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NYT Reporter Jo Becker Defends Marriage Equality Book in Grilling from Ronan Farrow: VIDEO

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MSNBC host Ronan Farrow used a segment of his show to discuss NYT reporter Jo Becker's new book Forcing the Spring: The Fight for Marriage Equality which has come under heavy criticism for a narrative advocates have called absurd, distorted, and just plain wrong.

Becker is asked if she regrets any of the language she used, including comparisons of AFER's Chad Griffin to Rosa Parks, and starting the book with "this is how a revolution begins" as if the movement for marriage equality began when AFER took up the Prop 8 case.

Becker regrets none of it.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Prop 8 Judge Vaughn Walker Describes Closeted Past, 'Ex-Gay' Therapy

In an upcoming book written by Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist Jo Becker, Judge Vaughn Walker — the U.S. District Court judge who declared California’s anti-gay marriage law Proposition 8 unconstitutional — reveals that he underwent 'ex-gay' reparative therapy as a young man.

WalkerSF Gate has more:

Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality describes Walker blinking back tears as he listened to the man's testimony in 2010, recalling the therapy he had undergone three decades earlier to try to unsnarl uncertainties about his own sexual orientation - but it was a nightmare not revealed publicly until now…

Becker writes that Walker told her the psychiatrist - after some counseling that Walker no longer remembers in any detail - ultimately determined he was not actually gay because he had not yet had sex with a man.

"And he pronounced me cured," recalled Walker - who "wanted badly to believe that was true," the book says…

The "conversion" therapy episodes are among several the book reveals as Walker recalls his internal struggles over his sexuality - and whether, or how, to disclose it.

He says he had "faux romances" with women, entered his first relationship with a man in his late 30s, and was thinking of coming out publicly - but pulled back when he found himself representing the U.S. Olympic Committee in a trademark suit against a San Francisco organization that wanted to call its athletic competition the Gay Olympics.

… After some years on the bench, as Becker describes it, he "began to live a little more openly," occasionally visiting a gay bar, and being seen at social events with his partner, a physician. But he went public with his orientation only in April 2011, more than two months after his retirement.

Shortly after ruling on Prop 8, Walker came out and anti-gay supporters of the law tried to have his decision thrown out on the basis of his inability to be “impartial” as a gay man. That challenge was heard and dismissed by a judge who said that such logic would render female judges unable to rule on gender bias cases.

Becker's book has faced criticism for largely crediting the gay marriage movement's successes to the people she interviewed — something David Mixner noted in his most recent Towleroad column.


Narrative in New Jo Becker Book on Fight for Marriage Equality Called 'Absurd', 'Distorted', 'Deceptive'

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BY LISA KEEN

To say there’s been a flurry of discussion around the release of a new book Tuesday on the legal case that challenged California’s Proposition 8 would be an understatement. The book, Forcing the Spring, by New York Times writer Jo Becker, has been thoroughly pilloried by many plugged-in LGBT activists and journalists this week, both publicly and privately.

Griffin_olsonWhile a few have attempted to cut Becker some slack for documenting some behind-the-scenes litigation and political strategies, most fault her for an approach that seems hell-bent on making Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin and conservative icon attorney Ted Olson into the white horse heroes of an upcoming Hollywood docu-drama about How the Marriage Equality Movement was Won.

Hollywood movies do have a tendency to skew the historical record for audiences that have not been paying attention to the real world events; and, if it does come to the silver screen, Forcing the Spring will carry an impressive credential --that it was based on a book by a “Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist” (even though she co-authored the entry that won).

The intense negative reaction from the LGBT community to Becker’s book indicates the prospect that the marriage equality movement’s real history will be lost is very troubling to many LGBT people who have watched and been part of that movement. It did not begin with the Griffin-Olson lawsuit in 2009, but with individual couples as early as the 1970s and with veteran civil rights legal activists beginning in Hawaii in the 1990s.

SullivanConservative gay commentator Andrew Sullivan led the assault on Becker’s book this week. In his April 16 blog entry for his The Dish, Sullivan berates Becker for suggesting Griffin is on par with legendary black civil rights activist Rosa Parks. He dismissed the book as riddled with “jaw-dropping distortion,” such as Becker ‘s claim that the marriage equality movement “for years had largely languished in obscurity.”

Sullivan’s assault was joined quickly by an impressive string of critiques: writer-activist Dan Savage (“a bulls--t ‘history’ of the movement for marriage equality”), former New York Times columnist Frank Rich (“For a journalist to claim that marriage equality revolution began in 2008 is as absurd as saying civil rights struggle began with Obama.”), and White House strategist Jim Messina.

Becker offered a defense against the criticism, explaining to politico.com that she hadn’t tried to write a definitive history of the marriage equality movement or the “gay rights” movement.

