March 31, 2013

The Legalization of Gay Marriage is Inevitable But Only if All People Are People

The Justices of the Supreme Court (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Is the legalization of gay marriage inevitable?

 THIS NATION’S FOUNDING MANIFESTO, the Declaration of Independence, declared “all men” to be “created equal” and latent in these revolutionary words were the civil rights issues — most glaringly slavery and the unequal status of women — that would dominate the next centuries of the American Republic. Not until near the end of one of the bloodiest civil wars ever fought did Congress approve the 13th amendment, abolishing slavery. Abigail Adams had written to her husband, John, that “if […] attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion and we will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation,” but not until the 20th century would suffrage be extended to adult women in the United States. The quest for equal treatment of minorities and women continues to the present day — a promise elevated to the level of constitutional guarantee by the post–Civil War enactment of the 14th Amendment, commanding that no state “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
For the moment, ground zero in the battle for equality has moved to the issue of gay and lesbian marriage. The United States Supreme Court has begun hearings on two cases that squarely confront the issue of the equal right of gays and lesbians to wed: in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Court will consider a challenge to the 2008 amendment to the California Constitution known as Proposition 8, which eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry in California, and in United States v. Windsor, a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a federal law enacted in 1996 that authorized states not to recognize gay marriages and defined marriage for all federal purposes as the union of one man and one woman.
Two recent books provide a framework for appreciating the history behind this historic moment in the nation’s highest court. Michael J. Klarman’s “From the Closet to the Altar: Courts, Backlash and the Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage” provides a detailed history of the gay rights movement up to the eve of the Hollingwsorth and Windsor cases, whereas Dale Carpenter’s “Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas” presents a micro-history of a Texas case that against all odds reached the United States Supreme Court and resulted in the constitutional abolition of anti-sodomy laws.
Both books recount the world of oppression that prevailed for gays and lesbians well into the latter part of the 20th century, and Klarman does so in shocking detail. As of 1960, every state criminalized even private, consensual sex between same-sex adult partners. Arrests of homosexual men for engaging in same-sex relationships numbered in the thousands annually. Local vice squads shared such arrest information with the FBI, and, according to Klarman, even “friendship with a known homosexual could subject one to an FBI investigation.” Being gay was declared by President Eisenhower to be a “sexual perversion” that was “sufficient grounds for exclusion from federal employment.” Homosexual acts were deemed unprofessional conduct sufficient to deny or revoke licenses for doctors, lawyers, or nurses.” Professors were expelled from universities for alleged homosexual acts. The medical profession categorized homosexuality as a disease, and even the ACLU in 1957 referred to homosexuality as “socially heretical or deviant.” Gays and lesbians lived in the closet lest they fall prey to any of these life-crushing prohibitions.
If there is an equivalent in the gay rights movement to the Boston Tea Party, it would be the riot in Greenwich Village at the Stonewall Inn in 1969. A routine sweep by the New York police of this gay bar turned into a violent confrontation in reaction to the officer’s treatment of bar patrons. Over the next several days, crowds assembled in Greenwich to protest police harassment of gay bars, and “similar demonstrations quickly spread to other cities.” As reported by Klarman, “Stonewall seemed to crystalize the incipient gay activism of the 1960s.”
Not long after Stonewall, same-sex couples first attempted to get marriage licenses, leading immediately to legal challenges to their right to marry. According to Klarman, “the judges who decided these early gay marriage cases did not simply reject the plaintiffs’ arguments, they treated them with derision.” At the same time, challenges to the state laws prohibiting sodomy were working their way through the courts. In 1986, the United States Supreme Court faced this issue in Bowers v. Hardwick, and in a 5-to-4 decision ruled in favor of the constitutionality of such laws. The majority opinion, written by Justice Byron White, even went so far as to describe the argument for a constitutional right to engage in homosexual acts as “facetious,” and, in a concurring opinion, Chief Justice Warren Burger cited the 18th century legal English legal commentator, William Blackstone, for the proposition that homosexual relations were a “deeper malignancy” than rape. To say, as Klarman does, “the gay community was devastated by Bowers” would hardly be an understatement.
