Published: Wed, 07 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0500
Last Build Date: Wed, 07 Dec 2016 15:02:26 -0500
Mon, 05 Dec 2016 00:01:00 -0500On gay rights, America has come a great distance in a short time. Remember the days, not so long ago, that gays stayed in the closet, sodomy was a crime, same-sex marriage was banned and people could be fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation? Actually, you don't have to try to remember that last. It's still the case in 28 states, including Mike Pence's Indiana, that holding hands with your same-sex partner in public can mean losing your livelihood. A bigoted boss can cashier a good employee for loving someone of the wrong gender. This unprotected status is an anomaly under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which forbids employment discrimination on the basis of "race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." African-Americans and other racial minorities are protected, Catholics and Muslims are protected, women are protected and immigrants are protected. Gays are not. Many libertarians, whose general principles I share, think the law is an intolerable infringement on contractual freedom. When Gary Johnson, the party's presidential nominee, said at the Libertarian Party's national convention in May that he would have voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act, he was booed. But pretty much everyone else agrees that ship has sailed, as well it should have. The question now is not whether federal law should ban discrimination on the basis of certain criteria. It's merely which criteria deserve inclusion. On this issue, the public took the side of gays even before coming around on same-sex marriage. Most Americans think discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation should be illegal. Not only that, a 2015 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 75 percent think it already is. A study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law reported, "A majority of Americans in every U.S. congressional district support laws that protect against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation." Such an expansion would make sense, because gays are similar to other minorities that have long been targets of hostility and mistreatment. But when the 1964 law was passed, no one was thinking of protecting gays, who were widely viewed with ignorant disgust. And a bill known as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act has been repeatedly introduced in Congress, to no avail. So federal law leaves gays out in the cold. Or does it? A lawsuit heard on Nov. 30 before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago argues that the federal law against discrimination on the basis of sex should be interpreted to cover sexual orientation. Nearly all of the judges who asked questions appeared to find much merit in the argument. Frank Easterbrook, a renowned conservative appointed by Ronald Reagan, noted that in its 1967 decision in Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court struck down a law forbidding interracial marriage because it treated people of different races differently. A black woman could marry a black man but not a white man. She was penalized solely because of her race. In the gay rights case, community college teacher Kimberly Hively said she lost her job after she was seen kissing her female partner goodbye in the parking lot. Had she been seen kissing her male partner, she would not have lost her job. "Why isn't that sex discrimination by exactly the reasoning of Loving?" demanded Easterbrook. Hively allegedly suffered retribution not for having a female partner, which would be perfectly fine if she were a man, but for being a woman who has a female partner. How can that not qualify as sex discrimination? The obvious retort is that the lawmakers who approved the 1964 Civil Rights Act didn't mean to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and therefore it doesn't. But they also didn't set out to deter sexual harassment of men by men or to prevent the firing of women because they are perceived as unfeminine—both of which the Supreme Court has ruled illegal under the law. Conservative hero Justice Antonin Scalia, writing in 1998 for a unanimous court, agreed that such conduct was not wh[...]
Tue, 22 Nov 2016 13:10:00 -0500Georgia Republican Rep. Tom Price is being floated as one of President-Elect Donald Trump's likely picks to serve as secretary of Health and Human Services. It shouldn't come as a surprise (at least for people who know who Price is). Price, current head of the House Budget Committee, is a doctor and huge opponent of the Affordable Care Act as it exists. But Price is more than just somebody who doesn't like Obamacare—he's one of the Republicans responsible for actually putting together a substantive plan for reforms. Peter Suderman analyzed Price's ideas to repeal and replace Obamacare in a 2014 issue of Reason magazine. Price is also extremely conservative in just about every way—including holding socially conservative views opposing gay marriage and gay rights laws. Price regularly scores a zero on the Human Rights Campaign's scorecard evaluating legislators' votes on LGBT issues. He put out a statement after the Supreme Court mandated government recognition of same-sex marriages as "legislating from the bench" and "a sad day for marriage." He has previously supported a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. So his history of comments on LGBT issues has popped up on gay blogs and sites as a source of concern. But would his positions opposing gay marriage actually mean anything in office? Legal recognition is a settled matter. It seems unlikely he would be able to implement policies that, for example, assist families headed by a heterosexual couple but not gay ones. There is a quote from 2013 people are noticing that could be instructive. Price is no fan of LGBT folks, but he's also clearly a policy wonk. When asked by an antigay rabbi about whether the legislature should take into account the "health impact and economic impact" of "promoting" homosexuality, abortion, or pornography, he responded: The consequences of activity that has been seen as outside the norm are real and must be explored completely and in their entirety prior to moving forward with any social legislation that would alter things. I'm always struck by people who wake up one morning and think that they've got a grand new way of doing something when as you all know that the tried and true traditions in history that made us great are preserved and have survived because they are effective. I hear you, medical health and costs; you talk about a huge cost-driver to state pensions and other things, many of these areas would significantly alter state balance sheets. The quote is kind of fascinating in the sense that homosexuality, abortion, and pornography are hardly "new" and are part of those traditions of history that have survived because some people happen to be gay and lots of people love porn. Liberal elites aren't the only folks who live inside bubbles sometimes. But as for his concerns about the cost impact to state pensions and balances, I can only assume he's talking about what happens to benefits when states are legally required to recognize same-sex partners as beneficiaries. In that case, let's suggest that if it's too costly to treat couples equally under the law for these benefits, the problem then lies in the benefits themselves, not with equality. Given Price's interest in cost controls and reducing government spending, maybe that's something he should think about. There will likely be fights between the LGBT and a Price-run HHS in issues raging from whether transgender people can have treatments covered, access to the latest medicines that are showing to be increasingly successful in preventing the spread of HIV, and even the unending debate over how much to teach children about sexuality and/or abstinence. If anything, these examples show the problem with the government having so much control over what we do with our own bodies and how we do it. If we want government out of our bedrooms, we also need to stop demanding the government get involved in our bedroom-related matters in the first place. If access to important treatments and medicine is dependent on havi[...]
