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Feeling some sympathy…

I’m in the midst of listening to the police interrogation audio tape with Senator Larry Craig. I’ve posted on the situation once, as well as Brian.

To be honest, listening to the tape, I’m starting to feel some sympathy for the guy. His voice just sounds so lost and while he is a bit belligerent during the interview, I’m sure I would be as well if I thought I was innocent of a crime.

I don’t know why he pleaded guilty to the crime if he was really innocent. Perhaps he is guilty, but I don’t know.

Then again… maybe I’m just feeling sorry for the guy or sympathy for the guy just because of the way he sounds. Have you listened to the tape? He just sounds like a nice, old white guy… like my grandpa sounds. It’s sad really.

This whole situation is messed up and the more I read and listen to what is going on here and there, I’m starting to realize that there really are some major questions regarding entrapment and what exactly a police officer needs to have in order to make an arrest or assert that someone has attempted to commit a crime.

Among my friends and colleagues there has been a lot of discussion on exactly why it seems the police have all these stake-outs in order to target only men who seek to have sex with men. Where are the stake-outs for opposite-sexed couples who seek to have sex in public. We know that plenty of people do it, both gay and straight. If you have any doubts, just go to your local college and wait ’till right after the high  party time at night. I have no doubt you’ll find sex in public.

At first on this issue, I thought it to be a cut and dry one and I took up a stance that many of my friends and colleagues called me out on. I’m starting to realize nothing, absolutely nothing, in this situation is cut and dry and I cannot even begin to imagine what Craig and his family are going through.

There are so many larger issues wrapped in with the smaller one of Craig’s arrest. And I think, as Brian said, this issue raises a lot of good questions about our society, the laws we make and exactly how our police departments go about enforcing them.

I don’t think many people at all are advocating the side that says public sex is okay, but I think some serious questions need to be asked, particularly on entrapment. Really… waving hands and a bumping of feet? I’m sure I’ve accidentally bumped someone’s foot in a bathroom before. Does that make me guilty of soliciting sex in public?

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Iowa couples rush to marriage…

Brian reported on it just one post previous to this… The Iowa District Court which struck down the state’s Defense of Marriage Act.

Today, at least six gay couples or mroe have rushed to marriage offices in order to receive licenses and more applications are expected Friday, according to USA Today:

A county judge struck down Iowa’s decade-old gay marriage ban as unconstitutional Thursday and ordered local officials to process marriage licenses for six gay couples.

Gay couples from anywhere in Iowa could apply for a marriage license from Polk County under Judge Robert Hanson’s ruling.

Less than two hours after word of the ruling was publicized, two Des Moines men applied for a license, the first time the county had accepted a same-sex application. The approval process takes three days.

Gary Allen Seronko, 51, was listed as the groom on the form and David Curtis Rethmeier, 29, the bride.

“I started to cry because we so badly want to be able to be protected if something happens to one of us,” Rethmeier said.

Deputy Recorder Trish Umthun said she took five calls from gay couples after the judge filed his ruling Thursday afternoon and expected a rush of applications Friday.

The rush to the altar may not last too long, however. The attorney for Polk County says that they have requested a stay on issuing marriage licenses to gay couples:

County attorney John Sarcone said the county will appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court and immediately sought a stay from Hanson that would prevent gay couples from seeking a marriage license until the appeal is resolved. The Supreme Court could refer the case to the Iowa Court of Appeals, consider the case itself or decide not to hear it.A hearing is likely to be held on the stay motion next week, said Camilla Taylor, an attorney with Lambda Legal, a New York-based gay rights organization.

And the Republicans are already gearing up for a re-hashing of the move toward a state constitutional amendment banning marriage equality:

House Minority Leader Christopher Rants, R-Sioux City, said the ruling illustrates the need for a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

“I can’t believe this is happening in Iowa,” he said. “I guarantee you there will be a vote on this issue come January,” when the Legislature convenes.

The race is on in Iowa.

UPDATE… The same judge who knocked down Iowa’s DOMA also issued a stay against his own ruling today… No more marriages in Iowa for right now…
http://www.kcci.com/family/14020652/detail.html

BUT… A gay couple, two college students, did get married this morning, before the stay was issued.
http://edition.cnn.com/2007/US/08/31/iowa.samesex.ap/index.html

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I’m movin’ to Polk County!

A district court in Iowa declared today that the state’s law barring same-sex couples from civil marriage is unconsitutional and said that:

“Couples, such as Plaintiffs, who are otherwise qualified to marry one another may not be denied licenses to marry or certificates of marriage or in any other way prevented from entering into a civil marriage…by reason of the fact that both persons compromising such a couple are of the same sex.”

Gary Allen Seronko and Curtis Rethmeier, two of the plantiffs, have already submitted their applications (which take three days to process) and had them accepted.

I am so excited that these couples–and countless more like them across the state–will soon see their lifelong dreams come true. Congratulations to the justices who ruled on this matter and I hope that the Iowa Supreme Court similiarly recognizes the discriminatory and definitely unAmerican nature of marriage inequality.

CNN, Windy City Times, and Post-Bulletin (amongst other) report

CLARIFICATION: For those unfamiliar with the judicial process: The decision in Iowa was reached by a lower court.  It only affects the district in which it was handed down and it will be subject to appeal.  Judges may or may not issue a stay–which would put same-sex marriage on hold–until a final verdict is reached.

I’m pretty sure I’ve said it here on the blog before, and I know for certain that I’ve said it publicly in conversations with friends and colleagues:

If you are gay and want to change your sexual orientation to straight, fine by me… so long as you don’t force or try to coerce me into doing the same.

Mother Jones has an article up detailing how some new studies may say that sexual orientation is more fluid that many have previously thought. They include, at the beginning, an interview with a man who says he used to be gay, but isn’t anymore. The good thing about that, is that I get the feeling the gentleman did it just for himself and no one else. In his own words, “The important thing is that ‘now I like myself. I’m not emotionally shut down. I’m comfortable in my own body. I don’t have to be drawn to men anymore. I’m content at this point to lead an asexual life, which is what I’ve done for most of my life anyway.'”

Now, I’m not in this gentleman’s head. I really don’t know what he is thinking or why exactly he felt the need to change himself, but he did. At the same time, he isn’t preaching that anyone else should be forced to change (or, at least, forced to feel as though they should). He did it because it was the right thing for him.

Now… if that was the kind of “ex-gay” therapy that mosts “reparative therapies” engaged in, then I wouldn’t have a problem. If people felt as though they needed to change just because being gay didn’t feel like them – and that feeling wasn’t based on some internalized, deep-seeded prejudice or bigotry – then all is okay. I don’t really care.

What bugs me are those people who seek to want to force others to feel as though they should change… You know who I’m talking about: The Religious Right, Exodus International, so on and so on. Those groups attempt to tell all gay people that they should and can always change if only they tried hard enough and because God really wants them to.

B.S. on all that. Me being gay is something that is a part of me. I feel it in my mind, my body and my soul. It doesn’t hurt me and it doesn’t hurt anyone else and it isn’t making me a crazy person. It isn’t a disease and there is nothing wrong with me just because I happen to be gay.

But the Right doesn’t get that. I sometimes doubt if they ever will.

You want to be an ex-gay? Okay. Whatever. I wish you luck… but don’t come around to me telling me that just because you did it, that I have to do it, too.

UPDATE:  I just received a message from a colleague, well-versed in ex-gay matters, that the point of view offered up in that Mother Jones article wasn’t based on any good science. He says there might be an agenda hidden in it.

PS – Our new contributor, my good friend Brian Murphy, wrote a good piece on Senator Larry Craig. Check it out.

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Matt, Thanks for the introduction.  My personal blog has been mainly to keep my friends updated during Equality Ride and then I as continue to meet new people across the country–and continue to move around the country–it helps to stay connected with the people I’m no longer geographically close to.  I’m excited at this oppurtunity to comment on news, politics, and culture.  And as Matt said, expect some musings.

If you are an American and you have a television, a radio, or a computer, you have heard about the Larry Craig scandal.  Matt has commented on it.  The Washington Blade blog watch has at least fifteen stories on it.  CNN news and video continues to report on it.  And though I haven’t turned on a television in the past week (how I managed I’m still not sure), I imagine that the cable news stations continue to include “updates” (“rehashings” might be a more appropriate term).  Gay bloggers rip into his hyprocrisy and even his GOP collegues are stepping away.  But in the midst of this firestorm, are we asking the right questions?  Was Larry Craig soliciting sex?  Do police have a right to send plain-clothed officers into public restrooms?  Was a crime actually commited?  Yes, these are all important questions to be asking but I think there is another, more pressing, question that needs to be asked.

What kind of society have we created when a United States Senator feels the only possible outlet for a gay relationship is an airport bathroom?

Without jumping to judgement on Senator Craig’s sexual orientation or heaping unrequested pity upon him, I would like to pause for a moment to consider this sad state of affairs.  Even if this a one giant misunderstanding, cruising in bathrooms and other public places still happens (though not as often as some Florida politicians would led us to believe).  I know at my LGBT-incusive alma mater, the University of Southern California, the school newspaper did an investigation into cruising on campus and they report, in light of the Larry Craig coverage, that it still happens. 

Straight couples have been known to have trists in common showers, library bookstacks, and probably even out in public at I’m sure most colleges and universities.  But what is an adventure for straight people can be a necessity for deeply closested gay people.

I can not imagine what the pit in my stomach would feel like as I swipe my hand back and forth across the underside of a toilet stall or nudge my leg up against an anonymous person.  And I thank God for that.  I was surronded by friends, classmates, and official resources to help me cope with the difficulties of being gay in an unfortunately anti-gay society.

If Senator Craig’s bathroom debacle tells us anything it tells us that all Americans need to be covered by employment non-discrimination, that all Americans need the right to marry, that all Americans need the right to serve, that all Americans need to be eligible for the Boy Scouts of America.  Society cannot continue denegrate and dehumanize gay people because when it does so, it isn’t punishing some “obscene other” that lurks in the shadows, it is taking our friends and family and even our elected officials and it is pushing them into the shadows. 

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New contributor: Brian Murphy

A good friend of mine from the SoulforceQ Equality Ride and the Right to Marry Campaign in New York has joined InterstateQ.com as a new contributor.

Brian Murphy is 22, living in New York City and originally from the D.C.-area in Maryland. I’m glad he’ll be contributing his thoughts, musings and commentary. I know he’ll be a great addition to the site.

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Candidate declines LGBT questionnaire

I received an email today from City Council candidate Kevin Green, who is running for an At-Large position:

Thank you for the email regarding the questionnaire you are sending to all the candidates for this year’s elections. I commend your advocacy efforts on behalf of the LGBT community but I am going to have to respectfully decline from this process. I am a first time candidate and am trying to learn the ropes as I go along, all the time working a full time job, it is not an easy task! I have decided to participate in as many different forums and questionnaires as possible but at the same time I needed to be careful to not spread myself too thin.
With that in mind I will be answering the Gary Palmer/Replacements PAC questionnaire, which I hope will answer some or all your concerns on the issues effecting the LGBT community. Again, I applaud your efforts and hope you understand my stance of trying to cover as many of the issues as possible.

Of course, I’m disappointed he has declined, but I do understand the ‘spreading himself too thin’ position he’s in. At the same time, however, I know that my questionnaire would have provided the community a better way to see where he actually stands.

If the Replacements, Ltd. PAC does as it did the last time they put out a voter guide, they will release their results, in terms of their scoring and ranking of each candidate. My questionnaire would have been published in its entirety, allowing the community to actually read the words written down by each candidate.

I’ll contact Gary Palmer at Replacements to see if I can get a copy of Mr. Green’s returned questionnaire when he fills it out.

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The Daily Tar Heel, the award-winning daily newspaper of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, published a staff editorial on sex education on Tuesday.

In it, the staff said that sex education in North Carolina should be expanded and that abstinence-only education doesn’t work:

The idea of teaching tolerance of everyone and defining words such as prejudice is progressive and stands in striking contrast to North Carolina’s out-of-date abstinence-based curriculum.

Teaching eighth-graders about homosexuality, like in Montgomery County, might seem too early or inappropriate to some people, but neglecting to teach 10th-graders other options for staying safe besides abstaining might seem equally inappropriate and questionable.

Let’s face it, teenagers do have sex, and they do experiment. All that educators can do is give them the information they need to make smart choices.

In addition, being a teenager is confusing enough without having to be judged on your sexual preferences or lack thereof. It will be comforting for students, whether they consider themselves gay, straight, both or something else, that it’s not wrong to embrace who they really are.

[…]

There is one legitimate issue we have a problem with – the lessons state that homosexuality is innate. The idea behind teaching this is to ensure individuals do not get blamed for being homosexual.

While it sounds nice, science has not proven this true one way or the other. Factual uncertainties should be avoided, regardless of how just the goal of teaching them seems.

If teenagers knew all sides of the story, they would understand that sexuality isn’t black and white, and that it’s OK to have fears and questions about themselves. In life we are bound to run across people who will judge us and not accept us in ways we would hope.

Any program the helps avoid hate crimes like the death of Matthew Shepard should be applauded.

It is a nice editorial… although I think the staff skewed a few things. They are right that science hasn’t proven conclusively that sexual orientation is 100% innate, but in the editorial they are neglectful of the fact that medicine and psychology knows without a doubt that for the vast, overwhelming majority of all people, sexual orientation is unchangeable. For the vast majority of all people, sexual orientation is – for lack of better words – innate.

I’m also a little put back by their choice of wording in their use of “sexual preferences.” As I’ve said, sexual orientation for the vast majority of all people is unchangeable and something that seems very much a part of their being. It isn’t a “preference.”

I don’t “prefer” to be attracted – emotionally, spiritually and, yes, physically – to men… That’s just the way I am.

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Last night on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, Gary Bauer, the founder the conservative group American Values, was brought in to talk about how the Larry Craig scandal might affect the GOP and “value voters.”

You can see the video here.

In the course of the conversation, Bauer covered a lot of topics and points, but what got me was what he said near the end.

My partial transcript (just from listening and typing):

Christian voters understand the concept of human sin… I think the emphasis on hypocrisy is interesting; what I find interesting is not hypocrisy… I find disgusting our culture when police have to have stake outs in a bathroom because men are engaging with sex with each other… The fact that it is not new doesn’t make it any less disgusting or disturbing. Hypocrisy in Washington isn’t new either… I think hypocrisy in Washington is as old is politics. What is new is a society that is confused about moral values and the poisoned air of our culture… I believe that Senator Craig ought to step down… I think when you plead guilty under these circumstances, you have a credibility problem… The only reason the Republican party is competitive is because they get the votes of millions who believe in these values… From a Christian theological standpoint all men have fallen short… Craig’s behavior is unacceptable and he ought to pay a price for it, but if this was a liberal Democratic senator that was in favor of same sex marriage, would soliciting sex in a public bathroom be any less disgusting?

Bauer’s little rant is nothing more than an attempt to spin this issue away from Republican hypocrisy. Yeah… send in the conservative to save the Party’s butt.

No… the behavior wouldn’t be any less disgusting if it were a liberal Democratic senator doing it, but what wouldn’t be as disgusting is the hypocrisy built into it all. Craig stood on the floor of the Senate and attempted to put a certain group of people into a second-class citizenship over and over. His voting record is filled with anti-gay vote after anti-gay vote and, at the same time, he is trolling around public restrooms doing the exact things he preaches against on the Senate floor.

A liberal Democratic senator wouldn’t be guilty of that absolutely disgusting and downright hypocrisy. This is the exact reason why Craig’s situation is different from any hypothetical situation Bauer can make up in his twisted little head.

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We’ve all heard it. We ask someone why they didn’t vote in an election, whether it be a primary one or a general election, and people say something to the effect of “I didn’t know.”

“I didn’t know who the candidates were.”

“I never heard about it.”

“I didn’t know when it was.”

I’m sorry… but that just doesn’t cut it.

The City of Greensboro is having municipal elections this November and “I didn’t know” is a lame excuse when every blogger in Greensboro is covering it (here’s my example) and the News & Record has a whole section of their website devoted to everything having to do with the election – from candidate website links, to YouTube videos, to small stories recounting election conversations elsewhere on the web.

“I didn’t know” is a cop-out and code for “I’m too lazy to read, too lazy to care, too lazy to be American and too lazy to take part in just about the only way left for me to participate in my democracy.”

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