Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Marital and the Martial

Against expectations yesterday, the Massachusetts legislature kept alive the anti-gay marriage amendment to the state constitution first proposed three years ago. Amendments to the MA state constitution must pass three votes in three consecutive legislative sessions before they are presented to the people (for a majority vote). The first hurdle was surmounted in 2004, and now--just hours before the end of the 2005-06 session--the amendment passed the second hurdle. The third hurdle must be overcome in 2007-08 session before the amendment is presented to the voters (earliest possible date is November 2008, but if the legislature waits until the last minute again, it could be pushed back to the next statewide ballot.)

Here is a quick timeline...
2003-11-18: MA Supreme Court recognizes a right to gay marriage in the state constitution
2004-03-29: MA legislature (joint session) by a narrow majority votes 105-92 to amend the constitution to ban gay marriage but approve civil unions.
2004-05-17: Gay marriages begin in MA.
2007-01-03: MA legislature (joint session) votes 62-134 to keep the amendment alive.

The MA legislature had postponed the vote until yesterday and attempted to adjourn before voting at all (which would have killed the amendment) but the MA Supreme Court intervened. Though they would not order the legislature to vote on the amendment, they chided the legislature for neglecting its constitutional duties... and apparently that was sufficient for the leadership to relent and bring the measure to a vote.

Still, there is plenty of good news remaining. Gay marriage is safe in MA for at least another couple of years, and the new MA legislature includes several more supporters of same-sex marriage than before. Furthermore, thee most recent poll (Nov '06) indicates that an astonishing 62% of the MA voters would NOT vote for the amendment (only 30% said they would support it).

In other interesting news, former Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili--the man who implemented the "don't ask, don't tell" policy--has now come out in favor of allowing gays to serve openly in the military. In his NY Times Op-Ed contribution, he noted that 24 nations, including Britain and Israel, now allow gays to serve openly, and that a recent survey of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan operations indicates that 75% would be comfortable interacting with gays.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

I sure hope the Congress repeals the anti-gay rules. It's about damned time. If Israel, which depends on its military day-to-day far more than the USA does, can handle gays in the military, so can the USA. Ditto women in combat. It's time to stop the military's drift to being a rabid right-wing institution out of step with the country. I recently had to kick a marine off a jury because he said he could not give my client (a gay man) a fair shake if he "was too effeminate." The worst thing was that this marine did not feel ashamed to say such things in public. Indeed, he may well have been making it up to get out of jury dute, using "marine" as an excuse, i.e., as shorthand for it's-okay-for-me-to-be-a-bigot.  

// posted by Anonymous

Anonymous said...

So, out of interest, if they did decide to head back to the dark ages and outlaw gay marriage in MA, what effect would that have on the marriages that have already taken place? Would they be annulled, turned into civil partnerships, or allowed to continue as legally recognised marriages?

Anyway, as far as I'm concerned, there's absolutely no reason why gay people shouldn't be given full legal equal rights (and lots of reasons why bigots like that 'marine' should get something unpleasant for holding/voicing that kind of attitude); and especially when it comes to the military - if they're willing to go out and get shot at on behalf of their country, good on them - I'm not willing to risk it! 

// posted by Pombat

Anonymous said...

It's my understanding that the British military has only allowed Gays to serve openly since the European Court of Justice ruled against them in a major case recently. Pombat, is that true? I'm sure this would have been a big story over in Blighty, can you fill us in on details? 

// posted by RBR

Anonymous said...

I agree with all that has been said. I will point out that in the US, the military has long been used as a point of integration. It played a key role in the civil rights movement by allowing blacks and women to serve. It has long bucked social trends in order to bring about social integration. It should do the same with the issue of gays.

Kicking much needed linguists out of the service for being gay is stupid and shortsighted, not to mention plain wrong.
 

// posted by USwest

Anonymous said...

Um, not sure if I can fill in on details with regards to the UK military & gays actually, as nothing definite springs to mind...

