Partial Repeal of DOMA at Hand?

The Advocate is reporting that there’s a move afoot in Congress to repeal parts of DOMA – the federal Defense of Marriage Act that prevents the federal government from recognizing same-gender marriages.

Legislative aides familiar with the discussions say a handful of congressional leaders have been hashing out the details of the legislation, which would accomplish two goals: repeal section 3 of DOMA as it relates to the federal government’s ability to confer some 1,100 federal benefits on same-sex partners; and provide a way for same-sex couples living in states that do not allow them to marry legally to access the same federal benefits afforded to heterosexual spouses.

The most immediate benefits of passing such a bill would go to legally married gay couples — those who have married or will marry in Connecticut or Massachusetts, those who married in California while it was legal (pending the state supreme court decision over the validity of those marriages), and those soon to marry in Iowa and Vermont. Same-sex couples in New York, which recognizes legal marriages performed outside of the state, would also be among the first beneficiaries.

This would be a huge step forward, especially for those who are already legally married in the four states that have legalized same-gender marriage.

But, the most problematic part would remain:

By all accounts, the bill will not disrupt section 2 of DOMA, which gives individual states the ability to determine what type of unions they deem legal. “It still protects federalism — states are still able to make their own decision about what state benefits to offer,” Anders added.

That means that while married gays and lesbians could get federal benefits, states would still be able to deny same-gender marriages. It still may take a Supreme Court order in the vein of Loving v. Virginia to have same-gender marriage recognized in every state, no matter where it was performed – but this is still and encouraging movement from Congress.

The “Scoop” from Amazon

I sent a note yesterday complaining about Amazon’s de-ranking of my book Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians.

The story has been all over the Web: here, here, and here, just to name a few.

The note sent to me from Amazon made this lame excuse:

This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.

It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles – in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon’s main product search.

Many books have now been fixed and we’re in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future.

Thanks for contacting us. We hope to see you again soon.

Not bloody likely, but thanks for putting the sales ranking back on my page, Amazon.

Bulletproof Faith “De-Ranked” by Amazon

My book, Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians has been de-ranked by Amazon.com. Apparently, Amazon has decided that gay and lesbian books are “offensive” and are “adult” material and they don’t want them turning up in searches and offending anyone who might innocently be searching for books and one of our filthy, outrageous, titles should pop up.

Amazon.com has been called on this – and over at Twitter.com the #amazonfail group is alive and calling for Amazon’s head over this – and Amazon has responded by calling it a “glitch” that is going to be fixed.

That “glitch” comment, by the way, came after an admission from an Amazon PR flak that removing the sales rankings from gay and lesbian books was intentional because they were “adult” titles and would be considered offensive.

But, if you search for sex toys on Amazon’s site – these “adult” devices still have their sales rankings:

Remarked all-around swell poet Mark Doty across the disorganized sprawl of Facebook, “If you go on Amazon and type in butt plug in the search window, you’ll see a number of them for sale, with sales ranking attached! So, it’s okay to rank butt plugs but not books?” Alas yes. One only finds erogenous things as butt plugs (and whips too!) when specifically searching them out.

Whosoever has been an Amazon associate for years now – but if this situation is not rectified, and soon, we will be disassociating from them and moving on to another bookstore.

In the meantime, I suggest you head over the Indiebooks.org and check out their selection. It’s time to get serious about supporting our independent bookstores instead of the homophobic box stores and online stores.

Update: Some books have had their sales ranks restored, but Bulletproof Faith is NOT one of them. We haven’t won this battle yet.

We Heart the Heartland

Iowa’s approval of same-sex marriage is a vindication for Midwesterners. For a long time, they’ve been seen as rednecks and rubes. But as those of us who live in the Heartland, or have family there, can attest, many are simply decent and well-meaning folks.

Because my own relatives hail from Howard Lake, Minnesota, I have a positive view of Heartlanders. They have steadfastly supported me since I came out. Holding stalwartly to progressive values like tolerance, environmental sustainability and general social responsibility, they are forward-looking even as they hold to the very best traditional values. Iowans who embrace marriage equality for all are cut from the same, durably-quilted cloth.

Imagine my astonishment when I learned that baying-at-the-moon crazy anti-gay Rep. Michele Bachmann represents my relatives’ district! When I hear people make fun of the “kooks and bigots” who sent Bachmann to Washington, it hits uncomfortably close to home. But nobody in my family voted for Bachmann — though they’re stuck with her all the same.

There are loyal allies in the least-expected of places. There are also malignant homophobes in those that seem the most enlightened. Not everybody voted for Michele Bachmann. Nor did everybody support same-sex marriage in states like Iowa or Vermont.

We are right, I think, to see hope in the Heartland because of Iowa’s stand for marriage equality. As we make friends with folks in other midwestern states, we will win them over, too.

My uncle, in his eighties, is working to make his little Lutheran church more welcoming. My cousins routinely support efforts to make their churches inclusive for all. And GLBT Christians who live in or visit the Midwest, out and proud as both GLBT and Christian, can do wonders to transform the hearts and minds of these religious folks. We can do a tremendous amount simply by being honestly ourselves. Truly, the time is past when we can remain closeted just for the sake of our own, personal comfort.

When we have won the Heartland, we will have won America’s heart.

Around the ‘Net

Here are some stories you may have missed:

– Steve Waldman and BeliefNet sheds light on Rick Warren’s recent equivocations over his stand on same-gender marriage. I hear backpeddling is good exercise – Rick could use some.

– Conservative columnist Jack Elgin – in a long and rambling article – makes the conservative case for same-gender marriage. Read it all if you’ve got the time, but here’s the money shot:

The primary role of government is to protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but it itself is a tremendous potential threat to liberty. To use the power of government to enforce a moral code or force someone into a moral life is a violation of consevative principles and erodes the bedrock of liberty. Moral and aesthetic arguments are therefore useless when attempting to preserve the Western tradition of marriage as a social contract between a man and a woman. The last argument, that the contract of marriage serves a vital role in building the family as the basic unit of American society for raising the next generation, fails to demonstrate where non-standard unions are either grossly inadequate to the same task, or harmful to these other unions by their existence.

– Same-sex marriage apparently leads to mass murder. Who knew?

– And, saving the best for last, Mark Morford at the San Francisco Chronicle dissects the TV ad portraying same-gender marriage as the “gathering storm” that will destroy us ALL!!!!! Fear the rainbow!

Hard Life for Iraqi Gays

While we rightly celebrate the marriage victories in Iowa and Vermont these past few days, it’s good to remember our LGBT brothers and sisters whose struggles are greater than our own. In Iraq, for instance, homosexuality it against the law, and the LGBT movement there is facing more than just a little discrimination:

In the past two months, the bodies of as many as 25 boys and men suspected of being gay have turned up in the huge Shiite enclave of Sadr City, the police and friends of the dead say. Most have been shot, some multiple times. Several have been found with the word “pervert” in Arabic on notes attached to their bodies, the police said.

“Three of my closest friends have been killed during the past two weeks alone,” said Basim, 23, a hairdresser. “They had been planning to go to a cafe away from Sadr City because we don’t feel safe here, but they killed them on the way. I had planned to go with them, but fortunately I didn’t.”

The scary thing here is that it’s not just death squads out shooting complete strangers because they might be gay, some of these LGBT people are being killed by their own family members.

“I don’t care about the militias anymore, because they’re going to kill me anyway — today, tomorrow or the day after,” said a man named Sa’ad, who has been taking estrogen and has developed small breasts. “I hate my community and my relatives. If they had their way, the result would be one gunshot.”

This violent persecution has not prevented LGBT people in Iraq from gathering together. We need to keep them in our prayers as they seek to live authentically in a country that not just oppresses them, but kills them.

Blair to Pope – Use Your Brain, Man!

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has a message for the pope – time to ditch the church’s official homophobia!

“We need an attitude of mind where rethinking and the concept of evolving attitudes becomes part of the discipline with which you approach your religious faith,” Blair told Attitude magazine, a publication targeted at gay people.

During Blair’s premiership, Britain enacted legislation introducing civil partnerships, giving gay and lesbian couples legal recognition of their relationships, allowing them the same rights in areas like work, pensions and inheritance as heterosexual couples.

Asked about the pope’s comments on homosexuality — he has in the past suggested that it is as much of a threat to the survival of humanity as climate change — Blair replied that “there is a huge generational difference here.”

“And there’s probably that same fear amongst religious leaders that if you concede ground on an issue like this, because attitudes and thinking evolve over time, where does that end?

“You’d start having to rethink many, many things.”

Blair recently became a Catholic. Hopefully he can have some positive influence in the church!

Let’s Hear it for Vermont!

Vermont becomes the fourth state to legalize same-gender marriage. The legislature the governor’s veto by a decisive margin:

The Legislature voted Tuesday to override Gov. Jim Douglas’ veto of a bill allowing gays and lesbians to marry. The vote was 23-5 to override in the state Senate and 100-49 to override in the House. Under Vermont law, two-thirds of each chamber had to vote for override.

The vote came nine years after Vermont adopted its first-in-the-nation civil unions law.

It’s now the fourth state to permit same-sex marriage. Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa are the others. Their approval of gay marriage came from the courts.

Now, will a warm weather state step up to the plate and do the right thing???

HRC’s Harry Knox Appointed to Faith-Based Advisory Council

This is good news for the whole GLBT community! Harry is faithful and compassionate man.

WASHINGTON — The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, announced today that HRC Foundation Religion and Faith Director Harry Knox will join the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, an interfaith council of religious and secular leaders and scholars. The council will be comprised of 25 members, each appointed to serve a one-year term.

“I am humbled by the invitation to join President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships,” said Harry Knox, director of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Religion and Faith Program. “I hope this council will draw upon the richness of our unique perspectives to advise the president on policies that will improve the lives of all the people we have been called to serve. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is eager to help the Administration achieve its goals around economic recovery and fighting poverty; fatherhood and healthy families; inter-religious dialogue; care for the environment; and global poverty, health and development. And, of course, we will support the President in living up to his promise that government has no place in funding bigotry against any group of people.”

President Barack Obama signed an executive order on February 5 to establish the new White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Led by Joshua Dubois, the office was created to allow religious and community leaders to make policy recommendations to the President’s Cabinet Secretaries and each of the eleven agency offices for faith-based and neighborhood partnerships.

To learn more about the Religion & Faith Program at the Human Rights Campaign, visit: www.hrc.org/religion.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.