With respect to the former British colonies now known as the United States, this country has witnessed the entire range of legal constraints and penalties, from Inquisition-like punishment during parts of the colonial era (people were hanged for homosexual offenses) to judicial and social indifference at other points (such as during the Civil War) to federal and local government-orchestrated persecution (during the 1950s and early 1960s) to a situation where now it depends really on where in the country you live. Lawrence v. Texas did strip away the remaining anti-sodomy laws, more than a dozen have civil protections for gays and lesbians on their books, and now four states--Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New Hampshire--will have civil union laws, while Massachusetts, remains the only one that permits gay marriage. It is only a matter of time before another state--New York or California, whose legislature courageously voted up a gay marriage bill that Schwarzenegger vetoed--joins Massachusetts, while the other coastal states and some of the upper midwestern states, like Illinois, permit civil unions, and many more will have civil protections (Iowa just voted them up, I believe). Within 25 years, I predict that only Southern states (and not all of them) will not have some sort of civil protections or civil union laws on the books.
The post about Jamaica reminded me that I have not written anything about the violence against gay people or people suspected of being gay in Iraq (though I have written about the grave situation in Iran, whose government just imposed even more stringent clothing and related social rules on men and women, and whose histrionic conservatives are in a tizzy today because the dour, fundamentalist president, Ahmedinejad, kissed and held the hand of his octagenarian former grade school teacher after presenting her with an award). The anti-gay persecution continues unabated and, if it's possible to assess it qualitatively, it appears to have worsened. Doug Ireland has repeatedly reported on this issue, but as far as I can tell, it hasn't merited hardly any mainstream media attention. (Of course I realize they couldn't give a damn about gay people being killed, especially gay brown people.) I have no idea what things were like for gay people under Saddam Hussein's rule (I doubt it was rosy), but it's clear that being identified as gay or lesbian in war-torn contemporary Iraq means that you are a walking target, and basically have a death sentence hanging over you. He lists a litany of the attacks, murders and death threats, and I would imagine these are only a fraction of the larger crisis. Since one of the leading Shiite clerics has issued a fatwa calling on the persecution of homosexuals, and since the "Commander Guy" and his administration can barely turn the lights on over there or complete any of the "reconstruction" projects they keep praising to the high heavens let alone stem the rampant factional and sectarian slaughter, the horrendous suffering of gay Iraqis won't wane anytime. Nevertheless, if this is an issue that strikes you as important, sending a note of support to Iraqi LGBT, the main Iraqi gay rights organization, which maintains safe houses for persecuted LGBTs there; a letter to the International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Campaign (IGLHRC); and a note of protest to Iraq's embassy here would probably helpful, and Ireland asks for people who want to contribute money to Iraqi LGBT to send it via OutRage, with a cover note marked “For Iraqi LGBT"; according to him they will forward it on by wire to the Iraqi group.
Ireland also blogs about tonight's debate between the two front runners in the race for the French presidency, Socialist candidate Ségolène Royal and Gaullist Nicolas Sarkozy, or Ségo and Sarko. According to Ireland, Ségo, despite bursts of passion, did not help her cause at all, because in good DLC fashion, she has been moving steadily towards the putative political "center," while also making promises that come out of the worst Socialist-pandering playbook, thus leaving voters, both on the Left and in the center, unsure of what she stands for on the domestic front. He therefore predicts a Sarkozy victory, which he suggests, echoing so many other commentators I've read, would be a nightmare for a sizable portion of France's population, especially its Black, Arab and immigrant populations. Sarkozy's authoritarianism is well known, as are his hair-trigger temper and intemperate rhetoric, his contempt for people of color, his strange scientific beliefs (suicide is "genetic" is one of his gems), and his pro-Americanism (he came to genuflect at the foot of "Commander Guy" last year). What's probably less well known is how intimately tied in he is to French industry. In fact, his economic plans sound like tarted up Republican supply-side economics with heavy neoliberal seasoning, and at the end of the day, France's multinationals will be the ones laughing all the way to the banque. Ségo challenged him on why he hadn't introduced these plans, which have some in the US media positively drooling with excitement, during his five years in the current and moribund administration of Chirac, and according to the Guardian Online, this question actually gave him pause, though in general he kept his cool. The truth is that Chirac, despite being a "conservative," was as invested in retaining power and not shaking up the status quo as his Socialist predecessors. Whether Sarko's plans are going to revive France's economy or not is open to question, but Ségo has not put forward counterproposals on most fronts to energize the populace. Glamor only goes so far. As unpalatable as Chirac is, it's doubtful he'll drag Sarko down like Commander Guy W is sure to do to any Republicans who get too close him (the "snow baby" W unfortunately isn't going to melt away soon enough), so France very well may have as its leader an ideological soulmate to some of the worst people on the US right.
Finally, here's a bit of found antipoetry (on the principle of the very toxic element antimony), which would make Alfred Jarry envious, except that it issued from the mouth of our Decider today as he was participating in yet another Potemkin Village-style event, on our taxpayers' dime, in an effort to drum up nonexistent support for his vanity disaster in Iraq:
By the way, in the report it said, it is -- the government may have to put in more troops to be able to get to that position. And that's what we do. We put in more troops to get to a position where we can be in some other place. The question is, who ought to make that decision? The Congress or the commanders? And as you know, my position is clear -- I'm the commander guy.
I just wonder: is he hitting the vodka or the gin, and is he mixing in some blow, meth or prescription drugs in with it? Can impeachment come soon enough?
Yes, I sort of dropped this aspect of the blog once the school year rolled around last September, but here's one from last summer, on that marvel of engineering, the PATH train: