A few years ago you may recall in a series of court cases various peddlers of so-called ex-gay therapy were forced to admit that no one was ever cured of being gay, and some of those organizations were shut down under consumer fraud laws? Well, at least one of them didn’t shut down: Judge cracks down on barred Jewish gay conversion group for operating under new name.
Back in 2015 a jury found that the organization then calling itself JONAH had defrauded a number of people while claiming to “cure” their homosexuality. The jury awards the former “patients” everything, including $3.5 million in legal fees. The judge later approved a settlement whereby the couple operating the charlatan ex-gay organization would pay only a fraction of the fees if they agreed to dissolve the organization and never engage in such practices again. The charlatans lied, and have been operating a similar scam since. So, the judge as issued a lifetime ban on them serving as an officer of any non-profit, dissolved their new company, and now they are on the hook for the entire $3.5 million. Good. Maybe this will shut them down.
Yesterday I included links to the hate pastors who are having a “Make American Straight Again” conference in Orlando. They picked the date to be close to the anniversary of the Pulse massacre, where 49 people were murdered in a gay nightclub. I want to pause for a moment here and remind you that the owner of Pulse (who opened the club in honor of her decease gay brother) had always said she wanted the club to be a place where queer people felt welcome, and where they felt they could bring their mothers. A couple of the people shot that night were, indeed, non-gay family members of queer people. Anyway, the hate pastors explicitly dedicated their conference to celebrating that massacre, because their mis-reading of six verses they have cherry-picked in the Bible are more important that the numerous times Jesus said to love each other, I guess. So they were live-streaming yesterday, until Youtube shut them down. The Friendly Atheist monitored it and got some quotes:
“If we can get the queers to go back into the closet, that’d be great. I mean, if we can get the government to actually do what it’s supposed to do and put them to death, that’d be amazing. They’ll kill you and it won’t bother them. They’ll molest your kids and it won’t bother them.
“They’ll go to bed with men, with women, with animals. They’ll do whatever and it won’t bother them. Why? Because their conscience is seared. If the government would put them to death, it would make America safe again. And here’s what we’re saying. When they die, we don’t feel bad about it. When they die, we don’t care!”
Can’t you just feel the unconditional love of god in every word (sarcasm)? Another of these paragons said:
I’d love to be able to just work for [a transgender suicide hotline] for, like, a week and just let them know that, “Hey, it’s okay, go ahead and just kill yourself.” Because these people were sick!
Apparently today since many of the pastors speaking and attending have Youtube channels of their own, and vow to keep switching channels as Youtube shuts them down so their hate can do its job? I really don’t know. Anyway, don’t forget that one of these hate-mongers is a Sheriff’s deputy, who, after he was outed as a hate preacher and warned by his superiors that a cop literally advocating for cops to start executing gays isn’t exactly in keeping with the oath to uphold the law, he went back to his pulpit and doubled-down.
They’ve put him on paid sick leave, and have started the process of pushing him into retirement because they think if they outright fire him he’ll win a lawsuit that they have violated his first amendment rights.
That’s enough about them. Have you ever wondered why more of those kinds of stories don’t get reported more prominently in national media? Well: The lack of dedicated LGBTQ media is a disaster. The article isn’t saying that there aren’t enough queer news sites, it rather talking about both the lack of diversity in major news organizations and the cut backs in such organizations that his eliminated a lot of reporting jobs that used to be assigned full time to particular communities and areas of interest. It’s a good read.
Let’s move away from the bad news and focus on some good things: Support for trans people is growing in spite of Trump’s nonstop assault on civil rights – More than six in ten (62%) Americans surveyed say they’ve become more supportive of transgender rights. Now, we have to temper this with news like that study I linked to yesterday, that shows that a lot of people think there are already federal laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination. That is a problem, because it fuels the situation where a person will say that they support our rights, and then turn around and oppose passage of the Equality Act because they think it isn’t needed. Still, more people being supportive is a good trend.
Finally, I leave it to Stephen Colbert-
Stephen Colbert Rips Trump’s Embassy Rainbow Flag Ban, Hails the Spirit of Pride Rebellion:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
What I wrote about instead was communications technology. How we were struggling even then to come to grips with how quickly news flew around the world and how quickly we were forgetting what we had all been upset/afraid of just last week. And because I am a big sci fi nerd, I speculated about what it would be like when people had devices in their pockets or strapped to their wrists or whatever that gave them constant and instant access to the 24-hour cable news slurry. The professor gave me a decent grade, but he couldn’t resist writing a few sentences explaining why nuclear weapons were a far graver threat to society than television ever would be.
I don’t believe I was being extremely brilliant pr prescient in that essay. People had been writing think pieces about the dangers of tabloid journalism taking over the then-new 24-hour news channels. And the notion of a TV on your wrist had been predicted in Dick Tracy comics decades before. But I still think I was correct that the proliferation of information, misinformation, has had a worse effect on society. Yes, we have terrible weapons of mass destruction that very well might wipe humans (and a whole lot of other species) off the face of the earth—but we’ve also been carrying out a mass extinction event without resorting to nuclear weapons.
However here we are, two decades into the 21st Century, and we have seen how social media bots have influenced the outcome of a U.S. Presidential election, have seen a number of people who have been dog-piled on social media driven to suicide, and seen more than one instance of on-line doxing sending SWAT team to the homes of law-abiding citizens. So I think my essay may have been much more correct that my university professor thought.
In the last week we have had two completely unrelated stories illustrate this point. First: Dallas Gay Bar Manager Fired For Refusing To Serve Transgender Woman. A lot of liberal and queer news sites shared the video of a manager of a prominent gay bar trying to eject some customers. And by the time many of us had seen the video, the corporate owners of said gay bar had already fired the manager.
Here’s the thing… when I watched the viral video, I found it far from conclusive in bearing out the transphobic narrative. There just wasn’t enough context. Clearly things had happened before the beginning of the video, and without knowing what those things were, it just isn’t possible to determine whether the manager’s actions were appropriate. Then once the scuffle began, things get even more confusing.
But, there is video, there is a scuffle, there is what appears to be a white cis man trying to kick a trans woman out of the club. And it is easy to imagine that his motivations weren’t pure.
A couple of days later, things get more interesting: Dallas Gay Bar Manager Speaks Out After Being Fired for Incident Involving Trans Woman. The bar manager’s story is quite plausible. But I understand how easy it is for bigots to construct alternative explanations that seem reasonable, so I’m not sure the manager’s story is true. Maybe he sincerely thought the ID was fake.
I am quite aware of how difficult official ID cards are to deal with. I am not trans, but back in 1992 I legally changed my name. There were several reasons for this: first, I really didn’t want to share the same first name as my viciously abusive father, but also, I had been being called a diminutive of my given middle name since I was a kid, and it just didn’t make sense for my legal name to remain a name that virtually no one called me. However, even though I legally changed my name 27 years ago, I still continue to run into situations where my birth name pops up on records, and I find myself constantly having to explain the situation. Which means that I find it very easy to believe that the trans person in this particular pair of conflicting narratives may be dealing with a simple issue of bureaucracy not keeping up with her current legal situation. There may be a reasonable explanation for why she would have several ID cards from different states at the same time.
Or maybe he only thinks the ID is fake because he’s got some unconscious transphobia going on.
The only thing that I think is clear is that his employer made the decision to fire him based on the social media uproar. The video went viral, and it seems that most of the queer news sites were leaning into the transphobia interpretation of the story, and that is bad publicity for a gay bar, particularly during Pride month (which often accounts for a significant part of the annual profits from bars and restaurants in queer neighborhoods).
No matter who was right, the mob won.
Then we had this incident last weekend: Armed Neo-Nazis Get a Police Escort to Disrupt Detroit Pride. Pictures and video from multiple sources, not just the crowd. We had a group of Neo-Nazis (they were carrying Nazi flags, wearing swastika armbands, and making Nazi salutes) taking advantage of the open-carry laws to disrupt the Pride festival. And when you show up like that and chant things about killing queers you’re not just stating an opinion: the action is clearly intended to terrorize a portion of the population. Most states, whether they have hate crime laws or not, have laws defining actions intended to “cause public alarm” as a crime. These are most often used for dealing with false bomb threats and the like.
The most alarming part of these videos and pictures are that it appears as if the police are escorting the Nazis. It appears as of the police are trying to protect the Nazis (the ones with the guns and chanting about genocide) from the festival-goers.
The police are trying to spin the story another way: Detroit Police Claim to Quash Neo-Nazi Plot To Spark ‘Charlottesville No. 2’ At Pride Parade. So the police claim that they were there to prevent the Nazis hurting anyone. And they did arrest at least three of the neo-Nazis, though we don’t know what the charges are. And they claim that they warned the Nazis several times not to start burning rainbow flags, because they would have to arrest them. (I’m assuming that the act of setting anything on fire in a crowded place would be the reason for the arrest.)
I have several problems with the police narrative. For one thing, the police chief described “both sides” acting badly. Except he isn’t referring to the Nazis on one side and the queer people on the other. He’s actually talking about an organized anti-fascist counter protest group that was there to counter the Nazis… and therefore were also technically disrupting the Pride festival. But I’ve already seen the police chief’s comments being quoted by bigots as proof that the queer people at the festival were behaving just as badly as the Nazis. Also, when saying “both sides” the police chief is alleging that the anti-fascists were yelling racial slurs at any cop who happened to be African-American, similar to how the Nazis were hurling racial slurs at them. Besides not quite believing that, I also think that the people who were marching with guns while chanting slogans about genocide are still far, far, far more in the wrong than unarmed people yelling bad words.
Maybe this is a no-win situation for the police. Because Michigan is an open-carry state, they can’t arrest people for merely carrying guns, no matter how intimidating it may be. Michigan’s hate crime law doesn’t include sexual orientation, so technically carrying a rifle while yelling into a bullhorn about killing faggots isn’t a crime in Michigan. So the only way to prevent violence is to try to put themselves between the Nazis and everyone else. Unfortunately, that makes it look like they are escorting the Nazis. On the other hand, by appearing to escort the Nazis, it sure as heck looks like the police are supporting them.
Clearly, the Nazis are the bad guys, here. But if even the police officers who recognize the Nazis as bad guys also trot out “both sides” arguments, we’ve got a problem. Queer people holding a Pride parade and festival aren’t calling for killing anyone. Asking to have the same rights as other people isn’t an attack on those people. Celebrating the fact that we have survived despite all the attempts to erase and oppress us is not an attack on anyone. This isn’t merely a difference of opinion between two potentially valid points.
I suppose I should focus on the bright side: no injuries were reported, violence didn’t break out. And even Fox News reported the Nazi actions in a negative light. I think the latter only happened because a lot of people got a picture of the one Nazi urinating on an Isreali flag. So, maybe everyone having a camera in hand was a good thing.
And now we have another round of me commenting on some news that broke after I composed this week’s Friday Five, or new developments in a story I’ve linked to and/or commented on before.
First, let’s talk some more about that so-called Straight Pride parade! So yesterday I linked to the story about how Brad Pitt disavowed the parade and threatened to sue the organizers if they kept using his name and image, right? That didn’t really surprise anyone. I was, frankly, confused as to why the organizers even went there—Pitt’s support of marriage equality long before it became legal was well known, for example. And clearly the only sort of people who even think a Straight Pride parade needs to be a thing are insecure homophobes, right?
We already knew that the leader of the group who applied for the permit was an alt-fight rabble rouser who has organized or been a featured speaker at various neo-Nazi/alt-right rallies over the last few years. And now we know what was up, because the group has responded to Pitt’s threat of legal action: ‘Straight pride’ group removes Brad Pitt as mascot after backlash, replacing him with Milo Yiannopoulos.
Before I go further, I want to give a tip of the hat to Joe Jervis of the Joe.My.God web site for correctly predicting predicting days earlier that Yiannopoulos had to be involved.
So now everything becomes clear. They knew that announcing a straight pride parade and applying for a permit would get them some news coverage. Mentioning a well-known celebrity like Brad Pitt as the parade’s “mascot” without Pitt’s permission served multiple purposes. First, it increased the odds that mainstream news sources would carry the initial story. Second, because they didn’t just name Pitt, but had pictures of him on their web site, it guaranteed a response from Pitt and/or his agent no doubt threatening legal action. Which git them a second day of being in the news. Then, they can announced the change in the mascot the next day, before any official cease and desist letters arrive, and get another day of press coverage. And they announced the change on their web site with some digs at Pitt (that aren’t actionable) that are phrased in exactly the way needed to appeal to any Incels/Men’s Rights Activities who weren’t already cheering them on.
This also explains why they are using the term “mascot” instead of “Grand Marshall” or something (I know there are headlines out there using saying Grand Marshall, but the official web site uses mascot exclusively). Because Milo isn’t just a neo-Nazi apologist who incites hate against muslims, jews, and trans people, he is also infamously gay. Which is a weird person to pick to symbolize and lead a straight pride march, but mascot? Sure, the lapdog gay boy—who loves to spout off the same genocidal racist, anti-semitic, sectarian, misogynist, transphobic nonsense that the rest of the organizers of the event believe—he can be a mascot.
Based on the past histories of all the folks we currently know are involved in this, the real point of the parade (beside publicity, which they hope will translate into donations) is to try to get a situation where protesters show up, one or two of whom might be provoked to take some action that will give the cops an excuse to go after the anti-fascists, as police are wont to do. So the purpose is to generate headlines and video that can be used to try to paint those of us who are opposed to the goals of the alt-right as the bad guys. And, of course, to provide money to Milo, who is deeply in debt.
With Milo’s involvement, the other thing we can expect is if the City of Boston requires parade permit holders to pay for police services, et cetera, those bills will not get paid (that’s how he racked up a couple million dollars of debt in Australia alone!).
One last thing before we change topics. The same group as officially announced a straight pride flag. They have had at least one made and, oh my goodness, is this the ugliest thing ever, or what? I understand that there are actual studies that show a high correlation between lack of cognitive skills and holding very conservative beliefs, but really, that attempt at symbolism is an insult to the intelligence of the people they hope to embrace the flag. Maybe they think they’re being ironic?
Okay, these don’t really need much in the way of commentary: to the surprise of no one with a functioning brain cell: State Dept Bans Embassies From Flying Rainbow Flag. It was only a week ago that the alleged president was tweeting about supporting LGBT people and joining the international fight against the criminalization and state-sponsored killing of LGBT people. And yet, this… I mean, compared to the very long list of anti-gay actions the trump administration as taken against us, this is pretty minor, but still!
Oh, well, let’s end on a better not, shall we? WISCONSIN: Dem Gov Flies Rainbow Flag Over Capitol For First Time, GOP State Rep Rants “This Is Divisive”. I suppose it is divisive: it divides the haters (so-called Christians like the GOP representative in question) from those who actually love their neighbors as themself.
And it isn’t even fair to say equally. There have been studies that show when women talk for more than 15% of a class or presentation or similar activity that the men perceive that the woman are dominating the conversation. Only 15%, the men describe it as “equal time.” I haven’t found similar studies about their perception of people of color or queers, but I have a life time of personal observation to say the participation of other marginalized people are perceived the same way. If queer characters exist in a story or movie or whatever in more than a restricted token manner, they scream “why are the gays ruining everything?!” And when it comes to people of color, well, a black actor was featured prominently in the first trailer for The Force Awakens and they lost their collective minds, calling for boycotts (and worse).
And I know it isn’t just angry straight white men. There are angry straight white women who make the same “why don’t we get a straight pride day?” arguments, too. Believe me, I know. I’ve had that one thrown at me by relatives at family get-togethers.
