In 2011, lawmakers in Indiana approved a proposal for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Such amendments require passage in two consecutive legislative sessions before advancing to a referendum, which means it must be approved again during the 2013-2014 session to proceed. Indiana Republicans announced today, however, that they would not press for a vote this year, citing apprehensions that how the Supreme Court rules on marriage equality could impact the viability of the proposed change. The amendment is not dead, because they could still advance it to the ballot in 2014. A December poll showed that while Indiana voters are split on supporting same-sex marriage, a 54 percent majority opposes the amendment.
Ever since the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced last summer that it would not be changing its policy prohibiting gay Scouts and Scout leaders, conservatives have rallied to defend the organizations “core value” of anti-gay discrimination. This effort seemed to explode over the past week, with social conservative talking heads desperately pleading with BSA to hold fast to that policy, lest it create a not-so-ambiguous safety concern for Scouts. Perhaps more than any other recent issue impact gays and lesbians — repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” marriage equality, or the Chick-fil-A controversy, how social conservatives’ discuss the BSA policy reveals the depth of their anti-gay animus and the foundation of lies they perpetuate in their agenda against LGBT equality.
Though BSA refused to share any of the details of the two-year review that resulted in keeping the policy, plenty of conservatives voices have attempted to make the case on behalf of the organization, including Mike Huckabee, Bill O’Reilly, Rick Perry, the Family Research Council, the Liberty Counsel, the American Family Association, the National Organization for Marriage, and the Southern Baptist Convention, to name a few. While some have made weak appeals to “traditional values,” the overwhelming argument against changing the policy has been a claim that Scouts will be more vulnerable to abuse if gays are allowed to participate in the organization, an argument that doesn’t even address the question of gay Scouts. Here is a sampling of the underlying assumptions about gay people that inform this point of view:
- The LGBT community is viewed entirely as adult gay men.
- The only aspect of a person that defines a gay identity is participation in same-sex sexual behavior.
- Nothing is apparently more important to gay men than having as much sex as possible and talking about it at all times.
- For gay men, there is no difference between being attracted to other adult gay men and being attracted to underage boys.
- Gay men are so obsessed with having sex that consent means nothing to them.
- Even though the men most commonly found abusing boys identify as heterosexual, the fact that their victims were boys means that they must be secretly gay, as opposed to just being pedophiles.
- It’s impossible for a child to learn that gay people even exist without becoming “sexualized” and somehow put at risk.
- So long as homosexuality is prohibited, all Boy Scouts will remain totally chaste and never think, learn about, or talk about the existence of sex.
This line of thinking proves that conservatives have learned nothing about gays and lesbians in decades. Any of these assumptions can and have been debunked not only by social science but by simply the mainstream visibility of the gay community. Nevertheless, conservatives continue to see gays as mentally ill, sex-obsessed, child-abusing sinners who do not deserve an equal place in society. This is what they believe when they argue against marriage equality (e.g. gays are too sex-obsessed to commit to monogamy), same-sex adoption (e.g. children fare worse with same-sex parents), or military service (e.g. straight soldiers won’t serve as effectively if gay troops are hitting on them). And though these issues mostly impact people who are gay, lesbian, and bisexual, many of the same negative stereotypes are similarly applied to transgender people, such as the claim that allowing them to use the same bathroom with which they identity would endanger children.
As GLAAD’s Commentator Accountability Project has revealed, conservative talking heads often sugarcoat their anti-gay messaging when speaking to mainstream media, but the BSA policy has been the exception. Under the guise of arguments defending “religious freedom,” it’s clear that social conservatives maintain a warped view of the gay community and are intent on promulgating that view. It is an agenda that has nothing to do with protecting children, families, or “values,” but that is designed specifically to defame and stigmatize the gay community, encouraging people to doubt and fear them through the guise of religious faith. Fortunately, people across the country are learning to see through this hateful charade and support the full inclusion of their LGBT friends and family in every aspect of society.
A new poll from Franklin & Marshall College has found that a majority of Pennsylvania voters — 52 percent — support allowing same-sex couples to legally marry, while only 41 percent oppose it. A Quinnipiac poll just two weeks ago found similar favorability for marriage equality, but by a much closer 47-43 split. Though Pennsylvania does not have a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, such unions are still not recognized under state law. Support will likely continue to increase in the Keystone state not only because of national trends, but because of the neighboring influence of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland, which all have either marriage equality or civil unions that could become marriage equality quite soon.
Today marks the 13th annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Begun in 2000 by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and grassroots public health organizations, National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day was launched as part of a widespread effort to curb the rate of HIV infection among black men and women through “education, testing, involvement, and treatment.”
