Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Can Prejudice be Justified?

By Etan Thomas

By now everyone has heard of the incident that occurred with Professor
Henry Louis Gates and officer James Crowley of the Cambridge Police
department. Just to recap, a woman calls the police to inform them
that two black men are breaking into a house. The police end up
arresting a Harvard professor at his own house for disorderly conduct.
At his own house. President Barack Obama calls the actions taken by
the Cambridge police "stupid," the officers apparently get offended
and return with criticism that the President commented without knowing
all of the facts. As if there was a missing piece of evidence that
supported arresting a man for breaking into his own house and citing
the reason for the arrest as disorderly conduct.

President of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement
Executives Joseph McMillan stated:

Once Gates was identified as the lawful resident of the house, the
police contact should have ended.
Sounds reasonable. Unfortunately, that's not what happened. Officer
Crowley, in describing the chain of events, explains that Professor
Gates was arrested after he proved to him that it was indeed his
house, showed the proper identification, and began to become in
Crowley's words "disorderly." I guess he expected bygones to be
bygones, and to receive an invite for some donuts and maybe a good
laugh at the absurdity of being detained or even questioned for
breaking into one's own house. Or maybe Crowley expected Gates to say
something along the lines of, "Oh, that's O.K. Mr. Police Officer, I
know you were just doing your job and the fact that you treated me
like a common criminal despite the fact that I am a Harvard Professor
with numerous honorary degrees, widely considered one of the nation's
foremost authority on black culture, didn't even bother me. Thank you
for keeping our streets safe."

To add insult to injury, Crowley has proclaimed that he will not
apologize because he feels he did nothing wrong. This father of three
(not sure why articles keep pointing that out so I decided to
reiterate) and police academy instructor on the dangers of racial
profiling, who the Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert Haas describes
as "a stellar member of the department," who Academy director Thomas
Fleming calls "a good role model," described by his colleagues as an
overall wonderful human being, told the Herald, "I just have nothing
to apologize for, it will never happen."

My four-year-old son Malcolm knows that saying you're sorry for
something you have done to offend another person is what you are
supposed to do. He knows that even if it was an accident and you had
no intention of disrespecting or affronting the person, the correct
thing to do is to offer a sincere apology. Oh, if we could all have
the mentality of a four year old.

But to make matters worse, Crowley brings up the fact that he tried to
save basketball star Reggie Lewis with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation,
as if that proves that he couldn't possibly be a racist. What is he
going to say next, that he enjoyed watching every season of The Cosby
Show? Michael Jackson was one of his favorite entertainers? He has
black friends?

President Obama has invited them both to the White House to sit down
and iron out whatever happened. I'm sure they will shake hands, maybe
even apologize to each other for their parts in the incident and take
a picture together or something. However, there is a bigger issue that
this incident has sparked.

An article on called "Obama's Rush to Judgment on
Police" by Maria Haberfeld, professor of police science at John Jay
College, offered a very interesting perspective. In the article she

Police work is about sub-cultural contexts, war stories, about
suspicion, about unpredictability, about danger and fear of one's
life. Police make their decisions based on not just a given situation
but also based on their prior experience, the experience of those they
have worked with and the stories they have heard about incidents that
happened in the past... Police officers hear about these stories and
unlike the members of the public who forget a story no matter how
sensational within a day or two, police carry these stories as their
secret weapons. This is part of their armor. An officer responding to
a burglary in progress arrives at the scene with a heightened sense of
danger, anxious and ready to fighting mode.
Sounds a lot like she is justifying prejudice. So would I be well
within my rights to utilize the same method of thinking that was
described by Professor Haberfeld? Would I be justified in thinking
that every police officer I see is a racist pig? I mean, I have "prior
experiences and the experience of those I have worked with and the
stories they have heard about incidents that happened in the past."
Personal experiences such as being stopped and dragged out of my car
while I was in high school by members of the Tulsa Police Department
and made to lay on the ground while on my way to one of the biggest
games of the season because the officers thought they saw my face in a
lineup or on a mug shot. It turned out they had just seen me in the
papers playing basketball, but I definitely didn't receive an apology.
Or while I was in college being put in handcuffs by the Syracuse
Police Department, in the snow mind you, my freshman year along with
one of my teammates because they thought we had stolen the car we were
in. They actually had the audacity to tell us to stay out of trouble
afterward, but no apology. Or after I was drafted by the Dallas
Mavericks, being stopped by the Dallas Police Department and told that
my Navigator would be impounded if I could not provide proof of a job
that would allow me to purchase a car of that magnitude. Again I
received no apology. Or driving through Virginia on my way to one of
my teammate's house and being stopped by the Virginia Police
Department and asked what business I had in that neighborhood,
detained for hours and later told that I "fit the description" of
something that happened. Still no apology.

