The ones in the voting booths are a trickier business.


In one picture a bunch of folks pose with yellow signs that use the word equality in some way. But one of the signs reads EQAULITY. Perhaps she's after equality for dyslexics.


Speaking of anger, check out the signs aimed at the groups that fought tooth and nail for Prop 8; these likely make LGBT leaders currently worried about scapegoating unhappy. One is a clear dart at Mormons: KEEP YOUR MAGIC UNDIES OFF MY CIVIL RIGHTS.

Also, YOU HAVE TWO WIVES. I WANT ONE HUSBAND. Another sign features an outline of the state of California and the words WELCOME TO UTAH.

Catholics don't escape. A sign says YOU GET MARRIED IN YOUR CHURCH, I'LL GET MARRIED IN MINE! Under those words someone drew a priest's collar and clerical attire. Where the head of this Catholic authority figure should be sit two male wedding toppers.

You wound us, instead of beating you up we’ll go all creative on your ass.

This sign captures the frustration over African-American support for Prop 8 and still manages to be funny: I HELPED ELECT THE FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS LOUSY MARRIAGE BAN.

Some signs draw that contentious parallel between black civil rights and gay civil rights, like HEY CALIFORNIA, JIM CROW CALLED. HE WANTS HIS PROPOSITION 8 BACK!!!

Join the Impact's site also includes pages of downloadable protest signs. My favorites include NO MORE MR. NICE GAY and LET ELLEN DEGENERES KEEP HER TOASTER.

A site called The Frisky has great photos from the Nov. 15 protest in New York City. One fellow holds a sign over his head that reads DON'T TELL ME I CAN'T REGISTER AT BARNEYS. Could that be any more New York? Aggressive and funny.

Likewise for HATE MAKES YOU FAT. JUST LOOK AT ARKANSAS. Touché to the state that now won't let gays adopt.

Another guy's sign says I'M HERE TO MEET MY HUSBAND. That's very East Coast too—the man is multi-tasking.

In Orlando, someone drew Sarah Palin and the words I CAN SEE GAY MARRIAGE FROM MY HOUSE!

Seattle offers JESUS HAD TWO DADS, and, in a reference to Palin's pregnant daughter, MARRIAGE IS A SACRED INSTITUTION BETWEEN TWO UNWILLING TEENAGERS.

It's a tough decision, but I've decided on my favorite sign, which comes out of Los Angeles: WE CAN'T ALL MARRY LIZA MINNELLI!! How true. Not that we haven't tried.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Emotion Roundup

I'm mad.

I'm angry that Proposition 8 passed. I'm mad that Californians voted to ban same-sex marriage. They kicked gays and lesbians into the La Brea tar pits.

Never before has a state yanked away gay marriage after it had been legalized. California has historically led in the area of social change. The state Supreme Court's decision last May granting gay marriage sure looked to be the latest example. Now California leads in heading backwards. The about-face was so fast the whole state must have whiplash.

Gay Golden Staters suffered a soul-crushing overnight demotion to second-class status. On Nov. 4 they had the right to marry; by Nov. 5 they didn't. It's as though the sandman flew around sprinkling sand and pilfering privileges.

Straight Californians told their gay neighbors you're going back, back to the realm of domestic partnerships/civil unions/wedding rings made of daisies. And if our state Supreme Court said that makes you separate-but-unequal, that's the point! You're lesser and we're going to make sure you know it. From the privacy of voting booths.

Oh, and if writing discrimination into our constitution seems a bit distasteful, not quite American or Californian, well, sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do. It's a cross we're pretty sure we can bear.

I'm bitter.

The Mormon church, the Catholic Church and the usual fundamentalist Christian outfits poured money into the campaign to rid gays of the right to marry. Their religious conviction that homosexuality is a sin stands between me and my civil rights. I'm bloody tired of these groups forming a blockade like the Spanish Armada.

You'd never know that in its decision legalizing same-sex marriage the California Supreme Court explained that religious entities would be as untouched as vestal virgins.

Allowing gays to marry "will not impinge upon the religious freedom of any religious organization, official, or any other person; no religion will be required to change its religious policies or practices with regard to same-sex couples, and no religious officiant will be required to solemnize a marriage in contravention of his or her religious beliefs."

So you can continue to discriminate merrily within your own faith. But that wasn't good enough for these churches, and they pulled out all the ecclesiastical stops on Prop 8.

That's not all I'm bitter about. In California African-Americans went to the polls intent on voting for one of their own—and against gays. Some 70 percent of black voters backed Prop 8, even as they voted overwhelmingly for gay-friendly Barack Obama.

LGBT voters helped African-Americans achieve their previously unthinkable goal of a black president. African-Americans helped LGBT folks return to second-class status. The situation has more ironies than Sarah Palin has skirts.

On and after Nov. 4 we saw African-Americans of all ages crying with joy. Obama was a symbol for them that they have made it at last. Prop 8 was a symbol for us that we haven't.

I'm optimistic.

Now that I've vented my negative emotions into the atmosphere, I can acknowledge that I absolutely believe we'll get what we want and deserve. History really is on our side. Gay marriage will continue to move forward—and sideways, backward and diagonally.

As president, Obama will model a happier attitude toward gays generally, assuming he keeps his promises. This will help all LGBT people, but my hope is African-American gays will benefit most; Prop 8 underscored how often black gays are between a rock and a hard place and another rock.

What I find myself seriously pleased about is that I'm not the only one who's mad. The stealing of rights in California pissed off gays so much they took to the streets to protest. That's my idea of fabulous.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Access Denied

My girlfriend Anne recently took a business trip to South Bend, Ind. While staying at a Hyatt, she decided to use one of the hotel’s public computers in the lobby to check out the offerings of the upcoming gay film festival back here in Seattle.

The computer didn’t cooperate. Was a leprechaun from nearby Notre Dame bouncing on the keypad when she looked away? No such luck.

She’s agreed to tell readers about the incident by answering my laser-focused questions.

Leslie: So why didn’t you take me on this trip? Wait, I suspect that isn’t completely relevant. What words did you type into Google on the Hyatt’s public computer?

Anne: Three Dollar Bill + Seattle + Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

Leslie: What’s Three Dollar Bill?

Anne: The name of the organization that puts on the queer film festival. You know the expression, "queer as a three dollar bill."

Leslie: Intimately. What happened after you typed in those words?

Anne: The "SiteCoach" content filter gave me a pop-up message that read, "Access Denied. SiteCoach thinks this website contains content harmful to a young public. The page was blocked! Reason: Forbidden Keyword Lesbian!"

Leslie: I don’t know which is worse, that lesbian is a forbidden word or this outfit’s need to shriek about it using exclamation points. Did the pop-up say anything else?

Anne: "Please provide us a brief comment, if you believe that this webpage has been blocked wrongly."

Leslie: Did you provide a comment?

Anne: I told SiteCoach that, "I am 50 years old, a lesbian, and I am not being harmed."

Leslie: Considering you’re also menopausal, that was a rather restrained comment. Then what?

Anne: I asked the desk staff at the hotel if they could unblock the site so I could print the film festival’s schedule. The staff said no one had complained about a site being blocked and that they didn’t know how to assist me.

Leslie: If it’s true you’re the first to complain, you deserve a medal. For heroic carping. Anything else happen?

Anne: The guy on the computer next to me then asked if my "porn" was being blocked. I told him no—and that the computer evidently didn’t like the word lesbian. His eyes widened and he said the Internet should be free and so should America.

Leslie: A hopeful moment in the heartland?

Anne: I couldn’t tell if he was being sincere or lascivious.

Leslie: Oh. Shame. I can’t believe this contention that any lesbian-related site "contains content harmful to a young public." What a blanket indictment. In fact, that indictment requires two blankets.

Anne: True. Do you still need me? I have to go hunt and gather (a.k.a. get groceries), because you do eat a lot.

Leslie: Return to the topic, please.

Anne: Okay. I’ve been back home for a while now, but the whole experience still chaps my hide.

Leslie: Just the idea that in 2008 lesbian is a forbidden keyword. What message does that send? That anything gay is as savory as rotten mackerel.

Anne: Blocking the word lesbian makes me worry about the well-being of young people. When I was coming to terms with my homosexuality in my teens, I would have given anything to be able to Google the word lesbian and know that I wasn’t alone.

Leslie: Amen.

Anne: That computer, it wasn’t so much an example of artificial intelligence as artificial ignorance.

Leslie: Good line. Just so you know, I might steal it.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Crazed Christian Candidate

When it seems like the USA is saturated with Christian fire-and-brimstone folks categorically consigning gays to hell, take heart: Other countries are stuck with them, too.

Canadian David Popescu is running for office and running amok in Sudbury, Ontario. He has just announced that he wants gays killed. How's that for an inspiring platform?

Popescu, in his early 60s, has run in a passel of elections at the municipal, provincial and federal levels, always earning just a smattering of votes. He's known as a fringe candidate with stark religious opinions. This year he's running for Canada's parliament, which is why he was included in a federal candidates' discussion at Sudbury Secondary School.

The high school students got an education in just how daft adults can be.

Popescu blamed environmental damage and economic travails on society's wickedness, and said "God would hurt" anyone who had an abortion. When a student asked his view of gay marriage, which has been legal in Canada since 2005, he responded gays should be executed.

During a phone interview later that day with the Sudbury Star, the candidate did anything but backpedal. "A young man asked me what I think of homosexual marriages and I said I think homosexuals should be executed," Popescu said. "My whole reason for running is the Bible and the Bible couldn't be more clear on that point."

No wishy-washy politician here. This fella sticks to his guns—or guillotines or gallows or whatever form of execution he favors.

On Oct. 2, two days after the candidates' discussion, Popescu spoke from Sudbury with a Toronto radio show host whose other guest was Helen Kennedy, the executive director of Egale Canada, the country's prominent gay rights group.

Sounds like the big-time to me. Perhaps Popescu realized he'd accidentally or on purpose found a way to get attention from the major media. He should've thought of this execution thing sooner!

After the radio show, Kennedy recounted it for the Toronto Sun. The fun began with the host John Oakley asking Popescu "if in fact that he said what he said, and he said 'yes,' that he had said it, that all gays should be executed and public execution by government is what we should be looking at."

Sounds like the Canadian government will need a new Minister of Gay Executions. The number of bureaucrats required will be simply astounding.

Kennedy said that Oakley then noted that "Helen Kennedy represents a gay and lesbian organization, Egale Canada, do you think Helen Kennedy should be executed? And he said 'yes.'"

After the show, Kennedy filed a hate crimes complaint with the Toronto police. The Sudbury police had already launched an investigation into what Popescu said to the high school students, so the candidate quickly notched two hate crimes investigations. If he had started this sort of hate-mongering earlier, he could've tied up every police force in Ontario.

Popescu told The Canadian Press he isn't fretting over possible prosecution. "I can defend myself very well," he said. "It doesn't bother me."

He also said he stands by the statements that have been attributed to him. The man has been given ample opportunities to deny having called for gays to be killed. On each occasion he fesses right up. The next time a reporter asks, I expect Popescu to respond, "Yes, I said it! Believe me already! Now let me tell you how Satan goes to Toronto Maple Leafs games hidden in the Zamboni!"

Police and Ontario's attorney general now get to sort out whether Popescu's words constitute an infringement of Canada's hate crimes statutes. And Popescu will discover whether advocating mass murder gets him in good with voters.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Health Minister's Removal the Right RX

Hours after taking office, South Africa's new president announced he was removing Manto Tshabalala-Msimang as health minister.

At last, Dr. Beetroot has been uprooted.

Dr. Tshabalala-Msimang truly earned her reputation as an international laughingstock during her tenure as health minister. She met South Africa's AIDS crisis with all the medical sense of Dr. Seuss.

Scientists may believe antiretroviral drugs are the best way of fighting AIDS, but you couldn't prove that by her. She often expressed doubt over the drugs' side effects. Instead, she told HIV-positive people to eat beetroot, garlic, lemon, olive oil and potatoes.

That's how she came by her nicknames of "Dr. Beetroot" and "Dr. Garlic." It seems to me "Dr. Do-Little" works too.

Tshabalala-Msimang wasn't the only one in government with warped views. She was a close ally of former president Thabo Mbeki, who became infamous for denying that HIV causes AIDS. Clearly a world leader in the mold of Ronald "I-will-not-say-AIDS" Reagan.

The Treatment Action Campaign, South Africa's leading AIDS activist organization, regularly fought the health minister in the courts. "Over 2 million South Africans died of AIDS during the presidency of Thabo Mbeki. At least 300,000 deaths could have been avoided," said the group after Tshabalala-Msimang was removed. "Mbeki and his health minister pursued a policy of politically supported AIDS denialism and undermined the scientific governance of medicine."

In other words, nuts to your vegetables.

The opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, had a blunt response to her departure: "Tens of thousands of South Africans have lost their lives because of her ridiculous policies on HIV/AIDS, and she should have been fired nine years ago."

The bellows for her resignation peaked in 2006. At the International AIDS Conference in Toronto that year, the nation of South Africa, like many others, had a display. South Africa's exhibition was festooned with beetroot, lemons and garlic. Reportedly the resulting criticism prompted health ministry employees to toss on a few bottles of pills. I assume this didn't stop the criticism, nor add much aesthetically.

In a speech in Toronto, then-U.N. envoy for AIDS in Africa, Stephen Lewis, blasted the Mbeki government's AIDS policies as "more worthy of a lunatic fringe than of a concerned and compassionate state."

Tshabalala-Msimang then declared Lewis was as unwelcome in South Africa as nail fungus, prompting over 80 international scientists to pen an open letter to Mbeki.

"To promote ineffective, immoral policies on HIV/AIDS endangers lives," they wrote. "To have as a health minister a person who now has no international respect is an embarrassment to the South African government."

But Dr. Beetroot remained planted in office until now. Mbeki's successor as president, Kgalema Motlanthe, moved her to a lesser position in his office. She's now head of government communications.

If that means she deals with the media, expect fireworks. Consider how, speaking to reporters after being sworn in, she pooh-poohed previous criticism. "The only critics were the media, and the media had lost perception," she said.

Since her critics were actually everywhere, inside and outside South Africa, it seems she's the one who doesn't excel in the perception department.

Her replacement faces a mountain of a job. South Africa has the most people with HIV in the world, some 5.4 million. No sweat.

A group of AIDS activists saw to it that the new health minister got off to a good start. The activists, thrilled at Dr. Beetroot's re-assignment, gathered outside the Cape Town apartment of new minister Barbara Hogan, and serenaded her. She came down from her apartment and drank champagne with them. Hogan told them she was "deeply touched."

She must be to take on this job.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Like Oil and Holy Water

Here's the sort of math I understand: Pope Benedict XVI + gays = a hoo-hah.

Europe offers two recent examples of how charged, how volatile the relationship is between the Pope and homosexuals.

Prior to the pontiff's arrival in France for a four-day visit, the French daily newspaper Le Figaro reported that French police were spying on groups critical of the Pope. Those under surveillance included ACT-UP, at loggerheads with Benedict over condom use to prevent HIV/AIDS, and LGBT groups, at loggerheads with Benedict over just about everything.

The spies wanted to learn about plans for protests. The newspaper reported that French authorities were hot to avoid what happened in July when the Pope visited Australia.

It didn't rain men in Sydney, but it did rain condoms.

About 500 people protesting Benedict's opposition to homosexuality and contraception tossed condoms at Catholics who were on a pilgrimage walk as part of the church's World Youth Day. Protesters chanted, "Pope go homo, gay is great," and sang, "Pope is wrong, put a condom on."

Those protesting the Pope's visit included gays, contraception advocates, survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests—and members of a cult that believes Jesus was sent by aliens. The latter actually make me a tad sympathetic toward His Holiness.

If French authorities learned about planned protests by spying on LGBT groups, what actions would they be motivated to take? Outlaw cloudbursts of condoms? Forbid chants with puns?

I don't know enough about the French take on civil liberties to gauge how irked the LGBT folks might be at having been spied on by their government. If they feel their rights have been violated, perhaps they'll take a symbolic step: stop eating "frites" and start eating "freedom fries."

France's anti-terror squad conducted the surveillance. Boy, are ACT-UP and the other groups appalled that they're lumped together with al-Qaeda, or honored that they're taken as such a serious threat? After all, ACT-UP is likely to stage a die-in, while al-Qaeda opts to arrange the real thing.

Meanwhile in Italy a comedian is in big trouble for a joke about the Pope and gays. In July stand-up comic Sabina Guzzanti performed at an anti-politics rally in Rome organized by a satirist. She said that Pope Benedict XVI would "go to hell and be pursued by two big, gay and very active devils."

There's a picture.

Now Guzzanti is in devilishly hot water. In Italy it's a crime to "offend the honor" of the Pope or the president. Saying Guzzanti's words exceeded satire, the Rome city prosecutor is seeking permission from the federal justice minister to begin criminal proceedings against the comedian.

Conviction could land her in prison for up to five years. That's a place where she might learn a thing or two about same-sex pursuit.

This isn't the only time Guzzanti has pushed the Italian envelope. Recently she suggested that the equal opportunities minister, who had worked in the past as a topless model, earned her job by performing oral sex on the prime minister.

Obviously Guzzanti is not making friends in high places.

Now her joke about the Pope being pursued by lecherous gay devils has her under investigation for "vilification" of the pontiff.

Pope Benedict XVI has often vilified gays, but authorities have yet to place him under investigation.

The pontiff could take a step toward reducing the friction between himself and the international gay community by telling Italian authorities to leave Guzzanti alone. Until Benedict throttles back on his antagonism toward LGBT people, the mutual dislike and electrically charged atmosphere will continue. Which means that many of the places on earth he visits will experience electrical storms and condom showers.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Farewell to Del

Del Martin died an honest woman. After five decades of living in sin, of shacking up, of living outside the bonds of marriage, she finally wed the love of her life just two months before she died.

Did she have some sort of moral awakening? No, the California Supreme Court did.

When the court legalized same-sex marriage, Martin, 87, married her female partner, Phyllis Lyon, 83. The two had been a couple longer than Sears and Roebuck. As a lesbian pioneer, Del Martin, who died on Aug. 27, is part of the reason the court and society have evolved so profoundly on gay rights.

Personally, it's a mystery to me how one person can possess such guts and certainty. I have a feeling someone else got shortchanged.

Martin and Lyon met in Seattle in 1950 when both were journalists for a trade publication. Two years later the friends became lovers, and on Valentine's Day in 1953 they moved in together in San Francisco.

In 1955 they and six other lesbians co-founded the Daughters of Bilitis, initially meant to provide social activities and quiet support for lesbians. DOB became the first national lesbian advocacy organization.

As an aside, I've long wondered who or what "Bilitis" was. Turns out she was a lesbian on the isle of Lesbos in a poem by Pierre Louys called "Song of Bilitis." As to how the word is pronounced, you're on your own.

Martin was DOB's first president. In the first issue of "The Ladder," the group's newsletter that would become a monthly magazine, she wrote, "Nothing was ever accomplished by hiding in a dark corner. Why not discard the hermitage for the heritage that awaits any red-blooded American woman who dares to claim it?"

In the 1950s such words must've seemed as charged as, well, the electroshock treatments lesbians then endured.

In 1964 Martin helped found the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, aimed at overturning laws criminalizing homosexual behavior. In 1972 she and Lyon co-authored the book "Lesbian/Woman," an honest look at lesbian lives. That year she and Lyon also co-founded the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club, the nation's first gay political club.

I'm sure these women must've gone on vacation. Once.

Martin fought against sexism within the gay rights movement, and against homophobia within the women's movement. She was the first out lesbian on the National Organization for Women's board of directors. In 1976 Martin published "Battered Wives," and became a nationally known advocate for battered women.

In 1995 she and Lyon were delegates to the White House Conference on Aging, where they made a splash by announcing to attendees that LGBT people actually age too.

They were the poster children for the personal is political. The capper was getting legally hitched. Twice.

When San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom unleashed gay marriage in 2004, canny politicos saw that Martin and Lyon went first. I'll never forget that photo of the two elderly, lively women with their foreheads pressed together, ringed by teary activists.

The San Francisco marriages were voided, and I bet you can guess who served as plaintiffs in the California marriage case that led the state Supreme Court to scuttle the ban on gay nuptials.

On June 16, after a mere 55 years of co-habitation, Martin and Lyon stood in front of Mayor Newsom and were wed. Legally handcuffed.

After Martin's death, Lyon said, "I am devastated, but I take some solace in knowing we were able to enjoy the ultimate rite of love and commitment before she passed."

Del and Phyllis were political until the end—and beyond. Mourners are asked to contribute in Del's name to the fight against the proposed state marriage ban. Flowers are nice, but freedom lasts longer.

Monday, August 18, 2008

"Doom for Marriage and the Family"

You never know what strange things you'll find when you snoop.

My girlfriend is away for several weeks, so I'm staying at her place, looking after the house and animals. While perusing her mail, I noticed a solicitation from Dr. Donald E. Wildmon of the American Family Association.

A lesbian receiving mail from the AFA is like a Jew receiving mail from the American Nazi Party.

Boy, I thought, did she get on the wrong list. Perhaps an angry ex wanted to do something more creative than key her car.

Then I noticed the letter was addressed to her mother. That explained it. When it comes to conservative Christian fervor, her mom makes Pat Robertson look like he's faking.

The words printed on the front of the envelope guaranteed I'd take my snooping a step further. I had to open the envelope. I hope the U.S. Postal Service doesn’t hear about this.

Here are the words that hooked me: "If you are alive in 60 days, you will witness one of the most momentous days in America's moral history."

Were I the intended recipient, I'd be concerned. If I'm alive in 60 days? Does the AFA know something I don't? I thought it was just indigestion.

I can think of only two possible explanations for the AFA choosing to question whether the recipient would be alive in 60 days. Perhaps the group's membership is elderly and the AFA decided to be frank and rude. Or maybe the AFA folks, on principle, always allow for the possibility that the Rapture could alter the best-laid plans.

But of course it was the second part of the statement that had me ripping open the envelope. What did Donald Wildmon and his American Family Association consider one of the biggest days in America's moral history?

I wish I'd guessed wrong, but the fellow is as predictable as Popeye with a can of spinach. It's Election Day that Wildmon has in his sights, because that's when Californians can undo their Supreme Court's decision allowing same-sex marriage.

In his letter to the faithful—and nosy others—he lamented how the court "overruled both the 'will of the people' and the design of Almighty God." He bemoaned how out-of-state gay couples marrying in California will unleash legal challenges all over the country.

In the most highlighted statement, he aimed to scare the dickens out of his supporters: "On November 4—about three months from now—if we do not stop the drive to legalize marriage between homosexuals, that battle will be lost."

As California goes, so goes the nation. That big sucking sound is the U.S. of A. going down the morality toilet.

What can citizens do to prevent the imminent demise of the Ty-D-Bol Man? "For the sake of your children and the future of our nation," Wildmon knows precisely how Americans can help.

Californians will be voting on Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment forbidding gay marriage, and the AFA is producing a documentary called "Prop 8 and the Case Against Homosexual Marriage." The organization wants to distribute the film to its California members and churches working to pass the ballot initiative.

"I'm counting on you to underwrite production and distribution costs of this documentary," Wildmon wrote. That sounded a mite pushy to me, but when you consider that "it is crucial to our nation's survival" that Prop 8 pass, how can I quibble?

On the payment slip accompanying the letter the AFA supporter commits both to help pass Prop 8 and to pray for the nation. Apparently doing just one isn't an option.

As it happens, I feel like doing two things: promise my girlfriend no more snooping, and add the letter to the recycling. America will benefit from both.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Jim and I

The case of Jim Adkisson, the fellow who murdered churchgoers in Tennessee, brought up such a hodge-podge of thoughts and emotions for me that I couldn't figure out how to write this column. I sat here for an hour puzzling how to begin. I think I heard my keyboard snore.

I got a grip and realized I should start at the start. Tallyho.

On a recent Sunday, Adkisson, 58, walked into the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville and opened fire with a shotgun. He killed two people, and wounded six others.

Children had just begun performing their version of "Annie" when the shooter appeared. I have to think both kids and adults will be facing post-traumatic stress the size of Daddy Warbucks' wallet.

In a search warrant affidavit after the mayhem, an investigator stated Adkisson told him that he "targeted the church because of its liberal teachings and his belief that all liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country."

That's an attitude I don't think even Joe McCarthy could get behind.

Adkisson left a four-page letter in his car. In the letter, according to the Knoxville police chief, Adkisson declared his hatred of liberals and gays.

Yup, it's us again. Homosexuals. The group people love to hate. Really, I think just by existing we perform a kind of warped public service.

I'm gay, and liberal, and a Unitarian, so Jim Adkisson wouldn't like me one little bit. I'm not too fond of him either. I have a hankering for the day when straight white men with big guns will stop taking out their problems—real or imagined—on the rest of us.

Adkisson had a real problem, namely he couldn't get work. How he blamed liberals for that is more perplexing than a statement by Yogi Berra.

It's clear that Adkisson didn't think committing mass murder would boost his job prospects. He expected to die that day, commit suicide by cop. With 76 rounds in tow, he wanted to take a lot of Unitarians with him.

The Unitarian Universalist faith is notably gay-friendly, which is only one of the many reasons I joined up. The church in Knoxville has a "gays welcome" sign, and provides space for PFLAG meetings and gatherings of gay teens.

In other words, it's a hotbed of lurid liberal acceptance.

On its Web site, the Knoxville church describes its "rich history of taking stands for social justice." Since the '50s the congregation has worked for desegregation, fair wages, women's rights, environmental protection and a bunch of other issues sure to have made Adkisson's trigger finger itchy.

His first victim was usher Greg McKendry, 60, whom a congregant described as a big guy, "a refrigerator with a head." McKendry was one heroic kitchen appliance, as witnesses said he put himself between the shotgun and the congregation.

It happens that on the day of the shooting, I was volunteering as a greeter at my Unitarian church in Seattle. That means I was the first person people saw when they walked into the building, a fact that gave my girlfriend the jitters after we heard later that day what had happened in Tennessee.

