Monday, January 18, 2010

When Things Go Bad

I spent an hour in the dentist's chair yesterday, getting shots and enduring drills.

I'd rather do that again today than write about Bruce LaVallee-Davidson.

But I feel if I don't tackle the subject of Bruce, I'll be hiding my head in the sand. And sand tastes no better than Novocain.

LaVallee-Davidson, who lives in Maine, is a farmer. Not really a profession I associate with sex parties.

LaVallee-Davidson, 50, is also a gun collector, and on an April day of last year he brought along a handgun and a shotgun to the South Portland home of Fred Wilson, 50. Over a 12-hour period, the two men, along with James Pombriant, 65, used the party drug GBL, huffed aerosol inhalants, smoked pot and had sex in the house's dungeon.

I guess that's one way to celebrate the end of a Maine winter.

Three times that night, said LaVallee-Davidson's lawyers, he checked the revolver to make sure it wasn't loaded. When he went to the bathroom, the lawyers maintained, Wilson snuck a bullet into the gun's chamber.

A surprise from the host. After-dinner mints would've been better.

LaVallee-Davidson returned, and Wilson, engaging in a sex act with Pombriant, asked LaVallee-Davidson to place the gun to his head and pull the trigger in order to intensify his pleasure. The first time, there was a click. Again, said Wilson. This time, there was a flash. And it wasn't a flash of insight.

During LaVallee-Davidson's trial, both sides agreed he didn't intend to kill. But, said the prosecutor, "You just don't hold a gun to someone's head and pull the trigger without making sure it's not loaded." Recently a jury convicted him of manslaughter. He's looking at a minimum of four years in prison.

The Russian roulette, drugs and three-way sex would be quite enough to capture attention. But the fact is LaVallee-Davidson had already captured attention in Maine. In April he and his partner, Buck LaVallee-Davidson, testified on behalf of the bill to legalize same-sex marriage.

Bruce testified four days after fatally shooting a man. I wouldn't have been able to remember how to speak English.

So there you have it: a gay activist with a raunchy private life. With the drugs, guns and dungeon, this mess is nectar to social conservatives. They owe Bruce LaVallee-Davidson a thank-you basket from Harry & David.

Mike Hein of the Christian Civic League of Maine is predicting the sordidness of the case will halt plans for same-sex marriage in Maine. That state, of course, lost gay marriage in November when voters ditched it, but pro-gay forces haven't given up.

I think voters have more sense than to think one seismically stupid man makes a movement. But I know the opposition will use this case as proof that gays are debauched. That a devoted partner one day is a degenerate the next.

Some gays sure are. Some straights sure are. Let's all do the hokey pokey.

On Queerty.com, readers weighing in on the conviction said everything from public figures need to keep their noses clean to it's always the unattractive ones who are into BDSM.

One guy brought up Phil Spector, the oft-married record producer incarcerated for fatally shooting a woman in the mouth. "The actions of Spector have no more impact on Joe marrying Betty than this dickhead's actions ought to have on Joe marrying Fred."

That's how it ought to be, but it won't. Minorities and women are held to higher standards, and gays fighting for full rights need to appear as upstanding as flagpoles.

Sometimes we aren't upstanding. Let's own up to it. Perfection is exhausting anyway.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Day Things Change

If you follow the news, you know that Jan. 1 was a big day in New Hampshire.

That's the day recreational fishermen needed to be registered to fish for smelt.

Days don't come any bigger.

If you're a smelt fisherman. Or a smelt.

Jan. 1 was also the day same-sex marriage became legal in the Granite State. The fight for and against gay marriage was vitally important to many New Hampshirites, and the positive outcome a huge, happy deal to the GLBT community across the country.

But from a statutory point of view, when New Year's Day came around, the monumental change in marriage law didn't stand alone. No indeed. Other alterations to state law kicked in that day, each important to, well, at least somebody.

Take that fishy law. Seacoastonline.com reported that now most New Hampshire saltwater recreational anglers and spear fishermen must register to fish for "anadromous" species, like smelt, in tidal waters.

I couldn't find "anadromous" in the dictionary, my grasp of fish is slippery, and my brain preferred to gloss over the dull facts and instead imagine the story of Jonah and the smelt.

But I did get why this new law is important: A registry will provide accurate data helpful in protecting shared marine resources. Makes sense to me. And since I doubt smelt marched to Concord to testify before the state legislature, the new law made sense to enough New Hampshire humans.

So did the new rule mandating carbon monoxide detectors in homes built after Jan. 1. That one surprised me, given the state's libertarian tradition. I would've expected the bill to collapse as some flinty legislator intoned, "You're infringing on personal freedom! If somebody doesn't want a carbon monoxide detector, it's his right to die!"

Similar concerns probably arose in the debate over distracted driving. As of New Year's Day, drivers in New Hampshire may not send text messages while behind the wheel. Ditto for Twittering and typing on laptops. Getting caught will cost $100.

So anyone who attends a lesbian wedding or fishes for smelt and becomes emotional over either must wait to get home to tweet about it.

Another change to state law must've had an emotional component: There's no more statute of limitations on assisting or concealing a murder. If you hid a murder, and texted about it while driving, you're doubly in trouble.

Licensed physical therapists in New Hampshire saw their world expand as of Jan. 1. They can now get special certification to practice on animals. Whether most animals supported or opposed this measure is hard to say.

The law naming the Chinook as the official state dog went into effect last August, but Seacoastonline.com included the change in its roundup of laws kicking in on New Year's Day. The folks behind the news site must still be giddy with the dog's elevation.

A sled and work dog, the Chinook is the only breed to have originated in New Hampshire. It's joined such luminaries as the ladybug and spotted newt as official state mascots.

Who raised the dog to its present lofty status? A group of seventh-graders. Their lobbying got the job done. If we'd turned over the fight for same-sex marriage to students from the Ross Lurgio Middle School in Bedford we'd have gotten it sooner.

Now other students are advocating for apple cider to be named the official state beverage. Maybe on Jan. 1 of next year that law will go into effect, and the gay couples who married this Jan. 1 will drink a tart toast to their first anniversary and their state.

The kids are lobbying for regular cider, not hard cider. We got same-sex marriage, but we can't have everything.