Important October 2006 documentary film about sexual abuse by priests in USA: Deliver Us From Evil
Gay Games 2006 souvenir store: http://gallery.gaygameschicago.org/
Gay Games Stretches Strength with Sydney Mardi Gras
August 7, 2006
Chicago/Sydney, Australia – The 2006 Gay Games and the New Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras today announced a multi-year international partnership designed to strengthen two of the world’s largest and most beloved international gay and lesbian events. In a joint announcement from Chicago, host of Gay Games VII, and Sydney, site of the world’s largest LGBT Mardi Gras festival, the new partnership broadens the worldwide visibility of both events. Matching two of the world’s most vibrant and gay and lesbian-friendly cities, the new relationship will also enhance tourism and harmony between the LGBT communities in the USA and Australia.
"Sydney and Chicago are forever destined to be entwined in the minds of the LGBT community worldwide," said Kevin Boyer, Gay Games VII co-vice-chair. "Sydney hosted a glorious Gay Games VI in 2002 and Chicago will host Gay Games VII in 2006. We’ve watched as Australians and Sydneysiders pre-registered for Gay Games VII in extraordinary numbers — the highest registration numbers per capita of any nation on earth. The legacy of the Gay Games is strong in Sydney and we welcome the opportunity to partner with New Mardi Gras to strengthen the LGBT community there while we prepare to welcome Aussies to Chicago in 2006."
"Mardi Gras is bigger than Sydney," said Mark Orr, New Mardi Gras co-chair. "People from Beijing to Barcelona look to it as a beacon for the fight for equal rights, acceptance of the GLTBQ community and a celebration of its rich culture. The Gay Games and our friends in Chicago share these same values and goals and is an ideal match for our organization. Our new relationship with the Gay Games in Chicago will further enhance our reputation as an all-inclusive, international event while we both work toward equality for all."
"Sydney and the Gay Games movement already enjoy close ties. We hope the new alliance will help to bring more people to Sydney for a taste of a queer Aussie summer," said co-chair Steph Sands.
"Chicago continues to be a true partner to the international Federation of Gay Games and our participants worldwide" said Kathleen Webster, Federation of Gay Games co-president. "The spirit and success of the 2002 Gay Games are a testament to the Sydney community’s commitment to sport and to the international LGBT community. Chicago has shown itself to be a worthy successor. Just as the lesbian and gay sports and culture community will forever remember the Sydney skyline and harbour and their legacy to the Gay Games movement, athletes and artists now turn their attention to Chicago with its outstanding sport traditions, unique architecture and miles of lakefront parks. We’re thrilled with this new partnership between Sydney and Chicago."
The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is an iconic event of international renown and is Australia’s largest annual outdoor event enjoyed by over one million national and international visitors. In February 2005, New Mardi Gras launches a four week festival with over 100 events, Launch, Fair Day, the world famous Parade, and culminating with a world famous Party. Partners of New Mardi Gras include the City of Sydney, the Sydney Star Observer, plus a dozen other media and business partners.
Gay Games VII Sports and Cultural Festival will take place in Chicago July 15-22, 2006. More than 12,000 athletes from more than 100 countries will compete in 30 sports ranging from softball to dancesport, swimming to tennis. The weeklong event will include band, cheerleading and color guard performances, chorus, an ancillary arts festival, and a series of community- organized social events and parties. [1/21/05] URL: http://www.outinamerica.com/home/news.asp?articleid=7895
August 9, 2006
Gay Games Attendance Exceeds Expectations
Chicago organizers of the 2006 Gay Games released preliminary attendance estimates regarding the 2006 Gay Games VII Sports & Cultural Festival—and the numbers exceeded expectations. According to a statement from Kevin Boyer, the Games’ co-vice chair, “Attendance at Gay Games Chicago events exceeded 140,000, [ which is ] 40,000 more than we had projected.” Of that number, an estimated 107,500 attended the Opening & Closing ceremonies; the expo; and all of the sports and cultural events. The remainder—about 33,000—attended official affiliated events and parties throughout the week of July 15-22.
Breaking the numbers down even further, the Opening Ceremony at Soldier Field had an estimated attendance of 32,000 while approximately 20,000 went to Wrigley Field for the Closing Ceremony. About 13,250 went to the four-day Gay Games Expo while participating athletes and artists made up another 11,500. “Ticket sales to sports and cultural events exceeded our estimates by almost 50 percent,” said Boyer. The largest events included figure skating ( 1,500 two-day passes ) at McFetridge Recreation Center, diving ( 1,075 two-day passes ) at Northwestern University and dancesport ( 1,075 two-day passes ) at the Hilton Chicago.
The Gay Games organization projects a financial surplus for the $9.5 million event. Final financial details are expected to be available before the end of September.
August 10, 2006
Gay M.B.A. Students Make Strides on Wall Street
In days past, the world of Wall Street was not especially known for its gay-friendly atmosphere. But today, firms are making serious efforts to attract and keep the rising number of gay masters of business administration students, a BusinessWeek article reports.
Companies like Deutsche Bank, J.P. Morgan Chase and Lehman Brothers, which are hosting the Ninth Annual Reaching Out Conference for 600 gay professionals and students and 60 companies, are simply responding to the numbers. About 86 percent of top business schools now host a gay student group, up from 50 percent in 1995, a 2002 study found. A 2006 report by gay-rights organization Human Rights Campaign states that the gay community now has a buying power of about $641 billion, with nearly 70 percent of gay people loyal to companies with tolerant work policies.
According to the Human Rights Campaign’s State of the Workplace Survey for 2005-2006, Wall Street firms listed in the Fortune 500 offer at least some protections against discrimination for gay workers. Morgan Stanley includes sexual orientation in its equal employment opportunity policy, as well as offers domestic partner benefits. Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch offer both, and also include gender identity and/or expression in their anti-discrimination policies.
To be sure, making workplaces fully open to gay professionals isn’t yet complete: a senior manager at PricewaterhouseCooper estimates that 90 percent of her gay friends are not out at work, and a senior associate at the firm details resistance to fixing hostilities at previous employers. But firms now say that they must fully engage all their employees to function at their very best, with many companies now forming support- and networking-groups and hosting events aimed at gay professionals. PricewaterhouseCooper’s Matt Milligan, the auditor’s GLBT strategy leader, said: “If the business world didn’t reach out to the GLBT community, years from now the result would be staggering—not only to the U.S. economy, but to the global economy.”
August 15, 2006
USA military discharges 726 personnel for being gay in 2005
by Luan Shanglin
Washington – The U.S. military discharged a total of 726 service members last year for being gay, a 10 percent increase on 2004, The New York Times reported on Tuesday. The Army, the largest branch of the U.S. military, discharged 386 gay personnel, followed by the Navy with 177, the Air Force with 88 and the Marines, the smallest force, with 75, the newspaper quoted figures released by the gay rights group, the Service members Legal Defense Network, as saying.
A sharp increase occurred at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where in 1999 a soldier was bludgeoned to death in his barracks by fellow soldiers who thought he was homosexual. In 2004, 19 service members from the base were discharged and the number climbed to 49in 2005. The overall number of service members who were dismissed because they were found to be gay or because they disclosed their sexuality fell in the period from 2002 to 2004. The total of such discharges in 2004 was 653, compared with 770in 2003, 885 in 2002 and 1,227 in 2001.
Under a policy introduced by the Clinton administration known as "don’t ask, don’t tell," the military cannot inquire into service members’ sex lives unless there is evidence of homosexual conduct. Those who volunteer the information have to be discharged. More than 11,000 members have been discharged for that reason, said the legal group. More service members have been discharged for drug offenses, pregnancy and weight problems than for being gay, the report cited a review by the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, as saying. Enditem
September 5, 2006
A record fourteen bills sponsored by Equality California pass legislature
Sacramento, CA – The 2005-2006 California Legislature session came to a close on August 31 having passed an unprecedented fourteen bills and one resolution sponsored by Equality California (EQCA). Governor Schwarzenegger has signed four of the bills, vetoed two and has eight bills still under consideration. "The 2005-2006 legislative session in California broke the record for the most lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights bills ever passed by a state legislature in our nation’s history," said Geoff Kors, EQCA executive director. "The legislature came down on the side of fairness and equality by passing each of the fourteen pieces of legislation and one resolution proposed and sponsored by Equality California-from marriage equality to school safety to transgender health insurance to tax and insurance equity. We applaud the bi-partisan group of legislators who voted in support of our bills."
Below is a summary of EQCA-sponsored bills in the 2005-2006 legislative session and their status:
* SB 1441 (Kuehl): Nondiscrimination in State Programs and Activities was passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Schwarzenegger.
* AB 1400 (Laird): Civil Rights Act of 2005 was passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Schwarzenegger.
* SB 973 – (Kuehl): Domestic Partner Pension Death Benefit Legislation was passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Schwarzenegger.
* AB 1586 (Koretz): Insurance Non-Discrimination Act was passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Schwarzenegger.
* AB 849 (Leno): Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act was passed by the Legislature and vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger.
* AB 866 (Yee): Code of Fair Campaign Practices was passed by the Legislature and vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger.
* AB 2920 (Leno): Older Californians Equality and Protection Act passed the Legislature and is being considered by the governor.
* AB 606 (Levine): Safe Place to Learn Act passed the Legislature and is being considered by the governor.
* SB 1437 (Kuehl): Bias-Free Curriculum Act passed the Legislature and is being considered by the governor.
* SB 1827 (Migden): State Income Tax Equity Act of 2006 passed the Legislature and is being considered by the governor.
* AB 2800 (Laird): Civil Rights Housing Act of 2006 passed the Legislature and is being considered by the governor.
* AB 2051 (Cohn): Equality in Prevention and Services for Domestic Abuse Act passed the Legislature and is being considered by the governor.
* AB 1160 (Lieber): Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act passed the Legislature and is being considered by the governor.
* AB 1207 (Yee): Code of Fair Campaign Practices passed the Legislature and is being considered by the governor.
The Legislature also passed SJR 11 (Kehoe), a resolution supporting ?the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell". No executive action is necessary for legislative resolutions.
"This record of accomplishment is something for our community to be very proud of and we appreciate the governor’s support on the bills he has signed," said Seth Kilbourn, EQCA political director. "Now we ask the LGBT community and all fair-minded Californians to call the governor’s office to urge him to sign the remaining bills pending on his desk." In sponsoring these fourteen pieces of legislation and one resolution, Equality California worked with the authors of each bill to develop a legislative strategy and lobby legislators and the governor’s office throughout the session. Additionally, constituents were brought to Sacramento to tell their stories, putting a face to the real issues that these bills address. At the grassroots level, EQCA organized in-district lobby visits, promoted letter writing and e-mail campaigns and identified thousands of supporters to make their voices heard in Sacramento.
Equality California is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots-based, statewide advocacy organization whose mission is to achieve equality and civil rights for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Californians. CONTACT: Dannie Tillman, Director of Communications & Coalitions, Equality California PHONE: (323) 217-8875 EMAIL: email@example.com
October 1, 2006
Boston Judge rules gay Rhode Island couples can marry in Massachusetts
by Associated Press
A Superior Court judge ruled Friday that same-sex couples from Rhode Island have the right to marry in Massachusetts, finding that Rhode Island laws do not expressly prohibit gay marriage. Wendy Becker and Mary Norton of Providence, R.I., argued that a 1913 law that forbids out-of-state residents from marrying in Massachusetts did not apply to them. The law prohibits couples from marrying in Massachusetts if the marriage would not be permitted in their home state, but the couple argued Rhode Island does not specifically ban gay marriage.
Suffolk Superior Court Judge Thomas Connolly agreed. " No evidence was introduced before this court of a constitutional amendment, statute, or controlling appellate decision from Rhode Island that explicitly deems void or otherwise expressly forbids same-sex marriage," he ruled. The ruling has no effect on whether Rhode Island or any other state must allow gay marriage. Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch said only the state legislature or the state’s courts can decide if same-sex marriages performed in Massachusetts are valid in Rhode Island. " This ruling does not authorize same sex marriages in Rhode Island and it does not mean that Rhode Island will recognize a same sex marriage performed in Massachusetts," Lynch said in a statement.
Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly said he would not appeal Connolly’s ruling. But on Friday, Gov. Mitt Romney sent Reilly a letter asking him to reconsider and appoint a special assistant attorney general to handle an appeal. " Same-sex couples are not currently being married in Rhode Island, and the ruling has the effect of exporting same-sex marriage from Massachusetts to Rhode Island," Romney said in his letter. " In view of this contradiction, today’s ruling must be appealed," Romney said.
Michele Granda, an attorney for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, which represented the out-of-state couples, said Romney "doesn’t have a role to play here. To the extent he has any role, it is to facilitate the enforcement of this decision. That’s his only option," she said. "When the courts declare the law, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts must follow the law." Granda said Rhode Island has already shown some signs it would recognize gay marriages. She noted that Rhode Island’s General Assembly has not passed any law specifically banning gay marriage since a May 2004 opinion by Lynch that said Rhode Island would recognize any marriage legally performed in another state, as long as the marriage was not contrary to public policy. Lynch left the General Assembly or courts to decide the definition of public policy.
