Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

How Newsweek Got It Wrong On Gay Rights

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | December 23, 2009 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, gay rights, LGBT rights, Newsweek, predictions

No one reading my columns here and knowing my view of LGBT rights in the Obama era will mistake me for a dewy-eyed optimist. At the same time, however, the prediction that "Obama does nada on gay rights" in 2010 is beyond bold and moves into the realm of just plain silly.

There won't be as much progress as progressives, including myself, would like, that's for sure. That's why we're called progressives. To say that there will be none, however, has a certain quality of sheer spite to it. There is movement on important LGBT rights issues that will continue into 2010 and could result in some important victories. Such victories are by no means assured, but despair is the enemy of victory.

Why would Newsweek, which has run many stories strongly sympathetic to LGBT rights, make such a wrong-headed and defeatist prediction? Anyone with any experience in legislative work knows that there are many ups-and-downs in a legislative campaign. Witness the health-care reform effort, in which the reform advocates have just pulled a health-care rabbit out of a Senatorial hat after weeks and months of moaning about the intransigence of the Senate. Admittedly, it's a sickly heath-care rabbit, and in dire need of a Medicare card, which it's not going to get, but a rabbit is a rabbit.

Have the journalists at Newsweek, hard-headed veterans of the ups-and-downs of many legislative campaigns, been assimilated by the Borg? In a word, yes. If you believe Newsweek, resistance is futile. Let me just say one thing: do not drink the kool-aid.

Here's the reasoning behind the prediction (emphasis added):

Patience became the 2009 mantra of the gay rights movement, which generally supports Democrats. Many activists believe that in his heart Obama supports their flagship issues: the ability to serve openly in the armed forces, to be protected from employment in the workplace, and the right to marry (even though he's on record as favoring civil unions over marriage).

But they've received almost nothing for their troubles. What the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community has learned this year is that the president is ultimately a pragmatist. Although his very presence in the White House is the stuff of culture wars, Obama himself is reluctant to wade into one. Moreover, if socially divisive policies have the potential to compromise his legislative agenda, Obama has proven that he simply won't pursue them. Expect this tension to become more acute as the 2010 elections loom--and for gay rights to be shunted aside again. The last thing this pragmatist president will do is hand election-year ammunition to an already energized conservative base that's venomously opposed to gay marriage.

shining_redrum.jpgDo you see it? If you read this upside down and backwards in a mirror, certain codes become clearer. EGAIRRAM. Hmm, egairram, egairram. Why does this sound so familiar? Wait, what's Redrum backwards? Damn, I left my mirror on the set of The Shining.

Newsweek has been assimilated into the quixotic "marriage rights=gay rights" crowd. There are some gay advocates who believe that marriage is the be-all and end all of LGBT rights. From that viewpoint, since Obama is not going to deliver marriage equality in 2010, there will be "nada" on gay rights.

Here's Newsweek's photoessay on "Gay Rights Around The World", two-thirds of which is about marriage. Here's Newsweek's recent interview with Tim Pawlenty, where they ask him about his views on gay rights ("I know you are opposed to gay marriage, but what about medical benefits for same-sex couples?"), and then encourages him to disparage transgender people. Here's their article on "Gay Rights 2.0", which wonders whether ENDA and adoption rights can really be as inspiring as marriage rights. Here's one on "How Getting Married Made Me An Activist" by a Newsweek editor. Here's a Newsweek video that contrasts stuffy old Congressman Barney Frank and HRC head Joe Solmonese by interspersing a fresh-faced young marriage activist saying "if we had marriage first that would help with ENDA and Don't Ask Don't Tell." Then there's "Why You Can't Stop Gay Marriage and Marijuana." And "N.Y. Senate Votes Down Gay Marriage--Time for Federal Action?," a ludicrous idea since the federal government has no power to create marriages, only to give or deny federal benefits.

Wake up, Newsweek! There is a gay agenda, but you seem to be unaware of it. ENDA, which you have largely ignored in your reporting, is next. I know it's not marriage, but for lots of us regular gay folk down here in the trenches, it's what's next.

I agree with Alex Blaze, whose opinion on a recent overwrought "Oh, Where Is The Gay Marriage We Were Promised?" article on CBS mirrors Newsweek's dire predictions. In his marriage-advocate's taxonomy, Newsweek appears to be firmly in the "marriage-focused" category. Actually, my guess is that there is a marriage-focused clique over at Newsweek that's gained the ascendancy, because I have read articles in Newsweek about the importance of other issues in gay rights, so I know there are other, more intelligent opinions in the mix.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all in favor of marriage equality. I have a spouse and I have been discriminated against based on marital status. But there are many LGBT people who can't get and keep a decent job. Marriage shouldn't come before that.

If Newsweek's predicting abilities are as bad as their proofreading (it says we're fighting "to be protected from employment in the workplace" at the end of the first paragraph), then I am concerned about the accuracy of this prediction, and, more importantly, its dampening effects as a self-fulfilling prophecy. I'm not saying it's in the bag, mind you, just that we're not out of the race.

I'd also like to note that our legislative agenda is not up to President Obama, though it's going to take work on his part to whip Congress into line. So the "Obama Does Nada" meme makes its sound as if President Obama is sitting there with a big red button on his desk labeled "Press Here For Gay Rights", but he's too busy to push the button. Frankly, Speaker Pelosi's threat that she's going to hold up controversial legislation in a crazy game of chicken with the Senate is much more problematic than anything President Obama is doing or not doing. .

As far as the idea that ENDA definitely won't pass, it's foolhardy. Yes, it's been made more difficult by the foolish delays, and it's going to take a hard push. But the House vote is assured, and the Senate is missing only a few votes. Yes, there is a chance that something unforeseen could happen. But the Newsweek prediction says nothing about that.

DADT repeal, the next item on the agenda, has been promised for 2011, so that's clearly not on the agenda for 2010, though there promises to be much preparation, as there are hearings on the horizon.

So why put up the STOP sign now, Newsweek?

True, DOMA repeal is moving slowly. And the federal government doesn't have jurisdiction over state marriage rights. I suspect that the marriage-focused clique at Newsweek is having a fit of pique over that. But haven't you ever heard that getting controversial legislation passed takes time to build support? That incremental progress is often a better strategy than trying to get everything at once?

Wait..."incrementalism"...where have I heard that before? (Oh, right...I suppose it applies to us but not to them.)

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Newsweeek has taken a hard right, or maybe more properly, "anti-left" turn lately. I'm not sure why since the hard right turn taken by the Washington Post has worked out soooooo well for them.....

You are a dewy eyed optimist.
Happy Holly-days

Dewy-eyed, perhaps, optimist, no. I don't believe ENDA is going to get passed without a hard fight. But I don't think a prediction of no results is in order. Why do you think it is?

I honestly think, Jillian that it isn't a no-hope thing as much as it is a long shot. Still worh the effort to try and move them though. That said, you are still a dewy eyed optomist. And a good hing that you are. It was not in any meant as an insult, It is the idealists who move the world forward.

"Speaker Pelosi's threat that she's going to hold up controversial legislation in a crazy game of chicken with the Senate is much more problematic than anything President Obama is doing or not doing."

Speaker Pelosi is doing the same thing that Obama is - self preservation. That's what politicians do.

NewsWeek simply predicted the obvious: the Senate will not pass LGBT Legislation until we change some Senators or the minds of their constituents.

Given that reality, finding something more productive to do, would make a lot more sense than wishing and hoping.

"There are some gay advocates who believe that marriage is the be-all and end all of LGBT rights."

Really? Name one. As a self-identified straight woman, it takes a lot of hubris to dictate priorities to gay people and to misrepresent what gay advocates say.

As far as marriage goes, at the beginning of December 2008, there was one state that recognized it. This month, there are five. Plus the nation's capital. Plus a further 2 states that enacted civil union status, one by popular vote. Plus a somewhat lesser DP statue in Wisconsin. Plus a court victory in which we kept alive 18,000 marriages in CA. Not to mention developments abroad, including full marriage recognition in Portugal and Mexico City.

So 2009 was actually the best year for gay marriage since the issue came into existence. Maybe if TPB would employ more gay writers in lieu of condescending self-identified straights, that information would get out.

I hope you're not thinking that I am a "self-identified straight woman," because that is not how I identify. As far as hubris, sounds like there is enough to go around. I'm so glad to hear that this was a banner year for marriage, but I don't see the relevance to the point in the post. Could you explain?

Boy, Michelle, Calling saving 18,000 marriages in California a victory is a stretch! It was a disastrous defeat in that the state supreme court did not have the guts to support its own ruling on marriage and let an uncontitutional amendment to the California constitution stand which will force us to spend MILLIONS to overturn it if the Federal courts don't do it in the meantime.

