May 12th, 2012


(no subject)

There is a fascinating right wing meme floating around the Internet. The essential summary is "So Obama came out for gay marriage. Big whoop!" Obama had to gather all his glorious courage into a fist, all his qualities of a leader and to finally join Dick Cheney on this topic. Of course the implication is Obama hasn't really done anything special here, and since it he can't do anything legally, it was a very safe but calculating campaign statement that has no real impact. But I disagree with the way this is framed, and the way it is rather dismissive of what President Obama has done for gay rights. And frankly, I'd like to turn the question back on them: so what did Dick Cheney do to influence policies in the Bush White House (in terms of gay rights)? In eight years did Cheney accomplish anything remotely along the following list?

[Here is a list of concrete things Obama has done for gay rights and inclusion]

  1. Reversed US refusal to sign the UN Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

  2. Extended benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees in 2009 and, further, in 2010

  3. Lifted the HIV Entry Ban

  4. Issued diplomatic passports, and provided other benefits, to the partners of same-sex foreign service employees

  5. Committed to ensuring that federal housing programs are open to all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity

  6. Conceived a National Resource Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Elders -- the nation's first ever -- funded by a three-year HHS grant to SAG

  7. Banned job discrimination based on gender identity throughout the Federal government (the nation's largest employer)

  8. Eliminated the discriminatory Census Bureau policy that kept our relationships from being counted, encouraging couples who consider themselves married to file that way, even if their state of residence does not yet permit legal marriage

  9. Instructed HHS to require any hospital receiving Medicare or Medicaid funds (virtually all hospitals) to allow LGBT visitation rights

  10. Required all grant applicants seeking HUD funding to comply with state and local anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBT individuals

  11. Adopted transgender recommendations on the issuance of gender-appropriate passports that will ease barriers to safe travel and that will provide government-issued ID that avoids involuntary "outing" in situations requiring ID, like hiring, where a gender-appropriate driver's license or birth certificate is not available

  12. Extended domestic violence protections to LGBT victims

  13. Extended the Family and Medical Leave Act to cover employees taking unpaid leave to care for the children of same-sex partners

  14. Issued
    guidance to assist tenants denied housing on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and banned LGBT discrimination in all HUD-assisting housing and HUD-assisted loans 

  15. Issued a National HIV/AIDS Strategy
    praised as "long-overdue" by the Task Force, Lambda and others

  16. Issued guidance to 15,000 local departments of education and 5,000 colleges to support educators in combating bullying

  17. Cut back authority to discharge under Don't Ask/Don't Tell from hundreds of generals to just 6 civilian appointees, effectively ending discharges while working toward a permanent end to the policy.

  18. Led the fight that reversed a 2010 UN vote removing sexual orientation from the list of things people should not be killed for 

  19. Launched the first-ever national study of discrimination against members of the LGBT community in the rental and sale of housing

  20. Determined that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional

  21. Determined that LGBT discrimination should be subject to a standard of "heightened scrutiny"

  22. Stopped defending DOMA, leading to "dramatic changes across the country and the federal government in the way that lawyers and judges see legal challenges brought by LGBT people - and, slowly but surely, in the way that LGBT people are able to live their lives" 

  23. Filed an unprecedented brief
    detailing the history of discrimination faced by gay, lesbian and
    bisexual people in America, including by the federal government itself -- the single most persuasive legal argument ever advanced by the United States government in support of equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people

  24. Vacated a court order that would have deported a gay American's Venezuelan partner 

  25. Begun recognizing joint bankruptcy petitions filed by same-sex married couples

  26. Endorsed the Respect for Marriage Act

  27. Reduced the deportation threat faced by binational LGBT couples

  28. Authorized military chaplains to perform same-sex weddings on or off military bases

  29. Upped the nation's commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS at home and abroad

  30. Launched a energetic, game-changing campaign for global LGBT equality, highlighted by the Secretary of State in a half-hour address to the United Nations

  31. Extended the gender-based employment discrimination protections of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to transgender employees

  32. Added an LGBT representative to the diversity program at each of the nations 120 federal prisons


  1. Endorsed
    the Baldwin-Lieberman bill, The Domestic Partnership Benefits and
    Obligations Act of 2009, to provide FULL partnership benefits to federal

  2. Released the first Presidential PRIDE proclamations since 2000

  3. Hosted the first LGBT Pride Month Celebration in White House history

  4. Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Harvey Milk and Billie Jean King, joining past recipients such as Rosa Parks

  5. Appointed the first ever transgender DNC member

  6. Testified in favor of ENDA, the first time any official of any administration has testified in the Senate on ENDA

  7. Hired more openly LGBT officials (like these)
    in its first two years -- more than 150, including more than 20
    "Senate-confirmables" -- than any previous administration hired in four
    years or eight

  8. Sworn in Ambassador David Huebner

  9. Changed
    the culture of government everywhere from – among others – HUD and HHS
    to the Export-Import Bank, the State Department, and the Department of

  10. Appointed Justices Sonia Sotomayor and
    Elena Kagan, instead of conservatives who would have tilted the Court
    even further to the right and virtually doomed our rights for a
    generation.  To wit (quoting McCain): "I've
    said a thousand times on this campaign trail, I've said as often as I
    can, that I want to find clones of Alito and Roberts.
    worked as hard as anybody to get them confirmed. I look you in the eye
    and tell you I've said a thousand times that I wanted Alito and Roberts.
     I have told anybody who will listen. I flat-out tell you I will have
    people as close to Roberts and Alito [as possible]."