Rhode Island state Sen. Rhoda Perry, D-Providence, one of the lead sponsors of legislation to legalize gay marriage in Rhode Island, predicted that opponents will "do whatever they can to try to prevent these marriages — which are legitimate in Massachusetts — from being legitimate here. I think there will definitely be agitation not to recognize the marriages in Rhode Island." The suit over the 1913 law involved couples from only six states. In March, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that Massachusetts could use the 1913 law to bar gay couples from Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont from marrying here. But the court said it was unclear whether gay marriage was specifically banned in New York and Rhode Island, and sent that part of the case back to a lower court for clarification.
In July, New York’s highest court ruled gay marriage was forbidden in that state. After Massachusetts became the first state in the country to legalize gay marriage in 2004, couples from many other states began lining up to get marriage licenses here. But Romney directed municipal clerks not to give licenses to out-of-state couples, citing the 1913 law. The governor’s action triggered the lawsuit. In defending the 1913 law, Reilly’s office had argued that Rhode Island laws’ use of gender-specific terms — including both "bride" and "groom" — made it clear that the laws’ intent was to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, predicted the ruling will make people in other parts of the country see Massachusetts as "the Las Vegas of gay marriage."
" We think it’s very strange that a judge would say that Rhode Island has nothing to prohibit gay marriage when their statutes define marriage as between a bride and groom," he said. Becker and Norton said they were "thrilled" with the ruling. " There shouldn’t be restrictions on people who love each other and want to get married," said Becker. "We should want more of those couples to be married, not less."
October 8, 2006
A Spirit of Belonging, Inside and Out
by John Leland
Seeley Lake, Mont. – Alistair Bane went to his first weekend gathering five months ago and was so nervous that he barely participated. By the time of his second, last month, he had sewn his own outfit and was comfortable enough to dance in the powwow and the drag show. “This has been a big thing for me,” said Mr. Bane, who is a mixed-blood Eastern Shawnee. “If somebody had talked to me when I was 16 and said people like me were once respected, my life might have been different.”
Lynn Donaldson for
The New York Times
Brian Rainforth, left, and Raven E. Heavy Runner at the Two-Spirit Gathering in Montana. Mr. Rainforth is Klamath; Mr. Heavy Runner is Blackfeet.
The occasion was the ninth annual Montana Two-Spirit Gathering, a weekend retreat here in northwestern part of the state for a few dozen American Indians who define themselves as embodying both male and female spirits. Many are refugees from the gay or lesbian bar circuit who are now celebrating an identity among themselves that they never knew existed, in a setting without drugs or alcohol. Some identify themselves as gay or lesbian; others as a third or fourth gender, combining male and female aspects. Since the term “Two Spirit” was coined at a conference for gay and lesbian natives in the early 1990’s, Two-Spirit societies have formed in Montana as well as in Denver; Minnesota; New York State; San Francisco; Seattle; Toronto; Tulsa, Okla.; and elsewhere, organized around what members assert was once an honored status within nearly every tribe on the continent.
“A lot of our tribal leaders have their minds blocked and don’t even know the history of Two-Spirit people,” said Steven Barrios, 54, who lives on a Blackfeet reservation in northwestern Montana, and who has been open about his sexual orientation since he was a teenager. Mr. Barrios cited a small and sometimes contested body of anthropological evidence that suggests that before the arrival of Christian missionaries, many tribes considered Two-Spirit people to be spiritually gifted and socially valuable. Like the Montana group, most Two-Spirit societies rely on financing from the federal government — usually under public health auspices — and few are recognized by the members’ tribes. The societies hold their own powwows but most do not dance together in general tribal ceremonies. Members say they confront anti-gay sentiments from the general culture and from within their tribes, which they attribute to Christian influence.
“We can’t get a Two-Spirit person on our tribal council,” Mr. Barrios said. “We had a historian from our tribe on the reservation, and when he was asked what they did with Two-Spirit people, he said, ‘We killed them.’ But before the Christians came, Two-Spirit people were treated with respect. What we’re doing now is coming together, showing documentation that we have a history.” Whatever their traditions, modern tribes often have complex relationships with homosexuality. In 2004 Kathy Reynolds and Dawn McKinley, two Cherokee women in Tulsa, petitioned to marry under tribal law, setting off a complicated legal and political battle that spread to other tribes. The women, who became unwilling public figures, were granted the right to marry by the Cherokee Judicial Appeals Tribunal but have yet to file their marriage certificate and complete their marriage. In response, several tribes, including the Cherokee Nation, passed laws defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
Mr. Bane, 40, said he first heard about Two-Spirit gatherings in his late 20’s but did not attend one until he went to a gathering in Tulsa five months ago. As an adolescent, when he told his parents he was gay, the sense of rejection led him to leave school and home. He had little connection with his Indian heritage (most people at the gathering used the term Indian more often than Native American or First Nation), and after leaving home he found community with people living on the street, using heroin and selling his body. “I felt that at least somebody wanted me for something,” he said. Even when friends died of overdoses or took their own lives, he said, “We didn’t see ourselves as worth more than the life we lived.” Like several others at the gathering, he said that at gay clubs he always felt he had the wrong hair or clothes, and felt pressure not to come off as “too Indian.” He said: “I can’t count the number of guys who have made comments about ‘If you cut your hair you’d be cute.’ If you conform to the whole Western culture idea of what a gay man is supposed to act like, then people want you around. But if not, you are either invisible or people outwardly make it clear that they don’t want you around.”
He added: “When I went to the gathering in Tulsa in May, there was a sense of acceptance I had never felt before. The mistakes I made in my past didn’t matter. What mattered was I came home. It goes beyond sexuality to a cultural role. That was important to me.” The term for Two-Spirit people is different in each tribal language, but the practices and traditional social position of Two-Spirits is fairly consistent, said Brian Joseph Gilley, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Vermont and author of “Becoming Two-Spirit: Gay Identity and Social Acceptance in Indian Country.” In tribal tradition, when children exhibited interest in activities not associated with their gender — for boys, typically cooking or sewing; for girls, hunting or combat — they were singled out as inhabited by dual spirits, Mr. Gilley said. In some tribes they were considered spiritually gifted, and might have been sought sexually for their powers. Often Two-Spirit people helped raise children or accompanied war parties as surrogate wives, Mr. Gilley said. At the Montana gathering, one man brought his two grandchildren, whom he was raising. “It was never about sexuality,” Mr. Gilley added. “It was about your role in the community.”
John Hawk Co-Cke’, whose parents descended from four different tribes and were Methodists, said he heard about Two-Spirit traditions in the 1980’s, when he started seeing a Indian therapist. He was having high-risk anonymous sex with men in parks and other public places and also drinking heavily at gay bars to compensate for feeling undesirable. “At the time I had nothing to do with my Indian-ness,” he said. “I didn’t want to be more different.” The therapist, he said, told him, “‘You need to come home. Warriors would never put themselves in that position.’”
At the gathering Mr. Co-Cke’ wore women’s makeup, and at the powwow he wore a traditional native woman’s dress. Since embracing his Two-Spirit identity, he said, he has stopped heavy use of drugs and alcohol and is much happier. But he said he does not wear women’s clothing in Tulsa or at a general Osage powwow. “I teach guys: ‘Be smart. You have to remember you live in Oklahoma.’ Because we’ve had guys beat up. ‘As far as your sexuality, please be careful you don’t flaunt it.’ ” Mr. Co-Cke’ said Two-Spirit gatherings often draw men who are hiding their orientation from their wives. At the Montana gathering several people did not come because of the presence of a reporter because they did not want their orientation to become public knowledge. For three days, solemn rituals alternated with pop cultural references, high camp and playful but sharp intertribal teasing.
Matthew Reed, 32, who manages a Starbucks franchise in Denver, began the Saturday night powwow by leading an august gourd dance to cleanse the grounds. “Does everyone know how to gourd dance?” he asked, then advised: “Drop it like it’s hot,” a reference to a dance-filled rap video by Snoop Dogg. As the night grew cold, Joey Criddle, who led a contingent called the “Denver divas,” explained for the group the historical significance of some of the dances and clothing, encouraging each dancer, “You go, Miss Thing.” Mr. Criddle, 45, a respiratory therapist and part Jicarilla Apache, was once married and has four children. He said that in Denver his group was trying to gain credibility and acceptance from tribal leaders by preserving the old language, skills and dances. “The elders will tell you the difference between a gay Indian and a Two-Spirit,” he said, underscoring the idea that simply being gay and Indian does not make someone a Two-Spirit. Involvement with Two-Spirits has changed Mr. Bane’s life. After the Tulsa gathering he moved to Denver to live near Mr. Criddle’s group, and he stopped dating a man who refused to acknowledge their relationship in public. “I used to think that was O.K.,” he said. “Now I don’t.” He was also embracing some traditionally female tasks and slowly learning to do beadwork. “Beadwork gives you patience for traffic,” he said.
The surprise for his non-native friends, he said, was how much fun the gatherings were. “You read about it and think it’s real serious, and it is,” he said. “But then you have the drag show on the first night. When I told my friends, ‘I gotta get my drag outfit together,’ my white friends, they’re like, ‘What?’ ”
Jaxin Enemy-Hunter, 28, who helped Mr. Bane with last-minute stitching on his moccasins, found it rewarding to see people who were not raised in the Two-Spirit tradition embrace it, but their journey was not his. Growing up on a Crow reservation, he had been singled out early by his great-grandmother and given a double helping of education: studying with the boys and then studying with the girls when the boys played. He described the experience as both high status and extremely stressful. “A lot of Two-Spirit societies, their focus is to bring the Two-Spirit role to their tribes,” he said. “With my tribe, we had never lost that. The younger generations focus more on the mainstream way of being a gay person, going out and partying, and not having responsibilities and being stressed out.” Off the reservation, he added, “I would see friends going through hell over being gay. It was just very sad. They didn’t know about our history.”
October 14, 2006
Gerry Studds, 1st openly gay congressman, dies
by Jay Lindsay
Former U.S. Rep. Gerry Studds, the first openly gay person elected to Congress, died early Saturday at Boston Medical Center, several days after he collapsed while walking his dog, his husband said. He was 69. Studds fell unconscious Oct. 3 because of what doctors later determined was a blood clot in his lung, Dean Hara said. Studds regained consciousness, remained in the hospital, and seemed to be improving. He was scheduled to be transferred to a rehabilitation center, but his condition deteriorated Friday and he died at about 1:30 a.m. Saturday, Hara said.
Hara, who married Studds shortly after gay marriage was legalized in Massachusetts in 2004, said Studds was a pioneer who gave courage to gay people everywhere by winning re-election after publicly acknowledging his homosexuality. " He gave people of his generation, or my generation, of future generations, the courage to do whatever they wanted to do," said Harra, 49. Studds was first elected in 1972 and represented Cape Cod and the Islands, New Bedford, and the South Shore for 12 Congressional terms. He retired from Congress in 1997.
In 1983, Studds acknowledged his homosexuality after the page revealed he’d had a relationship with Studds a decade earlier, when the page was 17. Studds was censured for sexual misconduct by the House, then went home to his constituents to answer questions in a series of public meetings and interviews with the press. Studds defended the relationship as a consensual relationship with a young adult. The page later appeared publicly with Studds in support of him. The scandal recently resurfaced when former Republican Rep. Mark Foley (news, bio, voting record) resigned after exchanging sexually explicit instant messages with a page. Republicans accused Democrats of hypocrisy for savaging Foley, but saying little about Studds at that time.
Hara said Studds was never ashamed of the relationship with the page. " This young man knew what he was doing," Hara said. "He was at (Studds’) side." Studds left Congress and became a lobbyist for the fishing industry and environmental causes. In 1996, Congress named the 842-square mile Gerry E. Studds Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary after him in recognition of his work protecting the marine environment.
October 14, 2006
Gay Marriage Losing Punch as Ballot Issue
by Kirk Johnson, Denver
Katie Kelley contributed reporting
The debate over same-sex marriage was a black-or-white proposition two years ago when voters in 11 states barred gay couples from marrying. But this year shades of gray are everywhere, as eight more states consider similar ballot measures. Some of the proposed bans are struggling in the polls, and the issue of same-sex marriage itself has largely failed to rouse conservative voters. In some cases, other issues, like the war in Iraq and ethics in Washington, have seized voters’ attention. But the biggest change, people on both sides of the issue say, is that supporters of same-sex marriage this year are likely to be as mobilized as the opponents.
The social conservatives, who focused on marriage in 2004 and helped President Bush gain re-election in some hard-fought states in the Midwest, have been offset by equally committed and organized opposition. Slick advertising, paid staff and get-out-the-vote drives have become a two-way street. “ The opponents of these measures have had a lot more time to organize and fund their efforts; that has made for a bit of a different complexion,” said Julaine K. Appling, the executive director of the Family Research Institute of Wisconsin, which supports a constitutional amendment in that state defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Proposals like Wisconsin’s are also on the ballot in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Virginia. And while most of the measures are expected to pass, their emotional force in drawing committed, conservative voters to the polls, many political experts say, has been muted or spent.
Recent polls in Arizona, Colorado, Virginia and Wisconsin, for example, have suggested only narrow majorities in support, in contrast to the 60 to 70 percent or more majorities in most states that voted on the issue in 2004. Two recent polls in South Dakota suggested that the same-sex marriage amendment might actually lose, while a third said it seemed likely to pass. “ As it stands right now, conservative turnout is not going to be as strong as it has traditionally been,” said Jon Paul, the executive director of Coloradans for Marriage, which is supporting a ballot measure that would ban same-sex marriage.
Some pollsters say people might just be burned out on the subject of marriage and its boundaries.“ It doesn’t seem to be salient to what most Tennesseans are concerned about right now,” said Robert Wyatt, the associate director of the Middle Tennessee State University poll. The ballot proposal there will almost certainly pass, Dr. Wyatt said, but few people think it will drive turnout or swing the tight race for the Senate between Bob Corker, a Republican, and Representative Harold E. Ford Jr., a Democrat. Both candidates support a ban on same-sex marriage.
Dr. Wyatt said efforts to stir enthusiasm among conservatives have mostly fallen flat. “ It’s one of those things that’s like preaching to the choir,” he said. The momentum against same-sex marriage at the ballot box has also been hurt by court cases that have upheld bans on same-sex marriage — notably rulings by the highest courts in New York and Washington this summer — by removing some of the urgency for constitutional amendments. Here in Colorado, the debate has been complicated by the presence of two ballot measures on the subject that in essence work in opposite directions. One measure would add a ban on same-sex marriage to the Constitution, and the other would create a framework of legal rights for same-sex couples in civil unions.
Scholars who track gender-law issues say that gay rights groups and their allies have worked hard since the last election to create a middle-ground position on the question of partnership rights that could appeal to voters who might not vote for same-sex marriage.
The position, which has been repeated like a mantra across Colorado this year by advocates for the civil union proposal, holds that civil unions are not marriage and that if voters want to hold marriage apart as a separate institution for heterosexuals, that would be fine. But it is only fair and just, they say, that couples in other types of relationships have legal protections, too.
Opponents of the civil union bill say that the moderation line is a smokescreen and that same-sex marriage in Colorado will become a reality in fact, if not in name, if the civil union proposition is approved. “ It is nothing short of Orwellian doublespeak to say it is not marriage,” State Representative Kevin Lundberg, a Republican from eastern Colorado, said at a recent forum in Denver on the ballot proposals.
Political analysts suggest that just like patrons perusing an old-fashioned Chinese restaurant menu, voters in Colorado considering the two measures might take one from Column A and one from Column B. Some people say they plan to do just that. Joel Sidell and Dona Maloy — longtime unmarried partners who live in the Denver area — show how the lines have fractured. Mr. Sidell, 62, a retired police officer and a Republican, said he would probably vote for the ban on same-sex marriage and against civil unions. “ To me, it still does not seem right for a woman to be able to marry a woman and a male to marry a male,” Mr. Sidell said. “I don’t think it’s the sanctity of the term. It just doesn’t seem proper.”
Ms. Maloy, 61, is a Democrat who said she planned to vote the opposite of her partner — no on the marriage amendment and yes to benefits for same-sex partners. “ I think that marriage is a personal thing; at least it is for me,” she said. “Legally, I don’t see why people can’t all have the same rights.” The two major party candidates for governor in Colorado have also taken opposite sides on the marriage-civil union debate. The Democrat, Bill Ritter, has said he will vote for civil unions and against the constitutional amendment, while the Republican, Representative Bob Beauprez, has said he plans to vote against civil unions and for the same-sex marriage ban. Pollsters say those positions do not appear to be swaying the race, which Mr. Ritter has led by 10 to 15 percentage points in recent polls.
Tangled legal questions over parental rights, health care decisions and employer benefits have emerged in some states where efforts to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions were successful in the past, complicating calculations about how the bans play out in real life.
The case of Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins is one example. Ms. Miller and Ms. Jenkins were joined in a civil ceremony in 2000 in Vermont, which allows same-sex contracts. Ms. Miller had a baby in 2002 through artificial insemination, and they raised the child together. Now they have separated, and both Vermont and Virginia, which does not recognize the validity of Vermont’s civil union system, have claimed jurisdiction over the question of child custody.
Legal experts say the case is probably headed for the Supreme Court. In the meantime, Virginia’s same-sex marriage ballot proposal would define marriage as between a man and a woman and also put into the Constitution the legal language at the heart of the custody battle: that civil unions formed in other states are invalid in Virginia. That prohibition on civil unions is even too far-reaching for some opponents of same-sex marriage, said Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “ It’s so sweeping, it’s giving some people pause,” Mr. Sabato said.
Meanwhile, gay men and lesbians continue to come out in ever greater numbers, especially in some of the states that will be voting on the marriage issue next month. From 2000 to 2005, the number of people identifying themselves in Census surveys as being in a same-sex couple grew by 30 percent, to about 770,000, according to a study released this week by the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, which tracks and researches gay legal issues. Of the eight states with ballot measures, the study found that six had growth rates higher than the national average, led by Wisconsin, up 81 percent; Colorado, up 58 percent; Virginia, up 43 percent; and South Carolina, up 39 percent.
Conservatives like Mr. Paul of the Colorado marriage group say the low-key tenor of the same-sex marriage debate could change in a thunderclap if a court decision that appears to undermine traditional marriage boundaries is handed down before the election. The New Jersey Supreme Court has a case pending and could issue a decision before Election Day.
October 11, 2006
International gay travelers deterred by conservative U.S. policies
Many non-American gay and lesbian travelers avoid visiting the United States because of the country’s conservative polices, according to a new study of over 7,500 people. Community Marketing Inc. found that 68% of its study’s respondents viewed U.S. policies as a deterrent to travel to the country. Canadian gays are the least likely to visit the United States, the study found. Canada has legalized same-sex marriage, while a measure to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage is supported by the nation’s conservative legislators and President Bush.
The war in Iraq and the threat of terrorism in the United States also affected the decisions of gay travelers. But the country still holds considerable sway over tourists; 61% of gay and lesbian respondents from other countries have visited the United States. More information on the study is available at www.communitymarketinginc.com.
October 13, 2006
Gay Games plans fire sale to balance budget
The Gay Games have been plagued by financial shortfalls following several previous events, and this year was no exception. But organizers of this year’s Games in Chicago say they have a plan to fill the gap. With a $200,000 budget shortfall on an event that was predicted to at least break even, organizers are selling off all their assets to make up the difference, the Chicago Tribune reported. The massive signs from opening and closing ceremonies and the very desks where workers plotted the July 16-22 event that brought a world of gay and lesbian athletes to Chicago can be anyone’s for the right price, they say.
By shedding these assets and soliciting donations, organizers who ran the Games on a $10 million cash budget say they will get back to zero or maybe even generate a slight surplus by the spring. Either way, Gay Games leaders say they have proved the event doesn’t need to be a notorious money-loser.
Kevin Boyer, a spokesman for Chicago Games Inc., the local nonprofit that staged the event, told the Tribune there is little chance the Chicago Games won’t at least break even. He acknowledged that some bills have been paid a bit slowly, but insisted there will be no financial losers when the final tally is done. " The question was always, ‘Would we be able to break even without asking for a little money from the community?’ Boyer said. "Of course we would prefer if we didn’t have to raise additional money, but we’re pleased it’s modest."
Boyer told the Tribune the Chicago Games had been on track to break even but were set back by a heat wave early in the Games. Last-minute spending on water, ice, drivers, and trucks resulted in additional costs, he said. "These events have some wild cards in them all along," Boyer said. "You get a massive heat wave and ensure the health of the athletes, then let the dust settle." The Chicago Games assets will be sold at warehouse sales at two Brown Elephant stores, resale shops that benefit Chicago’s Howard Brown Health Center. Available items will include country and state banners used at opening and closing ceremonies, T-shirts, posters, pins, music CDs, and furniture. " We plan to have a lot of fun with that," Boyer said. "And it will lower the bills." (The Advocate)
October 17, 2006
Amid debate over rights, number of gay judges rising
by Joan Biskupic, USA TODAY, Washington
When a case testing whether Oregon should allow same-sex marriages came before the state’s Supreme Court in 2004, one of the court’s seven justices quietly wrestled with a vexing question: Should he, a gay man, take part in the case? Or did part of Rives Kistler’s identity — his sexual orientation — mean that he should sit it out, to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest?
Kistler, a former Oregon assistant attorney general and the first openly gay member of the state’s highest court, consulted an ethics book to decide "whether it was permissible for me to sit on the case." Then he checked with a judicial ethics panel, which told him it would not be a conflict. When Oregon’s high court heard the dispute, Kistler was on the bench. Four months later, he joined a unanimous decision as the court ruled that same-sex marriages were not allowed under Oregon law. He says his sexual orientation wasn’t a factor in his decision, and he agreed with the other justices that any changes in Oregon’s marriage laws had to come from legislators, not judges.
" Everybody’s got a personal life, but you don’t bring it to work," says Kistler, 57. "You’re not here to impose or enforce your personal viewpoint. You’re here to follow the statutes and the Constitution."
The case was part of a recent string of state court rulings on same-sex marriage. It shed light on the rising number of openly gay judges, and the situations they face, at a time when gay civil rights is a key issue. The complex issues associated with being gay and in politics also were evident in the recent scandal involving former U.S. representative Mark Foley, R-Fla., who resigned from Congress Sept. 29 after ABC News confronted him with sexually explicit Internet messages he allegedly sent to teenage pages.
Foley publicly acknowledged that he is gay, and his resignation drew attention to the pressures some gay men and lesbians in Washington feel to hide their sexual orientation.
It’s unclear how many gay judges there are among the roughly 30,000 local, state and federal jurists in the USA. No one keeps precise figures, but comparisons of membership lists of gay and lesbian legal groups — including the Victory Fund and the International Association of Gay and Lesbian Judges — suggest there are 75 to 100 openly gay judges, most of them in California, New York and Chicago.
That’s a large increase from the early 1990s, but still a tiny percentage of the overall number of judges. It does not include any gay judges who have kept their sexual orientation secret for a range of reasons, including a fear it would harm them professionally.
New York trial judge Michael Sonberg, 58, a former president of the International Association of Lesbian and Gay Judges, says California and New York each have about 20 openly gay judges. In the Chicago area, where jurists are elected, there are 10 openly gay judges on municipal courts, says Chicago’s Advisory Council on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues.
Cook County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Chiola says he expects that number to rise to 12 after the fall elections. Chiola, who was elected in 1994 and was the first openly gay judge in the Chicago area, says gay judicial candidates’ sexual orientation rarely has been a significant issue in a campaign there. "Part of being successful in an election campaign is doing the groundwork," he says. "That means being involved in the community and already being known. That can make the gay and lesbian issue a non-issue." But Chiola, 54, adds that when he first ran in 1994, he had trouble winning endorsements from some prominent lawyers because of his sexual orientation.
Gay and lesbian judges do not appear to have had a particular impact on gay-rights issues. However, in recent years they have been more vocal about their sexual orientation and the notion that having gay men and lesbians on the bench helps diversify the judiciary. " To the extent to which the bench ought to reflect society in general, having openly gay and lesbian judges matters," says New York Supreme Court Judge Rosalyn Richter, 50, a lesbian who was elected in 2003 to a trial judgeship in the Bronx. "It matters for the same reason that we would not want a judiciary that was all men."
After joining the bench, Richter changed the questions asked of potential jurors in her court to be more welcoming to gay men and lesbians. Rather than ask jury candidates whether they are married and pose questions about a spouse, "I use the word ‘family’ and I tell jurors they can define it for themselves," Richter says. "In my own case, I thought, what would happen if my domestic partner showed up for jury duty?"
The effort by gay rights groups to increase the number of openly gay state and local judges has drawn criticism. " We don’t accept that homosexuality is any kind of cultural identity that should be sought in a judge," says Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council, a conservative advocacy group in Washington, D.C., that opposes same-sex marriage. "We think it’s a behavior, not something that should be held up as a role model."
Such sentiments — and the partisan politics that surround judicial nominations on the federal level — help explain why there appears to be only one openly gay judge on the 875-member federal bench, where appointments are for life.
That judge is Deborah Batts, a Harvard University law school graduate and a former professor at Fordham University. In 1994, Batts was appointed by President Clinton to a trial court in the southern district of New York.
Batts, 59, declined to be interviewed. She has participated in gay-rights events, and in 2001, when her portrait was hung at Harvard Law School, officials there said her Senate confirmation marked the first time an openly gay person had joined the federal judiciary.
During the confirmation process, Clinton administration lawyers did not emphasize Batts’ sexual orientation. On a Senate questionnaire, Batts noted her membership in gay legal groups, but the issue was not discussed in hearings, and she was confirmed easily by the Senate, then led by Democrats.
In federal court nominations, things are different now. President Bush has vowed to make the judiciary more conservative, and it appears that none of his nearly 300 appointments to the federal bench has involved an openly gay person. It’s unclear whether the administration has considered any gay men or lesbians for federal courts.
