Sunday, February 29, 2004

 
As I had written on Australia as a sex-positive culture, Fritz drew my attention to a book review in the current Gay & Lesbian Review: Paul Sendziuk's "Learning to Trust: Australian Responses to AIDS."

Sendziuk tells the story of how Australia not only contained the AIDS outbreak but also saved an entire generation of the country's gay men, at the same preventing AIDS from becoming known as a gay disease and saving gays from popular backlash. As the U.S.A. failed miserably to do all those things (the Reagan administration's policy on AIDS being what can charitably called "Let the Faggots Die") Australia's accomplishment is of uncommon interest.

So what did they do? AIDS reached Australia in 1981, the same time as the U.S. By 1984, the annual infection rate was 2,500 men. The government went to the gay community and, in effect, deputized them to handle the education of gay men on preventing the spread of the disease in their own style and in their own language. And it backed up this strategy by distributing millions of Australian Dollars to support gay organizations in their efforts. By 1988 the annual infection rate was down to 750 cases and by 1992 it was down to 400, a figure that has not been exceeded in any year since.

It was a brilliant move in that the government never had to expose the message to possibly crippling public censure to tell the full and absolute truth. It gave complete support to gay men in telling that truth to their brothers, and the information they put out pulled no verbal or graphic punches. Sandziuk quotes one activist on the campaign as saying "an arse was an arse and a fuck was a fuck." The message wasn't that one had to stop being gay, that homosex was sin and AIDS god's appropriate punishment, but that one could and would survive if one learned how and took care of himself and others. The government then promptly took this same approach to prostitutes and drug users in Australia with equal success, preventing the kind of cataclysm we saw during the 80s and 90s in this country and that still goes on.

Australia's success shows just what can be done when a government trusts and listens to its people instead of demonizing them. GWB would do well to learn from Australia's example.

Friday, February 27, 2004

 
The report commissioned by Catholic Bishops is out and the Boston Archdiocese has the dubious distinction of a priest abuse rate twice the national average: Boston since 1950 had over 7% of its priests abusing children while the national average was 4%. Now neither figure is in any way acceptable and victims' advocates point out that the statistics (4000 priests nationwide abusing 11,000 children; 162 in Boston abusing 815) do not include the last ten to fifteen years--it takes that long for the abused to get enough distance from and control over the situation to be able to report their abuse.

And it still goes on! A priest in New Hampshire has just been relieved of his duties for a history of fondling and molesting altar boys. Nor has any of them really learned anything, witness the priest who has taken over for the Bishop of Springfield, MA who had to leave his post because of charges against him. This genius made a public statement that in the 1950s when he was in the seminary, there was a lot of talk about priests known to be having sex with little boys but nobody bothered to think about it much. No further comment.

Today I will be including links to two art museums I had inexplicably neglected earlier: The National Museum and the National Gallery of Australia. Fritz lived in Australia and still has strong ties there. We visited for three weeks in the summer of 2002. It was my first trip there ever and was filled with magical moments like his directing me to drive along a certain part of the east coast of New South Wales where the forest is full of the song of bell birds.

There’s something extremely affirming about Australia--a sense that everything is still possible. And Australia is very sex-positive. Sex is not an unhealthy obsession there as it is here where most Americans are still tragically repressed about sex and therefore highly conflicted about dealing with it personally or as public policy. Sex there is simply part of life, it exists, people have it, it's great, what's the problem? That, perhaps, is why Australia has been such a good place to be gay. I think gay men have integrated sex in all its many manifestations into their lives far more than straights here in the US. So gay men fit very well into Australian society.

I encountered a stunning example of this in the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. An artist named Fiona Hall had done a 21 part work called “Paradisus Terestris” (Earthly Paradise) that combines beautiful images of male and female sex organs and sexual activity with images of native Australian plants, shrubs and trees that resemble them.
Go to http://www.roslynoxley9.com.au/artists/?aid=17&eid=87 and click on Paradisus Terestris 1989/90 and on Paradisus Terestris 1999 to see the entire work. Although the photography does not do justice to the beauty of the material (cut, hammered tin) or her extraordinary workmanship in depicting erect penises, breasts, vaginas, with mouths and hands in contact with all of the them, you’ll get the idea. There’s something really healthy about a society that can proudly exhibit such work to the public.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

 
Bill and Kent did their own personal bit to demonstrate the desire and need for gay marriage in this country by making their planned trip to apply for a marriage license. The following is from the Hartford Courant:

It certainly means a great deal to Bill Cannon and Kent Holsinger. After 28 years of building a life together, they decided it was time to make a statement. They waited quietly at the counter in Coventry Town Hall Tuesday for Town Clerk Susan Cyr to return from lunch. When she arrived, a nervous Cannon softly introduced Holsinger and said the words he'd been practicing: "We're here to apply for a marriage certificate."

"You understand that I can't issue a marriage license to you," Cyr said. "I apologize, but I can't issue that to you today."

Cannon and Holsinger had considered going to San Francisco or driving to Canada to take their vows. But either of those trips would be pointless if the marriage certificate was not legal in Connecticut, Cannon said. "It's an emotional thing for me. To have a legal document that would be invalid in this country," he said, unable to finish the sentence. "It's more an issue for us emotionally than for straight couples. A lot of people take marriage for granted."

My congratulations to them both for doing this--town by town, county by county and state by state, the mainstream has to confront the denial of rights to a sizeable minority of this country's citizens. They also have to think about their own part in denying those rights when voting on state constitutional amendments or contacting their legislators in support of laws making gays and lesbians second class citizens.

