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15 October 2011

Praise: Study on LGBTQ Youth from UIUC

Professors Joseph P. Robinson and Dorothy L. Espelage of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have published a new study, Inequities in Psychological Outcomes Between LGBTQ and Straight Students in Middle and High School.  The study was published in the October 2011 Educational Researcher, a journal of the American Educational Research Association.

Here is the abstract from the study:

This study finds that, compared with straight-identified youth, youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ) are at greater risk of suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, victimization by peers, and elevated levels of unexcused absences from school. Results disaggregated by LGBTQ subgroups reveal heterogeneity within the broad LGBTQ group, with bisexual youth appearing to be particularly at risk. Also, although the risk gaps in school belongingness and unexcused absences are significant in high school, we find that these gaps are significantly greater in middle school, suggesting heightened early risk for LGBTQ-identified students. By raising awareness of educational inequities related to LGBTQ identification, this study lays the descriptive groundwork for interventions aimed at improving psychological and educational outcomes for these students.

It is incredibly important that this research is ongoing.  Only by understanding what is really happening with today's youth in the schools can we properly address their needs.  Both Dr. Espelage and Dr. Robinson discuss the risk factors and how to begin addressing those risk factors in an interview that is posted on YouTube.  We are fortunate to have such dedicated researchers doing this important work.  It gives one real hope for the future.

Repudiation: FRC's Top Ten Myths About Homosexuality

As I mentioned in my repudiation of Citizens for Community Values, the Family Research Council has a lie-filled brochure called the Top 10 Myths about Homosexuality.  Time to debunk them.

Myth No. 1:  People are born gay.
Fact:  The research does not show that anyone is “born gay,” and suggests instead that homosexuality results from a complex mix of developmental factors.

No.  While the research does indicate that the factors that create sexuality are complex, the link to genetics is real.  First an article on what American researchers say.  And second an article on a study out of England and Sweden.  Even if the causes of sexual orientation were environmental, it does not make sense that any person would choose to be part of a group subject to legal discrimination and violence like gay-bashing.

Myth No. 2:  Sexual orientation can never change.
Fact:  Thousands of men and women have testified to experiencing a change in their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. Research confirms that such change does occur—sometimes spontaneously, and sometimes as a result of therapeutic interventions.

No.  While it is possible for any human to participate in sex with any other human, one's sexual orientation appears to be fixed.  A British study released last year calls for banning conversion therapy, the so-called therapeutic interventions, because it does not work.  The American Psychiatric Association came to this conclusion a decade ago.

Myth No. 3:  Efforts to change someone’s sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual are harmful and unethical.
Fact :  There is no scientific evidence that change efforts create greater harm than the homosexual lifestyle itself. The real ethical violation is when clients are denied the opportunity to set their own goals for therapy.

No.  Again, look at the position of The American Psychiatric Association.  There is real potential harm.  For anecdotal evidence, look to the experience of someone like Patrick Strudwick.  The Southern Poverty Law Center also has a recent exploration of "Destructive Conversion Therapy".

Myth No. 4:  Ten percent of the population is gay.
Fact:  Less than three percent of American adults identify themselves as homosexual or bisexual.

Maybe.  It is challenging to get solid data.  The U.S. Census is not tracking homosexuality.  Even if they were, the numbers are likely to be skewed.  Gay children are often not out to their parents and even if they are out the parents may not record their children's statements.  Many adults in the LGBTQ community are still in the closet at work.  As the FRC brochure notes, it was Dr. Kinsey who estimated that ten percent of the population is gay.  The real numbers are not known.  Of course, even if it was one tenth of a percent who were LGBTQ, that would not justify discrimination.

Myth No. 5:  Homosexuals do not experience a higher level of psychological disorders than heterosexuals.
Fact :  Homosexuals experience considerably higher levels of mental illness and substance abuse than heterosexuals. A detailed review of the research has shown that “no other group of comparable size in society experiences such intense and widespread pathology.”

No.  The research cited is by a group called the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, a group that has been discredited.  See the discussion on Truth Wins Out.  The members of NARTH who deal in so-called conversion therapy had a very high number of suicides among their patients.  This claim cannot be found among reputable doctors or scientists.

Myth No. 6:  Homosexual conduct is not harmful to one’s physical health.
Fact:  Both because of high-risk behavior patterns, such as sexual promiscuity, and because of the harm to the body from specific sexual acts, homosexuals are at greater risk than heterosexuals for sexually transmitted diseases and other forms of illness and injury.

No.  The experts are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Here is a paragraph from that page:

In addition to considering the needs of LGBT people in programs designed to improve the health of entire communities, there is also a need for culturally competent medical care and prevention services that are specific to this population. Social inequality is often associated with poorer health status, and sexual orientation has been associated with multiple health threats. Members of the LGBT community are at increased risk for a number of health threats when compared to their heterosexual peers [1-5]. Differences in sexual behavior account for some of these disparities, but others are associated with social and structural inequities, such as the stigma and discrimination that LGBT populations experience.

While there are certainly higher rates of some diseases in the LGBTQ community, the causes are far more complex and sometimes brought on by stress from the hate produced by groups like the FRC.

Myth No. 7:  Children raised by homosexuals are no different from children raised by heterosexuals, nor do they suffer harm.
Fact:  An overwhelming body of social science research shows that children do best when raised by their own biological mother and father who are committed to one another in a lifelong marriage. Research specifically on children of homosexuals has major methodological problems, but does show specific differences.

No.  As seen in a study released at the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2005, children raised by homosexuals tend to do very well.  An article in the Journal of Marriage and Family last year found that same sex couples can be effective parents.  The FRC data is biased and out of date.

Myth No. 8:  Homosexuals are no more likely to molest children than heterosexuals.
Fact:  Sexual abuse of boys by adult men is many times more common than consensual sex between adult men, and most of those engaging in such molestation identify themselves as homosexual or bisexual.

No.  Dr. Herek of the University of California at Davis has done a significant review of the data, concluding

The empirical research does not show that gay or bisexual men are any more likely than heterosexual men to molest children. This is not to argue that homosexual and bisexual men never molest children. But there is no scientific basis for asserting that they are more likely than heterosexual men to do so. And, as explained above, many child molesters cannot be characterized as having an adult sexual orientation at all; they are fixated on children.

One detail from the U.S. Department of Justice,

Females were more than six times as likely as males to be the victims of sexual assaults known to law enforcement agencies. More specifically, 86% of all victims of sexual assault were female. The relative proportion of female victims generally increased with age. Sixty-nine percent of victims under age 6 were female, compared with 73% of victims under age 12, and 82% of all juvenile (under age 18) victims. The female proportion of sexual assault victims reached 90% at age 13 and 95% at age 19 (figure 3).

The FRC concern of adult men being homosexual child molesters does not fit with the number of female children molested.  In fact, it suggests that there is a larger problem with heterosexual child molesters.  (Not an accusation of anyone.  Every normal adult, gay and straight, finds child molestation despicable).

Myth No. 9:  Homosexuals are seriously disadvantaged by discrimination.
Fact:  Research shows that homosexuals actually have significantly higher levels of educational attainment than the general public, while the findings on homosexual incomes are, at worst, mixed.

No.  In twenty-nine states, people can be fired because of their sexual orientation.  The Defense of Marriage Act means that couples who are legally married in one state are not recognized as married in other states.  Thirty-seven states allow for housing discrimination based on sexual orientation.  These are huge disadvantages.  Source:  Wikipedia.

Money is useful, but like every other group there are rich and poor and most in-between in the LGBTQ community.  When one's landlord can evict or one's job can be terminated because someone finds out that one is gay or lesbian, that is a serious disadvantage.

Myth No. 10:  Homosexual relationships are just the same as heterosexual ones, except for the gender of the partners.
Fact:  Homosexuals are less likely to enter into a committed relationship, less likely to be sexually faithful to a partner, even if they have one, and are less likely to remain committed for a lifetime, than are heterosexuals. They also experience higher rates of domestic violence than heterosexual married couples.

No.  Not only is gay marriage not more likely to lead to divorce, there is a correlation between legal gay marriage and lower overall divorce rates.  Gay marriage has not been around long enough to be sure, but initial data indicates that gay marriages are more stable than straight marriages on average.

The source for the claim of gay domestic violence is from NARTH, as discussed above, the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality is a group that has been discredited.  See the discussion on Truth Wins Out.  There is no reputable source for higher rates of domestic violence among homosexual couples.

So many lies in one brochure. 

Repudiation: Citizens for Community Values

Thanks to Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters and to Good As You for giving me a heads up about Citizens for Community Values, a group out of Ohio that is tightly associated with the American Family Association, the Family Research Council, and Focus on the Family (the AFA and FRC being documented Hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center).

The basis for CCV's animosity for homosexuality is based on a series of lies that they have on their website.

Both the Old and New Testaments clearly state God’s intention for human sexuality: the monogamous, lifelong sexual union of one man and one woman.

No.  The Bible is filled with polygamous marriage, going back to the Patriarchs of Judaism.

The destructive outcomes associated with homosexual behavior are numerous and they are well documented. Those destructive outcomes include AIDS, a much higher incidence and risk of sexually transmitted diseases, approximately three times the risk of alcoholism and drug abuse, a significantly higher rate of domestic violence and promiscuity, and a shortened life span.

HIV/AIDS is more common among homosexuals in some parts of the world and more common among heterosexuals in other parts of the world.  The virus that causes AIDS does not care if a person is gay or straight. 

I have heard that alcoholism and drug use does tend to be higher in the LGBTQ community than in the straight community, probably because of the stress caused by hate groups like CCV.  Gay-bashing and bullying have long term effects on the victims.

There is no evidence for a higher rate of domestic violence in the LGBTQ community. 

