Castro’s Dead. Good

From the facebook page of libertarian movie-review site Miss Liberty’s Film & Documentary World:

Fidel Castro is dead. A great film (free online) to remember him by is “Improper Conduct,” on the subject of Castro’s gulags for gay people. He hated gays and decided to “get rid of them,” in the manner that socialists do such things.

From Foreign Policy two years ago:

“Though the Castro family is no longer sending LGBT people to labor camps as they did in the 1960s and 1970s, the only permitted LGBT movement in Cuba is the official, state-run one.”

From 2016 Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein on Twitter:

Michael C. Moynihan responds to Stein:

More. As Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas describes in his memoir Before Night Falls:

Homosexuals were confined to the two worst wards of El Morro: these wards were below ground at the lowest level, and water seeped into the cells at high tide. It was a sweltering place without a bathroom. Gays were not treated like human beings, they were treated like beasts. They were the last ones t come out for meals, so we saw them walk by, and the most insignificant incident was an excuse to beat them mercilessly. The soldiers guarding us, who called themselves combatientes, were army recruits sent here as a sort of punishment; they found some release for their rage by taking it out on the homosexuals. Of course, nobody called them homosexuals; they were called fairies, faggots, queers, or at beset, gays. The wards for fairies were really the last circle of hell.

And let us not fail to remember that other icon of the Cuban revolution, Che Guevara. And more here.

And yes, Donald Trump got this one right:

“Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights,” [Trump’s] statement said. “While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve.”

Trump added: “Though the tragedies, deaths and pain caused by Fidel Castro cannot be erased, our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty.”

Syrian Refugees and the Gay Question

Via the Washington Blade:

Despite anger with three gay and bisexual U.S. House members for voting with Republicans to block Syrian refugees from entering the United States, the head of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund says the organization won’t drop support for the lawmakers in the upcoming election.

Well, that’s big of her.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who’s gay; Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), who’s gay, and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who’s bisexual, were among the 47 House Democrats who voted for the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act, or H.R. 4038, which passed the Republican-controlled U.S. House last week. The bill would expand background checks on Iraqi and Syrian refugees hoping to enter the United States, but critics say the legislation would have the effect of barring them entirely.

So, the lead is actually misleading, since the measure will only “block Syrian refugees from entering the United States” if you uncritically accept the critics’ viewpoint.

Some LGBT advocates rebuked Polis, Maloney and Sinema for their “yes” votes, arguing members of the LGBT community should support another community facing persecution. Among those critics is Michelangelo Signorile, a New York-based LGBT advocate who said on his Facebook page the votes are “totally shameful” and the Victory Fund “should dump” the three lawmakers.

“Equality should be litmus test of anyone in ‘LGBT Equality Caucus’ in Congress,” Signorile said. “And realize that these individuals voted against desperate LGBT Syrian refugees — there was hope 500 of the refugee spaces would be set aside for them.”

What universe do LGBT progressives like Signorile live in that they seriously think 500 spots were going to be designated for LGBT Syrian refugees?

The debate of refugee acceptance isn’t black and white, and that’s especially true regarding disagreements about the level of scrutiny refugees should undergo. Also, polls have shown that immigrants from Muslim countries are heavily homophobic in their attitudes—that’s simply a fact, as noted here, and here, for instance.

That’s not to say the U.S. shouldn’t accept Syrian refugees, but the issue isn’t as simplistic as demagogues on both the progressive left and the anti-immigrant right are convinced it is.

More. As a coda, the Washington Post reports Gay asylum seekers face threat from fellow refugees in Europe:

What followed over the next several weeks, though, was abuse — both verbal and physical — from other refugees, including an attempt to burn Ktifan’s feet in the middle of the night. The harassment ultimately became so severe that he and two other openly gay asylum seekers were removed from the refugee center with the aid of a local gay activist group and placed in separate accommodations across town..

Our Real Enemies

The Washington Post ran an op-ed on July 13, An International War on LGBT People, by editorial page editor Fred Hiatt, that recounts how “while 25 countries and territories now allow gay marriage, 75 nations treat homosexual behavior as a crime. In 10 countries, it is punishable by death—and even where it is not, just being gay is often fatal.”

It’s an old story, as:

authoritarian governments fan hatreds to distract people from their failures and keep themselves in power. The Islamic State kills and tortures gay people—but the virulently anti-Islamist military dictators in Egypt have been persecuting gay men and lesbians as well. Russian President Vladimir Putin… turned to homophobia and “traditional values” to safeguard his grip on the Kremlin. Like dictators from Uganda to Uzbekistan, Putin defends his bigotry as a rampart against permissive “Western values.”