Mon, 14 Nov 2016 14:15:00 -0500Because President-Elect Donald Trump has taken just about every conceivable possible position on gay and transgender issues, and because these LGBT issues played almost no role in how the election turned out, I've been reluctant to even speculate what might happen in a Trump administration. Others have been much less circumspect and are certain that Trump is going to be a disaster for LGBT issues. History suggests they would be saying that regardless of who the Republican nominee was, so it's helpful to recognize that this freakout would have happened if it had been Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, or probably any of the other GOP candidates except maybe John Kasich. The Republican Party did decide to maintain and even expand an anti-gay platform prior to the election despite the opportunity to move forward. All of this response is rather disconnected from what Trump actually has the power to accomplish when in office and what the public at large would actually stand for. Yes, Vice President-Elect Mike Pence has legitimately awful positions on gay and transgender issues, but that should not be taken as indicator of what can actually happen. After all, conservative Christians rallied voters to the polls in 2004 with the possibility of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage recognition and that never happened or even got anywhere near where it was even a possibility. It did influence several state-level gay marriage bans. Fear was used to keep the LGBT vote strongly directed toward the Democrats. Clinton lost, but the fear remains, even though it's tied to not a whole lot but rhetoric. Walter Olson, Cato senior fellow and Reason contributing editor, took to the New York Post to actually analyze what's likely to happen under Trump and came away concluding that as president, he won't be rolling back gay rights. But LGBT groups may not succeed in pushing for even more federal oversight over private treatment of gay and transgender issues. Gay marriage recognition is safe (Trump said on 60 Minutes that he has no interest in trying to relitigate that fight). There's going to be no effort to reinstitute a ban on military service. But there's a couple of issues that Olson points out where I agree and would like to flesh out a little bit. Quoting Olson: The federal government will pull back from its ill-advised attempt to prescribe nationwide rules for school bathrooms and changing areas. Debates will continue at the state and local level, where public opinion will prove more amenable to workable compromise than one would guess from the loudest voices on both sides. Trump himself said in April he opposes the controversial North Carolina law on the issue that some social conservatives have championed. Organized LGBT groups will go on refusing to concede any legitimate role for religious exemptions in discrimination law, even in the operation of, say, church-affiliated colleges. They will therefore decline to enter any negotiations to amend or refine proposals like the so-called First Amendment Defense Act. That will, in turn, increase the danger that congressional Republicans will themselves overreach by enacting some version of such a proposal that is unfair or impractical. Right before the election, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of a transgender teen fighting with a Virginia school board over the Department of Education's rule-making that schools must accommodate his request to use male facilities at school. The case, though, could end up really being about the process of federal rule-making and could avoid answering the actual question of whether the Obama administration's interpretation of the law is correct. The court could rule that the administration didn't properly implement policies, and then it could be up to the Trump administration to decide what to do next. But the worst-case scenario here would be that they decide not to try again to implement this federal policy and leave it to the states (Trump sort of flip-flopped on North Carolina's law after April [...]
Fri, 28 Oct 2016 12:20:00 -0400Meet Brian Sims, member of Pennsylvania's state House of Representatives and a Democrat. He gets a lot of attention nationally because he's also openly gay and an activist in the gay community. He's been serving in office since 2012. Now meet Dick Yuengling Jr., the elderly proprietor of Yuengling brewery in Pennsylvania. Donald Trump's son, Eric, visited the brewery on Monday and promoted it as a great business success, promising there would be more companies like it if his dad were president. Yuengling (the man, not the brewery) is a Trump supporter and told Eric, "Our guys are behind your father. We need him in there." Apparently that some people at a brewery support Trump as president has resulted in some outrage within the gay community, and this has led to a call for gay bars to dump Yuengling's beers as a protest. Sims is a loud proponent of such a boycott. He posted on Facebook: GOOD BYE, Yuengling Brewery: I'm not normally one to call for boycotts but I absolutely believe that how we spend our dollars is a reflection of our votes and our values! Supporting Yuengling Brewery, that uses my dollars to bolster a man, and an agenda, that wants to punish me for being a member of the LGBT community and punish the black and brown members of my community for not being white, is something I'm too smart and too grown up to do. D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc. believes that an agenda that is anti-woman, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT, anti-racial minority and anti-equality is best for them and that tells me all I need to know about what they think is best for their own customers. I won't reminisce about your product or lament any losses. Goodbye Yuengling and shame on you. Sincerely, A former customer of 17 years! Now, this initial post is simply Sims saying he's not buying Yuengling anymore because of the owner's politics, and, you know, there's nothing wrong with that. Many people have made choices like this. But a subsequent post took it to the next level and called on gay bars in the Philadelphia area to dump the beer. And because of Sims' position as an elected official, this call is getting media attention. Claire Sasko over at Philadelphia magazine notes that Dick Yuengling is a well-known conservative who holds conservative views and has been such for years, so Sims acting like he's just discovering the man's politics is a bit rich. If true, it kind of shows how unaware Sims is of his state's own political landscape. I've been critical of previous LGBT-centered boycott calls as misguided and ineffective (consider the absurd and pointless of boycott of Stolichnaya vodka in order to attempt to punish the Russian government for treating gay people there badly). We should be even more critical of this call from Sims. Sims is not just a gay activist. He is an elected official of the Democratic Party. He is calling for citizens to punish a business for supporting the presidential candidate of the political party that opposes him. He is not Dan Savage. He's an elected office-holder attempting to punish a supporter of another political party. He can couch it in terms of gay issues all he wants, but he is still calling for the economic harm of a man and a company over support of a Republican. This is grotesque and needs to be pushed back. This is an unhealthy attitude for a politician in a country that values free and open elections. The response from a Democratic politician to Trump's campaign should be to make a better case for Hillary Clinton, not to try to hurt citizens within his own state who support the Republican. Furthermore, this is an effort that can so clearly and obviously backfire terribly. A good, huge (yuuuuge!) chunk of Trump voters are motivated by the belief that they are victims and that politicians and bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., are "out to get them," to hurt them by handing their tax dollars to illegal immigrants, to steal their money with Obamacare, to ship their jobs to China, and to line the pockets of their friends and do[...]
Mon, 10 Oct 2016 17:45:00 -0400Speaking for myself and only myself, I feel as though it's actually a positive development that gay and transgender issues are playing such a minor role in this year's presidential election. Granted, there are still some political fights going on (particularly in North Carolina over transgender bathroom issues and discrimination regulations), and there are some fears that the Supreme Court might rethink gay marriage recognition (very unlikely). But for better or worse, gay issues are not a major narrative in this election. But that does make me wonder why a blog post I wrote last February got a bunch of new visitors over the weekend. Maybe the title of the post helps explain: "Hillary Clinton's Struggles on Gay Issues Are About Her Honesty, Not Her Transformation." Like many Democratic politicians (including President Barack Obama), Clinton was not a supporter of legal gay marriage recognition until recent years. She "evolved," is the term they've all decided to use. Clinton got herself into some hot water earlier last fall defending Bill Clinton's signing of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) back when he was president. Both Clintons have tried to argue that their support of DOMA as an attempt to prevent a possible Republican effort to pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting recognition of same-sex marriage nationwide. They were trying to shift blame for their own support for DOMA to Republicans. The problem was that there was no Republican push for a constitutional amendment during Clinton's administration. That failed effort didn't come around until George W. Bush became president. LGBT activists knew this and blasted Clinton for trying to blame her own positions on Republicans. It was a revisionist history designed to try to wriggle their way out of responsibility for the passage of anti-gay legislation. Now the new leaks of internal emails within the Clinton campaign from Wikileaks make it clear that the Clinton campaign understood that she was wrong about the history of DOMA, but she also was not likely to admit it or their role in supporting the legislation. Clinton campaign LGBT liaison Dominic Lowell noted last October that gay activists were not supporting Clinton's story that there was a constitutional amendment being pushed by the Republicans. Dan Schwerin, director of speechwriting for the campaign, noted: [M]y two cents is that you're not going to get her to disavow her explanation about the constitutional amendment and this exercise will be most effective if it provides some context and then goes on offense. And later … I'm not saying double down or ever say it again. I'm just saying that she's not going to want to say she was wrong about that, given she and her husband believe it and have repeated it many times. Better to reiterate evolution, opposition to DOMA when court considered it, and forward looking stance. We've hit Trump repeatedly in his stubborn refusal to acknowledge the facts on everything from crime and trade because they're politically inconvenient to the message he's trying to sell to voters. Here, too, Clinton has been selling herself as the savior to LGBT voters for every political issue that remains (regardless of whether it needs any sort of federal involvement). But she stubbornly wants to cling to the idea that she was forced into an antigay stance, a claim that is not supported by history. That, in a nutshell, explains why this latest round of email leaks has probably led people back to my blog post from last year about her honesty. Which version of Clinton would be president? Why are we asking that question about Trump, but not her?[...]
Thu, 06 Oct 2016 12:45:00 -0400Let's start off by fact-checking and correcting both The Daily Show's and Huffington Post writer Cavan Sieczkowski's understanding of North Carolina's HB2. This is the controversial "bathroom bill" that requires transgender people to use the government and public school facilities that match the sex listed on their birth certificates. There's more to the law, but it does not, as The Daily Show claims, permit or suddenly change state law to exclude gay and transgender people from antidiscrimination protections. In reality, North Carolina does not and never has provided state-level antidiscrimination protection for LGBT folks in employment and public accommodations. It's always been legal to discriminate against gay people and transgender people in North Carolina. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not classified as protected categories in their laws. What HB2 does is forbid cities within North Carolina from adding sexual orientation and gender identity (or any other classification the state doesn't recognize) to their own antidiscrimination laws. This was done in a response to the City of Charlotte expanding its antidiscrimination and public accommodation laws. I realize this is probably overly nuanced nitpicking for something like The Daily Show, but based on a stunt they recently pulled, it's really worth reminding folks that the government hasn't given anybody "permission to discriminate." The possibility of this kind of discrimination has been around all along because it hadn't been forbidden. The segment also incorrectly states that discrimination against LGBT people in the state will be legal for as long as HB2 is on the books. It will remain legal even if HB2 is repealed (at least on the state level) because, again, sexual orientation and gender identity are not considered protected classes by the state. (In fact, given the way the law is written, the state actually could add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes without repealing the law at all and keep all the transgender bathroom nonsense intact) In an attempt to highlight the alleged absurdity of this mischaracterized "permission" to discriminate, The Daily Show sent a BBQ food truck to North Carolina to randomly refuse to serve people in comic fashion. Isn't it strange, the segment wants us to understand, to refuse to just arbitrarily refuse service to people because you think they're gay? Yes, it is strange for a food truck to refuse to serve customers based on their sexual orientation. Did anybody involved with this stunt maybe stop for a moment and realize that they were criticizing something that wasn't happening and therefore they were actually making a remarkably uncompelling argument? If there were a serious, widespread problem with discrimination against gay people, they wouldn't have had to set up a fake food truck, would they? They'd be able to just go down to North Carolina and go to one of the existing businesses who were discriminating against gay people and do one of those interviews where they get people to say stupid things so the viewers can feel superior. But they didn't. They had to fabricate a Seinfeldian Soup Nazi-style environment to try to present an exaggerated possibility. It's an attempt at satire. It's an attempt to comically present a potential logical conclusion. But the flaw is that it actually highlights how little interest there is in widespread discrimination against gay people. There are no scenes of Jim Crow-style behavior targeting LGBT folks. Yes, discrimination exists, but there is no widespread conspiracy to exclude gay and transgender people, and there is so much more cultural pressure that can resolve it positively without getting the state involved. The irony here is that they're exaggerating the potential threat of a problem to justify legal intervention controlling individual behavior, which is … exactly what Gov. Pat McCrory and supporters of monitor[...]
Mon, 26 Sep 2016 12:40:00 -0400A new poll has Hillary Clinton dominating Donald Trump with registered gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender voters. This is not terribly surprising news. But both Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein are drawing some notable numbers from the LGBT community. NBC partnered with Survey Monkey to track likely voters for two weeks in September. In a head-to-head matchup between Clinton and Trump, Clinton won overwhelmingly, 72 percent to 20 percent. Those numbers are generally comparable to the split in the LGBT vote in previous elections. But the poll also evaluated a four-way matchup. There, both Clinton's and Trump's numbers dropped. Clinton would beat Trump for the LGBT vote, 63 percent to 15 percent. Johnson would get 13 percent of the LGBT vote and Stein would get 8 percent. So the third-party candidates are pulling 9 percentage points worth of LGBT votes from Clinton and 5 percentage points from Trump. And given that the head-to-head matchup shows an 8 percent either undecided or declining to say, it's safe to say that there's a good number of LGBT voters unhappy with their major party choices. By and large, though, the poll also shows that LGBT voters view Clinton much more positively than the general public. Among those polled, 59 percent view Clinton positively. Her popularity numbers when comparing the LGBT community to the general community are essentially reversed. Trump's favorability rating is even worse among LGBT voters than it is among the general public. Only 17 percent of LGBT voters view Trump favorably. Trump's unpopularity with the LGBT community should be seen as rather striking, given that he's less openly hostile on gay issues than previous Republican candidates. But policy-wise, he's extremely unpredictable. He has taken both sides on the debate over whether North Carolina can ban transgender people from using the school or government bathrooms and other facilities of their choice. He has, as the election gone on, essentially taken every Republican position, including opposition to the legal recognition of gay marriage. Clinton, meanwhile has promised the LGBT community anything any activist group has asked for, a host of new federal laws and regulations to protect them, and just about anything at all to get the gay vote. But clearly a good chunk of LGBT voters are thinking beyond gay issues, which is not unusual. What is unusual is that these third-party candidates are siphoning off such large numbers. According to the poll, 70 percent of the LGBT voters who responded identify as Democrats or lean Democrat. That means Clinton is losing seven percentage points from LGBT voters within her party when Johnson and Stein are offered. The LGBT voting community is not large. They accounted for seven percent of this total voting sample. But given how close the polls are now, that's enough to swing an election outcome.[...]
Fri, 26 Aug 2016 16:15:00 -0400
(image) It appears as though Australians will not be heading to the polls to decide whether the government should recognize marriages between same-sex partners after all. In this case, parties on the left are blocking the public vote, which had been organized as a sort of compromise by conservatives who are part of the country's ruling Coalition and would not legislatively approve same-sex marriage.
But supporters of same-sex marriage in Australia don't want a public vote, though polls show that Australians overwhelmingly support recognition. They object to the cost of having an election for this issue (remember: voting in Australia is mandatory), and gay marriage proponents also oppose having a public vote on a human rights issue. But not a vote by lawmakers who represent the public. Go figure. (Well, I suppose you can't launch a campaign to boot your neighbors out afterward if you don't like how they voted.)
But that path to a Parliament vote is equally complicated, and The West Australian wonders if it might actually take several years more than to legalize it via lawmakers. The issue here is that Australia's Parliament is fragmented across several parties, and most votes are strictly enforced along party lines. The same reason that Australia's Parliament can't get approval for a public vote on gay marriage is essentially the same reason why it hasn't been able to get through the Parliament itself. There hasn't been a strong enough coalition between different groups.
David Leyonhjelm, Australia's libertarian (technically Liberal Democrat) senator, had been trying to push for a same-sex marriage vote in the Parliament. Under the previous government (they've had a change in prime ministers and a new parliamentary election since then), the only way to have gotten gay marriage through the Parliament would have been for the ruling political parties to permit their members to vote their consciences rather than a party line. Attempts to make that happen in the government's ruling Coalition (center-to-right Liberals and Nationalists) failed, and the Coalition's official stance on same-sex marriage was in opposition. So members of those parties in the Parliament were expected to vote against it. Ao it has not been pushed to a vote in the Parliament yet.
The new Parliament keeps the same ruling coalition in charge, so there's a new push on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to get lawmakers to actually vote (and obviously vote "yes"). Read more here.
Wed, 24 Aug 2016 14:35:00 -0400Have you ever looked at "MILF" photos? Lusted after someone with "dad bod?" Congratulations, you might be a mesophiliac! "Mesophilia"—a sexual attraction to middle-aged adults—is one of dozens of potential sexual-orientations explored in a new paper from forensic psychologist Michael Seto, an associate professor at the University of Toronto and director of forensic rehabilitation research at the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group. Seto's research has long focused on sexuality, especially the psychology of sex offenders and of pedophiles. In his latest paper, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, Seto returns to and expands upon "the idea that pedophilia, a sexual interest in prepubescent children, can be considered a sexual orientation for age, in conjunction with the much more widely acknowledged and discussed sexual orientation for gender." The gendered direction of attraction is usually what we mean when we talk about sexual orientation: are you gay? straight? bisexual? But a burgeoning idea among sex researchers and psychologists is that this defines things too narrowly. As Jesse Singal explains at New York mag, "given the current scientific understanding of what sexual orientation is — that it is a deep-seated attraction toward certain sorts of people that first manifests itself around puberty, tends to be stable across the lifespan, and can't be altered by any intentional means — there's compelling reason to think gender is just one piece of a bigger, more complex puzzle." Even the gender dimension is more complex than most realize, writes Seto, with some people "attracted to gynandromorphs, that is... individuals with physical features of both sexes ... other individuals who are attracted specifically to transgender people, and those who would describe themselves as more pansexual with regard to gender, for example, being attracted to both cis- and trans-gender women or men." According to Seto—who defines sexual orientation as "essential aspects of one's sexuality that organize sexual attention, sexual response, and sexual behavior"—all of us have "multiple sexual orientations, rather than a single sexual orientation, across a variety of different dimensions." In his paper, Seto looks at seven chronophilias—orientations where sexual attraction hinges on age—and various paraphilias, the term given to sexual desires such as sadism, masochism, and exhibitionism. After gender, the second most-studied dimension for sexual attraction has been age. The vast majority of people are teleiophilic—that is, preferring sexually mature but pre-middle-age adults. For men, data indicates that around one percent are pedophilic (attracted to prepubescent children), notes Seto, while nepiophilia (attraction to infants and toddlers) is much more rare and hebephilia (attraction to children around ages 11-14) and ephebophilia (attraction to adolescents) both more common. Good estimates are hard to come by, however, as "little is known about noncriminal variations in age interests" and most of the research that does exist is exclusive to men. Sexual orientations are thought to be innate—i.e., a person can't choose to stop getting turned-on by feet or dominance or dad-bod anymore than they can choose to stop sexually reacting as they do to the opposite or same sex. This tends to alarm folks who think that calling something natural is to condone anything it inspires. But psychopathy and sociopathy are innate, or natural, too. The born-this-way element of sexual orientation doesn't mean that acting on an orientation is OK when it conflicts with other moral or social norms we've nurtured. Likewise, sexual orientations are psychologically neutral, notes Seto—that is, having an unusual orientation isn't, in itself, enough to raise mental-health concerns. But any particular sexual orientation might rise[...]
Wed, 24 Aug 2016 12:35:00 -0400When you find yourselves turning to the lyrics of a Lady Gaga song as evidence of a widespread "myth" about scientific research, maybe take a step back for a moment and reconsider your angle, The New Atlantis is a journal about science published by the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center. It's not a peer-reviewed science journal—it's an opinion journal about science. Don't take this as criticism—we're not hypocrites. We write opinion pieces frequently that are informed by science but are also intended to push forward liberty-minded policies. They have a brand new journal out getting attention in conservative circles that purports to provide "the most up-to-date explanation of many of the most rigorous findings produced by the biological, physiological, and social sciences related to sexual orientation and gender identity." What this report is really about is pointing out how many theories about sexual orientation and gender identity are exactly that—theories. Lady Gaga's song "Born This Way," is invoked early on in the study as an example of pushing a theory that sexual orientation is innate and that the science on the matter is settled when it is not. Essentially, what this "Sexuality and Gender" report is intended to do is increase an emphasis on the ambiguity of the research to help push against public policies that want to treat everything about sexuality and gender identity as "settled science." The reality, though, is that much of what is in the report is not in any way, shape, or form "debunking" any "myths," as David French puts it at the National Review, because while some people may believe sexuality is innate, the science has been fairly consistent in saying the reasons currently remain inconclusive. (And since we don't have a scientifically confirmed explanation of where sexual orientation comes from, nothing has even been "debunked.") In fact, here's how the American Psychological Association (APA) itself responds to the question "What causes a person to have a particular sexual orientation?" There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation. That the APA doesn't classify homosexuality as a "mental illness" any longer and opposes efforts by therapists to change people's sexual orientation does not mean that the APA has concluded that sexual orientation is inherent or unchanging. The New Atlantis study also puts out these nuggets: Members of the non-heterosexual population are estimated to have about 1.5 times higher risk of experiencing anxiety disorders than members of the heterosexual population, as well as roughly double the risk of depression, 1.5 times the risk of substance abuse, and nearly 2.5 times the risk of suicide. Members of the transgender population are also at higher risk of a variety of mental health problems compared to members of the non-transgender population. Especially alarmingly, the rate of lifetime suicide attempts across all ages of transgender individuals is estimated at 41%, compared to under 5% in the overall U.S. population. What's fascinating about tossing out these numbers is that, first of all, they have nothing to do with the legitimacy of non-heterosexual orientations on gender identity. It's information intended to cast doubt on the state of minds of gay and transgender people without actually establishing a cor[...]
Wed, 17 Aug 2016 15:35:00 -0400It may seem as though the Democrats will own a dominant chunk of the gay vote this election (again), regardless of the small—but symbolically significant—pushes by the Republican Party to be more friendly and supportive of the community, even if policy goals don't align. Mark Lee is an opinion columnist at the Washington Blade, an LGBT-targeted publication in the nation's capital. He has been writing about the growing discontent with the two major parties and is questioning whether Hillary Clinton will get the same level of the gay vote as previous Democratic candidates have received. Lee doesn't really have facts at the moment to back him up, but given that Clinton has such high unfavorable ratings, it is worth wondering how many gay voters might be looking elsewhere: Similar to all Americans, one-quarter of LGBT voters indicate they don't support either major party nominee. The high degree of dissatisfaction with both of these notorious grifters has the net effect of lowering Clinton's tally of LGBT votes. An astounding 41 percent of Americans have recently said they are having difficulty choosing between Clinton and Trump because they believe neither would make a good president. LGBT voters are undoubtedly among them. When given the option, 13 percent told a polling firm aligned with Democrats they'd prefer a giant meteor hitting earth than being forced to chose either Clinton or Trump. The disaffected among those under 30 represents a plurality. With the largest bloc of voters now self-identifying as independents, more than a quarter of the unaffiliated would chose annihilation. A poll of LGBT likely voters back in May showed overwhelming support of Clinton compared to Trump: 84 percent to 16 percent. Right now those numbers show Clinton performing better than Barack Obama did in 2012 with the LGBT vote. Exit polls from 2012 showed Obama getting 77 percent of the LGBT vote and Mitt Romney getting 23 percent. But also of interest in the Clinton-Trump poll: Those polled were not presented any third-party options, and 22 percent of the LGBT voters polled identify as "independent" (outnumbering the 15 percent that identify as Republican). Given Gov. Gary Johnson's pro-gay positions (some of which are subject to libertarian criticism because Johnson simply hasn't made good arguments justifying further government intrusion that reduces religious liberty and freedom of association—and for many libertarians, these policies are a violation of the non-aggression principle), there's certainly opportunity for him to land some of the LGBT vote. Clinton's still deeply disliked—a new poll by YouGov puts her unfavorable ratings at 55 percent. She's still less detested than Trump—his unfavorables are at 66 percent. But what's also different about this race is that Clinton has jumped aboard and declared support for every single political goal put forward by the most powerful of LGBT activist groups. This is not an election where there's been any equivocation or attempts to walk some line to appeal to more conservative, religious Democrats in Southern states. Clinton has publicized a pro-LGBT federal policy agenda that supports passage of a whole host of new laws. So to the extent that she loses LGBT votes, it seems as though the likely candidates are: Those who put other priorities ahead of LGBT issues and find the Dems wanting (essentially, likely the same pool of gay voters who have already been turning away from the Democrats); those who have concluded that we've reached the point where don't actually need additional federal regulations on LGBT issues in order to lead happy, free lives (that's guys like me, but I admittedly may be overestimating how many of us fit in this category); and those who really, really don't trust Clinton based on her backgro[...]
Tue, 09 Aug 2016 15:30:00 -0400Let's start with the understanding that the government should neither be funding nor meddling with religious colleges at all. (We will pause for a moment for some readers to yell that that the government shouldn't be funding any colleges, religious or secular). But they do. They have for a long time and they will continue to do so. So before talking about the circumstances and rules through which the government funds and sets rules for religious colleges, we will have to acknowledge the current environment. As religious institutions, these colleges are able to receive federal exemptions from complying with some nondiscrimination laws that contradict church teachings. California lawmakers are targeting these exemptions with a bill that will meddle with religious schools over whatever rules they might have that allow them to engage in some types of discrimination. To be more specific: SB 1146 is looking to find ways to punish religious schools that are not on board with accepting sexually active gay students, gay marriage, and transgender students. There was a bill proposed that flat-out cut state grants going to schools that engaged in such discrimination. This bill has been held in committee since May. SB 1146 is different and a bit more subtle, but still puts the state in position of meddling with religious schools. It requires that any religious school that seeks an exemption from state or federal discrimination laws to make all that information available publicly, so the state can put together an online list of colleges that have gotten the exemption. The bill furthermore declares that colleges that receive funding from the state can be privately sued for violating the state's non-discrimination laws. It states that religious schools that have sex-segregated housing and restrooms must accommodate the selected gender identities of students. The schools may enforce religious-based practices as long as they equally apply to students regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. There are very narrow exemptions for schools that exist solely for the purpose teaching the propagation of a particular religion (like seminaries), and institutions that have previously been admitting students of one sex may continue to do so. The push for these new rules are not coming from within the church. They're come from LGBT organizations yanking around the dimensions of the Overton Window to interfere further and further with private religious practices they find detestable. The executive director of Equality California, which is pushing the bill, told NBC it was "about discrimination." But it's about discrimination based on a religion's clearly defined beliefs, which themselves are protected by the First Amendment. And in contrast to the kind of widespread discriminatory behavior that has inspired civil rights movements, we're talking about a small number of colleges with a specific population that has chosen to be there. In NBC's reporting, one student actually worried about the bill because she chose to go to a religious college to "integrate [her] faith in [her] major." For those who are not interested in living under the rules of the religions that have brought these colleges into existence in the first place, California has no dearth of options. California is not a state where students have trouble finding colleges to attend. In a response from the Los Angeles Archdiocese, Archbishop Jose Gomez and Bishop Charles Blake note "It is important to remember that no one is compelled to attend a private religious college or university. Those who do so make a deliberate decision because they are seeking an academic environment and community in which they can live, learn and serve with others who share their beliefs, values and aspirations[...]
Fri, 29 Jul 2016 12:15:00 -0400Over at the Washington Examiner, Tim Carney, managed a few minutes to chat with Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gov. Gary Johnson while at this week's Democratic National Convention. The chat focused on two issues of importance to more socially conservative libertarians—religious freedom rights and abortion. On religious freedom, Johnson is staying true to his position against allowing religious-based exemptions to discrimination laws, which has earned him the ire of not a few libertarians. In Carney's conversation with him, what feels very clear is that Johnson feels strongly about his position, but hasn't really analyzed the complexity of the issue nearly enough: Do you think New Mexico was right to fine the photographer for not photographing the gay wedding? "Look. Here's the issue. You've narrowly defined this. But if we allow for discrimination — if we pass a law that allows for discrimination on the basis of religion — literally, we're gonna open up a can of worms when it come stop discrimination of all forms, starting with Muslims … who knows. You're narrowly looking at a situation where if you broaden that, I just tell you — on the basis of religious freedom, being able to discriminate — something that is currently not allowed — discrimination will exist in places we never dreamed of." Can the current federal [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] be applied to protect things like the wedding photographer and the Little Sisters of the Poor? "The problem is I don't think you can cut out a little chunk there. I think what you're going to end up doing is open up a plethora of discrimination that you never believed could exist. And it'll start with Muslims." A host of responses to this rather simplistic take on what is a complicated issue: Formulating laws and regulations based on the "precautionary principle" is bad in general, but it's particularly bad when discussing the limits of liberty. To the extent that the law restricts a liberty, like freedom of religious expression and freedom of association, it needs to be tied to widespread harms that actually occur, not on a fear of what might happen. Johnson is essentially making the same kind of argument that drug warriors make. We can't legalize marijuana because it might lead users to harder drugs. Or people will get behind the wheel stoned and cause accidents. These arguments have not been based on factual analysis but on a fear of what might happen. Undoubtedly there is animosity against Muslim citizens and they may face additional discrimination and rejection in the current environment. But Johnson has failed to provide evidence that the slippery slope he suggests here will actually happen, will be widespread, and will require government intervention to fix. The public accommodation laws of the Civil Rights Act are actually rather narrowly defined based on the types of widespread and coordinated discrimination minorities were actually facing at the time. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is simply not blanket permission to discriminate on the basis of one's beliefs. This seems to elude Johnson. The RFRA is a method of defense against government accusations of legal or civil violations by claiming that one's religious practices run counter to the law. The government then must make a case that the law furthers a valid government interest and that forcing people to comply with the law is the least intrusive way they can further that interest. So the government needs to argue it has a legitimate need to make people comply with the law, despite religious beliefs. In the Little Sisters of the Poor case, which was about whether a religious organization could be forced to cover the costs of contraception for female [...]