And the marriage issue has become the end-all measure of glbt equality.

What was the last "equality" rally you attended where problems of our youth or seniors were discussed. No, the word "equality" has become the watchword for same sex marriage and the rest of the glbt community be damned.

Well, I certainly don't think the court decision was a big victory. What I was doing was comparing where we were at the beginning of this supposedly horrible year for gay marriage and comparing it to where we are now. And at the beginning of the year, all of those 18,000 marriages were in jeopardy of being wiped out. Now, they are a legal reality and will be for decades to come. That is a net plus for 2009 so I included it.

Also, these 18,000 marriages are important for two other reasons. First, it is a huge group. I would guess that the CA marriages alone are much greater than all of the marriages in all of the other marriage equality states combined. This is a huge group of people who can, just by living their lives, show the rest of America that gay marriage is nothing to be afraid of.

Second, by upholding these 18,000 marriages, the definition of marriage has changed. Protecting the definition was the key objective of the Yes on 8 gang, and they failed. If there is even one marriage that is fully recognized and is not one-man-one-woman, the definition has changed.

And now CA can see that changing the definition to include us does not bring on any of the horrible consequences that Frank Schubert dreamed up. So while we didn't get the full win in court, the 18,000 matter a lot more than you would think

Well said Michelle. It does not serve our dysfunctional movement to blame marriage equality on the difficulties associated with ENDA. ALL LGBT issues are challenging. If we can't get past the US Senate (which we can't) we should do whatever else we can.

It seems unhappy people never run out of blame. They also fail to understand that blame doesn't produce anything - it only defers progress.

Ah, Andrew, my single-minded friend, welcome back. I did not blame ENDA difficulties on marriage in this post. I said that Newsweek seemed to be marriage-focused in making its prediction, and counting out passage of ENDA as a possibility too soon.

I don't mind you calling me unhappy and blaming, but at least call me names that relate to the points I have made, instead of some imaginary points.

It's perfectly okay for you to ignore the facts Jillian - it works for you. But, it's unfortunate if others actually believe you, because that would be a tremendous waste of time and hope.


I appreciate your attempts to engage Dr. Weiss, but you'll never get anywhere. She, like the other trans writers on this blog, are waging a war to de-emphasize marriage equality because it is not a trans priority. You see, deference only works one way in this "LGBT" concoction. Gays and lesbians must be ever so careful to be "trans-inclusive" in everything they advocate. But trans activists are free to diminish our priorities in favor of their own. They can only get away with it if we acquiesce.

I find it interesting, Michelle, how you lump all the "trans writers" together, waging a "war" on marriage. If you took the time to look, you'd find a range of opinion in the trans community on Bilerico on this issue. I myself stated my commitment to marriage equality in my post, but noted that it is not the be-all and end-all of gay rights. Some gays and lesbians also are not too hot on the marriage issue jumping to the front of the line. There's no conspiracy of the transgenders against the gays.

However, I openly admit to your charge that I am concerned about the way in which a major part of our focus and resources have been put into marriage battles. The LGBT community as a whole is fairly apathetic about ENDA, partly because it has been de-emphasized in terms of focus and resources. Newsweek seems to believe that because President Obama is not in favor of marriage equality, he will do nothing about gay rights. That's a mistake, and it could further weaken efforts to pass ENDA because people will assume it can't win.

I understand that you're mad at me for not being on your marriage bandwagon in the front of the line. I also understand that you, and many others in the gay community, see my insistence on getting ENDA passed as "diminishing" marriage. That is exactly the problem I wrote about in this post.

"Some gays and lesbians also are not too hot on the marriage issue jumping to the front of the line. "

What line?

I think Michelle is correct. I've tried to engage you in a conversation, but you refuse you never respond in kind. Instead, you march along with your hopeless "political wishes" and when they don't work you blame everyone. Now you're blaming NewsWeek and us. Well, the good news is you don't have anyone else to blame.

Maybe this will lead to some useful conversation.

Engaged? Engaged?? Andrew, are you proposing???

But there are many LGBT people who can't get and keep a decent job. Marriage shouldn't come before that.

I disagree with that. There are situations where marriage is actually important to low-income couples. For example their unmarried status is preventing them from getting financial aid for school, which also prevents them from getting a decent job.

I don't agree with putting anything before or behind anything else. Lets get what we can passed in whatever order we can.

I don't know what Newsweek's problem is lately. The Pawlenty interview was just awful, and that was done by Howard Fineman. It was like he just went stupid.

Obama never even promised marriage though he said he believed he could get DOMA repealed. I'd be surprised if anyone believed he could get it repealed in his first term though. Right now gay marriage is a state fight.

I thought there was talk of attaching repeal of DADT to the 2010 Defense budget?

The DADT repeal is to be attached to the 2011 Defense budget. I'm not sure exactly when that would happen.


Regarding: "For example their unmarried status is preventing them from getting financial aid for school, which also prevents them from getting a decent job."

Could you explain that further and provide a verifiable source?

I am the source. I couldn't qualify for financial aid for school until I turned 25 because I was considered dependent on my parents unless I was married. I had been living with my girlfriend from the time I was 20, 3,000 miles away from my parents.

I don't buy the whole "marriage is about love" bit. We've been together 12 years without marriage--that's love. I just want the government to recognize that we're responsible for each other in every way.

Everyone, not just the government, needs to recognise that queers are responsible for each other, including the people they're not married to or in romantic relationships with. And that's true for straight people as well, many of whom are in kinship networks that aren't recognised as such.

But I do think it's a stretch to assert that "their unmarried status is preventing them from getting financial aid for school, which also prevents them from getting a decent job." Your individual experience is not typical of every other queer in your situation. So, if you were married and below 25 years of age, you could be a non-dependent and therefore eligible for financial aid. But you're assuming that all poor queers would a) want to be married b) should/should be able to get married in order to gain benefits like financial aid. What's screwed up about the law stating that someone who is not yet 25 is either dependent on their parents or their spouse is that it refuses to acknowledge that the alleviation of economic inequality should not be tied to filial or marital status. What happens to poor queers who simply don't want to get married but would like financial aid anyway? In your case, the fairest thing to do would have been to base your financial aid on need-based criteria. And 25, I'm sure you'll agree, is too high an age, given that a lot of people begin college at age 19 or so. It would make more sense to reduce that age to, perhaps, 21 or even 18. We let people take jobs at much younger ages, so why not give them financial aid as well?

The law as it stands is deliberately skewed towards those who can afford to put themselves through college or can claim dependency on others. THAT'S the problem. The same is true for straight people in the same economic situation who don't want to get married. And, contrary to what the marriage machine is telling us, that's the vast majority of straights these days.

And, further down the road, there are a host of issues that come up - health care, for instance - which have nothing to do with marriage being a benefit or not. Sure, if you're one of the lucky few with health insurance - the kind that doesn't leave you bankrupt because the insurance company contests your every single claim above a certain dollar amount - you *might* be able to share it with your partner. But who can depend on a job these days, leave alone health insurance?

There is still a fundamental form of job discrimination built into the job market for queers. Queers looking for any jobs, in any industry - including the supposedly progressive worlds of academia and management - are also likely to be discriminated against at the initial hiring level if they're either out or not out in the right way (i.e, if they're not the safe-looking and acting Abercombie and Fitch-style gays, for instance). In which case, getting financial aid because you could claim dependency on your same-sex spouse would matter not a whit.

I'm assuming that all queers ought to have a choice. I'm not assuming all queers want to get married. I don't think marriage is for everyone. But I'm so getting tired of being dogged by other queers because it's right for me and my relationship. I actually do know what I need.

I lived in South Carolina for 7 years with my girlfriend, a state without one single protection for LGBTs. No state ENDA, no hate crimes legislation, nothing. Plus, a marriage ban that bans civil unions, domestic partnerships and any marriage-like benefits. The ONLY thing that will get rid of that ban on "marriage-like benefits" in that state is federal action lifting the marriage ban. Though, I realize that queers in South Carolina aren't deemed that important.

I'm 33, been with my girlfriend for 12 years, have not had health insurance since I turned 18. I'm already further down the road and I'm aware that the road would've looked way better for me right now had we been married a long time ago.

Sure, when I was 20 I was all "we don't need marriage." And we've stayed together through some real hard times--times that'd make most straight couples give up. But what we went through and are going through is totally impractical and unnecessary. I don't have the resources or time to try and reinvent the wheel by seeking to change a thousand policies instead of expanding marriage.

And I admit that I am selfish because I am interested in self-preservation. Single people and people who want to remain unmarried are more important to you. Great, follow your passion, fight the fight you wanna fight. And I'll fight mine based on what I know I need and want for my family.

Sure queers should support each other...in their life choices. I know I'm not a universal example. And frankly, I don't know how many of us can be called a universal example.

I hear people talk about what poor LGBTs need. I admit I'm not homeless and there are queers way worse off than me. I'm more like lower-middle class and I'm not in any position to be able to help those with less than me. If my girlfriend were married maybe that would be different. Maybe we all rise together. Maybe what's wrong is a combination of the LGBTs in the upper-class living in a rainbow bubble and those of us in the middle just not having enough power to help the truly impoverished and vulnerable among us.

I doubt there's a person here who would or could be unsympathetic to your situation. But no one who's critical of marriage as the largest priority for queers is arguing that any wheels need to be reinvented. Rather, I think we're simply stating a simple fact - that asserting that marriage is the way to gain essential benefit like health care or financial aid is the real reinventing of the wheel. I think you could agree that health care, which you currently lack, is a basic human right. Canada up north is hardly the utopia some of us imagine it to be, but they got health care and other critical benefits (including employment protections) right the first time around and there's a good reason why Canadian queers aren't rushing to get married.

If South Carolina has no protections whatsoever for queer people, I doubt it has any protections for vast segments of people: women, racial and ethnic minorities, workers, etc. Marriage will not solve all the other issues that doubtless impact the other parts of your identity. You may well only identify as queer, but I doubt that the systems you occupy see you as just queer.

The question isn't about whether or not we can "help" the more vulnerable among us, the question is how do we ensure that the most vulnerable aren't left to go begging or forced to endure relationships they don't want to be in. Human rights are not about charity, they're rights.

Based on your rather personalised statement, "Single people and people who want to remain unmarried are more important to you," it's obvious that you've already decided that this is simply a personal issue.

I'm sympathetic to your need for self-preservation, but not to your assumption that everyone who's critical of marriage comes from some uncomplicated place of simply wanting rights for single people. Most of us occupy multiple places and identities, and we're impacted differently by all of those to the extent that it's impossible for us to believe in the canard that marriage will alleviate our problems. A lot of us who might be in worse situations than you don't believe that marriage should be our only way out.

For those many others who are actually interested in seeing how the marriage fight does deplete resources from all the other parts of our identities, and why marriage does nothing to alleviate queer poverty, I recommend Ryan Conrad's piece on the Maine battle:


And for those interested in seeing the very real ways in which we can institute change without depending on marital status, I recommend Nancy Polikoff's blog as a resource:


Nothing I've ever read by you speaks to any of the issues that rural queers face. So, I sort of have a bias here.

The question isn't about whether or not we can "help" the more vulnerable among us, the question is how do we ensure that the most vulnerable aren't left to go begging or forced to endure relationships they don't want to be in.

Like, say, heterosexual ones? Marriages of convenience that already happen?

I don't believe marriage is a civil right, I do believe it is proof of civil rights. Just by having the legal right to marry, you gain political power whether you actually use that right or not.

The women's rights movement completely redefined marriage where instead of being considered property they were elevated to being an equal partner, not just in their marriages but in society. And, being female, I've benefited from that even though I'll never marry a man.

That then paved the way for overruling anti-miscegenation laws because if marriage is between two free and equal people, and people of color are free and equal, then they must be allowed to marry whites. Gay marriage will again redefine marriage. It doesn't mimic heterosexual marriage. It can't. Queer is queer. If anything it will make straight couples realize they don't have to be stuck playing the predefined gender roles in their relationships.

The straight conservative religious people in rural areas see queers as a lost cause. When one of their gay kids comes out to them, they think they're hopeless because they're never going to be able to get married and have a "normal" life. So they kick them out, because they're useless and have no future.

The Catholic roots in Maine are deep going back to colonial times. You can't dig them out. I know you can't 'cause my roots are there. You can't radically change society as much as you'd like to.

So how do you change the environment there? If parents believe their gay and trans kids have some kind of chance of a future, which in their culture is marriage, they'll be less likely to kick them out. And it doesn't really matter if that kid eventually does get married. All that matters is that, at least for the time being until they become independent, their parents aren't rejecting them. And then they can leave home and do whatever the heck they want.

Rural areas have very little to offer unmarried/non-partnered people, unless maybe someone is celibate and wants to live alone with nature or whatever. There are fewer homes for single people. And you'll run out of people to date fairly quickly since it's more sparsely populated. It's just a whole different set of issues and it's really hard to survive without being part of the community--I don't mean the queer community, but the townships. The queer population is too small in rural areas to be an independent bubble as it is in cities.

