Published in: September-October 2006 issue.


Second Annual Race to the Bottom Award.  Last year’s prize went to the U.S. state with the most vindictive anti-gay-marriage amendment, and the winner was Virginia. This year the award goes to the European Union country that’s been the most flagrant in its violation of the EU’s provisions on sexual orientation. Contention ran high between finalists Poland and Latvia, each of which had witnessed bans on gay pride parades and state-sponsored assaults on gay marchers over the past year. The envelope, please: it’s Latvia, whose parliament just voted to eliminate the provision in its labor law that protects sexual orientation—a law that was passed precisely to secure EU membership way back in 2004. For now, President Vike-Freiberga has vetoed the bill and sent it back to parliament; but parliament appears to have spoken. And the clincher: last year lawmakers amended the Latvian constitution to forbid same-sex marriage, a measure the president signed.

Courting Rejection.  Three young men in Minneapolis became the first to come out openly as gay when signing up to join the National Guard. The action is part of a planned 31-state demonstration against the U.S. military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Assuming they’re immediately rejected for service, the men plan to appeal and then use their hearing to discuss the policy’s unfairness. “The policy makes it clear that I will eventually be rejected based upon my sexual orientation,” said Haven Herrin, one of the three. Sounds like they’ve thought it all through, and of course they’re aware that the military is pretty desperate for bodies these days, what with the Army now hiring high school dropouts and guys with a criminal record. Plus, there are reports of active soldiers declaring they were gay and not being summarily discharged. Hmm, is it just conceivable that some day, out of desperation or sheer boredom, some recruitment officer might say “what the hell” and sign one of these guys up? Read your Joseph Heller, and be careful what you demonstrate for.

Can Marriage Be Saved?  Foes of same-sex marriage always make the argument that changing the definition of marriage will somehow destroy the institution itself. This ought to be a testable hypothesis, suggesting that we should see a decline in marriage statistics once same-sex partnerships are legalized. And now that a number of northern European countries have instituted same-sex marriage or a very close equivalent, we have some test cases. A recent study of the Scandinavian countries found that after Denmark (in 1989), Norway (1993), and Sweden (1995) passed their same-sex partnership laws, the marriage rate for heterosexual couples actually rose in all three countries, even as divorce rates declined (reported in New York Blade, 6/26/06). In Denmark, which got a head start on the others, the marriage rate is now the highest it’s been since the 1960’s. So, when politicians like Bill Frist and Rick Santorum say that same-sex marriage is destroying the institution, they’re flying against the data—unless by “destroy” they mean “increase the rate of.”

Order of the Garter.  In an interview with AARP Magazine, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, referring to Vice President Cheney, remarked: “He was tough, demanding, and when he thought I was out of line, he snapped my garters. … But guess what? He was my boss! He’s supposed to, and let me know where the line is.” Gay bloggers picked up on this interview for that odd “he snapped my garters” remark, which had some people trying to picture the scene literally—or trying not to picture it. More revealing, though, was Powell’s statement that “he was my boss,” because… no, he wasn’t. The vice president has zero constitutional authority over cabinet members, who are appointed by and report directly to the president. One can only conclude that the current occupant of that office knows what it’s like to have his garters snapped by Mr. Cheney.

Reversal of Findings.  Focus on the Family (FoF) must comb the world for scientific studies that seem to bolster their faith, because they love to announce that science is on their side. Alas, the reality-based world is a tougher place than the faith-based one, so they usually have to stretch a point—okay, totally distort the findings—to make their case. Two recent examples:

• FoF could scarcely disguise their glee when reporting a finding that suicide rates for lesbian youths were on the rise, a jump they attributed to “pro-gay advocates” who counseled teens to “embrace homosexuality.” But then the study’s author, Dr. Elizabeth Saewyc of the University of British Columbia, charged that FoF had “hijacked” her research. In fact, what she found was that suicide attempts are highest before girls come out but drop dramatically once they do so. The exception occurs when coming out is met with harassment or lack of support. Thus it’s not “pro-gay advocates” but the purveyors of homophobia that contribute to rising suicide rates—groups like FoF, for example.

• FoF was also taken to task by Dr. Judith Stacey of NYU, who compiled findings from studies that compared outcomes for children in several family types. What she found was that, while children raised in two-parent households do better in some areas than those raised in single-parent homes, it makes no difference if the parents are gay or straight. FoF crowed about the two-parent part of the study, but then claimed that it showed an advantage for opposite-sex parents—exactly what it did not do.

Bah-rum-bum.  A Mounty always gets his man. And hey, why do you think they call them Mounties? If ever there were a set-up for throwaway jokes, this was it, the wedding of two constables of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Indeed, “Mounties” seemed sufficiently evocative that dubbing them “the Brokeback Mounties,” as they came to be known in Canada, seemed almost redundant. But if a reference to Brokeback Mountain was needed to gay up the word “Mounties,” so be it. What the recent movie brought out was a homoerotic undercurrent in the cowboy myth that was there all along but never admitted to. The idea of two Mounties falling in love and getting married brought this undercurrent to the surface and, for classically Freudian reasons, people laughed. It’s why the stand-up comedians had such a field day with Brokeback Mountain: suddenly the truth had set us free. Not that Ennis and Jack are anywhere close to tying the knot in Texas or Wyoming; so their story, unlike that of Mounties David Connors and Jason Tree, still ends in tragedy.