White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore says the administration does not reject potential nominees based on sexual orientation. "President Bush has based his nomination decisions solely upon a person’s judicial excellence and experience," she says. "He will continue to select a diverse group of people with sterling credentials."
Eleanor Acheson, an assistant attorney general in the Clinton administration and now policy director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, says "many different forces" make it tough for gays to become federal judges.
" I don’t think this administration is committed in any deliberate way to not appointing gay men and lesbians," she says. "It might even have happened, but we don’t know because the individuals are ‘out’ to such a small circle" of friends or associates. "But I do think there is probably a smaller pool of people who fall into the category of prominent, openly gay and lesbian lawyers well known to and supported by Republican senators. Also, the atmosphere created by the Republican Party, the right-wing base, and the president himself contribute to a bit of a chilling effect."
Acheson says gay men and lesbians interested in seeking a federal judgeship might think, " ‘I’ve got nothing to hide here. But do I want to go forward when there’s a chance that the whole buzz about my nomination is that I’m openly gay?’ It overtakes the person’s professional qualifications." Paul Smith, a gay man who is a partner in the Washington office of the 400-lawyer firm of Jenner and Block, says "the unpleasantness of the whole confirmation process" is a big reason there are not more openly gay federal judges. "Who wants to get caught up in it?"
Less of an issue at law firms
The relatively small number of openly gay judges contrasts with the increasing tendency of law firms to tout their gay and lesbian lawyers as symbols of diversity. " In the broader legal profession, as opposed to the judiciary, there’s been a sea change in attitudes," says Smith, whose firm highlights its work in gay civil rights on its website and in a newsletter. Smith, who argues regularly before the U.S. Supreme Court, says the 1993 movie Philadelphia, in which Tom Hanks played a gay lawyer who was fired by his firm because he had AIDS, seems particularly dated today.
Mark Shields, director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Coming Out Project, says gay men and lesbians have been more open about their orientation in recent years. " It is difficult to quantify, but I don’t think you need a survey to look around and say, in the early 1990s we didn’t have (talk-show host) Ellen (DeGeneres) out, we didn’t have Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and we didn’t have Brokeback Mountain. Looking around us, we see everyday people being more open and secure in their openness."
At the state and local levels, where judges can get on a bench through appointment or election and where appointments are not for life, there are increasing signs of acceptance of gay and lesbian judges — and not just in California, New York and Chicago. Politicians elsewhere — including Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich, a Republican, and Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, a Democrat — have appointed gay judges and then not flinched when conservative groups protested.
When Ehrlich appointed an openly gay man, Christopher Panos, to a state trial court in Baltimore last summer, the Family Research Council’s Sprigg complained in a conservative, online newsletter. Panos was the first openly gay person Ehrlich had named to a court since taking office in 2003 and filling 67 judgeships.
For Ehrlich, Panos’ sexual orientation was not relevant, says Henry Fawell, spokesman for Ehrlich. " He is just looking for the best judge," Fawell says. Ehrlich was aware of Panos’ sexual orientation but that it did not help or hinder Panos’ candidacy. Panos declined to comment. In Oregon, Kulongoski appointed Kistler to fill an unexpired term on the state’s high court in 2003. The governor says Kistler’s sexual orientation wasn’t a factor, and that the judge proved his merit the next year by winning a statewide election. The Oregon Christian Coalition backed Kistler’s rival, who supported a ban on gay marriage. However, Kistler’s sexual orientation was not a big campaign issue.
Many of those calling for more gay and lesbian judges are focusing on the federal bench, the most powerful segment of the nation’s judiciary. Nan Aron of the liberal Alliance for Justice says her organization and gay-rights groups don’t expect much from the Bush administration, so they are pushing for more gay and lesbian judges on state courts. They aim to create a "farm team" of judges who could be in position for the federal bench if future presidents are willing to appoint such judges. Sprigg says his group would fight such an effort. But he says gay judges are acceptable to his group — as long as their sexual orientation isn’t a factor in their work. " We don’t think we should make an issue of it, if they keep it private," he says. "If we had reason to believe that they would pursue a pro-homosexual agenda, then we would vigorously oppose them."
October 25, 2006
NJ Court Grants Rights to Gay Couples but Stops Short of Approving Gay Marriage
New Jersey’s highest court ruled Wednesday that gay couples are entitled to the same rights as heterosexuals, but that lawmakers must determine whether the state will honor gay marriage or some other form of civil union. Advocates on both sides of the issue believed New Jersey posed the best chance to become only the second after Massachusetts to legalize gay marriage because its high court has a history of extending civil rights protections.
Instead, the Supreme Court stopped short of fully approving gay marriage and gave lawmakers 180 days to rewrite marriage laws to either include gay couples or create new civil unions. " The issue is not about the transformation of the traditional definition of marriage, but about the unequal dispensation of benefits and privileges to one of two similarly situated classes of people," the court said in its 4-3 ruling. New Jersey lawmakers voted to allow domestic partnerships in 2004, but they have been reluctant to delve into the sensitive issue of marriage. Under domestic partnerships, gay couples have some benefits of marriage, such as the right to inherit possessions if there is no will and healthcare coverage for state workers.
October 25, 2006
New Jersey Supreme Court rules legislature must grant marriage rights or civil unions
by Nick Langewis
In what is being seen as a victory for gays and lesbians in the state of New Jersey, the state Supreme Court has ruled this afternoon in the case of Lewis v. Harris, directing the legislature to amend the state’s marriage law to include same sex couples or to create a structure similar to marriage that will grant all of the same rights. The ruling is similar to a ruling by the Vermont Supreme Court; Vermont’s legislature enacted civil unions in response to its state court’s directive.
The New Jersey court ruled:
To bring the State into compliance with Article I, Paragraph 1 so that plaintiffs can exercise their full constitutional rights, the Legislature must either amend the marriage statutes or enact an appropriate statutory structure within 180 days of the date of this decision. (p. 65)
Lewis v. Harris was originally filed in 2002 by Lambda Legal on behalf of seven same-sex couples, some raising children, arguing that they are entitled to the same benefits, obligations, and security granted married heterosexual couples under the law.
The parties involved range in age from 44 to 56, and have been in relationships ranging in duration from 13 to 34 years, with the exception of one plaintiff who passed away in the fall of 2005. On appeal, the case was struck down 2-1; the Supreme Court was required to make the final ruling due to the one dissenting opinion at the appellate level.
New Jersey has no law expressly prohibiting same-sex marriage, nor has it amended its constitution to recognize marriage as exclusive to heterosexual couples. In addition, New Jersey does not prohibit marrying a couple whose home state would not recognize the union, unlike Massachusetts. For these reasons, New Jersey has been considered by all sides of the ongoing debate more likely to rule in favor of marriage equality.
In the United States, same-sex relationships are largely unrecognized, causing difficulties in matters of estate, medical care, government benefits and, in many cases, employment benefits. Without a marriage license, civil union or legal paperwork, rights and responsibilities that would otherwise be automatic do not exist; the law may consider even the most committed individuals in a relationship, regardless of duration, to be complete strangers.
November 8, 2006
Oahu elects highest ranking openly transgendered person in nation
Honolulu (AP) – Kim Coco Iwamoto has earned a seat on Hawaii’s statewide Board of Education. According to national advocacy groups, she becomes the country’s highest-elected openly transgender person. Iwamoto did not make her gender status part of her campaign. But she has openly advocated for transgender youth and related issues at the state capitol. She placed third among six candidates for three seats representing Oahu, along with Karen Knudsen and Donna Ikeda. Iwamoto issued a signed statement after her victory, saying she looks forward to working with other board members to move the state forward.
Iwamoto was born on Kauai and attended all-boys Saint Louis High School on Oahu.
November 10, 2006
Protest over gay marriage in Massachusetts
Hundreds of protesters carrying placards, chanting slogans and singing rallied outside the Massachusetts statehouse on Thursday as lawmakers debated a state constitutional amendment that would give voters power to ban gay marriage. Protesters on both sides of the debate gathered outside the gold-domed statehouse, with some waving signs reading "Let The People Vote." Gay rights activists sang songs and chanted slogans. The latest developments in the divisive state-by-state battle over homosexual unions came two days after seven states voted to limit marriage to a man and a woman in ballot initiatives, effectively banning gay marriage.
The debate in Massachusetts, the only US state where gay marriage is legal, also follows a month after the New Jersey Supreme Court guaranteed gay couples the same rights as married heterosexual but left it to state lawmakers to decide within six months what to call the unions. A poll this week showed most New Jersey voters support granting gay couples the benefits of marriage but do not want to call the unions "marriage."
In Boston, some gay marriage supporters wore stickers saying "Preserve Equality" and held hand-made signs. One read "Focus on your own damn family" in protest of the Christian conservative group "Focus on the family" which has campaigned nationwide against same-sex marriage. "I’m here because I’m against discrimination," said Nicole Roche, 20, a gay rights supporter. But Joanne Abel, standing in a smaller group protesting against gay marriage, said same-sex unions were immoral and must be stopped by voters. "I’m concerned for our democracy and I’m concerned for children who are being brainwashed by this," said Abel, 50. Gay marriage advocates and some lawmakers in the Democrat-controlled state Legislature are lobbying to kill the proposed amendment by forcing the state constitutional convention to recess without moving on the proposal.
In 2003, the state Supreme Judicial Court ruled that a ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional, paving the way for America’s first same-sex marriages the following year. More than 8,000 gay and lesbian couples have since married. If 50 lawmakers in the state’s 200-member Legislature approve of the measure, it goes to a second legislative vote in 2007. If it clears that hurdle, it will be added to a 2008 ballot for a popular vote. The ballot initiative has the support of the state’s Republican governor, Mitt Romney, a Mormon millionaire who has staked out conservative positions on a number of sensitive social issues ahead of a likely 2008 presidential bid.
Romney’s Democratic successor, Deval Patrick, has said he supports the state’s gay marriage law. The Boston Globe, quoting legislative sources, said House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi and others on his leadership team who support same-sex marriage are pushing to get enough votes to force a recess without taking final action on the amendment. That would would effectively kill the proposal and prevent it from appearing on the 2008 ballot.
"Massachusetts is the leader in the nation hands down for so many equal rights. I have a feeling in my heart of hearts that gay marriage is going to remain legal," said gay rights supporter Eva Rae, a 20-year-old Boston student. Marriage between same-sex couples is legal in Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands and Spain. South Africa’s cabinet approved a bill in August that would make the nation the first in Africa to legalise gay marriage.
November 19, 2006
Gay Donor or Gay Dad?
by John Bowe
(Correction Appended) R. described himself as “a man in his 40s, voluntarily employed in the arts,” a situation made possible, he explained, by a private family income. His six-foot frame is fit and slim; his eyes, blue and bright. He dresses in a cultured but casual way, an aesthetic captured in his speech, in which phatic blips like “kind of” or “sort of” are interspersed with terms like “Richter-esque.” As in Gerhard, the German painter. In an effort to become a parent of a sort, R., who is gay, agreed, 11 years ago, to donate sperm to a lesbian couple aspiring to pregnancy. A few years before, R. became friendly with a woman — white and upper class like himself — through the gay activist world. They weren’t good friends, he said, “just friendly.” The woman had a partner, a middle-class black woman, whom R. knew less well but who seemed solid.
The couple decided that the black partner would become impregnated with a white man’s sperm so that the baby would be biracial, reflecting the appearance of both mothers. They approached R. about being the donor. (Like all the subjects I spoke to for this article, R. asked that I not use his full name — R. is his middle initial.) It seemed like a good fit, R. said. “My life and my family background and my socioeconomic position kind of matched the profile of the nonbiological partner.” R. and the white woman even looked somewhat alike.
R. had always loved being around kids, particularly his niece and nephew, whom he saw often. But like many gay men, R. never thought of himself as a likely candidate for fatherhood. He always felt that parents opting to raise a child alone were choosing a rocky road, and at the time, R. himself had no long-term partner. He did, however, have an ex-boyfriend who had started a donor relationship with two lesbians; it seemed to be going well. He quickly became taken with the idea. Having a child of his own, he thought, would mean creating a relationship more intense and involved than what he had with his siblings’ children. “I guess I felt that maybe I wanted to have some kind of more lasting relationships in my life,” he said. “I said I was interested.”
And thus began a series of conversations. R. made it very clear that he had no ambition to be a primary parent and that he was happy to renounce his parental rights. (The latter is crucial to many lesbian couples, allowing the nonbiological mother to adopt and protecting her bond with the child in the event of the death of, or separation from, the biological mother.) Nevertheless, R. saw himself playing a significant role in the child’s life. “I saw myself holding a baby,” he said. “I wanted a child to be part of my life. I wanted to have a relationship with somebody that was in some sense unconditional, that wasn’t subject to the fading whims of friendships. And I don’t think it’s because I was not finding commitment somewhere else. I wanted to develop a relationship where I was nurturing somebody in a consistent way. I wanted to show up and be part of a child’s life in a significant way.”
R. said he felt that it would be fussy and unrealistic to insist upon specific visitation hours, but on the other hand, he said, “I didn’t want to be someone who’s wheeled out on holidays.” His expectation was to see the child a few times per month. “No one said, ‘That’s a problem.’ Everyone seemed to be on the same page.” And so, according to R., “we went ahead and started to try to get pregnant.” Virtually every lesbian couple electing to use a known donor’s sperm pursues one of two methods of artificial insemination. One is for the man to go to a clinic, have his sperm harvested and then passed to the mother, usually by doctor-assisted injection. The other, homier and cheaper course is commonly known as the “turkey baster” or “natural” method. As R. described it, after confirming that he was H.I.V.-negative, he simply went over to the mothers’ house and masturbated into a sterilized container. The women injected it into the would-be mother’s vagina with a needleless plastic syringe, and voilà. It could not have been easier, R. said with a shrug. Happened on the first or second time. Like, not a problem.
Since the 1970s, when gay men and lesbians began gaining wider acceptance, there has been a substantial increase in the number of children being reared by gay parents. According to the 2000 U.S. census, 34 percent of lesbian couples and 22 percent of gay male couples are raising at least one child under 18 in their home. Even allowing for a higher percentage of families willing to identify themselves as gay, these numbers still represent a large increase from the 1990 census. “It is more than just a product of better reporting,” says Gary J. Gates, a senior research fellow at the Williams Institute, a center dedicated to sexual-orientation law and public policy at the U.C.L.A. School of Law. “The percentage of same-sex couples raising children more than doubled for men and increased by about 50 percent for women. Couple that with a fairly large body of anecdotal evidence about child-rearing among gay people, and I think that this is strong evidence of a ‘gayby’ boom.”
Though precise breakdowns are hard to come by — demographers have yet to track all the different types of gay families — for many gay parents, the family structure is more or less based on a heterosexual model: two parents, one household. Heather may have two mommies, but her parents are still a couple. Then there are families like R.’s and his partner’s that from the outset seek to create a sort of extended nuclear family, with two mothers and a father who serves, in the words of one gay dad, as “more than an uncle and less than a father.” How does it work when Heather has two mommies, half a daddy, two daddies or one and a half daddies?
“People are in many cases redesigning ‘family,’ ” says Judith Stacey, a sociology professor at New York University. Stacey has written about gay fathers, gay mothers, gay men who form family units with single lesbians and lesbian couples who form households with one gay male father. As radical as families like R.’s may seem, she says, in her experience the people engineering them aren’t motivated by ideology but by a deep, and frankly conventional, desire to have children. “They want to have a relationship to children,” she says. “And they want to be able to create whatever kinds of security and stability they can. They’re drawing from all kinds of traditional forms, but at the same time, they’re inventing new ones.”
Primary among the reasons mothers to be choose to become impregnated by a known donor who remains part of the family is a reluctance to raise children in the shadow of anonymous heritage. As one donor dad, an East Coast lawyer named Guy, told me, his lesbian co-parents “felt like it was important for their kids to know as much as they could about their story. When there’s an anonymous donor, it’s not always an ideal situation for the child.” As for why lesbians often choose donor fathers who are gay, Judith Stacey and others told me that many prefer gay men for reasons of “solidarity.” “They think that gay men will be more sympathetic, more amenable to agreements they might create and stick by,” Stacey says. And finally they — along with the straight women who choose to use gay donors — say they feel that gay men simply come with less baggage. Heterosexual sperm donors are more liable to marry and father children of their own, which has the potential of causing jealousy and competition among the children and their mothers.
While the role of the mother in gay co-parenting arrangements can, on a day-to-day basis, be quite traditional, the father’s is often part-time and ancillary from the first. Why would any man, gay or straight, choose a kind of fatherhood that would seem to curtail both its joys and responsibilities? In part, the answer has to do with the fact that a gay man’s options are already somewhat limited. Though gay men can and increasingly do become parents through adoption or by using surrogates, pursuing those avenues can be difficult. Many (though not all) states allow “single people” to adopt, but in practice some make it tough for gay men to do so. Surrogacy can be wildly expensive, easily costing $100,000 or more for multiple egg harvests, in vitro fertilization and the surrogate mother’s expenses. Most of the men I spoke to didn’t want to be single parents; they cherished the idea of fathering children with partners they knew and liked.
Frequently, gay men and women entering into co-parenting arrangements draft some kind of document that specifies participants’ roles and responsibilities — the father’s visitation schedule, how many kids everyone plans to have together, what happens if one of the partners moves, dies or becomes involved with a new partner. These homemade, sometimes expensively drafted documents can run as long as 30 pages. Many agreements stipulate that the donor will waive his parental rights, allowing the nonbiological mother to become a legal parent. (Three states have statutes permitting second-parent adoptions; nearly two dozen others have granted such rights through the courts.) But generally, unless the co-parents choose to use a clinic, a donor may relinquish his parental rights only after the child is born. What if the father sees the child and decides he can’t bear to part with her? What if the new mothers decide he is wanted less than originally agreed? It is not unusual, in such cases, for custody battles to ensue.
Agreeing to be a father while stepping out of the way means navigating a thicket of emotional and legal issues. “I talk to a lot of guys who have this offer from women,” Guy, the East Coast lawyer, said. “And I always say: ‘You’ve got to completely trust these people. Because this relationship is going to be so tested in so many ways. If you can’t talk through every single, possible issue, this is not going to work. You’ve got to be able to bring your fears to them and vice versa. ”
Drawing up an agreement can have what Guy called “immense stop-look-and-listen value.” That is, it makes “you think for a minute about what you’re doing.” But as he readily admitted, such documents — even when drawn up by a lawyer — often carry little legal weight. According to Arthur Leonard, a New York Law School professor and an expert on sexuality and the law, families can draft as many documents as they want, but “in the eyes of the law a parent is either the biological parent or an adoptive parent or, in some jurisdictions, a de facto parent.” At best, co-parenting agreements serve as a way to establish intent, which state courts can choose to factor into their decisions — or not. Charged, above all, with looking out for the best interest of the child, judges are free to ignore even the most well-drawn documents.
“The law,” Leonard went on to say, “has lagged far behind in taking account of nontraditional family forms.” Partly, he said, this can be attributed to the “natural inertia in the legislative process.” Legislatures on all matters are “slow in reacting to changes in society,” but in this case they are also reluctant to offend socially conservative voters. (In the midterm elections this month, seven states voted to ban same-sex marriage.) Finally, Leonard said, despite the current outcry about “activist judges,” many courts are skittish about reshaping social issues from outside legislative bodies.
A result is that gay donor dads must not only trust that their co-parents will abide by whatever agreements they have designed but also hope that as dads they have managed to adequately predict their own reaction to being a parent. As Guy, who has two children of his own with a lesbian couple, said: “A lot of guys can’t do that. They think they can do it, but when the baby’s born, they really can’t.” In other words, a father-donor working with a lesbian couple must make peace with the fact that he just isn’t going to be a TV dad, a heterosexual dad or a full-time gay dad. “Ideally,” as Guy put it, you need to be “willing to accept that the baby has two parents, who are the two moms — and then there’s you.”
Each of the 10 gay donor dads I met with in recent months maintained a different level of involvement with his lesbian partners and their children. Some co-parents buy houses near one another and interact nearly every day. Others, like Guy and his co-parents, live a thousand miles apart and arrange visits or vacations together every few weeks or months. (When I asked Guy if there was any downside to fathering in this way, he answered yes, missing the kids. “They give me incredible joy,” he said. But then he added, “It’s the kind of thing where it’s, you know, when you miss someone, although that hurts, it’s a good reason to feel bad.”) One donor dad told me that he never had any plans to be a father. The day he realized he was gay, he said, he felt he had been given a pass. No child-rearing. No Little League talk or barbecues. He looked at donating his sperm as “helping my friends make a family.” But like a lot of gay donor dads I spoke to, he didn’t fully anticipate just how attached he would become. He is now thrilled to visit with his 21/2-year-old daughter every Wednesday from 4p.m. to 6 p.m. When I asked him what she called him, he said: “That’ll be her choice. I think ‘Dad’ is a word. That’s a word I hope to use.”
Others always knew they wanted to be fathers. Before embarking upon the creation of his family, Mark, who works at a local museum, spent years discussing the idea of being a co-parent with two lesbian friends, Jean and Candi. At first, he said, the tone was “ ‘You know, wouldn’t it be fun if we all had kids? And then it kind of got more serious as time went on.”
Mark and the mothers to be took the time to discuss every conceivable angle. What would happen if one or another combination of parents didn’t agree with the others? What would happen if someone died? They talked about their family backgrounds, how they had been raised, what they liked and didn’t like about their upbringing. They wrote a document in which Mark was absolved of any financial role in the child’s life. (Many co-parents put this stipulation in their agreements; the father’s sustained financial support of the child could be used to help establish his claim to custody should relations become contentious.) He also agreed to put the child up for adoption by the nonbiological mother once it was born. Moreover, it was spelled out that the child would be brought up knowing Mark was the father and that Mark could visit as agreed upon.
At first Mark’s role was circumscribed. But, he said, from the moment of birth, “things just got a lot nicer than that.” Candi had a natural delivery, and as Mark described it to me, watching the process of birth had a transformative effect on him: “The excitement, the fear that maybe something could go wrong. And to watch the head crown — it was just exciting.”
Mark, 48, Jean, 37, and Candi, 34, now have two children — Mark (named after his father) is Candi’s biological son, and another boy, Joseph, now 7 months old, is Jean’s biological son. For a long time Mark, who was working as a freelance information technologist and financial consultant in Minneapolis until he took the job at the museum, could arrange his schedule to suit the mothers’ needs. He spends time with the kids once a week, sometimes alone, sometimes with his long-term partner, Jeffrey, who is 36 and went to college with Candi, and sometimes with one or both mothers. The relationship among the fathers and mothers has been a surprise benefit, he said, creating a brother-sister feeling. Despite the fact that the mothers are still financially responsible for the children, Mark has put them in his will. Each birthday and Christmas, he deposits a $1,000 bond for their education. Like any good father, he said, “I want to see them do well.”
When I asked him if he ever ran into resistance from school personnel or his own family about his less-than-conventional parenting arrangement, he told me a story. He had taken the girls, as he calls his lesbian co-parents, to Wisconsin to visit his mother and his sisters. “We went to a lake place over by Wausau.” He laughed. “My nephew” — his sister’s son — “had a lot of questions. He was asking my mom, ‘Why does Mark have two moms?’ My mom was like, ‘I didn’t know what to say.’ ”
Mark continued: “I guess in people’s minds there’s a kid’s cartoon drawing of a family unit. Well, ours is the same thing. It’s just that the characters have changed a bit. People make a lot out of it, but it’s really quite simple: you’ve got four parents now instead of two. And they’re all together.” Considering how many heterosexual parents are overworked, divorced or otherwise unavailable, he said, in the end he advised his mother what to say to anyone asking about little Mark: “Tell ’em he’s lucky.”
If Mark’s role as a father comes closer than some to a traditional dad’s, that of his friend David falls squarely in the middle of the “more than an uncle but less than a father” continuum. At 43, David works for the University of Minnesota general counsel’s office and is very serious about furthering his acting career. (He and Mark became friendly through a theater company Mark used to manage.) When David’s friends, P. J. and Vicki, now 52 and 37 respectively, approached him about “helping them out with kids,” he was receptive, although he had reservations. The first was that he wasn’t interested in being a full-time dad. His acting career, he said, “pretty much supersedes anything else. Spending a lot of time with little ones, that’s not where my focus is. I’m far too selfish a person.” He still had plans to leave Minneapolis for New York or L.A. to further his career. But in the end, he agreed, with several conditions.
The major one was, as he put it, “if we do one, we’re doing two.” David agreed with P. J., who didn’t want to create an only child. “Nothing against only children,” he explained, “but I feel that it’s important for kids to have a sibling. I remember when I was growing up, with my brother, you just kind of go, What’s going on with Mom and Dad?” How much more, he wondered, would a kid need an ally with strangers asking questions about his or her unconventional family? The mothers insisted on one other condition: until or unless David actually left for the bright lights of Broadway, his interaction with the kids had to be consistent. As P. J., the children’s nonbiological mother, said: “I told him you have to choose. You’re either going to be in for five cents or you’re in for a buck.”
David, Bobbie (David’s long-term partner), P. J. and Vicki were more laid back than were many co-parents I met. They made no legal or quasi-legal document. They never spelled out exactly how often David would see the children, just that it couldn’t be once a week and then once a month. The attitude shared by David, P. J. and Vicki (Bobbie, as the nonbiological father, was the least involved in the discussions) was, as David summed it up: “If stuff happens, then it happens; it happens in married people’s lives, it happens in straight people’s lives and it happens in single mothers’. Stuff happens everywhere, to everybody.” When I asked David whether he and his partners had gone to a doctor or used the “turkey baster” method to become pregnant, his answer surprised me. He looked at me with a big, devilish grin. “We did it,” he answered.
David had never been with a woman, but he and Vicki decided that they didn’t want the process to be impeded by technology. Using syringes and cups seemed inorganic and inefficient. Sperm would lose potency during each transfer. “I wanted the numbers,” David said. The first attempt resulted in an uneventful two hours of awkward huffing and puffing. As David remembers: “We were sort of like, O.K., then! Let’s get breakfast!” But within a month, after another try, Vicki became pregnant. “Thank God for videos,” David said.
David has now fathered two children with Vicki: Eli, who is 6, and Wyatt, who is 21/2. Being a parent has not been without its challenges. One morning last October, Eli woke up with abdominal pains. P. J. took him to the emergency room. The doctors found a mass in his abdomen, which turned out to be a tumor. The diagnosis was neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer of the sympathetic nervous system. “At the outset,” David said, “They said he was at Stage 4, high risk, which is just about as bad as you can get.” The tumor was the size of a fist and had wrapped itself around every major blood vessel in his abdomen and attached itself to his kidney and liver. It had also metastasized into Eli’s bone marrow and lymph nodes. At one point, the doctors gave him a 30 percent chance of survival.
During eight and a half hours on the operating table, the doctors removed the tumor, one of Eli’s kidneys and his appendix. Soon after, he began chemotherapy, had a stem-cell transplant and started radiation. Luckily, David told me, the treatment took. When the crisis first hit, everyone came together and dealt with it as a team. Vicki quit her job to be the full-time caretaker, and as David told me, any notion of part-time fathering went out the window. All hands were called on deck, and everyone responded in kind. After the initial trauma, however, when the emergency decisions and arrangements had been made and treatment was under way, David wanted to return to his part-time role. As he admitted later, this caused “some resentment.” The mothers, or at least Vicki, expected that David would continue to be more involved.
“It was tough, because I was under the impression we were all going to stand together,” Vicki told me later. “As time went on, it was: ‘Well, I’m going to work. I’m going to a play. I have this; I have that.’ And so the bulk of everything sort of fell on my shoulders.” The treatment schedule was grueling and left P. J. on her own with Wyatt; cancer was not something the family had planned on. “You go in under the assumption that you’re going to have a healthy child,” Vicki said. “Some things worked and some things didn’t work. David, the way he describes himself, he’s the machine who figures things out and gets things done; I’m more emotional; and P. J. is really levelheaded; Bobbie’s not necessarily a man of action but feels things really deeply — we all sort of reverted to our roles and got through it.” As a mother, she felt it was her job to bear the brunt of Eli’s care. But, she said, “it would have been much nicer to have the responsibilities spread out a little more. I think David’s aware of my feelings.”
David, as he explained it to me, saw things a little differently: “I’m like, Well, at the beginning, I was needed in that role. Now that things are together and moving, I’m pulling myself back, because I’m not — I didn’t sign on for —.” He stalled. He still had his bills to pay, his house to pay off and all his other affairs. Most significant, he said, “this wasn’t a responsibility that I necessarily took on. You know? This was where the untraditional part of the family arrangement came into question or got defined or whatever. Because that’s not what my role is here.” It was, he said, at times, “a difficult wire to walk.”
As we talked, Bobbie, who is 45 and has been David’s partner for nine years, arrived, wearing a black polo shirt. He’s well over six feet tall, big like David. His expression seemed sour, but when he smiled, he revealed a broken bicuspid, which produced an oddly sweet effect. Unlike two of the other gay “stepdads” I met in my research, who had described themselves as playing a sort of “fun uncle” role, Bobbie admittedly played the family heavy. Maybe, he said, in some ways it was his Mormon upbringing. “I just set more limits and probably expect more out of the kids,” he said.
Recently, when the entire family took a weeklong trip to the East Coast and visited David’s mother, Bobbie recalled, Eli handed an orange peel to one of his aunts for her to throw away rather than walk 10 feet to a garbage can. Bobbie chastised him, and Vicki took exception to that. Bobbie was left feeling, as he put it, “disenfranchised from the family unit.” He continued: “There’s definitely a pecking order. Vicki is on top, then David, then P. J., then me.” Coming last, he said, is an inherently difficult position to maintain. If he gets too involved, he gets yelled at for doing so in the wrong way. If he seeks distance, he gets called on the carpet for being aloof.
“There have been a couple of times when I’ve been made to feel that I’m the fourth wheel,” he said. Once, he was told, “Look, you’re only here because of him” — because of David. “I was told that to my face,” he said, looking pained. “That was probably the deepest knife in the back I’ve ever had in my life. That totally destroyed my entire self-image as part of the family.” As in most families, members get hurt to a degree that seems unfathomable — they feel exiled, exact revenge, remain silent, do what they need to do, then pick themselves up and keep going. I later learned that David never changed diapers. When the children were with their fathers, the job fell to Bobbie. When I mentioned the disparity, both men smiled. That’s the way it is.
For David, the admittedly vain actor, one of the supreme joys of fatherhood is the idea that one day his sons might see him on television. He imagines them turning on the TV and pointing him out to their friends: “There’s my dad!” Bobbie has a nearly opposite take. “A lot of what Mormonism is about is what you’re passing on to the next generation, some type of legacy, whether emotionally or through teaching.” His fondest wish is to empower his kids, to help Eli find happiness, “after all the drama and heaviness of his illness,” to help Wyatt become, say, “a great mathematician who goes on to become famous and prove great new theories or something along those lines.”
Being a father has taught him, he said, to “look for the enjoyment in life rather than the humor. Watching a kid discovering an anthill and watching him spend a half-hour poking around, discovering the way ants move and walk. It makes you stop and look at nature all over again, because you’re rediscovering it through kids’ eyes.” As David listened to Bobbie describe this, he smiled very warmly. When the kids call Bobbie Dad, he said, “I know that just fills his heart. You know? It fills his heart.” Bobbie positively beamed. “It does fill your heart when, you know, when they call you Dad. You feel like you’re a part of something.”
If David and Bobbie’s experience was tumultuous but ultimately rewarding, R.’s venture into fatherhood seemed cursed from the beginning. “I don’t think any of us expected that we would find the pregnancy happening before we actually sat down and did a contract,” he told me. “I mean, I think part of it was, we thought, Oh, this is going to take a while. And there was just this excitement about getting started.” So R. and his co-parents began trying to become pregnant before any papers had been drawn up. Lowering his voice and faltering a bit, R. continued, “So it was foolish of us to kind of do that.”
What happened next would have been remarkable for any family. R. took a monthlong vacation to Australia, where he contracted hepatitis. The illness progressed to a neurological disorder called Guillain-Barré syndrome, and after he returned to New York, he became fully paralyzed and lay ill in the hospital for several weeks. He recovered, but by the time he resumed discussions with his parent partners, more than five months had passed. During his absence, R. said, his partners had suffered what he called “serious amnesia.” Instead of keeping to terms he had thought long-ago settled, they now said: “No, we never agreed to these. We just said we understand that’s what you expected.” The discussions became heated and disagreeable. Someone suggested mediation. His partners chose the mediator, a woman, he said, who had written a parenting book in which she seemed to be saying that to give the father any rights at all was to open the door to disaster. In R.’s view, her position was: “If you give the guy any rights, he may want more and want to take the child away from you.”
Lawyers were hired, both prominently involved in New York’s gay community. The two lawyers had worked together on activist fronts, and because of this shared history, R. thought his partners’ lawyer would be sympathetic to a harmonious outcome. Wrong. As R. recalled, “The first thing she said to my lawyer was: ‘Your client’s not getting any rights. I just want you to know. Whatever he thinks he’s getting, he’s not getting it.’ ”
M., the woman who carried R.’s child, told me that, in fact, she and her partner were afraid to give R. any official access to their daughter. “The contract we wanted him to sign really didn’t give him any rights, didn’t really specify anything,” she said, “because that’s the advice we got from our lawyer — no spelling out of rights.” They didn’t want to lay the groundwork for him to demand custody later. So much for brotherhood, sisterhood, gayhood — amity had curdled into enmity. R. said his “partners” blamed him for the discord. Every time he tried to approach them directly, he said, they refused.
Meanwhile, the pregnancy had reached the third term. R. was despondent. Over the last nine months, his desire to be a parent had only become more ardent. Now he had apparently fathered a child he might never get to see. His lawyer, he said, told him: “I don’t know what to say. You’re in a terrible position.” R. could have insisted on his rights as a biological father. He could have used legal precedent in New York State to press for joint custody or, at the very least, visitation rights. But then, of course, it would have been an awfully contentious beginning for a family. R. chose to honor the original intent of his and his partners’ undertaking. In effect, he caved in.
After R. ceased making specific demands, tensions eased — somewhat. R. and the mothers had a rapprochement — enough of one to allow him to be at the hospital during his daughter’s birth. But later, when she began to speak, his daughter never called him Dad, Daddy, Father — anything of the kind. “For a long time,” he said, “I was just . . . my name.” He was seldom, if ever, allowed to be alone with his daughter. There were times, he admitted, when he grasped the amount of full-time devotion it took to raise a child and felt relief that the job was not his. But more often, he said, he would observe “the physical relationship my daughter had with her mothers and feel tremendous pain that I was never going to have that.”
In many respects, R.’s experience would seem to confirm the worst fears of those — inside and outside the gay community — who think attempts to re-engineer family dynamics in this way are doomed from the start. “I could never get a regular schedule for visiting,” R. said. “I was always kept at a distance. I was never brought in in a way where I felt like I was being acknowledged as really more than just a friend.” This went on for years, and he started to tear up as he described it. What pained him most, he said, was the feeling of irrevocability, the fact that each moment was a lost opportunity. “I was basically watching her grow up and having no control, just watching it go by. I would see her on the street, it was like, you know, you can imagine, I was looking at my child but not having access to her really.”
Like a lot of lesbian mothers at that time, M. said, she and her partner were, as she put it, “kind of paranoid. We didn’t want to promise a set amount of time or, say, summer vacation or any of that stuff.” She continued: “I think one of our big mistakes in our situation was we had no clue, all three of us going into it, and there weren’t that many people for us to talk to or things to read about it. He was just saying he wanted to be around and be known and have a relationship. And looking back, even that seemed scary to us.” It was a deeply painful period for R. “I mean, if I were to say anything to people who were thinking about something like this,” he said, “it would be that with this kind of donor relationship, this web of affinity and genetics, it’s not like an article of clothing where someone gives it to you and then it’s yours and you can walk away. If you don’t want to have to be answerable to somebody, then go to an anonymous sperm bank. It’s like they wanted the privilege of being able to say to their children, ‘That’s your father,’ without having to really give up anything. And so, what’s that about?”
Luckily for R., things changed over time. When his daughter was 2, her nonbiological mother became impregnated with sperm donated by a gay black friend. She bore twins. A couple of years later, the mothers split up. A custody battle ensued, in which the white mother tried to gain sole custody of all three children. The judge ruled against her. The final agreement essentially assigned the three mixed-race children to the white mother roughly 60 percent of the time and to the black mother 40 percent of the time.
The current family tree is a crazy circuit board: The black woman has a new female partner. The white woman is now living with a man, and the two have had their own child. So, as R. said, between the one child that R. has with the black mother, the twins borne by the white mother with a black donor and the newest, fourth, child born to her with her new male partner, all of whom have some sort of sibling relation to one another, things can be a little confusing. “They’re quite a little petri dish of a family, as you can imagine,” R. told me. The children go from the white mother, who lives in a SoHo loft, to their black mother, who lives in a nice, middle-class row house in Crown Heights. On weekends, they often visit the white mother’s family’s country estate. “I’d say they’re like divorce kids,” he said. “They’ve got a family that split up; they go back and forth.” But the kids love both their mothers, and though the relationships may seem confusing to outsiders, there is certainly no lack of people in their lives who care about them — something many “straight” families can’t claim.
How he fits in as a father is less clear. Since the mothers broke up five years ago, R.’s relations with the birth mother — and his daughter — have warmed. When R.’s daughter turned 6, he was allowed to see her alone for the first time. And now? “It’s a work in progress,” he said. “We really enjoy each other. There are still issues about how much I get to see her.” But by now, R.’s birth mother wants him to have a relationship with his daughter. “My perspective has changed,” she said. “It’s good for her; it’s good for him; there’s no reason not to. She loves hanging out with him.” R.’s relationship with his daughter’s other mother remains strained. When I asked to speak with her through an intermediary, she declined to comment.
R. is not quite sure yet what his daughter thinks of him. He knows that she knows he’s her father. But he’s not sure what that means. A couple of years ago, he said, he took her to the Museum of Natural History. Outside, they bought a hot dog. “She couldn’t open the soda,” he said, “so she asked the vendor, ‘Can you open this?’ And he said, ‘Well, ask your father.’ So she started hearing that from strangers at a certain point. She probably didn’t know exactly who I was.” He is still not positive to what degree any of the children in the various branches of the family have affixed their relation to all the parents. The white woman’s twins, the ones not biologically related to him, identify him as a “donor” — not their donor, not their father, but a title, donor, like uncle or godparent. As for his daughter, he said, “there are many men in her mothers’ lives. There are friends; there is the donor father of his daughter’s siblings; and there is the white mother’s new partner.” With all of these men in quasi-parental roles, he conceded, “I’m not sure if I’m — I can’t say honestly that I know that she’s accessing anything through me that she’s not getting anywhere else.”
Struggling to be precise, he said: “She recognizes me. I feel like we have a relationship, that there’s some . . . that I mean something to her, that she recognizes an affinity that’s not just: I like this guy; he’s a nice guy; I have a fun time with him. I think she sees me as being part of some kind of heritage of hers. Now maybe that’s my wanting to make a relationship where I want there to be one, but I think that there is something there.” He mentioned that last summer his daughter and her twin brothers visited R.’s family on Cape Cod. At the end of the trip, he was able to spend an entire day alone with his daughter and his own family — his parents and siblings. After the day was over, M. told him that his daughter hoped maybe next year she would be able to spend two days there.
“So,” he laughed, “who knows? Maybe in the end, all of this will be a plus. Maybe we won’t end up having that typical Oedipal hand baggage that she’ll have with her primary parents. It’s been a long road. It’s been very up and down. But I got through it, and I wouldn’t ever say I wish I hadn’t done it. Because it’s great, actually, to have her in my life. I just” — he paused — “would certainly have done it very differently.” It was late August on a wooden deck overlooking a quarter-acre lot in Coon Rapids, a suburb north of Minneapolis. The deck was next to a three-bedroom house. A big glass table was loaded with barbecue fixings of time eternal: bean salad, chips, nuts, corn on the cob and the staple of American child-rearing, juice boxes. The guests included two gay fathers, one gay boyfriend-cum-stepdad, three lesbian mothers (one couldn’t attend) and four boys.
P. J., David and Bobbie’s co-parent, is an X-ray technician with a bawdy and infectious sense of humor. Mark’s co-parents, Candi and Jean, one of whom is a former prison guard, were more reserved. Eight conversations were juggled as children came and went, screaming, laughing, crying, demanding juice boxes, spilling juice boxes, getting sand on the frosting on their mouths and so on. Eli arrived — post-chemo, post-stem-cell-transplant. He looked fragile and skinny. His veins glowed slightly in the sunshine. His blond hair was coming back, silky and short. One of his front teeth was missing, and he gawked, open-mouthed, squinting in the sun.
P. J. told me that he seemed to have overcome most of his physical problems in a matter of months. The emotional trauma might take longer. She recalled his, and her, time at the hospital. “To watch your 5-year-old son staring through a glass-pane window at a room full of other 5-year-olds playing ball, and he can’t do it. And the look of sadness on his face. Every day it was: ‘Mom, why am I here? Why do I have to do this? Why, why, why?’ ”
Eli had run off to play in the yard. He looked fine. Just awkward.
Mark and Candi and Jean’s child, also Mark, showed up, looking still three-quarters asleep.
“Is that the monkey shirt?” someone asked him. No answer. “What’s Wyatt doing?”
“He’s downstairs playing.”
An electronic child monitor sat on the table, confirming that Wyatt was indeed downstairs playing.
A bee buzzed. One of the mothers swatted it. “No bugs! Bugs are not allowed.”
“I need some water.”
Little Mark followed Eli to the backyard. Big Mark followed little Mark. David followed big Mark. All of them marched past the Playskool house and a litter of toys to the T-ball setup. Eli began to swat at a Wiffle ball.
Wyatt emerged from downstairs.
A chorus of parents began to chirp. “Hey, big guy!” “Hi!” “Hey, big guy!” “You big guy!” “Come here, you!”
Wyatt ran to Bobbie and gave him a big kiss and a hug. Bobbie, whom I initially judged to be a bit dour, was clearly warmed to the quick. And it was only at that moment that I realized he was as much a part of the family as everyone, even if his role seemed more precarious. Wyatt made the rounds, hugging everyone. Little Mark returned and also went around kissing and hugging everyone. The adults cooed.
The conversation skittered and zigzagged as it does in any group of people addlebrained by the presence of four children. Topics covered school meetings, health benefits, the rate at which kids outgrow clothes. Circumcision (pro or con). Potty training. Toys. Birthdays. Sibling relations. Crying (when to ignore, when not to).
Suddenly, Eli’s mother jerked up. Where’s Eli? David shrugged, lazily. “He’s off being a boy!”
Wyatt nestled into her lap. “I want grape!”
“You want grape? You want some mandarin oranges, too?”
He shook his head.
“You want some cantaloupe?”
He shook his head again. “Uh-uh.”
“You want some nuts?”
“What do you say?”
Candi turned to me. So, she wanted to know, What’s this article about? I told her it’s about part-time fatherhood for gay men and how well it works out and how it works out, period. She seemed suspicious. But . . . what’s the agenda? she asked. I laughed. Hadn’t she heard? Journalists are objective.
A bee came around the table. Eli panicked. He kept whining until it began to seem a bit attention-seeking. David asked him to quiet down a few times and finally told him to leave the table. Candi’s attention returned to me: “Why is this worth a story? It’s not even worth discussing. We’re just as American as our next-door neighbors. You see all these families with stepdads and stepmoms and half brothers and half sisters. What do you say about marriages that 50 percent of the time end in divorce? Why are we so threatening?” Most heterosexual parents, she said, marry, have sex “and then suddenly: ‘Whoops! We’re pregnant!’ Our families are designed. They’re conscious. They don’t just happen by happenstance. We had to sit down and say: O.K., what’s your relationship to the kid going to look like? What’s our relationship to each other going to look like? What’s this family going to look like?” She didn’t understand what the big deal was. “We want the same things that every other family wants! You know? We shop at Costco; we shop at Wal-Mart; we buy diapers. We’re just average. We’re downright boring!”
Two or three Saturdays after the barbecue, back in New York, R. knocked on the door of an East Village apartment. His daughter had been at a sleepover, and he was picking her up for an afternoon visit. A mellow, biracial couple answered and greeted him warmly. His daughter gathered her things, and we were on our way.
Now 10, R.’s daughter, H., has long, frizzy brown hair and hazelnut skin. She seemed very composed for her age. R. stopped her in the hallway. “Well, do I get a hug?” he asked awkwardly. He stooped, and they hugged. He rolled his eyes. “God, I wonder when I’ll have to stop asking.” It was mildly humiliating, but the moment passed almost instantly, and in 10 seconds we were outside in some of the last true summer warmth.
R. asked what she had gotten such and such a friend for her birthday. H. shrugged: “A monkey. Well, not a real monkey. But a notebook with monkeys on it. She loves monkeys.”
H. is tall for her age. As she walked and talked, she had an adorable way of punctuating the air with her fist every few syllables. Usually she jabbed with her right hand, and sometimes she jabbed with her left. It wasn’t a rap-video imitation; it just seemed like her own way of being.
R. asked her, “So . . . do you have any notion of what you want to do today?” It seemed slightly studied. Notion. Child. Planning. Do today.
We stopped by a boutiquey snack place to get H. some gourmet hot chocolate. She had Glacéau Vitaminwater instead. Passing some tables outside, she was spotted by her hockey coach. He shouted several times to get her attention. “How’re you doing?” he asked. She nodded, but ever so slightly. Very cool.
He asked her again, not noticing the nod. “Hey! How’re you doing?” Finally, obligingly, H. said, “O.K.” Pause. She ambled off with R.
The coach laughed. “Hey, anyone ever tell you you’re a great conversationalist?” R. said goodbye for her.
As we walked, R. repeated, “So, do you have any notion of what you want to do today?” She said she needed to buy a present for a second friend, whose birthday was also coming up. What did she want to get? R. asked.
Oh, maybe something by Paul Frank, she answered.
I asked who or what Paul Frank was. H. looked at me as if maybe I wasn’t so bright, but tried to explain. R. offered his two cents. “Paul Frank makes stuff and puts his brand or whatever all over it, and then because of that, it sells for more.”
H. argued that Paul Frank’s stuff was cute. R. disagreed. It was not cute.
H. disagreed. It was cute.
“I mean, come on,” she insisted. “At least he’s better than Hello Kitty.”
“Why?” R. asked. ”Why is he better than Hello Kitty?” She looked at him with tolerant pity. “Because Hello Kitty is . . . dumb.”
John Bowe has contributed to The New Yorker, The American Prospect, GQ and “This American Life” on NPR. His book, “Nobodies,” about contemporary slavery in America, is to be published next fall by Random House.
December 2, 2006
Bush to ease rule limiting HIV-positive foreign visitors
by Sabin Russell, Chronicle Medical Writer
President Bush will ease a long-standing rule barring HIV-positive people from entering the United States without a special waiver, a ban long criticized by human rights groups. Because of the rule, organizers of the biannual International AIDS Conferences have not held a gathering in the United States since 1990, when San Francisco hosted the event. The White House chose Friday, World AIDS Day, to announce that Bush would issue an executive order allowing HIV-positive people to enter the United States on short-term tourist or business visas without having to seek special permission.
"This administration is very serious about fighting discrimination on AIDS,” U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Mark Dybul said during a telephone interview after White House ceremonies marking the day. Activists, taken by surprise by the announcement, generally praised Bush’s decision but said all restrictions on immigrants with HIV should be lifted. "It’s a step away from a terribly discriminatory and inappropriate policy, but it doesn’t go far enough,” said Leonard Rubenstein, executive director of Physicians for Human Rights, in Washington. "This is a treatable disease. If you want to remove stigma from AIDS, you have to go the whole distance, and eliminate all restrictions on entry to the United States for people with HIV.”
UCSF physician Donald Abrams, who helped organize the 1990 AIDS conference, called Bush’s move "a humane and positive thing.” But he was uncertain whether it would pave the way for the big international AIDS meetings to return to U.S. soil. "It is certainly a step that will serve to bring us in line with the rest of the civilized world,” he said. Abrams said that many HIV-positive travelers entering the United States simply ignore the requirement that they declare themselves infected with the virus. But those who must also carry antiviral drugs are inevitably fearful they will be found out and turned back if customs officials find the medication, he said.
"You don’t know how many people have called in their prescriptions to Walgreens because they are paranoid someone will check their bag,” he said. Eric Sawyer, a co-founder of ACT UP in New York who has campaigned against the ban since it was first put in place in 1987, said Bush’s plan to lift the requirement for short-term visits was not good enough. Under the proposed new rule, HIV-positive people would receive a "categorical waiver" of the requirement on business or tourist visas for visits up to 60 days. It remains unclear whether visitors would still have to declare their HIV status, because the waiver would be granted automatically."We shouldn’t have to get a waiver, period,” Sawyer said.
International visitors to the United States who are HIV-positive have been able to obtain a special waiver for some events, such as United Nations conferences on AIDS or gay athletic events. But the process is cumbersome, and critics call it discriminatory and demeaning. During the World AIDS Day ceremonies at the Roosevelt Room in the White House, Bush declared that "we have a duty to do something about this epidemic.” He cited his $15 billion, five-year overseas AIDS relief effort, which Dybul — an AIDS physician who once treated patients in San Francisco — now runs.
Dybul said the program has helped to bring antiviral drugs to 822,000 people in 15 hard-hit countries — more than double the 400,000 counted at this time last year. "The scale-up is huge,” Dybul said. "There were 560,000 just six months ago." Although he declined to specify how many of the participants were taking lower-cost generic drugs favored by activists, Dybul said the president’s program has obtained special Food and Drug Administration approval for 33 generic products, many of them made by manufacturers in India and South Africa. Kenya has already announced it has saved 5 percent by choosing drugs from that list of approved generics, and other unspecified countries have announced plans to purchase 70 percent of their medicines from the same list, Dybul said.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, a Geneva-based program linked to the United Nations, also announced Friday that it has brought treatment to 770,000 people worldwide. Because the Global Fund and the U.S. program work closely together in many countries, there is considerable overlap in the patients counted by each. The two organizations estimate that together they have helped to bring drugs to 1.2 million people, triple the number from 2003 and twice as many as last year. Dr. Richard Feachem, executive director of the Global Fund, said in a telephone news conference that there are now roughly 2 million people in developing countries taking AIDS drugs — most of them through the U.S. program and the Global Fund, but others financed locally or through other relief agencies.
He estimated that 7 million people need AIDS drugs to survive, so the worldwide coverage in poor countries is roughly 30 percent. "It’s still a big gap. It’s still a long way to go,” Feachem said. He added that it will be difficult to achieve the target of "universal access" to AIDS drugs by 2010 without a major influx of new money — beginning with the Global Fund’s next round of grants in 2007. Feachem said that by 2010, 10 million people will need AIDS drugs.
E-mail Sabin Russell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
December 2, 2006
Supporting Boys or Girls When the Line Isn’t Clear
by Patricia Leigh Brown
Oakland, Calif., Dec. 1 — Until recently, many children who did not conform to gender norms in their clothing or behavior and identified intensely with the opposite sex were steered to psychoanalysis or behavior modification. But as advocates gain ground for what they call gender-identity rights, evidenced most recently by New York City’s decision to let people alter the sex listed on their birth certificates, a major change is taking place among schools and families. Children as young as 5 who display predispositions to dress like the opposite sex are being supported by a growing number of young parents, educators and mental health professionals.
Doctors, some of them from the top pediatric hospitals, have begun to advise families to let these children be “who they are” to foster a sense of security and self-esteem. They are motivated, in part, by the high incidence of depression, suicidal feelings and self-mutilation that has been common in past generations of transgender children. Legal trends suggest that schools are now required to respect parents’ decisions.
“First we became sensitive to two mommies and two daddies,” said Reynaldo Almeida, the director of the Aurora School, a progressive private school in Oakland. “Now it’s kids who come to school who aren’t gender typical.” The supportive attitudes are far easier to find in traditionally tolerant areas of the country like San Francisco than in other parts, but even in those places there is fierce debate over how best to handle the children. Cassandra Reese, a first-grade teacher outside Boston, recalled that fellow teachers were unnerved when a young boy showed up in a skirt. “They said, ‘This is not normal,’ and, ‘It’s the parents’ fault,’ ” Ms.
Reese said. “They didn’t see children as sophisticated enough to verbalize their feelings.” As their children head into adolescence, some parents are choosing to block puberty medically to buy time for them to figure out who they are — raising a host of ethical questions. While these children are still relatively rare, doctors say the number of referrals is rising across the nation. Massachusetts, Minnesota, California, New Jersey and the District of Columbia have laws protecting the rights of transgender students, and some schools are engaged in a steep learning curve to dismantle gender stereotypes.
At the Park Day School in Oakland, teachers are taught a gender-neutral vocabulary and are urged to line up students by sneaker color rather than by gender. “We are careful not to create a situation where students are being boxed in,” said Tom Little, the school’s director. “We allow them to move back and forth until something feels right.”
For families, it can be a long, emotional adjustment.
Shortly after her son’s third birthday, Pam B. and her husband, Joel, began a parental journey for which there was no map. It started when their son, J., began wearing oversized T-shirts and wrapping a towel around his head to emulate long, flowing hair. Then came his mothers’ silky undershirts. Half a year into preschool, J. started becoming agitated when asked to wear boys’ clothing. En route to a mall with her son, Ms. B. had an epiphany: “It just clicked in me. I said, ‘You really want to wear a dress, don’t you?’ ”
Thus began what the B.’s, who asked their full names not be used to protect their son’s privacy, call “the reluctant path,” a behind-closed-doors struggle to come to terms with a gender-variant child — a spirited 5-year-old boy who, at least for now, strongly identifies as a girl, requests to be called “she” and asks to wear pigtails and pink jumpers to school.
Ms. B., 41, a lawyer, accepted the way her son defined himself after she and her husband consulted with a psychologist and observed his newfound comfort with his choice. But she feels the precarious nature of the day-to-day reality. “It’s hard to convey the relentlessness of it, she said, “every social encounter, every time you go out to eat, every day feeling like a balance between your kid’s self-esteem and protecting him from the hostile outside world.” The prospect of cross-dressing kindergartners has sparked a deep philosophical divide among professionals over how best to counsel families. Is it healthier for families to follow the child’s lead, or to spare children potential humiliation and isolation by steering them toward accepting their biological gender until they are older?
Both sides in the debate underscore their concern for the profound vulnerability of such youngsters, symbolized by occurrences like the murder in 2002 of Gwen Araujo, a transgender teenager born as Eddie, southeast of Oakland.
“Parents now are looking for advice on how to make life reasonable for their kids — whether to allow cross-dressing in public, and how to protect them from the savagery of other children,” said Dr. Herbert Schreier, a psychiatrist with Children’s Hospital and Research Center in Oakland. Dr. Schreier is one of a growing number of professionals who have begun to think of gender variance as a naturally occurring phenomenon rather than a disorder. “These kids are becoming more aware of how it is to be themselves,” he said. In past generations, so-called sissy boys and tomboy girls were made to conform, based on the belief that their behaviors were largely products of dysfunctional homes.
Among the revisionists is Dr. Edgardo Menvielle, a child-adolescent psychiatrist at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington who started a national outreach group for parents of gender-variant children in 1998 that now has more than 200 participants. “We know that sexually marginalized children have a higher rate of depression and suicide attempts,” Dr. Menvielle said. “The goal is for the child to be well adjusted, healthy and have good self-esteem. What’s not important is molding their gender.”
The literature on adults who are transgender was hardly consoling to one parent, a 42-year-old software consultant in Massachusetts and the father of a gender-variant third grader. “You’re trudging through this tragic, horrible stuff and realizing not a single person was accepted and understood as a child,” he said. “You read it and think, O.K., best to avoid that. But as a parent you’re in this complete terra incognita.” The biological underpinnings of gender identity, much like sexual orientation, remain something of a mystery, though many researchers suspect it is linked with hormone exposure in the developing fetus.
Studies suggest that most boys with gender variance early in childhood grow up to be gay, and about a quarter heterosexual, Dr. Menvielle said. Only a small fraction grow up to identify as transgender. Girls with gender-variant behavior, who have been studied less, voice extreme unhappiness about being a girl and talk about wanting to have male anatomy. But research has thus far suggested that most wind up as heterosexual women. Although many children role-play involving gender, Dr. Menvielle said, “the key question is how intense and persistent the behavior is,” especially if they show extreme distress. Dr. Robin Dea, the director of regional mental health for Kaiser Permanente in Northern California, said: “Our gender identity is something we feel in our soul.
But it is also a continuum, and it evolves.”
Dr. Dea works with four or five children under the age of 15 who are essentially living as the opposite sex. “They are much happier, and their grades are up,” she said. “I’m waiting for the study that says supporting these children is negative.” But Dr. Kenneth Zucker, a psychologist and head of the gender-identity service at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, disagrees with the “free to be” approach with young children and cross-dressing in public. Over the past 30 years, Dr. Zucker has treated about 500 preadolescent gender-variant children. In his studies, 80 percent grow out of the behavior, but 15 percent to 20 percent continue to be distressed about their gender and may ultimately change their sex. Dr. Zucker tries to “help these kids be more content in their biological gender” until they are older and can determine their sexual identity — accomplished, he said, by encouraging same-sex friendships and activities like board games that move beyond strict gender roles.
Though she has not encountered such a situation, Jennifer Schwartz, assistant principal of Chatham Elementary School outside Springfield, Ill., said that allowing a child to express gender differences “would be very difficult to pull off” there. Ms. Schwartz added: “I’m not sure it’s worth the damage it could cause the child, with all the prejudices and parents possibly protesting. I’m not sure a child that age is ready to make that kind of decision.” The B.’s thought long and hard about what they had observed in their son. They have carefully choreographed his life, monitoring new playmates, selecting a compatible school, finding sympathetic parents in a babysitting co-op. Nevertheless, Ms. B. said, “there is still the stomach-clenching fear for your kid.”
It is indeed heartbreaking to hear a child say, as J. did recently, “It feels like a nightmare I’m a boy.”
The adjustment has been gradual for Mr. B., a 43-year-old public school administrator who is trying to stop calling J. “our little man.” He thinks of his son as a positive, resilient person, and his love and admiration show. “The truth is, is any parent going to choose this for their kid?” he said. “It’s who your kid is.” Families are caught in the undertow of conflicting approaches. One suburban Chicago mother, who did not want to be identified, said in a telephone interview that she was drawing the line on dress and trying to provide “boy opportunities” for her 6-year-old son. But we can’t make everything a power struggle,” she said. “It gets exhausting.”
She worries about him becoming a social outcast. “Why does your brother like girl things?” friends of her 10-year-old ask. The answer is always, “I don’t know.”
Nila Marrone, a retired linguistics professor at the University of Connecticut who consults with parents and schools, recalled an incident last year at a Bronx elementary school in which an 8-year-old boy perceived as effeminate was thrown into a large trash bin by a group of boys. The principal, she said, “suggested to the mother that she was to blame, for not having taught her son how to be tough enough.”
But the tide is turning.
The Los Angeles Unified School District, for instance, requires that students be addressed with “a name and pronoun that corresponds to the gender identity.” It also asks schools to provide a locker room or changing area that corresponds to a student’s chosen gender. One of the most controversial issues concerns the use of “blockers,” hormones used to delay the onset of puberty in cases where it could be psychologically devastating (for instance, a girl who identifies as a boy might slice her wrists when she gets her period). Some doctors disapprove of blockers, arguing that only at puberty does an individual fully appreciate their gender identity. Catherine Tuerk, a nurse-psychotherapist at the children’s hospital in Washington and the mother of a gender-variant child in the 1970s, says parents are still left to find their own way. She recalls how therapists urged her to steer her son into psychoanalysis and “hypermasculine activities” like karate. She said she and her husband became “gender cops.”
“It was always, ‘You’re not kicking the ball hard enough,’ ” she said. Ms. Tuerk’s son, now 30, is gay and a father, and her own thinking has evolved since she was a young parent. People are beginning to understand this seems to be something that happens,” she said. “But there was a whole lifetime of feeling we could never leave him alone.”
New Jersey approves gay civil unions
December 14, 2006
Trenton, New Jersey – Lawmakers in the U.S. state of New Jersey legalized same-sex civil unions on Thursday to give gay and lesbian couples the same rights as marriage but would not allow such partnerships to be called "marriage". The measure follows an October 25 state Supreme Court ruling that ordered the legislature to give gay couples the same rights and benefits as heterosexual couples, but left it to the lawmakers to decide whether to call it "marriage." Massachusetts became the first and only state to legalize gay marriage in 2004. Several other states have civil union or domestic partnership laws.
Dec. 21, 2006
N.J. governor signs gay civil unions law
by Tom Hester Jr.
Trenton, N.J. – New Jersey’s governor signed legislation Thursday giving gay couples all the rights and responsibilities of marriage allowed under state law – but not the title. When the law goes into effect Feb. 19, New Jersey will become the third state offering civil unions to gay couples and the fifth allowing gay couples some version of marriage.
Connecticut and Vermont also offer civil unions for gay couples, while Massachusetts allows gay couples to marry, and California has domestic partnerships that bring full marriage rights under state law. "We must recognize that many gay and lesbian couples in New Jersey are in committed relationships and deserve the same benefits and rights as every other family in this state," Gov. Jon S. Corzine said in signing the legislation.
The Legislature passed the civil unions bill on Dec. 14 in response to a state Supreme Court order that gay couples be granted the same rights as married couples. The court in October gave lawmakers six months to act but left it to them to decide whether to call the unions "marriage" or something else. Gay couples welcomed the new law, but argue not calling it "marriage" creates a different, inferior institution. Even some same-sex couples who attended the bill signing remained lukewarm about the law.
"It’s a step forward, but it’s not true equality," said Veronica Hoff, 52, of Mount Laurel, as she stood with her partner. The civil unions law grants gay couples adoption, inheritance, hospital visitation and medical decision-making rights and the right not to testify against a partner in state court. They won’t, however, be entitled to the same benefits as married couples in the eyes of the federal government because of 1996 law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Gay partners won’t be able to collect deceased partners’ Social Security benefits, for example, said family lawyer Felice T. Londa, who represents many same-sex couples.
Social conservative groups and some lawmakers opposed the measure, saying it brings gay relationships too close to marriage, but it easily passed the Legislature.
"It’s same-sex marriage without the title," said John Tomicki, president of the New Jersey Coalition to Preserve and Protect Marriage. "It uproots the cardinal values of our culture." He said opponents would push for a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex unions in New Jersey, no matter what they’re called.
"Let the voters decide that marriage is defined as a union of one man and one woman," Tomicki said. Democrats who control the Legislature have said they have no plans to consider such a proposal.
(Chris Newmarker contributed to this report)
December 31, 2006
GOP’s Only Gay Congressman Exits With Warning
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
Tucson, Arizona – After 22 years in the House, Jim Kolbe is preparing to say good bye to Washington ending as political career that saw him as the party’s only openly gay member of Congress. But he isn’t going without issuing fellow Republican’s a warning that if they don’t move back to center ground they risk remaining in opposition. In a wide-ranging interview with the Arizona Star, Kolbe says the public got tired of watching the party neglect its basic principles – smaller government, fiscal restraint and a stronger national defense – for opposition to same-sex marriage, stem cell research and abortion.
Unless the GOP returns to its core principals, Kolbe predicted, the party will continue to lose ground. Fighting same-sex marriage is a no win situation he says, adding that over the next ten years gay marriage or civil unions will be widespread as states recognize it is an issue of basic human rights. Yet in 1996 a then not out Kolbe voted in favor of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. It led to his outing in a national gay publication. Today Kolbe. Today Kolbe says he wishes the act had included a provision that marriage belongs in the hands of the states and that couples in states where same-sex marriage or civil unions are legal could have access to federal benefits accorded opposite-sex married couples.
"What I would say now … I recognize that we have to have some protection at the federal level," Kolbe told The Star. Earlier this year Kolbe’s name was dragged into the Rep. Mark Foley page scandal. In his interview with The Star he repeated his earlier denial that he had ever read a sexually explicit message written to one former page by then-Rep.
Foley, even though a House ethics report on the Foley scandal said that the page had forwarded the message to Kolbe in 2001. Kolbe also denied he had done anything wrong in inviting two pages on a camping and river-rafting trip to the Grand Canyon in 1996.
He told the paper that the trip included members of his staff and National Park Service staff, making it "completely aboveboard," "a very legitimate trip" and "a terrific exercise for 12 people over three days." The trip is the subject of a pending federal inquiry. Kolbe announced last year he would not seek re-election in November. His final day as a Congressman is Wednesday.