Israel & gay cash + Israelis distance themselves from settlements – kinda.

I was away! But now I’m back. And while I was away, I wrote the following two pieces for The Forward:

1) Israel Loves Gay Cash — Just Not Gay Marriage: 

What do you reckon is the busiest time of year for Tel Aviv’s hotels — maybe the High Holidays? Perhaps Christmas/New Year’s, when America’s families are on vacation? How about Gay Pride Week?


…Tel Aviv’s message is clear: Come, have fun! We love your party attitude and your wallet!

To which Israel’s national government can only add: Just don’t fall in love and try to get married.

Even as Tel Aviv was raking in that sweet, sweet gay cash, a few miles away in Jerusalem the Knesset spent Wednesday rejecting a marriage equality bill…. To read the rest, click here.

2) Would Israelis Be Kidnapped If Not For Settlements?

On Monday the New York Times reported that the recent abduction of three Israeli teens in the occupied West Bank has raised a “hushed debate [within Israeli society] over the conduct of Jewish settlers.”

While I think it’s fair to point out that Israel’s reactions to the kidnappings have been marked more by anger and prayer than debate (however hushed), the simple fact that any questions whatsoever have been posed in conversation with an American reporter is significant and reflects a broader shift in attitudes toward the settlement project.

Earlier this month, Justice Minister (and one-time right-wing stalwart) Tzipi Livni was quite blunt: “It’s time to say things exactly as they are: The settlement enterprise is a security, economic and moral burden that is aimed at preventing us from ever coming to [a peace agreement].” Moreover, a recent study found that a growing majority of Israelis no longer support that enterprise.

It’s important to note, however, that if the citizenry shares Livni’s general sense of disapproval, they do not appear to share her reasoning: 71% of those surveyed say settler violence against Israel’s military keeps them from “identifying with” their settler brethren; 59% say the settlements are bad for Israel’s relationship with the U.S. The violence of some settlers against Palestinians, the financial drain on Israel’s increasingly inequitable society, or the obstacle that settlements pose to achieving a workable resolution of the conflict do not appear to be major concerns. In fact, while 52% support a full or partial withdrawal from occupied territory in the framework of an accord with the Palestinian Authority, 31% support full or partial annexation — where the difference lies between partial withdrawal and partial annexation is unclear…. To read the rest, click here.

On the evolution of the political class regarding marriage equality.

stonewall-300x202I’m seeing a lot of moaning, groaning, dismissal, and general snark about the fact that ALL OF A SUDDEN, it’s politically expedient for national politicians to say that they support marriage equality.

Coupla things.

First of all, these are politicians. These are people whose literal bread and butter rests in judging the public mood and working to achieve a political end which will enable them to continue to earn their bread and butter. For the most part, radical politicians don’t get remembered because they don’t get elected, and elected politicians who think outside their party’s box either have to walk very carefully and learn how to pick battles and balance needs, or they get primaried. You will recall that Barney Frank himself didn’t come out until he was already in the Senate House, and he reports that he “almost lost on suspicion.”

Second, this is how society goes. There’s a problem — A Big Problem — such as slavery, or women’s right to participate in the democratic process, or the denial of civil rights to LGBTQ Americans, and outliers recognize it before anyone else. They lead their people to freedom on dark roads, or they risk violence to go to Seneca Falls, or they build barricades outside the Stonewall Inn in heels and a feather boa, and they shout righteousness to the world. They shame us, so we ignore them, we demonize them, we try to silence them, we often try to kill them. We do this, again and again, with varying levels of violent intent, but even as we do, a few more people hear the shouts, a few more people see the humans doing the shouting, and a few more people come around. A little. They come around a little, and then a little more, and then they bring a few more people with them, because while they may not be shouting, they’re speaking, and now, now, now, the edges of the mainstream are talking and seeing the world in a different light, and the shouts and the speaking goes on, and now, now, now, the edges close in closer to each other and we still try to ignore them, and demonize them, and silence them, and we still kill them, but there are more and more voices, more shouts and more whispers and more people standing silent witness and now, now, now — the mainstream sees. The mainstream changes. The outliers, the freaks, the demons become the pioneers, the leaders, the role models. And now: That’s where we are. The mainstream has changed.

The world would be a better place if all people could equally value the shared human dignity of all people — but we don’t do that. We never, ever have. We have to be taught, again and again, not to hate (whatever the song from South Pacific might have us think). And the only way people will be taught, is if other people do it.