The "shortened life span" claim is not true; it was based on a study that has been debunked, both in the International Journal of Epidemiology and by Dr. Herek at the University of California at Davis

Of even more concern to the pro-family position than the unhealthy changes in these arenas, is the stronghold that has been established by gay and lesbian organizations in our schools. Powerful national organizations are behind the drive to homosexualize our schools-at the collegiate, secondary and even primary levels.

The most influential such organization, and a very well funded one, is GLSEN-Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network. Among other activities, this group organizes homosexual clubs and “gay-straight alliances” in our schools. From information gained on GLSEN’s own website, we know that GLSEN-sponsored clubs now exist in 19 school districts in the Greater Cincinnati area alone. The purpose of these clubs is to train gay and lesbian students for activism and to encourage “straight” students to experiment with homosexual behavior as defined above.

The purpose of GLSEN is to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes in creating a more vibrant and diverse community. We welcome as members any and all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity/expression or occupation, who are committed to seeing this philosophy realized in K-12 schools.  There is nothing about encouraging students to experiment with homosexual behavior.  It is about tolerance and acceptance.

Recently, schools across the nation have been encouraged to adopt “anti-bias” or “safe school” policies. The language, “anti-bias” and “safe school,” practically forbids opposition. Again, careful examination reveals the hidden agenda. The wording of these policies specifies “sexual orientation” and they have been used to associate all objections to homosexual behavior with “hate.” Students place themselves at risk of disciplinary action simply for stating their faith-based views on homosexual behavior.

There is no hidden agenda.  Equality, tolerance, and acceptance are not hidden.  The claim that students who express their religious beliefs are at risk is belied by real events such as one documented earlier here.

Persons who practice homosexual sodomy do not demonstrate any of the characteristics that identify disenfranchised classes. They are not discriminated against in any of the ways considered essential by the courts-economic status, educational opportunity or political representation. In fact, the level of education and the average income of homosexuals are considerably above the average education and income for the population in general. A study of their movement shows that they clearly enjoy all the legal rights and privileges of other citizens.

This is absurd.  That DOMA is still the law of the land is an easy example of a legal right that homosexuals are denied.  Homosexuals can be fired in twenty-nine of the fifty states

The CCV also includes a link to the FRC's "Top Ten Myths About Homosexuality", which I intend to address in a later blog entry.  So many lies as the basis for "protecting society".

14 October 2011

FollowUp 1: Voting Rights

As I wrote a week and a half ago, Republicans appear to be determined to make it more difficult to vote.  This week there are two interesting developments, one in Florida and the other in Wisconsin.  Florida is suing to remove Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the section that requires preclearance of changes to voting rules in parts of the country with a history of suppression of voting rights of minorities.  Wisconsin is considering changing how it participates in the Electoral College.

The Miami Herald reports that Florida Republicans are upset that the Justice Department did not allow four of the measures that they had tried to enact.

Those four sections reduce the number of early voting days, slap new requirements on groups conducting voter registration drives, require voters changing out-of-county addresses at the polls to cast provisional ballots and make it more difficult to get citizen initiatives on the ballot.

Only one of these measures has anything to do with preventing fraudulent voting, that being provisional ballots for those who have recently moved.  The other three measures just limit democracy.  The ACLU has a stronger opinion.  According to an article on Care2, the SCOTUS under Chief Justice Roberts is eager to take an activist stance and undo Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

Like Pennsylvania, the Wisconsin legislature is considering a bill to change from having a state majority determine the Wisconsin delegates to the Electoral College to having the delegates selected by Congressional district.  This would mean that the state would offer a split vote for President instead of a majority takes all vote.  Think Progress considers this to be a strictly partisan maneuver to limit President Obama to one term.

On general principle, I think that the Electoral College is a relic of days gone by that should be reconsidered.  It is not difficult to argue that the Electoral College denies representative democracy for the Executive branch of United States government.  Chopping away at it on a state by state basis is partisan and, if done, likely to favor the other party in a subsequent election.  If the Electoral College is to be changed or eliminated, it should be done for the entire country, not on a piecemeal basis.

3 October 2011, Original Pedantic Political Ponderings article.

22 October 2011, FollowUp 2.
6 November, FollowUp 3.
14 November 2011, FollowUp 4.
14 December 2011, FollowUp 5.
8 March 2012, FollowUp 6.
2 April 2012, FollowUp 7.
3 June 2012, FollowUp 8.

Support: Elizabeth Warran for US Senate

A few days ago I wrote a strong piece in favor of Tammy Baldwin as she begins running for the Senate in Wisconsin.  I must confess that I know less about Elizabeth Warren who is starting a run for the Senate in Massachusetts.  I've never met Ms. Warren, but what I have learned recently is impressive.

First, here is Ms. Warren's background story on YouTube.  She became known nationally with her call for regulation of the banking industry.  Here, two years ago, Ms. Warren explains her rationale to Dan Rather

As she begins her campaign, Ms. Warren has a fire in her belly and clear messages.  Interestingly, the Republican response depicts Ms. Warren with a scary overlay of effects (scary static, drumbeats, and angles) but no real response to her message.  Is that the best they can do in response?

