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Posts Tagged ‘same-sex marriage’

Pumped-up Equality Forum

May 2nd, 2012 No comments

Here it comes again — Equality Forum, Philadelphia’s internationally known and always interesting cavalcade of events that celebrates, informs and provokes on all (or many, anyway) things LGBT. I’ve been blogging the event for the past three years (here’s a compilation of my entries), and am delighted to be doing so again this year.

If you’re coming to this site for EF updates each year, you might be surprised to see that there aren’t already entries for this year’s event. That’s because the format’s been compressed, squeezed from its traditional, week-long schedule down to four days. It kicks off tonight with a big welcoming party, and then jumps into high gear for a bunch of panels tomorrow, Friday, and Saturday.

This new format makes sense. It’s more attuned to people’s busy schedules — especially the many people who come (many of them, for years now) for the entire event. But it does make life tougher for a blogger, because  the highlighted panels for Thursday and Friday run concurrently. I’ll do some combination of running back and forth and simply choosing between the two panels for each session. I might not have any less blogging to do, but I’ll be doing it on overdrive. Highlights from each post will appear here, with links to the full story over at my cyber home-away-from-home, The New Civil Rights Movement. (You should check that site out anyway — it’s packed with information and opinion on LGBT issues. Site master David Badash is nothing if not relentless!)

You can get the full panel schedule here. (All of the Thursday and Saturday national panels are at the Doubletree Hotel.) It’s hard to choose highlights from among so many star-studded panels, but I’m especially looking forward to a few of them, viz.:

  • Tomorrow (5/3), at 7 pm is the National Transgender Panel. It features quite a diverse line-up of subjects of interest to the trans-community, judging from the panelists chosen. In my experience, the TG panels have been among the most reliably interesting, perhaps because, as a community, trans-people have been compelled to think about issues on a level of depth that is not always matched by the rest of our community. (There! I’ve said it.)
  • Also tomorrow, at 8:30, is the Featured Nation: Israel Panel. It features actual Israelis(!), including a city council member and a couple of LGBT tourism promoters. It’s moderated by Mazzoni Center Executive Director, Nurit Shein, who I’ll bet is more qualified than you to be on the panel — she was a career officer in the Israeli Army!
  • Friday at 4 pm, at the National Constitution Center, is the National Legal Panel. Get out of work early and go! Don’t make me repeat myself. They’ll be talking about Prop 8, DOMA, and (apparently) other issues of legal discrimination affecting our community. (I wish they would talk about civil unions, but that’s my axe to grind — and I ground it here.) The panelists are all good — a mix of litigators, policy-makers, and academics — but Bill Eskridge is especially worth the price of admission. He’s really good at explaining legal arcana to those who didn’t invest in a law degree.
  • Right after the legal eagles soar, the National Politics Panel takes the same stage (at 5:30 pm) to talk about the upcoming election and the political landscape. Will appeal to all political junkies of every party (all two of them here in the U.S.).
  • The full Saturday schedule is here. It’s chock-a-block, in part because that’s the day featuring collaborative panels with local organizations and interest groups. Based on my experience, it’s well worth poring over the local options, because you’re likely going to find something of major interest to you — almost every conceivable topic of interest to our community (broadly defined) is represented. There are also great national panels at 1 pm and 2:30 — again, two at each time, so you’ll have to choose (assuming you haven’t already picked a local panel!). Sports, Same-sex Marriage, Military — it’s all here. But perhaps most interesting will be the James Wheeler National Youth Panel, featuring a couple of young men who captured the popular imagination: Chris Armstrong, a U of Michigan student who was harassed by the creepy assistant AG of the state (but who fought back with a lawsuit that resulted in the firing of the jerk) and, most compelling, Zack Wahls. I could go on and on about him, but this will suffice:

There’s also a pretty good play, and more parties than you can shake a groove thing at! (Where…did…I…put…that…groove…thing?) Get busy!

Adopt those Kids! But Stay “Legal Strangers” to Each Other!

April 14th, 2011 No comments

In this week’s 365gay column, I plumb a great mystery: Why do most states allow same-sex couples to adopt kids, but not to marry each other? Do we “forget” to keep caring about the best interest of the child?

Pennsylvania Grinds Towards Equality

March 23rd, 2010 1 comment

You might have read that the Pennsylvania Senate’s Judiciary Committee recently rejected a measure to enshrine the state’s law against same-sex marriages in the constitution. You might not have read something quite remarkable about that vote, though: the 8-6 majority in opposition was the same body — with only one change — from the committee that voted for the amendment by a 10-4 vote just two years ago. In other words, three of the ten have switched their vote to the pro-equality side. That’s major progress.

Well, kind of: Keep in mind that the state’s law against same-sex marriages remains firmly in place, and I don’t expect that Senator Daylin Leach’s bill to repeal that law in favor of marriage equality will pass any time soon. I even doubt that more than a few of the eight who voted against the amendment would support marriage equality at this point.

But they’ve at least come to see that impaling inequality into the state’s charter is a very bad idea, because it freezes what they must now be seeing as discrimination in place, making it much harder to undo. So their vote at least suggests an openness to argument, to considering that they may be wrong.

The measure’s proponent, John Eichelberger, was dismayed and confused: “Why they did it, I don’t know, because they are some of the people who were in support of this effort in the past.” Well, people are changed by their experiences and surroundings. As Leach put it:

My colleagues have been feeling increasingly uncomfortably with the idea of us as a state discriminating against an entire class of our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. As time goes by, I think more people are going to be embracing equality and rejecting this kind of discrimination so that everyone in this state can live in peace and with dignity.

That’s a bit Pollyannish in a state that still doesn’t even have an anti-discrimination law in place, but the importance of this vote — and that it signals the likely end of any serious push to amend the state’s constitution — is still to be celebrated. A little.

Marriage Bans and HIV

June 11th, 2009 No comments

This is interesting:

“In a new study conducted by economists at Emory University, it has been found that banning same-sex marriage raises the U.S. HIV infection rate by four cases per 100,000 people. Using data from the General Social Survey, a popular research tool that has gauged American public opinion for over four decades, Hugo Mialon and co-researcher Andrew Francis found that a widespread increase in tolerance for homosexuality between the 1970s and the 1990s resulted in a decrease of one HIV infection per 100,000 people. Recent controversy over the issue of same-sex marriage has led to a new culture of intolerance say the researchers, which, in turn, leads to riskier sexual behavior.

“’Intolerance is deadly,’ said Mialon, assistant professor of economics at Emory. ‘Bans on gay marriage codify intolerance, causing more gay people to shift to underground sexual behaviors that carry more risk.’ Mialon continues, ‘We found the effects of tolerance for gays on HIV to be statistically significant and robust – they hold up under a range of empirical models.’ Francis adds, ‘Laws on gay marriage are in flux and under debate. It’s a hot issue, and we are hoping that policymakers will take our findings into account.'”

The article also links to the study itself; those interested and with the capacity to do so can read the whole (40+ page) thing and draw their own conclusions about methodology, inference, and conclusion. But at least intuitively, this is a plausible connection. A society that shames behaviors and drives them underground can’t claim surprise when unhealthy outcomes result.