I've had a quick google, and turned up various links talking about a case back in late 1999 (including this one: Gay military ruling from BBC , from good ole Auntie of course), but I don't remember anything more recent, and also don't remember hearing about it back then (when I worked with various military folk). This link: widows pensions briefly details a decision in 2003 to allow unmarried partners, regardless of gender, access to widows pensions.

Some of the articles about the 1999 case seem to imply that the ruling was time-limited, and that it might be up for argument again, but if it's already happened, I must've missed it, sorry!

I've also turned up various bigoted comments, including one from Colin Hart, who was at the time the Christian Institute's director, making the gross assumption that any gay soldier would be sexually attracted to every other same-sex soldier they met (here: another Beeb link).

Which is a viewpoint I've never understood, but seems to be at the heart of a lot of the arguments. Maybe the real problem with a lot of these issues (gay marriage, gays in the military etc) is that there's a lot of very sexually insecure 'straight' men out there? Someone remind me of the name of the anti-gay reverend who's actually been having a relationship with a gay prostitute?

(of course, there can be humour in it too: I worked with a quietly gay guy at uni, who decided to come out to my all-straight-male flatmates - to a man, every single one of them took a physical step or at least shuffle backwards when he told them he was gay. His response was perfect though - "for f***s sake, I don't fancy any of YOU! Except for you", pointing at one of them. Possibly the funniest thing was the grilling he subsequently got from two of them, wanting to know why they were unfanciable...) 

// posted by Pombat

Anonymous said...

Very nice story, Pombat. I got a good chuckle out of it. I share your theory about insecure "straight" people. In terms of the religious folks, such as Ted Haggard (the name you are looking for),I think the root of the problem is jealousy. They would love to be open, but are too afraid.

They same holds true on Capitol Hill ,where Log Cabin Republicans find themselves misunderstood, or not understood by nearly everyone.  

// posted by USWest

US West said...

Oh and let me add . . . the problem with the Foley scandal is that is confused pedophilia with abuse of power and homosexuality.

Foley used his position of influence and charm to tempt teenage pages (while legally minors, they were still old enough to make informed choices. The Pages are not your "average" teens, and he wasn't a stalker.)

The reporting on that incident was poorly done because it never properly separated this issue. What Foley did had little if anythign to do with his sexual orientation.

Anonymous said...

Loved the story, Pombat. Rings very true. It always seems to me a sign of arrogance that many straight men seem to assume they would be irresistible to gays... or perhaps more intriguingly--if it is a matter of reciprocal reasoning on their part--such straight men may believe that, were they to open themselves up to gay sex, they would suddenly find themselves so horny they were willing to get it on with anyone...

As for what would happen to gay couples already married if the amendment passes... it is unclear. The amendment text does not discuss it directly, but it alludes fairly strongly that such would be annulled or converted automatically into domestic partnerships: "Only the union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in the commonwealth."

Interestingly, Pombat writes, "if they're willing to go out and get shot at on behalf of their country, good on them - I'm not willing to risk it!" It is somewhat curious that nobody is suggesting we allow women in combat, even though they are already in the Army serving in dangerous positions, and even though there are far more women available than gay men.

Anonymous said...

The Foley scandal frustrated me to the point of my shouting at the clips of idiots on the Daily Show - as you say USWest, they (conveniently?) confused homosexuality and paedophilia when shouting about it - the issue is not that Foley was chatting to pages of the same sex, the issue was that he was abusing his position of power to influence how these youngsters reacted to him. Anyhow, I shan't get all worked up about this now - to lighten the mood there, here's a joke I heard about it: why did the Foley scandal take so long to emerge? The republicans were waiting for the pages to grow up to be democrats, so that it'd be a bipartisan scandal...

Dr.S - definitely arrogance, yes. And your reciprocal reasoning point got me thinking. I, as many women (probably), have been unfortunate enough to meet a number of straight men who believe they are utterly irresistible to all women (convincing them otherwise can be very hard work), so I guess that also explains the 'I'm so hot the gays must want me too' view. A fair few of these men have also not struck me as overly fussy in the women they pick up, provided they pick up someone. So, maybe the problem is that there are a lot of these already very horny/easy guys out there, willing to get it on with any woman, and so their logic is that if they were gay, they'd be just the same?

And as far as women in combat goes - yeah, I've never got that either. There are already female fighter pilots, support helicopter pilots (I'm not 100% sure if there are any attack helicopter pilots, probably though), logistics support (i.e. driving trucks with all sorts of supplies into really dangerous places) and so on, but none on the front line itself, on the ground with guns. As far as I'm concerned, if there is a standard (physical tests etc) that is required for a soldier, then passing it should qualify you, regardless of your sex. 

// posted by Pombat

Anonymous said...

Pombat, you are correct about the standard physical tests. However, the requirements are different for women than for men. By different, I mean "easier". There is still a great deal of resistance to women in the military at all. And I hear it from my army brother. The men think women get special treatment. Their pregnancy's mess up duty rosters, women get pregnant on purpose, they say to avoid duty. They join to be doted on by men, and they play around with all the guys causing problems in the ranks,etc. These things may happen, I don't know. But this all paints of stereotype of women being unreliable in war. It may also be a stereotype the army likes to keep in place to avoid promoting women to high office. The military is a boys club and they don't want women there except on support roles. I don't know, and maybe someone can tell me at what level the glass ceiling kicks in for the military. To my knowledge there are no women generals. So . . .

Frankly, if a woman wants to fight in the front line, and is able, why not? I mean women are more often the victims of war, they should be allowed to fight it. I wouldn't want to, myself. But I am only one person. 

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

Y'see, the women having easier physical requirements isn't going to help them be accepted by the boys! Granted, part of the problem seems to me to be that the US Army (don't know about t'other forces) focuses very much on brute strength, maximum bench press weight, that kind of thing, which of course women aren't as good at (whereas the UK Army, and the Aussies for that matter, both focus more on general stamina - the UK & Aus soldiers may not be able to dead-lift as large a weight, but they can run all day, fully kitted up, after just four hours sleep, which is a lot more useful to be honest).

But there are plenty of women out there who could easily train to pass a balanced military physical just as well as the men.

You're very right about the military being a boys' club too (read Terry Pratchett's Monstrous Regiment for an amusing take on that).

Anyhow, to answer your question about ranks etc, google is my friend and has yielded: female military firsts  (incidentally, the user-submitted firsts confirms that there are US female attack helicopter pilots, and the general page mentions women in command of ships etc), the fact that Kathryn Frost, Maj Gen was the highest ranking woman in the US Army (that's two below General, US Army ranks).

For completeness, the UK Forces situation is described here: UK Forces, which lists the highest ranks achieved by females as Commodore, Brigadier and Air Commodore in the Navy, Army and RAF respectively. And in Australia, Elizabeth Cossons is apparently the highest ranking woman in the Army, at Brigadier, and Flt Lt Joanne Mein is the first woman to be in a military precision flying display team.

Maybe the fear is less one of the women not being combat-able (which is basically what's always quoted at the reason for not allowing them in front line combat), and more a psychological one on the part of the men, in that they still feel it's their job to protect women from harm? 

// posted by Pombat

Anonymous said...

OK, half kidding here...

The "problems" with relationships between women in the army fooling around with the men and causing trouble would seem to me to be more likely to happen in the rear areas. Perhaps it is precisely the unwillingness of the military to let the women do anything other than sit back "in the rear with the gear" that causes these problems. Perhaps the solution is to reverse the rule entirely Woman may serve in the military but ONLY IN COMBAT.

This would do two things. No woman would join the army expecting an cushy career. There would be little time for morale disturbing hanky-panky.  

// posted by RBR

Anonymous said...

Pombat: just to clarify something I was unsure of in your post... most people would say there have been women Generals, because anyone who wears stars in the U.S. Army is a commonly called a "General." Four-star Generals (which, as you point out, are the only ones who should technically be called "Generals") are the highest rank in the U.S. Army at present.

Anonymous said...

Dr.S, yes, sorry, that is what I meant - there's not been a woman yet with the rank "General" or "Lieutenant General", Maj Gen is the highest thus far.

