Team Obama Turns Blind Eye to Voter Intimidation

The Southern Poverty Law Center calls the New Black Panther Party "a hate group based on the anti-white, anti-gay, and anti-Semitic views its leaders have repeatedly expressed." So why is the Obama Justice Dept. refusing to prosecute the group for voter intimidation at polling stations? (Link to the Washington Times)

A Loud Silence on Adultery

Some defenders of traditional marriage claim that gay marriage jeopardizes husbands and wives. It's as if when two Massachusetts men wed, they exchange 24-karat-gold crowbars, all the better to pry straight couples apart.

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum has said that same-sex marriage "threatens my marriage. It threatens all marriages." Mixed-sex-matrimony guru Maggie Gallagher wrote last June 20, "If the word 'marriage' can be redefined as a civil rights imperative, why balk at lesser ideas like 'monogamy' or 'fidelity'?"

But as outspoken as these and other social conservatives are about Allen and Steve's clear and present danger to Adam and Eve, they have held their peace about an enterprise that profits from adultery. calls itself a "dating site specifically designed to help married people cheat on their spouses." Its slogan is "Life's short, have an affair." Its previous tag line was "When Monogamy Becomes Monotony." It boasts 3.5 million registered users, among whom some 400,000 active members each pay up to $249 quarterly.

"Sign up today and if you don't have an Affair to Remember," the website promises, "we'll give you your money back. Guaranteed." Participants post photographs and profiles and seek other husbands and wives itching for extra-marital copulation, "till death do us part" be damned.

"We made tens of millions of dollars" last year, company president Noel Biderman says from its Toronto base. "We are very profitable and successful."

Surely has enough shame to conduct its shady business in the shadows. Wrong! advertises on CNN, ESPN, NBC, and even the conservative-leaning Fox News Channel.

Its current TV ad features a lady in a restaurant whose monstrous dinner companion yaps into his cell phone, hushes her when she tries to talk, ogles another woman, and eventually says, "Happy anniversary, honey," before sauntering alone out the door. This disenchanted wife eyes a sympathetic gentleman on a barstool and smiles alluringly at him. Who knows what happens next?

"," says the female announcer. "When divorce is not an option."

This woman clearly is dolorific. Her boorish husband deserves to have his cell phone pulverized with the chef's rolling pin.

If this ad discouraged spousal self-absorption, it would be a home run. Ditto if it promoted marriage counseling, or suggested that everyone exercise extreme caution before picking a spouse. But something completely different is for sale.

Even a business this depraved should remain free to operate. But it should be ridiculed, humiliated, and shunned. Viewers should ask TV networks that broadcast this website's ads if they are proud to share in the spoils of infidelity.

Social conservatives should stop theorizing about gay marriage's supposed danger to straight matrimony and instead denounce this insidious assault on that institution.

Even if same-sex marriage undermined conventional marriage, this would be by unintended consequence, not deliberate broadside. Straight-marriage advocates' obsession with gay marriage versus their quietude about is like declaring a War on Toasters that might malfunction and ignite, but ignoring arsonists who toss lit flares around Malibu during a Santa Ana wind.

According to the Nexis database, key gay-marriage foes are mum about

Over the last six months, for example, Rick Santorum appeared in 22 stories that mention "gay marriage," but in zero citing Maggie Gallagher materialized in 41 gay-marriage stories and zero on Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney's numbers are 276-0, respectively. For Focus on the Family, the score is 389-0. The phrase "same-sex marriage" yielded 24 hits for Santorum, 52 for Gallagher, 256 for Romney, and 449 for Focus. All of the above were absent from the 67 Nexis-archived stories on between September 5, 2008, and March 5, 2009.

Clearly, straight-marriage fans fret about what two men wearing wedding bands might do to a man and woman with rings on their fingers. Whether this concern is scientific or superstitious, surely they must acknowledge that seeing Bob and Steve together in a porch swing is trivial compared to Adam philandering with his new adulteress as Eve waits at home, watches dinner grow cold, and wonders why on Earth he's so late.

Conversely, if Adam caught Eve cavorting on the kitchen counter with her new buddy, that would not be a blow for marriage. is a genuine threat to traditional matrimony. That's where self-styled defenders of that institution should aim their fire.

Why Conservatives Should See ‘Brokeback’

First published, in slightly different form, in The Indianapolis Star on February 6, 2006.

Now that director Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain has lassoed eight Academy Award nominations, millions more Americans likely will see it. Social conservatives should be among those who catch this widely lauded motion picture.

Socio-cons probably have sidestepped this so-called "gay cowboy movie." Too bad. While it hardly screams "family values," Brokeback seriously engages profound issues that merit consideration by those who think seriously about the challenges that families face.

Stylistically, socio-cons need not fear Brokeback as a didactic, in-your-face, gay screed. "We're here. We're queer. Who dropped the saddle soap?" it is not. Nor is this film a flamboyant camp-fest, like the flighty but hilarious The Birdcage or much of The Producers, both coincidentally starring Nathan Lane.

Indeed, as a romance between two thoroughly masculine ranch hands, Brokeback begins to reverse the damage caused by Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and similar offerings that reinforce the stereotype that gay men are indispensable when one needs to select fabulous neckties or striking pastels for stunning interiors. How sad that such entertainment still elicits laughs, even as most Americans would be justifiably outraged at any show titled Jewish Guy with a Banker's Eye or The Mexican Gardening Hour.

Beyond equating same-sex affection with manliness, Brokeback addresses important matters on the political agenda. It is impossible to discuss these themes without revealing key plot points. So, if you have not seen Brokeback, please do so soon, then finish this op-ed after the credits roll.

Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar, movingly portrayed by Academy Award nominees Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger, respectively, find themselves inexplicably drawn to each other one booze-filled evening in 1963. While huddling in a tent from Wyoming's bracing winds, a spontaneous moment of intimacy triggers for Jack and Ennis a long summer that combines hectic days of tending sheep with tranquil nights of tending to each other.

As the young men depart the mountain pastures when their gig ends, they split up and do what society expects of them. Jack competes in the southwestern rodeo circuit where he meets, marries, and has a son with Lureen (Anne Hathaway), herself an equestrian. Ennis weds Alma (Ledger's real-life girlfriend, Oscar nominee Michelle Williams), a quiet, loyal woman who raises their two daughters.

After four years apart, Jack returns to Ennis' small town of Riverton, Wyoming. Their still-smoldering passion flares like a zephyr-swept campfire. They stoke these flames during periodic "fishing trips" where their rods and reels stay untouched.

Jack's and Ennis's marriages grow increasingly cold, leading to a loveless union for the Twists and divorce and a broken home for the Del Mars. As this adulterous relationship spreads pain all around, one need not hark back to the Rockies of the 1960s and '70s to find parallels to Jack and Ennis's situation. Former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey's wife, Dina, bore him a baby girl before his clandestine affair with an Israeli man named Golan Cipel erupted into view in 2004. The McGreeveys split, and their daughter's live-in dad is now just a visitor.

Similarly, J.L. King's book On the Down Low discusses seemingly heterosexual black husbands who cheat on their spouses with other men. Some lucky wives land in divorce court; the least lucky unwittingly become HIV-positive.

Meanwhile, "you've got the ones that claim they're straight but have sex with men," Sam Beaumont, a gay Oklahoma rancher said in the January 30 People magazine. "And when they come home at night and their wives ask if they've been with a woman, well, they don't have to lie."

Brokeback Mountain should prompt social conservatives to ponder whether it is good family policy to encourage gay men to live lives that are traditional yet untrue. Would honest gay marriages be less destructive than deceitful straight ones? I think so. Many disagree. Even if they oppose it, however, seeing this film may give heterosexual marriage proponents a better insight into why so many Americans advocate homosexual marriage.

Brokeback Mountain also concerns homophobic violence. The October 1998 beating death of gay college student Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming; the July 1999 fatal baseball-bat attack on Army Private Barry Winchell, whose comrades in arms perceived him as gay; and the non-lethal assault on gay soldier Kyle Lawson on October 29, 2005 are just a few fairly recent examples of this phenomenon. Just last February 2, 18-year-old Jacob B. Robida used a hatchet and a gun to wound three patrons, one critically, at Puzzles Lounge, a New Bedford, Massachusetts, gay bar. (Robida died three days later, apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, after he killed a female friend and a cop, both in Arkansas.) Such incidents should remind filmgoers that this grave matter was not buried on the Great Plains decades ago.

Beautifully acted, photographed, written, and directed, Brokeback Mountain quietly but powerfully asks questions that are relevant today. Americans left, middle, and right should see this touching, haunting love story, then give it the thorough mulling over it deserves.

Gays in the Islamic World

First published June 28, 2005, as a Cato Institute Daily Commentary.

This year's Gay Pride festivities in New York City climaxed with the 36th annual parade down Fifth Avenue. As usual, the raucous affair thrilled some and rattled others, but everyone walked away intact.

One would have to fantasize about such an occasion, however, in most Muslim nations where homosexuality remains as concealed as a bride beneath a burqa. When it peeks through, it isn't pretty. While many liberals (and President G.W. Bush) call Islam a religion of peace, "celebrating diversity" is hardly on its agenda. Consider these recent examples of the Islamic world's institutional homophobia:

  • In Saudi Arabia, 105 men were sentenced in April for acts of "deviant sexual behavior" following their March arrests. Al-Wifaq, a government-affiliated newspaper, claimed they illegally danced together and were "behaving like women" at a gay wedding.

    "Calling the event a 'gay wedding' has become a lightning rod to justify discrimination against gay people," Widney Brown of Human Rights Watch told Patrick Letellier of

    Seventy men received one-year prison sentences while 31 got six months to one year, plus 200 lashes each. Four others face two years behind bars plus 2,000 lashes. If these four receive their lashes at once, Brown fears their wounds will prove fatal.
  • "Anyone caught committing sodomy - kill both the sodomizer and the sodomized," Islamic cleric Tareq Sweidan demanded on Qatar TV last April 22. As the Middle East Media Research Institute ( reports, Sweidan continued: "The clerics determined how the homosexual should be killed. They said he should be stoned to death. Some clerics said he should be thrown off a mountain."
  • Ogudu Emmanuel and Odjegba Tevin admitted that they were male lovers after their neighbors reported them to Nigerian cops. They were arrested January 15 and charged with "crimes against nature." The pair apparently escaped from jail while awaiting trial and potential 14-year prison sentences. Gay rights activists worried that cops or other inmates may have killed them in custody.

    Last November, an Islamic court in Keffi, issued an arrest warrant for Michael Ifediora Nwokoma after neighbors accused him of having sex with a man named Mallam Abdullahi Ibrahim. Nwokoma quickly fled. Ibrahim was charged with the "unholy" act of "homosexualism." The court postponed Ibrahim's trial indefinitely and incarcerated him until Nwokoma surfaces.

    In northern Nigeria, where Sharia law governs 12 Muslim states, homosexuality requires capital punishment by stoning.
  • Iraq's terrorist Ansar al-Sunnah Army, the Islamic Army in Iraq, and the Mujahedeen Army issued a statement last December 30 urging Iraqis not to vote in last January's elections, lest democracy spawn un-Islamic laws such as "homosexual marriage," in their words. To be sure, many Americans also oppose gay marriage, but they at least have the good manners not to detonate advocates of same-sex unions. Ansar-al-Sunnah is incapable of such restraint. It scored major headlines when it claimed responsibility for a December 21 bombing at a U.S. military mess tent at a base in Mosul. It killed 22 people, 18 U.S. GIs among them.
  • Egyptian cops have met gay men online and through personal ads, then arrested them, according to a March 1, 2004 Human Rights Watch report. Since 2001, HRW says at least 179 men have been charged with "debauchery," prompting five-year prison sentences for at least 23. As the Associated Press' Nadia Abou El-Magd wrote, HRW "interviewed 63 men who had been arrested for homosexual conduct. It said they spoke of being whipped, bound and suspended in painful positions, splashed with cold water, burned with cigarettes, shocked with electricity to the limbs, genital or tongue. They also said guards encouraged other prisoners to rape them" - thus using coercive gay sex to penalize consensual gay sex.

While he notes that secular nations such as Jordan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Syria are more relaxed about homosexuality, Robert Spencer, director of and editor of The Myth of Islamic Tolerance, warns against equating the homophobia of strict Muslim states with, say, American social conservatives' opposition to gay-rights laws.

"Jerry Falwell and others like him do not call for the deaths of homosexuals, while these people do," Spencer tells me. "This demonstrates the bankruptcy and, ultimately, the danger of such moral equivalence arguments, which are nonetheless ubiquitous today in discussions of Islamic terrorism."

Unlike Sunday's marchers, many in the Muslim world literally risk their lives and limbs by merely peering out of the Islamic closet.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Translate Terrorist Secrets

First published byScripps Howard News Service on January 13, 2005. Reprinted by permission of the author courtesy of Scripps Howard News Service.

Name the greater risk to national security: patriotic military translators who happen to be homosexual or anti-American Islamofascist terrorists who happen to be homicidal? If you picked the latter, thanks for putting U.S. safety first. Alas, the Pentagon disagrees.

According to new Defense Department data, between fiscal years 1998 and 2003, 20 Arabic- and six Farsi-language experts were booted from the military under President Clinton's 1993 Don't Ask/Don't Tell policy. These GIs trained at the elite Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. Had they graduated - assuming 40-hour work weeks and two-week vacations - they could have dedicated 52,000 man-hours annually to interrogate Arab-speaking bomb builders, interpret intercepted enemy communications, or transmit reassuring words to bewildered Baghdad residents.

Preparation for these vital activities ends when a dedicated warrior is found to be gay. Under Don't Ask, if that GI's homosexuality becomes evident he must stop conjugating verbs and head home.

Just ask former Army sergeant Ian Finkenbinder. The 22-year-old Eugene, Oregon, native spent eight months as an Arabic linguist with the Third Infantry Division in Iraq. As a noncommissioned military intelligence officer, he helped other linguists collect information from captured Iraqis. "Our efforts saved lives and improved the quality of life for soldiers around us," he says from his Baltimore home. He served in units that took enemy fire and merited an Army Commendation Medal and Good Conduct Medal. He earned about $36,000 annually.

After the 3rd I.D. returned to Fort Stewart, Georgia, Finkenbinder sensed that some in his reorganized unit were discussing his personal life behind his back. In November, after a year of increasing discomfort, he handed his commander, Captain James Finnochiaro, a written statement of his homosexuality. Finkenbinder was honorably discharged last month.

"I went to Iraq once," Finkerbinder says. "I met that challenge. I knew perfectly well I would be able to meet that challenge again." Still, he wondered, "whether I would be able to serve an institution that had discriminated against me for four years by asking me to maintain my silence, as well as these isolated incidents of people saying things that they shouldn't."

Since being booted from the Army, Finkenbinder seeks other work for his Arabic-language skills.

At least 74 gay language specialists were jettisoned between 1998 and 2003, including at least 37 after the Sept. 11 attacks.

This problem extends beyond those who can communicate with combative Iraqis, duplicitous Saudis, or atom-splitting Iranians. Including Finkenbinder, at least 74 language specialists have been jettisoned from the military between fiscal 1998 and 2003. At least 37 were dismissed after September 11, reports Nathaniel Frank, an adjunct history professor at New York University. Dr. Frank is also a Senior Research Fellow at U.C. Santa Barbara's Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military. His findings appear in the January 24 New Republic.

Those whose homosexuality impressed the Pentagon more than their rare verbal talents include 18 Korean speakers (visualize Kim Il-Sung), 11 Russophones, eight Spanish specialists, three Mandarin Chinese experts, three Serbo-Croatian speakers (Kosovo, anyone?), and one each steeped in German, Hebrew, Italian, and Vietnamese.

War with Italy seems highly unlikely, but Americans need to communicate with our Italian Coalition partners in Iraq. Lacking a U.S. Italophone in combat could get Americans, Italians, or innocent Iraqis killed.

Even worse, Arabic- and Farsi-speaking Islamists plot to murder Americans, even as the U.S. sacks those who prepare to interrogate them and unravel their plans. While the Pentagon purges these dedicated public servants, Islamic extremists chatter away.

America "is without a working channel of communications to the world of Muslims and Islam," the Pentagon's Defense Science Board recently warned. The 9/11 Commission concluded that Uncle Sam "lacked sufficient translators proficient in Arabic and other key languages, resulting in significant backlog of untranslated intercepts."

"This is a cycle of inertia by design," Nathaniel Frank says. "The Pentagon routinely defers to Congress because it's now federal law. But when Don't Ask was devised, Congress deferred to the Pentagon."

While many military officers endorse this policy, others seem frustrated about losing vital teammates. But most will stay mum until Congress acts.

Congress should replace Don't Ask with a nondiscriminatory policy based on conduct, rather than orientation: Soldiers on duty, gay and straight, must keep their hands to themselves, or face expulsion. Barring such reform, commanders should be allowed to retain soldiers whose value to unit safety and mission outweighs any reservations about their sexuality.

Elements of the 3rd I.D. returned to Iraq January 8, this time without Ian Finkenbinder. He is troubled that they are there, and he is here, unable to speak Arabic to help protect them.

"In a way, going to war with people makes them your family, and I am still very close to all of them," he says. "We still communicate as frequently as possible. But there are definitely moments when I wish I were there with them - with my family."



Interview with Ian Finkenbinder

The following is Deroy Murdock's interview with former Army sergeant Ian Finkenbinder, a one-time Arabic linguist who served in Iraq with the Third Infantry Division. The Army discharged the 22-year-old Eugene, Oregon native under the Don't Ask/Don't Tell policy after he disclosed his homosexuality. Finkenbinder now lives as a civilian in Baltimore.

Deroy Murdock - Question: When were you discharged from the Army?

Ian Finkenbinder - Answer: I got back from Iraq in August '03 and came out with the fact that I am gay in November '04, and I was discharged in December '04. It was an honorable discharge. What I did was I wrote up a statement stating the fact that I am gay and that was pretty much it. I turned it into my commander, Capt. James Finnochiaro.

Q:Why did you offer that statement?

A:I had reached the point where I decided I did not want to live under the fear of possible retribution from the chain of command, or what have you, due to the fact that I am gay. So, I turned in this statement saying I would be willing to serve as long as I could do so as an openly gay soldier.

Q: Did you feel threatened or harassed?

A: There were isolated incidents throughout my service. There was no specific threat upon me at the time. However, I felt the atmosphere where I worked no longer was as comfortable as it had been in the past. As a linguist, I was in the military intelligence community. I was constantly around other people who are at a level of high education who are open and tolerant of different ideas and different kinds of people. Over the course of the past year, after I got back from Iraq, there was a lot of unit reorganization. So I was around people who, even though they were great soldiers, I still didn't feel as comfortable working as openly as I had before.

Q: What would you say to people who wonder whether you made others around you uncomfortable?

A: For the most part, the people I worked with on a one-on-one basis didn't show any signs of being uncomfortable at all, even though they knew about my sexuality. I was not out to the chain of command, but I was to my peers. They were cool with it.

There had been times when my friends had heard people in the chain of command talk about me in reference to my homosexuality. While I dealt with that appropriately at the time, that signaled to me that I was in a different atmosphere than what I was comfortable with.

Q: How do you answer those who might ask if you announced you were gay to avoid being sent back to Iraq?

A: That is the $64,000 question. I went to Iraq once. I met that challenge., I knew perfectly well I would be ale to meet that challenge again. But it came down to me to be sort of a moral question and a personal question for myself: whether I would be able to serve an institution that had discriminated against me for four years by asking me to maintain my silence as well as these isolated incidents of people saying things that they shouldn't. I loved serving in the Army, but it got very tiring to deal continually with these issues that are unique to being gay in the military.

Q: What was your greatest accomplishment as an Arabic-language expert in Iraq? How best did your skills save lives, catch terrorists, etc.?

A: There's nothing really remarkable that I could put it print.

There were times when my abilities as a linguist were put to the test, as were the abilities of those around me. Our efforts saved lives and improved the quality of life for soldiers around us.

Q: Did any of your discussions in Arabic get vital information out of captured Iraqis or others?

A: I myself did not specifically get exceedingly vital information out of Iraqi nationals; there were definitely those who I worked with who gained excellent intelligence that was pretty vital.

I was part of the intelligence gathering effort. My position was military intelligence throughout my Army career, both as a lower enlisted soldier as well as a non-commissioned officer.

Q: What medals or commendations did you earn?

A:I got the Army Commendation Medal while in Iraq. Also, the Good Conduct Medal and the Army Achievement Medal.

Q: Were you shot at? Attacked? Injured?

A: I was not injured. There were times in Iraq where the unit I was serving or attached to came under fire.

Q: Where were you serving when you have your written statement to your commander?

A: Fort Stewart, Georgia.

Q: How much money were you making when you were discharged?

A: I got about $2,200-per-month in take-home pay. That includes all of the entitlements, such as a housing allowance. If you are the best linguist in the Army, you make an extra $200-per-month, as I did. I made about $36,000 annually.

Q: Why didn't you just "not tell," keep your homosexuality to yourself, and serve our country in Iraq?

A:Because it really became important to me that I, as an individual, were recognized as being as important as the heterosexual soldiers around me, and that I had the same individual freedoms as the others around me. The very same rights that we are trying to establish in Iraq as a democracy, I feel I was being denied, to a degree.

There are very few restrictions placed on heterosexual soldiers based on the nature of consensual relationships in which they are allowed to partake. I, on the other hand, was not allowed to be in any form of consensual relationship that would be true to my nature as a gay man. Any restriction in that sense restricted my rights as an individual.

Q: Is the 3rd Infantry Division back in Iraq? Has anyone in it been hurt lately? If so, could you have helped to keep those folks safe?

A: Elements of the 3rd I.D. went back on January 8. None of them has been hurt. Every soldier over there has the potential to keep their comrades safe, but especially those in the field of intelligence gathering.

Q: What do you think about being here when they are in harm's way, and you might be able to help to keep them safe?

A:The decision to come out of the closet was very difficult for me. The people I served with who are over there right now were with me in Iraq the first time. In a way, going to war with people makes them your family, and I am still very close to all of them. We still communicate as frequently as possible. But there are definitely moments when I wish I were there with them - with my family.

Four Better Ways to Defend Marriage

First published by Scripps Howard News Service, August 5, 2004. Reprinted by permission of the author courtesy of Scripps Howard News Service.

Missouri voters last Tuesday decided, 70 percent to 30, to ban same-sex marriage in the Show Me state. This, and similar initiatives on 10 state ballots through Nov. 2, will bolster traditional marriage about as effectively as a landlord who battles termites by refusing to rent apartments to gay tenants.

Traditional marriage is being gnawed on by a culture that too often regards "I do" as a punchline. While divorce nibbles away at nuptials, Fox-TV airs "Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy," a show that swaps husbands and wives like baseball cards. The 205,000-member - whose slogan is "When Monogamy Becomes Monotony" - helps people cheat on their spouses., one of many more Internet adultery sites, helpfully advises that toothpaste removes lipstick stains.

Padlocking every gay bar from Provincetown to West Hollywood would not slow such outrages, nor would restricting each marriage to one man and one woman make heterosexuals stop behaving badly.

Something as vital as marriage should be out of public hands. Government should exit the marriage business and quit issuing marriage licenses. If you want to get married, get married. Why beg City Hall's permission?

That said, if America must license marriage, there are methods beyond discriminatory constitutional amendments that would preserve traditional marriage and protect children. After all, these are what gay-marriage opponents claim as their real objectives. If so, social conservatives should embrace any of the following reforms to advance their goals:

  • Ban divorce. Yes, this would be a drastic measure, but with roughly half of first marriages ending in divorce, it may be time for drastic action. This is the most powerful weapon to defend marriage: Simply make it illegal to break marital bonds. What part of "Till death do us part" do divorcees find unclear?
  • Limit marriage licenses to one per person. Everybody gets one chance to get it right. No trial matrimonies, Britney Spears stunts, or Elizabeth Taylor serial husbandry. People might be more careful about pairing for life if they knew they had only one shot at marriage. A common-sense exception could be made to let widows and widowers re-marry.
  • Introduce probationary marriage licenses for heterosexuals. Gay-marriage foes say their efforts are "all about the children," as seems to be the case with everything these days. (Homer Simpson last season crisply summarized my opinion of kids: "Children are our future - unless we stop them now!") Each couple would have five years to bear at least one baby of its own or adopt at least one child. This would advance the species, give lots of new kids moms and dads, and also move boys and girls from orphanages into homes.

    The marriage license of each childless couple would lapse on their fifth anniversary. This would limit the number of child-free husbands and wives, such as Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Buchanan, who, presumably, remain married to share their love with each other as adults, not to rear children. Straight marriage advocates argue that the institution does not exist to keep adults emotionally satisfied and mutually devoted. Instead, as National Review Online's Stanley Kurtz has written, "the core purpose of marriage is to bind children to their mothers and fathers." The Buchanans and couples like them are entitled to find that sentiment breathtakingly presumptuous.
  • The flip side of this notion: provisional marriage licenses for gay couples. They could stay married as long as they remained childless. The moment a gay couple either adopted a child or managed to deliver one naturally through surrogate parenting, artificial insemination, etc., their marriage license would become null and void, and they simply would become two people living together under one roof. This would provide the socially desirable benefits of curbing gay promiscuity while promoting gay monogamy. And who can argue with that? This simultaneously would reduce the odds that gay people would raise children, what with all the challenges this presents. If social conservatives are sincere, they should applaud this compromise.

Any or all of these modest proposals should satisfy socio-cons and the religious right. Why not defend marriage through one or more of these concepts, rather than the irrelevant misstep Missouri voters just showed us?

The Straight Threat to Marriage

First published January 9, 2004, in National Review Online. Reprinted by permission of the author courtesy of Scripps Howard News Service.

Social conservatives are working overtime to argue that gay marriage would imperil straight matrimony. They say that if Jack and Joe were united, till death do them part, they would jeopardize husbands and wives, from sea to shining sea.

"We will lose marriage in this nation," without constitutionally limiting it to heterosexuals, warns Family Research Council president Tony Perkins. The Traditional Values Coalition, meanwhile, sees "same-sex marriage as a way of destroying the concept of marriage altogether."

It would be far easier to take these claims seriously if gay-marriage critics spent as much energy denouncing irresponsible heterosexuals whose behavior undermines traditional marriage. Among prominent Americans, such misdeeds are increasingly ubiquitous.

Exhibit A is musical product Britney Spears's micromarriage to hometown pal Jason Allen Alexander. The 22-year-olds were wed on January 3 in Las Vegas. Clad in sneakers, a baseball cap, ripped jeans, and a navel-revealing T-shirt, the vocalist was escorted down the Little White Wedding Chapel's aisle by a hotel chauffeur. Spears and Alexander, who wore baggy pants and a zippered sweater, soon were wife and husband.

Almost as soon, their marriage was annulled. Clark County Judge Lisa Brown accepted Spears's request and ruled that "There was no meeting of the minds in entering into this marriage contract, and in a court of equity there is cause for declaring the contract void."

The revolving-door couple's 55 hours of marital bliss were based neither on love nor shared commitment, but because "they took a joke too far," explained Spears's label, Jive Records.

Whatever objections they otherwise may generate, gay couples who desire marriage at least hope to stay hitched. Britney's latest misadventure, in contrast, reduced marriage from something sacred to just another Vegas activity, like watching the Bellagio Hotel's fountains between trips to the blackjack tables.

Consider David Letterman. His hilarious broadcasts keep Insomniac-Americans cackling every weeknight. Last November 3, he got a national standing ovation when his son, Harry Joseph, was born. Those who rail against gay marriage stayed mum about the fact that Harry's dad and mom, Regina Lasko, shack up. What message is sent by this widely hailed out-of-wedlock birth?

And then there's Jerry Seinfeld. This national treasure's eponymous TV show will generate belly laughs in syndication throughout this century, and deservedly so. The mere sound of those odd bass notes on Seinfeld's soundtrack can generate chuckles before any dialogue has been uttered.

But while Seinfeld boasts millions of fans, Eric Nederlander is not among them. Shortly after the Broadway theater heir and his then-wife, Jessica Sklar, returned from their June 1998 honeymoon, she met Seinfeld at Manhattan's Reebok Club gym. He asked Sklar out, she accepted and, before long, she ditched her new husband and ran off with the comedian.

Where was the social-conservative outrage at Seinfeld's dreadful actions? Can anyone on the religious right seriously argue that the real risk to holy matrimony is not men like Seinfeld and women like Sklar but devoted male couples who aim neither to discard one another nor divide others?

Of course, not every American is an overexposed pop diva, network talk-show host, or sitcom multimillionaire. For rank-and-file heterosexuals, marriage can involve decades of love and joy. In 51 percent of cases, people stay married for life. Such unions are inspiring, impressive, and deserve every American's applause.

On the other hand, 49 percent of couples break up, according to Divorce magazine. The Federal Administration for Children and Families calculated in 2002 that deadbeat parents nationwide owed their kids $92.3 billion in unpaid child support. In 2000, 33.2 percent of children were born outside marriage. Among blacks, that figure was 68.5 percent. A 1998 National Institute of Justice survey found that 1.5 million women suffer domestic violence annually, as do 835,000 men. So-called "reality" TV shows like Fox's Married by America and My Big Fat Obnoxious Fianc� turn wedding vows into punch lines. In nearly every instance, heterosexuals - not homosexuals - perpetrated these social ills.

Gay marriage is a big idea that deserves national debate. Nonetheless, social conservatives who blow their stacks over homosexual matrimony's supposed threat to traditional marriage tomorrow should focus on the far greater damage that heterosexuals are wreaking on that venerable institution today.

The Truth about Reagan and AIDS

First published December 3, 2003, in National Review Online.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Since the late President Ronald Reagan passed away on June 5, 2004, Americans have taken another look at this remarkable man and his record. In so doing, a number of people have reviewed an article I did on President Reagan's policies and pronouncements on AIDS. In this process, I learned that research provided to me in good faith and received as such was nonetheless in error. While a document President Reagan transmitted to Congress on February 6, 1986 (titled "Message to the Congress on America's Agenda for the Future") mentioned the word "AIDS," his February 4, 1986 State of the Union did not, as I had written. I apologize for conflating President Reagan's speech with that subsequent document. My telephonic research perhaps would have benefited from physical inspection of these similarly named and closely dated papers.

I would add that President Reagan indeed used the word "AIDS" in a September 17, 1985, press conference. So the widely accepted myth that he did not even utter those four letters until 1987 remains precisely that:a myth.

Finally, while President Reagan's critics are free to argue that he should have done more about AIDS, and perhaps he should have, the fact that total federal HIV/AIDS expenditures grew from $0 to $5.727 billion on his watch belies the notion that he "did nothing" about this vicious disease.

"You're president of the United States," Nancy Reagan, reminded Ronald Reagan as he sat up in bed in 1983. She begged him to do something about the growing scourge of AIDS. "If you don't talk about it, nobody will talk about it. Nobody will do anything, and all these people - these children, these young boys - they're all going to die. And the blame will be on our heads, Ronnie."

President Reagan quietly kept reading through his half glasses. He seemed very cozy, clad in his bathrobe, beneath his blankets.

"Ronnie, say something," Nancy pleaded. The president coolly maintained his silence. He never even looked at his beloved First Lady.

That's how Showtime depicted a scene from the White House residence in The Reagans, the controversial TV movie about the conservative chief executive and his devoted wife. Reagan's alleged homophobia and indifference to AIDS patients are among the reasons Reaganites attacked the program, leading CBS to cancel its broadcast premiere and shift it instead to Showtime, the network's sister pay-cable channel.

The original script was far worse.

"Those who live in sin will die in sin," says President Reagan, as portrayed by actor James Brolin. Teleplaywright Elizabeth Egloff eventually admitted she had no evidence on which to base this scandalous comment. "We know he ducked the issue over and over again," she told the New York Times in self-defense.

Ronald Reagan's supposed malign neglect on AIDS and hostility to gays are twin pillars of the Left's anti-Reaganism. He still is scorned for supposedly avoiding the topic in his public pronouncements. Throughout the 1980s, protests by ACT-UP and other AIDS-advocacy groups routinely featured vicious effigies of Reagan. In one vulgar manifestation of this viewpoint, a 1994 cover illustration for Benetton's Colors magazine featured photographer Oliviero Toscani's computer-generated image of President Reagan covered with AIDS-related skin lesions. Toscani denounced Reagan and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in La Stampa, a newspaper based in Turin, Italy. "They didn't understand anything about AIDS, they did everything wrong," Toscani said that June 24. "They never realized the emergency."

Is any of this fair?

Few men have known Ronald Reagan longer or better than Edwin Meese III. He began working in 1967 with then-governor Reagan in Sacramento, California. He became a presidential adviser on January 20, 1981, and was appointed Reagan's attorney general in February 1985.

Meese described to me the TV movie's take on Reagan, AIDS, and gays as "totally unfair, and totally unrepresentative of his views or anything he ever said." Meese, who now chairs the Heritage Foundation's Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, recalls AIDS as a key issue with which Reagan's senior staff grappled.

"I can remember numerous sessions of the domestic-policy council where the surgeon general provided information to us, and the questions were not whether the federal government would get involved, but what would be the best way. There was support for research through the NIH. There also were questions about the extent to which public warnings should be sent out. It was a question of how the public would respond to fairly explicit warnings about fairly explicit things. Ultimately, warnings were sent out."

"As I recall, from 1984 onward - and bear in mind that the AIDS virus was not identified until 1982 - every Reagan budget contained a large sum of money specifically earmarked for AIDS," says Peter Robinson, a former Reagan speechwriter and author of How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life. "Now, people will argue that it wasn't enough," Robinson adds. "But, of course, that's the kind of argument that takes place over every item in the federal budget. Nevertheless, the notion that he was somehow callous or had a cruel or cynical attitude towards homosexuals or AIDS victims is just ridiculous."

In February 1986, President Reagan's blueprint for the next fiscal year stated: "[T]his budget provides funds for maintaining - and in some cases expanding - high priority programs in crucial areas of national interest…including drug enforcement, AIDS research, the space program, nonmilitary research and national security." Reagan's budget message added that AIDS "remains the highest public health priority of the Department of Health and Human Services."

Precise budget requests are difficult to calculate, as online records from the 1980s are spotty. Nevertheless, New York University's archived, hard copies of budget documents from fiscal year 1984 through FY 1989 show that Reagan proposed at least $2.79 billion for AIDS research, education, and treatment. In a Congressional Research Service study titled AIDS Funding for Federal Government Programs: FY1981-FY1999, author Judith Johnson found that overall, the federal government spent $5.727 billion on AIDS under Ronald Reagan. This higher number reflects President Reagan's proposals as well as additional expenditures approved by Congress that he later signed.

Table 5 of Johnson's report shows annual federal AIDS spending during Ronald Reagan's watch. This is hardly the portrait of a do-nothing presidency:

Government Spending on HIV/AIDS
Fiscal Year
$ Millions
% growth over
previous year

Source: Congressional Research Service

Free-marketeers may argue that the federal government should have left AIDS research and care to the private sector. Whether or not one embraces that perspective, no one justifiably can regard Reagan's requested and actual AIDS spending as a gleefully applied death sentence for AIDS sufferers.

Besides, could much have been done with an even larger cash infusion during the infancy of AIDS?

"You could have poured half the national budget into AIDS in 1983, and it would have gone down a rat hole," says Michael Fumento, author of BioEvolution: How Biotechnology Is Changing Our World. "There were no anti-virals back then. The first anti-viral was AZT which came along in 1987, and that was for AIDS." As an example of how blindly scientists and policymakers flew as the virus took wing, Fumento recalls that "in 1984, Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler predicted that there would be an AIDS vaccine by 1986. There is no AIDS vaccine to date."

Reagan also is accused of staying mum about AIDS. According to The Encyclopedia of AIDS: A Social, Political, Cultural, and Scientific Record of the HIV Epidemic, edited by Raymond A. Smith, "Reagan never even mentioned the word 'AIDS' publicly until 1987."

Actually, as official White House papers cited by Steven Hayward, author of the multi-volume Age of Reagan show, the 40th president spoke of AIDS no later than September 17, 1985. Responding to a question on AIDS research, the president said:

[I]ncluding what we have in the budget for '86, it will amount to over a half a billion dollars that we have provided for research on AIDS in addition to what I'm sure other medical groups are doing. And we have $100 million in the budget this year; it'll be 126 million next year. So, this is a top priority with us. Yes, there's no question about the seriousness of this and the need to find an answer.

"Message to the Congress on America's Agenda for the Future," a document President Reagan transmitted to Congress in connection with his February 6, 1986, State of the Union address, included this specific passage that mentions the word "AIDS" five times:

We will continue, as a high priority, the fight against Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). An unprecedented research effort is underway to deal with this major epidemic public health threat. The number of AIDS cases is expected to increase. While there are hopes for drugs and vaccines against AIDS, none is immediately at hand. Consequently, efforts should focus on prevention, to inform and to lower risks of further transmission of the AIDS virus. To this end, I am asking the Surgeon General to prepare a report to the American people on AIDS.

So, AIDS policy aside, was Ronald Reagan a homophobe? Here again, those who know him best just say, "No."

"According to the father is a homophobic Bible-thumper who loudly insisted that his son wasn't gay when Ron took up ballet, and who in a particularly scathing scene told my mother that AIDS patients deserved their fate," wrote Ronald and Nancy Reagan's daughter, Patti Davis, on Time magazine's website. "Not only did my father never say such a thing, he never would have."

In fact, she recalls "the clear, smooth, non-judgmental way" in which her dad discussed the topic of homosexuality with her when she was age eight or nine.

My father and I were watching an old Rock Hudson and Doris Day movie. At the moment when Hudson and Doris Day kissed, I said to my father, "That looks weird."... All I knew was that something about this particular man and woman was, to me, strange. My father gently explained that Mr. Hudson didn't really have a lot of experience kissing women; in fact, he would much prefer to be kissing a man. This was said in the same tone that would be used if he had been telling me about people with different colored eyes, and I accepted without question that this whole kissing thing wasn't reserved just for men and women.

"I remember Reagan telling us that in Hollywood he knew a lot of gays, and he never had any problem with them," says Martin Anderson, a high-level Reagan adviser since 1975, co-editor of Reagan: A Life in Letters, the latest collection of material that Ronald Reagan wrote in his own hand. "I think a number of people who were gay worked for the Reagans," Anderson told me. "We never kept track. But he never said anything even remotely like that comment in the movie. His basic attitude was 'Leave them alone.'"

Reagan publicly demonstrated this outlook when he opposed Proposition 6, a 1978 ballot measure that called for the dismissal of California teachers who "advocated" homosexuality, even outside of schools. Reagan used both a September 24, 1978, statement and a syndicated newspaper column to campaign against the initiative.

"Whatever else it is," Reagan wrote, "homosexuality is not a contagious disease like the measles. Prevailing scientific opinion is that an individual's sexuality is determined at a very early age and that a child's teachers do not really influence this." He also argued: "Since the measure does not restrict itself to the classroom, every aspect of a teacher's personal life could presumably come under suspicion. What constitutes 'advocacy' of homosexuality? Would public opposition to Proposition 6 by a teacher - should it pass - be considered advocacy?"

That November 7, Proposition 6 lost, 41.6 percent in favor to 58.4 percent against. Reagan's opposition is considered instrumental to its defeat.

"Despite the urging of some of his conservative supporters, he never made fighting homosexuality a cause," wrote Kenneth T. Walsh, former U.S. News and World Report White House correspondent, in his 1997 biography, Ronald Reagan. "In the final analysis, Reagan felt that what people do in private is their own business, not the government's."

But what about the comment in Dutch, Edmund Morris' authorized biography of President Reagan? Morris claimed that Reagan once said about AIDS: "Maybe the Lord brought down this plague," because "illicit sex is against the Ten Commandments." Morris's book is suspect insofar as he deliberately transformed himself into a character, a buddy of sorts, who follows Reagan throughout his career. Did Reagan actually say this, or did Morris also invent that passage in service to a higher "truth?" And even if Reagan said such a thing, there is a huge difference between expressing Biblical beliefs about AIDS's genesis and, as The Reagans originally claimed, condemning AIDS victims to die from their disease and speeding their demise through official negligence.

As much as Reagan evidently has exhibited tolerance of homosexuality in his private life, when it comes to public policy, he opposed the persecution of gays and devoted considerable taxpayer resources to AIDS research and treatment.

Could Reagan have said more about AIDS? Surely, and he might have done so were he less focused on reviving America's moribund economy and peacefully defeating Soviet Communism. Could he have done more? Of course. Who could not have? But the ideas that Ronald Reagan did nothing, or worse, about AIDS and hated gays, to boot, are both tired, left-wing lies about an American legend.

Gay Marriage Does Not Threaten Straight Matrimony

First published August 2, 2003, in the New York Post. Republished courtesy of Scripps Howard News Service.

Husbands and wives have less to fear from gay marriage than Southern whites did from the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Mississippi's 478,000 registered white voters, for instance, must have been shocked and awed to see the number of registered black voters in the Magnolia State blossom from 22,000 in 1960 to 175,000 in 1966, the year after President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed that landmark federal poll-access bill. While the Census Bureau found one black Mississippi voter for every 21 white electors in 1960, six years later, that ratio had withered to one black registrant for every 2.7 enrolled whites.

Mississippi's whites, like those elsewhere in the South, certainly could complain that their proportion of the total electorate had waned, as had their collective claim on the attention of anyone they elected. Their concerns obviously paled in comparison to the deliberate political exclusion blacks endured. Thus, extending voting rights to blacks was correct and long overdue.

If black enfranchisement meant the dilution of Caucasian suffrage, whites just had to get over it. And apparently they did. Rather than abandon politics, they kept voting, and do so today.

When it comes to an analogous expansion of marriage to include same-sex spouses, straight couples have less to fret about than did Dixie's white voters four decades ago. Jack and Jill's marriage would not be diluted by letting Bill and Ted wed. There is no reason why Jack and Jill should love each other any less, 'til death do them part, just because Bill and Ted want the same level of commitment for themselves.

If marriage were a zero-sum game in which every gay wedding yielded a straight divorce, the opponents of gay nuptials would wield a mighty powerful argument. However, this worry has all the weight of a handful of airborne rice.

Indeed, the arguments of gay-marriage critics increasingly oscillate between the overblown and the hysterical.

Conservative commentator Steve Sailer contends that gay weddings will cause straight grooms -- already spooked by seating charts and floral arrangements -- to throw up their arms and head for the hills.

"It wouldn't take much to get the average young man to turn even more against participating in an arduous process that seems alien and hostile to him already," Sailer recently wrote. "If some of the most enthusiastic participants [in weddings] become gays, then his aversion will grow even more."

What, then? Will young men stop getting on bended knees to ask their sweethearts for their hands in matrimony?

Meanwhile, columnist Maggie Gallagher has concluded that "polygamy is not worse than gay marriage, it is better." As she explained in the July 14 National Review Online, "At least polygamy, for all its ugly defects, is an attempt to secure stable mother-father families for children." Perhaps Gallagher meant "mothers-father families." What could be more stable than that?

Libertarian author David Boaz points to the exit from this growing mess. He wonders: Why do either Jack or Jill or Bill and Ted need government's permission to marry or its blessing once they have done so? The state should extract itself from the marriage-license business. Two people who wish to marry should find a minister, rabbi or, say, a Rotary Club president to grace their union. Americans then can withdraw this debate from Washington, D.C. and their state capitols and instead decide in their own churches, synagogues and civic associations which couples do and do not deserve their approval.

For now, gay-marriage critics should admit that heterosexuals pose the biggest risks to straight marriage. Adultery is now sufficiently rampant that websites such as and troll cyberspace for extramarital e-mail and chatroom liaisons. Divorce, of course, threatens matrimony, as do "marriage lite" arrangements such as domestic partnerships that taste great, but are less filling than actual marriage. If couples can enjoy the benefits of matrimony without pledging mutual fealty before God and family, why not just shack up?

These practices weaken straight matrimony far more than would watching Bill and Ted drive off to Niagara Falls with a "Just Married" sign pinned to their Bronco. Alas, raising the bar for heterosexuals is much more work and much less fun than ranting about homosexuals.

Republished courtesy of Scripps Howard News Service.

‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’: One Casualty

Originally distributed September 29, 2000, by Scripps Howard News Service.

WHEN NOT SERVING Arizona as a Republican state representative, Steve May serves his country. As an Army Reserve First Lieutenant, 28-year-old May has led 200 soldiers in fuel-transport and logistical tasks. He has trained troops to protect themselves from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. He even won the Silver Dolphin Award after spending 63 days underwater on the USS Ohio, a Trident missile submarine.

"Lt. May is an intelligent and effective officer," his August 1999 performance evaluation declares. "Put in company command as soon as possible."

So what has the Army done for him lately? A three-colonel panel dismissed May with an honorable discharge on Sept. 17. His offense? He publicly acknowledged his homosexuality, thus negating his record of exemplary conduct.

May is among the 6,000-plus combatants sacked since 1993 for failing to live in a military-strength state of denial called Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The Defense Department, meanwhile, still winks at heterosexuals whose improprieties undermine national security.

Steve May was accused not of conduct but of comments unbecoming a soldier. Army officials objected to his statements during a February 1999 legislative debate on a domestic partnership measure. May objected to, among other things, Republican State Rep. Karen Johnson's remark that gays operate "at the lower end of the behavioral spectrum."

"This legislature takes my gay tax dollars," May replied, "and my gay tax dollars spend the same as your straight tax dollars. If you're not going to treat me fairly, stop taking my tax dollars."

May spoke as a civilian, between completion of active duty in 1995 and reactivation in April 1999 during the Balkan War. Despite articles about his sexuality published during his first campaign in 1996, the Army invoked May's House floor speech and subsequent interviews to pry him from his uniform.

The Army never called May disruptive. "Under the Don't Ask, Don't Tell law, Army officials don't have to prove that I caused a problem with morale or cohesion," May says by phone. "They just have to prove that I said I'm gay."

Indeed, Capt. Stephen Sherbondy, May's then-commander, explained in August 1999 that "the vast majority of personnel" in May's unit knew of his homosexuality, but "such knowledge has in no way affected morale in his platoon or the other platoons. In fact, the HQ section is functioning better than it has for my past tenure as commander."

Ironically, May says, "I have seen a dozen serious problems of a sexual nature between heterosexual soldiers." In 1995, at Ft. Irwin, Calif., May recalls confronting a male and a female who booted three colleagues from an armored personnel carrier, then had sex in the locked vehicle while their fellow soldiers waited outside. The offending GIs received reprimands and counseling, but eventually were promoted.

May also says that "animosity developed down to the enlisted-man level" when a male soldier in his unit began sleeping with the wife of a GI in another company. Tensions erupted when one company's officers and troops accused their counterparts in the other unit of not restraining the two adulterers.

"All I did was say that I'm gay, and they kicked me out," May complains, "whereas these people who committed violations involving heterosexual conduct were forgiven and promoted."

May has plenty of company. Don't Ask, Don't Tell has accelerated dismissals of gay service men and women. In 1989, President Bush's first year in office, 997 GIs were discharged for homosexuality. In 1993, when Bill Clinton and Albert Gore assumed power, 682 were ejected. By 1998, gay expulsions climbed 71 percent to 1,163 before slipping to 1,046 last year. Through 1999, the Clinton-Gore administration had ousted 6,157 gay men and women in uniform, according to the Washington-based Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

"Sexual orientation has nothing to do with duty performance," retired Army Maj. Gen. Vance Coleman told me. "What is being done now is not just and fair."

Washington should stop policing the private sex lives of those who protect America's freedoms. Jettisoning gay troops who act professionally is as bigoted as banning all openly heterosexual GIs because a relative few have become pregnant at sea or sexually harassed others at Tailhook and Aberdeen. Instead, the Pentagon should impose a simple, universal standard. If soldiers can capture enemy territory, they stay. If they conquer their fellow GIs, they go.

While he was defense secretary, Republican vice presidential nominee Dick Cheney accurately called the ban on avowedly gay soldiers "an old chestnut." It's past time to roast this policy on an open fire.