Fri, 22 Jul 2016 11:45:00 -0400PayPal's Peter Thiel's self-identification as a proud gay man during his speech at the Republican National Convention is getting a lot of media attention, as it should. Though the RNC has had openly gay speakers before, this was the first time a speaker made reference to his own non-heterosexual identity. When accepting the nomination for president, Donald Trump also made reference to the gay and transgender community. He referenced the Orlando attack on a gay bar that killed 49 people, noting that the killer targeted the "LGBTQ community." Trump said that was "no good" and that he "would stop it." This prompted cheers from the audience, and he continued that he would do everything within his power to protect LGBTQ folks from violence and the "hateful oppression" of radical Islam. This prompted another round of cheers, and Trump went off-script for a moment to say "As a Republican, it's so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said." This has been characterized as a sign of advancement for the Republican Party in some fashion, but is it really something new for the Republican Party to say they don't want gay Americans to be murdered? Certainly the left would love to characterize the party that way, but for those of us who see ourselves independent of party ties, is this an actual shift in the party or something that was simply expected? It's hard not to feel cynical about the invocations given that they're tied primarily to encourage a focus on a foreign policy on how to fight Islamic terrorism and no indication of any domestic policy shifts at home. The official platform of the party has stubbornly refused reforms, continuing to reject same-sex marriage recognition, attempting to classify it as a state-level issue, yet still calling for federal policies to encourage stable families. The platform has taken a stand against federal demands that schools accommodate transgender students. Thiel described the transgender bathroom panic behavior as a "distraction," but did so in such a vague way that it's not clear whether he thinks state-level laws like those in North Carolina are bad or whether he thinks people just shouldn't get upset about it. It's easy to be dismissive of lawmaking as a "distraction" when it involves regulations that aren't likely to affect you. Taken holistically, the message from the GOP seems to be "Hey, at least we don't want to kill you! Radical Islam and Muslim-dominated countries want to kill you, but we don't." Well … thanks? I acknowledge I may be an outlier in my lack of warm feelings over how gay issues have been referenced at the convention, at least from the perspective as a libertarian gay man who is not a leftist or Democrat. Stephen Miller, over at the Independent Gay Forum's Culture Watch, sees the invocation of the gay community in speeches at the convention as a "dramatic change from the past" (he's nevertheless voting for Gary Johnson). ABC News tracked down a Trump supporter on the convention floor who was moved to tears by Trump's reference because she has a married gay son. And the lack of actual platform shift is particularly disappointing because next week, when the Democratic Party has its convention, I know full well they're going to be running so far in the other direction I'll end up frustrated for completely different reasons. Hillary Clinton is openly calling for a raft of new federal laws to address any sort of concerns raised by anybody who is gay or transgender. I noted previously that her pursuit of the gay vote calls for six new federal laws, a whole host of regulations that can be used by the government to punish citizens for refusing to make gay wedding cakes or refusing to offer adoption services to gay couples[...]
Thu, 21 Jul 2016 15:25:00 -0400If you want to see how far along a social transformation has gone, you'll learn more by paying attention to the things conservatives accept than the things radicals propose. When Pat Buchanan spoke at the Republican national convention in 1992, his address was received—rightly—as a thumping culture-war broadside. But consider this passage from it: Then there was the legal secretary that I met at the Manchester airport on Christmas Day who came running up to me and said, "Mr. Buchanan, I'm going to vote for you." And then she broke down weeping, and she said, "I've lost my job; I don't have any money, and they're going to take away my little girl. What am I going to do?" My friends, these people are our people. They don't read Adam Smith or Edmund Burke, but they come from the same schoolyards and the same playgrounds and towns as we came from. They share our beliefs and our convictions, our hopes and our dreams. These are the conservatives of the heart. Working mothers once were met with widespread disapproval. But by 1992, a fiery jeremiad by the year's most prominent social conservative could casually complain that a mom had lost her job, and then embrace her as a "conservative of the heart." Not because Buchanan was some sort of closet feminist, but because this was a battle the feminists had won. As I've watched this year's GOP's convention, I've been listening for little moments like that—quiet signs that what once was unusual is now acceptable. And I've found them. Take Michelle Van Etten, the multi-level marketer who spoke last night on behalf of Women in Business for Trump. At one point, she recalled her 20th high school reunion: The girls I went to school with, they were driving BMWs and they looked like Barbie. I was 30 pounds overweight, a stay-at-home mom, and driving a minivan. I decided at that point I needed a change, and I began to dream again. (applause) I took a leap of faith and decided to open up my own home-based business. And what I realized, when you go after a dream, you are gonna have to learn how to fail forward and never quit. (applause) I also learned that I had to level up to become the type of person I wanted in my business. After two years, I was able to retire my husband after 28 years in the DOD. Today, my husband, he stays at home with our children and he homeschools them, because I will not subject them to Common Core. (big applause) So here we have not just a working mother, but one who resented her old status as a stay-at-home mom—and who now is married to a stay-at-home dad. And no one seemed to blink at what once would have been an avant-garde way to organize the household. Instead they whooped it up in shared revulsion for Common Core. Then there was this moment in Ted Cruz's speech: Freedom means religious freedom, whether you are Christian or Jew, Muslim or atheist. Whether you are gay or straight, the Bill of Rights protects the rights of all of us to live according to our conscience. That got a huge amount of applause, as you'd expect from a socially conservative crowd. The underlying idea, after all, was that people with religious objections to gay marriage should not be compelled to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies. But think about that sentence: "Whether you are gay or straight, the Bill of Rights protects the rights of all of us to live according to our conscience." There was a time when you wouldn't expect a major presidential candidate in either party to allude favorably to gay people's freedom of conscience. Now a leader of the Republicans' conservative wing wasn't thinking twice about it. You measure social change by watching where conservatives draw the line. [...]