  11. Named open transgender appointees (the first President ever to do so)

  12. Emphasized LGBT inclusion in everything from the President’s historic NAACP
    address (“The pain of discrimination is still felt in America.  By
    African American women paid less for doing the same work as colleagues
    of a different color and a different gender.  By Latinos made to feel
    unwelcome in their own country.  By Muslim Americans viewed with
    suspicion simply because they kneel down to pray to their God.  By our
    gay brothers and sisters, still taunted, still attacked, still denied
    their rights.”) . . . to the first paragraph of his Family Day
    proclamation (“Whether children are raised by two parents, a single
    parent, grandparents, a same-sex couple, or a guardian, families
    encourage us to do our best and enable us to accomplish great things”)
    and his Mothers Day
    proclamation ("Nurturing families come in many forms, and children may
    be raised by two parents, a single mother, two mothers, a step-mom, a
    grandmother, or a guardian.  Mother's Day gives us an opportunity to
    celebrate these extraordinary caretakers") . . . to creating the chance
    for an adorable 10-year-old at the White House Easter Egg roll to tell ABC World News
    how cool it is to have two mommies . . . to including the chair of the
    National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce along with the Secretary of
    the Treasury and the President of Goldman Sachs in the small audience
    for the President’s economic address at the New York Stock Exchange . . .
    to welcoming four gay couples to its first State Dinner

  13. Recommitted,
    in a televised address, to passing ENDA . . . repealing Don’t Ask/Don’t
    Tell  . . . repealing the so-called Defense of Marriage Act

  14. Spoken out
    against discrimination at the National Prayer Breakfast ("We may
    disagree about gay marriage, but surely we can agree that it is
    unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are -- whether
    it's here in the United States or, as Hillary mentioned, more extremely
    in odious laws that are being proposed most recently in Uganda.")

  15. Dispatched the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to call on the Senate to repeal Don't Ask / Don't Tell

  16. Launched a website to gather public comment on first-ever federal LGBT housing discrimination study

  17. Appointed long-time equality champion Chai Feldblum one of the four Commissioners of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

  18. Produced U.S. Census Bureau PSAs featuring gay, lesbian, and transgender spokespersons

  19. Appointed
    Retired Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer, an early public champion of
    open service in the military, to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women
    in the Services

  20. Publicly invited the shunned MIssissippi high school prom student to the White House

  21. Successfully fought
    for UN accreditation of IGLHRC (the International Gay & Lesbian
    Human Rights Commission) -- against Republican attempts to block it

  22. Convened the first-ever anti-bullying summit to craft a national strategy to reduce bullying in schools

  23. Launched

  24. Awarded $13.3 million to the LA Gay & Lesbian Center to create a model program for LGBTQ youth in the foster care system

  25. Tweeted to 5.7 million BarackObama followers and nearly 2 million WhiteHouse followers the President's "It Gets Better" video

  26. Embraced that campaign with heartfelt messages from, as well, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Agriculture (aimed particularly at rural youth), the Secretaries of Education and Health & Human Services, the Secretary of Labor (in English and Spanish), the Director of OPM and LGBT members of the White House staff

  27. Issued a Department of Justice video urging kids to call a Justice Department toll-free number if their school is aware of bullying but taking no action

  28. Held the first ever White House conference on bullying prevention, led by the President and First Lady

  29. Hosted first-ever White House transgender policy meeting

  30. Emphasized the positive value of Gay-straight Student Alliances (GSAs) and advised the nation's school districts of their legal responsibility to allow establishment of GSAs

  31. Appointed the first openly gay man to serve on the federal bench

  32. Nominated the first open lesbian US attorney

  33. Nominated the first openly gay US attorney to serve Texas

  34. Forced the Tehachipi Unified School District to prevent and respond to gender-based harassment 

  35. Acknowledged in federal court the U.S. government's "significant and regrettable role" in discrimination in America against gays and lesbians, arguing that DOMA is unconstitutional.

    Source: E quality giving.

    The other interesting news this week was a leaked internal GOP talking-points memo by circulated by Jan van Lohuizen, who was President Bush's 2004 pollster and highly respected within Republican circles suggesting that Republicans need to evolve fast on gay marriage, or as Andrew Sullivan puts it, "risk their brand for an entire generation." Citing rapid acceleration on this subject by participants in both parties, Lohuizen suggests Republicans support gay marriage, citing it as a conservative value.

