To celebrate Pride 2012 and to honor the great civil rights and political successes we have earned recently, I would like to offer a series of columns on the lawyers, advocates, scholars, and individual leaders who have sacrificed so much, developed novel legal arguments, and won the legal victories upon which we stand today. It is impossible to include everyone; an entire life's work would fail to honor all of our forefathers. But these few representatives symbolize the contributions of the greater whole: a group of men and women, young and old, who have sacrificed so that we can live a life of freedom today. In the final column, the professors.
Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter developed the central principles of modern constitutional liberalism in Harvard Law Review articles long before they reached the bench. Robert Bork and Charles Fried did the same for the conservative renaissance that took hold in the 1980s. Political philosophers like John Rawls, Robert Nozick, Ronald Dworkin, and Michael Sandel are responsible for the lenses through which many of us understand the rights and responsibilities in the Constitution. And, they all did this work from the supposedly rarified world of academia.
Some of the greatest minds in legal academia are out gays and lesbians who are dedicating their careers to developing novel legal arguments for gay rights, teaching and inspiring the next generation of LGBT community leaders, and helping our overworked public interest lawyers do their jobs. Bill Eskridge of Yale, Nan Hunter of Georgetown, William Rubenstein of Harvard, and Kenji Yoshino of NYU are just four of the many scholars focusing on law and sexuality. They provide a solid intellectual foundation for the legal battles we are facing -- and winning -- today. And, although all of the analysis you read in this column is my own (unless otherwise indicated), I am influenced by the scholarship of these and other great scholars.
Professor Eskridge is the author (along with Professor Hunter) of a field-establishing casebook on law and sexuality, and although there are quite a few alternate casebooks today (Professor Rubenstein has an excellent one!), they all try to reach the standard set by Professors Eskridge and Hunter. After graduating from Yale Law School, clerking, and practicing law, Professor Eskridge found a home at Georgetown where, among other things, he represented District residents Craig Dean and Patrick Gill, two young men who sued the D.C. government after being denied a marriage license in the early 1990s. This wasn't the first gay marriage case ever. Nor was it truly supported by the gay rights establishment. There is, however, something to be said for Professor Eskridge's willingness to vigorously represent those willing to make a sacrifice for the greater good. He also wrote an amicus brief in Lawrence v. Texas that formed the basis for much of the majority opinion's analysis; his ideas, alongside those of Lawrence's counsel at Lambda Legal, are the reasons we won in Lawrence in 2003.
Professor Hunter is a pioneering out lesbian in legal circles. She founded the ACLU's LGBT Rights Project, the group that has brought countless important gay rights cases, including lawsuits challenging DOMA, asserting First Amendment rights, and holding schools responsible in LGBT bullying cases. After joining the Georgetown Law faculty, Professor Hunter became a prolific academic, writing casebooks, texts, and articles that reinvented arguments in LGBT law. For example, she is responsible for much of the scholarship on the status-conduct distinction that has peppered many gay rights cases (to simplify a complicated debate: do sodomy laws criminalize the status of being gay or the conduct associated with gay sexuality?). She also has a really cool blog (though I think she should rename it, "The Hunter Games").
William Rubenstein was one of Professor Hunter's successors at the ACLU's LGBT Rights Project, the author of his own casebook on law and sexuality, and an expert on complex litigation. Kenji Yoshino was one of the youngest tenured professors at Yale Law School and his first book, Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights, is a seminal text on civil rights and constitutional law that every law student should read.
Professors Eskridge, Hunter, Rubenstein, and Yoshino have made incomparable scholarly contributions to various fields, including LGBT law; their theories have been quoted by district court judges, appellate courts, and in Supreme Court opinions. But, there is much more to it. The presence of brilliant out gay scholars in legal and academic circles brought gay rights issues in from the margins of legal studies much like the presence of gay people in every day life helped win over straight allies.
Professor Yoshino said in an interview last year that being gay has helped him appreciate America's Constitutional tradition, one that respects and fosters differences among members of society, in contrast to the pressures to conform in Japanese society. He also noted as follows: "When I go out in the world, I understand that I go out as a gay man -- I self identify as a gay man -- because there is a fight being fought in this country and it's really important to identify yourself in a way that allows you to be a role model to other people [and] that allows you to make certain kinds of arguments because you have the standing to make them."
And, he's exactly right.
All of us are actors in a unfolding morality tale. Those who choose to sit on the sidelines -- the minor and major celebrities and potential role models who decline to come out for whatever reason -- shirk their responsibilities to the community at large, choosing selfishness over the greater good. Few professors are celebrities like George Clooney or Brad Pitt (though, just try to follow Michael Sandel around in Asia), but as role models and shapers of young minds, educators are in perfect positions to symbolize the best our community has to offer. Professors Eskridge, Hunter, Rubenstein, Yoshino, and the countless others too innumerable to list here do just that.
