The Big Picture

2005 Year in Review: National and world gay news events included disaster donations, conservative Supreme Court nominees and new Pope, Washington state sex scandals, Middle East arrests, and more


Published on January 5, 2006, 12:00am | Comments

Waves of Relief


(Photo courtesy of Connect)

AS 2004 CLOSED OUT with the tsunami of gargantuan proportions, 2005 saw more of the same. And the gay community was there to do its part. The Human Rights Campaign began 2005 by donating $100,000 for tsunami relief.

Gay philanthropist Tom Gill's Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado offered $1 million to match assistance donated by fellow Coloradoans to victims of August 2005's Hurricane Katrina. The Metropolitan Community Church, a national GLBT church based in West Hollywood, Calif., organized the MCC Hurricane Katrina Relief Center. San Francisco-based Rainbow World Fund also collected dollars from the gay community to provide meals for victims of both Katrina and September's Hurricane Rita via America's Second Harvest, a national food-bank network.

Hurricane victims relocated to D.C. got some of their meals from Food & Friends, which has a history closely tied to the gay community. ''I contacted [City Councilmember] David Catania, who I know is a city leader in organizing preparations for hurricane evacuees," Food & Friends Executive Director Craig Shniderman told Metro Weekly in September, as the city housed 300 evacuees at the D.C. Armory. ''On Monday, he said, 'Please stand by.' [On] Tuesday afternoon, we got a call from a member of his staff saying they needed 400 complete hot meals -- 'now.'''

At the same time, the D.C. Cowboys performed a benefit for Lazarus House, a New Orleans AIDS hospice hit hard by Katrina. Meanwhile, the D.C.-based National Youth Advocacy Coalition spearheaded an effort to help GLBT youths and families affected by Katrina. That effort attracted more than 30 partner organizations, from the big groups like HRC and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, to smaller groups like Basic Rights Oregon and the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center.

''The giant wave flooded the lobby within seconds and dragged furniture onto the street. I had to wrap myself around a pillar to avoid being swept away. As I was standing there, a car actually floated into the lobby and overturned because the current was so strong. The water was up to my chest and I was holding onto my boyfriend's hand because he can't swim.''

-- Börje Carlsson, manager of a gay guesthouse in Thailand that survived the December 2004 tsunami. ("Tsunami Spares Gay Enclave," January 6)


Pope-pourri

THE PASSING OF an ailing Pope John Paul II in April came as no surprise -- and neither, really, did the selection of his successor, Pope Benedict XVI who, as Cardinal Ratzinger, had established himself as a deeply conservative force in the Vatican. Indeed, his first papal comments on same-sex marriage made clear the line to be drawn: "The various forms of the dissolution of matrimony today, like free unions, trial marriages and going up to pseudo-matrimonies by people of the same sex, are rather expressions of an anarchic freedom that wrongly passes for the true freedom of man."

It wasn't long before the church began to move to ban gay men from the priesthood, scapegoating gay priests as responsible for the decades-long scandal of sexual abuse by priests and the efforts of the church hierarchy to cover them up. What started in 2005 under Benedict promises to be a long and emotional struggle as gay and lesbian Catholics find themselves increasingly ostracized by church leadership.


Well, It Can't Be Any Worse than Nicole Richie's Novel

AFTER SPENDING an entire presidential election cycle running as fast and as far from the spotlight as she possibly could, Mary Cheney -- daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney -- signed a million dollar book deal with Simon & Shuster. Given Cheney's reticence at revealing anything about her personal life with her partner, Heather Poe, who knows what the book will actually include? Lesbian etiquette tips on attending White House dinners? How to improve the image of a beer company with a mixed history with the gay and lesbian community? Whatever it is, we're sure John Kerry won't be included in the acknowledgements.


Auditioning for the Supremes


Roberts

IT WAS THE DRAMA that official Washington had eagerly awaited for years -- a showdown over President George W. Bush's idea of who would make a good Supreme Court justice.

Of course, things got off a little inauspiciously when he nominated his own personal lawyer, Harriet Miers. While it spoke volumes about the president's value system -- and none of it good -- the Miers nomination did give hope to modestly talented toadies throughout the political establishment.

Once Miers mercifully exited the stage, John Roberts took her spot to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Then Roberts got the biggest career break since Gerald Ford's rise to power when Chief Justice William Rehnquist died in September at the ripe old age of 80.


Alito

Although the run-up to Roberts's confirmation hearing revealed that he had provided legal advice to the team that successfully challenged Colorado's anti-gay Amendment 2 in the Supreme Court case Romer v. Evans, much of the gay political establishment joined the opposition to the nomination. But in the end Roberts sailed through, depriving the chattering class of the political bloodsport they expected.

The big show will have to wait until 2006, when Samuel Alito is scheduled through the kabuki-like Senate hearings for the privilege of replacing the still-waiting-to-retire O'Connor. With a stronger background opposing Roe v. Wade and a resume that makes the right wing sing, Alito's generated even more passionate opposition. Should be an interesting fight, but we're sure Sandy Baby's hoping to hit the ranch by spring.


The Washington Wild Life

WHEN IT COMES TO sex scandals, Washington really knows how to do it right. Not Washington, D.C., where Jessica Cutler's second-rate Hill-tramp act as Washingtonienne is the best we have to offer these days, and Jeff Gannon's pre-White House press room career pales in comparison to the wild days of Steve Gobie.

No, Washington state is where the action is, what with horse farms that double as bestiality bordellos and a mayor nailed for cruising teen boys on the Internet.

The horse story is not for the squeamish: A man died from a perforated colon after having videotaped sex with a horse, and an investigation revealed a sex farm prostitution ring that, honestly, boggles the mind. A lot of minds, actually -- Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat pointed out that the horse sex stories were likely the most read stories the newspaper published in its 100-plus year history.

"I don't know whether to ignore this alarming factoid or to embrace it," he wrote.


We're right there with you, buddy.

Over in Spokane, Republican Mayor Jim West found himself on the firing end of a newspaper investigation in January that revealed allegations of sexual abuse, downloading copious amounts of pornography, and using his political office to offer favors in an effort to seduce young men online. Although some expressed concern about the Spokesman-Review's investigative methods -- the newspaper hired an online expert to pose as a teenager in online chats with West -- the former Boy Scout leader and state legislator had a well-known history of anti-gay political activity, and received little-to-no sympathy from the gay community or anyone else. Not that West didn't try.

"I am a conservative. I am not a closet liberal pretending to be a conservative," said West in an Associated Press story. "What is wrong with somebody having an alternative sexual orientation and being a conservative?"

That didn't fly, and come December, the most surprising thing about the recall election that removed West from office was that even 35 percent of voters wanted to keep him.


Beastly in the Middle East

THE MIDDLE EAST generated plenty of gay-related news this year -- none of it good. In May, Jerusalem Open House announced the cancellation of World Pride 2005, which was to have taken place in August. Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy had attacked the notion of a global gay-pride event in the ''holy land,'' and even former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres entered the debate, saying, ''It is inappropriate as Jerusalem is the center of three faiths, and such an event could offend the sensibilities of religious people the world over,'' 365gay.com reported. Organizers said the protests, however, had nothing to do with the cancellation. Instead, the event was pulled for security reasons as it would have coincided with the contentious withdrawal of Israeli settlers from Gaza.

Two months after the cancellation, in July, Iran publicly hanged two teenaged boys. Officially, the two youths were said to have raped a 13-year-old boy. It's all a bit fishy, in light of Iran's record of executing gays. Sweden and the Netherlands responded by announcing they would no longer extradite gays to Iran, according to 365gay.com.

Come November, the Middle East was back in the news. This time, it was the United Arab Emirates, home to beach resorts, lavish hotels, financial excess and hit-list DJ raves. Despite the country's blossoming reputation as the new home to everything chic and fabulous, the country seems to have missed the memo that without gay, chic and fabulous don't have a leg to stand on. At least, that seemed to be the case in November when U.A.E. authorities arrested 26 men attending what was reported to be a same-sex wedding at a hotel. Initial reports of the arrests included mention by a police spokesman that those arrested who were U.A.E. citizens would be given hormone therapy. The U.A.E. interior minister has since denied that report. It did, however, prompt a surprisingly quick response from Washington.

''We call on the government of the United Arab Emirates to immediately stop any ordered hormone and psychological treatment and to comply with the standards of international law,'' said U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

Whether those ''standards of international law'' will apply to the United States when it comes to recognizing legal same-sex marriages of other countries remains highly doubtful.


Honest, Abe?


C.A. TRIPP'S posthumously published The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln made the case that the Log Cabin mascot was more than just a philosophical friend, but an actual friend of Dorothy (albeit a few decades before Judy donned the red shoes). Among the evidence presented was his habit of sharing a bed with a close friend during their younger years, and his florid and purple prose in writing to a special male friend. Many critics dismissed Tripp's findings, noting that living arrangements in Lincoln's time differ from ours and that letter-writing at the time was a rather more formal affair than today's IM-influenced correspondence. And, to be fair, it's not as if Tripp found a completely incriminating note: "USPrez4U seeks vers M 4 fun. No daguerreotype, no reply, no exceptions!"


Kiss Kiss means no Bang Bang

IN THE COLLECTIVE eyes of Pentagon leadership, gays and lesbians aren't fit to carry a weapon in service of their country, but queer students organizing "Kiss-Ins" are suddenly a credible threat and "possibly violent."

In January, news reports revealed that in 1994, the Air Force was proposing research into developing a chemical weapon that would win battles by turning enemy soldiers into horny homosexuals.

In December, Army officials at Fort Huachuca in Arizona were declining to prosecute a soldier who physically assaulted a fellow soldier who was gay, citing reasons they claimed they "were not at liberty to explain."

Oh, and if you're a soldier deployed to Iraq who's found out to be gay, the armed forces may keep you around to fight despite the existence of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Just don't make any plans for a military career when the war's over and it's once more convenient to kick you out.

Land of the free. Home of the brave. Policy of the hypocrites.


Deb Price

"To suggest nothing has happened because 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is still there doesn't begin to really reflect what a civil rights movement is about. Remarkable things have happened. We're now at a point that in the current Congress we can have a discussion."

-- Journalist Deb Price, recipient of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network's annual Visibility Award ("Dinner on Deck," May 5)


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