I don't think marriage is the end all be all, but it is a part of it. And all the straight allies donating to marriage campaigns wouldn't be donating to anything else. I don't think many of them would even be allies. Marriage is something that straight people can relate and identify with.

Are you against spending time and effort repealing DADT? Just wondering because that issue will probably affect the least amount of queers.

By the way, I don't live in South Carolina any more. I live in California...rural California (Del Norte County). I now have way more rights, and yet I still feel strangely invisible to the queer community out here. Thankfully there's the Internet.

Your comment sheds light on the issues facing rural queers, and I do feel quite strongly - despite what you flippantly refer to as my "bias" - that the concerns of rural queers are frequently overlooked by the gay mainstream. Which is why I referred everyone to Ryan Conrad's piece on Maine, which places emphasis on rural Maine. If you'd read that, you'd see that rural queers' issues go beyond anything marriage can resolve.

As for the bit about queers redefining marriage - simply put, no. I'll expand on that more fully in the coming months in a newer piece, but for now let me just say that the problem with marriage is not whether or not it grants equal rights to people in a marriage, but the way the state uses it to validate certain relationships over others, in matters as basic as health care. But on that, we are far apart - you've made it clear that the inequality of that system is not a problem for you, and that you - and many others - would simply like to have access to the unequal benefits that would be granted to you by marriage. Social justice is not your concern.

As for "Just by having the legal right to marry, you gain political power whether you actually use that right or not": really? What political power do you have in your job if you're not unionised? What political power do you have if there are no employment discrimination laws in place? What political power does a not-quite-proper-looking trans youth have if he's queer-bashed and the police won't even record his experience because they think he asked for it by dressing the way he did? What political power do you have if you are discriminated against on the basis of your gender or your gender expression or your sexuality, and if the discrimination is something you know for sure but would have a hard time proving? (keep in mind that I'm not referring to simply *your* situation, but asking about what faces others in countless other places) And I could go on, but it's difficult to counter the marriage myopia of Gay Inc, which has convinced so many that marriage is the silver bullet.

By your own reductive view of the world, the only people who can speak to the experiences of the disenfranchised queers you refer to are the people inhabiting your *exact* experience, and queers only suffer from issues that can be resolved by marriage. It's also intriguing to me that your experience shifts with every comment - you're now based in Southern California, a fact which makes the issues you speak of vary quite significantly. And, amazingly, you're also from Maine now. Again, to the contrary of what you might think, this only proves what I've stated before - there is no universal rural queer experience, and it's insulting to assume that rural queers everywhere want or need exactly what you want or need.

You ask what can be done to change environments? I'd say very little if queers like you are determined that the only queers who deserve any rights are the ones who can be validated by a completely normative system. You've made it clear that rights should only come to us via marriage and you've also painted a picture of rural queers where the only issues that matter are the issues of class ascendancy - in your world there's no AIDS, no lack of queer-focused sexual education, no access to pregnancy prevention information or condoms (yes, queer kids also have sex that results in pregnancies), no queer-bashing in schools and in public, no discrimination at work, no fears of losing jobs, no loss of vital social support that can actually help them when their parents kick them out (again, you'd know of what I speak if you read Conrad's piece), nothing that can't be solved by this fiction that the right to marriage endows special political agency to queers.

I'd hoped for an engaged response, but this is becoming to resemble one of those many conversations I've endured with internet trolls who have too much time and too many lives/personae on the internet. And the city mouse/country mouse straw arguments you've set up are just too reductive (not to mention that while much of what you write is indeed true, they also rely on our easiest and most uncomplicated assumptions about non-urban populations).

I don't sense any political energy in your posts, and you don't have to have any (and, honestly, at this point, don't know where else you will turn out to be from or who). But if you are concerned about how to change things - get off the internet and organise, or even use the internet to organise on a preliminary level, or at least make yourself familiar with more than the cliches. Queer history - including my own - is full of queers who mobilised in the areas you describe, and they haven't simply relied on marriage and god to validate their efforts. There's a rich body of work on queer rural/non-urban metropolis history and a great deal of activism going on outside cities, and I encourage you to learn more about it.

I was going to offer that you should feel free to contact me via Bilerico if you'd like me to put you in touch with people who are actually doing fantastic work outside marriage and outside cities. But then, I suspect, you will simply respond that you're not interested or that you've worked with all of them. In every state I could possibly name. And, I suspect, you're not interested in change, just more of the status quo.