And yet, but 17 years later, in 2003 the Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas would reconsider Bowers and overrule it. How the Supreme Court went from deriding a constitutional right to engage in homosexual sex as “facetious” in Bowers to a majority opinion endorsing it as fundamental to the constitution is the subject of Carpenter’s “Flagrant Conduct.” While Klarman attempts to cover the entire sweep of the gay rights movement, Carpenter drills into the details of the Texas case that began one night in 1998 when the Houston County police, acting on a false police report of a “black man” berserk with a gun, entered the apartment of John Lawrence and reportedly saw Lawrence and another man, Tyron Garner, engaging in anal sex in Lawrence’s bedroom. The call to the police was made by a jealous and somewhat mentally unstable friend, Robert Eubanks, who was later convicted of making a false police report. What the police actually witnessed is a subject of dispute, but all witnesses agree that upon entry of the police into his bedroom, Lawrence angrily challenged the officers, saying, “You don’t have any right to be here.”
From such citizens’ assertions are constitutional cases born. The Texas statute with which Lawrence and Garner were subsequently charged (Texas Penal Code § 21.01) prohibited anal and oral sex but only between homosexual partners. In 1973, Texas had revised its criminal code to remove any prohibition of anal or oral sex between heterosexual couples — thus, the Texas law was targeted by its own terms exclusively to prohibit homosexual relations, not the act of sodomy itself. Ironically, Carpenter concludes, based on his own interviews with the arresting officers, Lawrence and Garner, they were most probably not engaging in sex at all when the police entered the bedroom. The police report, alleging finding the two in flagrante delicto, was, Carpenter believes, false (why the police might have fabricated the account is the subject of some discussion in the book). An ironic twist, Carpenter writes, since the Texas sodomy law was “never really about stopping sodomy,” and thus it is fitting that the law “got its comeuppance in a case in which there was probably no sodomy.”
If Lawrence and Garner were innocent (as they both claimed in their interviews with Carpenter and elsewhere), how did this case make its way to the Supreme Court? Cases of enforcement of § 21.01 were so rare that news of the charges against Lawrence and Garner made its way to several gay rights activists in Houston. In particular, it was one Lane Lewis who persuaded Lawrence and his co-defendant to make this a test case. With the assistance of pro bono counsel assembled by Lambda, a gay rights legal defense organization, they entered “no contest” pleas to the charges and appealed on the grounds that the statute was unconstitutional. And thus, the case began its climb up the appellate ladder eventually to the courtroom of the United States Supreme Court.
The first appellate stop was an unexpected victory: a three judge panel of Republican appointees rule 2-to-1 that the Texas statute was an unconstitutional violation of Texas’s constitutional guarantee that all its citizens were “equal” under the law. Shocked by this turn of events, the district attorney requested, and received, a rehearing before a nine-judge en banc appellate panel, which reversed the first panel’s decision by a 7-to-2 vote. Since there was no right to engage in homosexual conduct (citing Bowers), the panel reasoned there was no impermissible discrimination in outlawing same-sex sodomy while permitting the same act between heterosexual couples — “the state could rationally conclude that ‘homosexual sodomy’ is a different, and more reprehensible offense than ‘heterosexual sodomy,’” the panel concluded. A petition for review by Texas’s highest court went unheard. All that was left was the hundred to one shot of review before the United States Supreme Court, and the Lawrence–Garner legal team took it, petitioning the Court to review the case and squarely asking it to reconsider and overrule Bowers. In December of 2002 the Supreme Court voted to accept the case.
Some of Carpenter’s most insightful writing follows in his description of the careful manner by which the Lawrence-Garner legal team framed and expressed their legal arguments and the selection process for the lawyer to argue the case (they settled on Paul Smith, a gay beltway lawyer with impeccable appellate credentials); the State, by contrast, sent Chuck Rosenthal, a homespun, deep voiced Texas trial lawyer with little appellate experience — a “mismatch,” according to Carpenter, from the start. The unequal talents of these two counsel, in this case about equality, became evident during the course of oral argument on March 26, 2003 (ironically, 10 years to the day before the hearing in the DOMA and Proposition 8 cases). Smith held his own against an onslaught of critical questions from the conservative wing of the court, championed by Justice Scalia, whereas Rosenthal floundered both in his presentation as well as his responses to questions from the bench. Justice Kennedy, thought to be the swing vote, offered neutral comments, leaving open his position on the issue. The outcome was up in the air.
Near the end of the Court’s session, the decision in Lawrence v. Texas was announced: Justice Kennedy would deliver the opinion of a five-justice majority. The Texas law was an unconstitutional infringement of the right of personal liberty guaranteed by the Constitution, and “Bowers v. Hardwick should be, and now is, overruled.” “There is a realm of personal liberty which the government may not enter,” wrote Justice Kennedy, and Penal Code § 21.01 invades it. The Texas law  and all anti-sodomy laws still on the books were unconstitutional. Carefully, however, both Justices Kennedy and O’Connor (in concurrence) distanced themselves from any implications their decision might have as to the right of gays to marry.
In dissent, Justice Scalia fulminated. Likening sodomy to bigamy, incest, obscenity and even bestiality, he argued the State had every right to outlaw conduct it deemed immoral. And, perhaps prophetically (we shall see how argument goes on the DOMA and Proposition 8 cases), Justice Scalia rebuked his colleagues for thinking this decision held no implications for gay marriage. “Do not believe it,” he wrote.
Today’s opinion dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions. […] One can believe that this case does not involve the issue of homosexual marriage only if one thinks that principle and logic have nothing to do with the decisions of this Court.
Carpenter remains focused on Lawrence, but Klarman’s book takes the longer historical view. He documents a succession of legal victories (usually in the state courts) followed by backlashes (usually in the legislatures or by public referendum) that resulted in a halting, two steps forward, one step back process in the arduous ascent of gay and lesbian rights in the United States. Baehr v. Lewin, a 3-to-1 decision by the Hawaii Supreme Court, was among the first cases to focus the public on the issue. Finding that a law restricting marriage to a man and a woman was a sex classification comparable to the already declared unconstitutional ban on interracial marriage, the Hawaii court concluded the law was subject to “strict scrutiny,” meaning it could not be upheld absent a compelling state interest. As a practical matter, once a court decides “strict scrutiny” applies, a statute rarely withstands review and the abolition of Hawaii’s same-sex ban was widely predicted. The victory was shortlived. “Baehr provoked an enormous political backlash,” Klarman writes, “both in Hawaii and on the mainland.” Religious groups, in particular the Catholic and Mormon churches, expressed outrage at the decision. Attempts to limit marriage to heterosexual couples were reintroduced in the Hawaii legislature, and eventually a constitutional amendment permitting the legislature to ban same-sex marriage but create a civil union status for same-sex couples.
Back on the mainland, backlash to what Congress viewed as a wacky, outlier decision from Honolulu took the form of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which easily passed both houses of Congress in 1996, to be signed by a reluctant President Bill Clinton that same year, quietly after midnight and with no ceremony (Clinton would later reverse his position on gay marriage). DOMA provided that no state is required to recognize a same-sex marriage from another state and codifies the non-recognition of same-sex marriages for all federal purposes, including insurance benefits for government employees, Social Security survivors benefits, immigration, and the filing of joint tax returns.
Klarman shows the pattern exhibited by the Baehr decision — judicial action in favor of gay rights, followed by public backlash, lead usually by the religious right — replayed in jurisdictions across the United States, among them State v. Baker in Vermont, Goodridge v. Department of Public Health in Massachusetts and Varnum v. Brien in Iowa. Overwhelmingly, the state supreme courts found, in keeping with the pathbreaking Hawaii decision, that restricting marriage to heterosexual couples violated equal protection of laws. California was among them. In 2008, in a 4-to-3 decision written by its cautious, Republican-appointed chief justice, Ronald George, the state’s highest court ruled that “statutes that treat persons differently because of their sexual orientation should be subjected to strict scrutiny” and the existing “California legislative and initiative measures limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples violate the state constitutional rights of same-sex couples and may not be used to preclude same-sex couples from marrying.” Within months, some 17,000 gay and lesbian partners married in California, but the pattern of backlash replayed itself here, as well, and with a vengeance. Klarman writes:
Protect Marriage, a broad collation of gay marriage opponents that included the Mormon Church, the California Catholic Conference, and many evangelical churches, ran a campaign to qualify a marriage amendment for the ballot and then to pass it.