For the record, I'm not a fridge with a head. More like a dishwasher with feet.

A friend of mine who has been a member of my church for about a year frequently says that many more people would join the Unitarian Universalist religion if only they knew about it. One of the perverse parts of this terrible event is that Adkisson has helped spread the word about this liberal faith that emphasizes social justice.

I hope that pisses him off.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Religious Rebels

Here in 2008 it's old news that mainline Protestant denominations are struggling internally over homosexuality. But the big gay news item of the year, the California Supreme Court's decision to overturn a ban on same-sex marriage, has ratcheted up the conflict within at least one denomination.

The United Methodist Church is lately looking more untied than united.

A story in the Los Angeles Times described how "scores" of Methodist ministers in California have conducted or plan to conduct same-sex weddings, in open disregard of church rules.

In other words, Methodist ministers are making matrimonial mischief. Miscreants are misbehaving by marrying members, making a mockery of Methodist mandates. Mercy.

The denomination's Book of Discipline lives up to its austere name, at least where gayness is concerned. It maintains that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. So "ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches."

However, the book also says "certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for homosexual persons."

We won't marry you. But we will support your right to breathe oxygen.

While the United Methodist Church's international governing body reaffirmed the book's language on gayness last spring, soon afterwards California's two governing bodies took a different view, declaring support for the state Supreme Court's ruling.

The Southern California Methodist leaders officially recognized the need for clergy and congregations to make marriage available to everybody. Hold on to your hymnal, Bertha, it's a Methodist mutiny!

The Northern Californians praised 82 retired pastors who signed a resolution offering to perform gay weddings on behalf of ministers who fear doing it themselves.

"We are willing to put our professions on the line because this is so central to our ministry," said retired minister Don Fado, 74. He might lose financial benefits and his clerical credentials, but his conscience will be spick-and-span.

The active ministers performing gay marriage ceremonies risk losing their jobs and clerical credentials. All so their church will live up to its slogan: "Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors."

It's a surprising slogan, given the Methodist view of gayness. At present a more accurate one would be "Open hearts with cardiovascular issues. Open minds between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Open doors with a bouncer lurking behind them."

"I'm tired of being part of a church that lacks integrity," said the Rev. Janet Gollery McKeithen, who plans to perform gay weddings in the months ahead. "I love my church, and I don't want to leave it. But I can't be part of a church that is willing to portray a God that is so hateful. I would rather be forced out."

We'll see if she is, along with all the pastors rebelling against church rules. We'll also see whether the change in California state law hastens a change in church law. And whether other mainline denominations find themselves in the same dilemma, or will it be just the Methodists in California who don boardshorts and surf a wave of defiance?

Then there's the sort of compromise approach recently taken by the Rev. Sharon Rhodes-Wickett of Claremont United Methodist Church. Two men, together 40 years, had been members of her congregation for 22 years. She didn't want them to go elsewhere to marry.

She and a retired deacon co-officiated the ceremony, held at a complex for retired clergy so as not to break the rule about gay unions in churches. Rhodes-Wickett led the Lord's Prayer and provided the homily, but didn't pronounce the men married, in order to avoid discipline. The deacon did that, and signed the marriage license.

Completely understandable. But gymnastics are for young people.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Future of Jesse Helms

It's a popular notion that, after we die, we get what we deserve. So let's assume that's precisely what's happening to Jesse Helms, the longtime U.S. senator from North Carolina who expired on July 4.

As I picture things, after Helms died he immediately passed into a spiritual realm. He found himself in front of gates, where a man in a flowing robe was in charge.

Helms smiled broadly. "St. Peter, I'm glad to see you!"

The man responded, "I'm not St. Peter. I'm Ralph. And this isn't heaven. The Big Guy hasn't decided what to do with you yet, Helms. He's well aware that conservatives believe you should be in heaven, and liberals think you belong in hell. He'll make up his own mind, eventually. Go through the gates and sit on the bench. We've arranged for a few visitors."

Helms proceeded to the bench. After a minute Richard Nixon joined him. "Jesse, I knew you'd get here eventually. Remember how, when I went to Beijing, you accused me of 'appeasing Red China?' I just want to say, up yours with a pair of splintery chopsticks."

Before Helms could gather himself to reply, Nixon vanished, replaced by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Helms smirked. "I'm not surprised you're here in limbo," he said to the civil rights leader.

"Actually, I'm here just to see you. Lord knows I wasn't perfect, but he's seen fit to give me a place upstairs. Deal with it."

King continued, "Now Jesse, in life you relied on race-baiting to get elected. You found low-down ways to scare all those white people into voting for you. Remember 1990?"

"Ah," cackled Helms, "we pulled that one out of the fire."

"You were losing to the black candidate, until the famous ad showing a white man's hands crumpling a job application, with the voiceover, 'You needed that job . . . But they had to give it to a minority.'"

Helms looked King square in the face. "You're just mad because I was the only senator to vote against your holiday, you communist."

"I'm glad you brought that up. The 16-day filibuster you staged against me caught the attention of The Big Kahuna, who said that if you can delay that long, you'll have no trouble being patient while he decides what to do with you. I think we're looking at more than 40 days and 40 nights here."

Helms groaned. He groaned again as Robert Mapplethorpe replaced King.

"You may not be pleased to see me, Jesse, but it could be worse. It was a toss-up between me and some victims of the El Salvadoran death squads you supported."

Mapplethorpe threw his arm around the former senator. "Jesse, sweetie, let's remember the good old days. When you fought to keep gays and lesbians out of appointed positions in government. When you stood firm against federal aid for AIDS research and treatment. Was that when you called gays 'weak, morally sick wretches?'"

"Can't remember," grumbled Helms.

Mapplethorpe continued, "And who could forget your battle with the NEA for subsidizing my photos? You made me a household name, honey. By the by, I won't tell you where I landed afterlife-wise, but for tonight, we're roommates."

As Helms gagged, Ralph the gatekeeper replaced Mapplethorpe. "Oh Helms," mused Ralph, "where should a demagogue go? You get credit for loving your country. Trouble was, that country was the Confederacy. You were dedicated to public service—but you cared only for a portion of the public."

Ralph shrugged. "I think you're going to be with us a long while. If you want company, I can put in a request that Mapplethorpe remain for the duration."

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Case of the Raging Grandma

Joyce Beddell will not be winning Grandmother of the Year. Right now she's just trying to win her freedom.

The 61-year-old from Reading, Pa., was arrested by police for beating the daylights out of her granddaughter after finding the 16-year-old in bed with another girl.

Apparently Beddell has a strong opinion about lesbianism, and a strong arm to back it up.

The Reading Eagle reported that Beddell's granddaughter, whose name hasn't been released, and another female 16-year-old from the neighborhood shared some afternoon delight one Thursday in mid-June.

I immediately wondered if that was their way of celebrating the end of the school year.

They had just finished their activities when Joyce Beddell walked into the upstairs bedroom and found them.

Beddell beat her granddaughter with a cane. The other girl fled to her house nearby. Understandable, but not the most chivalrous action.

Beddell's fury must've been monumental; she beat her granddaughter with her cane until it broke.

Neighbors saw Beddell leave the house, accompanied by her granddaughter, who was limping. Come to think of it, Beddell might've been limping too, her cane having just met a bad end.

The pair's destination was the house of the other girl. Grandma wanted to tell the girl's mother what the two teenagers had been up to.

The newspaper didn't say whether she got her chance. Even without that scene, the events read like a young adult novel. Teenage lesbian love paying the ultimate price.

Even if we're not talking about ardent devotion but simply a case of ill-timed teenage lust, the tale has a clear villain: a Pennsylvania grandmother with a scary anger-management problem and humungous homophobia.

After Beddell and her granddaughter returned from going visiting, Beddell resumed beating her, this time with a belt. Police arrived, thank God, investigating a report of child abuse.

The police ferried the teenager to the hospital. She was in great pain, suffering from serious bruises on her legs and buttocks. Her afternoon certainly turned from pleasure to pain faster than you can say "lesbian-in-training."

Beddell told the cops that she hadn't done anything wrong, and she should be allowed to discipline her granddaughter as she wished.

The police begged to differ, charging her with aggravated and simple assault, recklessly endangering another person and endangering the welfare of a child.

I feel confident that Beddell would say concern for the child's welfare was precisely why she beat the crap out of her. If smacking her with a cane keeps her from going gay, then she's going to lay in a supply of them. Raid all the drugstores in town. Knock them out from under old people. It's for her granddaughter's own good. Better crippled than a dyke!

After arraignment before a judge, Beddell wound up in Berks County Prison in lieu of $10,000 bail. If she's still firm in her belief that she did nothing wrong, she must be furious at her granddaughter, whose perverted actions were the reason her poor grandmother's keister landed in jail. Possibly Beddell is spending a lot of her prison time mentally designing a cane that won't break.

How would Joyce Beddell have reacted if she'd found her granddaughter in bed with a 16-year-old boy? Would she have beaten her just the same, or giddily celebrated that, while the girl might get pregnant, at least she isn't queer?

If Beddell's granddaughter was in the closet, she sure isn't now. Everybody in Reading knows what she was doing that afternoon, and how she paid for it. Out of the closet and into the hospital is a horrid teenage coming-out scenario. I hope she gets some help—from people who don't wield canes.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Hissing at Kissing

I'm the only person in Seattle who hasn't weighed in on the Ballpark Kissers. Time for me to step up to the plate.

The case of the two lesbians ordered to stop smooching at a Seattle Mariners game has not only engrossed the local media and blogging types, but has popped up in newspapers from Cape Cod to Minneapolis to Phoenix.

The nationwide interest in this incident seems to stem from its contrast with Seattle's gay-friendly reputation. I presume the salacious aspect hasn't hurt, either.

In case you've still managed to miss the details, let's review them. Sirbrina Guerrero, 23, attended a Mariners game at Safeco Field with a date, 21, who's in the closet. During the third inning, an usher told the two gals to stop kissing. A woman nearby had complained that kids were in the crowd and parents would be forced to explain why two women were locking lips.

Accused of necking, Guerrero said later she and her date merely pecked while eating garlic fries. They "were just showing affection," but a straight couple about seven rows away was making out.

First, if Guerrero and her date were eating garlic fries, it's a good thing they had each other to kiss.

Second, it's ironic that the closeted girlfriend now finds herself nationally referred to, even if anonymously, as a participant in a lesbian smooching furor.

Third, considering how disappointing the Mariners have been this season, they're lucky to have anybody in the stands.

In the days that followed, Dan Savage, sex-advice columnist and editor of a Seattle alternative weekly, called for a kiss-in. Some accused Guerrero, who was a contestant on the MTV reality show "A Shot at Love With Tila Tequila," of seeking attention.

Then the Mariners released the results of an internal review. "We believe that our staff acted appropriately because they were responding to the behavior of the couple involved, not because of the couple's sexual orientation."

Two staffers described that behavior as "making out," "fondling," and "groping."

If that's true, I guess the gals weren't really interested in the game.

Safeco staffers told the women to "tone it down," not stop kissing. The two "refused to modify their behavior, began swearing at the seating hosts and complained that they were being singled out for their sexual orientation."

The Mariners bemoaned the accusations of discrimination. And well they should, since non-discrimination is their policy and the city's law. Moreover, since Seattle has such a large gay population, the organization would be dumber than toast to alienate all those paying customers.

To Guerrero, the Mariners' statement was as palatable as following garlic fries with nachos, sushi, and cotton candy. "What they are saying is so far from the truth," she told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "It makes me sick."

She said she's never experienced discrimination—"until now." What happened at Safeco was "very painful and embarrassing."

So as I write this the situation has come down to he said, she said, oy vey.

Whatever the truth, whatever the motivations, this case has raised several important questions. Seattleites are doing some soul-searching on how gay-friendly they really are. It's never a bad thing for a majority to ponder how it treats a minority.

Then there's the matter of public displays of affection. The same rules that apply to straights should apply to gays. Kissing at the ballpark is fine. Fondling at the ballpark is not. Unless what you're fondling is the baseball you just caught.

Regarding that woman in the crowd who complained to the usher--if the lesbians were being a spectacle, then fine. But if she can't bear to see any lesbian affection for fear of having to explain it to kids, she'd best plan on never leaving the house.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Talk of Murder

The leader of The Gambia delivered a lulu of a speech recently. President Yahya Jammeh said he intends to behead gays.

Not the finest policy statement I've ever heard.

Speaking at a political rally, President Jammeh announced gay people had 24 hours to leave the West African nation, the BBC reported. He told the crowd he would "cut off the head" of any gay person found in The Gambia.

The president promised "stricter laws than Iran" concerning homosexuality.

In this Olympic year, what a spectacular idea for international competition: a contest between The Gambia and Iran to see which country can kill more of its own people for less reason. The winner gets a gold noose.

Jammeh said, "The Gambia is a country of believers . . . sinful and immoral practices [such] as homosexuality will not be tolerated in this country."

According to The Advocate, the president told another sinful and immoral group to beat it as well: criminals. I, of course, don't like gays to be lumped together with crooks. I suppose the Gambian criminals were offended at being lumped together with gays.

Jammeh directed landlords and hotel owners to boot gays out before security forces conduct a promised mass search.

Just try and imagine being a gay or lesbian Gambian under these conditions. I think I'd chain myself to a European embassy. Or even better, to a European ambassador.

A number of gay men have fled to The Gambia after a crackdown in neighboring Senegal in recent months. Out of the frying pan, into the inferno.

President Jammeh got support from Gambia's Daily Observer newspaper. Apparently he always does. In an editorial titled "Gays-Free Gambia," the editors wrote that theirs is a Muslim and Christian country, and the Quran and Bible condemn homosexuality.

The editorial noted, "Look, we are not interested in stoning anyone, even homosexuals."

Oh, good!

"What our president is saying, and we agree with him totally ('as usual' I hear you moan!) is this: Ours is a society guided by religious principles."

Those principles "leave no room for homosexuality," the editors wrote, before ending with a plea: "So, please respect our religions, cultures and traditions by keeping your homosexuality out of our country."

Um, no. When customs include murdering people just because they're different, those customs aren't worth respecting. Even more to the point, gayness is as much Gambia's as it is Holland's or America's. The claim that homosexuality is inflicted on countries is a huge helping of hooey too often served up by African leaders, and apparently by their assistant chefs, known as newspaper editors.

Gambia's President Jammeh seems to excel at hooey. Last year he startled the world by claiming he could cure AIDS. In three days. With herbs.

The Advocate reported that Jammeh's presidential Web site showed pictures of him mixing the formulas and laying his hands on patients' heads. He said he could also cure asthma.

"The mandate I have is that HIV/AIDS cases can be treated on Thursdays," the president announced in a speech before dignitaries, including foreign ambassadors, who must've wondered what the hell was special about Thursdays.

"That is the good news and the bad news is that I cannot treat more than 10 patients every Thursday . . . For asthma, I have to choose between Saturday and Friday . . . Within three days the person should be tested again and I can tell you that he/she will be negative."

And warthogs will fly.

Here's hoping, praying, that his promise to kill gays is just as empty as his claim of an AIDS cure. Better a blowhard than a butcher.

Monday, May 12, 2008

All the News That Fits

I know it's hard for you. What with the Democratic drama, China catastrophe, Myanmar mess and other big stories to keep track of, it's tough to stay abreast of LGBT news as well.

I'm here to help. I can't recount every piece of recent gay news for you, but I can offer a selection of items guaranteed to make you sound like you've been paying attention all along.

No need to thank me. I live to serve.

Starting on a positive note, the country of Nepal has its first openly gay politician. Sunil Babu Pant will represent a small communist party in Nepal's new constituent assembly. Pant leads the nation's gay rights group, called the Blue Diamond Society.

No, the organization has nothing to do with almonds, and if you hold me up like this, we won't get anywhere.

In another political breakthrough, the state of Virginia got its first black gay elected official. Voters chose Lawrence Webb for the Falls Church City Council. He won by 39 votes. I didn't say it was a landslide.

Also in Virginia, Mildred Loving died. Don't try and fool me—I know you haven't a clue who she was. Thank goodness you have me.

Loving, who was African-American and Native American, married a white man in 1958. A hoo-hah ensued—yes, hoo-hah is a legal term—and in 1967, in the case of Loving v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws against interracial marriage.

Last year, on the 40th anniversary of that decision, Mildred Loving issued a statement in support of same-sex marriage. She's one of our community's straight heroines. Aren't you glad you know now? Honestly, I'm not paid nearly enough for this.

On the subject of marriage and what people will do to get it, Sheila Schroeder and Kate Burns of Englewood, Colo., were convicted of trespassing for staging a sit-in after the Denver Clerk and Recorder's Office refused them a marriage license. These hardened criminals now have to perform 28 hours of community service and pay $41 in court fines.

On the subject of marriage and what people will do to get out of it, the divorce trial of James and Dina Matos McGreevey got underway. I'm so sick of the shenanigans of New Jersey's former first couple, I can't bring myself to write about the pair anymore.

However, mindful of my responsibility to inform you, I suggest that if you need a fix, head to Court TV, where perhaps you'll get an answer to the question of whether she knew she was marrying a gay man. Then you'll know more about the matter than I do, and you can go all smug on me.

Over in St. Louis, administrators at Washington University have gotten an earful from those within and outside the university community who are appalled at the school's plan to bestow an honorary doctorate on Phyllis Schlafly, longtime foe of gay and women's rights, and an alumna of the school.

If this news nugget has inspired you to do further research, I recommend you examine the twin facts that Schlafly is an anti-gay activist who has a gay son. Then explain that to me.

The American Library Association reported that for the second year in a row the book most often challenged in public schools and libraries was the children's book "And Tango Makes Three." It's a true story about a penguin family with two dads. Objectors moan that the book will have children believing homosexuality is acceptable. The most hated book for two years running? Just another example of gays making it to the top.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Singapore Sins

The island nation of Singapore has a population of about four-and-a-half million people. The country's media watchdog is resolved that not one of those people will see homosexuals on TV.

The Media Development Authority (MDA) just spanked a television station for showing the unthinkable: a gay family.

At 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 13 of this year, MediaCorp TV Channel 5 ran an episode of "Find and Design," a home and décor series. In the episode a gay couple wanted to transform their game room into a nursery for their adopted baby.

Being the person I am, I can't help but wonder if the host wisecracked about the guys going from darts to diapers, pool cues to carpools.

Being the regulators they are, the MDA folks saw a bending, folding and mutilating of the rules.

On its Web site, the authority griped, "The episode contained several scenes of the gay couple with their baby as well as the presenter's congratulations and acknowledgement of them as a family unit in a way which normalizes their gay lifestyle and unconventional family setup."

Oh dear. Singapore is sure to sink into the sea now.

The episode violated the "Free-to-Air TV Program Code," which forbids shows that "promote, justify or glamorize gay lifestyles." MDA decided to levy a fine, penalizing MediaCorp TV roughly $11,000, because of "the severity of the breach."

It was severe all right. "Find and Design" treated gay people like normal people. What if that wild idea took root in Singapore? Gay Singaporeans would want to have babies! Straight Singaporeans would want to have game rooms!

The authority got tough with the station for two more reasons as well. The episode ran early Sunday morning, when children could be watching. If Singaporean households are anything like American, nobody BUT children would be watching at that hour.

Also, this was the station's second breach. MDA's statement didn't describe the first infraction. Perhaps Channel 5 slipped in a show featuring gay dolphins.

I assumed at first that the statement referred to an incident that gained international headlines a few weeks before this one did. But in that case it was a cable operator that received a fine.

The authority required StarHub Cable Vision to do financial penance for airing a commercial twice last November that showed two lesbians kissing. The ad ran on MTV's Mandarin-language channel, and promoted a song by Mandarin pop singer Olivia Yan.

I don't know who Olivia Yan is, but if she's running ads with kissing lesbians, I better find out.

MDA's statement on the matter averred, "Within the commercial, romanticized scenes of two girls kissing were shown and it portrayed the relationship as acceptable. This is in breach of the TV advertising guidelines, which disallows advertisements that condone homosexuality."

On this occasion the authority took into account "the severity of the breach," and the fact that the ad ran on a channel aimed at youth, and that StarHub Cable apparently gave an unsatisfactory explanation. All of it added up to a fine of $7,200.

So in a matter of weeks, Singapore's media regulator has handed out fines for breaching the TV Advertising Code and the Program Code. The offense in both cases was normalizing gay people. Perhaps this should be called pink-collar crime.

These two incidents suggest that Singaporean broadcasters have either been careless lately, or they're deliberately pushing the local envelope. And regulators are making a point of sealing it right back up.

In Singapore gay sex is illegal, but rarely prosecuted. Last year several Pride events were disallowed. Singapore is experiencing an internal push-pull over gays. The conflict is in the air—and on it.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Referendum Rascal

Michael Heath is so anxious to go back in time you'd think he expects to earn frequent flier miles for the journey.

Heath, executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine, has initiated a referendum that would ban same-sex marriage and civil unions, and prohibit same-sex couples from adopting. It would also remove sexual orientation from the Maine Human Rights Act's list of protected classes, and strip the funding for civil rights advocacy in the state attorney general's office.

In short, Heath wants to return to an era when the only right gays had was the right to hate ourselves.

If the secretary of state's office approves his wacky proposal, then Heath will start gathering signatures. He'll need about 55,000 of them to put the referendum on the state ballot.

"The question that he has submitted to the secretary of state is so broad that it's ridiculous," said Betsy Smith, executive director of Equality Maine, to the Bangor Daily News. "I don't even know if it's legal to put a question like that on the ballot. He basically wants to repeal any rights gays have gotten."

Yes, Heath is certainly a greedy fellow. I'm surprised he isn't also trying to outlaw gay bars and hair product.

Heath isn't a crusader-come-lately. When in 2005 Maine legislators made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in employment, housing and education, Heath and his Christian Civic League spearheaded a referendum to restore each Mainer's god-given right to discriminate. But 55 percent of voters in the Pine Tree State disagreed with Heath, the law stood, and he has been girding his loins ever since for the next fracas.

Shortly before filing the paperwork for the latest referendum, Heath laid out his intentions on the Christian Civic League's Web site: "It is time for another referendum on gay rights. We have been licking our wounds long enough. I'm not going to sit by doing nothing really meaningful and watch either the courts or the legislature further advance special rights for homosexuality."

Okay, so don't watch. Kidding! In his editorial Heath used the word "special" more often than the Church Lady.

He also wrote, "Everyone has the right to marry already. Nobody should have legal rights that are premised on being sexually promiscuous! NO SPECIAL RIGHTS FOR HOMOSEXUALITY! PERIOD!!"

Lordy. The special rights argument is tired. The statement that everyone can marry is a slap in the face. The sentence about legal rights for being sexually promiscuous I don't even understand. Is he saying gays are people who are so lustful we sleep with each other because heterosexual coupling doesn't satiate our gargantuan appetites?

This much I know: Maine has a zealot on its hands.

Considering that state seems to go through a battle royal over gay rights every six minutes, average citizens must be getting awfully sick of it. And those whose lives and livelihoods depend on fair treatment don't relish another bloody round.

"I'm tired of trying to have to justify my right to maintain my employment," Sarah Parker-Holmes, who's fought in five major campaigns since 1992, told the Portland Press Herald. "I'm tired of fighting."

Maybe Heath is counting on his opposition being exhausted. Or maybe he hopes voters have had it with the issue of gay rights, and will stay home.

I'm starting to think he chose to make his potential referendum so sweeping because he knows this could be his last hurrah. He's throwing the kitchen sink at this one--before Mainers decide to hold a referendum on him.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Violently Ill

I'm so sick of violence I want to hit someone.

I'm having one of those moments when it feels like the amount of violence in the world is just plain overwhelming. But if I respond by tuning out the news, I'll have nothing to write about but my own life, and that could lead readers to violence.

The radio tells me the ceasefire in Iraq is in shards. It seems like the violence in that country won't end until every Iraqi is dead or Dick Cheney gets a conscience, whichever comes first.

The newspapers make me no happier. In Between The Lines, Michigan's gay paper, a transgender activist ticks off a list of recent gender-variant murder victims, from the well-known case of Lawrence King in California to the barely known cases of Ashley Sweeney in Detroit and Adolphus Simmons in South Carolina.

Murder coast to coast. While it would be nice for this country to unite on something, the desire to kill transgender people is not a suitable choice.

I take a break from the present and delve into the past. Mistake. I wind up reading how some German teenagers in the Hitler Youth were told to bring a favorite pet to a meeting. There the boy had to kill his pet. This taught the future soldiers to kill without remorse, and to believe their service to Hitler mattered more than anything else in their lives.

For a second, today looks civilized.

But violence has been with us since the beginning of everything. Probably the second human to swing out of the trees landed on the first and a fight broke out.

Violence, or the capacity for it, is in us all. Kind of like the appendix, it stubbornly refuses to evolve away. How do we overcome our biology and psychology? Will we survive long enough to find out?

Yanked back to the present, I see that Between The Lines also carries a lovely picture of a man with a shiner, sustained when he told a big guy in a bar to quit calling him and his friends "faggots." In a story on the trials of a high school gay-straight alliance, one teenager admits she fears being the next Lawrence King. "I live with that fear every day," she says.

Violence, violence, violence, with fear of violence thrown in for variety.

And then there's the long letter on the op-ed page, written to Oklahoma state Rep. Sally Kern by a high school senior from Oklahoma City named Tucker. Kern, in case you missed it, delivered an anti-gay diatribe, announcing America has more to fear from gays than terrorists.

Tucker, who's straight, spells out for the politician the error of her ways and means. "Let me tell you the result of your words in my school. Every openly gay and suspected gay in the school were having to walk together Monday for protection. They looked scared," he writes.

"I've spent 12 years in Oklahoma public schools and never once have I had anyone try to force a gay agenda on me. I have seen, however, many gay students beat up and there's never a day in school that has gone by when I haven't heard the word **** slung at someone."