Have a restful holiday weekend.

I should add that I was wrong when I wrote of you referring to my bias in the first sentence - that was due to a misreading, and I apologise for that.


I'm looking at your ENDA Senate spreadsheet and cannot fathom how you have 52 YES. The actual number is closer to 40. We don't count possibles, only committed.

And how is Blance Lincoln "unconfirmed"? She has said NO, it was reported just a few months ago. You addendum says "disavowed"...does that mean a YES? And you do realize she is up for re-election in November? Do you see her voting for ENDA before then ... if ever? I do not.

Sorry but this op-ed is more Bilerico "Don't Blame Obama" dewey eyed optimism. Newsweek's prediction wasn't rocket science. The health care fight was bruising, Blue Dogs are defecting and many are vulnerable. Reid, Pelosi and Obama will not push ENDA in an election year. And Obama, who wouldnt even fight for the public option, won't fight for anything besides his re-election. And the president, who heads the party and sets the policy agenda, has a helluva lot more power and influence over what comes to his desk than many of you pretend.

Oh and what about DADT? You never mentioned that.

I'm not even going to touch DOMA/marriage since that is a long term issue and more likely eventually struck down in courts. Back to DADT. If there is not a DADT amendment to the Authorization Bill submitted in February, its very doubtful it will happen as a standalone bill this year. With no Senate sponsors.

One more thing: If there is no movement in 2010 on ENDA or DADT (and I doubt there will be), and there are some likely Democratic losses in 2010 ... you do realize it will be much more unlikely to get movement in 2010-2012 with fewer Democratic votes?

Of course if I'm wrong, I'll buy you a virtual dinner. Hopefully I'll be wrong. I doubt I will though.

Dear Carlos:

You say that "we don't count possibles, only committed." Thus, our disagreement is a disagreement over definitions.

Firstly, you appear to be counting only co-sponsors, and do not include those who have publicly committed, but are not co-sponsors. I submit that it is a mistake to in trying to understand how a legislative body will vote. Many Senators who are sympathetic to legislative issues refuse, on principle, to comment on their stance until the issue is ready to be voted on. If one only looks at who is a "co-sponsor", one gets a false impression of the actual number of yes votes that a measure will garner. I do not rely on my own impressions in stating this, but also on the advice I have received from a several political experts who understand how the Senate works. In addition, Senator Reid, as majority leader, does not, by tradition, generally co-sponsor bills. He has publicly confirmed his yes vote in a speech, and his staff has also confirmed his yes vote commitment to me.

Thus, when you say that the number of supportive Senators is 40, that number is far from correct. Now I must ask how you come up with 40. But let me count it for you as stated on my Senate spreadsheet at http://bit.ly/14TDll

For those of you who prefer not to read this lengthy comment, let me just say that we are within reach of enough Senate to pass ENDA, though it is by no means assured.

1. In addition to the original Senate bill sponsor, Sen. Jeff Merkley, there are 43 current co-sponsors listed on thomas.loc.gov. (I note that Thomas still lists Senator Kennedy, so their count of 44 cosponsors is off.) Thus, there are 44 Senators sponsoring and co-sponsoring.

2. There have also been public commitments from 8 Senators: McCaskill, Baucus, Tester, Dorgan, Ben Nelson, Reid, Webb, and Warner. The specifics of each commitment is listed on the spreadsheet in the right hand column labelled "Info." That's 53.

3. We haven't heard from the following 4 Senators, but they are likely to vote yes based on previous voting records: Carper, Bayh, Johnson, Rockefeller. That's 56.

4. The following 9 are possible yeses: Murkowski, Lincoln, Pryor, Bill Nelson, Lugar, Hagan, Conrad, Voinovich and Byrd. The specifics of why I consider each a possible yes vote, is listed in the rightmost column labelled "Info." We only need 4 of the 9 to win.

You question my inclusion of Sen. Blanche Lincoln as a "possible". I spoke to a person in Arkansas who knows Senator Lincoln, and who attended a meeting with her. She was asked about the letter, widely reported on months ago as you correctly state, which her office sent to a constituent in respone to an inquiry about her position on ENDA. In that letter, she stated that she was not supportive of ENDA. In her statement at the meeting, she said that the letter had been sent by a staffer, and that she is supportive of gay rights. I was not, of course, there, and I am reporting third-hand on hearsay. However, I trust the person relaying the information, and so I moved her back from the NO column to the "unconfirmed" column. I wouldn't say she's a yes, but I wouldn't say she's a no, either.