I'm using the weaker term support for Ms. Warren because I have no idea where she stands on the environment or on LGBTQ issues.  On the latter, she appears to be comfortable talking with Rachel Maddow (the most recent interview was put on YouTube in two parts:  Part 1, Part 2), which doesn't say much.  I do think that in her field, the law and corporate finance issues, Ms. Warren is desperately needed in Washington, D.C.

13 October 2011

Repudiation: Wolf Killers, Oregon Dept of Fish and Wildlife

This is not a fantasy tale of werewolves or something fun.  There are only fourteen wolves in the state of Oregon.  Those fourteen are about to drop to twelve, including the planned murder of the pack leader.

It is not easy to defend wolves.  Our society has a long history of vilifying the wolf.  The Brothers Grimm always had the wolf as the murderer.  We fear for our pets, our children, and our livestock if there are any wolves in a very wide vicinity.

Let's clear up some of the myths.  Wolves are very good at culling the weak and the elderly from wild herds of deer and other smaller animals.  They do not kill for sport or because an outer garment is a nice shade of red.  Wolves are an endangered species because, in our irrational fear, we have hunted them to near extinction.  Since being placed on the Endangered Species List, wolves have made somewhat of a comeback.  Still, we prefer to bring in sharp shooters to control deer populations than risk living with wolves within a hundred miles of us.  Wolves do not prefer human prey.  As scary as they are, wolves fear us even more than we fear them.  Wolves do not tend to spread diseases.

There are more myths out there.  Learn more about wolves from National Geographic, the International Wolf Center, Western Wolves, and Defenders of Wildlife.  While these are wild and sometimes dangerous animals, we do not have to live in terror of them.

For the moment, the hunt is on hold by court order.  That order may be lifted soon.  The Center for Biological Diversity is seeking help to stop the hunt.

The fewer species that we have on our planet, the thinner the web of life that supports and sustains us.  We need to stop wiping out species.  The latest Department of the Interior Report on Endangered or Threatened Wildlife and Plants in the Federal Register notes on its next to last page the loss of two more species in Florida:

Florida Fairy Shrimp and South Florida Rainbow Snake

Because the information presented by petitioners as well as information in our files suggests that the species are already extinct, they do not meet the definition of an endangered species or a threatened species under the Act (section 3(6) and 3(20), respectively). Therefore, an analysis of the five threat factors was not appropriate.

Repudiation: Robert Jeffress Mixing Church and State

Many political pundits have either lauded or criticized Mr. Jeffress for his speech at the Value Voters Summit, introducing Mr. Perry.  The disapproval has even come from the right, as in this speech by Bill Bennett.  Mr. Jeffress has not backed down as here on CNN, many times calling the Mormon faith a cult.

The definition of Christianity has evolved somewhat over the years.  The most common yardstick for determining if a belief system is Christian is the Nicene Creed, dating back to around 325 C.E.  By this definition, there are a number of modern religions, including Mormon, Jehovah's Witness, and some others that call themselves Christian, that are not Christian.  From my outside vantage, as a Jew, it doesn't matter whether the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormon Church) is considered Christian or not, but it is a point of major controversy, particularly in the evangelical community.

None of that crosses the line between Church and State.  What might cross the line is a video of Mr. Jeffress on the pulpit of his church and accessible through the church websiteAmericans United for Separation of Church and State has asked the IRS to consider the 501(c)3, tax exempt, status of the First Baptist Church based on that video.

CNN has a piece that appears to support Americans United for Separation of Church and StateAssociated Baptist Press has a piece that appears to support Mr. JeffressThe American Family Association is weighing in on the side of Mr. Jeffress

The question really boils down to whether Mr. Jeffress and the First Baptist Church are in violation of the 501(c)3 statutes that prohibit political activity (pertinent section of the IRS code begins on page 7, in pdf format it is page 9 of IRS Guide 1828).  Based on the guidelines in the right column of page 8, it is my opinion that Mr. Jeffress crossed that line and that his tax exempt status should be in question.

Please note that I am not against Freedom of Speech for Mr. Jeffress.  I support his right to say anything he wants to say that does not lead to harm to others.  But, Freedom of Speech, the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, does not guarantee tax exempt status.  The establishment clause does not guarantee tax exempt status.  Actions, including speech, have consequences.  Mr. Jeffress may want to have only Christians who believe what he believes as President of the United States and he should have the freedom to express such bigotry.  However, my tax dollars should not be supporting his bigotry.

3 January 2012, FollowUp 1.

Praise: California Transgender Laws

Transgender, the 'T' in LGBTQ, is the toughest in sexuality for many of us to understand.  If one is straight, gay, or lesbian, then the sexual orientation is very clear.  No confusion.  If one is bi, then either gender is attractive and, while others are confused, the bi individual can be as comfortable with herself or himself as a straight, gay, or lesbian person.  People who are transgender are not comfortable with who they appear to be.  For anyone who is comfortable in their own skin (other than the details like wanting to lose a few pounds), it doesn't make sense that someone might not be as comfortable with themselves.

