No Cause for Despair

First published November 22, 2004, in The New Republic.

It would be hard to understate the pervasive despair that gripped gay Americans as the results of Nov. 2 began to trickle and then flood into their consciousness. With the victory of 11 state amendments banning relationship rights, and with the religious right exultant that its opposition to homosexuality had brought an already anti-gay administration to power with a new mandate, the mood tipped close to dread. The playwright Larry Kramer, with his usual gift for moderation, told a packed house in downtown Manhattan, "I hope we all realize that, as of Nov. 2, gay rights are officially dead. And that, from here on, we are going to be led even closer to the guillotine." He was not the only one feeling that way.

For their part, the Democrats also seemed poised to blame their small but decisive loss on the push for equal marriage rights. Sen. Dianne Feinstein proclaimed that the movement had gone "too far too fast." Rep.Barney Frank pinned responsibility on the shoulders of San Francisco's Mayor Gavin Newsom, arguing that his extralegal sanctioning of marriages for gay couples had unleashed a backlash that had swept George W. Bush back to power. That was the sentiment, and that was the spin. In the immediate aftermath of the election, with Bill Bennett calling the result a mandate for a new culture war, it was very difficult to resist.

But resist it we should, not least because it is morally cowardly. We should also resist it because it is untrue. By any objective measure, the civil rights movement of this generation has accomplished more in a short time than any civil rights movement before it. Yes, fear of homosexuality and the apocalyptic rhetoric of some religious right leaders propelled some rural and suburban voters to the polls. Yes, the way in which homosexuality was deployed as an issue by a whole array of Republican candidates was obvious and, at times, repulsive. In Ohio, the critical state, that may have made a difference. But, nationally, the trend is toward approval of gay unions, not away from it - and that can help Democrats, provided they don't shy away from their convictions.

To be sure, 22 percent of the electorate said moral values was their prime concern. But "moral values" encompass not only marriage rights, but also abortion rights, divorce rates, presidential faith, and the powerful symbolism of tradition in a time of great danger and insecurity. The category has long been picked by voters in exit polls. In 1992, if you add the issues of abortion and family values together, the percentage claiming their vote was based on "moral values" was 27 percent. In 1996, when voters could pick two categories of concern to them, it soared to 49 percent. In 2000, it was again 49 percent, in part a reflection of Bill Clinton's character.

Broad moral issues have long been salient in U.S. elections. This year was no different. There were anti-gay union ballots in three swing states. Kerry won two of them. In eight out of 11 states with gay-union amendments, the increase in Bush's share of the vote compared with 2000 lagged behind the increase in his share of the national vote. Moreover, the broader climate showed remarkable acceptance of the union rights of gay couples. According to the exit polls, a full 62 percent of Americans favor either full marriage rights or civil unions for gay couples. Only 35 percent want what eight state amendments and the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) promise: no legal protections whatsoever. In the week before the election, the president himself came out in favor of civil unions.

When you look at the context, what is striking is how weak the backlash was, not how strong. Marriage rights for gays were unheard of two decades ago. Only an 11-year span marks the length of time since the first court decision for marriage equality came down in Hawaii. That effort failed, of course. Actual marriage equality in America has been around for a mere six months. Six months.

Backlash is not a rarity in civil rights movements. It is the norm. If the backlash against equal marriage rights extends to only 11 state bans a mere six months after the critical breakthrough, then the real story is how quickly those rights have become a part of the landscape, not the reverse. In Congress, the FMA fizzled. In Massachusetts, the epicenter of the struggle, the legislature tilted on November 2 toward those who favored marriage equality, rather than toward those who voted against it. In California, the civil unions that will come into effect next year as a result of legislation will carry with them almost all the rights that the state can apply to same-sex relationships, and the Republican governor has endorsed them.

Not only is the movement for marriage equality not on the brink of reversal, it is poised to grow stronger. The younger generation supports gay unions in far higher numbers than any other age group - and is more likely to vote Democratic. Gay rights, in other words, (as opposed to, say, Social Security) is one issue on which Democrats actually have a position that will become more popular in the years ahead. Bush understands this. And that is why the ugly appeal to homophobia was conducted at the grassroots level and under the national radar and why Bush's own rhetoric rarely diverged from positive comments about marriage to negative ones about gays or gay couples.

How do Democrats successfully deal with this issue? First, they must assert the federalist nature of the problem. In a country where San Francisco exists as well as Mobile, Alabama, a single national rule on this contentious issue can only provoke social conflict of the deepest kind. That means Democrats should oppose legalizing marriage rights nationally as strongly as they oppose banning them nationally. Let each state decide. That means opposing the FMA as an abuse of the U.S. Constitution and an infringement on states' rights (the FMA would void Massachusetts' marriages and Vermont's civil unions). This federalist point is not a liberal argument. It's a conservative one - and it will divide Republicans as effectively as it will unite Democrats.

Secondly, the Democrats should be relentless in exposing the real agenda of the religious right. That agenda is not about marriage. It is about stripping gay couples of all legal protections for their relationships. Eight of the state amendments that just passed do exactly that. So does the FMA, in banning not just marriage for gay couples but all of the "legal incidents" that go with it. That agenda is a national loser for the Republicans, which is why they never mention it, and even deny it outright. They must not be allowed to get away with it any longer. The extremism of the FMA needs to be broadcast from the rooftops. If it is, it will fail.

Lastly, the Democrats need to get over their squeamishness and defensiveness on this issue. The movement for equal marriage rights is, in fact, a centrist issue, and should be framed as such. Instead of speaking of it nervously as a matter of ending discrimination and implying that all opponents are somehow prejudiced, Democrats need to use the positive language of faith and family to defend the reform. It should be framed as a way to bring all members of the family into the unifying institution of marriage; it must be spoken of as an issue that upholds responsibility and fidelity. The very existence of gay people in every state and every city and every family in this country should always be mentioned. Bush is able to get away with his policies precisely because he never mentions the actual human beings they wound and marginalize. Democrats and inclusive Republicans must keep mentioning these people - their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. If they do, the inherent decency of the American people will win out.

This country is not a repository of bigotry. At its heart, America is a compassionate, inclusive place. But Americans need to hear the case for gay inclusion clearly and calmly and with conviction. That means resisting the easy option of proclaiming the heartland a bunch of rubes and morons, and it must mean a greater commitment by gay people and their families to explaining their own lives. It means less reliance on courts and more reliance on democratic persuasion. Every movement that has fought for those goals in this manner has won in the end in America. It will happen again. And it will happen sooner than anyone now thinks.

Integration Day

First published on May 17, 2004, in The New York Times.

Today is the day that gay citizens in this country cross a milestone of equality. Gay couples will be married in Massachusetts - their love and commitment and responsibility fully cherished for the first time by the society they belong to. It is also, amazingly enough, the day of the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruling that ended racial segregation in schools across America. We should be wary of facile comparisons. The long march of African-Americans to civil equality was and is deeply different from the experience and legacy of gay Americans. But in one respect, the date is fitting, for both Brown and this new day revolve around a single, simple and yet deeply elusive idea: integration.

It is, first, a human integration. Marriage, after all, is perhaps the chief mechanism for integrating new families into old ones. The ceremony is a unifying ritual, one in which peers and grandparents meet, best friends and distant relatives chatter. It's hard for heterosexuals to imagine being denied this moment. It is, after all, regarded in our civil religion as the "happiest day of your life." And that is why the denial of such a moment to gay family members is so jarring and cruel. It rends people from their own families; it builds an invisible but unscalable wall between them and the people they love and need.

You might think from some of the discussion of marriage rights for same-sex couples that homosexuals emerge fully grown from under a gooseberry bush in San Francisco. But we don't. We are born into families across the country in every shape and form imaginable. Allowing gay people to marry is therefore less like admitting a group of citizens into an institution from which they have been banned than it is simply allowing them to stay in the very families in which they grew up.

I remember the moment I figured out I was gay. Right then, I realized starkly what it meant: there would never be a time when my own family would get together to celebrate a new, future family. I would never have a relationship as valid as my parents' or my brother's or my sister's. It's hard to describe what this realization does to a young psyche, but it is profound. At that moment, the emotional segregation starts, and all that goes with it: the low self-esteem, the notion of sex as always alien to a stable relationship, the pain of having to choose between the family you were born into and the love you feel.

You recover, of course, and move on. But even when your family and friends embrace you, there is still the sense of being "separate but equal." And this is why the images from Massachusetts today will strike such a chord. For by insisting on nothing more nor less than marriage, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has abolished that invisible wall that divides families within themselves. This is an integration of the deepest kind.

It is, second, a civil integration. That is why the term gay marriage is a misnomer. Today is not the day "gay marriage" arrives in America. Today is the first time that civil marriage has stopped excluding homosexual members of our own families. These are not "gay marriages." They are marriages. What these couples are affirming is not something new; it is as old as humanity itself. What has ended - in one state, at least - is separatism. We have taken a step toward making homosexuality a non-issue; toward making gay citizens merely and supremely citizens.

This is why I am so surprised by the resistance of many conservatives to this reform. It is the most pro-family measure imaginable - keeping families together, building new ones, strengthening the ties between generations. And it is a profound rebuke to identity politics of a reductionist kind, to the separatism that divides our society into categories of gender and color and faith. This is why some elements of the old left once opposed such a measure, after all. How much more striking, then, that the left has been able to shed its prejudices more successfully than the right.

I cannot think of another minority whom conservatives would seek to exclude from family life and personal responsibility. But here is a minority actually begging for a chance to contribute on equal terms, to live up to exactly the same responsibilities as everyone else, to refuse to accept what President Bush calls the "soft bigotry of low expectations." And, so far, with some exceptions, gay citizens have been told no. Conservatives, with the president chief among them, have said to these people that they are beneath the dignity of equality and the promises of American life. They alone are beneath the fold of family.

But this time, these couples have said yes - and all the president can do (today, at least) is watch. It is a private moment and a public one. And it represents, just as Brown did in a different way, the hope of a humanity that doesn't separate one soul from another and a polity that doesn't divide one citizen from another. It is integration made real, a love finally come home: after centuries of pain and stigma, the "happiest day of our lives."

Why the ‘M’ Word Matters To Me

First published February 16, 2004, in Time magazine.

As a child, I had no idea what homosexuality was. I grew up in a traditional home - Catholic, conservative, middle class. Life was relatively simple: education, work, family. I was raised to aim high in life, even though my parents hadn't gone to college. But one thing was instilled in me. What mattered was not how far you went in life, how much money you earned, how big a name you made for yourself. What really mattered was family and the love you had for one another.

The most important day of your life was not graduation from college or your first day at work or a raise or even your first house. The most important day of your life was when you got married. It was on that day that all your friends and all your family got together to celebrate the most important thing in life: your happiness - your ability to make a new home, to form a new but connected family, to find love that put everything else into perspective.

But as I grew older, I found that this was somehow not available to me. I didn't feel the things for girls that my peers did. All the emotions and social rituals and bonding of teenage heterosexual life eluded me. I didn't know why. No one explained it. My emotional bonds to other boys were one-sided; each time I felt myself falling in love, they sensed it, pushed it away. I didn't and couldn't blame them. I got along fine with my buds in a nonemotional context, but something was awry, something not right. I came to know almost instinctively that I would never be a part of my family the way my siblings might one day be. The love I had inside me was unmentionable, anathema. I remember writing in my teenage journal one day, "I'm a professional human being. But what do I do in my private life?"

I never discussed my real life. I couldn't date girls and so immersed myself in schoolwork, the debate team, school plays, anything to give me an excuse not to confront reality. When I looked toward the years ahead, I couldn't see a future. There was just a void. Was I going to be alone my whole life? Would I ever have a most important day in my life? It seemed impossible, a negation, an undoing. To be a full part of my family, I had to somehow not be me. So, like many other gay teens, I withdrew, became neurotic, depressed, at times close to suicidal. I shut myself in my room with my books night after night while my peers developed the skills needed to form real relationships and loves. In wounded pride, I even voiced a rejection of family and marriage. It was the only way I could explain my isolation.

It took years for me to realize that I was gay, years more to tell others and more time yet to form any kind of stable emotional bond with another man. Because my sexuality had emerged in solitude - and without any link to the idea of an actual relationship - it was hard later to reconnect sex to love and self-esteem. It still is. But I persevered, each relationship slowly growing longer than the last, learning in my 20s and 30s what my straight friends had found out in their teens. But even then my parents and friends never asked the question they would have asked automatically if I were straight: So, when are you going to get married? When is your relationship going to be public? When will we be able to celebrate it and affirm it and support it? In fact, no one - no one - has yet asked me that question.

When people talk about gay marriage, they miss the point. This isn't about gay marriage. It's about marriage. It's about family. It's about love. It isn't about religion. It's about civil marriage licenses. Churches can and should have the right to say no to marriage for gays in their congregations, just as Catholics say no to divorce, but divorce is still a civil option. These family values are not options for a happy and stable life. They are necessities. Putting gay relationships in some other category - civil unions, domestic partnerships, whatever - may alleviate real human needs, but by their very euphemism, by their very separateness, they actually build a wall between gay people and their families. They put back the barrier many of us have spent a lifetime trying to erase.

It's too late for me to undo my past. But I want above everything else to remember a young kid out there who may even be reading this now. I want to let him know that he doesn't have to choose between himself and his family anymore. I want him to know that his love has dignity, that he does indeed have a future as a full and equal part of the human race. Only marriage will do that. Only marriage can bring him home.

If It’s Not a Crime to be Gay, Why Can’t We Get Married?

It didn't take long for many social conservatives to ponder the long-term implications of the Supreme Court's recent decision to strike down all antisodomy laws in the U.S. Moves are afoot to advance a constitutional amendment that would bar any state's legalization of same-sex marriage; next week [October 12-18] is "Marriage Protection Week," in which the alleged danger of Lawrence v. Texas will be highlighted across the country. This push toward blanket prohibition, however, sidesteps a basic point about the post-Lawrence world. Whatever you feel about the reasoning of the decision, its result is clear: Gay Americans are no longer criminals. And very few conservatives want to keep them that way. The term "gay citizen" is now simply a fact of life.

In retrospect, this might be the most significant shift on the question of homosexuality in a generation. For if homosexuals are no longer criminals for having consensual private relationships, then they cannot be dismissed as somehow alien or peripheral to our civil society. Moreover, the social transformation of the last decade cannot simply be gainsaid: A poll this week for USA Today found that 67% of the 18-29 age group believe that gay marriage would benefit society. The public as a whole is evenly split on that issue. Many of the people favoring a new tolerance are Republicans and conservatives. And this is inevitable. When the daughter of the vice president is openly gay, it's hard to treat homosexual citizens as some permanent kind of Other, as a threat to civil order and society.

But if conservatives have now endorsed the notion of homosexuals as citizens, they haven't yet fully grasped the implications of that shift. Previously, social policy toward homosexuals was a function of either criminalization or avoidance. People who are either in jail or potentially subject to criminal sanction are already subject to a social policy of a sort. You may disagree with it, but it's social policy on the same lines as that toward drug users or speeders. It's a form of prohibitionism. But when all illegality is removed from gay people, as it has been, that social policy surely has to change.

So what is it? What exactly is the post-Lawrence conservative social policy toward homosexuals? Amazingly, the current answer is entirely a negative one. The majority of social conservatives oppose gay marriage; they oppose gay citizens serving their country in the military; they oppose gay citizens raising children; they oppose protecting gay citizens from workplace discrimination; they oppose including gays in hate-crime legislation, while including every other victimized group; they oppose civil unions; they oppose domestic partnerships; they oppose . . . well, they oppose, for the most part, every single practical measure that brings gay citizens into the mainstream of American life.

This is simply bizarre. Can you think of any other legal, noncriminal minority in society toward which social conservatives have nothing but a negative social policy? What other group in society do conservatives believe should be kept outside integrating social institutions? On what other issue do conservatives favor separatism over integration? We know, in short, what conservatives are against in this matter. But what exactly are they for?

Let me be practical here. If two lesbian women want to share financial responsibility for each other for life, why is it a conservative notion to prevent this? If two men who have lived together for decades want the ability to protect their joint possessions in case one of them dies, why is it a conservative notion that such property be denied the spouse in favor of others? If one member of a young gay couple is badly hurt in a car accident, why is it a conservative notion that his spouse not be allowed to visit him in the intensive-care unit? In all these cases, you have legal citizens trying to take responsibility for one another. By doing so, by setting up relationships that do the "husbanding" work of family, such couples relieve the state of the job of caring for single people without family support. Such couplings help bring emotional calm to the people involved; they educate people into the mundane tasks of social responsibility and mutual caring. When did it become a socially conservative idea that these constructive, humane instincts remain a threat to society as a whole? And how do these small acts of caring actually undermine the heterosexual marriage of the people who live next door?

Some will argue that these and many other benefits and responsibilities can be set up in an ad hoc fashion. You can create powers of attorney, legal contracts and the like, if you really need to. These arrangements can be enormously time-consuming and complex, and they don't always hold up in courts of law, of course. But even if they did, isn't it a strange conservative impulse to make taking responsibility something that the government should make harder rather than easier? One of the key benefits of marriage, after all, is that it also upholds a common ideal of mutual support and caring; it not only enables such acts of responsibility but rewards and celebrates them. In the past you could argue that such measures were inappropriate for a criminal or would-be criminal subgroup. But after Lawrence, that is no longer the case. The question is therefore an insistent one: On what grounds do conservatives believe that discouraging responsibility is a good thing for one group in society? What other legal minority do they or would they treat this way? If a group of African-Americans were to set themselves up and campaign for greater familial responsibility among black couples, do you think conservatives would be greeting them with dismay and discouragement or even a constitutional amendment to stop them?

It is one thing to oppose gay marriage (some, but not all, conservative arguments against it are reasonable, if to my mind unconvincing). But it is another thing to oppose any arrangement that might give greater security, responsibility and opportunity to gay couples. At times, the social conservative position is almost perversely inconsistent: Many oppose what they see as gay promiscuity; but even more strongly, they oppose any social measures that would encourage gay monogamy, such as marriage. What, one wonders, do they want? In this, they actually have lower standards for now-legal citizens than they do for incarcerated criminals: Even murderers on death row have the constitutional right to marry, where the institution could do no conceivable social good. But for millions of citizens currently excluded from such incentives for responsibility, conservatives are prepared even to amend the Constitution to say no.

If this debate is to move forward, a few simple questions therefore have to be answered: What is the social conservative position on civil unions? What aspects of them can conservatives get behind? What details are they less convinced by? These are basic public policy questions to which social conservatives, for the most part, have yet to provide an answer. It's well past time they did.

Beware the Straight Backlash

Can someone please tell me which country I'm living in? Last week I sat down and watched a popular new television phenomenon. "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" turned out to be a hilarious reality show in which five New York City homosexuals fix a hapless straight guy's home, hair, clothes and culture in order to win the heart of his female love interest. Here was a wonderful example of straight men and gay men communicating, laughing and getting along. And the gay guys were all about affirming the straight guy's relationship. At one point, the straight guy actually choked up in gratitude. It was poignant and affirming - for both gays and straights.

The same day the Republican leadership of the Senate put out a report decrying the terrible possibility that gay people might actually one day have the right to marry the person they love. So alarmed were the Senators that some states might grant marriage rights to gays that they proposed amending the very Constitution of the United States to forbid gay marriage (or any legal gay relationship) anywhere, anytime, anyhow. The next day, in a press conference, President Bush came close to endorsing the move. If the high courts in Massachusetts or New Jersey decide that their state constitutions demand equality in marriage (something that most observers believe could happen very soon), the reactionary movement for an anti-gay constitutional amendment could acquire an awful momentum.

How to describe this emotional whiplash? Every day, if you're a gay person, you see amazing advances and terrifying setbacks. Wal-Mart set rules last month to protect its gay employees from discrimination - about as mainstream an endorsement as you can get. Canada just legalized gay marriage, and the U.S. Supreme Court just struck down sodomy laws across the land, legitimizing the fact that homosexual is something you are, not something you do. Polls in Massachusetts and New Jersey show majorities in favor of equal marriage rights.

And now the Vatican comes out and announces that granting legal recognition to gay spouses will destroy the family and society. The church argues that gay love is not even "remotely analogous" to heterosexual love. The Anglican Church asks a celibate, newly elected bishop in England to give up his post simply because he is gay. Even the leading Democratic candidates refuse to support equality in marriage. Senator John Kerry, who has no biological children with his current (second) wife, says marriage should be reserved for procreation, and, with few exceptions, the others toe that line too. And a new poll shows a drop in support for gay rights in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision against sodomy laws. Another cyclical backlash against gays - with echoes of the Anita Bryant campaign in the 1970s - looks quite possible.

If, like me, you're gay and politically conservative, the whipsaw is even more intense. As a Catholic, I love my church. But I must come to terms with its hierarchy's hatred of the very core of my being. I admire this President deeply, but I have to acknowledge that he believes my relationship is a threat to his. In the coming weeks, it will be hard not to dread the prospect of this second-class status becoming enshrined in the Constitution. Whatever bridges gays and straights have built between them could be burned in a conflagration of bitterness and anger. This year could be for gays what 1968 was for African Americans: the moment hope turns into rage.

Many say they are not hostile toward gay people; they just don't think gays should be regarded as equal to heterosexuals under the law or that gay love is as valid as straight. How am I or any homosexual supposed to respond to that? How much more personal an issue can you get?

It seems as if heterosexuals are willing to tolerate homosexuals, but only from a position of power. They have few qualms about providing legal protections, decrying hate crimes, watching gay TV shows, even having a relative bring her female spouse to Thanksgiving dinner. Yet arguing that the lesbian couple is legally or morally indistinguishable from a straight couple is where many draw the line. That's why marriage is such a fundamental issue. Allowing gay marriage is not saying, We Will Tolerate You. It's saying, We Are You. This, it seems, we have a hard time doing.

I'll know we've changed when we see a show called "Straight Eye for the Gay Guy." In it a group of heterosexual men prep a gay man for the night he asks his boyfriend to marry him. When the boyfriend says yes, the straight guys cheer, and the gay guy chokes up. That will be the day gay people are no longer ornaments or accessories or objects of either derision or compassion. That will be the day gay people will finally have the description we have been seeking for so long: human beings.

Why We Should Support This War

Originally published September 21, 2001, on PlanetOut.

WAR CHANGES EVERYTHING. If there are lessons we can learn from history, this is one of them. And, above everything else, war changes the home front. It churns us all up, it scrambles social norms and makes what was once unthinkable possible. So the First World War was the critical moment for the breakthrough of the movement for women's equality, especially in Europe. The Second World War in America was perhaps the most racially integrating event in this country's history - it is no accident that only three years after it ended, racial segregation was abolished in the armed forces. And the Vietnam war also clearly turned this country's social order upside down, before it regained equilibrium.

And so this war could also do something similar. In fact, it already has. This is the first major war in which the open visible presence of gay and lesbian Americans cannot be denied. Already, the military has suspended its discharges of homosexual servicemembers, because in a war, we cannot afford the waste of resources such pointless persecution incurs. Openly gay soldiers will now fight for our freedom in a way never seen before.

Now is not the time to argue for immediate changes in policy. We have a war to win. But it is a time to keep our eyes and ears open and see what these brave gay and lesbian warriors are all about. When and if this ends, we must remember them; and ensure that, when they return, they are not treated with contempt or ingratitude. The ban must not merely be suspended for the duration of this war. It must never be reinstated - and that must be a non-negotiable demand from all of us.

On the homefront, we already have heroes. These are not gay heroes. They are American heroes - who are also gay. That is the promise of this integrative moment. Let us remember Mark Bingham, a 6' 5" burly, ballsy rugby player, one of the men who, in all likelihood, wrestled a plane to the ground in Pennsylvania. He saved this country from what might have been a terrible assault on the capital. His power and courage and physical strength - his masculine virtue - did more than destroy the purpose of evil men. His valor also destroyed a stereotype in the process. Every jock in America needs to know that a brawny gay rugger player helped save this country from a calamity. No argument from anyone could be as eloquent.

Then there is Father Mychal Judge, an openly gay Catholic priest who served the men and women of New York's Fire Department. Revered by a macho subulture, fearless and strong, a man of faith and fervor, Father Mychal died in the flames of the World Trade Center doing what he has always done - tending to his flock in need. He is not a gay hero. He is an American hero who was also gay. And when this is over, let those in the Church who have done so much to create pain and hurt among good gay men and women who love their faith and serve their world, let them take stock and change their hearts. May they see that there is no contradiction between being gay and Catholic; in fact, may the Church hierarchy finally see that such people are now and always have been an integral pillar of faith and hope in the world. Father Mychal was a giant among them. We shall remember him as well.

For of all wars, this is surely one in which gay America can take a proud and central part. The men who have launched a war on this country see the freedom that gay people have here as one of the central reasons for their hatred. In their twisted perversion of Islam, these monsters believe that gay men and women deserve to be tortured and executed in hideous fashion. They murder and muzzle women; they despise and murder Jews; they demonize gays.