This was Proposition 8, also the subject of this week’s Supreme Court hearings. The public relations campaign for and against Proposition 8 proved to be the most expensive ballot contest of its kind in American history, with the two sides together spending nearly $85 million. Despite early predictions that Proposition 8 would fail in this generally liberal state, the proponents seized the upper hand in the media, emphasizing, for example, alleged dire effects on children if gay marriage were “taught in the schools.” In November 2008, California voters approved Proposition 8 by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent. A chastened California Supreme Court refused to invalidate Proposition 8 on technical grounds, and California’s gay spring turned to winter.
All avenues of appeal having been exhausted in the California courts, opponents of Proposition 8 turned to the federal courts as a last resort (for the most part gay activists had avoided the federal courts, packed with right-wing judges from years of Republican presidencies, including the Supreme Court itself). Perry v. Schwarzenegger (now entitled Hollingsworth v. Perry before the Supreme Court) filed in May 2009 in the Northern District of California, challenged Proposition 8 as a violation of the federal, not state, constitution. Vaughn Walker, the district court judge to which it was assigned, and a George H.W. Bush appointee, conducted (over the objection of Proposition 8 supporters) a trial on the factual issues including the effect of same-sex parenting on children and the history of discrimination against gays. In August 2009 he issued his ruling: Proposition 8 interfered with the fundamental right to marry and failed to meet even a rational basis scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause. Predictably, conservatives expressed outrage. Judge Walker retired from the bench not long after the decision and came out as gay. Efforts to reverse his decision on the basis of his alleged “bias” as a gay man were unsuccessful. Judge Walker’s opinion was affirmed by a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit and the stage was set for review by the United States Supreme Court, which accepted the case in December of last year.
Given the regularity of backlash, has resort to litigation helped or hurt the gay rights cause? Klarman says a bit of both:
On balance, litigation has probably advanced the cause of gay marriage more than it has retarded it. But such litigation has also probably impeded the realization of other objectives of the gay rights movement, and it has had significant collateral effects on politics.
The galvanizing effect of court decisions upholding same-sex marriage on the religious right has proven powerful in the extreme. Elections, state and federal, often turned on a candidate’s support or opposition to gay marriage, as Klarman repeatedly demonstrates. “The issue offered great political benefits and few costs to Republicans, who took full advantage,” concludes Klarman. At the same time, the virulence of right-wing opposition to same-sex marriage may be weakening, as public opinion adapts to a world in which openly gay relationships are more common and more commonly accepted. A bellwether remark by right-wing warrior Glenn Beck, quoted by Klarman, illustrates this shift: “Same-sex marriage isn’t hurting anybody. Honestly, I think we have bigger fish to fry.”
Perhaps so, Mr. Beck, but the Supreme Court will have two very big fish to fry this week, when it confronts the Perry and Windsor cases. How will these cases turn out? Both Carpenter and Klarman cautiously suggest the tide may be turning in favor of same-sex marriage rights. Carpenter:
The gay rights lawyers who brought us Lawrence very carefully and deliberately avoided marriage — the “m” word. […] In the Lawrence opinion itself, Justice Kennedy carefully reserved the question of marriage for another day. But thanks in part to Lawrence, which did not so much clear the whole constitutional path as remove one huge roadblock, that day may yet come.
Klarman is more certain: recognition of gay marriage is, he thinks, “inevitable.” But that is not to say the final day of triumph may be in the chambers of the Supreme Court. The showdown there will be between warring camps of constitutional jurists — the originalists, lead by Justice Scalia, who along with Justices Thomas and Alito believe the constitution’s meaning was fixed when the document was signed, and the living constitutionalists, exemplified by Justices Breyer and Ginsburg, who see it as a document whose meaning evolves over time. (The debate over these “Cosmic Constitutional Theories” has been the subject of several reviews and interviews in LARB, see ”America’s Unwritten Constitution,” “Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts,” “Supreme Hubris: Theories of Judicial Activism,” and “Reading the Text: An Interview with Justice Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court.”) Originalists will argue the constitution never mentions “marriage” as an enumerated right, and certainly not “gay marriage.” Living constitutionalists will look to evolving societal norms and the compulsion of precedent, including Lawrence v. Texas, to argue that the time has come to recognize a constitutional right to marry whom you will. Whatever the outcome this week, the debate will not end. The call for “equality” will resound in the chambers of courts and halls of legislatures so long as our republic lives, as each generation presses to unlock the full implications of the Declaration’s promise that all — perhaps soon to truly mean “all” — are created equal.

NY Senator Calls to an End to Solitary Confinement for Gay and Lesbians

SchumerLast Tuesday, United States Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote a strongly-worded letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton urging him never to use solitary confinement simply because a detainee is gay or lesbian.  Immigration Equality commends Senator Schumer for recognizing that solitary confinement is a grossly inhumane and improper means of housing vulnerable gay and lesbian immigration detainees.   We urge both Senator Schumer and Director Morton to ensure that such recognition extends equally to transgender detainees, who are among those most commonly subjected to torturous forms of solitary confinement out of misguided concerns for their protection.
In his letter, Senator Schumer accurately remarks, “[p]articularly troubling is the reliance on solitary confinement as a means of cordoning off certain inmates, such as gays and lesbians, who may be at risk in the general detainee population. This would seem to amount to inflicting punishment in the name of offering protection.” Under the pretext of safety concerns, ICE far too often places LGBT detainees in forms of solitary confinement that are indistinguishable from harsh disciplinary practices for violent and dangerous felons.

One of Immigration Equality’s clients, a transgender woman named Marta (not her real name), was housed alone in a ten square foot cell at a Louisiana prison for 23 hours a day without access to phones, recreation, or human contact.  After she described to detention staff the distress her prolonged isolation caused her, Marta was put on suicide watch with security checks at fifteen minute intervals that further stripped her of her dignity.  Although Immigration Equality was able to secure Marta’s release from detention, many other LGBT detainees continue to languish for months on end as she did, without any meaningful way to challenge their solitary confinement.
Immigration Equality continues to recommend that ICE cease its practice of detaining LGBT immigrants, who are at increased risk of harassment, violence, and sexual assault in confinement settings.  If ICE is to detain LGBT immigrants, we agree with Senator Schumer’s stance that “[a]bove all, solitary confinement at ICE detention facilities must always be a last resort. It should never be imposed on at-risk non-citizens such as gay and lesbian detainees; ICE should find better methods to protect them.  For LGBT detainees, a variety of far more humane alternative-to-detention programs can provide superior methods of ensuring that they appear for their court hearings.  These alternatives, which may include electronic ankle bracelets, telephonic check-ins, and community-sponsored supervision go much further to protect LGBT detainees than do agonizing forms of solitary confinement.  These alternatives also more closely align with immigration detention’s nature as a form of civil, rather than criminal detention.
Immigration Equality urges Senator Schumer and Director Morton to remember that solitary confinement is inappropriate for transgender detainees, just as it is for gay and lesbian detainees.  Because detention facilities traditionally classify individuals according to their sex assigned at birth, many facilities customarily attempt to mitigate transgender detainees’ risk of victimization by immediately placing them in solitary confinement.  Given the damaging physical and mental health consequences of prolonged solitary confinement for LGBT individuals, Immigration Equality supports Senator Schumer’s position that ICE should take action to limit solitary confinement “to no more than 14 days except in the most extreme circumstances,” and that legislative reform must include protections against solitary confinement for vulnerable LGBT detainees.

