Just filled out my census form. They estimate it it would take ten minutes, but for lulz I timed myself.

1 minute. The hardest question was how old I am, which I always have to calculate. It might take an extra thirty seconds for each extra person who lived with me if there were any.

Of course, I will soon be paid to shill for the Census, but even without that I am quite amazed at how streamlined the questionnaire is this year. Aside from the age (which is extraneous information since they also ask for your birthdate), there really aren't any stupid or useless questions there. And no "long form" at all, they're doing an entirely different thing there now and I don't think it's our problem (although training might prove me wrong and my job will be precisely proctoring what has become of the long form).

So, I appreciate the sentiments of Queer the Census but still think that they missed the point. The Census could be the world's most awesome longitudinal study where we keep track of everyone's gender preference and probably religion, educational level, national origin, income, or any other number of highly relevant factors, but it isn't. It is a simple head-count with a few extra questions to monitor how communities are in compliance with the Voting Rights Act and fair housing and things like that. I think that you'd have to make a compelling case for why the government should precisely track the density levels of self-identified LGBT-ness throughout the country that would justify the extra printing and tabulation costs and privacy fears, and frankly I don't think that a sincere desire to be counted meets that threshold.

On the other hand, I do regret that the gender choice is binary and mandatory. My current (pre-training) understanding is that participants are permitted to select the gender that they self-identify without any "proof" from biology or legal status, but there is still a segment of the community that is not served by the binary choice, and the Census should be made to recognize and address that in the future. Always room for progress.
... Without the vim and verve
But I could show my prowess, be a lion not a mou-ess
If I only had the nerve

Believe me, I've heard some bad reasons to oppose same-sex marriage, and it seems like there are new challengers for the title every day. But I found a new low yesterday. Most embarrassingly, it doesn't come from some villain in Kansas or Alabama or California, but from my own State Senator.

Jim Alesi was heavily on the unknown list. He's a Republican, but he used to be a Democrat. And, of course, he lives in Rochester which has a history of civil rights and not much institutional tolerance for intolerance. He belongs to a renegade Catholic church that sanctifies gay unions. He talks the talk. And I didn't see it myself, but I am given to believe that if you saw a video of a Republican New York Senator who voted against the same-sex marriage bill this week with his head buried in his hands, that was him.

Why? How will he come back home and sit in the pew next to a gay couple and ask for our entire community's support in his re-election campaign next year? What was so important? He explains it in the article linked above.

"Politically, you never vote for a bill that's going to fail. Let me rephrase that. Politically, a highly controversial bill should not be voted on when it's going to fail."


You know, I don't mind if my representative fails to represent my position because he feels it to be at odds with the majority of his constituents. I don't like it, but I'll take my lumps. And I don't mind if my representative fails to represent my position because he feels it to be at odds with his or her own conscience even if his constituency supports it. Obviously, I'll support a different person in the next election, but that's the risk that you run in a representative democracy. But it turns out that I have no acceptance at all of a representative who looks around the room at how OTHER PEOPLE'S Senators are voting before making up his mind. That goes beyond a lack of courage to a full-press rejection of the fundamentals of a republic.

What's strangest about this wholly gutless justification of only wanting to support the winning side is that I can't imagine that will satisfy his reactionary supporters in the rural parts of his highly gerrymandered district either. If I don't want to hear that he'll fail to stand on principle when he doesn't feel that the stakes merit it, I can't believe that someone else wants to hear that he would still play the "will he or won't he" game if he ever came to be the deciding vote. You know how everyone hates all of congress but loves their own representative? So why do you want to tell me that you aren't even my representative but a reflection of the will of the Senate? I am furious with incoherence.
Damnit. I had such nice things to say about folks from Maine six months ago when their legislature passed same sex marriage laws. Today, it's more clear that the statespeople are better than the voters in off-off-year elections, because they've rolled it back. There is a part of my brain that wants to focus on the fact that a 53-47 margin is something that would have been unimaginable ten years ago and that at the local level there are countless stories about individuals facing the issues and opening their eyes and seeing a truth that they will never unsee. But in the end, the march of progress has been delayed today, and we have consciously decided to curtail rights to citizens of the United States due to hatred and fear, a decision that has never been endorsed by the long-term perspective of American history.

I will briefly suspend my no-name-calling rule in this blog. Equal protection under the law is a crucial element in a free society. If I know you, and you somehow believe that you have the right to parcel out privileges to the sorts of law-abiding citizens that you like and deprive it from the law-abiding citizens that you do not, then you suck. And if I know that you feel that way, and especially if for some especially unbelievable reason you're puffed up about this power of yours, then I will treat you like the nine-year-old toddler-abusing playground bully that you are until you amend your ways. And I'm normally the guy who will give out cookies to people who make small steps along very long journeys, but you won't even get a cookie from me when that day comes because this is just too basic a lesson for you to not grasp immediately.
It's a very strange story that nobody quite seems to understand yet, but evidently Malcolm Smith has lost leadership of the New York State Senate. There seems to be a lot of false news about the Republicans regaining control because two of the three rogue Democratic senators switched parties and that the old Minority Leader is now in charge. From where I'm sitting it looks more like all of the Republicans and two of the rogue Democrats voted for one of the rogue Democrats for President pro tem, and that no one has yet announced a change of party.

It's just been a mess all around. Again, the popular story has been that the entire session has been about gay marriage and that the Gang of Three insisted that it not come up for a vote and that's why it wasn't going to be passed this session, and then Governor Patterson forced Smith to break his word to overcome HIS dismal ratings. But there is another story, that the Legislature came under one party control for the first time in forty years and they still waffled on passing political reform. To give an example, the average Democratic senator gets a little over $2.4 million in slush money to pass around their district in exchange for endorsements, while Republican senators get around $267 thousand apiece. The injustice of punishing taxpayers who aren't represented by lawmakers who caucus with the majority is something that minority Democrats wailed against, but I suppose it must have made sense when they were the ones wearing the pants and living in the farmer's house. Malcolm Smith couldn't keep his word either to the voters or to the members of his caucus, and I'm not fully sad at the news that he's out of power.

The bad news, of course, is that now it is virtually certain that we will not have a vote on liberalizing our marriage laws this year. That's a damned shame, because we really have a bad sense of how many people are on the fence, so the Democrats might regain a Gang of Three-proof majority after next year's election and *still* not have enough votes to get it through. That'd be an easier task if we had an official nose count. On the other hand, I think we've got a good enough sense of the challenge that lies ahead from what we've been through. And, just maybe, a legislative body with a Democratic majority but bipartisan leadership will spend the next year serving the citizens instead of the apparatchik.

ETA: Here is a memo from the new majority leader outlining the new rule changes. They might be the same empty promises that will be undone the moment Tom Golisano gets on his private jet back to Florida, but it would be honorable if they became the model for doing business in the capitol. And, to be upfront, one of the reforms is that a bill can get a vote if a majority of members request it.
I'm not going to say much about the news story that Archie comic books are rolling out a OMGWTFBBQ story arc about Archie marrying Veronica after nearly fifty years of romantic tension or whatever. It's stupid, it's going to be a fake-out, the news media should have learned this was nothing more than a marketing stunt when Superman came back from the dead fifteen years ago, they shouldn't be covering comic book character news any more than they would cover professional wrestling alliance changes, Archie comics are the most irrelevant and worst selling comic books ever, and he belongs with Betty. Okay, I suppose I was going to say much about it. But it's not what I really want to talk about.

It seems that people can't blog about the subject without speculating without the slightest evidence that all of the characters are secretly gay for one another. I am calling specific attention to James Nicoll's site not because it is the most-read or the worst offender (although perhaps it is), but because I know him to be read by people who should know better. It seems to be quite prevalent throughout the internets, and it joins the normal chorus about the sexual habits of Batman and Robin, Ernie and Bert, Kirk and Spock, and so on down the line.

Seriously, dudes, what's the thrill? It's not challenging heteronormative assumptions to assume that fictional characters are not as they are depicted by their creators. Indeed, it is heterosexist to pretend that being a closeted gay person is boldly amusing. I will go so far as to suggest that it is a crime of power to force a fictional character to perform in a manner grossly contrary to his or her foundational motivations for your personal enjoyment. I'd like to see less of it in our world. None would be enough for me.
I freely admit that, while voting for Barack Obama and being enthusiastic about his campaign and inauguration like everyone else, I knew that he wasn't the second coming of Abraham Lincoln. But that's okay. Lincoln wasn't even the first coming of Abraham Lincoln, if you know what I mean. Many are the times that he carelessly blundered, and many times he was despotic. So, I was prepared for the day that Obama would break my heart. But that doesn't make my heart less broken.

I can even overlook his passivity on same-sex marriage and the repeal of DOMA. It's necessary work that someone will have to bite the bullet on someday, but he ran on the "separate but equal" domestic partnership half-loaf. He is standing still when the nation is moving forward on historic understandings of equality and fairness, which feels like backtracking but it's really just a lack of vision and courage.

Waffling on the reconciliation of torture and the repeal of DADT, though, is a betrayal of Mr. Obama's campaign pledges. I should expect that anyone who reads this follows The Daily Show even more closely than I, but I will still lift up Jon Stewart's insightful analysis on how the United States will do everything that is necessary to win the Global War on Terror except, evidently, confront institutional homophobia:

Amazingly, in this time of national crisis, when we are marshaling every tool at our disposal to fight this insidious enemy, Dan Choi is one of 54 Arabic translators dismissed due to their sexual preference. So it was okay to waterboard a guy over 80 times, but God forbid the guy who could understand what that pr*ck was saying has a boyfriend. You know, I want to say this: waterboarding may make the prisoner talk, but it ain't going to make him talk English.

So, broken heart. That's okay, it's been broken before and will be again. Unfortunately, the President took the opportunity last night to pour salt and do a comical little dance on my heart. Speaking of the protesters that he saw when entering a Beverly Hills fundraiser:

“One of them said, “Obama keep your promise,’ ” the president said. “I thought that’s fair. I don’t know which promise he was talking about.” The people in the audience – who paid $30,400 per couple to attend – laughed as they ate a dinner of roasted tenderloin, grilled organic chicken and sun choke rosemary mashed potatoes.

Mr. President, ignorance is not funny. At Notre Dame, you treated pro-life protesters wheeling blood-stained dolls around campus with more dignity than LGBT protesters who actually have cause to wonder about your commitment to their agenda. If you are not going to be committed to civil rights or effective governance, at least retain enough honor to not mock those who do.
Not totally unexpected, but I am still deeply disappointed that the California Supreme Court ruled to uphold Proposition 8. I cannot think of a time in the history of our nation or another in which the deliberate rolling back of civil rights for a disfavored minority was favorably viewed by posterity, and I hardly expect it to start with this decision. This injustice will be undone one day, but our children who will have to do the work to undo it will be understandably frustrated and embarrassed by our prejudice, just as I was frustrated to be the generation that had to undo anti-sodomy laws and embarrassed at having to apologize for internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. I am eternally hopeful that our judicial system will step up to its obligations as a long-view branch of government that is supposed to check the will of the people when necessary, but that wish is often futile.

If I have said it before, then it deserves to be repeated. Pure democracy should be given no role in civil rights in the United States or any other modern civilization. The concept that the majority should be allowed to impose their will to directly suppress the minority is anathema to our core values as a nation. As our society comes to appreciate that certain classes of people have been denied their full range of unalienable rights, we should make every haste to afford those rights. Not in spite of the fact that our ancestors have denied those rights, but because of that. If that makes you uncomfortable, then your duty as a citizen is to get over it.
... and then there were forty-five. Tonight, I am a big fan of Governor John Baldacci for having the political courage to change his mind about whether civil unions are an acceptable substitute for marriage, and I hope that New Hampshire Governor John Lynch comes to a similar conclusion over the next few weeks. Plus, I continue my secret crush on Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe for being calm, reasonable New England Republicans like I recall in abundance from my youth before they were hunted to near extinction by Bible Belt conservative snipers.

As much as stories like these concerning the march of social progress are inspiring, there always seems to be a bitter wake that New York and California are so slow to join up. And, in one way, that's fair. But to be honest, there is another part of me that is glad for the wave that we have. It would be too easy to frame the issue as a culture war if the early advances were happening in gay meccas like San Francisco and New York. But instead, it's happening in C-list state capitols like Montpelier, Des Moines, and Augusta. These aren't ultra-liberal governments doing what is gay-friendly, they are pragmatic governments recognizing that their citizens deserve equal protection under the law. And that's got to be even more scary to the National Organization for Marriage, because a limited government, individual rights, basic fairness argument might gain traction somewhere like Montana or even Alaska. All the same, I hope that my beloved home state and my also-beloved post-college state don't show up too late for the party. Rhode Island looks small, but it gobbles up all of the best hors d'oeuvres.
I have to confess that I am ambivalent towards beauty pageants. I have long believed that any private organization has the right to think what they want, and the rest of us have the right to gauge their relevance based on those choices. This believe tends to be the only thing that gets me through the Grammy Awards and the selection of popes. But maybe ten or so years ago I watched the Miss America pageant (back in those olden days when it was on broadcast television) expecting to howl with self-righteous derision, and I didn't. From what I could see, the contestants were entirely intelligent, athletic, socially-aware young women. To be sure, there was a lack of pear-shaped body types and no physical disabilities to be seen, but I had the sensation that the judges were basing their decision on their thoughts and deeds rather than how they looked in a bathing suit and heels. I was impressed.

Alas, the Miss America pageant has fallen on hard times and so every time a beauty pageant makes the news nowadays it is the Miss USA contest, which seems to have much lower standards. So here is where you find national-level beauty queens abusing cocaine during their reign, hilarious YouTube videos where final round contestants teach us about education in South Africa and The Iraq and such as, and the current tempest of Miss California USA feeling that she came in second place because she was blindsided into announcing her distaste for same-sex marriage. I have reached my ruling.

Carrie Prejean, sit down. Let's gird ourselves and face your declaration of sentiments:

"I think it's great that Americans are able to choose one or the other. We live in a land that you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage and, you know what, in my country and my family I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anyone out there but that's how I was raised and that's how I think it should be between a man and a woman."

Really? I mean, you live in California and went to college in 2008. It was a conservative Christian college, but surely there was discussion that Proposition 8 was going on outside. And yet you are so stunned by the issue that you invent the phrase "opposite marriage"? The word "heterosexual" was beyond you at that moment? That's not politics, that's vocabulary. And poise. And expressing the belief that it's great that same-sex marriage exists and, you know what, it should be outlawed is quite a muddle. If this answer cost you the Miss USA crown, it is because it was dreadfully inarticulate, not because it was a bold conservative vision statement. And if you are stripped of your Miss California USA title in the next few weeks, it is because you haven't shown up to cut the ribbon at malls or whatever it is that you do, so I don't want to hear your victimization speech then either.

(ETA: And when I said that, it was implied that I really really don't want to hear your victimization speech when your underage topless modeling photos get leaked to the public. No link to the picture, because child pornography is, for better or worse, in the eye of the District Attorneys of the world and not the beholders.)

Donald Trump, go away and take your idiot pageant with you.

"Miss California has done a wonderful job, that was her belief [...] It wasn't a bad answer, that was simply her belief...."

How on earth can you have a interview category and borking a question this badly doesn't drop you below second place? (And, for the record, Laura Caitlin Upton came in fourth after her dreadful answer to an admittedly much harder question about geographic literacy.) If you're not grading them on how they communicate their ideas, then replace it with a teleprompter-reading category, unless it's actually about how you enjoy the publicity of watching contestants fail. When a pageant team decides that it is a better use of their funds to give breast augmentation to their contestant instead of bettering local disadvantaged kids or whatever, you have to know that you fail as a selector of what is beautiful in this world.

Everyone else, take a deep breath. She doesn't like gay marriage. Nearly half of California doesn't. We can expose her to the healthiness of love in all of its incarnations, or we can let her fester in her ghetto of intolerance. I think we'll get where we're going faster if we do the former, don't you?


Matthew Daly

December 2012

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