I’m not contained in any of the letters in “LGBTQ,” so if someone who is wants to tell me to take a seat, I will find a seat and take it. But for my money, this is not a day for snark, but a day for genuine joy — let us rejoice and be glad in it! (To borrow a phrase).

It is a fine thing when the bandwagon jumpers jump on the wagon of social justice. It is a fine thing when politicians begin to repeat the words that we’ve been saying for years. Evolution is a damn fine thing.

So rather than snark, maybe send a thank you note and a donation to GLAAD or Lambda Legal, or any of the folks who have been on the front lines all these long years, and will continue to be on the front lines, long after the rest of us (especially the straight of us) think we can sit back and don some laurels.

And allow yourself a smile. Because it is a fine thing to be alive at a time such as this.

In which your host brings you something sweet and funny.

No, I know! It’s almost impossible to believe!

And yet here you go, a slice of adorable in support of a good cause. If you are the kind to wear bowties, you might buy one of these:


Heh! “..and mankind’s human race.”

On a happier note… Democratic party platform to include marriage equality!


(Note happy update below!)

From the Washington Blade:

The Democratic Party platform drafting committee approved on Sunday language endorsing same-sex marriage in addition to other pro-LGBT positions as part of the Democratic Party platform, according to two sources familiar with the drafting process.

Retiring gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who sits on the committee, told the Washington Blade on Monday that the 15-member panel unanimously backed the inclusion of a marriage equality plank after a national hearing over the weekend in Minneapolis, in which several witnesses testified in favor of such language.

“I was part of a unanimous decision to include it,” Frank said. “There was a unanimous decision in the drafting committee to include it in the platform, which I supported, but everybody was for it.”

Not entirely surprising, given the President’s announcement of his support for marriage equality back in May — but pretty thrilling, none the less! Capital H History, people, I tell you what.

h/t TPM; image source

Update 7/31/12: The DNC has confirmed the news by including it in an email sent to its list, this morning. Greg Sargent at the Washington Post adds these really interesting statistics to put it all into context:

new Pew poll finds that a plurality of Americans now supports gayt marriage, 48-33, and majority of independents now supports it, 51-40. But an even bigger majority of Republicans, 70 percent, still opposes it. That’s a big cultural shift over the last eight years; in 2004, a big majority opposed it. Republicans are alone in refusing to come to terms with where this is headed.

We’ll soon find out whether suppporting gay marriage is really the political risk people keep saying it is.

The GOP, still waving goodbye to the American people.

Remember back when I said that the GOP as currently constituted is pulling away from the American shore?

Hereunder, this week’s exhibits pointing to same:

  1. Robert Marshall, a Republican delegate in Virginia, on why he voted against the judicial nomination of a gay prosecutor: “Sodomy is not a civil right.” Yes, he really said that. On the other hand, 50% of Americans now support marriage equality — and we learned a few months ago that among 18-34 year olds, that support stands at 70%.
  2. A study produced by a GOP SuperPAC “suggested hiring as a spokesman an ‘extremely literate conservative African-American’ who can argue that Mr. Obama misled the nation by presenting himself as what the proposal calls a ‘metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln’.” Because being Lincolnian, and knowing your way around a suit, is a bad thing. (Weird side note: The man who commissioned this report is Joe Ricketts, “the patriarch of the family that owns the Chicago Cubs“). (Also, if I may: “extremely literate”? Really? Can his name be Mr. Tibbs?)
  3. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, on the JP Morgan trading debacle: “The $2 billion JPMorgan lost someone else gained…. I would not rush to pass new legislation or new regulation.”

All of this — from the vile anti-gay biogtry, to the old-school (and equally vile) Fear of Smart Black Men, to the complete cluelessness about what losing $2 billion might mean to the American public (especially as “a larger loss could have fallen to the taxpayer because as a federally regulated bank, JPMorgan benefits from depositors insurance“) — is really pretty horrifying. I sit and listen to these things and my skin crawls, and my heart pounds, and my blood pressure rises, because it is clear to me that the people saying these things have very little understanding of the actual humanity buried by their words. The lives, the blood and bone, of actual people.

But at the same time — even as my skin crawls — I feel an odd, reverse-flip kind of hope.

Because America is changing. Because as loathsome as all of the foregoing is, it is all an indication of a party that is truly unmoored from the concerns of the society it seeks to lead.

None of which is to say that we should let down our guard — Republican delegates, wealthy Super PACs, and Presidential candidates are powerful forces and must be reckoned with.

But the more we reckon with them, the smaller their power will grow. And the more perfected our union.

On evolving.

Much has been made of President Obama’s oft-quoted comment that his views on marriage equality were “evolving.” Until this week, when apparently, they’d “evolved.”

I’m not entirely certain what the President meant by this turn of phrase (I know! I cannae read his mind! Imagine!), particularly given his public support for such equality as far back as 1996, but I suspect the evolution was for him more political than personal. This doesn’t mean that I think Mr. Obama’s motives were craven — merely careful. I didn’t love it when he came up with the “evolving” line, but I think I understood it. And I am proud beyond measure that he went ahead and finished the process the other day.

But here’s the thing, and it’s a thing that we supporters of equal rights often fail to note: We’ve all been evolving, for years.

Anyone over the age of 30 can remember a time when the mere idea of marriage equality was inconceivable — because most Americans still thought the gay and lesbian community was, at the very least, not quite right. I feel really, really safe in saying that the vast majority of those of us now staunchly supporting gay rights had to just plain get over ourselves at some point (and I most certainly include gay folks here. Internalized homophobia is no less -phobic than the external kind).

Our collective evolution is built on the foundations laid by the brave men of Stonewall; the work of civil rights pioneers like Harvey MilkFranklin E. KamneyPhyllis Lyon, and Del Martin; the ill-advised bigotry of Anita Bryant; the ravages of the AIDS years; the drip-drip-drip of pop culture and examples of well-known figures (Joe Biden was right about Will and Grace, and don’t underestimate Ellen); the horrifying murder of Matthew Shepard; the rash of teen suicides; and through it all, growing numbers of individuals telling the truth about who they are.

Yesterday, another brick was laid in that foundation:

A lesbian who sought a North Carolina marriage license with her partner and was rejected under a state law banning same-sex marriage was arrested with another person Thursday after they refused to leave a government office where several gay and lesbian couples were turned away.

…Nine gay and lesbian couples each presented completed forms and identification to a clerk at the local Register of Deeds office in Winston-Salem, but were refused because state law recognizes only heterosexual couples.

…Mary Jamis, 52, of Mocksville, and a heterosexual friend who joined the protest… were arrested after they blocked the entrance to the marriage license office and refused to leave more than 30 minutes after closing time.

A county administrator tried to talk the women into leaving and avoiding arrest, but the two insisted they would stay unless Jamis was issued a marriage license for her and her partner, Starr Johnson, 48.

A half dozen female officers then crowded around [them and] asked them to stand, handcuffed them and led them out a side door and into a van to be booked at the county sheriff’s department across the street.

As North Carolina and the other 29 states with anti-marriage equality amendments prove: We cannot simply say things should be right and then expect them to Become Right. There is no magic bullet to undoing bigotry. It’s a long, slow slog.

But on the same day that Mr. Obama evolved, the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee announced the a bi-partisan decision to take up the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA): “Workplace discrimination based on an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity is reprehensible,” said committee chair Sen. Tom Harkin, “and has no place in our nation.”

And in the days since, Rep. Steny Hoyer, Sen. Jack Reed, and Sen. Harry Reid also announced that they back marriage equality.

Consider, too, the reactions of the people watching the protest unfold in Winston-Salem yesterday:

“Can you at least acknowledge on here that you’re denying it and the date?” [one protester] asked, his ring-bearing left hand trembling. The clerk complied. Other clerks smiled sheepishly or shook the hands extended to them by couples they had turned away.

…[A straight woman taking out a license at the same time] said she did not object to same-sex couples being allowed to wed.

“Why not? I don’t think it’s really anybody’s business,” she said. “I don’t think it’s the government’s business to be telling people what to do with their private lives.”

I’ve written about my own path from homophobe to activist before. My earlier opinions are something that I wish daily I could erase from my past, but there they stay.

As in any enormous social shift, the learning and the changing and the growing all come in layers upon layers. Every evolution leads to the next, every statement makes others possible, every heart opened — opens others.

And some statements are a lot louder than others.

Like when the President of the United States says “Same sex couples should be able to get married.”

I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more civil disobedience, and a lot more arrests, in the days and weeks to come. I have a feeling that what the President did on Wednesday was open the floodgates, out of which will flow immeasurable pent-up energy, all aimed at genuinely history-altering events.

And speaking of which: That throw-away reference I made up there to Anita Bryant? That was a workplace discrimination fight. She wanted to keep gay teachers out of schools.

And today we have US Senators saying discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity (!) “is reprehensible and has no place in our nation.”

Yep, we’re all evolving.

Thank God, and thank each and every person who’s had a part.

Damn skippy.


posted on the President’s Instagram account late last night.

%d bloggers like this: