Friday, October 31, 2008


In a move drawing outrage from gay rights leaders and the San Francisco District Attorney, the campaign to eliminate marriage for same-sex couples in California mailed flyers to voters with a picture of Barack Obama -- and Michele -- and a quote: "I'm not in favor of gay marriage." The message "Vote Yes on Prop 8" appears under Obama's image.

But Obama had gone on record AGAINST Prop 8, and the flyer was a blatant attempt to mislead California voters into believing to the contrary.

When National Center for Lesbian Rights legal director Shannon Minter brought this to my attention earlier today, I said it was especially infuriating because four days before the election Obama could not afford to publicly disavow it. Well I was selling short the man I hope will be our next President. In fact, late Friday evening his campaign put out a statement reaffirming his opposition to Prop 8. It gave me a pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming moment.

When Congress passed DOMA weeks before the 1996 election, President Clinton signed it. It was widely believed that a veto would torpedo his reelection. Obama's response to this one misleading flyer is nowhere near as consequential as vetoing a law passed by Congress, but, still, I expected caution on Obama's part, and therefore silence.

I'm writing tonight from Hampton, Virginia, where I've been working this week on Get Out The Vote. The volunteers range from young people to 92. We work tirelessly. We have fun. We have faith in the future. And tonight my faith just deepened.

Monday, October 27, 2008


When a bill passed by Great Britain’s House of Commons on October 22 becomes law, lesbians will have easier access to assisted reproduction. Current UK law requires fertility clinics to consider a child’s “need for a father” before accepting a patient for treatment. The new law requires clinics to consider a child’s need for “supportive parenting.” Equally important, a lesbian couple who has a child will be able to put both parents’ names on the birth certificate, so the non-biological mom will not have to adopt her own child. That’s what we are trying to do in the District of Columbia, and what couples who marry or enter civil unions/domestic partnerships in Massachusetts, California, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Oregon can already do.

Kudos to the LGB group Stonewall.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


With the presidential campaign front and center and the votes on marriage in California, Florida, and Arizona getting lots of attention, I'm worried that the fight over adoption and foster parenting by unmarried same-sex and different-sex couples in Arkansas is being overlooked. This would be truly a tragedy -- mostly for the children of Arkansas. But it would also be an unwelcome boost for the nationwide anti-gay movement. It's a movement that idealizes heterosexual marriage and disparages all other family forms -- hence the ban on unmarried straight couples as well.

Watch this video. Send it around. Get it to anyone who knows anyone who votes in Arkansas. Spread the word to vote NO on Initiated Act 1. The Foster Care Alumni of America oppose it. A group of retired Arkansas judges oppose it. The Arkansas Department of Human Services is licensing unmarried couples as foster parents, and the Governor, Mike Beebe, opposes Initiated Act 1 (not loudly enough).

And send donations to Arkansas Families First!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


We really could end poverty if we wanted to....Unfortunately, for the past eight years the government's primary strategy for ending poverty has been "marriage promotion." The right wing reiterates the lie that all of our social problems -- including illiteracy, homelessness, substance abuse, violence, infant mortality, chronic illness, crime and, of course, poverty -- are caused by the decline in life long heterosexual marriage. This ideology then lets government off the hook for its policies that maintain tremendous income inequality.

Sociologist Scott Coltrane has documented that the funders of such right wing think tanks as the Heritage Foundation also fund organizations that push marriage as the solution to poverty, such as the Institute for American Values. The Alternatives to Marriage Project has published "Let Them East Wedding Rings," a fine place to start in critiquing "marriage promotion" as the solution to poverty.

For a real solution, try last year's release from the Center for American Progress, "From Poverty to Prosperity: A National Strategy to Cut Poverty in Half." The report makes 12 basic recommendations. Marriage is not on its list of poverty-reducing strategies. And read Blame Welfare, Ignore Poverty and Inequality, co-authored by leading anti-poverty law professor Joel Handler. The book criticizes those who demonize single mothers while ignoring the institutionalized economic and social structures that cause poverty and inequality. Marriage is also not on Handler's list of proposals for ending poverty.

Can we go from books and reports to action? Mark Greenberg, policy director of the Center for Law and Social Policy, was the Executive Director of the Center for American Progress Task Force on Poverty. I say President Obama should make him Secretary of HHS.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


I'll be speaking later this month at a conference at UCLA called, "State of the Union: Marriage in the Shadow of Electoral Politics." It's sponsored by the Center for the Study of Women, with co-sponsorship by, among others, the Williams Institute, the country's pre-eminent gay rights research center.

If you're familiar with my book you don't need to come to hear me, but some of the other speakers are less well known outside academia than they should be. So if you can get to LA, you might want to come by to hear them.

Take Cornell government professor Anna Marie Smith. She's been decrying so-called "welfare reform" for its policing of female sexuality. Along with Martha Fineman and Gwendolyn Mink, she wrote, "No Promotion of Marriage in TANF [Temporary Assistance to Needy Families]," a critique of the Bush administration's emphasis on marriage promotion. Two chapters of her book, Welfare Reform and Sexual Regulation, the introduction and the chapter "Feminist Visions," can be read on her website.

At the conference, Professor Smith will be critiquing Barack Obama's "responsible fatherhood" initiatives. From the first moment I heard Obama speak about such matters, I've been wondering if his vision was any more feminist, any more supportive of single mothers raising children, than the policies of his two predecessors. I'm looking forward to finding out.

NYU sociology professor Judith Stacey will speak at the conference about the relationship between legal recognition of same-sex marriage and legal recognition of polygamy. Professor Stacey is a strong feminist and a long-time supporter of LGBT families. She has testified as an expert witness in support of same-sex marriage and in support of gay and lesbian parenting. She bucked conventional wisdom some years back when, in a co-authored article, she questioned the position of gay rights advocates that children raised by lesbians or gay men were no different from those raised by heterosexuals. Instead, she argued that children raised by lesbian and gay parents were indeed likely as a group to show some differences from children raised by heterosexual parents, although she was emphatic that differences did not mean deficits, and she rejected any discrimination against same-sex couples raising children. When right wing groups used her article to oppose LGBT parents, Professor Stacey loudly denounced those groups and their misue of her work.

This time around Professor Stacey will be challenging those in the LGBT community who wish to distance themselves as far as possible from the arguments in support of polygamy, plural marriage, polyamory, or any other non-monogamous form of sexual union. Here's a blog posting that presents some of her ideas.

It's going to be a great day. If you do come, please introduce yourself to me!

Monday, October 6, 2008


The US Supreme Court today decided NOT to hear a case that would have had far-reaching implications for lesbians and single women choosing to bear children. In 2005, a man, Darryl Hendrix, who had donated semen to a woman, Samantha Harrington, who conceived and bore twins, claimed that he should be declared the father of the children, with full rights to custody and visitation. But Kansas law states the following:

"The donor of semen provided to a licensed physician for use in artificial insemination of a woman other than the donor's wife is treated in law as if he were not the birth father of a child thereby conceived, unless agreed to in writing by the donor and the woman."

There was no written agreement between the two parties, but the donor claimed that Harrington agreed that he would be a parent. She denied that claim. Given the statute, which clearly excluded him, Hendrix asked the Kansas Supreme Court to rule that the statute was unconstitutional. Last year, the Kansas court ruled against him and said his constitutional rights were not violated. That’s the question the donor asked the US Supreme Court to rule on. The Court has ruled that there are some circumstances under which an unmarried biological father who grasps the chance to function as a father to his children has parental rights protected by the Constitution; under other circumstances biology does not create constitutional rights. The Supreme Court has never spoken on parental rights in a case involving any assisted reproduction technique.

The right-wing Alliance Defense Fund came in on the side of the donor.

Because the Court declined to hear the case, the Kansas ruling stands. Other states considering new laws on assisted conception can go forward without the cloud of a possible Supreme Court ruling on donor’s rights hanging over their heads.

The Kansas statute is not ideal, because it applies only when a doctor is involved in the insemination. That’s a holdover idea from the first statutes on alternative insemination passed in the 1970’s. Modern statutes don’t have that limitation, and self-insemination with donor semen is a common method lesbians use to conceive.

But I love both this statute’s presumption that use of a semen donor means the donor is not a parent AND the possibility in the statute that the two people might agree in writing that he is. For more on my ideal laws for LGBT families, see my post on Blogging for LGBT Families Day.