As far as "war stories, unpredictability, danger and fear of one's
life," just in the past 5 years there has been an abundance of horror
stories of police brutality. Events that seemingly are forgotten about
by the general public within a day or two that I could carry around as
"secret weapons." Accounts such as the NYPD shooting Sean Bell fifty
times on the morning of his wedding day on November 25th of 2006; the
image of half a dozen Philadelphia police officers beating, kicking
and punching three men while holding them on the ground on May 7,
2008; Oakland transit officer Johannes Mehserle executing 22 year old
Oscar Grant while he was handcuffed and lying face down on the
pavement in January of 2009. Unfortunately I could go on and on with
example after example.

I'm not alone in having personal accounts of "war stories" that could
shift the entire way I look at all law enforcement. President Barack
Obama wrote in his book The Audacity Of Hope:

Although, largely through luck and circumstance, I now occupy a
position that insulates me from most of the bumps and bruises that the
average black man must endure -- I can recite the usual litany of
petty slights that during my 45 years have been directed my way:
security guards tailing me as I shop in department stores, white
couples who toss me their car keys as I stand outside a restaurant
waiting for valet, police cars pulling me over for no apparent reason.
I know what it's like to have people tell me I can't do something
because of my color, and I know the bitter swill of swallowed-back
So my question is, would I or any other black man who shares "war
stories" involving the police be justified, utilizing Professor
Haberfeld's method, in immediately going into "a heightened sense of
danger, anxious and ready to go into fighting mode" type of a
mentality every time I see a policeman? Would I be justified in
prejudging them before knowing anything about them? Do the isolated
incidents in my past and what I have seen justify an overall prejudice
toward all policemen? The answer of course is no.

My Grandfather told me a long time ago that he couldn't put all white
people in the category of devils because he had to judge each person
as an individual. Now, if they prove themselves to be devils, then
that is a different story, but they have to prove that first. He had a
long list of previous experiences that I couldn't even imagine living
through or being able to deal with, but he always concluded that there
are good white people and there are bad white people, just as there
are good black people and bad black people. This is my point: no
matter what our past experiences are, it is not intelligent, nor is it
fair not to see people as individuals. Furthermore, if a policeman is
to prejudge a situation and not have the ability to view it on a case-
by-case basis, he has no business being a policeman.

If not responsibly honed, their power can become catastrophic,
dangerous, destructive and corrupt.

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Jon Stewart vs. Lou Dobbs and 'birthers'

"You just knew this was coming!" said Gawker. "Jon Stewart devoted aDaily Show segment to the birther movement and its enablers in the media last night, a segment he used to eviscerate them thoroughly and hilariously." CNN's Lou Dobbs must be wishing he had never suggestedthe fringe "birthers" might be right to insist Barack Obama wasn't born in the U.S. and is therefore ineligible to be president (watch Jon Stewart's take on Lou Dobbs and "birthers" and watch Dobbs' questions about Obama's birth certificate).

