Monster Jock Among the many bright spots in last November’s election was the defeat of a referendum in Minnesota that would have outlawed same-sex marriage in the state constitution. A factor in this outcome was a widely aired radio commercial featuring a player for the Minnesota Vikings named Chris Kluwe, who had come to bat—sorry, wrong sport—on behalf of marriage equality in September, telling an interviewer that it won’t turn you into a “lustful cockmonster.” Needless to say, his use of this ad hoc vulgarity became an instant media sensation up and down the state. Taking advantage of his new notoriety, Kluwe made the pro-equality radio spot, which played off his “#@!monster” comment (as bleeped). The plotline of the ad has “the government” knocking on Kluwe’s front door and accusing him of using the word “#@!monster,” which isn’t allowed, so he’s under arrest. But wait, this is America, Kluwe protests, where we have freedom of speech—and doggone it, we should also have the freedom to marry whomever we choose! And it really won’t turn you into a lusty you-know-what, so everyone should vote NO on Amendment 1! And the voters did just that. The Kluwe spot was credited with helping to win over the “traditional male” demographic. So, if being reassured by a famous jock that gay marriage won’t turn you into a cockmonster is all it takes to win over some voters, a tipping point really has been reached in public opinion.
Oy, Cousin! One of the side shows in the election was the race of Josh Mandel (R-Ohio), who became noteworthy for being the youngest candidate running for the U.S. Senate and for his “severely conservative” positions on climate change (a hoax), abortion (ban it), and Obamacare (total repeal). But it was his position on GLBT rights—his call for a permanent prohibition on same-sex marriage in Ohio—that prompted his own relatives to take out an ad in The Cleveland Jewish News blasting Mandel for his stance. Nine cousins signed an open letter to the would-be senator (who serves as state treasurer now), including members of the Ratner family, a prominent Jewish family in Cleveland that Mandel married into. Addressing the candidate directly, they wrote: “It hurts us that you would embrace discrimination against … loving couples in Ohio and around the country.” One can only imagine what Thanksgiving dinner was like around the Mandel-Ratner table this year. The fact that Mandel wound up badly losing the election, which at one time he was favored to win, cannot have helped the atmospherics.
Hidden Agendas If additional evidence were needed that the radical Right is getting more radical and more right-wing, look no further than the shifting agenda of the American Family Association (AFA), a conservative evangelical group which has been fighting GLBT equality for 35 years. For the last eleven of those years, a nationwide initiative called “Mix It Up Day” has been held at some 2,500 U.S. high schools, a day on which students are encouraged to mingle with people from different backgrounds. But this year the AFA decided that the program has a hidden agenda, that it’s part of “a nationwide push to promote the homosexual lifestyle in public schools … another thinly veiled attempt to promote the homosexual agenda,” and should be boycotted. (Most schools participated on October 30, though many canceled the event for reasons unknown.) But this is a curious charge, since the program was launched by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group more closely associated with racial issues than with sexual orientation. The question must be raised: who was the AFA really going after when it attacked the “homosexual agenda,” something you can still get away with doing in this day and age? Clearly “mixing it up” has always been understood primarily in ethnic terms, so the specter of another kind of hidden agenda cannot be ignored.
We Have Interlock An article in The New York Times went where the Times rarely goes, deep inside the porn industry, where it detailed the extraordinary lengths to which the industry goes to avoid HIV transmission. From weekly blood tests to full-body inspections by medical experts, adult film studios have taken the threat very seriously, and the result has been a very low rate of HIV infection in an industry where multiple partners are a foregone conclusion. But the most intriguing part of the prevention program is a greeting ritual for actors about to get it on whereby they flash their cell phones to reveal their latest lab report, which covers all the major STDs. The article proposes that a similar practice could reduce HIV transmission in other high-risk populations—which raises the spectacle of would-be sex partners flashing their mobiles to each other, perhaps for a “hookup” of a different kind, before embarking on the real thing. To put this into a gay context, will Grindr one day allow you, while cruising the disco on a Saturday night, to screen potential dates for STD appropriateness? And how about some advice on safe sexual positions for a given pairing? Come to think of it, such an app is probably in the works as we speak.
Oligarchs of a Lost Cause It was reported that the leading U.S. entity opposing marriage equality, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), saw its donations plunge last year—from $9.1 to $6.2 million. Worse, over 75% of that new total came from just two donors, each of whom gave about $2.4 million. As the Human Rights Campaign observed, NOM can hardly call itself a “grassroots organization” when so little of its revenue comes from rank-and-file supporters. But this is in keeping with a general pattern observed in the first post-Citizens United election, when wealthy individuals found they could promote any candidate or crusade, however crackpot, just by dumping unlimited funds into their personal “Super PAC.” (Someone had to be keeping Newt Gingrich afloat all that time!) As for same-sex marriage, it has come to this: there are exactly two people left in America who care enough about stopping it that they’re willing to fund its defeat in states like Maine and Maryland and Washington, but even that wasn’t enough to win at the ballot box. Let it be stated that those two guys who gave $2.4 million apiece got a pretty lousy return on their investment.