Our (UK) Army ranks are slightly different, in that we only have three types of general (UK Army ranks , whereas you have "Brigadier General", we just have "Brigadier", the ranks are exactly equivalent in terms of NATO grades though), but to be honest, I can never remember the exact titles above around Colonel, as we always referred to anyone above that by a number of stars, and were polite to anyone with crossed swords on his uniform :-)

RbR - I know you were half kidding, but I very much doubt any woman has ever joined the Army because she was looking for a cushy career. And as far as the "morale disturbing hanky-panky" goes, we know it's not just the women doing that, because there aren't any gays in the army...

As far as solving any problems involved with having women in the military, several things need to happen: the standards for any post need to be set at a certain level, and if you pass, you can take up the post, no exceptions; any man subscribing to the mindset that women are only sexual objects needs to learn to see the women he works with as people, just the same way he sees the men; the media need to get over the fact that women can die in combat, just like men (that military firsts link mentions the first female fighter pilot to die in combat - she was massive news, the twenty-odd male pilots who died were not).

So, the way I see it, the problems with women in the military are not ones that women can solve on their own, simply by a shift in their behaviour - it's going to take a shift in attitude from the men around them... 

// posted by Pombat

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Pombat!

The other thing that needs to be mentioned is that society must stop making military service the ultimate determinate of patriotism. There are many ways to demonstrate patriotism, and they don't all require that you carry a gun.

I'd point out that this lack of military service is one of the excuses used for NOT voting for a female president, that and the idea that a woman would be unlikely to order troops into combat. They never heard of Maggie Thatcher.
 

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

Either that or the Forces Chiefs don't want to risk letting a Maggie Thatcher-a-like loose in the White House because they're scared...

Regardless of whether or not you agreed with her politics, there's no way anyone could say she wasn't strong or smart - have you seen the clip of the reporters asking her what it was like to be the first woman prime minister? Her answer was that she was the first prime minister with a science degree.

You're spot on with the whole military service/patriotism thing too - doesn't seem to be an issue in the UK, possibly because we don't have the gun culture you guys do - people with guns here are 'bad guys' (criminals, lunatics) or 'good guys' (military, some specialised police. Oh, and some toffs with shotguns I guess ;-p). The average person doesn't come into contact with guns in their day to day life at all. Same can be said of Australia too I think.

Segueing (sp? should the second e be there?) a touch now, but related to the patriotism point - I was catching up on old Daily Shows earlier (Hi, I'm Pombat, and I'm a Daily Show addict), and caught a bit of an interview with Glenn Back (also sp? The CNN guy) basically questioning Keith Ellison's patriotism, on the basis that he's Muslim. I'm assuming that all the Citizens think this is daft (because having an American Muslim in the public eye, presumably doing good things, can only help), but what's your read of the general attitude of the average American to Muslims, and now having one in Congress? 

// posted by Pombat

Anonymous said...

I don't think most American's care that we have a Muslim in office. He’s an interesting novelty. The issue isn't Muslim, it is Arab you see. We have a history of Black Muslims in this country. So I don't think religion is the issue. I also think most people found it interesting that he took his oath on the Koran, especially one owned by Thomas Jefferson. That makes it a little hard for the WASPs (White, Anglo-Saxon Protestants) in this country to complain.

Personally, if I were elected, I'd ask to take my pledge on the U.S. Constitution. That is, after all, what you are pledging to uphold and protect. The Bible really doesn't have a place beyond the tradition. If you don't really believe in God, or don't feel strongly about God, taking an oath on any holy book strikes me as hypocritical.What happens when someone wants to take an oath on the Book of Mormon? That,I would have a problem with on all sorts of levels.



Oh, I just want you to know that I don't know anyone other than cops who have daily contact with firearms. So not all Americans are gun lovers. It is regional.
 

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

We now have two Buddhists in Congress as well. One, congresswoman Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai) was raised in the Buddhist faith and she was sworn in with no book at all. The other, Hank Johnson (D-Georgia) converted to Buddhism many years ago, although his family is Christian. Johnson used a Bible, citing tradition.