It was great fun to watch Jon Stewart go after Lou Dobbs, said Michael Wolff in Newser, especially when he pointed out "that Dobbs' own network, CNN, had meticulously debunked all of the theoretical circumstances underlying the conspiracy." But that's the beauty of conspiracy theories—they merely buttress beliefs people already have, and in this case the real issue is simply that Barack Obama is not a white American the way all our other presidents were. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

More GOP crazies

People who know me will confirm that my fiscal track record is unlikely to garner an appearance on The Dave Ramsey Show. If a problem has two possible solutions, one costing $10 and the other $1,000,000, however, even I have enough fiduciary stock to be invested with that choice. I would not fail.

Barak Obama has a birth certificate problem. I know about the $10 solution because I read about it myself on Hawaii’s Department of Health (DOH) website. All Barak needs to do to get a certified copy of his birth certificate is go to the Hawaii Vital Records web page with a credit card, and for about the cost of three packs of smokes, they’ll ship it straight to the Oval Office. Strangely, Barak has chosen to pay high-powered attorneys about $1-million to make sure his birth certificate doesn't ever see the light of day. I don't know what the big deal is about $10 but maybe he wants to economically stimulate the attorneys. Or, maybe he's intimidated by the Internet. All I know is, the Obama team defined “tech-savvy" during the campaign, so I’m sure they’ll figure it out soon enough.

Lots of Americans believe Barak Obama’s a genius, a “miracle worker,” practically “divine.” Why Louie Farrahkahn even says he’s “the messiah.” He’s so smart, in fact, that he is healing the U.S. economy, right before our very eyes and for the first time in recorded history, by profligately taxing and spending it back from the brink of eternal destruction to the mount of economic transfiguration. They say he’s gonna do it with Cap and Trade (whatever that is) and Health Care Reform too. Every other country that has tried has failed, but they didn’t have “the messiah.”

I may not be an economic Einstein, but I'd spend the ten bucks and have certified copies of my birth certificate mailed to every plaintiff who has filed suit in a U.S. court alleging that I’m ineligible to be President because I never produced it. I’d never have guessed that spending a million dollars on attorneys to keep my birth record private is a better idea than the ten dollar option, but I guess that’s why Barak Obama is in the White House and I’m still paying rent.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor: What we learned

After four days of confirmation hearings, "what did we learn about Sonia Sotomayor?" said Eva Rodriguez in The Washington Post. Not much. She played "the game of confirmation politics brilliantly," so we know she's "a shoo-in" for the Supreme Court. And thanks to her detailed, frustrating non-answers on issues like gun rights, abortion, and civil rights, we know she's "fluent in constitutional case law." Most of the rest is conjecture.

Amazingly, we may actually know less about Sotomayor than before the hearings, said Dahlia Lithwick in Slate. "Abortion rights advocates and gun groups on both sides are about equally anxious now," as are liberals and conservatives generally. In trying to divine "the 'real' Sonia Sotomayor," we might have been better off "with a Magic 8 Ball" than Senate hearings.

After a rare moment of almost-candor, "some observers thought they detected her tipping her hand on abortion rights," said Charlie Savage in The New York Times. Overall, though, perhaps there's "meaning in the hearing's absence of meaning"—maybe Sotomayor really is the cautious, technical judge she appeared to be before the Senate. Certainly, she never got "flustered or upset."

Sure, she was "moderate in tone and manner" during the "unsatisfying and relatively unilluminating" hearings, saidPeggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal. But that's nothing new with Supreme Court nominees—"they're all a mystery going in and then, paradoxically, cover themselves in a long black robe and reveal themselves." We'll find out "who she is and how she thinks"  soon enough. 

Saturday, July 18, 2009

How to argue with the irrational

Homosexuality isn't illegal, though it wouldn’t be surprising to find a large number of Americans who think it should be. When pressed for the reason why some appeal to religious dogma is likely to be sited. These are the same people who rail against the intrusion into people’s everyday lives in the form of heavy-handed government regulations, yet they are the people who support bans on gay marriage. Of course gay couples will still live as a married couple if they so choose, so why shouldn't they be able to enter into a committed union like everyone else who wants to? After a few rounds of back and forth with someone who want to legislate homophobia you realize that their arguments aren’t rational, so do you persist?

