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The year in queer

by Bay Windows Staff .
Thursday Dec 27, 2007

What a year. From the anti-gay animus of MassResistance, the Boston Archdiocese and to the victory over an anti-gay marriage amendment -from the angst over ENDA to the messiness of presidential politics, 2007 was interesting. Here's a quick rundown of the highlights.

The agony of defeat
Back in November 2006 the marriage equality advocates broke out the champagne to celebrate their supposed victory over the marriage amendment. Um, nice try, guys, but no. The Jan. 2 constitutional convention (ConCon) was a rude awakening for same-sex marriage supporters, and arguably the marriage equality movement's darkest hour. Advocates had planned to kill the marriage amendment procedurally at the ConCon, but in the weeks leading up to the ConCon everything unraveled: held rallies across the state urging lawmakers to take an up-or-down vote on the marriage amendment, and the Supreme Judicial Court issued a ruling that said that while the court had no authority to compel the legislature to take a vote, it was the legislature's duty to do so. The majority support to kill the amendment with a procedural vote quickly evaporated.

The day of the ConCon, Sen. President Robert Travaglini, who opposes same-sex marriage and favors civil unions, signaled his intention to hold an up-or-down vote on the amendment, and the legislature passed it, sending it into the next session for a final vote. In her analysis of the ConCon, Bay Windows reporter Laura Kiritsy points out that Travaglini's call for an up-or-down vote was hardly motivated by a principled commitment to process:

"After ramming through two up-or-down votes on a proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit same-sex couples from marrying, Travaglini, in open defiance of a Dec. 27 Supreme Judicial Court ruling which said that it was the 'constitutional duty' of lawmakers to take merit votes on initiative petitions, orchestrated the killing via procedural maneuver of an amendment that would have mandated universal health care throughout Massachusetts."

Quote of the month
"[My message is] that we can really find a way to talk to each other that's positive instead of negative, that has a sense of community, that we don't constantly break things down and say, 'We're okay because my little subset of the trans community is okay, because we're not like those people over there, because they're kind of weird and I don't really get them either.' We can make a lot more effort to figure out all the jobs basically that need to be done on this boat that we're all on, which is a boat, I like to remind people on a regular basis, that a whole bunch of other people are trying to sink."
- Helen Boyd, author of She's Not the Man I Married and keynote speaker at the Tiffany Club's 2007 First Event conference.

Log Cabin no friend of Romney's
It's a safe bet that Log Cabin Republicans really don't like Mitt Romney. Log Cabin's new president Patrick Sammon spoke with Laura Kiritsy during his meet-and-greet with local supporters in Boston, and he told her that he was waiting for a "serious journalist" to press the presidential hopeful and former Massachusetts governor on his flip-flops on gay rights, from his relatively strong pro-gay stances during his 1994 Senate bid and 2002 run for governor to his new pose as a conservative culture warrior in his run for the Republican nomination. What made Romney's about-face particularly vexing for Log Cabin is that he successfully courted and won the endorsement of the local chapter during his Senate and gubernatorial campaigns and then used his crusade against same-sex marriage to boost his presidential bid.

"There needs to be an interview with Tim Russert or someone from the LGBT press - and he's probably not going to be holding that conference call with reporters - but someone really needs to corner him, if you will," Sammon told Bay Windows. "At this point his record speaks for itself and he needs to explain how it is that there's been such a shift."

Apparently the media did not move fast enough for Log Cabin (although Tim Russert did question Romney on his gay flip-flops on the Dec. 16 ,Meet the Press), because in the past few months Log Cabin has taken a decidedly DIY approach to reminding voters about Romney's flip-flops. Log Cabin has run television and radio ads in Iowa, New Hampshire and nationally on Fox News highlighting his flip-flops on taxes, gun control, abortion and his opinion of Ronald Reagan's administration. But oddly enough, the issue missing from Log Cabin's ads thus far is any discussion of his gay rights record. Guess that doesn't play as well in Des Moines.

Quote of the month
"So I wonder if we could plant some people at her next stop or when she comes again to ask those questions directly, especially around some of the domestic partnership, the marriage issue, just to bring it up. And I don't think she wants to go down that road. It would be an interesting way to see how she handles it."
- Dottie Morris, an attendee at a forum held by Sen. Hillary Clinton in Keene, N.H., on the lack of discussion of LGBT issues in Clinton's stump speech and the Q&A session that followed.