Homophobic Born Again Stephen Baldwin Avoided Jail on Plea Bargain

Stephen Baldwin
Stephen Baldwin is the younger brother of 30 Rock star, Alec

Ordinarily I would not post anything about this Stephen. I understand that the Baldwin’s, All of them have issues. Wether is anger, confusion or not being able to tell which way is up.  But unlike his brothers that either  keep quiet or are supportive: Stephen has said things that I consider offensive to a gay person and has attributed it to his being born again. Which means his past involvement with gays, which he knows well! most’ve been a wet dream. So When I see him avoiding jail in something that most gays do particularly married ones without getting any benefits for it,  which is paying taxes. I get hot under the collar. I understand he does not make a lot in comparison to others in his profession but makes more than the average american. I see him not paying his taxes? Well I root for him getting to know another bubba in jail, probably the one he was messing around with in the streets of L.A. So He is not going to jail but at least I get to print that he is a scumbag and tax beater, again something he knows well.

Hollywood actor Stephen Baldwin has avoided a jail sentence after admitting income tax evasion.
In Rockland County Court, Mr Baldwin admitted failing to pay New York state income taxes for 2008, 2009 and 2010.
A plea bargain was reached to enable The Usual Suspects star's record to be wiped clean if he pays back $300,000 (£197,000) within a year.
Failure to pay within that time will result in a five-year sentence of probation.
Such a sentence would require him to complete five years under supervision and following certain conditions.
The full repayment would be expected to be made during that probation period.
Mr Baldwin's total bill including taxes, interest and penalties is $400,000 (£263,000) but state Supreme Court Justice Charles Apotheker said $100,000 (£65,765) had already been paid.
The 46-year-old actor said he never intended to avoid paying taxes and got into trouble by trusting others.
Born-again Christian
"Unfortunately, I got some really bad suggestions and advice ... from lawyers and accountants," he said outside court.
"I just look forward to getting the $300,000 paid in the next year," he said.
The actor is the youngest brother of the Baldwin acting dynasty which includes Alec, William and Daniel.
Married with two daughters, he became a born-again Christian following the terror attacks on 11 September 2001.
His early career included roles in acclaimed films such as Last Exit to Brooklyn and Born on the Fourth of July.
More recently he has appeared in a number of TV reality shows including the US version of I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here in 2009 and Britain's Celebrity Big Brother in 2010.
He is currently appearing in All-Star Celebrity Apprentice and also co-hosts a US radio show with conservative pundit Kevin McCullough.
BBC sourcing

“Global" Gay Rights Revolution

Israelis participate in the annual Gay Pride parade along the streets of Tel Aviv
As the U.S. Supreme Court held oral arguments over California’s same-sex marriage laws last week, the questions posed by the Justices suggested how far and fast the debate over gay rights had shifted. In 1971, the Supremes unanimously dismissed a same-sex marriage case, during an era when many states still criminalized homosexual sex. This time, even some of the Court’s more conservative judges gave gay marriage opponents a grilling. The changed tone reflects a dramatic evolution in U.S. popular opinion: Support for gay marriage in the U.S. has approximately doubled since 1996, reaching 53 percent in 2011. In this, Americans are hardly exceptional—in fact, compared with a number of other countries, in Europe and Latin America in particular, the U.S. is a laggard when it comes to attitudes toward gay rights.

 The decline of homophobia is a truly global revolution.
In the mid-1980s, no European country provided legal recognition to gay and lesbian couples. A quarter-century later, 16 countries in the region had same-sex marriage or legal partnership laws in place. Eleven other countries, including Argentina and South Africa, have legalized same-sex marriage. In Mexico and Brazil, gay marriage is legal in at least some states. The countries with larger majorities in favor of gay marriage than in the U.S. include Uruguay, Argentina, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Spain.

All this reflects rapidly changing global attitudes toward same-sex relationships more broadly. According to World Values Survey data, from 1993 to 2006, the proportion of people who thought homosexuality was never justifiable dropped from an average of 59 percent to 34 percent. The U.S. matched the global pattern, with a decline from 54 percent to 33 percent; if anything, acceptance of gay people was slower in the U.S. than many other places. Among the 27 countries asked about the moral status of homosexuality in both 1993 and 2006, the U.S. dropped from 12th most gay-friendly in 1993 to 17th most friendly in 2006  
The World Values Survey data do suggest that Asia and Africa remain more homophobic than the Americas and Europe, but change has been rapid nonetheless. In the 2006 wave of surveys, the majority of Indians and Chinese remained firmly against homosexuality. But the proportion of people who thought homosexuality was never justifiable fell from 93 percent to 64 percent in India from 1993 to 2006 and from 92 percent to 74 percent in China.
By some measures, people have become more accepting of differences in sexual orientation than of differences in religious belief. For example, more than a quarter of Americans and 22 percent of Brazilians suggest they wouldn’t want neighbors who practiced a different religion. But only 2 percent of Americans and 6 percent of Brazilians volunteer that they wouldn’t want to live next door to a homosexual. Across surveyed countries in 2006, 44 percent of people said they wouldn’t want to live next to someone of a different religion, compared with 16 percent who mentioned homosexuals.

Why this incredible evolution in social norms? Cross-country analysis by sociologists Amy Adamczyk and Cassady Pitt suggests that around the world (as in the U.S.) men, the less educated, older, and more religious people are all more likely to have negative attitudes toward homosexuals. Adamczyk and Pitt also suggest that Catholics and Catholic countries are less homophobic than predominantly Protestant or Muslim societies. But none of these factors has changed so fast over the last 20 years to explain the worldwide sea-change in attitudes, which suggests the global trend is driven by something more.

One explanation is that people become more tolerant when they perceive less is at stake. The history of racial discrimination provides a useful example. Only one in five Americans approved of interracial marriages in 1969, and it took until 1997 for approval to breach the 50 percent mark. But today 86 percent of Americansapprove. As more and more people encounter a happy, loving interracial or same-sex couple in real life, or even just on television, and realize such people don’t pose any threat to their well-being or way of life, perhaps it becomes considerably easier to accept the idea of equality.

All this is not to say there isn’t a long way to go in the worldwide fight against homophobia. Tom Smith of the University of Chicago reports evidence that discriminatory attitudes may be on the rise in parts of Eastern Europe, and hate crimes remain widespread in the region. A recent Afrobarometer survey in Malawi suggests that 94 percent of the population opposes same-sex marriage. And some African countries have seen campaigns to toughen laws against homosexuality,backed by far-right evangelical organizations in the U.S. Still, the global flow is toward greater inclusion—and perhaps even the U.S. Supreme Court will be lifted by the tide.

Kenny is a fellow at the Center for Global Development and the New America Foundation.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt Introduces a New Network “Pivot"