As far as religious arguments go there shouldn’t be any dispute that homosexuality is a sin. It may not make you comfortable and you may not agree but it is right there in black and white and any argument with a Christian trying to support their backward ideas will show it to you if you don’t believe me, just concede that from the get go. What you should not concede is the idea that homosexuality is somehow a worse sin than any other. Somehow gay sex is so sinful that Christians can’t stop talking about it. It has become a bigger sin than all the others and it doesn’t follow any logical argument that it should be elevated to such a high status. It was a choice they made to elevate it and persecute people with because scripture certainly doesn’t single it out as all that important.

And why are they making a religious argument in the first place? If they love America so much why do they hate the freedom of religion? Most people who are against freedom of religion also believe they have a patent on patriotism. Show them how patriotic you are by noting how beautiful a thing the constitution really is. America is in existence because people we looking for freedom from religion, that and to make money. Yes and mention how much money you’re denying caterers and florists who could use the work a bunch of gay wedding would bring. Ask them “Why do you hate America so much?” that should put them in their place. And while you may not want to stoop to such a low blow remember you’re not arguing with a rational person. Say, “If you loved America you’d respect the Constitution and the separation of church and state.”

If you’re going to get into an argument with these people you should understand that they’re argument have no merit and you shouldn’t attack them head on. A number of people with power and resources have interpreted that God does not want gay people to get married because homosexuality is a sin. They may have not chosen to cheery pick verses but someone they listen to has chosen to ignore a lot context. God is also a big supporter of the oppressed. So keep this in mind when getting into a religious argument over homosexuality. Use the story of a group of men about to stone to death a promiscuous woman, they talked to Jesus and He said to them: "he who is without sin cast the first stone." As everyone knows, everybody stepped away.

While people were donating millions of dollars and spending exhaustive hours trying to stop gays from getting married, they could have spent all that money on feeding starving children or paying for medications for those who can’t afford it. While they’re holding up signs saying “God Hates Fags” they could be helping battered women find the courage to leave their abusive husbands or counseling those at risk of committing crime. Are there really that many Christians out there that think God is less concerned with feeding children than He is with how two men love each other? And if He did then why is this a God you worship?

The reality of the situation is that gay marriage is inevitable. One by one every state will legalize it and those millions will have gone for nothing. Any non-believing gay person is now going to be about five times more disinclined to be receptive to a message about Jesus, God, and the Bible because of the negative connotations that have been pressed upon a large majority of the Christian faith. Morality is built on the foundation of a simple tenant, the Golden Rule, do unto other as you would have them do unto you. What would it be like if somebody came along and told them that you couldn't marry the person you were in love with? Gay marriage won’t destroy society, if anything, banning it is only going to encourage promiscuity. And in the end isn’t promiscuity a greater threat to marriage than anything else?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Racism goes mainstream in GOP

Audra Shay, a promoter of despicable hate and racism now serves as the national chair of the Young Republicans organization. The delegates tapped 38-year-old Shay to lead them in a vote of 470 to 415 over the weekend, effectively endorsing hate, racism and bigotry as the now and future platform of the GOP.

The election of the chair of the Young Republicans would have largely gone unnoticed, were it not for the discovery of racial slurs and hate found on Shay’s Facebook page. Certainly, a public endorsement of hate and racism should disqualify a person from becoming a leader of a major political party, but think again. This is the GOP and if anything, despite some outcries from a few fellow Young Republicans, Shay’s display of hate seemed to work to actually embolden her supporters.

Since the historical election of our first black president, Conservatives have become unhinged and have unleashed racial slurs against President Obama the likes this country has not witnessed since the dark days of racial segregation during the 50s and 60s.

