Published in: January-February 2006 issue.


Mysterious Ways  Reporting on Pat Robertson’s geographic fatwas has become sport for the mainstream media, the latest being his curse upon a town in Pennsylvania after it voted off the board of education all eight members who’d promoted “intelligent design” in the curriculum. Before that he was heard to say on national TV that Hurricane Katrina was an expression of God’s wrath for the selection of Ellen Degeneres to host the 2005 Emmy Awards. That one needed a little more explanation. It seems Ellen, an out lesbian, hails from New Orleans; ergo: “Is it any surprise that the Almighty chose to strike at Miss Degeneres’ hometown?” Well, yes, yes it is. Miss Degeneres was nowhere close to New Orleans and was unharmed by the disaster, unlike the multitudes living behind a series of long-neglected dikes (we now know) that were destined to give way sooner or later. We get it. Robertson has read his Genesis and wants to use the parable of Sodom to show that God is wrathful and given to smiting his (i.e., Robertson’s) enemies. Actually, the Bible makes it clear that the Sodomites really were sinners (bad hosts or “sodo-mites,” you decide) and deserved what they got. The people of New Orleans were guilty of living in a city where the emcee of a TV award show once lived. God may work in mysterious ways, but it’s nothing compared to Pat Robertson’s brain.

Fox’s Matchmaker  An odd moment occurred last fall on Fox News—it could only have happened on Fox—when interviewer James Rosen got Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to let her hair down just a little, and closed with what seemed to be—what else could it have been?—an offer to fix Rice up on a date. Rosen: “I close with a gift for you. You met this person once, I believe, but you really, I think, ought to know each other because this woman is, I think you’ll have an interest in knowing her. She is one of our Fox News anchors in New York. Her name is Lauren Green. She is brilliant, she’s beautiful, she’s African American, she’s single and she’s a concert pianist in her spare time.” Rice: “My goodness.” Rosen presents Rice with a CD. Rice: “Thank her very much and I look forward to seeing her sometime.” Now, considering how dotingly Fox News has looked after the Bush administration over the past five years, we have to assume this reporter had Dr. Rice’s best interests at heart. And this gal sounds like quite a catch!

Don’t Tell (Seriously)  It must be indicative of something that while, under the U.S. military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, disclosing that you’re gay used to trigger an immediate separation process, now it’s being preemptively ignored. What it indicates is that a lot of people in uniform don’t want to serve anymore—can’t imagine why—and suddenly “telling” has become a viable way out. Thus the Army Reserves and National Guard have announced the implementation of an obscure policy issued in 1999 with the ominous acronym “forscom,” whereby “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is suspended to prevent soldiers from using this line to avoid tough assignments, say, in Iraq. But spokesperson Kim Waldron was at pains to add that anyone saying they were gay who gets sent off to war—and one gathers many have—will still have to face the music once their tour is over. That’s right, they’re willing to send you off to Iraq to get shot up and live in tight quarters with other sweaty men or women, only to proceed with the court-martial once you’re back home.

Follow-up on the News  Some time ago it was reported here that a barely eighteen boy in Kansas had been convicted for having consensual oral sex with another boy only slightly younger than himself, but technically a minor. Because the sex involved another male, the older boy received a seventeen-year prison term rather than the standard fifteen months for statutory rape. The Kansas Supreme Court has now reversed the sentence and struck down the discriminatory law. Citing the case of Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down all remaining anti-sodomy laws in the U.S., the Kansas court reasoned in a sharp rebuke to the state that the law was a clear attempt to criminalize sodomy. The court also rejected the state’s argument that the law’s intent was to stop the spread of AIDS, noting that “There is a near-zero chance of acquiring the HIV infection through the conduct which gave rise to this case, oral sex between males.” Now if we could only get Kansas to stop trying to suppress the teaching of science…

Deep in the Heart  Back in Texas, things continued their retrograde ways as Baylor University Business School dismissed an advisor from its alumni board solely because he’s gay. Nor did they pull any punches about their reasons for doing so. The guy they fired, Tim Smith, is a corporate executive and a Republican who’s already given the University over $65,000 and raised another sixty grand for a scholarship fund. And he’d been on the board for five years! A spokesman for the Baptist university explained that, despite Smith’s loyal service to the board, under the circumstances they had no choice.

Underlying the Underlying Agenda…  It’s long been a truism that the far Right’s talk of “family values” is a term of art for opposition to gay rights, so laws ostensibly designed to “protect the family” or “defend marriage” really have a purely negative goal aimed at one group. But there’s a minority view that what the Christian Right really wants is to stop all heterosexual couples from co-habiting or having babies out of wedlock or, for that matter, having sex before marriage. The best evidence for this hypothesis is the wording of recent ballot initiatives to amend state constitutions, notably the one passed by Texas last November, that not only bar same-sex marriage but prevent unmarried couples from deriving the benefits of marriage. Then there’s the bill currently before the Indiana state legislature that would make it a crime for an unmarried woman to become pregnant by any artificial means—in the bill’s words, “by means other than sexual intercourse.” Anyone wishing to get pregnant the non-old-fashioned way would need to submit a “petition for parentage” and receive a “gestational certificate,” while failure to do so would carry specific penalties, including prison. (Didn’t Aldous Huxley already dream this up in Brave New World?) In this case, the true target of Miller’s bill is not hard to discern: she has a career-long history of sponsoring laws hostile to GLBT rights.