Apparently some Americans ARE thinking about the consequences of their actions. While we are told that a majority of Americans are firmly opposed to gay marriage, the current USA Today poll on the proposed U.S. Constitution amendment shows just over 91% in opposition. Perhaps the forces of repression haven't yet heard about this poll and mobilized their masses, but maybe, just maybe, some Americans are beginning to think on their own and make some rational decisions.



Wednesday, February 25, 2004

 
Poor beleaguered Tom Finneran. Activist judges to the right of him, activist judges to the left of him, all trying to dismantle his insular little world of bigotry and exclusion. First the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court directed the legislature to give gays and lesbians more of their basic civil rights, now the local Federal Court has ordered a reversal of the gerrymandered voting districts that were devised some time ago to break up the minority population into several different districts, so as to minimize the election of black and hispanic legislators from any one district. Finneran's own district went from 74% minority to 61% and other districts had similarly lowered minority population by breaking up Roxbury and joining the pieces to largely white neighborhoods surrounding it.

The Federal Court wants the lines redrawn and wants them redrawn fast--something like six weeks. That will be a nice bit of business to occupy the House Speaker during the next round of Constitutional Convention debate on an anti-gay marriage amendment to the state Constitution that begins again in just two weeks. What gets me is that Finneran runs as a member of the Democratic Party. If all Democrats were like him, blacks and whites would still be drinking from separate water fountains and riding in different sections of the bus.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

 
My Dark Night of the Computer is OVER. At 8;35 last night, a Dell technical support supervisor set up a system exchange which means I get a whole new computer in recognition of the fact that Dell destroyed mine over the phone. Interestingly, while the last week has been working itself out between Dell and me, Boston's channel 5 TV has been running a series reaming Dell for their disastrous technical support.

To recap, I love the Dell machine and came to loathe the hour long or longer waits to get to tech support, which is in India. Once there, techs reading set scripts and NOT thinking for themselves, merely following a flow chart of stock situation glitches, tell you to delete files or run certain diagnostics; then to wipe your hard drive clean; eventually send out two new hard drives when that doesn't work; then find that they have done something that prevents the operating system from being reinstalled onto either of the new hard drives; then run more diagnostics that, strangely, tell you there's no trouble anywhere--all the while refusing to simply replace the damned machine they have rendered junk. But they finally caved when they realized they were spending more money on hardware and guys making housecalls to install it than a new computer would cost them. The new system arrives in 7 to 10 days and finally I'll be on line again from home.

I watch very little TV, particularly this year which has seemed to offer little of any real value. I do occasionally watch a full night just to keep my thumb on the pulse of what's going on in the culture. Last night was an example of violence on vanilla network TV unparalleled within my experience. Most of the news shows had features on the new Mel Gibson PASSION OF THE CHRIST discussing its incredible level of violence and almost pornographic sadism by showing the most graphic clips they felt they could get away with. This was followed by something called "The Fast and the Furious," that was one long truck hijack, car chase, automatic weapon duel, abuse and beating, vehicle wreck, murder and serious wound orgy. The psychlology of this kind of production is interesting--the hardware and the actors are all gorgeous and taken to impossible levels of surface perfection and performance. Vin Diesel starred at his absolute hottest and the other men weren't far behind. The technical virtuosity of the film making and the action sequences was beyond praise. It's all incredibly, manipulatively seductive. And it's all completely empty. CSI Miami ended the evening, opening with a viscious home invasion that included violent destruction and murder, continuing through a total deconstruction of family life to reveal betrayal and corruption at every turn. I'll be back to reading and working on the house tonight with just the CD player going.

Welcome sign of the eventual passing of winter into spring: Fritz will begin tapping the row of great old maples that surround the parking area of his center. This weekend I'll help him set up the boiler and a new batch of his home-made maple syrup will
begin boiling down.

Monday, February 23, 2004

 
I have gotten to the point in John Boswell's book where he documents the location of manuscripts--LOTS of them--for same-sex marriage ceremonies (overwhelmingly male-male) in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox branches of Christianity. The geographic range is from Ireland in the west to Syria in the east and from St. Petersberg in the north to the Monastery of Mt. Sinai in the south. The surviving manuscripts date from the fourth to the sixteenth--yes, sixteenth-- centuries and are predominantly in Greek and Old Church Slavonic, with notations on some translating the ceremony into Arabic for Christians in the Near and Middle East, Egypt and Arabia. He says there's no doubt that these are actual marriage ceremonies and that they occur bound into sacrementary books along with heterosexual marriage ceremonies.

One might expect to find these manuscripts in Latin in the west, but there are almost none--Boswell believes that at some point in time the homophobia that we know from the Church today overwhelmed the custom in the west and that manuscripts in Latin were destroyed but some copies survive and are even accessible in the Vatican Archives. These days the Greek Orthodox Church isn't so friendly to gays itself, but some of the biggest finds have been at the great and highly venerated Monastery of Mt. Athos.

As to the legality of this in Church Law, the only stricture that Boswell has been able to find after exhaustive research is that the ceremony was forbidden to monks. That's it. It looks like the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches were marrying male couples for half to three quarters of their history.




Sunday, February 22, 2004

 
The monthly Sweat Lodge gathering took place at Fritz's last night and in spite of some uncertain weather we had thirteen in all. As I am not superstitious (although the MACBETH curse, well known in theatrical circles, is something I do respect) I had no hesitation about getting into an intimate space with a pile of glowing hot rocks as one of thirteen naked men. There was some chant, some meditation, a lot of brotherly affection and then we emerged to find our way to the showers and to dinner.

A dear friend, one half of a wonderful male couple, loves to tease me about what he calls "dancing naked in the woods." He and many other of my friends are not into things like Sweat Lodge rituals or activities related to gay spirituality. I am and it gives me a lot of my strength and identity as a gay man.

I was not pleased when Ralph Nader entered the presidential race this morning. I do truly believe that his candidacy in 2000 was responsible for the presidency of George W. Bush, and when I heard Nader say that he is running with the goal of getting Bush out of office, I yelled back at the radio, "then DON'T run!" Nader is an Independent this time, not a candidate for the Green Party which I understand was deeply divided about his running again based on what happened last time. I do imagine, however, that Nader's statement was greeted with great enthusiasm by GWB and the entire Republican Party. They owe him SO much.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

 
Interesting news this morning that our House Speaker, Tom Finneran, will announce tomorrow in a public interview that he has "softened" his position and will now support civil unions for gays and lesbians. Now, civil unions are NOT marriage and do not bring with them the raft of benefits under the law--the tax and inheritance laws in particular--that marriage does, partially because marriage benefits are codified while civil union rights can vary from state to state. And civil unions do not fulfill the mandate of the State Supreme Judicial Court in favor of gay marriage. But let's put that aside for a while.

Let's NOT put aside the fact that going into the original Constitutional Convention, Finneran was reported as being allied with the Governor and the Attorney General of Massachusetts in opposing gay marriage but supporting civil unions. He then went into the convention as a spoiler, his own proposed amendment only allowing for some vague possibility of civil unions sometime or another, and proving himself completely incapable of managing his own majority party in the House or of building any meaningful alliance with the Senate. So now with public opinion, the demonstrations of civil disobediance in San Francisco and New Mexico, the interest in other states for finding a way to get gays and lesbians some civil rights, and his own demonstrable failures all against him, he is suddenly "softened." I'm touched, deeply and truly touched. Yeah.

Friday, February 20, 2004

 
One of the guys on our internal gay mailing list at MIT posted this today. It's not credited but I am assuming he found it somewhere rather than wrote it himself. It's simply another indication of how extremely--and conveniently--selective the Bible thumpers are in their efforts to force all the rest of us into subjection to Biblical standards and rules:

"Subject: In defense of Biblical marriage

The Presidential Prayer Team is currently urging us to: "Pray for the President as he seeks wisdom on how to legally codify the definition of marriage. Pray that it will be according to Biblical principles. With any forces insisting on variant definitions of marriage, pray that God's Word and His standards will be honored by our government." This is true.

Any good religious person believes prayer should be balanced by action. So here, in support of the Prayer Team's admirable goals, is a proposed Constitutional Amendment codifying marriage entirely on biblical principles:

A. Marriage in the United States shall consist of a union between one man and one or more women. (Gen 29:17-28; II Sam 3:2-5)

B. Marriage shall not impede a man's right to take concubines in addition to his wife or wives. (II Sam 5:13; I Kings 11:3; II Chron 11:21)

C. A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed. (Deut 22:13-21)

D. Marriage of a believer and a non-believer shall be forbidden. (Gen24:3; Num 25:1-9; Ezra 9:12; Neh 10:30)

E. Since marriage is for life, neither this Constitution nor the constitution of any State, nor any state or federal law, shall be
construed to permit divorce. (Deut 22:19; Mark 10:9)

F. If a married man dies without children, his brother shall marry the widow. If he refuses to marry his brother's widow or deliberately does not give her children, he shall pay a fine of one shoe and be otherwise punished in a manner to be determined by law. (Gen. 38:6-10; Deut 25:5-10)

G. In lieu of marriage, if there are no acceptable men in your town, it is required that you get your dad drunk and have sex with him (even if he had previously offered you up as a sex toy to men young and old), tag-teaming with any sisters you may have. Of course, this rule applies only if you are female. (Gen 19:31-36)"


Reports are beginning to come in that mayors of major cities like Chicago and Minneapolis--and, get this, Salt Lake City--are
making statements in sympathy with San Francisco's gay marriage initiative. So the genie's out of the bottle.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

 
I just got word that the Cambridge Building Commission has rejected our request for a Change of Use variance so that our next production could take place in our scenic shop instead of in the theater. It seems that while we have three viable fire exits out of our building, only one of them leads directly out of the scenic shop and onto the street. To access the others, the small audience we propose to seat would have to go through other parts of the building and that violates the requirement for two exits directly out of any performance space. So, most if not all of the conceptual work we have done on the production is probably scrapped as we revert to performing in the regular proscenium theater on campus.

Our director is a very passionate post-modernist and had great plans for setting the play, Tolstoy's THE POWER OF DARKNESS in an "industrial' setting. Now I will have to recreate that atmosphere in a regular theater. As to the play, I had no idea that Tolstoy had ever written for the stage. It's a VERY Russian work, taking place in a small, isolated and somewhat inbred farming community out on the plains somewhere with a great deal of betrayal, alcoholism, adultery and, eventually, a body in the basement and a hysterical confession of guilt--even more guilt than the character is actually responsible for--at the end.

It's actually pretty good stuff: this play was one of five that spearheaded the Ultrarealist movement in theater in Paris in the late 19th century. But it faded pretty quickly and Tolstoy remained famous only for his great novels. I had proposed transferring the work to the American mid-west that spawns at intervals mass-murderers like Charlie Starkweather and the "In Cold Blood" boys (one of whom was, ironically, was played by Robert Blake in the movie version). The director liked the idea and we started planning from there.

Well, it wouldn't be theater unless there was some sort of crisis every now and then--one grows used to it and it keeps you on your toes.


Tuesday, February 17, 2004

 
One thing I have tried to do is live my life and love people and not get too involved with overanalyzing who I am or what I do. I don't think this means being irresponsible, or I would not have been able to raise two adopted daughters as a single father. But it has meant that as long as I feel secure that I'm not involved in anything that will intentionally hurt someone, I am able to accept who I am at any given time. This was a big help to me in coming out to myself and it has helped me avoid--at least so far--any major life crises.

But I do look back sometimes at where I began and where I am now. I came from a severely insular family that was ultra conservative--including very homophobic--highly judgemental, and under the thumb of the Catholic Church. The disconnect from there to here is staggering, but I can put my finger on several landmark events that started and propelled my journey away from all that. Interestingly, the furor over Mel Gibson's new film on the last twelve hours in the life of Jesus has brought one of thos events back to me in vivid detail.

I was ten years old and in fifth grade at Resurrection-Ascension School in Rego Park, Queens, New York. It was in the early spring when the nuns always read the Passion and Easter parts of the New Testament to us, and it had to be fifth grade as the next year the boys went with teaching brothers while the girls remained with the nuns. This one nun got to the point just after the infamous line, "Let his blood be upon us and upon our children," when she stopped and said, "So you see, children, the Jews have no business complaining about what Hitler did to them during the war because they DID say here 'Let his blood be upon us and on our children,' and we know, of course, that 'our children' means ALL our children forever and ever through eternity." It was the original inclusion of this particular line in the movie that prompted all the controversy and protest (supposedly, it has since been cut).

Young as I was, I knew that something was very wrong. It's bad enough that this kind of attitude exists, but to TEACH it to children seemed unacceptable to me then and criminal to me now. I am told that things have changed greatly and that the Catholic Church has had to tone down many of its attitudes--excepting always its homophobia--in the face of its rapidly shrinking influence and numbers. But my experience was of anti-semitism like the incident I just related; their pride in and justification of the number of people they had burned to death for heresy over the centuries; the books they had banned; and the scientific advances they had condemned and denied to those caught in their control. I knew I would have to get all that out of my mind and heart before I could get anywhere in my life that I wanted to go.


Monday, February 16, 2004

 
Lines are circling City Hall in San Francisco, gay men and lesbians waiting to get married, many with their children in tow. Where will it lead? The answer is apparently coming this week and will have to take into consideration the fact that a couple of thousand couples will have married with the blessings of the civic process. As it isn't legal according to the state's Constitution, I assume that state authorities will simply declare all such marriages null and void. I hope that may lead to protests and legal challenges in the court system. Bill and Kent (link at right) are planning their own challenge, a trip to get a marriage license in Connecticut with a reporter from The Hartford Current in attendance if at all possible. I wish them my very best as it is guys like them who will make change happen.

I've arrived at the section in the John Boswell book that deals with same sex unions during the early Christian years of the Roman Empire. The topic is now the official pairing of saints and the interesting fact that these are male couples who served in high positions in the Roman legions, can be proven to have been romantically and sexually involved, and who were originally venerated in terms that unquestionably recognized the homoerotic nature of their earthly and even heavenly unions. Boswell deals particularly with Saints Sergius and Bacchus and Saints Polyeuct and Nearchos while listing many more.

The point here is that these saints have little identity in terms of having churches named in their honor or having their story told except as couples--they are forever linked in early Church iconography and that link continues today. Their veneration is particularly strong in the Eastern Orthodox Church, which makes sense in the light of the strong tradition of valuing male couples as warriors in the ancient Greek military. Sergius and Bacchus lived together and were martyred one day apart, Bacchus having been beheaded first. The night before his own execution Sergius had a dream which forms the center of the original devotion as reported in the Greek manuscript. Bacchus came to Sergius as a vision and urged him to remain resolute as his reward in death would be eternal union in heaven with Bacchus. NOT eternal union with Christ, NOT the Beatific Vision of God which Catholics are told is the ultimate reward for living a virtuous life, but eternal union with his earthly lover. Boswell mentions that he will go on to demonstrate that Sergius and Bacchus are specifically invoked as models in the early Church's own marriage ceremony for male couples.

Polyeuct was not a Christian but his lover Nearchos was. Polyeuct was also married, with children, to the daughter of the local Governor. But like many Roman men of a certain class, he had a deeply committed homosexual relationship as well. When Nearchos was condemned to execution as a Christian (this is in the early 3rd century in the province of Armenia), Polyeuct left wife and children and elected to join Nearchos in death on the basis that he once had a dream that he was Christian and sought judicial sentencing on the basis of that. The men died together. In the 19th century, Polyeuct's story was made into
a five act French grand tragic play and eventually into a very popular Italian Romantic opera by Donizetti (POLLIUTO), albeit with the homosexual content toned down considerably.


Sunday, February 15, 2004

 
The crazed cardinal at Fritz's has changed windows. Yesterday for the first time he abandoned the dining area window and began attacking one panel of the bay window over the bed. This new location is on another wall of the house entirely and features a wonderful sort of art nouveau swirl of trumpet vine stems and tendrils very close to the glass. Fritz caught sight of him on one stem of the vine peering very intently into the bedroom, following which he made his first attack.

He doesn't come in head first like a kamakazi pilot, but flies at the window, swinging his abdomen down at the last minute so that he strikes the glass with his claws and breast. After taking up this new window, he reverted to his usual practice of a cluster of attacks closely timed followed by a break and than a return sometime later for a new round of slamming into the glass. I got a couple of good, clear digital pictures of him this time, one as he peered in preparing to hit, and another just after he had hit and dropped down to sit briefly on the exterior sill. The bedroom window seems to satisfy his needs, as he returned to it this morning instead of reverting to the dining area.

I have started to doubt that his purpose is to attack what he thinks is a rival cardinal that's really just his own reflection. I could understand that at the dining area window that gets the morning and early afternoon sun, producing a brilliantly reflective surface. But the glass he faces and the position he sits on when peering in the bedroom just before he starts to attack get no direct sun until late in the day; therfore he would not be lit up himself and neither would the glass. I'll have to check this out more carefully, but I don't think he gets a reflection at the new window. I'm even beginning to wonder if his purpose really isn't to get into the house. I kidded Fritz that maybe he's really gay (like the now famous gay penguins) and wants to join his fellow homos. Not bloody likely, I admit, but can anyone provide another viable theory?


Friday, February 13, 2004

 
So, this morning there is a kind of chaos. The Constitutional Convention broke up at midnight last night--it will resume in a month on March 11--having passed nothing. The coming fallow time will obviously be an intensely political one with a great deal of effort being spent by Senate and House leadership--particularly the House--to regain control of the rank and file. Tom Finneran's hold on things was revealed to be far more imperfect than we had thought.

I honestly think that part of the failure is based on a new and growing awareness on the part of at least some legislators that having made this a Constitutional issue puts a huge burden on them to set policy that will NOT disenfranchise people. If it had just been a matter of passing a law, I think there would have been far less trouble.

The fallout elsewhere is both wonderful and unfortunate. In San Francisco, marriage licenses are being given out to any gay or lesbian couples who want them and the trade is brisk. The newly elected rogue mayor of SF is doing this as a civil disobediance protest. I wonder if he is gay--does anybody know?--or if he just has a well developed sense of social justice and an eye to who his constitueny is. In Virginia, a bill has passed the House to ban civil unions and even domestic partnerships and it's on its way to the state Senate. I suspect that one will be shot down as it would deny huge numbers of people who already have health care through their partners the coverage they need. One thing is obvious, we have entered a years-long phase of the gay rights struggle.

One thing will not change. August 14, 2004 Fritz and I get married. Let them try to stop us.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

 
The legislative debate continues today and I am wondering why. BOTH of the proposed amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution failed to pass yesterday--the overtly homophobic one sponsored by House Speaker Finneran and the well-meaning one that banned gays from marriage but did establish civil unions. Finneran took a big political hit yesterday; his amendment defined marriage as heterosexual only and made vague promies about developing civil unions at some time in future. There was massive resistance from the state Senators who were smarting from years of developing civil union legislation only to see Finneran kill it in the House.

But the issue at hand is that both the overtly anti-gay amendment and the moderately pro-gay amendment failed to carry. The one common thread between them was banning gays and lesbians from marriage. So the handwriting should be on the wall for the homophobes. But they will start again today in desperation to try to get something through to ban us from marriage.

WBZ radio's talk show at 8PM last night featured a constitutional law expert who flatly calls all this political posturing. He said any attempt to legislate the transformation of gay marriages back into civil unions or to disolve them entirely once they have taken place,
even via constitutional amendment, will never fly legally in the U.S. He said it would be a case he would take in an instant and he would win because for the government to break up marriages would be a legal outrage of immense proportions.

The debate today resumes at noon.

Many thanks to Ron (Ron's Log) for alerting me that many web brousers (Opera, Safari, Internet Explorer) would not display any more than the heading of my blog. Only Netscape seemed to work without trouble. I went into the template and cleaned things up--somehow the codes had become scrambled--and everything is working once again.


Wednesday, February 11, 2004

 
I became really angry last night as I drove home and heard the latest on the anit-gay marriage amendment. It's a cynical bait-and-switch routine and I believe it represents a real betrayal. The amendment has been revised to establish civil unions and mandates that when (if) the amendment passes the popular vote in November of 2006, the marriages entered into once same-sex marriage becomes legal this May will be voided and revert to civil unions automatically. At that point, those married will lose over a thousand rights and protections not provided by civil unions

I was incensed, just furious. Gay and lesbian advocates were interviewed and said they fear legislative opposition to this amendment is eroding because now some opponents feel it is much more "liberal" or somehow fair to gays and lesbians. Ironically, one person, the homophobic House Speaker Tom Finneran, was very unhappy at this compromise amendment--he said that civil unions have no place in the state Constitution. Subtext, in my opinion: have them as laws that can eventually be repealed or neutered bit by bit but not in the state Constitution where they have much greater status and security. This merely reinforces my gut feeling that none of these homophobic figures--the Governor, the Attorney General and Finneran--would ever have suggested civil unions for Massachusetts in the first place if marriage hadn't loomed up in front of them as areal possibility. Would Finneran actually vote against the amendment now because he felt it was flawed and not anti-gay enough? I don't know, but i do know that if there were an active Act Up chapter in the Boston area I just might join it I am so completely disgusted and enraged at this blatant betrayal.


Tuesday, February 10, 2004

 
Media types are just flooding into this state from both domestic and international news agencies. The debate on the amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Massachusetts will take place some time during the Constitutional Convention that starts tomorrow. It's number 8 on the agenda of ten items, the others being much more bureaucratic, like how many years should a state representative serve. But that sort of thing can take time and it may be Thursday before The Big One gets taken up for consideration.