There are two different, completely true answers to the question of why there isn’t a straight pride day.
The first answer is: every day is straight pride day! Every day day society and strangers celebrate and cheer straight marriages. Every day society recognizes and approves of the existence of straight people. Every day thousands of television episodes are broadcast in which the straight characters are the protagonists and their stories and concerns are recognized, accepted, and celebrated. Every day little boys are described as future lady’s men, and little girls are called heart-breakers, and no one screams at the people who say it that the children are too young for that. 99% of all movies, books, songs, plays, and TV shows center straight people and their concerns.The second answer is: there is no systemic bigotry against straight people. There are no laws, and never have been, baring straight people from teaching or adopting children. There have never been laws against straight people getting married. No straight child has been thrown out on the streets by their family because they are straight. Straight people have never been barred from the military for being straight. No one has ever claimed that programs to stop bullying of straight children in schools is a violation of freedom of religion. No child or teen-ager has ever been forced into ex-straight therapy. People aren’t bashed and murdered for being straight. Straight couples holding hands in public have never been attacked by a mob and beaten for being straight. When a straight couple is depicted kissing in a movie no one organizes boycotts to stop straight sexuality being shoved down the public’s throat. No authorities have ever said that they don’t hate straight people, they just disapprove of their lifestyle. No medical associations or governments have ever officially defined being straight as a dangerous mental disease.
All that has happened is that when some straight people express bigoted opinions about queer people, society as a whole no longer chimes in to agree. Worse than that, some people actually point out the homophobia. In some circumstances the law doesn’t penalize queer people the way it used to. In some circumstances the law no longer privileges straight people to the detriment of queer people.
That isn’t the same as being oppressed. It isn’t the same as being bashed. It isn’t the same as being murdered. It isn’t the same as being forced into homelessness. You did not have to overcome adversity, bigotry, threats of violence, actual violence, family rejection, and more just to live as an openly straight person.
Saw this list on tumblr at Join the Political Revolution. The original has links to news stories for each of the events.
It’s Pride Month…
…so let’s get a couple things straight about Donald Trump and LGBTQ rights:
- The Trump Admin. has made a conscious effort to ignore the very existence of Pride Month up until 2019. (1)
- As soon as Trump was inaugurated, the “LGBTQ rights” pages and recognitions on government websites were removed. (2)
- The Trump admin canceled plans to ask questions regarding sexual orientation on the 2020 US census. (3)
- Trump and Pence attempted to have the Commerce Department remove sexual orientation and gender identity from their equal employment policy. (4)
- Against expert advice of military leadership, medical authorities, budget analysts, the U.S. House, 70% of Americans, and the armed forces of allied countries, Trump and Pence banned transgender people from the military. (5)
- The Trump Admin. ordered Betsy DeVos and the Dept. of Ed. to rescind non-discrimination protections for transgender students, against expert advice of medical, legal, and policy professionals. (6)
- Betsy DeVos and the Dept. of Ed. announced they would reject civil rights complaints from transgender students. (7)
- Betsy DeVos refused to rule out federal funds for private schools that discriminate. (8)
- The Trump Admin. announced a proposal that would gut anti-discrimination protections for transgender patients in health care spaces, essentially permitting harm against trans patients. (9)
- May, 2019 – The Trump Admin. proposed a regulation that would enable medical professionals to deny ALL forms of care to LGBTQ patients solely based on the provider’s personal beliefs. (10)
- Trump Admin. has established a new office within HHS whose sole purpose would be to defend physicians and other medical professionals who refuse care to LGBTQ patients. (11)
- Trump Admin. granted a federally-funded foster program to discriminate against families who are LGBTQ or whom do not identify as Christian. (12)
- Since the fall of 2018, Trump and Pence have been attempting to circulate a federal government-wide regulation that would essentially erase trans people from all existing protections and acknowledgment. (13)
- Trump Admin ordered the Centers for Disease Control to stop using the word “transgender” in official reports in an effort to erase data dissemination on trans people. (14)
- Trump Admin. proposed a rule that would eliminate data collection on LGBTQ foster youth and parents, erasing all official knowledge of the needs of LGBTQ children in these spaces. (15)
- Trump Admin. specifically ordered questions on sexual orientation to be removed from surveys of programs that cater to the elderly and disabled, directly striking at older LGBTQ Americans and persons with disabilities. (16)
- Ben Carson and the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are removing the words “inclusive” and “free from discrimination” in HUD’s official mission statement while scaling back enforcement of non-discrimination regulations. (17)
- HUD and Ben Carson are permitting emergency shelters to deny access to transgender persons who are homeless. (18)
- HUD and Ben Carson trim the number of LGBTQ-related questions in federal surveys. (19)
- Trump Admin’s Justice Dept. has filed a brief In the U.S. Court Of Appeals that argued federal civil rights laws do not protect LGBTQ people from discrimination. (20)
- Trump’s Justice Dept. and Jeff Sessions issued guidelines to protect religious objections to public policy. (21)
- Trump Admin. defended the baker who refused to bake a same-sex couple a wedding cake. (22)
- Trump Admin is rolling back protections that provide safe accommodations for transgender inmates. (23)
- By executive order, Trump Admin. rolled back non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ federal contractors. (24)
- The Trump Admin. ordered the State Department to deny visas to same-sex partners of foreign diplomats. (25)
- May, 2019 – The Trump Admin. changed rules so the child of a same-sex couple born abroad via surrogate would be considered “born out of wedlock” and would not be granted U.S. citizenship. (26)
I don’t know who convinced the alleged president to send out message claiming to support queer people, but take a look at the 26 items above (and that isn’t everything). Those are all the actions of a homophobic bigot. Many of them are policy changes to don’t just take away rights, but actively hurt LGBT+ people—especially queer children. This isn’t about a difference of an opinion. These represent an assault of the livelihoods, well-being, and lives of all queer people.
And guess what? If you agree with any of those actions? That means you’re a homophobic bigot, too.
You can’t assault a group of people and then claim that you support them.
It’s June! Pride Month! Let’s take a look at news that broke I assembled this week’s Friday Five (or that I didn’t see in time, or is an update to something previous linked).
First! The state in which I was born had joined the club! Colorado becomes the 18th state to ban the ‘tortuous practice’ of conversion therapy for minors. That’s right, another state has banned so-called gay conversion therapy for children. They law also classifies advertisements for conversion therapy a deceptive trade practice.
Polis, the first openly gay man to be elected governor of a U.S. state, recognized the historic significance of the moment, saying Colorado has come a long way since being nicknamed the “hate state” in 1992, when voters amended the Constitution to prohibit protections for people on the basis of sexual orientation.
— Anna Staver, The Denver Post
Yeah, the constitutional amendment back in ’92 was pretty bad. It didn’t just ban counties and cities from enacting gay rights ordinances, it forbade counties, cities, all government agencies and school districts from enacting “any minority status, quota preferences, protected status or claim of discrimination” to anyone who was “homosexual, lesbian or bisexual orientation.” The amendment never went into law, because a state court issues an injunction against it, and the state supreme court ruled that the amendment violated equal protection, which the U.S. Supreme Court eventually agreed as well (by a 6-3 ruling, many years before the court would decriminalize gay sex).
I remember an awkward conversation with a relative who still lived in Colorado where they admitted they had voted for it, but also that they hadn’t realized what the amendment meant that it excluded gay people from all anti-discrimination laws, not just that no one could pass new laws.
Anyway, I’m happy for Colorado. Also: the other bill the governer signed yesterday allows transgender people to change their gender designation birth certificates and so forth without having to convince a judge that they have undergone specific medical procedures. That’s a big win for trans people!
Meanwhile: Gillibrand Unveils Sweeping LGBTQ Rights Agenda. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is one of the 20-some people vying for the Democratic nomination for President, and according to this article she’s the first of those candidates to announce a specific agenda for securing gay rights. I take issue with that, because if you go to the web sites of most of the Dem wannabes you’ll find a list of very similar bullet points regarding LGBT rights.
I do like a lot of the specifics in this plan: specific things that can be done by the President by Executive Order, as well as trying to get congress to pass specific bills. And it is true that none of the others have dedicated an event to such an announcement. Oh, and she’s also the only candidate (so far) to hold one of her campaign events at a Drag Show, so, there’s that!
Anyway, speaking of the other Democratic hopefuls: A Few Thoughts On Pete Buttigieg’s Dick Brother-In-Law Who Doesn’t ‘Agree’ With Chasten’s ‘Gay Lifestyle’. So, Mayor Pete is running for President. He’s an openly gay man who happens to be married to another gay man. Some of the news organizations have interviewed Pete’s husband, Chasten, and during those interviews Chasten has spoken plainly about his family’s initial reject of him when he came out, how he wound up being homeless for a while because of it, and so on.
One of his brothers took umbrage at this, and managed to get a newspaper in his state to write a long, dramatic piece of BS article about how he loves his brother, he just disagrees with his “lifestyle” and thinks gay people should not have the right to marry and a bunch of other rights, et cetera. Several times that article (not the one I linked to) talks about the great pain the brother feels seeing his gay brother describe the family as unaccepting. So often the writers at the Wonkette say exactly the snarky thing I’m thinking:
“This is where we must cut in to point out that love is an action, not a feeling. Parents who tell their children they “unconditionally” love them, but that they don’t support their “lifestyles,” or who make their gay children feel unwelcome in their homes, are neither parenting nor are they loving their children. We, the gay kids of the world, honestly do not give a fuck if our families “unconditionally” love us, because all too many of us have learned that those statements are too often meaningless. And that counts for older brothers too.
Let’s be clear about another thing: Saying you disagree with somebody’s gay “lifestyle” is saying you don’t agree with their “life.” The scientific, medical and mental health communities have told us for decades now that being gay is not a choice or a lifestyle…”
Listen, you can’t get any further from loving your teen-aged child then kicking them out of the house when they tell you they’re gay. Similarly, saying that “a queer is no brother of mine” when your younger brother comes out to you is rejection of them as a person. It isn’t love. It sure as heck isn’t Jesus’ definition of love, either!
Let’s end on happier note: Taylor Swift Petitions US Senate On LGBTQ Equality Act: “Show Our Pride By Treating All Of Our Citizens Equally”. The headline is a little misleading. Most of her post is about how her fans can call their Senators and urge passage of the Equality Act: “Politicians need votes to stay in office. Votes come from the people. Pressure from massive amounts of people is a major way to push politicians towards positive change.”
It’s worth a try!
Taylor Swift & Brendon Urie – ME! (Live on The Voice / 2019):
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
Sometimes you just have to laugh: Owners of biblical replica of Noah’s ark sue over … rain damage (and it wasn’t even 40 days and 40 nights). In case you aren’t familiar, the Ark Encounters theme park (and Creationism Museum) in Kentucky was built with an $18,000,000 (that’s 18 million) from the taxpayers. This should have seemed an obvious violation of the U.S. Constitution’s ban on establishing a religion, but no, politicians insisted that it was really about jobs that the theme park was going to create thanks to the millions of visitors who would show up to see the park. Never mind that the park insisted not just that employees be Christian, but they have a very narrow definition of Christian: prospective employees have to declare that they adhere to a litany of anti-gay and ultra conservative doctrines to be hired.
Anyway, they had some flood issues that caused damage to one of their roads, and their insurance companies have refused to cover more than a fraction of the cost of the repairs: Not The Onion: Ark Encounter Sues Over Rain Damage.
These are the same kind of people who insist that thoughts and prayers will end gun violence, and also claim their god will always provide and so forth. So, why the heck are they suing their insurance companies.
But then, remember, these same people decided two years ago to start lighting up the Ark with rainbow lights as an anti-gay statement. Again, I’m not kidding! They claim that they have taken the rainbow back from the queer community by lighting up this money pit like it’s a giant Pride Parade float: ‘Look at this gay boat’: Creationist’s use of ‘God’s rainbow’ colors for Ark park lighting gets hilariously mocked.
Irony is when people are (tragically) unaware that their perception of their situation or their actions are at odds with their actual situation. Clearly, irony is very much alive and kicking for the Ark Encounter wingnuts.
Speaking of wingnuts, Ben Shapiro is spouting off racist/facist/nazi nonsense, again. He and the alt-right are always disavowing each other, they because he’s Jewish, and he because somehow he thinks that people can’t see that he is saying all the same things they are. But don’t take my word for it, go read this incredibly good explanation: On the Right & Civilisations. “I know there’s already a thousand takedowns of this whiny crap from Ben Shapiro but good grief it is whiny crap.”
It’s definitely worth the read!
Edited to Add: Since the news about the Ark Encounter park suing its insurers over the refusal to cover all of the flood damage unleashed a million mocking headlines, they have gotten very angry and issued a counter-statment: Ark Encounter Really Hates That People Are Saying They Suffered “Flood” Damage. The statements from the Ark Encounter people declare all of those headlines fake news (they use the exact phrase) and then say that it is not flood damage, it’s rain damage—because that is totally different, and rain doesn’t have the same funny connotations as flood does when talking about Noah’s Ark.
So the places that specifically used the phrase “and it wasn’t even 40 days and 40 nights!” can totally keep the same headlines.
One more thing: I got a ping elseweb in response to this original posting that took issue with me poking fun at the Ark Encounters park because they light up the ark light a rainbow every night, making it look like a gay pride statement clearly visible from the nearest interstate. The commenter didn’t think I understood that the rainbow was a symbol from god. Ahem. As I have written before: the christianists who try to claim the gays stole the rainbow from god are the ones who don’t understand the importance of the rainbow in the story of Noah. I’ll just quote one of the times I wrote about it: “[quoting] from the end of the story of Noah in the old testament to justify his claim that queers have stolen god’s invention. I’m going to quote a bit of that: “13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.” That’s god talking to Noah, and please note what god himself says: the rainbow is a sign of a covenant between god and the entire planet. A moment later he emphasizes that it is a sign of a covenant between him and all living creatures of every kind. Gay people are part of the planet. Gay people are a kind of living creature.”
I will leave for the reader the exercise of determining just what kind of an omniscient being needs to leave himself post-it notes in the sky just to remember that he shouldn’t commit genocide.
Time for another post about news that broke after I posted this week’s Friday Five (or didn’t come to my attention until afterward). And as usual I have some opinions that I wish to expound upon.
First up, if ever a headline deserved the word finally: GOP Rep. Amash becomes first Republican to say Trump ‘engaged in impeachable conduct’. Representative Amash has always described himself as a Libertarian, so he’s never been lock-step with the more overtly evangelical or authoritarian wings of the Republican party. So it makes sense that he would be one of the people who would look past partisan loyalty and talk about defending liberty. The sad part is that so far none of the other self-described Libertarians have been willing to do the same thing.
If you’re wondering why so far no other single Republican has been willing to do their duty and uphold the Constitution in the face of the blatant unfitness and corruption of the Trump administration, this provides a nice explanation: Why Justin Amash stands alone. The short version: Congressional Republicans fall into roughly three camps: 1) they know he’s corrupt and unfit, but they’ll get the judges and tax laws they want until things come crashing down around him, at which point they’ll all say they were always secretly opposed to him, 2) those who recognize that they’re financial futures are tied to being about to stay in the Conservative Bubble Racket, so if they oppose Trump, they won’t get those lucrative Fox News or Think Tank jobs when they retire, 3) and then a lot of them are genuinely racist, homophobic, and otherwise hateful and actually believe in everything he’s doing.
I’m not ready to label Amash a hero, because Trump’s violation of the Emoluments Clause at the very beginning of his administration should have brought some protests from Congressional Republicans. And in various tweets and statements while trying to attack his perceived enemies, Trump admitted to the obstruction of justice about two years ago, long before the blatant refusal to respond to Congressional subpoenas now. Amash should have been making these kind of critical statements then. He was probably in Camp 1 above, though not very enthusiastically. I see Amash as more of a glimmer of hope that maybe his decision was driven by those polls showing a larger and larger number of Americans who believe Trump is guilty, and so we may be reaching the stage where the rest of Camp 1 will start peeling off.
I said was a glimmer, but a big one.
While we’re on the topic of why it matters that the Republicans in Camp 1 and Camp 2 have been derelict in their Constitutional duties for three years: Alabama’s Extremist Abortion Bill Ruins John Roberts’ Roe Plan — SCOTUS was all teed up to quietly gut America’s abortion rights. Then Alabama happened. The Alabama abortion bill is awful, and it isn’t just about abortion: it effectively outlaws a lot of medical treatments that people need. It makes the penalty for getting an abortion, even in the case of rape, more severe than the most severe penalty given to rapists! It’s just horrible. It’s also taking aim at the legal basis for the ruling that overturned sodomy laws, making it legal for gay people to have consentual sex in the privacy of their own homes.
And despite what the headline says, I don’t believe for a moment that the Supreme Court will go ahead and uphold it when it gets to them. Roberts may have hoped to destroy abortion rights in a continuing series of small steps where he could pretend that he was just allowing reasonable restrictions, but he was clearly on board with the goal. So I’m not holding out much hope.
And as I have tried to point out many times to some gay men I know who keep insisting that abortion has nothing to do with them: the exact same reasoning–a person has the right to decide what to do with their own body–that underlies the landmark abortion rights case, was also used by the justices who overturned sodomy laws, and it is part of the reasoning for the ruling the legalized marriage equality. This is just another domino in a long line of ways that some people want to take away rights from a whole lot of us.
And that’s depressing, so I’m going to switch gears and share this story about a situation that almost turned into yet another school shooting, but was stopped, not by a good man with a gun, but by an unarmed good man: Former Oregon Ducks wide receiver hailed as hero at Parkrose High School.
It all started back in 2012: Jerry Falwell Jr & his wife met a young pool boy on vacation. Then they started ‘helping’ him.. The Falwells were staying at a ritzy hotel in Miami, where 21-year-old Giancarlo Granda was working as a pool attendant. The hunky young man started mysteriously spending a lot of time with the middle-aged couple during their stay. And later he started flying with them on their private jet to various places. He was seen hanging out with the couple on many occasions, without any explanation.
Pro-Trump Pastor Jerry Falwell Gave Hot Young Pool Boy $1.8 Million & Flew Him First Class on Personal Vacations While Promoting Anti-Gay “Christian Values” as Liberty University President. Shortly after befriending the pool boy, the Falwells asks some associates to help them find a business they could buy in order to give their new friend “a good income.” They eventually settled on purchasing a “youth hostel” in Miami, providing the $1 million down payment on the mortgage (the property was valued at more than $4 million at the time), plus $800,000 to renovate the place. After the renovations, promotional material for the hostel listed the former pool boy as the owner, though later court papers list the owner as a shell company that is owned by the Falwells, their son, and one other family member.
This youth hostel was actually the first part of this whole sordid affair that came to light in 2017 when a reporter for Politico wrote: My Weekend at the Falwells’ South Beach Flophouse and Falwell, Jr. Opened ‘Gay-Friendly’ Youth Hostel With 21-Year-Old Pool Boy . The hostel offers what is described as dorm-like accommodations for $20 a night. There is a bar on the premises, a liquor store next door, and a sign on the front door that lists things not allowed inside, including both politics and religion. It is also described as veery gay friendly, with posters for cabaret shows at local gay clubs on display in the aforementioned bar, for example. In other words, it is a business making money on things that Falwell, his ministry and his university all regularly and vitriolically condemn. But you’ll notice when you read that story that most of the reporter’s concern is about possible tax-evasion that this purchase of a youth hostel may represent.
The story finally started registering when this happened: Jerry Falwell Jr and pool boy sued over business venture. Two Miami businessmen, a father and son with the names Jesus Fernandez Sr, and Jesus Fernandez, Jr. had consulted back in 2012 or 2013 with the former pool boy about possible business ventures that he could enter into with the backing of the Falwells, and they had at least one meeting with both Jerry Falwell Jr. and Granda the pool boy. They allege that they were promised shares in the business and other payments, which have not been forthcoming. It was in depositions for this trail that the amount of money the Falwells had given to the pool boy (that $1.8 million above) was revealed. Falwell claims it was a loan, but has so far not produced any proof that there is a repayment plan or that any money has been coming back to them.
Still, at these point it is all a little odd, and several people were making guesses about the nature of the relationship between the Falwells and the pool boy (I mean, why did they suddenly take an interest in a much younger pool attendant to the point of flying him around in their private jet, putting him up at their home at least once, and handing him nearly two million dollars?). Those of us who were guessing various sexual shenanigans (are the Falwells into something like a hot-wife or cuckold kink? Do they just like threeways?) weren’t being taken seriously.
Until this bombshell: Exclusive: Trump fixer Cohen says he helped Falwell handle racy photos.
So Michael Cohen (currently serving a 3 year federal prison sentence for tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations over his hush payments made to a porn star Donald Trump had an affair with in order to keep the affair secret) was asked by Jerry Falwell Jr to recover some “racy photos, the kind that should remain private between a husband and wife” that someone was trying to blackmail him with. Cohen flew to Miami, and claims that he met with the person, made some kind of offer, and that the person destroyed all of the photos–except one that Cohen himself kept. This happened just a few months before the 2015 Iowa caucuses, and crucially, just before Jerry Falwell, Jr stunned a lot of people by endorsing Donald Trump. An endorsement which, by the way, has been widely reported to have been engineered by Cohen.
Some people will ask why this whole sordid affair is newsworthy. First of all, Jerry Falwell, Jr. is a public figure who regularly endorses political candidates and causes, encouraging his large following to vote and donate in these political issues. He does with the aid of several large tax-exempt organizations (some of which are legally forbidden from advocating specific political causes, by the way). There are legitimate questions about just how much of his supposedly private for profit business ventures have been financed with tax exempt donations to the non-profit entities. In which case, these businesses are being financed illegally with taxpayer money. Among the favorite targets of Falwell’s tax-payer subsidized condemnations are the civil rights of gay people, the health and reproductive rights of women, the civil rights of muslims, et cetera and ad nauseam.
On top of all of that, it appears that his endorsement of Trump, which came at a crucial moment just before the Iowa caususes, may have been a repayment to Cohen and Trump for helping to make the sex scandal of the “racy pictures” go away.
Falwell hasn’t just railed against what he calls sexual perversion, he has actively worked to roll back laws protecting everyone’s right to decide their own reproductive health, including trying to legally regulate what consenting adults (straight and queer alike) can do in the privacy of their own relationships. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to such issues for the last several decades that someone who publicly reviles other people for their personal sexual activity has some sexual skeletons in their closet, yet here, once again, that appears to be the case.
Now, we don’t know the exact contents of these racy pictures that Cohen paid someone to destroy. We don’t know for a fact whether the pool boy engaged in some kind of kinky sex with Mr & Mrs Falwell beginning in 2012 and continuing through early 2016 when they were still regularly seen in his company (remember, he was living, attending college, and running that business in Florida, which the Falwells live in Virginia, so all the times they were seen together weren’t merely a matter of happening to bump into a neighbor). We don’t know if that is what so endeared him to them that they shelled out $1.8 million to buy him a sketchy business in 2013. We don’t yet know how much money nor where said money came from that Cohen paid out to someone in Miami in 2015 to make the racy pictures go away. Likewise we don’t yet know who it was that was using those photos.
Now, since one of the times that the pool boy stayed at the Falwells’ mansion in Virginia was after Cohen made the racy photos go away, I think it is very clear that the pool boy wasn’t the person trying to blackmail them. It is very possible that the pool boy is in some of those photos—Cohen described the pictures as “very bad,” so they clearly can’t just be pictures of Falwell and his wife having sex all on their lonesome, as is implied by the phrase “of the sort that should remain private between a husband and wife.”
I have no beef with people living a monogamish relationship. I certainly don’t begrudge anyone the right to engage in kinky sex. One of the points I frequently make when talking about the injustice of sodomy laws, restrictions in reproductive rights, and civil rights for queer people is that as long as no one is getting hurt and everyone involved is a consenting adult—what people do to get their rocks off should be their own business, and outside the review of the law.
But I do have a beef with hypocrisy from people who are actively engaged in taking those kinds of rights away from other people. Particularly if they are either making their living from the tax payer (politicians, prosecutors, police, and so on) or making their living from tax exempt activities (which means indirectly funded by tax payers). If it turns out that Falwell’s decision to endorse self-described pussy-grabber Trump in the Republican primaries in part in gratitude for trying to make the scandal of the racy photos go away, well, we enter an entirely different level. Falwell more than meets the legal definition of a public figure, and this affair—whatever the salacious details—involves public money, the outcome of political campaigns, and the subsequent assault on the rights of LGBT people, women, immigrants, people who do not subscribe to Falwell’s brand of evangelical christianism, and others.
Giancarlo Granda, now in his late twenties and attending grad school in Georgetown, has issued a number of terse replies to various reporters over the series of events. When asked whether he knew anything about the photos, his reply was that he wasn’t the person who attempted to blackmail the Falwells. Which wasn’t exactly the question that was asked. He has a few other gripes with the way the story has been reported: Jerry Falwell’s Pool Boy: Stop Calling Me “Pool Boy”. Sorry, Giancarlo, that isn’t likely to happen. You were doing your job in a skimpy swimsuit as a pool attendant at a Miami hotel when the Falwell’s met you and pulled you into their life in whatever capacity. You went on those trips with them on their private, tax-exempt jet. And I don’t know anyone who believes it was because of your business acumen. So I’m not willing to think you’re a completely innocent victim in all of this.
It will be interesting to see what comes out of the Fernandez’s lawsuit. And if Cohen really did save one of the pictures, well, who knows what will happen, next?
Meanwhile, you might enjoy this video: Rachel Maddow: Michael Cohen Said He Fixed ‘Racy Photo’ Problem For Falwell Jr (Rachel also warns you may feel the need to take a shower after hearing some of the details):
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)