What’s worse, GOP racism and bigotry has gone mainstream. When called out on racially insensitive remarks, most Republicans don’t even have the decency to be ashamed, as they reluctantly issue non-apology apologies.

As the ranks of the Republican party shrink and become more concentrated with right-wing extremists, racism LOL-er Audra Shay and others like her who deal in hate-mongering and racism, are becoming the voices and the faces of the Republican Party of the twenty-first century.

The first Facebook post of Shay’s that garnered public attention was her response to a racist post made by her Facebook friend Eric Piker:

“Obama Bin Lauden [sic] is the new terrorist… Muslim is on there side [sic]… need to take this country back from all of these mad coons… and illegals.” A few minutes later Shay responded, “You tell em Eric! lol.”

More hateful posts and racially insensitive comments of Shay’s were discovered in the days leading up to her Young Republicans election, including referring to President Obama in a “noose”

When two fellow Young republicans objected to Shay’s display of racism, she defriended them and allowed fellow racist buddy Eric to remain.

Shay in typical Republican fashion remained largely unapologetic about her racially insensitive and hateful comments, claiming people were out to get her.

A look at Shay’s so called, Team Renewal website reveals a woman who is blissfully unaware of the term irony. Shay takes credit for energizing Young Republicans across the nation writing, “…the only way to change something you don’t like, is to get in and get your hands dirty.” No truer words have been spoken by Shay, the racism LOL-er and purveyor of hate.

Shay also gushes about her important work electing Louisiana Republicans David Vitter to the U.S. Senate and Steve Scalise to Congress. The very married Vitter recently admitted to frequently using the services of prostitutes from the service of the so called, DC Madam.

Allegations later surfaced that he was also a frequent customer of a Louisiana brothel as well, where it’s said he was fond of wearing diapers while using the services of prostitutes.

Shay conveniently overlooks Vitter’s transgressions of infidelity and hypocrisy in a laughable, grammatically challenged statement. “This massive effort to change the state’s leadership is helping to bring Louisiana out of the ethic [sic] hole it has been in, in recent years.”

It appears the not so Young Republican Audra Shay has an “ethic hole” in her head and the Young Republicans certainly are getting what they deserve in choosing an endorser of hate and racism to lead them on their future path.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Is Brüno a force for good or evil?

It seems we can't make up our minds about this caricature created by actor Sacha Baron Cohen. One gay group is screening the movie as a fundraiser for same-sex marriage, another plans to picket it as homophobic.

You must have seen the trailers: Brüno telling a talk show audience that he swapped a black baby for an iPod. Brüno reporting for boot camp in D&G camouflage. D&G? Dolce & Gabbana. Hello?

You thought it was safe to snigger because you had an insider's take on Brüno, because he's gay, just like us. But now some homosexualists are pointing out that he's not funny. Because he's not like us at all.

Vassup? Well, Brüno is a nasty stereotype. He reduces everything to its place in his superficially gay lifestyle. Orphans are accessories. Dildos are weapons. Campfires are for confabbing about Sex and the City. He's a mincing streak of blond with the attention span of a koi, an über-gay cliché who would shame the shallowest twink. This, say Brüno's critics, is the image he is single-handedly laying back on gay men. How many same-sex attracted boys will be abused in the schoolyard for being 'Brünos'? What amount of bullying will occur?

But since it follows that a community can only be afraid of something it feels it hasn't the strength to withstand, to what extent can Brüno be culpable? The only way to protect ourselves from the possible adverse effects of a Brüno is to already be protected in those institutions where the backlash often occurs: schools and workplaces. If Brüno has the capacity to cause grief for gay men, that's an indication that the environment around those men is not robust enough to counter the real life bullies who use Brüno as an excuse to go on a spree.

True, this argument owes something to the gun lobby: 'Brüno doesn't bully gays, bullies bully gays'. But if it wasn't Brüno as the catalyst for bullying it would be the NRLFooty Show, or Jeff Kennett, or Fred Nile, or some punk in the schoolyard. I hope that a gay school student being bullied would know he could report it to a teacher or a counsellor as part of his school's anti-bullying policy. An employee should be confident that if he is harassed in the workplace for his sexuality he will be able to appeal to his company's anti-homophobia policy.

On the other hand, if you believe Brüno is a champion of the gays, slyly highlighting homophobia in mainstream society, then sit back and enjoy the in-joke. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't inquire if your son's – or nephew's – school has an anti-bullying policy inclusive of homophobia.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Borat's back...and this time he's Bruno. Sacha Baron Cohen returns in another comedy masterpiece as he tries to be the "biggest Austrian celebrity since Hitler". 

After the controversy and popularity of 'Borat' two years ago, Sacha Baron Cohen faced what musicians term 'the difficult second album syndrome' for his follow-up cinematic outing.

Opting this time to leave his previous Kazakh alter ego at home in favour of Bruno, a gay Austrian fashion designer, he's managed to do it again - and better.

Just as he did previously on an unsuspecting American public in 'Borat', Cohen again mines comedy from people who unknowingly expose themselves as venal, greedy, ruthless, and utterly foolish. The basic plot, which is little more than a collection of staged skits, follows Bruno's journey to become the "biggest Austrian celebrity since Hitler".

Part of this involves finding a baby to accompany him, and an X Factor-style toddler photoshoot with actual mothers and fathers trying ruthlessly to get their babes into the limelight. Amongst the requirements of the infants, Bruno tells the parents with utter seriousness, are an ability to work with loud noises, rhythm-less music, bees, komodo dragons, and, oh yes, being thrown from a four-storey building! Only one couple hesitates before eventually signing on the dotted line like all the others.

Another has Bruno dressed as a Nazi pushing a wheelbarrow with a Jewish child inside - "but all in the best dramatic taste" - to the complete agreement of the mother. Another parent whose child who weighs 30 pounds is asked to bring the weight down by 10 pounds in six days "because we are looking for the next Nicole Richie, not the next Scarlett Johansson". Naturally, Mom agrees to an immediate slim-fast plan.

Another skit has him appearing on a 'Jerry Springer'-type show, where he arrives with his adopted African child and a t-shirt bearing the word 'Gayby'. Things go from nuts to outrageous when giant screens show pictures of said infant cavorting in hot tubs with grown men and hanging Christ-like from a cross. The final sketch sees Bruno trying the change his gay image a new persona - Straight Dave.

Seeking the ultimate credibility amongst the most anti-homo crowd that can be found anywhere on the face of the earth, he tackles the world of wrestling with his event: Straight Dave Man Slammin' Max Out. Unfortunately his opponent turns out to be…..his ex-lover. They crouch in the ring ready to fight to the death…..but then their eyes meet…..and the romance is again passionately, very passionately, rekindled in front of 10,000 screaming hetros baying for blood. Classic.

Where 'Borat' annoyed due to its non-PC attitude to American sacred cows, Bruno underscores the attitude - while ramping up the outrage even higher. Various celebrities have walk-on parts - Bono, Elton John, Chris Martin and Slash - but the stage belongs to Cohen in another comedy masterpiece that will play very well on this side of the Atlantic.

Once again, he'll be criticised and excoriated in certain sections of the conservative US media, but, by now, that is all part of the 'Bruno' publicity machine. While Cohen did slap on the Austrian attitude for the cameras in London at the film's recent premiere there, much of his effect is diluted in a culture where nutty Austrian behaviour is expected.

In the good old USA, however, he'll no doubt bring out the pointy-hat-and-burning-cross brigade. A terrific antidote to the current doom and gloom and poor weather.

Sent from my iPhone

Thursday, July 09, 2009

How the ’Family Values’ Political Scandals May Benefit Gay Marriage

by Peter Cassels
EDGE National News Editor
Sunday Jul 5, 2009

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford wipes away a tear at (another) press conference.
South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford wipes away a tear at (another) press conference.    (Source:AP/Mary Ann Chastain)
One by one, the so-called "family values" Republicans--including those considered potential 2012 presidential candidates--are falling like dominoes. 

They preach about the sanctity of marriage and the importance of a man and a woman raising children, then get caught with their pants down (literally). Like TV evangelists tearily confessing to marital infidelities, they parade before the cameras to admit breaking their vows.

Here's the good (better?) news: These political promoters of fundamentalist Christian principles who apparently don't bother to practice what they preach could prove to be a windfall for advocates of marriage equality and same-sex family adoptions.

GOP South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford is only the latest. Deserting his spouse and statehouse responsibilities on Father's Day no less, he secretly flew off to Argentina to see his "soul-mate." Pundits believe that every time Sanford opens his mouth he digs himself into a deeper hole. 

Just this week he told AP the relationship existed longer than he initially acknowledged and included some allegedly non-sexual trysts in New York. And, despite his amorous feelings for his Argentine amore, he said in the interview that he wants to make up with his wife. He also reported he had had lust in his heart for other women, but never bedded them.

Before Sanford's startling admissions, U.S. Sen. John Ensign (R-Nevada) confessed to an affair and resigned as chair of the Senate's Republican Policy Committee, but plans to hold onto his seat. 

Then there's married Sen. David Vitter (R-Louisiana), who a while back was caught in the D.C. Madam sting. According to some news blogs, he asked hookers in New Orleans to make him wear diapers. Former Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), famous for his "wide stance" in the men's room at the Minneapolis airport. 

Ater admitting there's something about him "I find really creepy," Gail Collins wrote, in a New York Times op-ed, that Mitt Romney "secretly believes the tide of sex scandals is going to continue to roll through the ranks of the Republican presidential hopefuls until by 2011 he's the only one left bobbing."

Maybe. Attorney Evan Wolfson, founder and executive director of Freedom to Marry, said of "family values" politicians like Sanford, "These people run around the country denying encouragement and support for gay people. That's the hypocrisy of their position."

Part of the purpose of marriage is to bring the support of friends, family and community to people, added the head of the partnership of gays and straight allies working to win marriage equality nationwide, Gays and lesbians who are married or want to do so "need that support and it turns out so does Mark Sanford," he added in an interview with EDGE. 

Wolfson--a pioneer in the marriage equality movement going back to his time at Lambda Legal, the nation's preeminent LGBT advocacy legal group--pointed out that there should be a boundary between what's done in the name of government and society and people's personal lives. 

Conservative politicians with marital infidelities, he said, "don't respect that boundary when it comes to gay people but it turns out they want that boundary honored when they let down the people and show themselves to be hypocrites. But they really shouldn't be able to have it both ways."

Wolfson doesn't believe the central issue is Sanford's infidelity. "It's his abuse of power, his hypocrisy and his dereliction of public duty." He paints all the "family values" politicians who commit marital infidelities with the same brush. 

"They are all self-proclaimed moral crusaders who demonize and discriminate against some of their constituents because they're gay and then turn around and flout the so-called morality that they invoked against gay people," he said. "To me, the really unpardonable part is not their personal failings; it's their political and policy choices that turn out to be so hypocritical and destructive." 

So, then, why do social conservatives insist on linking marriage and religion when same-sex marriage advocates are not asking that religious institutions must marry lesbians and gays, Wolfson says there are really two different groups at play: 

He believes that there are some among the opposition who are truly "theocratic" and would like to impose on others their biblically derived laws in defiance of the U.S. Constitution. But others use religion as an excuse because they are still uncomfortable with gay people and conflicted about the freedom to marry. 

"They can invoke religion as a way of shutting down the conversation," he noted. Those folks are more than willing to respect the boundaries between church and state in other contexts when given the opportunity.

Wolfson told EDGE that those who believe in the Golden Rule would naturally support marriage equality. 

How, then can marriage equality advocates use the "family values" politicians committing marital indiscretions to their advantage? "I think that their hypocrisy speaks for itself and helps move the case for legalization forward," Wolson said. "Because many of them have been the bomb-throwing leaders of the anti-gay campaign, every time one of them is taken out it allows for the fair-minded to think anew and move in the right direction." 

Advocates aren't just sitting by watching the conservative hypocrites self-destruct. They are reaching out to those who are religious and remain on the fence about supporting same-sex marriage. 

Harry Knox is director of the Human Rights Campaign Religion and Faith Program and used to work with Wolfson at Freedom to Marry. "We have to promote our own positive view of what the world would look like when we achieve marriage equality," he told EDGE. "It would be a better place--safer, healthier and more stable for everyone."

One of the program's strategies is "to give a big megaphone," as Knox puts it, to clergy and other people of faith who support the cause.

As part of the efforts to overturn Prop.8, HRC is working with the grassroots organization California Faith for Equality to train clergy on how to be effective in the media and give the public a broader view of the need for marriage equality. 

HRC also promotes "For the Bible Tells Me So," a 2007 documentary featuring five Christian families with gay or lesbian children. A thesis of the film is that much of Christianity's homophobia represents a misreading of scripture, a denial of science and an embrace of quack psychology. HRC offers a study guide and sells the DVD at a steep discount for screenings by groups throughout the U.S.

Peter Cassels is a recipient of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association's Excellence in Journalism award. His e-mail address is

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Saturday, July 04, 2009

A Texas gay raid and Stonewall

What a rough police "check" at Fort Worth's Rainbow Lounge on the
40th anniversary of Stonewall says about gay rights

On the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Raid, Fort Worth officers
raided a gay bar called the Rainbow Lounge and seriously injured a
(Corbis/Andrew Brookes)

The Fort Worth police have "some explaining to do," said
Jacquielynn Floyd in The Dallas Morning News. On June 28, officers
raided a gay bar called the Rainbow Lounge, sending a patron to
intensive care with a head injury. "In what I can only hope is a
spectacularly infelicitous coincidence," it took place on the 40th
anniversary of the Stonewall Raid, the gay-rights movement's
catalyst. The cops' story—drunk gay men groped them—doesn't add

Well, police chief Jeff Halstead is backing his men and their classic
"Gay Panic Defense," said Dan Savage in The Stranger, which goes:
He made a pass at me, so I was justified in beating/killing him. That
would still be illegal, but it's also bunk. "I've been in a
million gay bars" like the Rainbow Lounge, and "gay men don't
grope police officers when they enter gay bars."

It is, "obviously, very sad" that one of the Rainbow Lounge patrons
is in critical condition, said Rod Dreher in BeliefNet, but come on,
the report that "cops who entered a gay bar were set upon by drunk,
horny patrons who played grab-ass with them" is "hilarious," and
not at all far-fetched. Gay people, especially drunk gay people, can
be "as stupid as the rest of us."

Except that the hospitalized man was reportedly drinking bottled
water, said Jeff Epperly in New England's Bay Windows. But 40 years
after Stonewall, this kind of gay harassment goes on all over the
U.S., not just in Texas. The raid at Forth Worth's Rainbow Lounge
"was the work of a police department that wasn't smart enough to
hide its bigotry."

The police may have been at fault or the men in the bar may have
inappropriately and had unwelcome advances towards the officers but
what really concerns me is the overall attitude is to not believe the
police. While there are bad officers, those numbers are fairly small.
You would think they wouldn't be judged until all the evidence is in.

Guilty until proven innocentare you speaking about the cops, or the
patrons?A trained police officer doesn't have to put somebody in the
hospital if they are coming on to themespecially if that person is
drunk. I'm guessing the blood alcohol report comes up clean, and the
officers will get off without any reprimand. You can still bash the
gay and get away with it.