While it is well established that HIV/AIDS has had a devastating effect on people in developing nations — particularly India and much of the African continent — the epidemic has also been deadly for the United States’ black community. Here are three things to keep in mind about HIV/AIDS and black America today:
1. HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects African Americans and the urban poor. African American men accounted for 70 percent of new HIV infections in 2009, and overall, African Americans made up 44 percent of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. That translates to 20,000 black men and women in the United States testing positive for HIV every year — and that doesn’t account for the HIV-positive members of the black community who haven’t yet been diagnosed. All told, black Americans are eight times more likely than white Americans to be HIV-positive, and ten times more likely to die from the disease. The epidemic is divided among economic lines, too. The urban poor, overrepresented by African Americans in the country’s major metropolitan areas, are also burdened with unusually high rates of HIV/AIDS. Those living just above the poverty line are three times as likely to be infected than the national average, and those below the poverty line six times more likely to be infected than the national average.
2. GOP lawmakers have been slashing funding for HIV testing and treatment under Medicaid. Although the U.S. Preventative Task Force recommended that all community health clinics — which serve poorer regions — conduct free HIV testing, many centers haven’t had enough resources to follow through. And the issue has been exacerbated by Republican governors who have refused to implement Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. Expanding Medicaid would extend insurance coverage to millions of low-income Americans, including more access to HIV testing and treatments. Instead, some GOP leaders are making aggressive cuts to their state-level Medicaid programs — like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), who recently slashed a case management program for low-income HIV patients.
3. The future of HIV/AIDS treatment is bright. Despite the myriad of challenges facing the Americans who suffer from HIV/AIDS, public health officials remain optimistic about the coming years. The life expectancy for HIV-positive Americans has been steadily increasing due to more effective treatment regimens, and despite some lawmakers’ best efforts to undermine progress, access to HIV testing and coverage for treatments has been on the rise. And a cure may even be on the horizon — just last month, a team of researchers in Spain made an important breakthrough by creating a a new HIV vaccine that is much more effective — and less expensive — than any earlier attempts.
A new study confirms that coming out is good for the mental health of gays and lesbians. In fact, owning their identities may help gays and lesbians actually fare better than their heterosexual counterparts, according to Canadian researchers:
The study looked at 87 men and women of varying sexual orientations, all of whom were around 25 years old. Forty-six identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual and 41 were heterosexual. Participants were given psychological tests and provided multiple urine and saliva samples to test for various biomarkers related to stress and general health.
All of the out participants had lower stress hormone levels and fewer symptoms of depression than those who weren’t public about their sexuality. Out gay and bisexual men also had lower stress and depressive symptoms than heterosexual men.
Previous studies have found similar results, but with caveats. People who come out can develop more significant resilience, but only if they receive positive support when they do. Reactions from parents, coworkers, and peers can have a profound impact on whether gays and lesbians benefit or suffer from coming out.
Two granddaughters of Fred Phelps, the leader of the virulently anti-LGBT Westboro Baptist Church often found protesting with “God Hates Fags” signs, have left the group. Megan and Grace Phelps-Roper were among the most visible members of the group online, with active social media presences that promoted the group’s hateful message until last year. Megan posted her first tweet since October yesterday, linking to a statement announcing their exodus and apologizing for their actions:
“We know that we’ve done and said things that hurt people. Inflicting pain on others wasn’t the goal, but it was one of the outcomes. We wish it weren’t so, and regret that hurt.
We know that we dearly love our family. They now consider us betrayers, and we are cut off from their lives, but we know they are well-intentioned. We will never not love them.
We know that we can’t undo our whole lives. We can’t even say we’d want to if we could; we are who we are because of all the experiences that brought us to this point. What we can do is try to find a better way to live from here on. That’s our focus.
Up until now, our names have been synonymous with “God Hates Fags.” Any twelve-year-old with a cell phone could find out what we did. We hope Ms. Kyle was right about the other part, too, though – that everything sticks – and that the changes we make in our lives will speak for themselves.“
While this statement is presumably just a first step in those changes, it’s also a heartwarming reminder that regardless of the prejudices people are raised with and humanity’s most stubborn tendencies, they can actually still learn new things about themselves and their LGBT neighbors.
For more information on Megan’s journey away from the church, read this excellent feature by Fast Company’s Jeff Chu.
Since Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) abandoned his opposition to providing undocumented immigrants with a pathway to citizenship and embraced a bipartisan framework for comprehensive immigration, political pundits and Republican leaders have anointed the Florida Congressman the future of the GOP.
Consequently, the likely 2016 presidential candidate has become a media darling, appearing on conservative talk shows and mainstream outlets to tout his reform principles and convince skeptics of the wisdom of reforming the nation’s broken immigration system. The media idolization reached its zenith on the cover of this week’s issue of TIME magazine. The publication prominently features a picture of a defiant Rubio under the headline, “The Republican Savior: How Marco Rubio became the new voice of the GOP.”
But dig beyond Rubio’s newfound embrace of immigration reform, and you’ll find that the GOP’s future appears stuck in the past, as the great hope of the party still espouses many of the extreme policies voters rejected in November:
1. Refused to raise the debt ceiling. Rubio voted against the GOP’s compromise measure to temporarily suspend the debt limit through May 19 in order avoid defaulting on the national debt. In a statement posted on his website, Rubio insisted that he would hold the debt ceiling increase hostage “unless it is tied with measures to actually solve our debt problem through spending reforms.”
2. Co-sponsored and voted for a Balanced Budget Amendment. “Now more than ever, we need a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” Rubio proclaimed in 2011. A Balanced Budget Amendment would force the government to slash spending during an economic downturn, driving up unemployment and making the downturn worse, in a vicious cycle. If the amendment were in place during the last financial crisis, unemployment would have doubled.
3. Signed the Norquist pledge. Rubio pledged to never raise taxes under any circumstances and even voted against the last-minute deal to avert the fiscal cliff, since the deal included $600 billion in revenue. “Thousands of small businesses, not just the wealthy, will now be forced to decide how they’ll pay this new tax,” Rubio noted in a statement.
4. Backed Florida’s voter purge. Rubio defended Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) attempted purge Democratic voters from the rolls, brushing off its disproportionate targeting of Latino voters. He also defended Florida’s decision to shorten its early voting period from two weeks to eight days by pointing to “the cost-benefit analysis.” After Election Day, several prominent Florida Republicans admitted that the election law changes were geared toward suppressing minority and Democratic votes and researchers found that long voting lines drove away at least 201,000 Florida voters.
5. Doesn’t believe in climate change. During a recent BuzzFeed interview, Rubio claimed has “seen reasonable debate” over whether humans are causing climate change. Scientists have long agreed that the debate is now over.
6. Opposed federal action to help prevent violence against women. Rubio voted against the motion to proceed to debate the Violence Against Women Act, noting that he disagrees with portions of the bill. Rubio claims he supports a scaled-back version of the legislation.
7. Believes employers should be able to deny birth control to their employees. Rubio co-sponsored a bill — along with Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) — that sought to nullify Obamacare’s requirement that employers provide contraception to their employees without additional co-pays by permitting businesses to voluntarily opt out of offering birth control.
8. Recorded robo calls for anti-gay hate group. Rubio has previously boasted the endorsement of anti-gay hate groups like the Family Research Council and during the election recorded robocalls for the National Organization of Marriage urging Americans to deny equal rights to gays and lesbians. He recently wouldn’t take a position on legislation that would prohibit employers from firing employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identify and wouldn’t say “whether same-sex couples should receive protections under immigration law.”
Welcome to The Morning Pride, ThinkProgress LGBT’s daily round-up of the latest in LGBT policy, politics, and some culture too! Here’s what we’re reading this morning, but please let us know what stories you’re following as well. Follow us all day on Twitter at @TPEquality.
- The Montana legislature is taking its time repealing the state’s unconstitutional sodomy laws.
- Florida’s Lake County School Board is attempting to ban all middle school clubs to avoid allowing a gay-straight alliance to form at one.
- Neverthelesss, Tavares, Florida became the first city in Lake County to approve a domestic partner registry yesterday.
- Webster Groves, Missouri has added sexual orientation and gender identity to the protections in its Fair Housing Code.
- According to Tony Perkins, the Family Research Council convinced Walmart to stop funding LGBT organizations.
- A Florida judge has granted that a gay man and the lesbian couple for whom he was a sperm donor can all three be legal guardians designated on the child’s birth certificate.
- A 16-year-old British bi teen who’d fathered a child with his girlfriend committed suicide last month after enduring homophobic bullying.
- Uganda’s legislature has reconvened and the waiting game for consideration of the “Kill The Gays” bill resumes.
- Writing in USA Today yesterday, Super Bowl champ Brendon Ayanbadejo called for the end of homophobia in professional sports.
- Roseanne Cash wrote a song about an elderly gay couple in Chelsea, and proceeds from its sales will benefit programs that support people living with HIV and LGBT homeless youth.
- Meet Becky and Sanne, a bi-national same-sex couple whose family could be separated because the Defense of Marriage Act prevents Becky from sponsoring Sanne for citizenship: