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Our better angels


December 2008


While President-elect Barack Obama’s inspiring election night rhetoric borrowed from Lincoln’s first inaugural address (“Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection…”) and echoed Martin Luther King’s “I have been to the mountaintop” admonition that “the road ahead will be long, our climb will be steep,” many Americans will be forgiven if the evening recalled another new president’s words upon assuming office _ those of Gerald Ford (who followed the disgraced Richard Nixon): “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.”


Obama wisely did not strike an overly… Continue reading

Giving gay thanks

November 2008


Presumably well-intentioned advocates will often argue on behalf of pro-gay policies or legislation by using the argument that it is unfair to discriminate against gay people because “they can’t help it, they were born that way.” Indeed, some explicitly assert that given society’s pervasive anti-gay attitudes, “nobody in their right mind would chose to be gay.”


Positing that a homosexual preference is akin to a regrettable birth defect may sometimes be effective at evoking pity and providing legislators and policy makers with the political cover that allows them to take a “pro-gay” position. It is… Continue reading

Victory already?

October 2008


This spring, when it was already clear that Obama was going to win the Democratic nomination, I returned to my college alma mater for lunch with old friends.


Much had changed in the 25 years since I’d haunted the dining hall as an undergraduate. Gone was the serving line with white-jacketed staff filling plates to order, replaced by various self-service stations offering eclectic choices, catering to those with Levitical, Koranic, vegetarian, vegan, and nut- and gluten-allergy dietary restrictions. Amidst all this welcome deference to multicultural palates, paintings of dead white presidents, themselves alumni, still looked… Continue reading

Policing the Police

September 2008


Few gay people know who Dollree Mapp was. Yet her 1961 Supreme Court case, Mapp v. Ohio, is at the core of advances in jurisprudence key to gay liberation.


In 1957, Cleveland police, acting without a warrant on an erroneous tip that a bombing suspect was in Mapp’s house, busted down her door and ransacked her home. They did not find their suspect, but did discover a suitcase containing sexually explicit photographs. Mapp was charged with and convicted of possession of pornography.


Mapp appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned her conviction. Holding… Continue reading


August 2008


Scan the rhetoric of today’s gay political groups and you’ll find “equality” as a theme. Many organizations incorporate the word into their names, and the nation’s best-funded gay lobby uses an equal sign as their logo.


It’s easy to understand why equality is an appealing principle to gay people. When homosexuality is seen as criminal or sinful or disreputable, gay people endure inequitable treatment. And since some of these bias-inspired inequalities impair people’s ability to pursue their civic lives — to do jobs they are qualified for, to live wherever they want, to speak out… Continue reading

Obscene Threat

July 2008


While it is easy to find political fault with the United States, one aspect of our civic culture commands unalloyed enthusiasm: a remarkable commitment to freedom of expression.


The First Amendment, with its bold and seemingly absolute assertion that there shall be “no law abridging freedom of speech, or of the press,” has been given increasing power and reach in its first two centuries of history. Courts have expanded its protections so that today, all sorts of dissent or criticism that would have been punished in the past — and that remains punishable elsewhere in the… Continue reading