This column has returned after four months or so due to my being sidelined. I am glad to be back, and happy to note that this month my home state, Illinois, became the seventh state in the nation to legalize civil unions. Chicago witnessed a big bash as dozens of couples participated in a mass civil union ceremony in the city’s Millennium Park.
Suggesting that the tide may be turning, at least as far as the views of elites are concerned, a leading law firm announced that it would not defend the (misnamed) Defense of Marriage Act in court against a challenge that it violates the Constitution. The firm was evidently concerned about criticism it might receive from law students it would try to recruit, and from potential clients. This may be an important indicator where now opposition to same-sex marriage and other gay goals is begin to look like old-fashioned bigotry, as happened on the issue of racial miscegenation. Legal circles have long been supportive of gay rights, of which Justice Antonin Scalia complains bitterly. What Scalia had not appreciated is that the legal profession has come to believe that sexual orientation is irrelevant to a person’s worth, and the law must reflect that. It took a half century of work and activism to transform the legal profession so that it supported equality for gays. In the late1960s activists began to challenge successfully federal policies that allowed firings from the civil service of gays. In 1973 the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund was established, and immediately drafted legislation protecting gays from discrimination in housing and employment. Soon law schools and bar associations found themselves lobbied to adopt nondiscrimination policies. In the next decade, the Supreme Court began to strike down anti - gay state constitutional amendments, By then major firms were no longer defending anti-sodomy laws on constitutional or policy grounds. What a different climate from 40 years ago! Whereas judges until into this century might rule that it was defamatory to call a straight man gay, judges now seem to acknowledge that there has been a sea change in attitudes. Admittedly, some of the public has yet to catch up with what has been a transformation in cultural attitudes.
GAY VETS are now trying to reclaim their military careers or at least recover compensation that they are due. The Pentagon suggests that such former service members may consult a recruiter about rejoining, which obviously is not an equitable solution to the issue at hand. What about compensation? What about rank? What about ruined careers? Such individuals worry about penalties for time missed if they simply reenlist. They also in many cases are fighting to have their discharge papers revised. The Service members Legal Defense Network has asked the Secretary of Defense to create special boards to handle these cases. Older vets from World War II, Korean and Vietnam service still lack their benefits because of their dishonorable discharges.
UGANDA AGAIN: The anti gay bill that seemed to unite the world against it was finally shelved by the Uganda parliament. The Anti-Homosexuality bill which among other elements would allow the death penalty for gays, was laughed out of Parliament on the last day of its session. But while those MPs might have been daunted by the world’s opposition to the proposed legislation, some nevertheless speak of reintroducing the legislation at the next session. The Minister of Ethics referred bitterly to intimidation from outside as interfering in Uganda’s internal affairs. So we will see.
MOVIE! MOVIE! MOVIE!
A movie just released will have us all rushing to a local theater, that is, if it is playing which it probably will not be, so we will have to wait for its DVD availability.
The movie is called BEGINNERS, and is based on the experience of the writer/director’s own family. A seemingly happy marriage of over 40 years is ended with the wife’s death. A son, who is the main character is incredulous when his father –- played by Christopher Plummer -- announces that he now realizes that he is gay. And he wants to waste no more time. He ties on a rainbow scarf, and proceeds to develop a gay circle of friends and lovers. It should be a blast!