Breaking: Old White Guy From Louisiana Rules Against Marriage Equality (While Wearing A Dress)

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Martin FeldmanIn Louisiana, Martin Feldman has become the first federal judge to rule against LGBT marriage equality since last year’s twin Supreme Court decisions overturning California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

You might’ve missed that, though, because when news outlets heard the details, most just shrugged.

That’s because an old, white, male, Reagan-appointee in the Deep South ruling in favor of bigotry is not news.

Despite the dozens of court victories we’ve had at the federal and state level since (and even before) Hollingsworth v. Perry and United States v. Windsor, Feldman chose to break ranks with his estimable, equality-minded peers. Not only that, he did it in the most bigoted way possible: in his decision, he called homosexuality a “lifestyle choice”; he compared same-sex marriage to incest; he insisted that marriage is all about procreation (thus assuming that gays and lesbians can’t procreate); and he said that states have the right to discriminate on the grounds of “any conceivable basis”.

Really, Mr. Feldman? Any basis?

What’s more, Feldman went over and above the call of duty.  The case before him only involved the recognition of same-sex marriages conducted outside Louisiana. But Feldman expanded his ruling to affirm Louisiana’s sovereign right to prevent same-sex marriages from happening on its own turf. You know, just for kicks.

My opinion? Look, I’ve said before that I’m not a perfectionist. I’m not a detail person. I prefer working with chainsaws, not mitre saws. To keep the construction metaphor going: I’m like the guy who gets all the right permits from the city and bulldozes the condemned house. I’ll let detail-oriented folks come in and put up the new building.

Which is to say: it would’ve been nice to have a perfect record for LGBT rights in federal court as marriage equality cases work their way through appeals, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. But even with Feldman’s misguided, off-tone, antiquated ruling, we’re still batting pretty near 1,000. I’m fine with that.

My only regret is that I’m not a fly. If I were — well, I probably wouldn’t live long enough to see the inevitable SCOTUS ruling, but on the off-chance I did, I’d love to perch on the wall of Feldman’s office as his decision is being overturned. I might even smile a fly smile as he sighs, realizing that times have changed, and he hasn’t adapted, and like a good loser in the Darwinian struggle to evolve, he should just give up. And then, he dies, with only his gay legal clerk for company.

P.S. I love the law, but I’m not trained in it. For a more detailed analysis of Feldman’s George Wallace-esque ruling, check out Ari Waldman’s take.

David Sedaris Confesses That He’s Sex-Phobic, Doesn’t Understand HIV Or AIDS

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David SedarisI used to love David Sedaris. I mean that as literally as anyone who’s never met the man can mean it.

A decade ago, I even wrote an erotic short story about an orgy in which Sedaris played a central role. (Edmund White, Tony Kushner, and Langston Hughes were there, too. It was like the answer to a college admission essay question no college would ever ask: “If you could nail four gay authors from any time and place…?”)

Sadly, it’s now clear that Sedaris wasn’t suited for such fan fiction, because he recently told the world that he’s a bitter, jealous, sex-phobic prude.

In an article published by The Guardian, Sedaris recounts a recent conversation with his partner of 23 years, Hugh. He asks how many people Hugh had sex with before they were together.

Sedaris tops out around 28 or 30. Which I find a little surprising because even in Mississippi, I’d fooled around with that many people by the time I graduated college (if not before). Maybe Sedaris isn’t a very sexual person, but I’d think that he might’ve been a little more adventurous before he hit his mid-30s, met Hugh, and took himself off the market.

After Sedaris tallies the notches in his bedpost, he watches Hugh count higher and higher. As though that’s surprising. As though having sex is a bad thing. As though it’s a moral failing.

I know what you’re thinking: “Sedaris is a comic writer. It’s clearly meant to be humorous.” I agree, except the way it’s written, we’re meant to be on Sedaris’ side, not Hugh’s.

That’s driven home when he gets to the really offensive part, the part about HIV and AIDS.

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Truvada: Another Pill For Sluts

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Here’s a little something I wrote for the relaunched Nightcharm.com.

It’s kind of weird to see today’s critics of Truvada making the same arguments as critics of The Pill in the 1960s. Or even foes of the more recent HPV vaccine. Then again, there’s something timeless about being a prudish, judgy, short-sighted asshole.


Some people hate Truvada. Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, famously dismissed it as “a party drug,” as if that’s inherently a bad thing. (Then again, I think of champagne as a party drug, so what do I know?) But neither Weinstein nor his fellow critics can deny the science behind Truvada, and that science now says that the drug is virtually 100 percent effective at stopping HIV.

Instead, Weinstein et al. make moral arguments against Truvada — the same moral arguments used 50 years ago to prevent women from taking control of their own bodies and sexual lives. Those arguments were wrong then, and they’re wrong now.

The truly moral thing to do is to remember the millions of people who would never have suffered, never have died, if they’d had the chance to take Truvada. The truly moral thing to do is to get the drug into the hands of the still-living and still-HIV-negative.

Let me repeat: Truvada is the most effective HIV-prevention tool on the planet. As with any other tool, users have to follow instructions, but if you’re able to do that, Truvada is Plan A for guarding against HIV. Condoms, serosorting, and all the other good and not-so-good strategies people use, those are Plan B….

[Continued at Nightcharm.com, which is far more safe-for-work than it used to be]

The Only Other Man I Know Who Idolized John Chancellor

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John ChancellorWhen I was young — and maybe when you were young, too — there was a newscaster named John Chancellor.

I loved him.

Of course, I didn’t think of it as love. (That came later, when I first saw Al Parker.)  But there was something about John Chancellor that I found comforting and reassuring. He was manly, but not in the usual, Mississippi way I knew, which was related to fishing and spark plugs and ogling women. He was manly simply because he was a man — a confident, intelligent, articulate, handsome man.

Also, he looked a lot like my dad, but he was a version that I could’ve gotten along with — unlike my actual dad. (Footnote: we’ve since become good friends, dad and me.)

And he had great glasses. The first pair of eyeglasses I ever bought were horn-rimmed numbers like the ones he often wore. They looked terrible on me, but I loved them anyway.

John Chancellor died in 1996, when he was just 68 years old. Even though he hosted the evening news on NBC for more than a decade — back when NBC, ABC, and CBS were America’s only options for TV news — he never achieved the kind of superstardom that, say, Walter Cronkite or Tom Brokaw or David Brinkley earned during their careers. Chancellor was a news anchor, not a personality. In some way, I guess that made him interchangeable with all the other news anchors on television: replaceable.

I feel as though he’s been forgotten. As though I might’ve dreamed him up. (Google isn’t helping: I tried to find a decent-sized image of the man and discovered that the pickings are oddly slim.) But then I stumbled across this tiny paragraph in a years-old profile of one of my other quiet crushes, Zach Galifianakis, and I thought: I’m not the only one.

“My husband and I had no doubt Zach would go wherever his dream would take him…When he was three or four years old, he named his stuffed Easter bunny John Newman for John Chancellor and [Edwin] Newman, NBC [Nightly] News co-anchors. Around the same time, he pointed to the TV screen and asked, ‘How do I get in there?’ I guess we always knew he would eventually figure that out.”

— Zack Galifianakis’ mother in Paste magazine

Bad Optics & A Lack Of Compelling Visual Imagery: This Is Why Marriage Equality Opponents Are Experiencing An Epic Fail

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NOM's 2014 March for MarriageLast week, the National Organization for Marriage hosted its annual March for Marriage. I didn’t go, but as I understand it, there wasn’t much marching. However, there was lots of talk about marriage — what it is and what it allegedly isn’t — so they got it half right.

Unfortunately, that’s about all they got.

They didn’t get the “tens of thousands” of supporters they’d hoped for — maybe a thousand, if you count the speakers.

They didn’t get coverage in the news — except from LGBT sites, which tended to write about the small crowd and the wackjobs at the podium.

And most importantly, those wackjobs made it clear that they didn’t get the nuances of marriage equality and how it’s different from other social issues. The best example came from NOM’s Brian Brown, who compared the fight against same-sex marriage to the fight against abortion.

Those are two very different battles, with two very different sets of tools for activists. The differences perfectly — and literally — illustrate why conservatives have been able to win a little ground on the abortion front but have made absolutely zero progress in their fight against marriage equality.

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I’m A Casual Vegan (And So Can You!) Part Four: Medicine, Pets, And Everything Else

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I won’t lie: going vegan can be hard, even for those who take a soft approach. Like any restrictive diet or life plan, it requires that you pay attention to the products you’re consuming.

That means reading labels, asking questions of salepeople, changing longstanding habits, and doing things based on principle rather than deep-seated feelings (“I love those shoes, but….”). It’s willpower. It’s mind over matter, where “mind” equals “mind” and “matter” equals “cheeseburgers” or “Chanel perfume”.

It also means taking a risk that your friends will label you a humorless douchebag.

Clothing, food, and to a lesser extent, cosmetics are the most obvious trouble spots for budding vegans. It’s pretty easy to tell that you’ve crossed the line when you’re wearing animal flesh or, conversely, to know that you’re on the right track when you see a “leaping bunny” logo.

But there are many other things we do and products we buy — some of which we truly we rely on — that are derived from animals or make use of them in some unpleasant way. Depending on your living environment, income, location, and a thousand other factors, the thought of using these products could keep you up at night. Or you might roll over and sleep like a log.

Here are a just few that occupy my attention. The full list is much, much longer:

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I’m A Casual Vegan (And So Can You!) Part Three: Food

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Veganizing your wardrobe? Surprisingly easy.

Making your bathroom more animal-friendly? Not quite as painless, but on a scale of one to ten (one being “I could do this in my sleep” and ten being “I would rather be submerged in a ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese and forced to watch Ghost Dad“), it’s about a three.

Welcome to the next step, the pinnacle, the boss level: veganizing your diet. This is where things get real. (Kidding. I just like to sound like a douchebag sometimes.)

vegan food (via Wikimedia)FOOD

There are at least three problems with changing your diet, three things that make it more difficult than the other topics I’ve covered:

A. Food isn’t something you can just give up. Leather shoes? Send ‘em to the thrift shop and buy a pair made of canvas or nylon. Cologne that’s been tested on animals? Toss it in the trash. If you really need it, there are hundreds of cruelty-free options to choose from. But there’s no skipping out on food — at least, not for long.

B. Animal-based food is cheap, easy, and plentiful. If you have time to plan and choose your meals, that’s one thing. But when you’re hungry and in a hurry, rushing to class or a meeting or a flight, your choices are severely limited. You’re either having that sausage biscuit from Mickey D’s, or you’re going to have to re-train your body to subsist on coffee alone. I’ve tried that last one. I don’t recommend it.

C. Food fulfills deeply personal desires. You may love a particular wool sweater, but you own others. You can find substitutes. However, when you’re depressed or stressed or starving, chances are, you crave a very particular sort of food. For me, it’s mac and cheese, for other people, it’s a hamburger or cheesecake. We have a long history with these dishes — they’re often the ones we grew up with — and altering our deep-seated feelings about them doesn’t happen overnight.

So, shifting to a vegan diet involves some retraining. It’s like exercising or calling your parents more often or giving up Facebook: going vegan takes a bit of work, a bit of time, and the creation of new habits.

That said, there are a few ways to smooth the process and set yourself up for success:

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To My Fellow Mississippians & Beleaguered Christians Everywhere

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Mississippi state capitolMy Fellow Mississippians:

When I was younger — much younger — I spent a lot of time at the state capitol in Jackson. I was the kind of kid who loved debate tournaments, who adored sparring with words since I was too small and doughy to spar with my fists. Not surprisingly, I loved the annual Youth Congress event, when teenagers like me took over the capitol building and made it ours for a few days, a place where we could pass fake laws, swivel ourselves sick in fancy leather chairs, and generally annoy the crap out of each other so long as we followed Robert’s Rules of Order.

But even then, even in my most precocious years, I knew deep down that I was no match for the Good Ol’ Boy network. Because even among the social outcasts of the debating and forensics circuit, I was an outsider. I just couldn’t walk the walk — not without swishing, anyway. I made people uncomfortable. I made them suspicious.

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I’m A Casual Vegan (And So Can You!) Part Two: Toiletries, Cosmetics, And Fragrance

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Marilyn_Monroe_shaving

So, you’ve begun to veganize your wardrobe, quietly weeding out the leather and the wool and the alligator and all the other animal-derived stuff hanging from hangers and boxed in shoeboxes. That was pretty painless, and no one really noticed the transformation, so no one has tried raking you over the coals for your new-found code of ethics. (I still don’t know why people do that, but they do. It’s annoying.)

Phase 1: The Bedroom is complete, now you’re ready for Phase 2: The Bathroom.

Chances are, several products sitting in your shower and by your sink contain animal-based ingredients and/or were animal-tested in labs. If you’re only following the letter of vegan law (whatever that is), you’ll just need to ditch the former, but the spirit of that law is all about minimizing cruelty, so it seems like a good idea to toss the latter, too.

A quick heads-up before we begin: this round of changeouts may be more difficult than the first, but don’t worry, it’s totally doable. And as with the clothing switcheroo, you’ll probably be the only one to notice.

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