The opponents are scrambling for some sort of compromise. It was revealed in the Boston Globe that the amendment was written in such a way that it would have banned not only same-sex marriage but also any kind of spousal-equivalent recognition that now gives gay couples whatever health benefits or other domestic partner rights they have here. So that passage was cut out very fast.

Now the proposal is to go ahead with the amendment but to write in a whole section setting up civil unions and laying out exactly what they should consist of. It's a very canny move--they can claim to be on gay people's side by being the first state to enshrine same- sex unions in the Constitution while banning gay marriage in the same breath. Speaker of the House Finneran is also conniving to get a bill passed that would deny the issuance of marriage licences to same sex couples once gay marriage becomes legal in May. But I don't think that one stands a chance--besides, the Supreme Judicial Court would strike it down as unconstitutional in Massachusetts immediately, unless there's something I've missed.

Fritz and I talked this morning about what an exciting, frustrating and probably wonderful time this is. Emotions here are tumultuous,
to say the least.

So with all this going on, I started John Boswell's book "Same Sex Unions in pre-Modern Europe." I had wanted to read it for ages and finally found it on amazon.com. If you have any interest at all in homosexuality through the ages, particularly as the reality throws into high relief just how backward the U.S. is socially, read this book. Boswell is a gay man himself and, perhaps to stave off criticism that he is biased to see gay-inclusion where there wasn't any, his scholarship is exacting and comprehensive. The book isn't light reading--there are sometimes more notes than actual text per page--but it's very readable and the notes give fascinating details of the breadth and variety of homosexual activity and actual marriage in ancient Greece, Eqypt and Rome.

Among the examples that stand out is the famous Band of Lovers, 150 same-sex couples who made up an elite fighting force in the Greek city of Thebes. Men in union with other men were highly prized in the Greek military as being of the highest character and having the finest fighting skills. These three hundred all died in battle against Philip of Macedonia (Alexander the Great's father) and when he heard that they had been among the opponents his forces had killed in battle, he knelt among their bodies and wept. There is also the story of the life-long marriage of two Greek men who died in very old age and were buried together. Their joint tomb became a major tourist attraction and a favorite place for other male couples to take their marriage vows.

In Rome, there were several kinds of male unions and marriages. The Emperor Nero was at various times in his life married to both men and women. Other Emperors were exclusively homosexual, united to male spouses. Boswell even documents an all-male three way marriage, so supportive and permissive was Roman law and custom on this subject. I haven't gotten to the Christian era in the book yet. That is the truly controversial section, in which Boswell documents marriage ceremonies for same-sex lovers performed by the Christian Church. If you have a feeling that a lot of interesting and important history has been willfully kept from the public, get this book.

Monday, February 09, 2004

 
I have finally found out just why same sex marriage in Massachusetts would be so damaging to regular marriage and to children. There was a rally on Boston Common yesterday for those who support a constitutional amendment to make marriage only between one man and one woman. The big speaker was that font of moral authority, Archbishop O'Malley. He says he is SURE that gay marriage would lead to a vast increase in the number of children born out of wedlock and to a decline in heterosexuals getting married and that's why we must have the amendment.

Of course! It's all so clear now. So, here's the scenario: out there in the straight middle and working class neighborhoods, Heather and Tommy are going together. Daddy can't wait to lead his little girl down the aisle and Mommy has waited for YEARS to get her hands on her daughter's wedding. But wait--the kids have a talk and say to their parents, "Now that gays can get married we've decided to just shack up and raise our kids as bastards. Like totally neat, huh?" The parents are delighted and the wedding is scrapped. We can all see this happening, yes?

Does anyone with an ounce of brian tissue really buy this? The frightening answer is that the crowd--about 2000 ardent homophopes to be sure--just ate it up. The numbers that are being reported out of the Massachusetts Legislature seem to indicate that the amendment will pass and go to a popular vote in November of 2006. Now this could in a way be a good thing. In the two and a half years that gay and lesbian marriage is legal here, lots of us will get married; before the vote happens there will be reports on how the rate of illegitimacy has NOT increased and how marriage has NOT declined and maybe some, just some, of the brain-dead who do whatever they are told to do will have a thought of their own for once and realize that it isn't the end of the world.

One gay guy who attended the somewhat smaller counter-rally of gays, lesbians and people-with-a-clue who support same-sex marriage made the point very nicely and calmly. He and his partner have been together ten years and have four children. He said he waits patiently for the day when gay marriage becomes part of Massachusetts life in mid-May and people wake up the next day to find that the world is still turning and that life goes on unchanged. Except for us--we'll have made a major step toward finally having our full rights and protections under the law.


Sunday, February 08, 2004

 
In this super-cold New England winter, I have just been introduced to the joys of flannel-lined jeans. I'm not sure why I'd never gone for them--perhaps they just seemed a little too L.L. Bean conventional. But when I'm up at Fritz's and we get up in the morning
before either of us has gotten the wood stoves going, lined jeans are just heaven. Ditto getting into a cold car first thing before the sun has even come up. One of our friends made this delightful observation; "it's like sleeping in a lumberjack's pocket." Now THERE's an image!

Friday, February 06, 2004

 
So now we see the Massachusetts anti-gay marriage legislators going into the denial phase. Tom Finneran, Speaker of the House and a Democrat albeit a socially conservative one, wants to find a way to delay implementation of gay marriage in this state until after the proposed amendment to the state constitution comes to a vote--in the fall of 2006. Everybody in opposition to gay marriage is running around telling of all the dire social, political, moral and legal (did I miss any?) consequences of letting gay marriage happen. But the legal experts continue to doggedly remind everyone that there is no legal way now for there to be any delays or for anything but complete implementation according to the Supreme Judicial Court's ruling.

I also note that the kind of chaotic disorientation and decline of society predicted when gay marriage becomes a reality was predicted also if mixed racial marriages were allowed; if black children were allowed to go to school with white children or if blacks had equal rights under the law (Martin Luther King, Jr., we were told, took his orders directly from the Kremlin); if blacks were allowed in the military; if blacks were allowed in pro sports; if women were allowed to vote; if the slaves were freed, etc. etc. I know history is now downgraded as a serious study in our schools but doesn't anybody have a clue anymore?

John Kerry has moved quickly and wisely to differentiate his presidential candidacy from the gay marriage issue, declaring his viewpoint on the matter as identical to that of Vice President Cheney, father of a lesbian daughter. Both men espouse civil unions rather than marriage. It probably won't make too much difference--Kerry will still have the Liberal and Gay Marriage labels thrown at him anyway--but he is smart, I think, to make the issue clear from the get-go.

Janet Jackson's tit. There, I've joined most of my fellow bloggers by mentioning it. Such a totally ridiculous upset, but in a way I think it points up what is really the problem here in America--we are so damned repressed as a society about sex and particularly about the human body. Breasts aren't even a sexual organ (although like so delightfully many non-genital body parts they can be part of sex). But Americans are so paranoid about nudity, so inept and embarrassed about heterosexual sex, let alone gay sex, that until some major enlightenment strikes the population, we will remain a deeply flawed and conflicted society far into the future.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

 
Our big winter production is opening tonight and it's strangely calm here. The final dress rehearsal went well, which should be good news, but there is an old theatrical superstition that a BAD dress rehearsal means a great opening while a good one could spell a mediocre one. Presumably, actors who come off a good final dress are overconfident on opening night. I'm not sure I agree with that based on my own observations during a forty year career designing for theater, opera and television. I think a bad final dress means an inadequately rehearsed production.

There's fallout everywhere here from yesterday's decision, including serious analysis of what this means for the coming presidential race, especially for John Kerry. One of the more brilliant of the ultra conservative group leaders was heard on Boston TV last night declaring Massachusetts the "State of Degeneracy." They would surely tar Kerry with the dreaded "Liberal" label in any event but the ammunition now could be overwhelming, particularly among voters who don't do their own thinking but react to a pre-programmed set of stimulai. By the way for those who don't know, Kerry's middle name is Forbes, so there will be another JFK from Massachusetts running for president.

I called into the Paul Sullivan talk show on WBZ radio last night to answer a well-meaning but clueless guy who opined that he wasn't ready to see children raised by two daddies or two mommies. Bon jour?!--ever heard of "Heather Has Two Mommies?" That book must be at least a decade old. You don't have to be a subscriber to The Advocate or The Gay and Lesbian Review to know that successful, loving gay-parented households are common now and increasing all the time.

Sullivan himself is a reasoned, sincere supporter of gay marriage and full rights for gays and lesbians. Toward the end of my time with him on the air I asked how my marrying Fritz could weaken the conventional marriage of Steve and Jennifer from Somerville, or how it could hurt some child in Pittsfield. That's the main arguement of our current Catholic archbishop, Sean O'Malley, that gay marriage will harm children and marriage. Now I think I know what hurts children. Mothers who strap their kids into the back of a car and push it into a pond--that hurts children. Mothers who drown their five kids in the bathtub--that does it, as does a priest taking an altar boy into the rectory and raping him--that most definitely hurts children. But I asked Paul if he could explain how my gay marriage will hurt children according to the Archbishop's stated but unexplained claim. His response was that if he could have a shot at advising O'Malley on the subject, he'd tell him to drop the arguement like a hot rock immediately as it doesn't hold water and could only lead to very embarrassing scrutiny of the Catholic Church's own record.

Anyway, today I get to strip my drafting table and clean up the work bench I use to build my stage set models. Tomorrow morning we start the design process for Tolstoy's THE POWER OF DARKNESS. Theater never sleeps.


Wednesday, February 04, 2004

 
Things are moving very fast, as seen in this news item (excerpted) from the Associated Press:

Supreme Judicial Court rules civil unions aren't enough, same-sex couples entitled to marriage
By Jennifer Peter, Associated Press, 2/4/2004

BOSTON -- The Massachusetts high court ruled Wednesday that only full, equal marriage rights for gay couples -- rather than civil unions -- would meet the edict of its November decision, erasing any doubts that the nation's first same-sex marriages would take place in the state beginning in mid-May. "The history of our nation has demonstrated that separate is seldom, if ever, equal," the four justices who ruled in favor of gay marriage wrote in the advisory opinion. "The (civil unions) bill maintains an unconstitutional, inferior, and discriminatory status for same-sex couples."

The court issued the opinion in response to a request from the state Senate about whether Vermont-style civil unions, which conveyed the benefits -- but not the title of marriage -- would meet constitutional muster. The much-anticipated opinion sets the stage for next Wednesday's Constitutional Convention, where the Legislature will consider an amendment that would legally define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Without the opinion, Senate President Robert Travaglini had said the vote would be delayed.

The soonest a constitutional amendment could end up on the ballot would be 2006, meaning that until then, the high court's decision will be Massachusetts law no matter what is decided at the constitutional convention.

"We've heard from the court, but not from the people," Gov. Mitt Romney said in a statement. "The people of Massachusetts should not be excluded from a decision as fundamental to our society as the definition of marriage."

Travaglini said he wanted time to talk with fellow senators before deciding what to do next. "I want to have everyone stay in an objective and calm state as we plan and define what's the appropriate way to proceed," said Travaglini. "There is a lot of anxiety out there obviously surrounding the issue but I don't want to have it cloud or distort the discussion."

Seven same-sex couples had sued in 2001 for the right to marry in Massachusetts. The Supreme Judicial Court ruled in November that gay couples have a constitutional right to marry, and gave the Legislature six months to change state laws to make it happen.

Conservative leaders said they were not surprised by the advisory opinion, and said they would redouble their efforts to pass the constitutional amendment. "This now puts the pressure back on the Legislature to do their job to protect and defend marriage for the citizens of the state to allow them to vote," said Ron Crews, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, which has been leading the campaign.

Mary Bonauto, an attorney who represented the seven same-sex couples who filed the lawsuit, said she anticipated a fierce battle on Wednesday. "I have no doubt that passions will be running high on this," Bonauto said. "But in the end, no matter what you think about the court's decision, it's always wrong to change the constitution to write discrimination into it. As the court noted, civil unions do not provide the same protections as marriage does and that's what families need."

Massachusetts has one of the highest concentrations of gay households in the country with at 1.3 percent of the total number of coupled households, according to the 2000 census. In California, 1.4 percent of the coupled households are occupied by same-sex partners. Vermont and New York also registered at 1.3 percent, while in Washington, D.C., the rate is 5.1 percent


 
WBZ Radio (CBS) in Boston is a generally conservative station but does give ample room to gay-friendly and even openly gay commentators and talk show hosts (David Brudnoy, for example). One of their major personalities, however, is Gary LaPierre who is given to homophobic statements on air and for his column page on the WBZ website ("makes you nostalgic, doesn't it, for the days when you could open a closet and actually find someone in it.").

Therefore it was a pleasure to hear LaPierre, in his position as the morning news anchor, report that pressure on the Legislature to reject a state constitutional amendment defining marriage in purely heterosexual terms "is becoming overwhelming." LaPierre went on to say that a letter signed by all ten members of the State Congressional Delegation urges legislators to oppose this amendment, stating that should individuals wish to oppose gay marriage, they should find procedures other than an innapropriate amendment to the state constitution to do so.

All this may help let Fritz sleep through the night without being interrupted by "wedding anxiety" attacks. I kidded him this morning that after seven years together (and I am hardly the first man, even the first long term relationship in his eventful, fascinating life) he's acting like a nervous virgin. But he told me yet again that all he is concerned about is that it be a great day, that everyone have a good time, that family and gayboys get along fine, that the Board of Directors of his not-for-profit and his students find something to say to each other, etc. etc. As usual, it all ends with him getting all teary-eyed and saying "I just love you so much. . ."

Honestly, I think my family, who have taken to Fritz delightedly but have had virtually no contact with any aspect of gay life, are going to get along with the boys just fine. Our crowd includes everyone from an architect to an artists' model, several rural-based couples, a gourmet chocolatier, a gourmet chef, a gay priest (or two, depending who the first one is dating at any given time), lawyers and teachers, a totally out career army officer (all the local top brass attended his and his lover's 20th anniversary party--take THAT, "Don't ask, Don't tell"), etc. They're great guys and their social skills are through the roof. I think it's all going to work out just fine.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

 
Fritz and I woke up early Sunday morning and talked in bed for a while before we slipped into some very enjoyable sex. The topic was getting married but from an interesting perspective this time.

Fritz grew up in a Quaker family. He is an atheistic Quaker, and the Friends have been a big part of his life. He never actually had to tell his parents he was gay; they understood that from his early teen age years and there was never a problem. His sexual orientation was accepted in the family without trauma or, as he puts it "I never had to come out since I was never in."

That reality has colored a lot of his subsequent life experience. While he has been an activist on gay issues, he has never been a radical
confrontationalist. Again, the Quaker influence coupled with the fact that he didn't have any conflict with his family to overcome. But he told me Sunday morning that planning our marriage is radicalizing him now as it is pointing up for him the impact of having basic social rights denied for so long. He's a very dear and gentle man but he gets the kind of gleam in his eye and edge to his voice now that I do when I get fired up on a subject. There's a passion and vigor when discussing politics that I haven't experienced from him previously. Quite frankly, it's a big turn-on, thus the segue into getting laid.

Monday, February 02, 2004

 
Unfortunately, the post-Patriots win last night turned both ugly and deadly. Down in the Northeastern University area near Symphony Hall, guys rioted in the streets, overturning and burning cars and setting other fires. One guy in an SUV ran down Symphony Road into the crowd, critically injuring one and killing another. Is it just my gay sensibility, or is there something really quite sick and senseless about going on destructive rampages in celebration of winning a football game? I'm as big a fan of testosterone as anyone--it's my drug of choice, after all--but surely there are some limits. So this morning in Boston, the score stands at 2 Vince Lombardi trophies, 1 dead.

I thought it was great that we won but, after all the belittling hype directed at Carolina, I was hugely impressed by Jake Delhomme's performance. They didn't go gently into that good night, but fought back continuously and turned it into what some sports commentators are already calling the finest Super Bowl game ever. I am neither a great sports fan nor a lover of football, but I know great theater when I see it and last night was athletic theater at its finest. My compliments to both sides!

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