    As people who promote personal responsibility, family values, commitment and stability, and emphasize freedom and limited government we have to recognize that freedom means freedom for everyone. This includes the freedom to decide how you live and to enter into relationships of your choosing, the freedom to live without excessive interference of the regulatory force of government.

    Lohuizen's polling closely follows what other polling consistently shows.

    [The full text of the Republican Talking Points Memo and some lulz too]

    In view of this week’s news on the same sex marriage issue, here is a summary of recent survey findings on same sex marriage:

    1. Support for same sex marriage has been growing and in the last few years support has grown at an accelerated rate with no sign of slowing down. A review of public polling shows that up to 2009 support for gay marriage increased at a rate of 1% a year. Starting in 2010 the change in the level of support accelerated to 5% a year. The most recent public polling shows supporters of gay marriage outnumber opponents by a margin of roughly 10% (for instance: NBC / WSJ poll in February / March: support 49%, oppose 40%).

    2. The increase in support is taking place among all partisan groups. While more Democrats support gay marriage than Republicans, support levels among Republicans are increasing over time. The same is true of age: younger people support same sex marriage more often than older people, but the trends show that all age groups are rethinking their position.

    3. Polling conducted among Republicans show that majorities of Republicans and Republican leaning voters support extending basic legal protections to gays and lesbians. These include majority Republican support for:

    a. Protecting gays and lesbians against being fired for reasons of sexual orientation
    b. Protections against bullying and harassment
    c. Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
    d. Right to visit partners in hospitals
    e. Protecting partners against loss of home in case of severe medical emergencies or death
    f. Legal protection in some form for gay couples whether it be same sex marriage or domestic partnership (only 29% of Republicans oppose legal recognition in any form).

    Recommendation: A statement reflecting recent developments on this issue along the following lines:

    “People who believe in equality under the law as a fundamental principle, as I do, will agree that this principle extends to gay and lesbian couples; gay and lesbian couples should not face discrimination and their relationship should be protected under the law. People who disagree on the fundamental nature of marriage can agree, at the same time, that gays and lesbians should receive essential rights and protections such as hospital visitation, adoption rights, and health and death benefits.”

    Other thoughts / Q&A: Follow up to questions about affirmative action:

    “This is not about giving anyone extra protections or privileges, this is about making sure that everyone – regardless of sexual orientation – is provided the same protections against discrimination that you and I enjoy.”

    Why public attitudes might be changing:

    “As more people have become aware of friends and family members who are gay, attitudes have begun to shift at an accelerated pace. This is not about a generational shift in attitudes, this is about people changing their thinking as they recognize their friends and family members who are gay or lesbian.”

    Conservative fundamentals:

    “As people who promote personal responsibility, family values, commitment and stability, and emphasize freedom and limited government we have to recognize that freedom means freedom for everyone. This includes the freedom to decide how you live and to enter into relationships of your choosing, the freedom to live without excessive interference of the regulatory force of government.

    And for some lulz, immediately after President Obama's interview, Fox Nation's website had this on its front page:

    The histrionics of yet another Obama war on values, prompting some mocking from folks on the Internet, and has become a meme. Here's a few of them:

Groovy Kol

The heart and soul of the countryside

I like the idea of playing a relevant vid just for atmosphere while reading something, so here:

80 years have passed since the last time Nelson Mandela, the first black president of South Africa, visited school in his home town Qunu in the Eastern Cape. But even a brief look tells you that the place hasn't changed much since then. Smooth green hills rolling around the countryside, the occasional village house, most of them really shacks, painted in the traditional Xhosa colours, blue and yellow. Indoors - always a similar interior. The beds are lifted a bit from the ground, so that the night ghosts won't get you while you're sleeping. I'm sure the hosts meant the cold air that tends to drift just above the floor, but I wasn't willing to argue. Far to the west, the imposing peaks of the Dragon Mountains are hanging over lush pastures. That's the border with Lesotho, the mountain kingdom. It's like a world taken from a JRRT story, except this one is real. And I was fortunate to see it a month ago during a trip in the countryside.

Nothing suggests Qunu to be a place of pilgrimage. The only modern flat building in town is Mandela's museum. It sits lonely in the center of the village. A lady in green uniform sits there yawning, waiting in vain for someone to show interest in the presentation about Mandela's biography that she has learned by heart.

Until recently, the locals were having big dreams about hordes of visitors, new jobs, and good income. But today, most of them still keep living off of stock-breeding and whatever they can grow in their gardens: mostly spinach, cabbages and bananas.. At least their relatives who've moved to the big modern cities (Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban) still haven't forgotten them. The Eastern Cape is perhaps the poorest province in South Africa. Electricity only arrived there in the late 90s. No ANC government has ever cared about that corner of the country: no bonuses, no stimulus programs, no nothing. Even despite the fact that it's Mandela's birthplace, and practically the cradle of the ruling ANC party itself.

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