"I submit that it is a mistake in trying to understand how a legislative body will vote."

Especially when any Senator hasn't said NO is on your list of "possibles." That's juvenile.

A Senator's position on LGBT issues is very easy to determine and at best we have 55 YES votes for LGBT issues. That means we can't pass anything. The only thing we can do is "force-feed" a Bill, like attaching the Hate Crimes Bill to the defense spending.

Your fairy tales about imaginary support in the US Senate just prevent us from actually dealing with that reality.

We cannot pass a Bill in the US Senate. What's the Plan?

Heaven forgive me for defending Dr. Weiss, but I would note that it is entirely possible for 60 to vote for cloture and then for something less than 60 to vote in favor of the bill itself.

The cloture vote could be cast out of party loyalty and support for Sen. Reid. The Dem senators from conservative states could help the party leadership and still truthfully say that they voted against gay rights.

By way of loose analogy, I would cite the recent marriage vote in VT. There a number of legislators voted no on the marriage bill. It passed anyway and was then vetoed. A number of the no votes on the bill then voted to override the veto not out of support for gay marriage, but on the basis of party loyalty and out of respect for the majority view in the legislature.

Also, some senators - John McCain for example - do not like that every bill is presumed filibustered unless it has 60 votes lined up. It was never the intent of the Senate to have the filibuster be the default event for all bills.

You say a Senator's position is very easy to determine. So, tell me, Andrew, what is Senator Bill Nelson's position on ENDA?

ENDA, the repeal of DOMA and DADT will come AFTER another important step forward in rights, and it will be specifically for trans people, but not all trans people. Gays and lesbians will just have to wait their turn. Too bad.

They've never done that. They voted on the Hate Crimes Bill as an Amendment to the Defense Spending Authorization. The US Senate has never supported an LGBT issue. Never.

in the 111th Congress we have 45 US Senators that are relentlessly Anti-LGBT.

We can't pass anything unless we hold something "hostage," you know, like terrorists do.

Here's an interesting take on the problem with defining gay rights as marriage rights, and the damage it can cause politically in California, from the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News. "Why we must stop the single-issue politics of the marriage movement and why you should not sign their petition," by Arlon Jay Staggs.

Again, for those of you who are wondering about my personal position on marriage equality, it is that marriage equality is an important element of LGBT rights, but I have a problem with it being asserted first and foremost as the be-all and end-all of LGBT rights.

Merry Christmas for those of you celebrating Christmas!

Perhaps you might consider not pontificating [or is it just kicking your heels together three times?] on the future of issues about which you know so few details such as DADT. It seems you've only read headlines or pull quotes about its alleged promise for 2011.

In fact the defense budget for any given year, like most budgets, is written and acted upon the previous year. By nature of its huge size and inherent fights to add/remove this or that, it takes months. Full Congressional debate and vote will likely come within weeks of the midterm elections.

Despite the fact that Dem power players both publicly and privately have said that "avoidable" controversial issues generally and DADT specifically will NOT be on the table this election season because of their assumed threat to Dem reelection chances, AND Repugs known for voting for ANYTHING that has money for penises er guns attached to it voted against the 2010 budget solely because the hate crimes bill was attached to it, AND getting the hate crimes bill attached at all required passage of it in both house of Congress while there has been no passage of the DADT bill in the House and there is no bill PERIOD in the Senate AND no hearings in EITHER house, AND the Obama Nostra blocked attempts to stop discharges through that same budget last year, certain people have curiously declared that repeal of DADT through the 2011 budget is virtually a fait accompli tra la la la la la la la la la.

Now that you know some facts, dance on.

Thanks, Michael, for your input on DADT. I think you're right that its going to be more controversial than the glib assessments I've read in the paper. But I'm not sure from your comment whether you think it's going to go in the 2011 budget, or not. What do you think is going to happen with DADT?

As I have read and reread the various postings, I can not help but feel that there are a large numbers of the LBGT community whose daily issues/concerns are not being addressed.

In my opinion, it is one thing to be LBGT in a large urban area. There are many who live in rural areas who see their lives from very different point of view. Sometimes I feel it is as if the LGBT individuals who live in the rural or mountainous areas or the desert Southwest do not exist.

Like I have said repeatedly on the site, I feel everyone should be treated with dignity and respect. In addition in my opinion, for many in the LBGT community they are treated less than Second Class citizens.