Saturday, May 19, 2012

Robert Spitzer Recants Ex-Gay Study - Part 2

I wrote some time back about noted psychiatrist Robert Spitzer recanting and disavowing his 2003 study that purported t find that some tiny portion of gays in reparative therapy could "change" their sexual orientation.  When the study was released it was greeted by a fire storm of criticisms because the only basis for the finding was the statements of those who were in the programs.  Absolutely nothing more.  Spitzer relied on the word of emotionally ans psychologically tortured participants in the snake oil "ex-gay" programs.  Now, in his twilight years, Spitzer wanted to perhaps salvage his legacy.  The result was a disavowing of the 2003 study and a written apology to gays harmed by ex-gay programs.  The New York Times has a lengthy article that s worth a read in its entirety that looks at the implosion of the only legitimate expert authored study that supported the "ex-gay" myth.  Will the fraudulent ex-gay ministries like PFOX cease their lies given this development?  Not likely.  They make too much money off of tormented gays and their families and keeping the "change myth" alive for pandering political cretins in the GOP are too important.  Here are highlights from the New York Times article: 

The simple fact was that he had done something wrong, and at the end of a long and revolutionary career it didn’t matter how often he’d been right, how powerful he once was, or what it would mean for his legacy. Now here he was at his computer, ready to recant a study he had done himself, a poorly conceived 2003 investigation that supported the use of so-called reparative therapy to “cure” homosexuality for people strongly motivated to change.

To Dr. Spitzer, the scientific question was at least worth asking: What was the effect of the therapy, if any? Previous studies had been biased and inconclusive. “People at the time did say to me, ‘Bob, you’re messing with your career, don’t do it,’ ” Dr. Spitzer said. “But I just didn’t feel vulnerable.”

He recruited 200 men and women, from the centers that were performing the therapy, including Exodus International, based in Florida, and Narth. He interviewed each in depth over the phone, asking about their sexual urges, feelings and behaviors before and after having the therapy, rating the answers on a scale. He then compared the scores on this questionnaire, before and after therapy. “The majority of participants gave reports of change from a predominantly or exclusively homosexual orientation before therapy to a predominantly or exclusively heterosexual orientation in the past year,” his paper concluded.

The study — presented at a psychiatry meeting in 2001, before publication — immediately created a sensation, and ex-gay groups seized on it as solid evidence for their case. This was Dr. Spitzer, after all, the man who single-handedly removed homosexuality from the manual of mental disorders. No one could accuse him of bias.

The study had serious problems. It was based on what people remembered feeling years before — an often fuzzy record. It included some ex-gay advocates, who were politically active. And it didn’t test any particular therapy; only half of the participants engaged with a therapist at all, while the others worked with pastoral counselors, or in independent Bible study.
Several colleagues tried to stop the study in its tracks, and urged him not to publish it, Dr. Spitzer said. Yet, heavily invested after all the work, he turned to a friend and former collaborator, Dr. Kenneth J. Zucker, psychologist in chief at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto and editor of the Archives of Sexual Behavior, another influential journal.

I knew Bob and the quality of his work, and I agreed to publish it,” Dr. Zucker said in an interview last week. The paper did not go through the usual peer-review process, in which unnamed experts critique a manuscript before publication. “But I told him I would do it only if I also published commentaries” of response from other scientists to accompany the study, Dr. Zucker said. Those commentaries, with a few exceptions, were merciless. One cited the Nuremberg Code of ethics to denounce the study as not only flawed but morally wrong. “We fear the repercussions of this study, including an increase in suffering, prejudice, and discrimination,” concluded a group of 15 researchers at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, where Dr. Spitzer was affiliated.

Dr. Spitzer in no way implied in the study that being gay was a choice, or that it was possible for anyone who wanted to change to do so in therapy. But that didn’t stop socially conservative groups from citing the paper in support of just those points .

But Dr. Spitzer couldn’t control how his study was interpreted by everyone, and he could not erase the biggest scientific flaw of them all, roundly attacked in many of the commentaries: Simply asking people whether they’ve changed is no evidence at all of real change. People lie, to themselves and others. They continually change their stories, to suit their needs and moods. By almost any measure, in short, the study failed the test of scientific rigor that Dr. Spitzer himself was so instrumental in enforcing for so many years.

“As I read these commentaries, I knew this was a problem, a big problem, and one I couldn’t answer,” Dr. Spitzer said. “How do you know someone has really changed?” 

And one day in March, Dr. Spitzer entertained a visitor. Gabriel Arana, a journalist at the magazine The American Prospect, interviewed Dr. Spitzer about the reparative therapy study. This wasn’t just any interview; Mr. Arana went through reparative therapy himself as a teenager, and his therapist had recruited the young man for Dr. Spitzer’s study (Mr. Arana did not participate). “I asked him about all his critics, and he just came out and said, ‘I think they’re largely correct,’ ” said Mr. Arana, who wrote about his own experience last month. Mr. Arana said that reparative therapy ultimately delayed his self-acceptance and induced thoughts of suicide. “But at the time I was recruited for the Spitzer study, I was referred as a success story. I would have said I was making progress.” That did it.

The study that seemed at the time a mere footnote to a large life was growing into a chapter. And it needed a proper ending — a strong correction, directly from its author, not a journalist or colleague. “You know, it’s the only regret I have; the only professional one,”
Dr. Spitzer said of the study, near the end of a long interview. “And I think, in the history of psychiatry, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a scientist write a letter saying that the data were all there but were totally misinterpreted. Who admitted that and who apologized to his readers.”
Yes, people lie.  Especially the "godly Christian" crowd.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Mississippi GOP Lawmaker Quotes Leviticus On How to Deal With Gays

Click image to enlarge
If this weeks actions by the GOP controlled Virginia House of Delegates wasn't enough to demonstrate that gay Republicans are akin to blacks joining the KKK or those of Jewish descent seeking Nazi Party membership, the remarks of a GOP state lawmaker in Mississippi ought to tip the balance.  As Towleroad is reporting Mississippi state Representative Andy Gipson attacked gays on his Facebook page following Obama's endorsement of same-sex marriage.  Note the approving reference to Leviticus 20:13 which reads as follows (NIV version):

 If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

When confronted with this indirect reference to putting gays to death, Gipson tried to back away yet still managed to malign and denigrate LGBT citizens:

Click image to enlarge

If one is going to be a gay Republican, why not become a self-loathing "ex-gay for pay" while you're at it.  It makes just about as much sense in my book. 

Romney's Whites Only Address at Liberty University

To me - and many others - Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, is an embarrassment to to the state.  While Lynchburg is roughly an hour's drive from Charlottesville and the University of Virginia, it might as well be a thousand miles away in terms of the mindsets.  Charlottesville and UVA are modern and progressive, while Liberty University seems to year for a time period prior to 1860 with religious extremism that might please the Inquisition.  Yet, Mitt Romney in an obvious move to pander to the worse elements of the Christofascist base of the Republican Party chose to speak to the largely all white crowd at Liberty.  Worse yet, he went on to laud the late Jerry Falwell, a very hateful person when measured by his words and actions.  A column in the Washington Post looks at Romney and his proclivity to speak to lily white audiences.  Here are some excerpts:

Romney’s speeches seem tailor-made for audiences that look pretty much like him.  At least that is what one is led to believe after observing where Romney chooses to go and what he has to say.

I tried to imagine Romney’s Liberty address being delivered to the graduates and their families at the 2012 commencement exercises I attended a week ago at historically black Howard University in Washington.
I cannot believe, however, that the Romney campaign apparatus would have allowed the presumptive Republican presidential nominee to tell an African American audience numbering in the thousands that Falwell was “a gracious Christian example” and a “courageous and big-hearted minister of the Gospel who . . . never hated an adversary.”

Indeed, Romney lauded Falwell, who famously said: “I do question the sincerity and nonviolent intentions of some civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. James Farmer, and others, who are known to have left-wing associations.”

Romney spoke glowingly of the same Falwell who said of the landmark Supreme Court school desegregation decision: “If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God’s word and had desired to do the Lord’s will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision would never had been made. The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line.”

The same Falwell who disparaged Nobel Peace Prize winner and Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu as a phony. (Falwell later apologized for that remark and claimed that he had misspoken.)

And who can forget Falwell’s finger-pointing after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks? He declared on Pat Robertson’s “700 Club” show: “I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America — I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen.’ ” 

[W]hat does the man who seeks to lead this country have to say about, and to, this rapidly changing nation of diverse people with diverse interests and needs?  Thus far, Romney’s thoughts and policy prescriptions seem focused on America’s largest — and slowest-growing — racial group: his own. 

Democratic critics accuse Romney of having values that skew to the rich at the expense of the poor. They say he’s disconnected from the problems of average Americans; that he’s out of touch and just doesn’t get it.

Would that it were only a matter of determining whether Romney is on the side of the rich or middle class.
The question is much broader and more significant: When Mitt Romney thinks and speaks of Americans, do those who don’t look like him even come to mind?   Since he launched his presidential campaign, it’s been hard to tell. And Romney’s Liberty University speech was no help.

It Doesn't Have to Happen to You - LGBT Estate Planning

The You Tube video "It Could Happen to You" set out above has gone viral with well over two million views.  The video shows exactly what can happen when same sex couples fail to take proper steps to ensure that family bigotry and/or hostile cultural settings do not lead to horrific and cold hearted results.  Here in Virginia - a decidedly anti-gay state - there are some things same-sex couples can and should do to provide for some of the legal protection automatically conferred on heterosexual married couples.  The story set forth in the video does not have to happen.  One can even specify who will plan one's funeral and make all related decisions.  Unfortunately, far too many LGBT couples fail to take these relatively simple steps to avoid the adverse and/or unexpected effects of current Virginia law, in particular the “Marshall-Newman Amendment” to the Virginia Constitution enacted in November, 2006.

NECESSARY DOCUMENTS AND STEPS:  There are some basic documents and steps that every unmarried couple and every same-sex couple in a committed relationship should have prepared and duly signed.  These documents will stand up under the Marshall Newman Amendment and include:

            Will - A will specifies how you wish your property to be distributed upon your death. In a will, you designate the person you wish to handle your estate -- your partner or another individual. Without one, your partner receives absolutely nothing.  Pursuant to § 64.1-46 of the Virginia Code, anyone who is over the age of 18 years and not mentally incompetent may make a will and thereby dispose of any estate to which he shall be entitled, at his death, including any estate, right or interest to which the testator may be entitled at his death, notwithstanding he may become so entitled subsequently to the execution of the will. Inasmuch as neither § 64.1-46 or other provisions of the Virginia Code restrict permitted devisees to spouses or blood relatives, both unmarried heterosexual couples and same-sex couples may make wills leaving assets to their partners.

            Trust - A properly established and funded trust avoids publicly probating assets owned by the trust at the time of one’s death and is more difficult to challenge in court than a will.  In addition, a trust can provide beneficiaries with creditor protection in certain circumstances.  Properly structured, a trust can provide support for one’s surviving partner for the remainder of his or her life, with the remainder to pass to other relatives and designated beneficiaries, bypassing potential taxes associated with the surviving partner's estate.  Chapter 4, Title 26 of the Virginia Code governing the appointment, qualification, resignation, removal of fiduciaries, including trustees, contains no provision restricting permitted trustees or trust beneficiaries to spouses or blood relatives.   Therefore, both unmarried heterosexual couples and same-sex couples may create trusts naming their partners as beneficiaries in a manner that does not purport “to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage.”

            * Health Care Power of Attorney - A health care or medical power of attorney allows one’s partner regardless of gender to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event you are not able to do so due to incompetency or other incapacity.   Properly drafted, a health care power of attorney can also ensure hospital visitation rights to the designated attorney-in-fact

            * Advanced Medical Directive - § 54.1-2983 of the Virginia Code provides that any mentally competent adult may, at any time, make a written advance directive (i) authorizing the providing, withholding or withdrawal of life-prolonging procedures in the event such person should have a terminal condition, and (ii) appointing an agent to make health care decisions for the declarant under the circumstances stated in the advance directive if the declarant should be determined to be incapable of making an informed decision.  Advance medical directives must be signed by the declarant in the presence of two subscribing witnesses who cannot be the spouse or blood relatives of the declarant. 

            There is no statutory restriction that one’s agent must be a spouse or blood relative.  Rather, §54.1-2982 of the Virginia Code provides that under any such advance medical directive, an agent means “an adult appointed by the declarant under an advance directive, executed or made in accordance with the provisions of § 54.1-2983, to make health care decisions for him. . ." Such authority includes visitation rights, provided the advance directive makes express provisions for visitation.  Therefore, properly drafted and executed advanced medical directives by a same-sex couple should not be deemed to “bestow a privileges or obligations of marriage.”

* Legislation passed in 2007 authorized a central statewide repository where these documents can be filed and accessed by healthcare providers.  The system is still not yet operational.

            General/Business Power of Attorney - This form of power of attorney allows a member of either an unmarried couple or a same-sex couple to authorize their partner to handle their financial affairs in the event of disability or unavailability.

Child Care Power of Attorney for Non-Adopted Children - Another common difficulty is that non-adoptive, non-birth parents are NOT considered to be the parent or guardian of the children of the birth parent in the relationship.  Thus, they are legally “strangers” and have no right to be involved in health care, educational, or other decisions for their partner’s children.  In this context, it is critical that the birth parent execute a child care power of attorney in favor of their partner so that the non-birth parent partner authorized to communicate with make decisions with school personnel, doctors, dentists and other providers.

            Title on Deeds and Accounts - How title to property is held can effect both future  ownership and tax liability. Joint tenancy with rights of survivorship, for example, will ensure that the surviving partner will have full ownership upon the death of the deceased partner and avoid ownership disputes with surviving blood relatives.  However, it can create certain negative estate tax treatment depending on the size of one’s taxable estate. Historically, deeds creating a tenancy by the entirety have been reserved for husband and wife couples.   In light of the Virginia Affirmation of Marriage Act cited above, such a deed conveying title to a same-sex couple even though validly married in another state such as Massachusetts would not be effective in Virginia.

BENEFICIARY DESIGNATIONS: Most securities and retirement accounts provide for the designation of beneficiaries.  These should be reviewed periodically to ensure that desired goals are achieved and also should include the designation of contingent beneficiaries to ensure the desired parties are named in the event of the death of the principal beneficiary. 

LIFE INSURANCE: Properly utilized, life insurance can provide funding for payment of estate taxes, outstanding mortgages, charitable trusts, education of minors, and other functions.

SPECIAL NEEDS TRUST: If a loved one is disabled, you will want to consider establishing a Special Needs Trust for that individual. A Special Needs Trust can be created by the donor during his or her life or it can be created by one’s Last Will and Testament.  The purpose of such a trust is to enable the donor to provide for the continuing care of a disabled partner or child so that the loved one will have access to the trust assets for purposes other than those provided by public benefits programs. Of equal importance, the beneficiary will not lose eligibility for needs-based benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"), Medicaid, or low-income housing.
NOTE: This article contains a general discussion of estate planning matters which vary greatly in asset structuring needs and potential tax liability based on the particular facts and circumstances of individuals and the nature of their assets.  Therefore, it should not be relied upon as a substitute for individualized legal advice addressing one’s particular situation.

The True Ugly Face of The Family Foundation

As has been noted in many media articles the true moving force against Tracy Thorne-Begland's judicial nomination was The Family Foundation ("TFF") - the Virginia affiliate of Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, although the latter group's name has quietly disappeared from the TFF web page since FRC was named a registered anti-gay hate group.  TFF likes to pretend that it's not a religious extremist organization that hold particular animus towards LGBT Virginian's but its actions speak louder than it always disingenuous words.  In Virginia politics one might describe TFF as akin to "The Empire" in the Star Wars movies: utterly ruthless, always out to trample on the freedom of others, seeking to impose its will on all citizens, and quick to malign and destroy those who dare to differ with its extreme right wing dictates.  In short,TFF is a pestilence that constantly pushes to move Virginia back into a 1950's world where white conservative Christians call all the shoots.  A piece in the American Independent looks at the real face of TFF - something every major news outlet in Virginia ought to do - and underscores the organization's toxicity and how it continues to dictate policy to the Republican Party of Virginia.  Virginia will not fully move into the 21st century until the power of TFF is broken.  The fact that the husband of the TFF president is a member of Bob "Governor Ultrasound" McDonnell's cabinet demonstrates the insidious power of TFF.  Here are article highlights:

The Family Foundation of Virginia was founded in 1985 and calls itself “the largest and most influential Virginia-based organization of its kind.”

The foundation, which identifies as nonpartisan, lists among its successes: requiring pre-abortion ultrasounds, adding a traditional marriage amendment to the Virginia constitution, instituting a ‘conscience clause’ to allow discrimination in adoption, and defeating an amendment to protect LGBT employees from workplace discrimination. The group said the 2012 legislative session was “one of the most successful policy sessions we’ve ever seen.”

The foundation also issues a report card for legislators every two years, which it calls “one of the most sought after political documents in Virginia.” The group says it distributed 100,000 report cards during 2009.

While legislators said the group held a great deal of power among the religious right, another faith-based group in Virginia said the Family Foundation misinterprets scripture and represents a fading sect of ultraconservative Christianity.

“It was clear that [the Family Foundation] frightened a great deal of folks in the General Assembly into either voting against Tracy’s nomination, or scared them out of showing up to vote,” said John Humphrey, an attorney and board member for People of Faith for Equality in Virginia.

“They talk about protecting families and protecting marriage and that they are not an organization that wants to discriminate,” Humphrey said, “but their actions opposing Tracy’s nomination clearly show that bigotry is at the root of the stands they are taking.

“They have the patina of a great deal of authority and influence,” Humphrey said, “and they do cow many legislators into following them, but the reality is that they represent a minority of opinion in the state on these issues and their influence is waning.”   [Delegate Jennifer] McClellan said that there was an understanding among Republican legislators, especially those from heavily conservative districts, that failing to follow the Family Foundation’s agenda could lead to political distress. She said votes on trans-vaginal ultrasounds and anti-abortion rights legislation earlier during the session demonstrated that reality.

“I have heard either directly or indirectly from some people who are a little more moderate or who personally don’t believe in some of the bills,” McClellan said. “But between pressure from the Family Foundation and conservative members of the caucus, they feel compelled to vote a certain way because those groups say, ‘If you don’t, you will get a primary challenge from the right and we will take you out.’”

Despite the fact that the Family Foundation’s efforts succeeded in blocking Thorne-Begland’s appointment, Humphrey said it would ultimately hurt the group in the long run.

“Their organizing of the opposition to Tracy’s nomination reveals how much oppression and venom remains embedded in our politics,” Humphrey said. “But, in that sense, I’m thankful for their opposition because it helps to point out and bring to light how deeply unfair and hate-filled their stance is.”

 From watching The Family Foundation's agenda over the years, it is best described as a constant campaign of hate, fear and bigotry.  Virginia will never achieve a better society until TFF ceases to weld power through threats and intimidation and the dissemination of deliberate lies and untruths.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Prosecution Rests in Philadelphia Sex Abuse Cover-Up Case

For the past seven weeks, the horrid dirty laundry of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has been thoroughly exposed and the fact that not one, but two Catholic Cardinals had played active roles in covering up the repeated sexual abuse of children and minors brought very much to light.  While the case has garnered quite a bit of attention, it's unfortunate that coverage was placed side by side with stories of the Catholic Church's opposition to same sex marriage and/or Church criticism of Barack Obama in every newspaper in the country.  The Philadelphia trial shows the true face of the Church hierarchy and, at least to me, needs to be used to convince Catholics who prefer to stick their heads in the sand that they are bankrolling a foul institution.  An institution that will not change without the flight of Church members, drops in financial support, and hopefully more criminal prosecutions of members of the Church hierarchy.  The Catholic Church has been allowed to get away with heinous crimes for far too long.  Here are highlights from the New York Times on the prosecution's wrapping up of its case:

After seven weeks of testimony, prosecutors on Thursday rested their case against Msgr. William J. Lynn, the first senior Roman Catholic official in the United States to face criminal charges of covering up sexual abuse by priests and reassigning those suspected of child molesting to unwary new parishes. 

In rulings on Thursday, Judge M. Teresa Sarmina of Common Pleas Court dismissed one of two conspiracy counts against Monsignor Lynn, involving allegations of efforts to protect the Rev. James J. Brennan, a priest who remains a co-defendant in the current trial and is accused of the attempted rape of a child. 

But Judge Sarmina left intact the charges that Monsignor Lynn endangered two minors by failing to remove errant priests and also a second conspiracy charge, that he cooperated with other officials to protect a former priest, Edward V. Avery, who recently pleaded guilty to sex abuse. Monsignor Lynn, who has pleaded not guilty, faces a maximum prison sentence of 10 ½ to 21 years if convicted in the landmark trial. 

Monsignor Lynn was indicted after a scathing grand jury report last year accused him and other senior church officials of playing down credible abuse charges against dozens of priests, and of working to protect the archdiocese from scandal and lawsuits rather than to protect children. 

The prosecutors ended their case after calling dozens of witnesses and offering numerous examples in which, they alleged, Monsignor Lynn and other church officials did not inform parishioners about credible, often multiple abuse charges against individual priests and allowed some of them to continue in the ministry for years. 

The defense team has previously asserted that Monsignor Lynn acted responsibly, passing abuse allegations to his superiors, and that only Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, who died in January, had the authority to reassign priests or remove them. 
The prosecutors ended their case with a flourish, allowing jurors to inspect a frayed folder that had been locked in a secret safe for years and was mysteriously discovered and provided to prosecutors only this February, shortly after the cardinal’s death. The folder contained a list, compiled by Monsignor Lynn in 1994 at the request of Cardinal Bevilacqua, of 35 active priests who were credibly charged or confirmed as child molesters. 

Cardinal Bevilacqua later ordered the list to be shredded and, according to the prosecutors, Monsignor Lynn and other officials focused on how to prevent disclosure of archives in future lawsuits against the church. 

One of the priests on that list, Father Avery, now 69, spent six months in a church psychiatric center in 2003, after credible charges that he abused boys. Monsignor Lynn then assigned him to a new parish without warning local officials about his troubled past or insuring follow-up counseling and monitoring, according to prosecutors. Mr. Avery remained in ministry, with unrestricted contact with children, until 2003. 

Father Avery, who later left the priesthood, was originally slated to go on trial with Monsignor Lynn and Father Brennan, but pleaded guilty just before the trial began in March to sexually assaulting an altar boy in 1999 — five years after he was named on Monsignor Lynn’s list. He was sentenced to 2 ½ to 5 years in prison. As part of his plea deal, Father Avery said Monsignor Lynn and other officials had allowed him to stay in ministry, with access to children, despite knowing his history of sexual abuse.

Why any moral person continues to listen to anything said by members of the Church hierarchy baffles me - especially since complicity in the protection of child rapist priest goes all the way up to Pope Benedict XVI.

The Obama Effect: More African Americans Move to Support Marriage Equality

The GOP and conservative talking heads continue to claim that Barack Obama's endorsement of marriage equality will cost him votes in the black community even though the facts do not seem to support these claims.  Instead, polls suggest that Obama's action is making many blacks rethink their past prejudice.  One can only hope that even more will wake up to the way that they have been cynically used by white supremacy loving white Christianists like Tony Perkins at Family Research Council and Victoria Cobb at the Family Foundation (the puppet master for the Virginia GOP).   Think Progress looks at the trend in support of same sex marriage in the black community.  Here are some highlights:

While African Americans are generally less supportive of marriage equality as a whole, a growing number of black leaders and community members have come to embrace the issue since President Obama endorsed the freedom to marry last week. 

As Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) explained during an appearance on MSNBC Thursday afternoon, “Dr. [Martin Luther] King took a simple position. When people would ask him about interracial marriage, he would simply say races don’t fall in love and get married, individuals fall in love and get married.” “So if two men or two women want to fall in love and get married it’s their business,” he added:
LEWIS: My position is very, very simple. That I fought too long and too hard against discrimination based on race and color, not to stand up and fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation. If you’re going to provide civil rights and equality for everybody, you cannot draw a line, you cannot build a wall. We must respect the dignity and the worth of every human being whether they are gay or straight.
African Americans are agreeing with Lewis in greater numbers:
– 54 percent of African Americans support Obama’s position on same-sex marriage: A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that since Obama declared his support, “54 percent express a favorable view of his position on the issue,” compared to “just 41 percent of African-Americans supported gay marriage in ABC/Post polls in mid-2011 and early 2012.”

– 11 point shift in support for marriage among African Americans in NC: A Public Policy Polling survey found “a noticeable shift in the attitudes of African Americans in North Carolina toward rights for gay couples in the wake of President Obama’s announcement last week that he supports gay marriage. Our final poll before the primary last week found only 20% of black voters in the state favoring gay marriage, with 63% opposed. Now 27% express support for gay marriage with 59% opposed, for an overall 11 point shift on the margin.”

– Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) comes out for marriage equality: The highest ranking African American in Congress told MSNBC earlier this week, “I, like the president, have evolved to a point of marriage equality. I have not always been there. I grew up in a parsonage, a fundamentalist Christian parsonage, and I grew up with that indoctrination. And I have grown to the point that I believe that we have evolved to marriage equality.” “If we consider this to be a civil right — and I do — I don’t think civil rights ought to be left up to a state-by-state approach,” Clyburn said. “I think that we should have a national policy on this.”

– African Americans say Obama’s support did not change their opinion of him: A Pew Research Center survey concluded that “most African Americans, on the other hand, say the announcement did not alter their opinion of Obama.”

Bob Marshall - The Foul Stench of a Bigot

The in my view mentally disturbed Del. Bob Marshall seems Hell bent to continue to destroy Virginia's image on a world wide basis through his raging homophobia and evident belief that his beliefs trump the United States Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court decisions.  The man is in my opinion a psychopath when it comes to his never ending hatred towards gay Virginians.  As if Virginia hasn't received enough negative coverage on virtually a worldwide basis, "Slide show Bob" as he's known in Richmond went on CNN and blathered about "sodomy" not being a civil right.  In Marshall's disturbed mind, the ruling in Lawrence v. Texas never happened and the Constitution's guaranty of freedom of religion - including freedom from having to subscribed to Marshall's warped religious fantasy land - doesn't exist.  One has to wonder when his district is going to wake up and vote his nasty ass out of office.  As for those who say "he's charming in person," my response is that Hitler could be charming when he want to be.  So what's your point?  First, here are excerpts from an MSNBC story where legal experts rip Marshall apart:

Law experts are taking issue with a Virginia legislator’s comment that “sodomy is not a civil right” in explaining why he opposed a gay prosecutor’s bid to become a judge.

Speaking Thursday on CNN’s “Starting Point,” Marshall expounded on his reasoning.

“Dr. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks never took an oath of office that they broke. Sodomy is not a civil right,” he said.

Marshall argued that Thorne-Begland’s past advocacy of gay rights would interfere with his neutrality on the bench, particularly in cases involving homosexuals. “He can be a prosecutor if he wants to, but we don't want advocates as judges," Marshall said.

William Eskridge, a Yale Law School professor and author of “Dishonorable Passions,” a book about the history of sodomy laws in America, rejected the contention that sodomy isn’t a civil right. He pointed to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 2003 Lawrence vs. Texas decision, which struck down the criminal sodomy law in Texas – and by extension, other states – as unconstitutional.

“That is something you have a constitutional right to do. Adults have that right without being subject to criminal punishment,” agreed Kim Forde-Mazrui, a University of Virginia School of Law professor.  Mazrui also took issue with Marshall’s suggestion that Thorne-Begland’s sexual orientation could hamper his impartiality as a judge.

“If you mean that people are always biased in favor of members of their own group then that would suggest that a straight male or a white judge could not be impartial in a case involving a crime between a straight and a gay person, a man and woman, or a white and black person -- which would render most judges and juries suspect by his conception,” Mazrui said.

“I think that kind of categorical presumption is misguided and there’s no support for that,” added Theodore Ruger, a law professor the University of Pennsylvania. “Many judges -- most famously judges like Thurgood Marshall and Ruth Bader Ginsburg --  were well-known advocates before taking the bench and they went on to distinguished careers.”

A column in the Richmond Times-Dispatch - one of the most conservative larger newspapers in Virgina - likewise slams Marshall and calls him the equivalent of George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door.  The piece also speculates that the Thorne-Begland crucifixion in the House of Delegates may be a turning point where Virginians begin to wake up to the rampant anti-gay bigotry in Virginia.  Here are highlights:

When a man of unimpeachable qualifications is denied a job because he is gay, we have reached a tipping point beyond what reasonable people should stomach.

The House of Delegates' rejection of a judgeship for Richmond prosecutor Tracy Thorne-Begland carries a stench of bigotry that will shame Virginia beyond this year's legislative session.

This homophobic snub by conservative Republicans — which caught the attention of the national media and the White House — is too brazen to ignore.

"People can empathize and feel personal attacks, and that's what this issue feels like," said Kent Willis, who will retire next month after 23 years as executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia. "This may bring a lot of people who haven't really thought of this issue so much to the side of gay and lesbian rights."

Del. Bob Marshall, a Republican from Prince William, appears content to be the George Wallace of gay and lesbian rights, a defiant symbol standing at the bedroom door. "Sodomy is not a civil right," he pronounced Thursday, burnishing his reputation as an advocate of government intrusion at its most obscene.

Again, Virginia came down on the wrong side of equality and history. How much longer can we be wrong?

As I have noted before, the Virginia GOP wants to turn Virginia into a version of Alabama or Mississippi where bigotry is rampant and a place that progressive and innovative businesses avoid.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

thursday Morning Male Beauty

Census: Minority Babies are Now the Majority in USA

Click image to enlarge
Brace yourself for hysteria from the white Christofascists and the white supremacist allies once they digest this new census information:  of the new babies being born, most are members of minority groups.  Bryan Fischer, Rush Limbaugh, and similar talking heads of the far right will be sending out a veritable wave of flying spittle.  In a perverse way, it will be entertaining to watch.  Meanwhile, this ought to be a serious wake up call to the Republican Party that continues to pander to aging white conservatives while alienating everyone else.  Ditto for the Virginia GOP.  Will the Party wake up to reality?  I'm certainly not going to be holding my breath.  Here are highlights from the Washington Post on the new census numbers:

For the first time in U.S. history, most of the nation’s babies are members of minority groups, according to new census figures that signal the dawn of an era in which whites no longer will be in the majority.  Population estimates show that 50.4 percent of children younger than 1 last year were Hispanic, black, Asian American or in other minority groups. 

The latest estimates, which gauge changes since the last census, are a reflection of an immigration wave that began four decades ago. The transformation of the country’s racial and ethnic makeup has gathered steam as the white population grows collectively older, especially compared with Hispanics.  The census has forecast that non-Hispanic whites will be outnumbered in the United States by 2042, and social scientists consider that current status among infants a harbinger of the change.
Although minorities make up about 37 percent of the U.S. population, the District and four states are majority minority — California, Hawaii, New Mexico and Texas.

Metropolitan Washington, where whites are in the minority, is far ahead of the curve. Among children younger than 5, there are more minorities than whites in virtually every jurisdiction except Arlington and Loudoun counties. Statewide, Virginia has just barely more white children under age 1 than minorities, but they are on the verge of falling below half. 

One of the biggest factors in the demographic change is age. Whites are by far the oldest group. Their median age is over 42, so many are beyond their prime childbearing years. In contrast, the median age for Hispanics is under 28. Blacks and Asians have median ages in their early 30s. 
William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution, said the slowdown in immigration may delay the nation’s transformation to a majority-minority society from 2042 to 2050 or beyond. But he said it will not prevent it.

“Eventually, when the economy returns, we’re going to get more immigrants, maybe not from Mexico but from other parts of the world,” he said. Without so many youthful immigrants, he added, the United States would look more like Japan, with its disproportionate share of elderly citizens.  “We were already seeing a declining youth population in large parts of the country,” Frey said.

The future is here, in Northern Virginia, where several hundred thousand immigrants have settled over the past 25 years from societies as different as Vietnam, El Salvador, Ethiopia and Iraq

In both Maryland and Virginia, the numbers of Hispanics and Asians continued to grow sharply. The number of blacks increased modestly, while the number of whites was virtually unchanged. 

Personally, the changes in the nation's demographics don't frighten me whatsoever.  But then, I'm not one who finds it impossible to see the common humanity of others unless they look and think just like me.  Among the Virginia GOP and at The Family Foundation, that's not a trait you're likely to see.  They only seem to be able to show empathy to white conservative Christians.  The rest of us - in their book we simply do not matter and are to be maligned and denigrated.    The white Christianists had best hope that as they become the minority the new majority doesn't treat them as they have treated minorities in the past.  Pay backs could be hell.

Quote of the Day: Romney Has Lived a Lifetime of Bullying

A letter to the editor in the Cleveland Plain Dealer in my opinion seems to sum up pretty well Mitt Romney both as a person and in terms of the policies that he supports:

The true story of Mitt Romney bullying a boy in high school and cutting off his hair fits with the same Romney of today, who still believes that there are rich, important people in the "in crowd" who count, and then there's the other 99 percent.

In business, Romney picked on struggling companies and fired many in their work forces in order to make profits for the owners and his buddies at Bain Capital. In politics, he would have "let Detroit go bankrupt" with thousands of job losses, would raise taxes on the bottom 20 percent of taxpayers and would lower them for the top 1 percent, who currently pay the lowest marginal tax rate in the last 80 years. 

These attitudes and policies would help the "in crowd" and bully 99 percent of Americans -- the ones who don't count.

 No doubt some readers will howl their disapproval of this, in my view, correct analysis.

Virginia, the Virginia GOP and Family Foundation Trashed in Foreign Press; Bigotry is Bad for Business

The seemingly pea size brains of the misogynist in the Virginia GOP and the Christofascists at The Family Foundation never seem to get it that their hate, bigotry and intolerance do not go unnoticed and that the image of the Commonwealth of Virginia nationally and worldwide is damaged every time they make the state look like a a bigoted, intolerant backwater.   Apparently, in their rush to return Virginia to the 17th century, they never stop to look at the economic toll.  What modern progressive business in its right mind will relocate to a state that seems to pride itself on backwardness.  One need only look at the economic status of Mississippi and Alabama - which seem to be the model for the Virginia GOP and its theocratic allies - to see how backwardness, bigotry and religious extremism are not good for business.  The Guardian (a UK newspaper) has coverage on the Tracy Thorne-Begland "lynching" and none of it's pretty.  Perhaps the most mind numbing aspect id The Family Foundation playing the victim and saying others had resorted to name calling - this from an organization that never tells the truth and lies about LGBT citizens daily.  Here's a sampling of the coverage:  

Senior Democrats expressed their dismay and outrage at the vote in the House of Delegates to reject a prominent local prosecutor, Tracy Thorne-Begland, for a vacancy on the Richmond circuit court. The decision instantly engulfed Virginia in the toxic fumes of the gay marriage debate sweeping America. 

The block on the appointment of Thorne-Begland, 45, has thrown Virginia into the centre of the debate about the legal status of gay and lesbian Americans.

The LGBT civil rights group Lambda Legal said the Virginia action was part of a broader strategy across the nation to undermine fairness and impartiality within the judiciary. Eric Lesh, of the group's fair courts project, said that up to now the focus had been on specific court rulings, such as the judgment of US district judge Vaughn Walker blocking California's gay marriage ban, Proposition 8.

Much attention in the Virginia dispute is being paid to a socially conservative group called the Family Foundation that actively campaigned against Thorne-Begland ahead of the vote. The gay rights group Equality Virginia accused Family Foundation of peddling "fear mongering and shrill personal attacks".

Family Foundation hit back with a statement that charged liberals with resorting to "mean-spirited name-calling, misinformation and bullying. After losing election after election, you would think Virginia's left would finally figure out that they are on the wrong side of these issues."
Mean spirited ought to be Victoria Cobb's middle name.  The woman and her foul organization, in my opinion, are a menace to religious freedom in Virginia.  And as an article in the New York Times noted last week, naked anti-gay bigotry such as was demonstrated by North Carolina's passage of Amendment One and now this bigotry here in Virginia carries a business price.  Here are highlights from the Times  article:

[T]here’s mounting evidence that a state’s support for same-sex marriage yields important benefits for business, especially with the younger, highly educated, affluent population avidly courted by most employers. Brian Ellner, who led the successful Human Rights Campaign for marriage equality in New York, said, “We heard over and over from the C.E.O.’s of major corporations that they don’t want any impediments to recruiting the best people, period, whether they’re people who want to live in a tolerant city or state or gay people who want to live where they feel their families will be protected and safe.”

He described business support in New York as enormously important. “They’re the job creators and the engines of the economy and so important to the health and well-being of the state. And they were on our side.” 

In Washington State, where same-sex marriages are scheduled to begin June 7 unless opponents gather enough signatures to force a referendum, major employers have been sounding similar themes.  Starbucks said in January as the state Legislature was considering allowing same-sex marriage that it “strives to create a company culture that puts our partners first, and our company has a lengthy history of leading and supporting policies that promote equality and inclusion.” Microsoft, the first Fortune 500 company to provide same-sex domestic partnership benefits in 1993, said, “Washington’s employers are at a disadvantage if we cannot offer a similar, inclusive environment to our talented employees, our top recruits and their families” as states that permit same-sex marriage. “Employers in the technology sector,” it went on, “face an unprecedented national and global competition for top talent.”

It’s not just about gay people, because the truth is, there aren’t enough gay people to make a huge impact. But it signals a kind of openness to people who are different. It sends a signal to people, straight or gay, that this is a place where they can potentially thrive. That’s especially critical for companies that rely on people who have to be creative, entrepreneurial and innovative.” 

There is data to suggest that members of the so-called creative class, a phrase coined by Richard Florida in his 2003 book “The Rise of the Creative Class,” with an updated version due out next month, are disproportionately influenced by a state’s attitude on issues like same-sex marriage. This group, which Mr. Florida estimates at more than 35 million people, tends to be mobile, affluent and well educated. “These people have choices,” Mr. Ellner noted, “and if you’re gay and you can be married in New York or Boston, would you opt for that over North Carolina? Of course you would.” 

Mr. Florida, now a professor at the University of Toronto, and Mr. Gates collaborated on a 2002 study for the Brookings Institution, called “Technology and Tolerance: The Importance of Diversity to High-Technology Growth.” The two concluded that “perhaps our most striking finding is that a leading indicator of a metropolitan area’s high-technology success is a large gay population.” They continued, “Frequently cited as a harbinger of redevelopment and gentrification in distressed urban neighborhoods, the presence of gays in a metro area signals a diverse and progressive environment.”

The Virginia GOP has sent a very loud message to the very people that Virginia ought to be seeking to attract that if they are smart, they will go elsewhere.  It's little wonder that in the local LGBT community that smart, talented gays and their allies seek to leave Hampton Roads at the first opportunity.  It's also why Hampton Roads has a brain drain of young college educated people.  If one wants to join Alabama and Mississippi in their usual dead last rankings, then the Virginia GOP is on target.  If one wants progress and a thriving economy, then the Virginia GOP needs to be thrown out of control of Virginia.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Support OBX Pridefest and Gay Friendly Dare County, NC

As noted before, the organizers of OBX Pridefest have been concerned over the consequences of the Amendment One Vote on this year's Pridefest event.  Initial reports of voting results incorrectly put Dare County in the column of bigoted counties that had voted for passage of the hideously anti-gay Amendment One.  Final tallies, however, showed that Dare County - the only county not home to a major city or university - had in fact voted against  Amendment One.  The organizers of Pridefest hope the word will get out that their portion of the Outer Banks is gay friendly and that supporters will come down and support their event.  As I have noted before, the Boyfriend and I attended last year's inaugural event and had a wonderful time. And, yes, we will be attending again this year.  Information on OBX Pridefest can be found HERE.  An article in the Virginian Pilot looks at the Dare County vote and the hopes and efforts of the Pridefest Organizers.  Here are article excerpts:

The first thing David Miller did when he heard that Dare County had voted down Amendment 1 opposing gay marriage was head to Facebook.

"There is no reason to boycott Dare County, North Carolina!" wrote Miller, who co-founded the nonprofit entity that organizes the gay-pride event OBX Pridefest. "We are the progressive, free-thinkers in this part of the state."

Miller had particular reason to be worried about the publicity over Amendment 1, which changed the state's constitution to define marriage solely as a union between a man and a woman. After it passed overwhelmingly, receiving 61 percent of 2.1 million votes in North Carolina, Miller heard from visitors saying they were no longer coming to his June event, to show opposition to the voting results.  "There was a very emotional, knee-jerk reaction from a lot of folks up North," he said.

Miller said he now thinks the publicity could help the 2-year-old OBX Pridefest, with more visitors venturing to the Outer Banks to show solidarity with the gay community. He's expecting 2,000 people to attend, up from 1,500 last year, partly because of the attention the amendment has attracted. The event will be held June 15-18.

Beth Storie was proud of her county's vote, but not necessarily surprised by it. In the 35 years she's lived here, she said she's noticed an acceptance in Dare that doesn't exist in neighboring counties.

Storie, who is not gay, planted a sign reading "Vote Against Amendment 1" in the yard of her Manteo home. A neighbor down the street had one, too. She thought it would encourage a dialogue with those holding a different view, but she's gotten more messages of support than contradiction.

"Even if they don't agree with it, they still practice tolerance" of gay people, she said. An active arts community has helped attract people with more variety in points of view, she added.
I sincerely hope that readers within reasonable distance of the Outer Banks will consider visiting OBX Pridefest.  I hope to see you there.

Obama’s Unwitting Fight Against Black Homophobia

On this blog I have noted many times the problem of black homophobia and what is to me the willingness of black pastors to play the water carriers of racists white Christianists.  It is a problem that plays a large role in the burgeoning HIV epidemic in the black community nationwide and most certainly in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia.  When I was a member of the local Ryan White Committee, I saw the numbers first hand.  Sadly, too many people, both black and white are afraid to call out black pastors who act like trained circus dogs for white Christianist organizations such as the horrid Family Foundation here in Virgina.  It drives me to distraction given the infection numbers in the black community and the continued efforts by too many black leaders and pastors to keep homophobia alive and well.  Hopefully, President Obama's endorsement of same sex marriage will help usher in a change in this problem.  Here are highlights from an article in The New Republic that looks at the issue:

There are many reasons to be glad that President Obama has finally decided to stop dissimulating and openly advocate gay marriage. Not least among them is that he is no longer giving tacit approval to a prejudice in the African-American community that becomes more awkward and regrettable by the year.

Homophobia, to be sure, is a sadly universal phenomenon. But it is one with especially deep roots among blacks. Polling numbers bear this out. In a recent Pew poll, 65 percent of American blacks reported thinking of homosexuality as wrong, while only 48 percent of whites did; in other words, most blacks harbored this prejudice, while fewer than half of whites did.
The Bible is a highly fragile basis of reasoning here. As Pastor Susan Schneider in Wisconsin has recently noted, the Bible “has passages that prohibit men from cutting their hair, and that forbid anyone from wearing mixed fiber clothing, or planting two different kinds of seed in their fields, or eating shellfish. The Bible also commands slaves to obey their masters, parents to stone unruly children, and upholds as heroes of the faith men with multiple wives and concubines.” This is a slam-dunk textual argument: It’s clear that black religious communities—like so many others—harbor a simple revulsion at the notion of homosexuality.

But by referencing the Bible’s views on slavery, Schneider’s exegesis also highlights the particularly tragic irony that saturates black homophobia. Throughout its history, black America has pleaded and fought with the rest of the country to convince them to overcome the primal tendencies of bigotry. This makes black homophobia especially problematic. That’s not pretty to state, but it’s true and it needs to be fixed.

 Unfortunately, President Obama’s reticence on marriage equality gave tacit backing to this backwardness. .   .   .   .   But the quiet succor Obama gave to black homophobes with his “evolving” line on gay marriage was always just as ugly as it was unnecessary—plus, for someone of his demographic and biography, it was more than a little fake. 

[W]ith black America straggling behind in the history of gay liberation, Obama is now serving as a useful cultural model. If he can convince the African-American community that it can maintain our community’s religion while abandoning bigotries that religion can thrive without, we will truly be moving forward.

There are any number of black churches in the region that need to hear this message.  I can think of three in Norfolk at the intersection of Church Street and Princess Anne Road that time and time again act as if they were Victoria Cobb's house slaves when it comes to doing  her anti-gay bidding.  Meanwhile, The Family Foundation and its national affiliates are little better that thinly veiled white supremacist Christianist organizations.  Yes, I may catch flack for some of my statements, but just because they may not be popular in some circles doesn't mean that they're not true and on point.

PFOX Files Complaint Against Montgomery County Schools Superintendant for Correctly Call "Ex-Gay" Propaganda Bogus

In an obvious attempt to intimidate the Montgomery County, Maryland, School System into distributing the fraudulent and potentially dangerous lies and garbage like propaganda that PFOX routinely disseminates.  Candidly, if the school system were foolish enough to allow PFOX to have its way, they would be courting even more serious legal liability.  EVERY legitimate medical and mental health association in America condemns the ex-gay myth and labels so-called "reparative therapy" as dangerous.  Let one or two students be harmed by the PFOX garbage - or worse yet, commit suicide - and you are talking about huge potential liability judgments.  How do you justify distributing propaganda that ALL legitimate experts call bogus?  Talk about making one's insurance carrier go berserk.  Christian News Wire reports on PFOX's latest batshitery.  Here are highlights of the batshit craziness:

Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX) has filed a sexual orientation discrimination complaint with the Montgomery County (Maryland) Board of Education against its School Superintendent Joshua Starr.

After PFOX distributed ex-gay flyers to high school students as part of the schools' flyer distribution program for non-profit organizations, Superintendent Starr publicly denigrated PFOX and former homosexuals by calling the actions of PFOX "reprehensible and deplorable" and labeling the flyer's sexual orientation content as "a really, really disgusting message." 

"PFOX's flyers provided information on unwanted same-sex attractions, discouraged student name calling and labeling, and urged tolerance for former homosexuals," said Regina Griggs of PFOX.

"Starr does not respect diversity and is creating an unsafe school environment. As School Superintendent, Starr's actions make it impossible for Montgomery County public schools to provide an atmosphere where differences are understood and appreciated, or where everyone is treated fairly and with respect free of discrimination and abuse, as mandated by its Nondiscrimination Policy ACB."

 "I have suffered more discrimination and intolerance as an ex-gay than I ever did when I was gay. Please stop hating us. Follow your own Non-Discrimination Policy. If you stop hating former homosexuals, our students will not learn to hate either. Starr's behavior proves that our schools need diversity training on tolerance for the ex-gay community." 

As noted before, the money behind PFOX comes from a who's who of anti-gay hate groups and utterly dishonest "family values" organizations who are striving to keep the "choice" and "change" myths alive at all costs.  As for the self-professed "ex-gays'?  In my opinion, they either (i) need serious mental health care or  (ii) are willing to lie and prostitute themselves in exchange for a pay check.  In my opinion, the most tawdry whore is virtuous in comparison to "ex-gays."  And those views do not even begin to touch on the inappropriateness of injecting religious beliefs and bigotry into the public schools.  As for the PFOX statements, if you want to experience discrimination, come to Virginia.

Antigay Pledge at Baptist University Leads to Mass Resignations

Some time ago I wrote about the proposed plan at Shorter University, a Baptist college in Georgia, to require all employees and faculty to (i) sign a “lifestyle statement” rejecting homosexuality, adultery, premarital sex, drug use and drinking in public, and (ii) become active members of a local church.  Now, the plan has gone into effect and at Shorter and more than 50 resignations of faculty and staff have occurred to date.  And it looks like the exodus isn't over yet.  Some say the policy is wrecking havoc on the school's faculty and I would suspect damaging whatever reputation the university had outside of Kool-Aid drinking Christianists circles.   I feel no sympathy for the university if it's reputation ends up in the toilet.  For students who were forced to attend by parents and family, I do feel sorrow.  Inside Higher Ed looks at the batshitery at Shorter.  Here are highlights:
In October, the college announced it would require all employees to sign a “lifestyle statement” rejecting homosexuality, adultery, premarital sex, drug use and drinking in public near the Rome, Ga., college’s campus. It also requires faculty to be active members of a local church. The statement, one of several steps the university has taken to intensify its Christian identity after the Georgia Baptist Convention began asserting more control over the campus six years ago, provoked an uproar among faculty, alumni and observers.

Before the new contracts were circulated, more than 50 members of the faculty and staff who felt they could not abide by its rules, or did not feel they should have to, resigned. [Michael] Wilson [the librarian at the university's Atlanta campus] stayed. But when he was offered his contract for the academic year, he signed and returned it, but with one line crossed out: “I reject as acceptable all sexual activity not in agreement with the Bible, including, but not limited to, premarital sex, adultery, and homosexuality.”

So far, the college has not responded. In refusing to sign the lifestyle statement in its entirety, writing a letter to the college’s president explaining his decision,  and speaking out about his decision on the front page of the local newspaper, Wilson, 50, has become a somewhat reluctant and bewildered spokesman for the faculty and staff members who disagree with the university’s new direction.

Since then [2005], the Baptist convention has selected the college’s trustees. The college became more strict almost immediately: in 2008, Shorter joined the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, a group of evangelical colleges who hire mostly only evangelical Protestants as full-time faculty members. The climate at Shorter began to change around that time, Wilson said, adding that he would like the college to hire based on qualifications and not on religious beliefs.
Since the statements were first proposed, controversy has raged. An anonymous survey in April found only 12 percent of faculty and staff plan to stay. Save Our Shorter, a group opposing the changes, has a list on its website of more than 50 faculty members who are leaving as a result of the new policies. Several departments, including science and the fine arts, have been “eviscerated,” Wilson said.

Obviously, the university and the Southern Baptist Convention want to graduate ignorant idiots who will blindly follow their dictates and avoid thinking at all costs.

Bob McDonnell - Sex and the Southern Governor

While the Tracy Thorne-Begland "lynching" in the Virginia House of Delegates by Virginia Republicans has made the state look beyond backward and reactionary to the world, there's another casualty of the rank unvarnished bigotry: Bob "Governor Ultrasound" McDonnell who has been trying strenuously to make himself look like a moderate and trying to change the public conversation away from the extremism of the Virginia GOP of which he is the ostensible leader.  The events in the wee hours of this past Tuesday did nothing to help McDonnell's effort to win the GOP VP sweepstakes.   McDonnell's dancing around the issue of Thorne-Begland's sexual orientation has also revived interest in McDonnell's own involvement in a similar "lynching" of former Circuit Judge Verbena Askew in 2003.  And then there's the issue of the McDonnell administration's unholy ties to The Family Foundation, a coven of theocracy loving Christianists.  Life's a bitch of late for Taliban Bob.  A column in the Richmond Times Dispatch looks at how the Thorne-Begland matter is blowing back against McDonnell.  Here are highlights:

Other people's sex lives keep getting Bob McDonnell into trouble.   The governor's latest headache: Fellow Republicans in the General Assembly killed the nomination of a veteran Richmond prosecutor, Tracy Thorne-Begland, to a city judgeship because he is gay. Thorne-Begland would have been Virginia's first openly gay judge.

Republicans say Thorne-Begland is unfit for the bench for two reasons: that Thorne-Begland — who, with his partner, has two children — favors same-sex marriage. It has been illegal in Virginia since 2006. And that the former Navy fighter pilot criticized the scrapped Clinton-era rule allowing gays to serve in the military if they kept their sexuality secret — the policy of "don't ask, don't tell."

Sounding like a Washington politician who insists his position on gay rights is evolving, McDonnell — historically, no friend of gay Virginians — said after the vote, "If anyone voted against Mr. Thorne-Begland because of his sexual orientation, that would be very disappointing and unacceptable." Before the vote, McDonnell said candidates for the courts should be considered for their professional qualifications, not their sexuality.  McDonnell said, "These ought to be merit-based selections solely based on a person's skill, ability, fairness, judicial temperament." Sexuality should not be a factor, he said, "only their ability to practice law and mete out fair decisions." 

That's practically the reverse of McDonnell's position in 2003.   Then, as the chairman of the House courts committee, which was considering the reappointment of a Newport News judge who had been accused of sexually harassing another woman, McDonnell clearly established a link between a candidate's CV and sexuality. 

In an interview with the Daily Press of Newport News, McDonnell said a violation of Virginia's ban on anal and oral sex between consenting adults — since invalidated by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a Texas case — might disqualify a judicial prospect: "It certainly raises some questions about the qualifications to serve as a judge."   The judge, Verbena Askew, was removed  .   .   . 

[T]the episode — in part because of McDonnell's pronouncement — established sexuality as a standard for court candidates.   It is one easily embraced by a Republican legislative majority that, when told to jump by the Family Foundation, asks how high on the way up.

The conservative grass-roots organization, which initiated the campaign against Thorne-Begland with a tartly worded email alert to supporters last week, has political and personal ties to McDonnell. The Family Foundation's leader, Victoria Cobb, is the wife of a deputy Cabinet secretary, Matt Cobb. His secretariat oversees the health and welfare programs that her group wants reined in.

[T]he vote in the wee, small hours of Tuesday  .   .   .   .  is a nightmare that the governor doesn't need.  This is another punch in the nose to McDonnell's brand of happy-face conservatism, not to mention his now even-longer shot at the vice presidency. It keeps alive the potentially ambition-killing narrative he has struggled to change in recent weeks through campaign-type advertising and by barnstorming the state, emphasizing its economic rebound.

That storyline — nice-guy Southern Republican exposed as committed culture warrior — is largely McDonnell's doing   .   .   .   .   But it is only one data point in a decades-long string of them: McDonnell's 1989 thesis as a law student at Pat Robertson-founded Regent University in which he complained that government policy is wrongly weighted to "cohabitators, homosexuals (and) fornicators." And McDonnell's refusal, as a newly installed governor, to extend an executive order by his two Democratic predecessors protecting gay state employees from discrimination in the workplace.

Taliban Bob worked hard over the years to push the backward thinking, theocratic agenda of Pat Robertson and The Family Foundation.  Now that it's biting him in the ass, I cannot find a single tear to shed for McDonnell.  Past actions and words have consequences as McDonnell is finding out.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Washington Post Slams Virginia GOP

Not to beat a dead horse, but the Washington Post has a great editorial that rips the Virginia GOP a new one over the naked bigotry demonstrated against judicial nominee Tracy Thorne-Begland who suffered the equivalent of a lynching in the Virginia House of Delegates.  The sad episode clear shows the true face of the Republican Party of Virginia and its Christofascist puppeteers at The Family Foundation, a foul "family vales" organization based in Richmond.  Here are highlights from the editorial:

IF ANYTHING, Tracy Thorne-Begland, a top state prosecutor in Richmond with a decade of courtroom experience, is overqualified for a judgeship on the General District Court. Mr. Thorne-Begland, who has prosecuted dozens of homicides and other major felonies, runs one of the biggest commonwealth’s attorney’s offices in Virginia. The caseload of the court to which he was nominated consists mainly of traffic violations, minor crimes and run-of-the-mill civil disputes over contracts and late rent payments.

But the judicial nomination of Mr. Thorne-Begland, a former Navy fighter pilot who is gay, was sabotaged by an ugly campaign of homophobic bigotry led by Virginia Republicans. In a vote at 1 a.m. Tuesday, the GOP-dominated House of Delegates, with an avowed homophobe leading the charge, killed his candidacy, thereby ensuring that Virginia state courts remain free of openly gay judges.

As Richmond’s chief deputy commonwealth’s attorney, he isn’t regarded as a gay rights advocate; he is seen as a consummately professional prosecutor.  But for House Republicans, and for the Family Foundation, an anti-gay group that stirred up opposition to Mr. Thorne-Begland’s nomination, his sexual orientation trumped his copious professional qualifications. Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William), who last year expressed the view that gays are “intrinsically disordered,” denounced the nominee as “an aggressive activist for the pro-homosexual agenda.”

Mr. Marshall — known in Richmond as “Sideshow Bob” — said that, as a gay man living with a domestic partner, Mr. Thorne-Begland had a lifestyle that would impede him from upholding Virginia’s constitution, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. As if the nominee’s sexual orientation would cripple his ability to preside over traffic cases and misdemeanors.

No matter how they dressed it up, the Republicans’ opposition boiled down to old-fashioned prejudice. Even by voting at 1 a.m., they couldn’t hide the fact that bigotry and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is alive and well in the state of Virginia.

This sad episode conclusively proves the LGBT Virginians cannot expect fair treatment in Virginia, be it in the courts, state employment and just about all other fronts. The Republican Party and its hate group backers continue to do all they can to make us less than full citizens.