A UN case study in Muslim, African and communist homphobia by Jonathan Kay

Today is World AIDS Day and a good time to reflect on many advances, or is it? National Post Journalist, Jonathan Kay presents  interesting details  about International as well as Canadian homphobic politics in this article, dated November 22, 2010. Apparently “killing someone because they’re gay just isn’t that bad.”

No one expects Saudi Arabia, Cuba and Liberia to start printing gay-marriage licenses any time soon. But would it be too much to ask that these countries at least oppose the targeted murder of homosexuals?

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Human Kinds–The Categories of Sexual Orientation in Law, Science, and Society–Part 3

The wrap-up of Ed Stein’s talk at the Human Kinds symposium.  Here Ed talks a little about whether there are natural human kinds, whether male and female, or gay and straight, might be such kinds, and the relationship between such questions and  issues of gay rights.

Human Kinds–The Categories of Sexual Orientation in Law, Science, and Society–Part 1

The first part of Ed Stein’s talk at the Human Kinds symposium on sexual orientation, especially in equal protection under US jurisprudence.

Did Governor Richardson get it roughly right about sexual orientation, as Ed claims?

Human Kinds–The Categories of Sexual Orientation in Law, Science, and Society–Part 2

Ed Stein’s talk at the Human Kinds symposium, Part the Second. Here Ed focuses on the appeal to immutability in equal protection analysis in American law concerning sexual orientation.

WAS Socrates a hippie? I always thought so …

Human Kinds: Introduction

Over the next few weeks, we will run videocasts from in invited symposium panel that I organized at the Pacific Division meeting of American Philosophical Association in April, 2009, held in Vancouver. The panel was on human kinds, and topics that we discussed ranged from transhumanism through to disability and sub-normalcy and gay rights and gay marriage. The speakers, in the order in which they spoke, were:

Natasha Vita-More

Gregor Wolbring

Nick Agar

Ed Stein

The talks are relatively short, and we’ll run about 1 per week before linking them all up together. No captioning yet, but we hope to have captioning done by the time the series has run.

The introduction talks a little bit more generally about the panel and the What Sorts Network. You can also watch the videos directly on Youtube, by searching for videos by Rapunzelish. Really.

The Fragility of “Normal”

This week’s print edition of Maclean’s features an article by Mark Steyn blaming gay rights advocates for the “imminent threat” of legalized polygamy in Canada. Once you make one amendment to what is normal, Steyn claims, you won’t be able–or even justified–to prevent further changes.

The article is interesting for two reasons. First, naturally, there is no mention of what relevant differences there are between the two forms of marriage. Steyn ignores a vast body of literature on the subject, which is more than a slight oversight for a journalist. Second, Steyn’s underlying attitude appears to be that we should fear any departure from normal, where the definition of normal he uses is typified by the pretty, white suburbs of 60 years ago.

I recommend reading it, and perhaps writing a letter.

Human Kinds symposium, Vancouver, April 11th

The What Sorts Network has organized an invited symposium session on Human Kinds at the Pacific Division of the American Philosophical Association in a few weeks time. Details below; please spread the word. The meeting is being held at the Westin Bayshore, 1601 Bayshore Drive, Vancouver V6G 2V4 Canada, April 8-12, and our session will be on the Saturday morning before Easter Sunday, April 11th. Those who want to attend just this single session can register on site just for this session ($10); registration for the whole conference is $60.

Philosophers will note that, unusually for an APA symposium, we have managed to stage this one with only 1 out of 4 speakers likely being recognized by the APA cogniscenti as a bona fide philosopher: Nick Agar. Congratulations Nick! And, now I think of it, kudos to the rest of you as well. Impostors all.

Well, not really impostors, just very smart folks who mask their philosophical savvy in other cloth. So who are these other folks, you might ask? Click on their names to find out more details, but in summary: Natasha Vita-More is a renowned transhumanist trailblazer in art, media, and culture; Gregor Wolbring is a disability activist, trained in biochemistry and specializing in future technologies and human life; and Ed Stein is a leading scholar on gay rights, sexuality, and the law, having moved into law after finishing his Ph.D. in Philosophy at MIT.  The session should be a blast.

If you’re going to this meeting, come along, and let others know who might be interested. Room information can be gained when you register on site for either the conference or the session.

VIII-F. Invited Symposium: Human Kinds
9:00-Noon
Chair: Robert A. Wilson (University of Alberta)
Speakers: Natasha Vita-More (University of Plymouth)
“Design Issues Concerning Extreme Life Extension”
Gregor Wolbring (University of Calgary)
Human Beings—Sentient Beings: Species Typical, Sub-typical, and Beyond Typical”
Nicholas Agar (Victoria University of Wellington)
“Ray Kurzweil and Uploading: Just Say ‘No'”
Edward Stein (Yeshiva University)
“The Categories of Sexual Orientation in Law, Science, and Society”

Take Home Exercise: Giving Back to Marriage Bigotry

Over at The Data Lounge, a recent post with a bright, new idea for those struggling with what to do in light of the push for gay marriage, and (more especially) the push back against it. They report from one gay NYC man who has just had enough:

I no longer recognize marriage. It’s a new thing I’m trying. Turns out it’s fun. Yesterday I called a woman’s spouse her boyfriend. She says, correcting me, “He’s my husband”, and I say, “I no longer recognize marriage.” The impact is obvious. I tried it on a man who has been in a relationship for years,

“How’s your longtime companion Jill?”
“She’s my wife!”
“Yeah, well, my beliefs don’t recognize marriage.”

Fun. And instant, eyebrow-raising recognition. Suddenly the majority gets to feel what the minority feels. In a moment they feel what it’s like to have their relationship downgraded, and to have a much taken-for-granted right called into question because of another’s beliefs. Just replace the words husband, wife, spouse, or fiance with boyfriend, girlfriend, special friend, or longtime companion.

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Freeheld, Laurel Hester, and Garden State Equality

h/t WoC PhD; sorry no captioning for any videos in this post.

Laurel Hester was a long-serving police officer whose final years of her life were spent fighting for the rights that heterosexual couples can take for granted. Cynthia Wade’s award-winning documentary, Freeheld, tells that story.

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Pollyannaism about polygamy: Martha Nussbaum on Mormon history

Picture of Martha Nussbaum

Picture of Martha Nussbaum

Back in May in a blog post on the University of Chicago Law School Faculty Blog, Martha Nussbaum offered some thoughts about both the history of Mormon polygamy in the United States and about attitudes toward polygamy more generally. I’m sympathetic to much of what Nussbaum says here but think that she’s wrong both about that history and about the more general attitudes in play.

Nussbaum critiques the negative views of American public opinion about Mormon polygamy, saying that

Mormon polygamy of the 19th century was not child abuse. Adult women married by consent, and typically lived in separate dwellings, each visited by the husband in turn. In addition to their theological rationale, Mormons defended the practice with social arguments – in particular that polygamous men would abandon wives or visit prostitutes less frequently. Instead of answering these arguments, however, Americans hastened to vilify Mormon society, publishing semi-pornographic novels that depicted polygamy as a hotbed of incest and child abuse.

While Nussbaum does acknowledge the patriarchal nature of (Mormon) polygamy, I suspect that she is both painting too rosy a picture of the history of Mormon polygamy, as well as mis-diagnosing the root of the distaste for polygamy in the popular mind. Such distaste runs deep alright, but the problem is not with polygamy per se. Below the fold is a bit more on each of these points, including some YouTube videos and transcripts, both serious and more humorous. Continue reading

Censoring Joy

the lesbian prototype?Celebrations last week for the legalization of same-sex marriage in California were joyous indeed. It was marked as a great triumph for couples like Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, who have been together since 1953, and who were first to be married in California under the new law. In any situation where the press meets sexuality, however, the question of choice arises: why Martin and Lyon? What does a ‘normal’ gay marriage look like, anyway? We might optimistically think that the choices surrounding the publication of images of potentially controversial material are not spelled out in such explicit terms, but in this case, at least, we might be surprised. Interestingly, it has been from proponents of gay marriage that the most blatant censorship has come. Presumably out of fear that images of “guys in gowns” might scare off even more liberally-minded Americans, yet unsure of what gay marriage might spell for the norms and values of the state, leaders of the California gay/ lesbian community have been underscoring the importance of self-censorship at same-sex marriages. Jack, from Feministe, explains why she isn’t celebrating:

That’s right, folks: no camp here. No gender non-conformity, either. And definitely no guys in gowns.

Why? Because the marriage equality movement is largely predicated on the notion that us queers are just like “everyone else,” meaning mostly white, mostly middle-class or up, gender conforming monogamists. You know, the non-threatening queers. The rest of us should apparently find a nice closet to go hide in for a while, lest we threaten the rights that are apparently meant for the more upstanding, respectable members of the LGsomeotherlessimportantletters community….. Continue reading

What Sorts of Marriages?

In addition to the blog entry I put up on this site, whatsortsofpeople.wordpress.com/2008/05/20/california%e2%80%99s-same-sex-marriage-case, I’ve been doing some blogging on The Huffington Post about marriage for same-sex couples in the United States.  These posts can be found at www.huffingtonpost.com/edward-stein

Although my scholarship has not heretofore been focused exclusively or primarily on this topic, recent developments in California (where the state Supreme Court held that not allowing same-sex couples to marry violates the state constitution), New York (where the governor and a state appellate court said that the state will recognize valid marriages from other jurisdictions between people of the same sex, e.g., Massachusetts, Canada, The Netherlands, Spain, South Africa, etc.), Michigan (where the state Supreme Court said that state agencies, e.g., universities, could not extend domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples because of a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman), and other states led me to start blogging on this issue.  But for now, the U.S.A.’s bizarre patchwork of recognition and non-recognition for relationships between people of the same-sex helps keep me busy.  When things calm down regarding marriage and related issues, I hope to blog here and on The Huffington Post about other topics as well.

California’s Same-Sex Marriage Case: Highlights of Powerful Decision for LGBT Rights and Some Words of Caution

by Edward Stein. [This post will also appear, in modified form, at Ed’s page at The Huffington Post.]

On May 15, the California Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, issued a powerful decision for LGBT rights that extends well beyond same-sex marriage, the specific issue before the court. Anyway you look at this decision, it is a thrilling victory for advocates of gay rights, but there are also reasons to temper one’s enthusiasm about the short-term implications for same-sex marriage.

I turn first to the exceptionally good news for gay rights advocates. The Supreme Court of California, one of the most respected state supreme courts in the country and with six of its seven members appointed by Republican governors, has said in no uncertain terms that laws that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation are subject to the most exacting standard of judicial skepticism, what lawyers call strict scrutiny. In other words, courts will demand an especially strong justification for any laws that involve sexual-orientation classifications. In California, laws that make use of sexual-orientation classifications will, henceforth, be treated like laws that make use of race, ethnic, or sex classifications. Whatever happens with respect to marriage in California, this result is incredibly important.

Further, the court said that the fundamental right to marry—a right explicitly articulated in the landmark 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia, which struck down laws prohibiting interracial marriage—applies to marriages between people of the same sex. That we all have a fundamental right to marry does not mean that the government may place some restrictions on marriage, for example, that you can only be married to one person at a time and that you cannot marry someone under the age of twelve. Most of the courts that have heard cases related to gay marriage, including some courts that have ruled in favor of legal recognition for same-sex relationship, have specifically declined to say that the fundamental right to marriage extends to the right to marry a person of the same sex. In contrast, the recent California case explicitly took this dramatic step, saying that the fundamental right to marry includes the right to marry a person of any sex.

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