Not easily understanding another person, of course, does not make it right to discriminate.  California has two new laws as of 10 October, the Gender Nondiscrimination Act and the Vital Statistics Modernization Act.  There are articles on these at the Huffington Post and at Care2 (among others).  The Gender Nondiscrimination Act deals with gender identity and expression, which clarifies existing non-discrimination laws and makes transgender persons a protected class.  The Vital Statistics Modernization Act lets a person update their ID with their doctor's verification and without the need for proof of surgery.  San Francisco's Transgender Law Center is hailing both laws as huge victories.

It would be wonderful to live in a world where this was a non-issue.  Sadly, those who hate and fear are not going away.  Catholic Online does not approve of equality.  Here are the last two paragraphs of their article:

The laws mark the latest in a round of increasingly government sponsored changes to the culture in California. As the state steadily moves away from the two parent, heterosexual marriage - and the family and society founded upon it - it is apparently trying to stand out as a leader in promoting the homosexual equivalency movement and a cultural revolution.

While few will argue against equality and legal protection for all citizens, critics say the new laws are much more than that. They reflect a fundmantal [sic] re-making of of the social order and an erosion of the marriage bound, heterosexual, two parent family as the foundation for civil society in America.

Like sexuality, being transgender is not a choice.  The only choice for such a person is whether to go through a major surgery to bring their body into alignment with their identity.  This is not just my opinion, but that of the American Psychological Association in a lengthy (106 page) study.  Among the reports recommendations are:

• Amend the Equal Employment Opportunity and Anti-Harassment sections in the APA Policies and Procedures Manual to include gender identity and gender expression.
• Ensure that all APA policies that make reference to gender identity be amended to include gender expression as well.

The American Medical Association also opposes discrimination against transgender persons.  We can only hope that eventually we can move beyond the hate and fear that makes such policies necessary.

12 October 2011

FollowUp 1: Elaine Donnelly's response to Pentagon Memo allows Chaplains to Perform Same-Sex Marriages

The very first posting on Pedantic Political Ponderings was repudiating a response to the Pentagon authorizing military chaplains to perform same sex weddings if local and state laws allowed.  Elaine Donnelly was one of several who made absurd claims that chaplains would be required to officiate at same sex weddings or that the chaplains would be leaving the military rather than have the religious beliefs compromised or other silly claims.

Today, ABC News reports that the military chaplains are comfortable with making individual decisions about whether to officiate at particular marriages (just like the decisions they would be making if not in the military).  Here's a short quote from the article.

However,  military chaplains contacted by ABC News say whatever decisions they make about performing such unions will depend less on the political arena and more on religious principles and personal conscience.

“The Pentagon can issue a policy change concerning the performance of same-gender ceremonies by chaplains.  However, the Pentagon doesn’t generate religion as such,” says Gary Pollitt, a spokesman for the Military Chaplains Association, which represents 1,600 current and retired military chaplains.

In an e-mail statement he adds, “A military chaplain conducts religious ceremonies and rites in keeping with the canons [or beliefs, doctrine, policies] of the religious faith group that endorses that chaplain.  Each faith group defines the parameters for religious rites and the clergyperson’s individual discretion [if any] with those rites. ”

This sounds rather like what I wrote two weeks ago.  Not a surprise.  The Pentagon would neither want to alienate its chaplains by forcing them to perform ceremonies that they feel they should not perform nor does it want to violate the First Amendment.  The policy on marriage for military chaplains simply makes sense.

Please forgive a repeat of my long term prediction:

The repeal of DADT and subsequent adjustments of military policy will end up strengthening the United States military.  When soldiers do not need to hide who they are, they will be more confident fighters.  When soldiers are not making assumptions about their fellow soldiers, they will be more confident fighters.  The necessary social bonding of our soldiers and sailors will enhance performance in the long run.

Praise: California's SB-48

Introduced in December 2010 and enacted this year, SB-48 is perhaps the most wide-reaching law for inclusion of all groups in social studies classes in public schools.  I had mentioned this briefly in discussing the mayoral candidates for San Diego, but had not explained why this is praiseworthy or the ongoing obstacles.

Groups that must be included in social studies in California now include "men and women, Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, European Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, and members of other ethnic and cultural groups.  Instructional materials and activities "must not reflect adversely upon persons on the basis of race or ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, nationality, or sexual orientation".  The full law is online.

It currently looks like efforts to overturn SB-48 are going to fail.  The repeal effort is not going to be the end of the hatred.  Let's look directly at the lies on the Stop SB-48 website.

Implementing SB 48 would require the use of extensive taxpayer dollars to review, revise, and adopt curriculum with an eye to promoting a political agenda instead of with an eye to promoting successful education. SB 48 costs California’s taxpayers, students, and schools too much.

