Published in: May-June 2004 issue.


Knight Family Drama  The son of California’s most prominent opponent of gay marriage exchanged vows with his partner in San Francisco last March, as David Knight, son of state Senator William “Pete” Knight, married his boyfriend of ten years, Joseph Lazzaro. The elder Knight is a 75-year-old Republican from Palmdale who authored a successful 2000 ballot initiative, Prop 22 or the “Knight Initiative,” that barred same-sex couples from marrying in California. David had come out to his father in 1996, the same year that the Senator’s gay brother died of AIDS. Soon after that, David brought Joseph home for Thanksgiving, and it turned into the classic holiday fiasco. During the Senator’s Prop 22 campaign, David wrote in an LA Times op-ed piece: “I believe, based on my experience, that his is a blind, uncaring, uninformed, knee-jerk reaction to a subject about which he knows nothing and wants to know nothing, but which serves his political career.” Still, his thoughts were on his father as he slipped the ring onto his new husband’s finger. “I want my father to think, just think. I want him to realize that we too are committed to each other.” Based on his previous response to his son’s openness, one can only imagine what Senator Knight will do next to thwart the happiness of gay and lesbian couples.

Calling Dick’s Bluff  George Bush’s decision to push for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage has put at least one Administration official on the spot—and the Log Cabin Republicans (LCR) plan to jawbone it in a national ad campaign. Vice President Cheney, whose daughter is an out lesbian, took a stand in his 2000 debate with Joseph Lieberman that encouraged some to hope that the Bushies would chill on this issue, saying: “The fact of the matter is we live in a free society, and freedom means freedom for everybody. And I think that means that people should be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to enter into. It’s really no one else’s business in terms of trying to regulate or prohibit behavior in that regard. … I don’t think there should necessarily be a federal policy in this area.” Asked again in 2004, he answered blandly that he supported the President’s position. His 2000 statement led some to suggest that Cheney was actually a closet liberal on this issue. The LCR’s ad campaign means to point out the contradiction and challenge Cheney to come out of the closet again in this election year.

Eyeless in Central Park  Studies of homosexuality in animals have opened up yet another front in the religious Right’s campaign to stamp out tolerance wherever it may erupt. A wave of new studies has been confirming that homosexual behavior is commonplace in the animal kingdom, making the claim that being gay is a “choice” seem pretty far-fetched. A study by the Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine found that some male sheep (about eight percent) have a persistent homosexual orientation, and the researchers were able to link this trait to a distinctive feature of these animals’ brains (related to a part of the hypothalamus). Less scientific but widely reported was the story of the long-term love affair between Roy and Silo, two male chinstrap penguins at the Central Park Zoo. The two had mated in adolescence and stayed together all their lives, engaging in all the ritual and affectional behaviors of any bonded pair. It was this story that ruffled the feathers of the far Right, which trotted out a spokesman to claim with biblical certitude that there was no such thing as a “gay penguin.” He even agreed to appear on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, whose Samantha Bee got him to meet her at the Zoo to observe Roy and Silo firsthand. There, he continued to deny the possibility of gay penguins, citing instead the authority of a document written 2,000 years ago in a land that had neither penguins nor zoos.

Nothing to Impair  Even as the Supreme Court was weighing the case of Lawrence v. Texas last year, Justice Antonin Scalia was delivering a keynote speech in Philadelphia for the Urban Family Council, an advocacy group waging a legal battle against gay rights. Scalia addressed the $150-a-plate dinner soon after hearing oral arguments in a case directly concerned with gay rights. A month later, he sharply dissented from the high court’s decision overturning the Texas law. Supreme Court guidelines direct judges to avoid conduct that “would create in reasonable minds … a perception that the judge’s ability to carry out judicial responsibilities with integrity, impartiality and competence is impaired.” Scalia would of course deny that his impartiality was impaired by the speech. Which is technically true, no doubt: the Judge made up his mind about gay rights a long time ago.

Creeping Orwell Watch  Previous BTW’s have reported on the Administration’s efforts to sabotage government funding of research related to HIV and sexual orientation. Now a large study by the Union of Concerned Scientists has reported, among many alarming findings, that the White House ordered the National Institute of Health to investigate over 150 grants related to HIV and GLBT health, all because the “Traditional Values Coalition” had filed complaints about the research. All of their charges proved groundless, prompting NIH Director Elias Zerhouni to state: “That Congress and the Bush Administration should give credence to such specious charges is a scandal.”

Marriage of the Absurd  Just how irrational are marriage laws was a question that writer-prankster Dan Savage set out to answer last March. What would happen if he and his partner of ten years applied for a marriage license in their hometown of Seattle? So Savage and his boyfriend Terry grabbed a few friends, trotted down to the King County Administration Building, and asked the clerk for a license to wed. When the clerk refused, Savage turned to his lesbian friend Amy and asked if she would marry him instead. He then turned back to the clerk, who had presumably witnessed all this, and requested a license for himself and Amy. In doing so, Savage later reported, he emphasized “that Amy and I don’t live together, we don’t love each other, we don’t plan to have kids together, and we’re going to go on living and sleeping with our same-sex partners after we get married.” And guess what? They were issued a license on the spot. Savage had made his point. Here was a “gay marriage,” all right, between two non-heterosexual people who happened to be of the opposite sex, yielding a result that was surely more absurd than that of a committed same-sex couple tying the knot. Or so one would have thought.