TakePart's parent company unveiled our new sister cable network, pivot,and our goal is to change the way you watch TV.  
The new network, aimed at viewers under 34 and launching August 1, will come out of the gate with shows featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Meghan McCain, and
Each night the network will air TakePart Live, a talk show whose topics will be chosen earlier in the day by viewers right here on
TakePart and pivot are both owned by Participant Media.
"Over the past 9 1/2 years, through 43 films, Participant has built a reputation for content that is entertaining, commercial and high quality, while at the same time, inspiring and empowering audiences," said Participant Media CEO Jim Berk. "pivot marks a seminal moment for us with the launch of a channel for people who care about the world around them."
So what will you find on pivot? Among the shows in the initial lineup are: 
  • hitRECord on TV—A fresh take on the variety show, hosted by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. hitRECord will showcase undiscovered artists and live performances and short films, and Joseph will invite anyone with an Internet connection to contribute. 
    • TakePart Live—A nightly live talk show built by its viewers. Mixing serious and lighter content, TakePart Live will invite celebs, activists, politicos and newsmakers to "discuss and decode the events that make up the fabric of daily life." There will be a live-streamed pre-show on the pivot site, and right here on TakePart, where viewers will help choose what will be on that night's show. 
    • Raising McCain—Part documentary, part talk show, but all Meghan McCain. The outspoken daughter of former GOP presidential candidate John McCain will explore today's pressing questions and debates through the frame of her own personal experiences. 
    • Will—A modern period drama about a young William Shakespeare from Craig Pearce, screenwriter of Moulin Rouge and The Great Gatsby.
    • Jersey Strong—A new reality series following two former gang members as they raise their families and pursue their dreams. 
    In addition to these original series, pivot will also feature the Emmy-winning football drama Friday Night Lights, the U.S. premiere of Canadian satireLittle Mosque, and the sci-fi series Farscape, as well as world television premieres of several Participant Media documentaries, including A Place at the TableState 194, and Last Call at the Oasis
    So how can you find pivot?
    In addition to traditional cable TV packages, viewers will be able to stream the network live and on demand to any device, anywhere. 
    And working with the multichannel video programming distributors (think platforms like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon), viewers will be able to subscribe to the channel without having to pay for cable

NY Paramedics Posting on the Net Pics of Their Patients

Ambulance (file/credit: CBS 2)
 More reports of FDNY EMS employees’ misuse of social media have surfaced, this time involving unauthorized photos of patients’ gory injuries.
A New York Post report on Sunday said some emergency medical responders have been photographing people who have died or found themselves injured under violent and gruesome circumstances, and placing them on social media pages or “gore books.”
One Facebook user, who identified himself as FDNY EMT Anthony Palmigiano, posted a photo of a man with a gaping neck wound to a paramedic Facebook group, and captioned it a “table saw injury,” the newspaper reported. The victim’s face is visible, in what the newspaper said was likely a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
Palmigiano told the newspaper he did not post the photo, and someone had hacked into his account, the newspaper reported.
Other EMS workers said some of their colleagues looked for “trophy shots” of graphic injuries, the newspaper reported. There were also reports of dead bodies arranged into poses.
Another EMT, Mike Vale, was accused in the Post report of posting photos of patients in the back of an ambulance. He was suspended for 30 days after the Post reported him, and Palmigiano was also under investigation, the newspaper reported.
Then latest report follows two other high-profile allegations of the misuse of social media by EMS workers. FDNY EMS Lt. Timothy Dluhos was exposed in the Post for questionable Twitter messages, and the newspaper reported he also posted humiliating pictures of patients.
Days ago, Dluhos tweeted about the controversialpolice shooting of armed teenager Kimani Gray, saying “He was a perp & died like a perp, Oh, well.”
Another message about Mayor Michael Bloomberg read: “That’s how King Jew sees it. Ban all guns & shootings will go down in NYC. But it’s the criminals w/the guns.”
Dluhos’ Twitter icon featured a picture of Adolf Hitler. He recently tweeted that a gold Nazi-era pin with a German U-boat and a swastika is “my most prized artifact.”
Just a week ago, Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano’s son, Joe, resigned from EMS after sending ugly tweets about the poor, blacks, Jews and women.
The Vulcan Society, a fraternal order of black firefighters, has called for Dluhos’ termination. The society also said the two cases expose a larger problem of institutional racism.
“The department right now is not having a grip on it, and the public right now is viewing things in the department that have not been exposed, especially when you’re talking about race and gender,” said Regina Wilson of the Vulcan Society.

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