“Many people have contributed to the success the movement has experienced. I have the [utmost] respect for all the people who contributed to that success,” wrote Becker. “My book was not meant to be a beginning-to-end-history of the movement. It’s about a particular group of people at an extraordinary moment in time, and I hope that people will be moved by their stories.”

Unfortunately, her intro to the book and the slick public relations material sent out to promote that book proclaim otherwise.

On page 1 of the book, she writes that the marriage equality “revolution... begins with a handsome, bespectacled thirty-five-year-old political consultant named Chad Griffin….” Her own summary of the book calls it is “the definitive account of the fight to win the rights of marriage and full citizenship for all….” And the Penguin Press release that accompanies review copies of the book calls it, “A deeply insightful and riveting account of a national civil rights struggle….” It quotes such celebrity legal commentators as Jeff Toobin as saying the book is “a superb, behind-the-scenes account of the legal battle to bring marriage equality to the nation.” The NAACP’s former president, Benjamin Todd Jealous, calls it “the definitive account of one of the great civil rights struggles of our times.”

This is the kind of hype that accompanies many books. It’s how publishers, in a very competitive environment, woo attention and favorable comments from reviewers, television talk shows, and other vehicles in a position to stoke book sales.

But critics of Forcing the Spring take issue with the book beyond the exaggeration of its marketing campaign.

D_blackForcing the Spring just doesn’t get it right,” writes BuzzFeed legal reporter Chris Geidner. He notes that Becker quotes Hollywood screenwriter Dustin Lance Black as being rebuffed by an audience of potential LGBT major donors to the litigation organized by Griffin’s American Foundation for Equal Rights. Becker also reports that the donor meeting’s organizer, Tim Gill, “denounced Black outright.” Geidner provides a link to a video of the closed-door meeting about which Becker was writing that shows Black’s speech was interrupted with applause five times, and won a standing ovation from at least a few in the audience. And Geidner says Gill’s alleged denouncement of Black was “more of a nuanced defense of ‘gradualism’” strategy for winning marriage equality.

Hollywood movies require conflict and struggle, and it may be that the book –whose inside cover touts it as a “gripping behind-the-scenes narrative with the lightning pace of the greatest legal thrillers”-- fell prey to the need to dramatize some hurdles for her heroes to overcome. A more journalistic approach might have conveyed the mixed reaction of Black’s audience and contrasted that with Black’s personal interpretation of how he was received.

It also would have been helpful for Becker to have talked in some depth with LGBT legal activists who have been working on the marriage equality movement for many years.

A number of LGBT legal activists have pointed out significant factual errors in Becker’s account as reported by the press thus far (none had received a copy of the book in advance) and expressed astonishment at her cavalier pronouncement that the marriage equality movement had been “languishing” in “obscurity” before Griffin and Olson came along.

Becker wrote that LGBT legal activists planned to win marriage equality in 30 states before filing a federal lawsuit.

“Lambda Legal did not have a strategy of getting to 30 states with marriage equality (or any particular number for that matter) before we would consider bringing a federal case,” said Lambda Legal’s Jon Davidson.    

KaplanBecker’s portrayal of Roberta Kaplan (right), attorney to Edith Windsor in the Supreme Court case that struck down the key provision of DOMA, as an “outsider” to the establishment legal activists was also widely disputed.

“Robbie was not an outsider,” said GLAD spokeswoman Carisa Cunningham. “She had worked for the ACLU for years, just as she did on Edie’s case. She also worked with Lambda on the New York marriage case, Hernandez.”

Becker was not hired by the movement to write its history. If she and her book promoters had just been a little more careful to pitch the book as a behind-the-scenes picture of the Proposition 8 litigation, the hue and cry might not be so harsh as it is.

The drama achieved by portraying the marriage equality movement pre-Griffin-Olson as “languishing” and “obscurity” extracts a price from Becker’s credentials. For LGBT people, the Baehr v. Miike trial in Honolulu and its subsequent legal victories --and even its political defeats, including passage by the U.S. Congress of the Defense of Marriage Act-- warrant neither of those dismissive assessments. There ensued an intense political war over marriage equality on state ballots around the country beginning in 1998, and, while supporters of same-sex marriage lost those battles, they came back with a steady, methodically planned and executed series of legal challenges that won civil unions in Vermont in the late 1990s and marriage equality in Massachusetts in 2003.

And just a month before Griffin and Olson first joined that battle with the filing of the Proposition 8 lawsuit, Lambda Legal won a unanimous victory in Iowa. The decades of cultural and legal combat opened up the country to a conversation that became both personal and national and moved public opinion. The Proposition 8 case was definitely part of that effort and, near the last paragraph of her book, Becker tempers her assessment of the Griffin-Olson effort as having brought the dream of equality “within reach.”

The Proposition 8 litigation enabled same-sex couples in California to be married, and other political activists and lawsuits have won marriage equality in more than a dozen other states. The legal team of Olson and David Boies is back at work with a case in the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, and other legal teams have similarly situated cases in other federal appeals courts. Each is hoping to win marriage equality for all states. Almost certainly, one of them will succeed. But the credit will belong to the many, not the few.

© copyright 2014 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


Rachel Maddow Looks at the Weird, Weird Week in Gay Rights: VIDEO

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Rachel Maddow takes a look at a bizarre backward/forward week in gay rights: Louisiana's insistence on retaining its anti-gay, unconstitutional sodomy law, contrasted with the Prop 8 defense attorney Charles Cooper's announcement that he is planning his gay daughter's wedding!

Truths Maddow:

"Sometimes the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice. But you know what? Sometimes the arc of the moral universe runs around like a chicken with its head cut off."

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Friday Speed Read: Oklahoma Marriage, Naya Taylor, Charles Cooper, Gordon Fox

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

LAMBDA SUES FOR FAILURE TO TREAT:

TaylorLambda Legal filed a lawsuit in federal court in Urbana, Illinois, yesterday against a medical doctor who refused to treat a patient because she is transgender. The lawsuit, Taylor v. Lystila, charges that primary care physician Aja Lystila violated the federal Affordable Care Act when she refused to provide hormone therapy to Naya Taylor. “When Naya protested to the clinic that she was being denied transition-related care by the clinic, she was told that the clinic did not ‘have to treat people like you’.” Lambda’s complaint notes that a spokesperson for the clinic told Naya that “because the clinic has Middle Eastern doctors and they have religious beliefs, they do not have to treat ‘people like you’.” The Affordable Care Act prohibits health care providers from discriminating against any individual based on sex.

WHOSE BURDEN IS IT?

OklahomaA judge on the Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel drilled down hard Thursday, insisting an attorney defending Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex couples marrying explain how letting same-sex couples marry harms the government’s interest in creating stable families and cared for children. The case was Bishop v. Smith, the second of two cases to be argued this month before the federal appeals court in Denver. The attorney was James Campbell with the Alliance Defending Freedom. Campbell said it’s not the government’s burden to show what harm same-sex marriages could cause.

But the judge persisted, and Campbell said that, while “no one knows the long-term effects,” there are “real world consequences,” “and it is plaintiffs’ burden to show that none of those consequences will be adverse.” Evan Wolfson, head of the national Freedom to Marry group, notes that, “even under basic review, the government has to have a sufficient reason for discriminating.” “And numerous court rulings, including the Supreme Court's decision in Windsor -- as well as all three marriage trials, first in Hawaii, then in California, and a few weeks ago in Michigan -- have made clear there is none.”

CHARLES COOPER ‘LOOKING FORWARD’:

CooperThe lead attorney defending California’s Proposition 8 acknowledges in a just-released book about the trial that he learned during the case that his daughter is gay. In the book, Forcing the Spring, author Jo Becker said Cooper and his daughter Ashley Lininger discussed the issue of same-sex marriage at length. Lininger got engaged just three months before Cooper defended Proposition 8 in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. Cooper issued a statement to the Washington Post saying, “My daughter Ashley’s path in life has led her to happiness with a lovely young woman named Casey, and our family and Casey’s family are looking forward to celebrating their marriage in just a few weeks.”

STILL NO WORD ON FOX INVESTIGATION:

FoxIt’s been almost a month since Rhode Island’s openly gay Speaker of the House, Gordon Fox, suddenly resigned his leadership position following a raid by state and federal investigators on his home and State House office. Nobody’s talking, but the state Board of Elections told Associated Press that law enforcement staff have been in touch. And Fox’s executive assistant told a local news station that investigators came to her house looking for campaign documents prior to the March 21 raid. WPRI News said Wednesday that Fox, who retained his seat as a member of the House, has not attended any sessions since the raids.

© copyright 2014 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


Prop 8 Defense Attorney Reveals Daughter is Gay and Getting Married, Says Views are Evolving

Attorney Charles Cooper, who argued for 'Protect Marriage in the Proposition 8 case, says he learned during the trial that his daughter is gay and he's now helping plan her wedding, the AP reports:

CooperAttorney Charles Cooper says his view of same-sex marriage is evolving after having argued in court that gay unions could undermine marriages between a man and a woman.

The revelation is an unexpected footnote in the years-long debate over Proposition 8, the California measure struck down by the Supreme Court last year. It is also offers a glimpse, through the eyes of one family, of the country's rapidly shifting opinions of gay marriage, with most public polls now showing majorities in favour of allowing the unions.

Said Cooper:

"My views evolve on issues of this kind the same way as other people's do, and how I view this down the road may not be the way I view it now, or how I viewed it ten years ago," Cooper said in journalist Jo Becker's book "Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality."

The AP adds:

In a statement to The Associated Press, Cooper said his family "is typical of families all across America."
"My daughter Ashley's path in life has led her to happiness with a lovely young woman named Casey, and our family and Casey's family are looking forward to celebrating their marriage in just a few weeks," he said.


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