Is Tucker some young, naïve, violence-abhorring, pseudo-pansy peacenik? No, he's a guy who knows the effects of violence and hate unspeakably well. His mother died in the Oklahoma City bombing when he was five years old.

He has reason to hate. But Tucker is instead taking a stand against someone inciting hate and violence. If he can manage that, then perhaps I can do something more constructive about violence than whining. Even if I am so good at it.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Partners in Poppycock

The Atlantic Ocean separates them, but to me they'll always be the twaddle twins.

That's because these two prominent figures delivered relentlessly anti-gay speeches that hit the news the same week in March. They share a bond of blather.

No doubt Oklahoma state Rep. Sally Kern, a Republican from Oklahoma City, felt she was in friendly territory when she spoke to some 50 people at an Oklahoma county Republican club. She offered her listeners a tasty homophobic rant.

Kern said that "the homosexual agenda is destroying this nation" and homosexuality is "the biggest threat even, that our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam."

That's a mighty ambitious goal she's setting us. I don't think I have the stamina to destroy the nation or outdo terrorists. Not without a serious fitness program, anyway.

The legislator bemoaned the growing number of gay politicians. Kern, a former teacher who sits on the education committee, also fretted over gays influencing school policy.

"You know why they're trying to get early childhood education?" she asked. "They want to get our young children into the government schools so they can indoctrinate them . . . They're going after our young children, as young as two years of age, to try to teach them that the homosexual lifestyle is an acceptable lifestyle."

Sound the alarm! Man the barricades! Praise the lord and pass the rhetoric!

This gentlewoman and scholar declared as well, "Matter of fact, studies show, that no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted more than a few decades."

You might have the idea at this point that Kern isn't fond of gay people. Perish the thought, for she also said in her speech, "I'm not gay-bashing." Of course, she did follow that statement with, "But according to God's word that is not the right kind of lifestyle."

And if she doesn't consider her statements gay-bashing, what can she possibly consider them? Sweet nothings?

Someone in attendance at the event—not gay, but a friend of the community—recorded Kern's speech, and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund posted the diatribe on YouTube, which is how Kern has become nationally infamous. Her speech has been viewed more often than a Madonna video.

She's infuriated gobs of people, but hasn't apologized. She told the Tulsa World her comments were edited, taken out of context, and concerned wealthy gays supporting gay candidates. "I was talking about an agenda. I was not talking about individuals," Kern said. "I have never said hate speech against anybody. I would never do that."

Nope, never never never ever ever ever.

Over in Scotland, a Catholic bishop also recently expressed gigantic fears about gay political maneuverings.

"The homosexual lobby has been extremely effective in aligning itself with minority groups," said the Right Rev. Joseph Devine during a speech in Glasgow. "It is ever-present at the service each year for the Holocaust memorial, as if to create for themselves the image of a group of people under persecution."

AS IF? What kind of incense has been wafting around this man during mass? Gays were Holocaust victims; we continue to be blatantly persecuted the world over.

The bishop said to his audience at St. Aloysius' College, "I take it you're beginning to see that there is a huge and well-orchestrated conspiracy taking place, which the Catholic community missed."

That the queen honored Sir Ian McKellen sticks in his cassock. "In this New Year's honors list, I saw actor Ian McKellen being honored for his work on behalf of homosexuals, when a century ago Oscar Wilde was locked up and put in jail."

The good old days, eh Bishop Devine?

He ended his lecture by promising "to pick a fight." Mission accomplished.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Royal Treatment

The most prominent person due to attend a Dutch gay rights conference is a future queen, and I don't mean a teenager with a tendency toward the fabulous.

A spokesman for the Dutch royal family confirmed that Princess Maxima, the wife of Holland's Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, will participate in the conference in early March.

That ought to boost coverage. And attendance. And the sartorial efforts of participants, who could find themselves in many a background shot.

We Americans know a lot about the British royals. We know about Monaco's royal family, since American actress Grace Kelly gave birth to the present crop. But we don't know much about the rest of Europe's royalty. The continent is knee-deep with nobles, from Spain to Sweden to Serbia.

Europeans monitor the doings of their royals. I remember as a child visiting my German grandmother, who would have a stack of women's magazines with smiling royal mugs on the cover. My grandmother fretted over whichever royal was currently misbehaving.

I found the magazines interesting--but not as compelling as reading about America's royals, the denizens of the Kingdom of Hollywood. I knew who Robert Redford was; I didn't know who Prince Hubert of Lombardy-Alpenschnickl was, even though he stood 63rd in line to the throne of Albania.

But I royally digress.

Underscoring the importance of royalty in Holland, Frank Van Dalen of the Dutch Gay Federation expressed glee at snagging the princess for the conference. "This will be a historically significant royal presence," he said. "This is what we have been hoping for for a very long time."

My hope is that all goes well at the conference, and the princess doesn’t fall in love with a commoner. A lesbian commoner at that.

Van Dalen said, "It is the first time a member of the royal family has attended a meeting with such significance for gays."

Princess Maxima picked a good first time. Holland cemented its reputation as one of the most tolerant countries when in 2001 it became the first nation in the world to grant same-sex marriage. The city of Amsterdam is a gay mecca. But Amsterdam police report that in recent years violent crimes against gays have ballooned. noted that in a survey last August half of Dutch gays said they felt less safe than the year before. The Netherlands' reputation for open-mindedness is getting sliced like Gouda. It's time to put the Dutch royal seal of approval on tolerance.

Queen Beatrix has spoken out on behalf of gay rights in the past. Now Princess Maxima will ratchet support up a notch with this personal appearance.

The royals have taken heat for their pro-gay positions from some right-wing politicians and conservative Protestants, as well as Muslims, a growing population in Holland. A monarch's lot is not an easy one. Good thing the perks—like wealth—help cushion the blow.

A palace spokesman said, "The princess is in favor of equal rights of all groups in the Netherlands." Presumably that includes Muslims, so it will be interesting to watch how Holland and its future queen—who is actually from Argentina—navigate these tricky canals in the years ahead.

The gay rights conference at hand will be held in four major cities, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht. The focus will be gays' continued exclusion from Dutch society and what to do about it. At the conclusion, Princess Maxima will sign an accord calling for the full acceptance of homosexuals in Holland.

I'm sure she won't be the only one signing it. But with her star power, who's going to notice the others?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Athlete Auction Action

I read on that the Los Angeles Rebellion, described as "a straight-inclusive gay rugby team," was recently due to hold its Third Annual Bachelor Auction Fundraiser. Naturally, this led me to imagine two prospective bidders in the audience that night at the gay bar.

Charlie: Another?

Simon: I'm nervous.

Charlie: One more of those martinis and you'll be bidding on the busboy.

Simon: What am I doing here? I don't do this kind of stuff. I'm . . . shy.

Charlie: Not tonight. Tonight you're a tiger.

Simon: Meow.

Charlie: What time is it?

Simon: 8:45.

Charlie: 15 minutes to zero hour.

Simon: We still have time to see "Atonement." Again.

Charlie: We're staying right here, and we're going to bid. You need a date, and I need to get up close and personal with a jock.

Simon: God, what if he wants to talk about rugby? I don't know anything about it! How do you play?

Charlie: I don't know and I don't care. What I do know is they wear short shorts and throw themselves at each other. How can that be bad?

Simon: There's something about a scrum . . .

Charlie: Yeah, a scrumptious butt in those shorts.

Simon: Do they wear their uniforms on the date?

Charlie: If you pay enough.

Simon: Rugby shirts! I had one in high school.

Charlie: I'm pretty sure you can't build a conversation around that. Look, just ask him how to play. I'm sure he'll be thrilled to explain it all to you.

Simon: I guess. We runners wear short shorts, y'know.

Charlie: Honey, it just isn't the same.

Simon: Why not? I look good in mine.

Charlie: I'm sorry, Simon. I didn't mean to insult you. You have a beautiful ass. Let's concentrate on getting you off it.

Simon: One date.

Charlie: Who knows? The date could actually be on Valentine's Day. A little romance, a little wine, you two might hit it off. You could be washing his uniform for the rest of your days.

Simon: Hmm.

Charlie: I just want to roll around on the field.

Simon: What if all you get out of this is dinner?

Charlie: The food better be damn good. God, it's crowded in here. I wonder how many of these guys are actually going to bid?

Simon: I just had a horrible thought.

Charlie: There's a surprise.

Simon: Didn't you say there are straight guys on this team? What if I get one of them? What if it's a set-up? What if I find myself on some reality show?

Charlie: I really doubt the straight guys would be willing to go out with gay men. Talk about taking one for the team.

Simon: Or maybe women bid on the straight guys. I see one or two females.

Charlie: All will become clear in a few minutes.

Simon: Will you be crushed if you don't win a date?