HRC versus the bloggers
Beware the wrath of the blogosphere. That's a lesson the Human Rights Campaign learned in February and March as some of the most prominent (and not so prominent) LGBT blogs, representing the political left, right and center, took aim at the country's largest LGBT rights organization for a variety of issues. From the left, progressive bloggers Pam Spaulding and Michael Petrelis attacked HRC for failing to acknowledge the work of a pair of pro-gay Republican Wyoming state lawmakers in helping kill an anti-gay marriage bill. Conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan and Chris Crain, who identifies his politics as "independent and free-thinking," accused the officially non-partisan organization of putting the interests of the Democratic Party, and in particular Sen. Hillary Clinton, ahead of the LGBT community. Libertarian blogger Matt of the Malcontent blog also accused HRC of excess partisanship, posting links to campaign finance reports showing HRC's donations in the 2006 election cycle to the Democratic National Committee, several Democratic congressional and Senate campaign committees, and a handful of Democratic state and county committees, but alas, none to any Republican committees.

But bloggers were upset about more than just partisanship. Following up on a 2005Washington Blade story, Sullivan accused HRC of inflating its membership numbers, counting anyone who had ever donated $5 to the organization or anyone who has ever taken action on behalf of HRC's online Action Network. He challenged HRC to reveal how many of their 700,000 members have paid the organization's $35 annual membership dues, a question they have yet to publicly answer.

Quote of the month
"Parents do have a fundamental right to raise their children. They are not required to abandon that responsibility to the state. The Parkers and Wirthlins may send their children to a private school that does not seek to foster understandings of homosexuality or same-sex marriage that conflict with their religious beliefs. They may also educate their children at home. In addition, the plaintiffs may attempt to persuade others to join them in electing a Lexington School Committee that will implement a curriculum that is more compatible with their beliefs. However, the Parkers and Wirthlins have chosen to send their children to the Lexington public schools with its current curriculum. The Constitution does not permit them to prescribe what those children will be taught."
- U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf, ruling against a pair of families suing the Lexington Public Schools for including LGBT-inclusive books in the curriculum.

Soulforce sparks debate at Christian college
For the young activists on the Equality Ride bus, the April visit to Gordon College in Wenham was a welcome change of pace. During the bus's tour of the Bible Belt the riders, who traveled to Christian schools around the country to urge them to liberalize their anti-gay policies and rhetoric, were routinely greeted at the gates by police waiting to arrest them and toss them in jail. At Gordon, by contrast, a college that lists "homosexuality" among the many acts banned on campus, the riders received a warm welcome. The college invited them to hold a forum to present their arguments in favor of the college embracing its LGBT students, and the riders met with students and administrators to try to find some common ground. No word on whether the college disinfected the furniture or exorcised the student body after the riders left.

The college administration held firm on its policies against homosexuality but told reporters at a joint press conference with the riders that the policy applied only to homosexual acts, not orientation. But when one reporter asked whether a heterosexual couple holding hands in public would receive the same degree of punishment as a same-sex couple, Gordon dean of students Barry Loy said they would not, adding, "It's not exactly comparing apples to apples."

Katie Higgins, one of the riders, said she wanted the college to hold all students to the same moral standard, regardless of sexual orientation.

"If there is a Christian ethic that says sex outside marriage is wrong, is not biblically based, that is the thing we ask all students to be held to," said Higgins.

Quote of the month
"Nobody is going to affect you by loving someone else. It's not going to happen. And I thought, this is the same crap I went through 40 years ago, the same garbage."
- N.H. state Rep. Carole Estes, on her decision to speak out against a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Estes, who is black, was unable to marry her husband, who is white, until the U.S. Supreme Court overturned laws banning interracial marriage.