We have rightly seen how Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson have destroyed themselves by their hatred in this moment - and we can take solace that America has repudiated their poison. But let us also remember that the men who committed this atrocity make Falwell and Robertson look mild in comparison. They are the Religious Ultra-Right, and they have already murdered us. Given the chance, they would wipe gay people from the face of the earth.

To respond to that threat by cautioning peace or surrender or equivocation is to appease men who would destroy every last vestige of gay America if they could. Gay Americans should not merely support this war as a matter of patriotism and pride; they should support it because the enemy sees us as one of their first targets for destruction. These maniacs despise our freedom; they loathe our diversity; they have contempt for our culture. There is no gray here. There is simply a choice: to cower and run in fear of these monsters or to stand up with every other segment of this country - of every race and creed and gender and sexual orientation - and defeat these messengers of hate in the hope of a brighter, integrated day.


Originally appeared August 13, 2001, in the author's "TRB From Washington" column, The New Republic.

In the decade or so in which same-sex marriage has been a matter of public debate, several arguments against it have been abandoned. Some opponents initially claimed marriage was about children and so gays couldn't marry. But courts made the obvious point that childless heterosexuals can marry and so the comparison was moot. Others said a change in the definition of marriage would inexorably lead to legal polygamy. But homosexuals weren't asking for the right to marry anyone. They were asking for the right to marry someone. Still others worried that if one state granted such a right, the entire country would have to accept same-sex marriage. But legal scholars pointed out that marriage has not historically been one of those legal judgments that the "full faith and credit" clause of the U.S. Constitution says must be recognized in every state if they are valid in one state. [!?] And if there were any doubt, the Defense of Marriage Act, designed expressly to prohibit such a scenario, was passed by a Republican Congress and President Clinton in 1996.

None of this stopped the Vermont Supreme Court, legislature, and governor from establishing "civil unions," the euphemism for gay marriage in the Ben & Jerry's state. It's been almost exactly a year since civil unions debuted, and social collapse doesn't seem imminent. Perhaps panicked by this nonevent, the social right last month launched a Federal Marriage Amendment, which would bar any state from enacting same-sex marriage, forbid any arrangement designed to give gays equal marriage benefits, and destroy any conceivable claim that conservatives truly believe in states' rights. Even some movement conservatives - most notably The Washington Times - demurred. The Wall Street Journal ran its only op-ed on the matter in opposition.

Perhaps concerned that their movement is sputtering, the opponents of same-sex marriage have turned to new arguments. Stanley Kurtz, the sharpest and fairest of these critics, summed up the case last week in National Review Online. For Kurtz and other cultural conservatives, the deepest issue is sex and sexual difference. "Marriage," Kurtz argues, "springs directly from the ethos of heterosexual sex. Once marriage loses its connection to the differences between men and women, it can only start to resemble a glorified and slightly less temporary version of hooking up."

Let's unpack this. Kurtz's premise is that men and women differ in their sexual-emotional makeup. Men want sex more than stability; women want stability more than sex. Heterosexual marriage is therefore some kind of truce in the sex wars. One side gives sex in return for stability; the other provides stability in return for sex. Both sides benefit, children most of all. Since marriage is defined as the way women tame men, once one gender is missing, this taming institution will cease to work. So, in Kurtz's words, a "world of same-sex marriages is a world of no-strings heterosexual hookups and 50 percent divorce rates."

But isn't this backward? Surely the world of no-strings heterosexual hookups and 50 percent divorce rates preceded gay marriage. It was heterosexuals in the 1970s who changed marriage into something more like a partnership between equals, with both partners often working and gender roles less rigid than in the past. All homosexuals are saying, three decades later, is that, under the current definition, there's no reason to exclude us. If you want to return straight marriage to the 1950s, go ahead. But until you do, the exclusion of gays is simply an anomaly - and a denial of basic civil equality.

The deeper worry is that gay men simply can't hack monogamy and that any weakening of fidelity in the Clinton-Condit era is too big a risk to take with a vital social institution. One big problem with this argument is that it completely ignores lesbians. So far in Vermont there have been almost twice as many lesbian civil unions as gay male ones - even though most surveys show that gay men outnumber lesbians about two to one. That means lesbians are up to four times more likely to get married than gay men - unsurprising if you buy Kurtz's understanding of male and female sexuality. So if you accept the premise that women are far more monogamous than men, and that therefore lesbian marriages are more likely to be monogamous than even heterosexual ones, the net result of lesbian marriage rights is clearly a gain in monogamy, not a loss. For social conservatives, what's not to like?

But the conservatives are wrong when it comes to gay men as well. Gay men - not because they're gay but because they are men in an all-male subculture - are almost certainly more sexually active with more partners than most straight men. (Straight men would be far more promiscuous, I think, if they could get away with it the way gay guys can.) Many gay men value this sexual freedom more than the stresses and strains of monogamous marriage (and I don't blame them). But this is not true of all gay men. Many actually yearn for social stability, for anchors for their relationships, for the family support and financial security that come with marriage. To deny this is surely to engage in the "soft bigotry of low expectations." They may be a minority at the moment. But with legal marriage, their numbers would surely grow. And they would function as emblems in gay culture of a sexual life linked to stability and love.

So what's the catch? I guess the catch would be if those gay male couples interpret marriage as something in which monogamy is optional. But given the enormous step in gay culture that marriage represents, and given that marriage is entirely voluntary, I see no reason why gay male marriages shouldn't be at least as monogamous as straight ones. Perhaps those of us in the marriage movement need to stress the link between gay marriage and monogamy more clearly. We need to show how renunciation of sexual freedom in an all-male world can be an even greater statement of commitment than among straights. I don't think this is as big a stretch as it sounds. In Denmark, where de facto gay marriage has existed for some time, the rate of marriage among gays is far lower than among straights, but, perhaps as a result, the gay divorce rate is just over one-fifth that of heterosexuals. And, during the first six years in which gay marriage was legal, scholar Darren Spedale has found, the rate of straight marriages rose 10 percent, and the rate of straight divorces decreased by 12 percent. In the only country where we have real data on the impact of gay marriage, the net result has clearly been a conservative one.

When you think about it, this makes sense. Within gay subculture, marriage would not be taken for granted. It's likely to attract older, more mainstream gay couples, its stabilizing ripples spreading through both the subculture and the wider society. Because such marriages would integrate a long-isolated group of people into the world of love and family, they would also help heal the psychic wounds that scar so many gay people and their families. Far from weakening heterosexual marriage, gay marriage would, I bet, help strengthen it, as the culture of marriage finally embraces all citizens. How sad that some conservatives still cannot see that. How encouraging that, in such a short time, so many others have begun to understand.

Enemies of Pleasure, Enemies of Health

Originally published May 28, 2001, in The New Republic.

THERE'S A LITTLE BOTTLE in my medicine cabinet, prescribed by my doctor. The pills are perfectly spherical, opaque, and shiny, like tiny pearls. The medication is called Marinol. It's an anti-nausea medication I take sometimes to deal with what most people on the AIDS cocktail manage day after day, meal after meal. The pills are perfectly legal, and their active component is THC, the main active ingredient in marijuana, which human beings have known for centuries to be able to cure an upset stomach and increase appetite.

Unfortunately, Marinol isn't that good a drug. The relief from nausea quickly dissipates; even the docs prescribing the stuff don't believe it's as effective as the real thing.

So why can't I legally have the real thing? This week, as expected, the Supreme Court struck down an appeal from some cannabis collectives in California for an exemption from a federal law banning marijuana distribution. It turns out this Court isn't the highest in the land after all. (Bada-bing.) But, of course, the Court is simply interpreting a pretty transparent law that bans pot distribution for medical use - so transparent that I'm surprised the Supremes even took the case. The deeper issue is why our society bans medical marijuana at all.

The answer, to anyone who has ever swallowed a Marinol pill, is obvious. The illegal thing in pot is not THC; it's pleasure. The only difference between the pill and a toke is enjoyment. Sure, there's some risk of inhaling smoke into your lungs - but cigarettes are legal (at least until the Democrats win back Congress). The physical dangers of pot-smoking are trivial compared with the dangers of, say, alcohol, even if you factor in an unusually large case of the munchies. And, compared with nicotine or caffeine, marijuana is about as addictive as Gatorade. Yes, you can get psychologically addicted to it - but the same can be said about watching "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" or subscribing to The New Republic.

No, what the government is worried about is that you might actually have some fun while conquering your nausea. It's enjoyment that the feds want to outlaw. Bush's prospective drug czar, John Walters, seems to believe that a person who derives pleasure from smoking a plant is immoral because he's pleasantly altering his consciousness. But why? Is drinking alcohol immoral? Is the physical and mental enjoyment of a fine wine more moral than the physical and mental enjoyment of a joint? Beats me if I can find any distinction that isn't based on irrational panic.

Besides, we often feel pleasure because we're doing our bodies good. And, sure enough, marijuana's medicinal qualities - for a wide variety of physical problems - are now a matter of record, whatever Congress says. A fascinating piece in last Monday's Los Angeles Times recounted scientists' discoveries about weed's effects on mental and physical functioning. It turns out that marijuana affects a whole range of what are called cannabinoid receptors, and these receptors in turn regulate any number of physical functions. The Times reported that "[i]t is now known that THC mimics chemicals made naturally by our brains - chemicals that influence a smorgasbord of bodily functions including movement, thought and perception. Studying these brain chemicals (known as `endogenous cannabinoids') is increasing our understanding of an array of medical conditions - among them pain, Parkinson's disease, Tourette's syndrome and memory loss. Drug companies are working busily to develop new therapies based on this knowledge." In other words, marijuana works on the human mind and body because it mimics substances we already have, substances that God or evolution gave us. It merely elevates feelings we are already programmed to feel - but in a way that might both heal illness and give pleasure.

Of course, other, more dangerous drugs do this as well. They mimic adrenaline highs or serotonin rushes. But, unlike these other drugs, which have little or no therapeutic value and which require elaborate manufacture or processing, marijuana is a medicine that grows in the earth. It has been used medicinally for centuries. Banning it not only robs us of potential medical breakthroughs - since more widespread use would likely turn up new and unthought-of effects - but it also denies people what should be a perfectly legal pleasure. The tired argument that pot is a "gateway drug" to more serious narcotics is a fallacy. Sure, if you ask hardened drug addicts whether they started with pot, they usually say yes. But I doubt many of them are teetotalers, either. Why wasn't their first beer a gateway drug? And if you ask a bunch of white-collar professionals in their fifties whether they have ever smoked marijuana, they'd probably say yes as well. My favorite example of this is Al Gore. Here's a man who, by all accounts, smoked weed in college. For him, it was a gateway to one of the most responsible careers in public life you can imagine. Yet he was vice president in an administration that presided over almost five million arrests for marijuana use in eight years. The sole tangible way in which pot is a gateway to other illegal drugs is that it is illegal. The best way to end this easy path to worse narcotics is to legalize it and take it out of the hands of criminals and gangs.

Besides, it is only our puritanical culture that insists that health and pleasure are incompatible. Nature suggests the opposite. Good health is deeply, subtly pleasurable. And pleasure - with its reduction of stress and encouragement of positive thinking - is related to good health. I think of an old friend of mine with AIDS who, in a matter of months, turned from a strapping man into a skeleton. He had almost no immune system and no appetite. He spent most of his days in bed, trying to keep himself from throwing up his medications, moving from time to time to take the pressure off his bedsores, and listening to music as he faded in and out of fevered consciousness. Then he smoked pot. His distress eased; he loved listening to music more and more; his appetite slowly came back. He survived long enough to get the protease inhibitors that saved his life. He's now fit and healthy. He has no doubt that pot saved him.

And pleasure was part of his recovery. It helped dissipate the appalling pain and depression that beset him. It made him human again, because a central part of being human is the enjoyment of life's pleasurable gifts - physical, intellectual, artistic, culinary, mental. We need to play as much as we need to eat and sleep. It is bizarre that, in a country founded in part on the pursuit of happiness, we should now be expending so many resources on incarcerating and terrorizing so many people simply because they are doing what their Constitution promised. Pleasure isn't the same thing as happiness, of course, but the responsible, adult enjoyment of the pleasure of something God gave us is surely part of it. Our continued attack on a medicine that, by some divine fluke, is also highly enjoyable demeans everyone who participates in it. If you'll pardon the expression, it's high time we ended it.

Profit of Doom?

Originally appeared March 26, 2001, in the author's "TRB From Washington" column, The New Republic.

Let's see if I can paraphrase the current consensus about drug companies and AIDS in Africa. Oh, why bother when I can simply quote Anthony Lewis? Here he is:

In the United States and Europe, the anti-retroviral drugs that have made AIDS a containable disease for many sufferers cost either the patient or the society $10,000 to $15,000 a year. It has been widely assumed that poorer countries cannot afford them, and in any event do not have health systems that could use them effectively. ... [Tina Rosenberg in The New York Times Magazine] showed that those assumptions are false. Brazil now makes the drugs itself and has cut the cost by nearly 80 percent; government commitment has produced clinics to supervise the treatment effectively. Many lives, and much money, have been saved. The big drug companies are frantically resisting the precedent. And they have great lobbying power in the United States, achieved by campaign donations.

Voilà! AIDS in the developing world, described by Lewis as "the most profound and immediate threat to life on earth," is easily solved. Only the evil drug companies, abetted by evil Republicans, stand in the way - companies whose only argument is their ability to buy politicians using campaign cash. The only problem with this line of thought is that the drug companies, not all of which are "big," actually do have an argument, and the closer you look, the stronger it is.

Start with a simple question: Ever wonder how we have drugs to treat HIV in the first place? Lewis doesn't address this, but those of us who are alive today because of those drugs have had reason to figure it out. You could argue that anti-AIDS drugs are the gift to the world of legions of brilliant scientists and researchers. But that misses the point. The reason we have a treatment for HIV is not the angelic brilliance of anyone per se but the free-market system that rewards serious research with serious money. Ever wonder why the vast majority of such treatments come from U.S.-based companies? Because European pharmaceutical companies have been clobbered by socialized medicine and have moved much of their research and production to the United States. (Ten years ago, half of the ten top-selling drugs in the world were made by European companies. After a decade of price controls and regulation, Europeans now make only three of the top 25.) Ever wonder why Indian scientists are working in U.S.-based labs rather than in India? Because our free-market system gives them incentives to discover rather than reasons to flee. The knockoff companies in India and Brazil so beloved by the left are at best copiers of American products and at worst thieves. They're the Napsters of the drug world - only worse, because they charge for what they steal rather than give it away for free.

So the hard question is: How do we maintain the system that gave us these drugs in the first place while getting them to the largest number of infected people? It seems to me that the recent offer by Merck to sell key anti-retrovirals at one-tenth their Western price is an admirable, if partial, answer. HIV, after all, is not like cancer. It is an epidemic, spreading exponentially across the globe. Waiting for patents to run out and prices to drop in the natural course of events is a death sentence for a generation or more. As long as the domestic markets remain unmolested by populists and regulators, a massive discount from the major pharmaceutical companies for poor countries overseas is actually a stunningly generous gesture. Drug companies, after all, are not designed to cure diseases or please op-ed columnists. They're designed to satisfy shareholders. At least that was the shareholders' assumption when they invested.

What if the drugs are still too expensive? Well, that's where governments and international organizations come in. If we wanted to, we could go a long way toward funding discounted HIV meds for the developing world from Western taxpayers' pockets. In saved lives and rescued economies, it would pay for itself. Besides, in times like this it's simply the right thing to do. But such aid should come with realistic caveats. It's vital to ensure that these meds are taken in the right amounts at the right times - or else they will be ineffective in the patient and generate incurable viral strains in the process. Believe me, ensuring this is harder than it sounds. For almost eight years now I've juggled more than 30 pills a day - with food, without food, at night, in the morning, and on and on. Every year or so the regimen changes. I have more than ten prescriptions to keep track of. Most of the time, you feel sick and exhausted after a dose - a subtle but deep incentive to put off taking it, forget, or just give up. I'm not whining, I'm just making a point. Even with educated, motivated patients, 80 percent adherence is an achievement - and 80 percent still means new drug-resistant viral strains gain a niche in the population at large.

Now think of the consequences of doling out hundreds of pills to people who can barely afford a decent meal or a regular trip to the doctor. Keeping track of the drugs will be hard enough. If Western food aid results in massive theft, corruption, and re-exportation, can you imagine what Africa's kleptomaniac dictators could do with expensive HIV meds? Sure, Brazil has shown that drugs can be successfully administered in controlled circumstances. But Brazil is currently an exception to the rule. Elsewhere our best bet is modest, controlled treatment centers where anti-HIV drugs are delivered with medical monitoring and advice. If these work, let's expand them.

For those without access to these drugs, we can also do a lot, and quite cheaply. For people with AIDS there are plenty of relatively inexpensive post-patent drugs with simple dosings to treat the opportunistic infections that prey on depressed immune systems. This can relieve at least some of the pain and suffering, even if it cannot solve the underlying problem.

This means, tragically, that most people with HIV right now will die of it. That is an appalling prospect - as appalling as the thousands who die of dysentery for lack of clean drinking water or who are killed in war, lost in childbirth, or ravaged by malaria. In the face of this, there is the duty to do all we possibly can. But there's also an imperative not to engage in rituals of easy blame, or to attempt something that cannot realistically be achieved, or to demonize those who are a critical part of the solution. In the current debate, it's worth remembering one simple thing: Most African and Western governments have done virtually nothing to halt this global epidemic and are still balking at major aid. The American private sector, which has been responsible for the lion's share of HIV research, is now offering to pay for 90 percent of the cost of drugs for the developing world at the expense of future profits and research. Now you tell me who the real villains are.

Parental Discretion

Originally appeared August 14, 2000, in The New Republic.

TONY SNOW: OK. Final: I know this is a touchy subject. Jerry Falwell puts out a comment saying that he supports you. He talks about your daughter's sexual orientation. Was that any of his business?

DICK CHENEY: My - I've got two daughters. They are fine women. I'm very proud of both of them. And I think their private lives are private, and I just firmly believe that. I'm running for public office; they're entitled to their privacy.

SNOW: Nothing like a father's love for his daughters.

CHENEY: Right.

A simple question no one seems to want to ask: If Dick Cheney loves and is proud of his openly lesbian daughter, why is he supporting a man who wants her to live under the threat of criminal sanction? It's no secret that Governor George W. Bush has publicly supported Texas's still-extant gays-only sodomy law, which makes private, consensual sex between gay adults a crime. Does Cheney agree with his running mate's position?

And what about his own public history on homosexual equality? On gay matters, Cheney's congressional record is not just bad. It's shocking. Cheney was one of only 13 representatives to vote against the landmark 1988 bill that initiated federal funding for AIDS testing and counseling - putting him to the right of even Tom DeLay and Dick Armey, both of whom voted for it. He was one of only 29 House members to vote against the 1988 Hate Crimes Statistics Act, which merely allowed the federal government to collect data on violent crimes based on race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, and he voted for an amendment that added gratuitously anti-gay language to the bill. He supported measures to cut federal AIDS research and to allow health-insurance discrimination against people with HIV in the District of Columbia. As defense secretary, despite once describing the ban on gays in the military as an "old chestnut," Cheney solidly backed the old policy of harassment of gay soldiers and their ejection, however distinguished their records, from the Armed Forces.

How does Cheney square this history with his belief that his gay daughter, Mary, is "wonderful," "decent," and "hard-working"? I don't know, because the media, which evidently still doesn't regard gay rights as central to our politics, has barely asked. ABC's Cokie Roberts, for example, only brought up the matter at the very end of her interview with Lynne Cheney, the candidate's wife, on last Sunday's "This Week" - as a way of sympathizing with Cheney's plight of having a gay daughter exposed on the campaign trail! The usually dogged Tim Russert dropped the ball entirely in an almost half-hour-long interview with the would-be veep. Fox's Tony Snow raised the issue - but only to assert that it was none of anyone's business. The New York Times, for all its pretensions to have left homophobia behind, has barely touched the subject. The Washington Post buried it.

When asked, the Cheneys simply say the issue is private. According to Newsweek, Lynne Cheney has declared the topic off-limits: "I have just decided that the thing to do when the subject of either of my daughters comes up is to say, `They are wonderful women.'" But this is a preposterous argument. Mary Cheney is a 31-year-old out lesbian. She lives with her partner in Colorado. Her last job was at Coors Brewing Company, where she was responsible specifically for outreach to the gay and lesbian population. She has funneled corporate money into gay causes and talked about homosexuality to redneck beer distributors. In a recent interview with Girlfriends magazine, a glossy publication targeted to a lesbian audience, Mary Cheney said, "The reason I came to work here [at Coors] is because I knew several other lesbians who were very happy here." According to Salon, she introduces her girlfriend as her "life partner," and, according to Time, she came out to her parents in the early '90s. Last week on "Larry King Live," Bob Woodward revealed that her homosexuality was a central factor in Dick Cheney's decision not to run for president in 1996. If Mary Cheney's lesbianism is not a matter of public fact, then nothing is.

Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to have occurred to her parents. Lynne Cheney, for her part, went so far as to deny her daughter's lesbianism entirely. "Mary has never declared such a thing," Lynne Cheney told Roberts on "This Week." "I would like to say that I'm appalled at the media interest in one of my daughters. I have two wonderful daughters. I love them very much. They are bright; they are hard-working; they are decent. And I simply am not going to talk about their personal lives. And I'm surprised, Cokie, that even you would want to bring it up on this program." Thus, in one of her first public interviews as a potential second lady, Lynne Cheney said two things that are blatantly untrue. The first is that her daughter has never declared her lesbianism. The second is that Lynne Cheney doesn't talk about the private lives of her daughters. In fact, in almost every profile of Lynne Cheney last week, we were informed that she loves spending time with her two granddaughters, the children of her older daughter, Liz. Why is one daughter's heterosexuality a public matter while the other's homosexuality is not?

There are two possible answers to that question, and they shed more light on "compassionate conservatism" than all the klieg lights in Philadelphia. The first is that Dick and Lynne Cheney are genuinely embarrassed by and conflicted about their daughter's lesbianism. But, if this is the case, the Cheneys owe us an explanation. It may not be easy, but, when you enter public life at this level, matters that might have remained common knowledge but have rarely been discussed suddenly demand a response on a national stage. Arizona Senator John McCain had to talk about his divorce and his adopted children. Bush had to talk about his drinking and never stops talking about his faith. When they affect public officials, private matters that have a direct relationship to public concerns are routinely aired. In periods when profound social issues are being debated, this is even truer. At some point in this campaign, Dick Cheney will surely be asked about his views on homosexual equality. It's one of the few issues on which there are real differences between his party and his opponent's. He would have to be a Vulcan - or someone deeply ashamed of his own offspring - not to refer to his own daughter in responding. In a candidate putatively wedded to "compassionate conservatism," one might even hope for more - for a response that adds a human dimension to the inhuman way in which gay people's lives are routinely discussed and caricatured.

There is, however, a second possibility - that the Cheneys don't disapprove of their daughter's lesbianism at all but, for political reasons, must pretend to. After all, Jerry Falwell, one of Bush's key allies on the Christian right, has already described Cheney's daughter as "errant." The Republican platform expresses its opposition to special "rights" for homosexuals. Cheney comes from Wyoming, the state where Matthew Shepard was murdered, and had to represent his constituents in the 1980s. Perhaps he feels obliged not to break publicly with the homophobes who still dominate his party. One small piece of evidence to support this theory is the absence from both Dick Cheney's and Lynne Cheney's records of any known anti-gay slurs, despite their being surrounded by people who bait homosexuals on a regular basis. By all accounts, Cheney has treated his gay staffers decently and was deeply supportive of his Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams during his "outing" ordeal. There is no reason to doubt his affection for his gay daughter.

But, in some respects, this scenario is the more damning one. For, if Cheney personally respects gay people but supports policies that segregate and ostracize them for his own personal advancement, then he truly is contemptible. It's surely worse to oppose homosexual equality for opportunistic rather than for principled reasons. At least Pat Robertson seems to believe he is trying to save gay people from eternal damnation; but to support their continued stigmatization for the sake of a bucket of warm spit is morally pitiful.

Perhaps Cheney, like the rest of us, has grown on this subject over the years. Perhaps he now regrets his small part in making the AIDS epidemic even worse than it might otherwise have been and in casting a vote that declared that violence against gay people was not even worth recording. Perhaps his experience in overseeing the military's persecution of gay servicemembers has led him to have greater sympathy for their plight. (To his credit, he reversed the policy by which the Pentagon once sought to recoup scholarship money from gay soldiers the military had expelled.) Perhaps he has come to believe from observing his own daughter that gay relationships are not merely dysfunctional sexual compulsions akin to kleptomania (as Trent Lott holds) but human achievements of love and commitment. Perhaps he now sees that gay men and women, far from being threats to the traditional family, have always been at its heart.

But, if his views on these matters have evolved, he must say so now. And, if he doesn't, if he remains as silent as he has been, then he should not cavil at the inference that he is proud of his record and sees no problem with a Republican platform that continues to relegate his daughter to second-class citizenship. One can make some excuses for expediency in any political life. But at a certain point expediency becomes hypocrisy. And, when expediency means the civil and legal punishment of one's own child, it is, in fact, worse than hypocrisy. It is betrayal.