Ari Ezra Waldman teaches at Brooklyn Law School and is concurrently getting his PhD at Columbia University in New York City. He is a 2002 graduate of Harvard College and a 2005 graduate of Harvard Law School. His research focuses on technology, privacy, speech, and gay rights. Ari will be writing weekly posts on law and various LGBT issues.
Follow Ari on Twitter at @ariezrawaldman.
Summer storms leave at least twelve dead, millions powerless.
The gayness of gospel:
It’s not just that so many of the men and women in gospel—from Alex Bradford to James Cleveland to Ruth Davis to Robert Anderson to innumerable less well-known singers, directors, and fans—were gay. Nor is it simply that some of the most important figures of the civil rights movement, like James Baldwin and Bayard Rustin, came out of the church's gay tradition. Rather, Heilbut makes the case that gospel has always been essentially and characteristically gay at its heart ...
Clerics should talk to atheists before writing about them.
A profile of the guy who makes Biebs and J-Lo sound like singers.
Spanier, Paterno, the other guys at Penn State -- they knew.
World Net Daily calls bullied grandmother Karen Klein "fat," infantile"; misrepresents details of her case:
To the sight of a feeble adult who occupies two seats on the vehicle she’s supposed to supervise, too fat to budge and too powerless to perform the task for which she is being paid – the Internet erupted in cheers.
Klein was quickly catapulted to fame for her, yes, courage. “God bless, you are my hero,” effused a woman with the handle “Marykate” in an online post.
Charitably put, Klein has not advanced adulthood in infantile America.
Nevertheless, Klein’s coffers filled up fast. She is now $650,000 richer and plans to make a pilgrimage to the Mecca of maturity: Disneyland.
... In defense of the wolverines who preyed on Klein, how is an adult such as herself to command their respect? From whom are these fiends, out on a wilding spree, expected to learn a lesson? From Supervisor Klein, who was not adult enough to holler for help? Klein lacked the wherewithal to ask the bus driver to stop the bus and set the kids straight, then and there.
Or, perhaps the bus drive is another fearful fatty who was unable to dislodge herself from her seat. Perhaps the two live in fear of potential lawsuits, lodged by the parents who sire these good-for-nothing seventh graders ...
Guy critics don't get smart girls.
Welcome to Earth, Liu Yang.
The bad news about gay youth:
Gay, transgender, and gender nonconforming youth are significantly over-represented in the juvenile justice system—approximately 300,000 gay and transgender youth are arrested and/or detained each year, of which more than 60 percent are black or Latino. Though gay and transgender youth represent just 5 percent to 7 percent of the nation’s overall youth population, they compose 13 percent to 15 percent of those currently in the juvenile justice system.
Creepy photogs chase Alec Baldwin through Manhattan; hassle his next-door neighbors. Suddenly, Baldwin's had enough.
On Thursday, Andrew reported on the hideous repurposing of a gay couple's wedding photo for use in a political attack ad in Colorado. The ad was created by a third-party group supporting Republican Rep. Randy Baumgardner, who's looking to unseat Republican Sen. Jean White, of Hayden. Rep. Baumgardner accuses Sen. White of "joining Denver liberals attacking traditional marriage" by twice voting for a civil unions bill. (Sen. White has a gay niece and nephew.)
The couple pictured in the ad have nothing to do with the political campaign. In his previous report, Andrew quoted one of the men, Brian Edwards, who wrote movingly of the photo-pilfering on his blog:
I want to share what this picture means to me. It represents my first home away from home, my beloved NYC, which at the time this image was taken (2 years ago) did not allow same sex couples to marry. It represents my longterm relationship with my best friend, my partner, and now husband – the love we share and obstacles we have overcome. It is a reminder of the happiness I felt the day he proposed to me and of the excitement I had all throughout our engagement. It represents hope and it represents love. Or at least it did…
The group responsible for the ad is called the Public Advocate for the United States, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled a "hate group." They've caught wind of the controversy generated by their ad, and they've issued a statement. From the Denver Post:
Eugene Delgaudio, the president of Public Advocate, was asked via e-mail why his group used that picture and whether there were concerns about copyright infringement.
He responded: “We are a non-profit and make no money from any photos, postings, references, parodies, street theater or educational materials. Other groups make fair use of our materials or 2000 photos from our website under these broad principles of political education and we acknowledge a limited use of many of our own materials, by other groups, under parody, some fairly strong critical attacks from our political opposition on our efforts as part of a robust debate.”
No apologies, then. Presumably, it wouldn't strike Delguadio as particularly unethical for a rival political group to use pictures of his own family in an attack ad -- especially since he, unlike the couple whose picture he pilferred, is a public combatant in the political arena. Or maybe he has a different standard for straight folks.
The anti-gay Ugandan government, and especially its jabbering homophobe-in-chief, Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo, are excited to report that they've found proof of a homosexual conspiracy to overturn the moral order in Uganda and promote gay sex in the Ugandan media. From The Kampala Observer:
The government says it has intercepted minutes of a recent meeting that discussed wide-ranging strategies on how to promote the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Uganda.
These strategies include how to raise funds and recruit 'friendly' journalists into the cause of fighting for homosexual rights in Uganda. Some sources have told The Observer that security operatives infiltrated gay groups and managed to get a document containing minutes of the meeting.
The unsigned document, a copy of which we have seen, names 41 people, from 23 NGOs, as having attended the meeting on May 4, 2012, under the coordination of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law ...
Not incidentally, Andy reported earlier this month on a raid of a meeting of LGBT rights activists meeting in Kampala. It's unclear if Mr. Lokodo's document was obtained during that operation.
Mr. Lokodo, a former Roman Catholic priest, is now doing his best to ensure that the 23 NGOs named in the document are banned from doing business in Uganda:
... he said he had passed the list of the NGOs to the Internal Affairs minister to get all of them deregistered, as they were engaging in an illegal activity. Lokodo told journalists that the NGOs were receiving support from abroad and "recruiting" young children into the vice.
Mr. Lokodo says he believes the recovered document will be an important component of his case to revive the punitive anti-gay bill introduced three years ago by MP David Bahati, and which has been languishing in the parliament ever since. The bill originally instituted the death penalty for those convicted of repeat homosexual relations, but the punishment has been amended to life imprisonment.
The Washington Times, the Moonie paper, points out that the recent intensity of anti-gay sentiment in Uganda provides a useful distraction from the rolling public disaster that is the government of President Yowery Museveni:
The move to ban the NGOs comes amid sharply declining support for the government and power struggles within the administration.
An Afrobarometer poll in March found that Ugandans’ approval of President Yoweri Museveni’s government had fallen to 26 percent, from 64 percent in January 2011.
Meanwhile, news outlets reported last week that Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga and Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi are angling to unseat the 68-year-old president, who has been in power for 26 years.
“This campaign against sexual minorities is meant to shift attention from the challenges this country is facing and the issues affecting day-to-day lives,” said Hassan Shire, executive director of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project.
NGOs have become more vocal and critical amid the government’s increasing reliance on patronage to retain power, massive unemployment, crumbling infrastructure and violent crackdowns on journalists and activists.
It's worth noting that President Museveni has expressed disapproval of the anti-gay bill, though only after initially endorsing it.
YOUR FEATURE PRESENTATION
An exhilarating all night double date is winding down on a bridge in Tampa, just before the sun rises. MAGIC MIKE (Channing Tatum) stands up on the railing, looks over his shoulder and dives gracefully backwards into the water to the mild delight of the anonymous girls. His new protégé "The Kid" (Alex Pettyfer), already eager to follow in his new buddy's footsteps (and body rolls), jumps in awkwardly after him.
"Hey Mike, I think we should be best friends!"
The Kid blurts the invitation out with both of them bobbing in the water. He's like a little boy who's just discovered a whole new playground. It's a perfectly crush-worthy unguarded moment -- the kind that makes you give yourself over completely to a movie. My heart is yours, movie. Treat me right.
This gem of a scene is also, as it turns out, the exclamation point to a perfectly formed Act One, "June". The movie takes place over the course of one life-changing summer for Mike and The Kid: June, July, and August. You go to Magic Mike to see seven spectacularly formed male bodies but the movie turns out to be all sculpted, too: June is introductions, flirtations and promise, by July you're deep in love/lust and too hot for clothing, and in August... Well, you know how sticky August gets.
MORE, AFTER THE JUMP...
A word about the movie's shape, or physique if you will: If Magic Mike The Movie were a man, it'd be one of those average seeming guys who is suddenly a sex god once his clothes are off, annoyingly fit through the mystery of genetics without ever having to sweat or target a muscle group. All of which is to say that the movie's carefully sculpted form is initially hidden from view by its ultra casual posture. The movie feels improvised in nearly every scene though the quotable lines from a screenplay by Reid Carolin (who also plays Brooke's sort of boyfriend "Paul" in the film) suggest that it totally wasn't. Some of the movie's best laughs spring from its offhand observational manner like its disarming matter-of-fact introduction of "Big Dick" Ritchie. (Joseph Mangianello is looser and funnier as Ritchie than he's ever been as “Alcides” on True Blood, though not, unfortunately, more naked.) Some of Magic Mike’s best texture happens in the background where Ken (Matt Bomer) and Tito (Adam Rodriguez) are seemingly always engaged in inane small talk in very tight underpants.
Oscar winning director Steven Soderbergh favors long takes here without cuts, which really puts you in the club, in the moment and with the actors. This ‘you are there’ atmosphere has obvious benefits in the movies frequent strip club scenes but it pays off in (slightly) more clothed scenes, too. When Mike pursues The Kid's uptight sister Brooke (Cody Horn) you're witnessing their entire wandering giggling flirtation which ends with a vision of such sun-dappled dreaminess that the movie theater is temporarily transformed into a sand bar party.
Soderbergh's trust in his star performer’s on camera ease and charm is repaid with the actor's best and most lived-in performance yet. The movie was loosely inspired by Channing's own brief stint as a male stripper five years before Hollywood came calling and to the star's great credit and our entertainment, he isn’t interesting in hiding his past, his feelings or his body. When Chan dives backwards into the water in that aforementioned Act One scene, there's no opportunity to slip in a body double or stunt man as there are no edits whatsoever.
The same goes for the super authentic strip scenes. Though they have more editing, there are no body doubles, just bodies. Bodies by God… and personal chefs and trainers and seven hour daily workouts.
The amusing choreography, which gyrates around between big time and amateur hour, is presumably the work of Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), the club's owner and emcee. McConaughey gets the showiest role and finally finds that signature role that's alluded him all these years. Dallas may be a small time Tampa club owner but he carries himself like a stadium ready rock star with the conviction and charisma of a religious figure, the leader of his own Cult of Seven Thongs. While he's great and eerily serious about the autoeroticism once he finally takes center stage, the actor is even better in scenes where he's paired with the possible future versions of himself in Mike (the "star" he's groomed for years) and The Kid, who'll do if Mike is unavailable. His funny and very hands on pelvis on training of The Kid is the single truest snapshot of how game this entire cast is for self-exploitation, uninhibited comedy, and real acting, too. It'd be Oscar Nomination #1 for McConaughey if anyone thinks to take a movie about male strippers seriously and doesn't mind the thought of an Oscar clip that contains glistening close up of the star’s glutes, somersaulting toward the camera. (In other words: That Oscar nomination will be very hard to come by.)
There are moments during “August” that you could argue fall on the wrong side of cliché and judgmental attitudes about Mike's "lifestyle" but even the movie’s most conservative character (Brooke, the love interest) has a distinct personality and Magic Mike never pretends that her inhibitions equal a lack of libido. Soderbergh makes the very smart decision to let us watch her watching Mike’s act and even if she’s uncomfortable with his exhibitionism, she’s obviously just as hypnotized as the next (far-more-inebriated) girl. She can’t pull her eyes away from him.
Magic Mike has rude laughs, heartfelt drama, smart filmmaking and character development (!!!). Against all odds its Soderbergh's best film since his Oscary heyday (Erin Brockovich & Traffic). All that plus more pecs, abs and ass than you’ve seen onscreen since… maybe ever? (No, internet porn does not count.) May Magic Mike be such a gargantuan hit that Hollywood is forced to make male strippers the new superheroes.
I think we should be its best friend and see it thrice.
P.S. In what can only be called a summer miracle, Magic Mike and the Oscar buzzing original Beasts of the Southern Wild, both brand new this weekend, happen to be the two best movies of the year thus far. Do not miss either of them... it's a perfect weekend to hit the movie theater.
For ten days, Andy's been reporting on the ongoing drama that's enveloped the life of Karen Klein, the 68-year-old grandmother and bus monitor who was ruthlessly bullied unto tears by a pack of Rochester 7th graders. A video of the abuse went viral, landed both Klein and one of the abuser's fathers on AC360, and led to an online donation campaign meant to provide Ms. Klein with a much-needed vacation. (The campaign has raised north of $640,000 and counting -- Klein says she'll use the money to "pay some bills" and donate to a Down's syndrome charity.) Now, the Rochester school district has meted out its punishment to Klein's abusers: One year suspension and 50 hours of community service.
"Following individual meetings this week with school and district administrators, each family waived their right to a hearing and agreed to one-year suspensions from school and regular bus transportation," the Greece Central School District said in a statement.
The students will be transferred to the district Reengagement Center, it said. Each will also be required to complete 50 hours of community service with senior citizens and must take part in a formal bullying prevention program.
It might be worth repeating: The offending 7th graders will be forced to perform community service with senior citizens. No doubt, the experience will prove enlightening for the boys -- but will the seniors get any say in this?
(If you've somehow missed it, please refer to the original bus harassment video AFTER THE JUMP ...)