Charlie: No. I'll just go to the next auction on the calendar. Bid for gay basketball players, or swimmers, or soccer players.

Simon: There are more dating auctions?

Charlie: There should be. In fact, why do they all have to be jocks? You could hold an auction at your work.

Simon: Yeah, right. Gay accountants.

Charlie: With your lovely rear end, you'd fetch a pretty penny.

Monday, February 4, 2008

A Stand-Up Politician

Politicians make us laugh all the time. In the case of one state representative, it's actually deliberate.

Jason Lorber represents the city of Burlington in the Vermont legislature. His profession is stand-up comedy. He's also openly gay.

I'm guessing the guy is rarely short of material.

A recent Associated Press profile explains that Lorber performs stand-up, runs improv workshops and produces comedy shows. This can't be an easy career in a state with no comedy clubs. Like being a lumberjack in the Sahara.

Lorber has duel passions for legislating and performing. "Politics is about changing society and trying to make the world a better place. And performing makes me feel so alive. I love the creative aspect of it," he says.

Though he resides in the Green Mountain State, Lorber, a Democrat, grew up in California. This provides more grist for his humor mill, as he eyes Vermont with an outsider's perspective.

Basically he has no choice but to comment on the frigid Vermont winters. The AP story doesn't say, but I assume he also has in his repertoire jokes about maple syrup, fall foliage, tourists, cows, Ben & Jerry's, skiing, Calvin Coolidge, flinty natives and über-liberal flatlanders who've emigrated to Vermont.

Regarding the locals' affection for the good old days, Lorber kids, "I'm used to directions based on what street you're supposed to turn on. In Vermont directions are based on landmarks that burned down 15 years ago."

His own life is fodder for his humor. That's a good thing. A comedian whose act is solely wisecracking about a state will likely be run out of it. Or at least be defeated at the polls.

Says Lorber about his personal life, "The thing about my partner is, he's gay. Which I'm fine with. Growing up, I never pictured myself being with a gay guy. Now I've come to realize that I could never be happy being with a straight guy."

I love it. And I'm sure some in his audience don't get it.

Vermont was famously the first state in the nation to provide gay couples with legal recognition, in the form of civil unions. On an official state Web site, Lorber's bio includes the information that his civil union partner, Nathaniel G. Lew, is a college professor. I assume Lorber wrote the bio, as it also says their son Max, a year-and-a-half old, "has not yet declared his profession."

Lorber isn't all hearts and flowers about civil unions. includes this Lorber quip: "I hate the term civil union. It sounds like a cross between a civil war and a labor union. We just call it a c.u. That way, if it doesn't work out, it's just 'c.u. later,' or a 'c.u. in court.'"

Vermont's civil union law took effect on July 1, 2000. The period before and after that date was a rancorous one in the Green Mountain State. Vermont's motto, "Freedom and Unity," could've been replaced with "If You're Giving Gays Freedom, Wave Bye-Bye To Unity."

Now Vermont is exploring the possibility of moving up to same-sex marriage. So far, reports the AP, the debate has been much tamer. But it's early yet.

It seems to me that a gay comedian in the legislature may be just the ticket for Vermont as it considers granting gay marriage. He can poke fun at himself to humanize gayness. He can reduce friction by making both sides crack up. When the tension is greatest, Lorber can unite the lawmakers by pointing out that life could be worse—they could live in New Hampshire.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Bisexual, Stage Right

I've long supposed that some women are truly bisexual. I've long known that I'm not one of them.

Such matters are on my mind now thanks to a new study of bisexuality in women. The study, sure to generate a lot of chatter, followed 79 non-heterosexual women over 10 years. The key finding is that bisexuality appears to be a distinctive sexual orientation, and not a stage women go through on their way to being lesbians.

I do believe that for some women bisexuality isn't a transitional phase. It's who they are. For me, bisexuality was indeed a stage. I entered the stage door a bisexual and exited it a homo.

Over 15 years ago I was firmly ensconced in therapy, working through, by and around several issues, including my orientation. Though I'd managed to suppress the gay hints over the years, the truth lurked ever closer.

But which truth? I knew I was physically attracted to men, and also pulled in some sort of deep, mysterious way to women. What did this make me? Besides addled, of course.

Without ever having been involved with a woman, I accepted that I must be bisexual. Then I settled down to do nothing about it, because of my long-term relationship with a guy.

Mercifully for us both, we split, and I was free to explore my "other side" as we called it, making me sound like a werewolf. I started attending the local lesbian group, billed as being open to bisexual women. After a few months it seemed to me the group was entirely lesbian-focused, so one evening I screwed up my courage.

I raised my hand, outed myself as bi, and said I hoped this group really did welcome everyone. One woman whispered to me she was bi, too, and none of the other members threatened my person, so the effort seemed successful. I'd made the local lesbian group safe for bisexuals. Huzzah.

In those early days I ventured to gay bars with new friends. One club had both male and female dancers on display. Well, the woman danced; the man stripped. I didn't know whom to look at.

I was there to check out women, but I still felt a sexual pull toward men. I'd spent a lot of years being hetero-directed; it wasn't going without a fight.

I finally began dating a woman. At one point she said something about the risk she was taking, dating a bisexual. It turned out I'd taken the bigger risk, dating a woman with the emotional knowledge of a frying pan.

I did get some important things from that relationship, including the discovery that sex with a woman seemed natural to me. After all those hetero impulses, I feared bedding down with a woman might send me screaming from the room. Instead, I knew I was on the right track.

I never diverted from that track. After about a year of being out, I realized I no longer called myself "bisexual." The word had simply dropped away without any conscious thought. It no longer applied. "Gay" did.

So ended my bisexual phase. It was a stage I needed to go through—at age 30--for the same reason a chicken crosses the road, to get to the other side.

I was so mentally and physically entrenched in heterosexuality, and so blooming scared, that I needed this bridge of bisexuality to help get me where I really belonged. I'm not one for making a quick change. Some 15 years ago, this overanalyzing, uptight gal was more likely to become a Hare Krishna overnight than a lesbian.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The More Things Change . . .

The first day of a new year brings change. Whether in the form of New Year's resolutions to quitsmokingloseweightgetorganized or in the form of new laws slated to go into effect that day, Jan. 1 is the date of change.

Except when it isn't.

Last year Oregon's legislature passed a domestic partnership law, due to take effect on Jan. 1. But that day came and went without a single gay couple registering as domesticated.

You see, a federal judge had placed the law on hold, pending a February hearing. He did that to the poor little law because of the squawking of gay rights opponents.

In 2007 opponents collected signatures to suspend the domestic partnership law and put it up for a statewide vote. Oregon officials declared the valid signatures fell just short of the required number. That prompted the opponents to ask the judge to intercede, claiming the state's review process violated the signers' rights.

These folks are, of course, supremely unconcerned that the rights of gays have been violated longer than Oregon has been a state.

On the plus side, Jan. 1 did usher in Oregon's law forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation. Altogether, the first day of 2008 in the Beaver State reflected the unavoidable reality of our march toward equality: The march route includes speed bumps, U-turns and sinkholes.

On the other coast at the same time—all right, three hours earlier—another new law was truly, really going into effect. At 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1, 37 gay and lesbian New Hampshire couples entered into civil unions. Held outdoors on the plaza of the New Hampshire Statehouse, the celebration began at 11:00 p.m.

Which means that by the time they were actually united, the brides and grooms must've looked stunning in matching icicles.

The state's new law is, by current national standards, expansive. It effectively gives same-sex couples the same rights and responsibilities as marriage, without the name. The domestic partner law in Oregon affords only some spousal rights, yet conservative Oregonians, with their last-ditch legal effort, are fighting as though Vikings have landed on Cannon Beach.

New Hampshire's new law isn't 100 percent safe, either. Part of the law says the state will recognize other states' legal gay and lesbian unions. A clutch of Republicans in the legislature aims to erase that nicety.

No local protesters littered the Statehouse in Concord when the dozens of couples exchanged vows. The Associated Press talked to one concerned man, Michael Hein, who said he'd driven 180 miles from Augusta, Maine, in order to "report to the people of Maine that this is going on next door."

I hope he at least wore a festive New Year's hat as he glowered.

"Without our vigilance in Maine, (civil unions are) something that could occur as soon as next year," he said. If they do, Hein might be protesting civil unions in Augusta, Maine's capital, at the same time next year. How pleasant to have a New Year's tradition.

I wonder if Hein knew of the notable event taking place in Augusta the very next day, Jan. 2. The Gay Men's Chorus sang the national anthem to kick off the 2008 session of the Maine legislature. It was said to be the first time a gay chorus has sung the anthem at the start of any state legislative session. Hein, presumably, was something less than proud.

So Jan. 2 joined Jan. 1 as a day of change. That's good for Jan. 2's ego—it must be hard to be the date when so many New Year's resolutions collapse.