Wingnuts turn up at the State House
It's not like anyone expected the haters at MassResistance to sound reasonable, but yikes! On May 29, the anti-gay group and its supporters, along with pro-gay activists, packed a State House hearing room for an education committee hearing on a smorgasbord of bills, including anti-bullying legislation, a bill to make health class mandatory, and a MassResistance bill that would force teachers to send home a permission slip before having any LGBT-related discussion in the classroom. Activist Tom Lang testified against MassResistance's bill, arguing that it would put a muzzle on any discussion of legitimate LGBT-related topics, such as the persecution of gay people during the Holocaust. In response MassResistance's Sally Naumann, an unassuming white-haired grandmotherly woman with round, thick glasses, sent several jaws rocketing towards the floor when she gave the education committee a revisionist history lesson, saying that the Holocaust was a big gay conspiracy.

"There's an excellent book, well-documented, by Scott Lively, called The Pink Swastika, in which he documents that the Nazis themselves were homosexuals, sadomasochists," said Naumann. "They were very perverted in their behaviors. And they only went after the homosexuals, sometimes their own party members, who were too flamboyant about it. It's very well documented."

It takes a very special kind of person to hear a discussion about public school curricula and turn it into an occasion to blame gay people for the systematic slaughter of six million Jews. We can all thank MassResistance for keeping things interesting in 2007.

Quote of the month
"I was out at my parents' house for dinner, which I sometimes do when I get home, and my mom and my step dad and I are sitting around the kitchen having a long deep-into-the-after-dinner-hour talk about kids and marriage and life and stuff in general, and I mentioned the fact that, my parents get all nervous when I mention it, but I mentioned the fact that I was bisexual, which I am, and my mom went, 'Amanda, Amanda, TMI!'"
- Rocker and Lexington native Amanda Palmer, of the band Dresden Dolls, declaring her bisexuality to the crowd at Boston's Youth Pride celebration on the Boston Common. Palmer came out publicly earlier in the year when she joined HRC's True Colors tour.

On June 14 advocates and lawmakers finally succeeded in driving a stake through the heart of the marriage amendment. All that morning and afternoon the sidewalks in front of the building were packed with advocates from both sides. On the pro-equality side of the street people held signs with messages like "Love Trumps Leviticus" and "Let Freedom Ring." On the pro-"You just haven't met the right girl yet, son" side of the street, people brandished signs with charming messages like "Marrige [sic] = [men's restroom stick figure] + [women's restroom stick figure]" and "GOD Created MAN & WOMAN - This is against NATURE - You'll PERISH - WARNING." Sadly, no one from the VoteOnMarriage camp had a "Surrender Dorothy" sign, but it would have fit in nicely.

After all the build-up, advocates and lawmakers accomplished what few thought possible, defeating the amendment by a 45-151 vote and depriving the marriage amendment of the 50 votes needed to send it to the ballot. Most of the VoteOnMarriage crowd left Beacon Hill soon after the vote came down, but for the pro-equality crowd it was a long, joyous celebration. Gathering at a rally in front of the State House, MassEquality campaign director Marc Solomon grabbed a megaphone and thanked by name pretty much every person living in the state of Massachusetts. Solomon made sure to thank the numerous straight allies who made the victory possible, adding, "We do love straight people, but it sure is fun to be gay." Amen.

Quote of the month
"We won, I can't believe it. ... You're fired!"
- MassEquality volunteer Heather Baker celebrating with another volunteer after watching the results of the roll call on the marriage amendment from a T.V. in the basement of the State House.

Barrios bids farewell
Jarrett Barrios, the first openly gay man and the first Latino elected to the state Senate, bid farewell to supporters, colleagues and friends when he vacated his Senate seat to head the Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, a healthcare philanthropy. Former legislator and state Democratic Party chairman Phil Johnston paid tribute to Barrios's leadership on LGBT issues at a crowded bash for Barrios at Fisher College: "I can tell you this, as somebody who served in the legislature for a long time. I don't think that gay and lesbian citizens would have the right to be married had it not been for Sen. Jarrett Barrios."

Quote of the month
"This is why there's lawyer jokes."
- Charles "Chick" Wagner, president of the Mass. Lesbian and Gay Bar Association, commenting on the federal lawsuit filed by Stephen Dunne, who alleged that he failed the Mass. bar exam for refusing to answer a question related to same-sex marriage.

Presidential candidates stump on LOGO
Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Barack Obama and Bill Richardson all sat down with a panel of questioners that included Melissa Etheridge, and the LGBT community was glued to the television. Mostly, the contenders didn't tell us anything about their positions on the major issues that we didn't already know, but Richardson kicked up a shit-storm when he said he believed that being gay is a choice. (He then spent the next few weeks backtracking on that statement.) Other highlights: Etheridge telling Clinton she felt as though the gays "were thrown under the bus" by hubby Bill's administration, and Gravel, a marriage equality supporter, criticizing his pro-civil union rivals for "playing it safe." "It's costing us votes because I do support it," said Gravel of his support for marriage. "I don't care. I don't want those votes."

Quote of the month
"A classic consequence of self-repression is that one's underlying nature, being unchanged, inevitably bursts out in inappropriate ways. It is no surprise that Craig would resort to sleazy restroom sex, since he is unwilling to see homosexuality in a more favorable light. As Matt Foreman observes, this is pathetic."
- columnist Richard Rosendall commenting on Republican U.S. Sen. Larry Craig's sex scandal.

What's the matter with Provincetown?
Richard Hall, a 56-year-old New Bedford man, alleged that he was the victim of a vicious and possibly anti-gay beating in Provincetown. But police, Hall claimed, were negligent in tending to him after the fact, as they did not insist he seek medical treatment and left him in the care of two strangers despite his obvious injuries. Meanwhile, Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe concluded after an investigation that P'town police acted appropriately when arresting DJ Barry Scott at a house party back in July. Scott suffered a laceration on his nose and an injury to his foot during an arrest that he and witnesses said was a case of police acting with undue force.

Quote of the month
"I understand if the senator, if he is in fact gay, has voted in ways that would suggest that he isn't, and finds it offensive. That's something that obviously he's wrestling with."
- GOP Congressman Chris Shays of Connecticut, commenting on the never-ending Sen. Larry Craig scandal.

A decision by leaders in the U.S. House to push a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that did not include gender identity and expression roiled the LGBT community. Protesters picketed the Human Rights Campaign's D.C. dinner for backtracking on its pledge to only support a trans-inclusive ENDA and local activists met with Congressman Barney Frank, who spearheaded the removal of trans protections from the bill in the interest of ensuring its passage, to outline their objections to the move. Meanwhile, openly lesbian Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin urged the community to press Congress to pass a trans-inclusive bill.

Quote of the month
"Stephen Bennett will not be here tonight. ... He is reviled and hated by the homosexual movement. While he was driving here after he got off the Mass Pike onto highway 290, as he paid his tolls and went going there was a parked car. The parked car, as he got going, bashed into his car, causing him personal injury, and then took off."
- Anti-gay activist Brian Camenker, explaining why ex-gay activist Stephen Bennett wouldn't be attending Camenker's anti-gay forum in Acton.

MassEquality votes to stick around
After a sometimes contentious three-month strategic planning process, MassEquality's board of directors voted to expand the organization's mission to encompass in-state advocacy on other LGBT issues and working with GLAD to achieve marriage equality in other New England states. It also voted to dissolve its coalition style of governance. While many cheered the move as a good way for MassEquality to use its well-established grassroots network and political clout in the aftermath of the marriage battle, others involved in the process weren't thrilled with the idea of another LGBT organization sucking up the community's resources.

Quote of the month
"I have been asked why I pressed for and insisted on this amendment. I believe those who will be left behind by this bill deserve to hear on this House floor that you are not forgotten and our job will not be finished until you, too, share fully in the American dream."
- Out Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, on her attempt to put gender identity and expression back into the ENDA bill the House was debating. The bill was passed without her amendment.

Lexington parents get their day in court, again
A panel of three federal judges heard arguments on appeal in Parker v. Lexington, a case in which four Lexington parents sued the local school department because they don't want LGBT families talked about in the classroom without prior notice. Federal court Judge Mark Wolf had ruled against the parents in February. The case arose after the Lexington parents, David and Tonya Parker, and Rob and Robin Wirthlin objected to the fact that their grade schoolers were exposed to children's books that depicted gay couples and families. Kevin Batt, Lexington's town counsel dismissed their arguments this way: "We don't think simply the exposure of a couple of school books to first graders rises to constitutional discrimination."

Quote of the month
"We drove him out."
- Openly gay news anchor Randy Price, who married his longtime partner Mark Steffen on the State House steps on Mitt Romney's final day in office last January.

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