The Wall Street Journal had a similar op-ed on June 26, Love Among the Ruins, by the paper’s associate book review editor Bari Weiss, who took aim at the “moral relativism [that] has become its own, perverse form of nativism among those who stake their identity on being universalist and progressive,” and asked:

How else to understand those who have dedicated their lives to creating safe spaces for transgender people, yet issue no news releases about gender apartheid in an entire region of the world? How else to justify that at the gay-pride celebrations this weekend in Manhattan there is unlikely to be much mention of the gay men recently thrown off buildings in Syria and Iraq, their still-warm bodies desecrated by mobs?

She concluded, “You can’t get married if you’re dead.”

More. Last year, David Boaz noted, in Authoritarian Governments Use Old Smears to Tear Down Their Opponents, that dictators use homophobia as they previously (and often still) used antisemitism, to attack free-market capitalism that is the foundation of classical liberalism (the language gets a bit confusing because he uses “liberal” in its original, limited-government sense, not the way it’s been co-opted by the American left). Boaz wrote:

All of these epithets—homosexual, Jewish, bourgeoisie, and more recently, “American”—have been staples of illiberal rhetoric for centuries. Liberals–advocates of democracy, free speech, religious freedom, and market freedoms—have been tarred as “cosmopolitan” and somehow alien to the people, the Volk, the faithful, the fatherland, the heartland.

Furthermore. Alexander McCobin writes The gay rights battle is not over for libertarians, explaining that “There is both a need and an opportunity to help end state-sponsored discrimination against homosexuals across the globe. The US libertarians and LGBT rights movements should be involved in accomplishing such a worthy goal.”


The West vs. The Rest

The Irish have voted overwhelmingly in favor of same-sex marriage, making Ireland “the world’s first nation to approve same-sex marriage by a popular vote” which “would have been unthinkable just a few years ago in what traditionally had been a Roman Catholic stronghold,” reports the New York Times.

And from the Irish Times, Ireland becomes first country to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote.


The victory for marriage equality shows that with some remaining exceptions (hopefully soon to be remedied), same-sex marriage is or will shortly be the cultural norm in Western Europe and North America, also in New Zealand, and again hopefully, before too long in Australia, the last major English-speaking holdout (Northern Ireland also doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages).

What we shouldn’t forgot, however, is the West is different from the rest. Not only in the Islamic world, but in much of Christian Africa gay people face life-threatening persecution (South Africa is the one African nation that recognizes same-sex marriages). The lives of LGBT people are also marked by harrowing oppression in Russia and throughout most of Asia, and in much of Eastern Europe conditions range from merely bad to worse.

The struggle on behalf of LGBT rights should focus more on the world (in terms of supporting local efforts), and less on orchestrating overstated outrage to perceived slights against political correctness here at home.

Campus Left Targets Israel, Where Gays Are Free

Those on the left who believe the Western/capitalist world is the source of all evil often target Israel as the one country so vile that not only should it be boycotted, but institutions must be pressured to divest from Israeli investments. This is, sadly, a view that’s all the rage on American and European campuses these days (here’s a look at Wellesley). Which is why it’s good to see ads such as this one: Hamas, ISIS and Iran kill gays like me.

More. Milo Yiannopoulos writes:

As a gay man I would be killed in at least ten Islamic countries for being who I am. … Feminists and left-wingers need to stop inventing fictitious complaints about “manspreading” and “manslamming” and tackle genuine oppression in the Middle East. So far they have been shamefully and inexcusably cowardly about speaking truth to real power.

The Lessons of DADT Repeal

This account of the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) in the politically liberal New Republic is fascinating for what it says, and for what it doesn’t say.

The report describes how the Obama administration did not want to pass repeal in 2010, when Democrats held large majorities in both houses of Congress, but preferred to push it off into 2011, when it was first likely, and then certain, Republicans would control the House of Representatives:

“When asked by LGBT leaders how Obama planned to repeal DADT in a Republican House, the administration’s DADT pointman, Deputy Chief of Staff, Jim Messina, had no answer.”

Not so clearly stated is the reason why: so the Democrats would have a campaign issue to galvanize gay voters, just as not passing immigration reform when in control of Congress gave Obama a cause to fire-up Latino voters. In both instances, the GOP is far worse than the Democrats, but the Democrats intended to use these issues for political advantage by not delivering to their base.

The article does relay how LGBT activists and bloggers forced the Democrats to move on DADT in December 2010, before the House shifted to the GOP in January 2011. However, it does not relate the heroic actions by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and how she mobilized her Senate colleagues against Majority Leader Harry Reid, who was doing everything he could to ensure DADT repeal would be tied to a package that Republicans were pledged to block, so Reid could tell Democrats he tried, and then blame Republicans for defeating DADT repeal. Collins, Joe Liberman (I-Conn) and a few others didn’t let him get away with that, and when Reid did allow a “clean” bill to come to the floor, it easily passed (as I blogged at the time).

The New Republic article relates how, following DADT repeal, the Obama administration for the first time embraced marriage equality. It doesn’t say that the reason it did so was it had to move on to another issue that would energize gay voters. But without DADT repeal, it’s unlikely there would have been movement on marriage.

The upshot: for this administration, everything is a political calculation.

“Stand up for freedom”

An extraordinary video contribution to the debate over marriage in Minnesota. The speaker is Republican state representative John Kriesel, who (as David Link recounted last year) took a prominent role in the Minnesota legislature’s debate last year on the marriage issue. Kriesel’s website begins with the following first line, from a Minneapolis Star-Tribune profile:

John Kriesel may be the only representative in the Minnesota Legislature who believes two men should be able to marry each other AND shoot someone who trespasses on their property.

Speaking of marriage and the military, Freedom to Marry and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network have collaborated on a highly effective video that concludes with the haunting question, “What if you lost the person you love… and you were the last to know?”

DADT Is Ended

The repeal of the 1993 “don’t ask, don’t tell” law that banned gay military personnel from serving openly (or, really, even if they kept in the closet, given the escalation of witch hunts that preyed into emails, followed up hearsay, and tracked service members’ off-duty socializing) went into effect today, although opposition by the socially reactionary right continues.

The repeal measure was passed at the very end of the last Congress, just before the Democrats gave up control of the House, due in no small measure to this.

More. On Tuesday night, I attended a celebration by the National Log Cabin Republicans in D.C. marking the end of the ban. Addressing the gathering and speaking movingly about its meaning, with many references to individual liberty and liberty for all (that is, Republican language), were Sen. Susan Collins, Sen. Scott Brown, Rep. Richard Hanna, and Rep. Nan Hayworth. Also in attendance: former Reps. Jim Kolbe and Tom Davis.

As noted above, I believe that Log Cabin, with a national staff of three (yes, three!) played a critical role. Moreover, the true congressional heroes of the repeal were Sen. Collins and Sen. Joe Lieberman.

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, it should be noted, never pushed for repeal or any other pro-gay equality legislation, but his role with “don’t ask, don’t tell” was particularly egregious. In late 2010, he insisted that the repeal bill be combined with an appropriations measure that the GOP was determined to block, and did with its filibuster. Reid then declared it was the GOP’s fault that the repeal failed. An incensed Sen. Collins and Sen. Lieberman demanded that a separate, stand-alone “don’t ask” repeal bill be brought forward, and the media glare forced Sen. Reid to capitulate. The stand-alone repeal was brought up for a vote and easily passed with the support of many senators, including Sen. Brown, who had voted against the combined appropriations/repeal bill.

Tonight, Sen. Collins shared that she simply couldn’t, at first, believe what Sen. Reid was doing (and then charged to the podium to protest the maneuver and its foregone conclusion—to no avail). It’s all politics, boys and girls. It’s all politics.

The history of “don’t ask” is full of the treacherous and soul-dead (during the Clinton era, then-Sen. Sam Nunn and Secretary of State Colin Powell stand out). And the heroes, especially the thousands of honorable gay and lesbian service members, many of whom had their careers—and in some instances their actual lives—destroyed. But there were political heroes, too, and Sen. Collins and Sen. Lieberman were at the forefront.

Furthermore. Reflections by commenter “another steve” hit the mark:

The Republicans are terrible, but the Democrats are often duplicitious. Some of the LGBT activists are so caught up in pro-party partisanship that you end up with HRC being silent on the non-movement of ENDA, which I believe could have passed (and if it failed with gender identity, it would most certainly have passed, with some GOP support, as a sexual orientation protection bill).

As for Reid, it is not just inaction. If only. Reid did not want DADT repeal to pass — too controversial, too much of a risk of backlash. But he realized that having failed to do anything about ENDA or DOMA, he would have to do something for the LGBT lobby (not that HRC would mind, but others were starting to make angry observations about what all that gay money and support was actually getting). So Reid devised a brilliant ploy — bring it up tied to a measure that Republicans were clearly going to kill, and then blame the GOP for killing DADT repeal. That way, no DADT repeal to be blamed on Obama and the Democrats, and the LGBT lobby is primed to give Democrats even more money and support for zip in return.

And it ALMOST WORKED. Much of the LGBT media and many Democratic activists were selling the line that Reid TRIED and the GOP killed repeal. It was duplicitious, dishonest, and dreadful, as Miller suggests. Fortunatley, some non-HRC progressives, along with Log Cabin and leaders such as Collins and Lieberman, wouldn’t buy the lie and forced Reid to send out the clean bill, which then (surprise, suprise) easily passed.

It is this sort of mendacity that Miller rails against. And it is the blind partisanship of some on the Democratic side that makes it possible.

A Mea Culpa on DADT

The 111th Congress, 2009-11, was a landmark triumph for the rights of lesbians and gay men. The passage of legislation permitting the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was a watershed. It heralded the end of the counterproductive and cruel exclusion of gay Americans who want to serve their country in the military. This was a personal relief for the thousands of gay men and lesbians now serving, for many of those who have served but were discharged because of sexual orientation and may now re-enlist, and for the many more who will serve in years to come. Beyond that, it was important to have the country — by legislation, no less — bring homosexuals into the single most conservative institution we have, the one closest to the heart of citizenship, the one charged with the defense of our freedoms and values. The repeal knee-capped common arguments against the equal rights of gay men and lesbians in many domains, and will continue to do so as the hysterical fears it inspired are disproved in the years to come.

I confess to having been one of those who, in the fall election of 2008 and continuing until the moment of repeal last December, was deeply skeptical about the commitment of Democrats to repealing DADT and dubious about President Obama’s dedication to the effort. And while I could cavil about the sequence of events that led to the repeal vote, could note bitterly that President Clinton was primarily to blame (by incompetence, at the very least) for the codification of the ban, and heap praise on the brave handful of Republicans who voted for repeal, there is no question in my mind that it happened because of the Democrats, and specifically because of the gay Democrats and their supporters who worked for decades to change minds in their party. None of this makes any less important the work that gay Republicans are doing in the GOP. But we must give credit where it is due.

The Dancing of Politics

Steve Miller’s post on DADT makes some great points, including what appears to be the lack of action by President Obama as our advocate, fierce or otherwise.  I don’t discount the possibility that he might be doing his work behind the scenes and out of public view.  Sometimes, discretion is the better part of victory.  Not everything a President does has to be in the public eye.  But given the media’s just-shy-of prurient interest in this issue, it’s easy enough to imagine that the administration really is just watching the Senate agonize, and maybe crossing its fingers for us.

But I want to focus a bit on the politics that go unnoticed by most people.  The promise that Joe Lieberman got from Susan Collins and Richard Lugar is not what I would call a solid one.  What, exactly, or even approximately, is “an open amendment process?”  This is just the sort of subjective “agreement” politicians announce all the time to make it appear they have done something they have not.

I have no reason to believe Collins and Lugar (and others) don’t intend to vote for repeal.  But as we learned in the earlier chapters of this debate, their party’s leaders continue to have some sway over the strays.

The real test here, is once again of Harry Reid’s political skills.  The “open amendment process” is not an argument, it is an excuse that the GOP can use any time they find it necessary or helpful or just convenient.  Reid and the President can prevail (and I still assume the President does want to achieve repeal) only if they create the political climate where the GOP loses  more from continuing DADT than they do.  It’s a game of political chicken.  If the GOP thinks DADT’s continuance is better for them, they can claim any amendment process Harry Reid comes up with isn’t open enough.

And by “losing” I obviously mean political loss.  As is so often the case in Washington, not a single senator has a direct interest in this.  It’s easy for them to treat our equality as an abstract principle because for them that’s what it is.

That’s why Joe Lieberman stands out.  He has shown the kind of true and principled, actual leadership on this issue that only the best politicians even aspire to.  So, too, Patrick Murphy in the House.  In fact, Murphy had more to lose by standing up for us, and in fact lost in the midterms.  Obama’s commitment as our fierce advocate can and should be measured against the open advocacy of these two men.

But neither Lieberman nor Murphy has the clout of the President and of Reid.  This is now all about leadership.  But it will also be the acid test for the Republicans in the Senate.  How dedicated, really, are they to John McCain’s addled homophobia?  Is his really the face of the 21st Century GOP?

In fact, for the Republicans, repeal will give them all a chance to re-decide McCain’s most fateful judgment.  He could have chosen Joe Lieberman as his vice-president, but found Sarah Palin a better fit for his party.  He rejected moderation and bet the farm on empty partisanship.  In 2010, support of DADT is as empty as partisanship gets.  It has nothing in its corner except ignorance and fear — ignorance and fear that it seems even most members of the military have abandoned.

That is the political calculation that the Republicans will have to make for themselves.  For the Democrats, the calculation has to do with the risks of leadership.  They saw what happened to Patrick Murphy.  Do they have the courage to make this happen, and maybe suffer the anger of some voters, or will they take the easier course (for them) of leaving us with at least four more years of Bill Clinton’s compromised legacy?