No.  Textbooks rotation varies from state to state and district to district, but purchasing new materials, after a full review process, will happen with or without SB-48.  The costs do not change.

Even if SB 48 were not so costly, it would be a harmful bill because it goes too far in its attempts to keep bisexual, transgender, and homosexual individuals from being offended. California law prohibits bullying, and rightly so. But SB 48 moves beyond provisions regarding bullying and crosses a line into indoctrination.

No.  Read the law.  There is inclusion and lack of bigotry in the process, no indoctrination.

It uses all social science curriculum, including history books and other instructional materials, to teach children as young as five not only to accept but also to endorse transgenderism, bisexuality, and homosexuality, looking to individuals with these lifestyles as models and viewing their sexual lifestyles positively.

No.  Accept, but not endorse.  The law has nothing about endorsement.  When an individual has done great or horrific things, things worthy of note in a social studies text, that should be included.  If they have done great things and are not heterosexual, that is part of who they are and should be included.  Doing so does increase acceptance of LGBTQ persons as normal, but does not change who the students are.

SB 48 has been referred to as “The Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act” and the Attorney General’s office has given our referendum the official title, “Referendum to Overturn Non-Discrimination Requirements for School Instruction.” But SB 48′s wishful approach to education does not address discrimination or deal fairly and accurately with the facts of history.

I can't help but wonder what the Stop-48 people were reading.  The bill is clear, it does address discrimination, and it does deal fairly and accurately with the facts of history.

SB 48 is inconsistent with accepted and legally-established standards of fair and accurate history.

If they are claiming that SB-48 changes the old standard where the LGBTQ community is ignored or vilified, then this claim is correct.  Fair and inclusive treatment of minorities has not always been true in social studies courses.

The bill prohibits materials that contain “any matter reflecting adversely upon persons on the basis of” membership in a protected class such as race, ethnicity, or nationality. Yet it fails to define adverse reflection or provide standards for determining whether an adverse reflection was made on a legal basis. This vagueness allows challenges against any curriculum that discusses a single human action in a negative light, presenting curriculum writers, teachers, and school districts with a legal dilemma.

I hope that it is glaringly obvious that there is a huge difference between saying that someone is a thief who is of a particular group and saying that someone is of a particular group and therefore is a thief.  That is the "vagueness" which is not really very vague.

The Stop-48 arguments go on and each can easily be refuted based on common sense and based on the actual text of the law.

So, why write about this now, when the timeline to overturn SB-48 has nearly run out?  It is important to document the bigotry and hatred and have a clear record of what discrimination looks like so that it can be more easily fought against in the future.

The big fear is that of indoctrination.  There is an irrational fear that exposure to anyone in the LGBTQ community, particularly if that exposure is in a positive light, might somehow make it easier for children to become gay or become transgender.  The fact is that children are not going to change who they are because of SB-48 or anything else, the American Medical Association makes this clear in their policy statement.

23 October 2011, FollowUp 1.

28 November 2011, FollowUp 2.

9 December 2011, FollowUp 3.

28 January 2012, FollowUp 4.

11 October 2011

Praise: Cyndi Lauper Gives a Damn

Being different, whether LGBTQ or nerdy or too tall or too short or too fat or too skinny or whatever seems abnormal to one's family or community, is never easy.  Being rejected and ejected from one's home goes beyond not easy.  Cyndi Lauper, perhaps best know for Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, wrote an article for the Huffington Post about the need to take care of youth who have been kicked out.  This is about a group that Ms. Lauper started called the Give a Damn Campaign.  Raising awareness and working to improve conditions for those who are the least empowered is certainly praiseworthy.

Endorsement: Tammy Baldwin for US Senate (WI)

This blog is focused on politics, particularly on LGBTQ politics, progressive politics, environmental politics, and education politics (and more when the whim strikes).  That a politician is gay or lesbian is nice, but that does not guarantee my vote.  I will happily vote for a straight politician who is a progressive environmentalist over a gay politician who is not.  An endorsement is neither offered frequently nor lightly.

Representative Baldwin is strong in three of my four primary interests, the first three above.  Ms. Baldwin is the first homosexual elected to Congress who was out before the election.  I had the pleasure of hearing her in person as she fought to prevent a Wisconsin amendment to bar marriage equality; unfortunately without success.  Her stands on DADT, DOMA, ENDA, and other legislation is solid in support of real equality.

As a progressive, Ms. Baldwin is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and is always placing the needs of her constituents and country ahead of other interests.  As one example of her stands, see Ms. Baldwin's recent Huffington Post article on the Afghanistan War.  Interestingly, she voted to go to war in Afghanistan and against going to war in Iraq.  Her rationale is clear in her article.

As an environmentalist, Ms. Baldwin serves on the subcommittee on environment and economy of the committee on energy and commerce.

I will not be voting for Ms. Baldwin as I do not reside or vote in the state of Wisconsin.  It is a purple state which has recently gone deep red in limiting unions under a fiction of saving the budget.  Nonetheless, as the seat currently held by Herb Kohl in the Senate opens, Tammy Baldwin is worthy of strong consideration.  Ms. Baldwin's campaign website is sparse, but her record is excellent.  Read more about her on Wikipedia.

FollowUp 2: Discrimination Upside Down

With thanks to Joe.My.God, as is often the case for finding interesting news, there is a third New York town clerk who is now discriminated against because she will not do her job.  Ms. Sheldon's post on YouTube is interesting in that she started out by doing the right thing, resigning since she feels that she cannot do her job based on her religious beliefs.  The "Courage Campaign" seems to think that she is the victim of marriage equality in New York.

Of course, this is all upside down.  If a judge has two people come before the court who are legally entitled to wed, the judge does not have a choice.  The wedding does not include the judge's endorsement, the endorsement is by the state.  The same is true for the town clerk who issues licenses to wed.  There is no personal endorsement.  Often a clerk will have never met the people who plan to marry.  The clerk's job is to certify that the forms have been filled out correct and that all of the criteria required by the state have been fulfilled.  I can respect Ms. Sheldon's choice to resign.  If she is now a victim, then discrimination is upside down.

6 October 2011, Original Pedantic Political Ponderings article

10 October 2011, FollowUp 1

16 November 2011, FollowUp 3

FollowUp 2: Republican Denial of Climate Change

The evidence of climate change is not limited to studies by one scientist or one country.  The British Royal Geographical Society has an exhibit that opened last week in London, Rivers of Ice: Vanishing Glaciers of the Great Himalaya that offers visual proof of what the Republican candidates continue to deny.  The linked document has two pictures on the first page that are a must-see.

1 October 2011 Original Pedantic Political Ponderings post.
10 October 2011, FollowUp 1.

17 October 2011, FollowUp 3.
21 October 2011, FollowUp 4.
27 October 2011, FollowUp 5.
30 November 2011, FollowUp 6.
29 January 2012, FollowUp 7.
15 February 2012, FollowUp 8.
18 February 2012, FollowUp 9.
2 March 2012, FollowUp 10.
11 March 2012, FollowUp 11.
4 June 2012, FollowUp 12.

10 October 2011

FollowUp 1: Discrimination Upside Down

Four days ago, I wrote about three instances where people are discriminating and, while doing so, crying that they are discriminated against.  The NY county clerk situation is repeated with another clerk who resigned over what she considers religious discrimination.  Here is a YouTube link of Ms. Fotusky.  (Thanks for the link to Joe.My.God).

6 October 2011, Original Pedantic Political Ponderings article

11 October 2011, FollowUp 2

16 November 2011, FollowUp 3

FollowUp 1: Republican Denial of Climate Change

A week and a half ago, I wrote about the Republican Denial of Climate Change.  It was the next day that the science journal Nature published an article, Unprecedented Arctic ozone loss in 2011.  The article discusses much greater loss of ice as a result of greater loss of ozone, the science that most of the national Republican candidates continue to deny.  This is bad.  The last line from the abstract:

We cannot at present predict when such severe Arctic ozone depletion may be matched or exceeded.

1 October 2011, Original Pedantic Political Ponderings post.

11 October 2011, FollowUp 2.
17 October 2011, FollowUp 3.
21 October 2011, FollowUp 4.
27 October 2011, FollowUp 5.
30 November 2011, FollowUp 6.
29 January 2012, FollowUp 7.
15 February 2012, FollowUp 8.
18 February 2012, FollowUp 9.
2 March 2012, FollowUp 10.
11 March 2012, FollowUp 11.
4 June 2012, FollowUp 12.

Praise: Metropolitan Community Churches

Today's Huffington Post has an article by Nancy Wilson, the head of the Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC).  Dr. Wilson focuses on the different approaches to sexuality and charity between the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) and MCC.  Before continuing, I should note that I am Jewish and take no religious side between any of the factions of Christianity.

The only reason that this caught my eye is because the RCC has been regularly attempting to influence American politics.  The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States begins with

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

Read liberally, there is little to prevent any religious body from attempting to influence U.S. politics.  The First Amendment ensures that the United States will not be a theocracy and will favor no religion more than any other.  So far so good.

It should be no surprise that religions and, in the case of the MCC and the RCC, factions of a religion do not always agree.  The MCC welcomes people as full equals, requiring only faith in Jesus, without regard to sexuality.  The RCC, as evidenced by a letter from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to President Obama, does not welcome people as equals.

Of course, there is no rule that says that any religion has to welcome everyone.  I would be opposed to any such outside rule.  The First Amendment is a great guide ... let religions act for themselves, not by government directive.  If a religion wants to welcome only people who are over six feet tall, of Asian ancestry, and natural red-heads, that should be their right (although the congregation is probably going to be fairly small).

But even as the government should not going butting into the internal rules of a religion, I would like the opposite to be true.  Sadly, it is not.  In addition to the RCC, many evangelical protestant organizations attempt to sway politics, like the Liberty Counsel, affiliated with the church of the late Jerry Falwell, the American Family Association, originally Methodist and now the church of Bryan Fischer, and some non-Christian groups like the Orthodox/Hassidic Jews of Brooklyn.

It is refreshing that Dr. Wilson is speaking against the bigotry of the RCC:

As the head of the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) with churches in 40 countries, I can tell you that church dictates against gay people cause real harm, and I will not stay silent. I speak because Jesus sided with the poor and socially outcast people who were daily excoriated by the religious leaders of his day.

Would that she did not have a reason to do speak against the RCC.  I'll give Dr. Wilson the last word on this, from the end of her article:

Bishop Dolan! Catholic officials! Listen to your people. More Catholics in the pews support marriage equality than any other Christian faith group. Bishop Dolan, hit the restart button on the Gospel. You don't have to read between the lines to know that we are called to love and serve, not judge and condemn. I call that good news.

09 October 2011

Repudiation: Sen. Santorum on DADT

Today's Huffington Post has an article on Sen. Santorum's appearance on the Fox News Sunday show this morning.  (I first saw the link at Joe.My.God).  Mr. Wallace baited Mr. Santorum with a quote from Col. Householder at the time of military desegregation; a quote which fits as easily for those who are continuing to fight the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT).

"The problem is that sexual activity with people who you are in close quarters with who happen to be of the same sex is different than being open about your sexuality," Santorum said on "Fox News Sunday."

So, a fair question might be 'How does the military treat unwanted sexual activity?'  The answer has two parts.  The first involves the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), which is the letter of the law.  The second is how it is carried out in practice.

By my reading, there are three articles in the UCMJ that appear to be germane.  The first is an article on rape,


The second is an article on sodomy,


and the third is the "general article", which may be the most important,   


The general article is worth quoting in whole:

Though not specifically mentioned in this chapter, all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and crimes and offenses not capital, of which persons subject to this chapter may be guilty, shall be taken cognizance of by a general, special or summary court-martial, according to the nature and degree of the offense, and shall be punished at the discretion of that court.

Any unwanted or non-consensual sexual activity in the military that does not fall under articles 120 and 125 is clearly addressed, as such activity would harm good order and discipline. It is that simple.

In practice, the Stars and Stripes has a pre-repeal of DADT article that appears to fit for the purpose of discussion. In short, a Command Sgt. Maj. was frustrated with the bragging (size of genitalia) of his driver, stuck his hand down his driver's shorts and touched him through his underwear. There was no consent for this act and no direct-skin contact (as would be necessary for either of the first two UCMJ articles cited above). The Command Sgt. Maj. was sent before a courts martial, demoted and given a formal reprimand.

While the driver's bragging was inappropriate, the response crossed an important line. That line, the same line that Sen. Santorum so fears will be crossed by gays in the military, was crossed by one heterosexual with another heterosexual. It was wrong when done by a heterosexual and would be equally wrong if done by a homosexual. The military, with its UCMJ, already has the situation covered.

I don't expect that Mr. Santorum will stop appealing to bigotry. He has a long history of telling lies and distortions of the LGBTQ community. It was a series of his lies that provoked Dan Savage into creating Mr. Santorum's Google problem (link is NSFW). Still the lies need to be countered. The United States military and people in general are far better than Mr. Santorum believes.

17 October 2011, FollowUp 1

Praise: San Diego Mayoral Candidates

Something subtle is happening in the mayoral race in San Diego.  Bonnie Dumanis and Carl DeMaio are two of three Republicans (there is also one Democrat, an unlikely party to win in San Diego) running for Mayor.  Both Ms. Dumanis and Mr. DeMaio are gay.  This is in the same city where Mayor Jerry Sanders alienated much of the Republican party by his support for his lesbian daughter.  An AP story gives a lot of background.

Why am I praising Republicans?  First, I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat.  I have a Progressive ideology but do not have strict party loyalty.  Second, I am endorsing none of the contenders.  I don't pretend to know enough about San Diego politics today.  Third, and the important reason for praise, is that both are openly gay but that isn't part of either platform.

President Obama will forever be known as our first Black President.  However, he did not run to be the "Black President", he ran to be President.  That is an important distinction.  The same can be said of either Ms. Dumanis or Mr. DeMaio if they win as Mayor.  We begin to overcome our fear of the other, the unknown, when that other becomes commonplace.

Hate groups, well documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, are most effective when they dehumanize their targets, making us less real and more scary.  By being present, human, and gay, Ms. Dumanis and Mr. DeMaio are making a real long-term difference, whether they win or lose.

An interesting twist to the Republican side of the race is that the third Republican contender, Nathan Fletcher is the only Republican Assemblyman to vote for SB-48, the California law that requires that schools include fair instruction in social studies of gays and lesbians as well as many minority groups.  The real text of SB-48 has little to do with a lie-filled campaign to overturn the new law.  But, with Mr. Fletcher as a gay-friendly Republican, it is a very interesting Republican Mayoral field, worthy of praise.