aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Matt Towery on the letter of the law
Matt Towery wrote the law which was subsequently used to lock Genarlow Wilson up for 10 years for the crime of engaging in consensual sex with a 15 year-old girl when he was just 17 himself. Towery has objected to the prosecution before, he does so again today in Human Events:
Now a superior court judge has ordered Wilson released. The judge determined that the original sentence was “cruel and unusual punishment.” He’s right.
But the district attorney and others fight on. After all, they believe, the letter of the law must be followed.
Well, here’s a letter-of-the-law thought of my own: In 1988, when actor Rob Lowe was in Atlanta and filmed a sex act with an allegedly underage girl, federal officials warned local television stations that if they were to view the tape themselves, much less broadcast it, they would be considered in possession of and the distributors of child pornography.
It appears the district attorney and the legislators who refuse to recognize the original intent of my legislation—not to lock up kids for years for having consensual sex—have lucked out. Federal prosecutors clearly are using reasonable, and I believe correct, prosecutorial discretion in allowing these lawyers and lawmakers to distribute and view this highly prejudicial tape.
But the fact remains that federal law would define this tape as child pornography, with no exceptions provided for legislators or lobbyists. It’s too bad everyone seems so hell-bent to carry out “the letter of the law” that has imprisoned Genarlow Wilson, while enjoying reasonable prosecutorial discretion in the interpretation of laws regarding their own actions.
LATER: Maureen Downey, for the AJC editorial board, points out another letter-of-the-law inconsistency, “Factually, all the teenagers at the party who were drinking and smoking pot - girls and boys alike - broke the law. Yet McDade chose not to prosecute the girls for drinking or drug use. Such a decision was well within his discretion.”
Undersung Hero: Dr. Evelyn Hooker
As I reflect on the “ex-gay” evolution, I remember that as a runaway still in Harrisburg, PA in 1973, I went to a psychiatry clinic and cried, “I’m a homosexual, please fix me.” The psychiatrist answered, “Why do you think you need fixing?”
Dumb luck Good fortune had me sitting with a founder of New York City’s Identity House, an organization set up in 1971 to find the few therapists who knew even then that homosexuality was a normal, healthy human expression, not a “neurotic adaptation.”
Recently This American Life reran a January 2002 episode that told the story of how the American Psychiatric Association decided in 1973 - the very same year that I cried in that Pennsylvania psychiatrist’s office - that homosexuality was no longer a mental illness. Entitled 81 Words I was moved to transcribe this section, on the pioneering work of Dr. Evelyn Hooker:
[35:34] ...Until Evelyn Hooker met Sam From. Evelyn was a psychologist at UCLA and Sam was her student. He was also a homosexual. They started spending time together in the mid 1940s and Sam introduced Evelyn to his group of friends most of whom, like Sam, were gay.
Now, as I said, everyone in this group was homosexual but curiously, none was in therapy. They were all well-adjusted young men who utterly failed to conform to the traditional psychiatric image of the tortured, disturbed homosexual.
This, naturally, got Evelyn thinking.
Now, prior to Evelyn Hooker, all of the research on homosexuality - all of it - was done on people who were already under serious psychiatric treatment. Let me repeat that: In the history of psychiatric research, no one had every conducted a study on a homosexual population that wasn’t either in therapy, in prison, a mental hospital, or the disciplinary barracks off the armed services.
Evelyn thought about this and decided that this kind of research was distorting psychiatry’s conclusions about homosexual populations. To test her theory, Evelyn came up with an experiment. Through her former student she located 30 homosexuals who had never sought therapy in their lives and matched those homosexuals with a group of heterosexuals of comparable age, IQ and education.
Evelyn then put both groups through a battery of psychological tests including a Rorschach Test, the famous ink-blot test. After disguising her subjects, Evelyn gave the results to three experienced psychiatrists and asked them to identify the homosexuals. She figured that if homosexuals were inherently pathological, the psychiatrists would be able to pick them out easily. But the judges were completely unable to distinguish the homos from the hets.
Good luck Larry!
Lawrence Lessig, with a nod to Obama and Gore and an anonymous friend, is devoting himself to something new:
I have decided to shift my academic work, and soon, my activism, away from the issues that have consumed me for the last 10 years, towards a new set of issues: Namely, these. “Corruption” as I’ve defined it elsewhere will be the focus of my work. For at least the next 10 years, it is the problem I will try to help solve.
I do this with no illusions. I am 99.9% confident that the problem I turn to will continue exist when this 10 year term is over. But the certainty of failure is sometimes a reason to try. That’s true in this case.
Nor do I believe I have any magic bullet. Indeed, I am beginner. A significant chunk of the next ten years will be spent reading and studying the work of others. My hope is to build upon their work; I don’t pretend to come with a revolution pre-baked.
Instead, what I come with is a desire to devote as much energy to these issues of “corruption” as I’ve devoted to the issues of network and IP sanity. This is a shift not to an easier project, but a different project. It is a decision to give up my work in a place some consider me an expert to begin work in a place where I am nothing more than a beginner.
He’s not leaving Creative Commons, or the iCommons Project, but says that “I have come to believe that until a more fundamental problem is fixed, ‘the movement’ can’t succeed.” I look forward to following his new work.
“Ex-Gay” no more
Alan Chambers directs Exodus International, widely described as the nation’s largest ex-gay ministry. But when he addresses the group’s Freedom Conference at Concordia University in Irvine this month, Chambers won’t celebrate successful “ex-gays.”
Truth is, he’s not sure he’s ever met one.
With years of therapy, Chambers says, he has mostly conquered his own attraction to men; he’s a husband and a father, and he identifies as straight. But lately, he’s come to resent the term “ex-gay”: It’s too neat, implying a clean break with the past, when he still struggles at times with homosexual temptation. “By no means would we ever say change can be sudden or complete,” Chambers said.
His personal denunciation of the term “ex-gay” - his organization has yet to follow suit - is just one example of shifting ground in the polarizing debate on homosexuality.
NY Assembly To Approve Gay Marriage
After much debate and wrangling, the Democrat-led Assembly as early as today is set to approve legislation legalizing same-sex marriage, handing gay rights advocates in the Empire State a major symbolic victory.
The speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, who represents a district in Lower Manhattan, agreed to put the bill up for a floor vote this week after his staff concluded that it had more the minimum 76 votes to pass the chamber. Still, some lawmakers said they expected some lawmakers to change their mind.
It would be the first time that a legislative chamber in New York has approved gay marriage and the second time that a legislative body in America has passed such a law.
With a Republican-led Senate, the law won’t be changing anytime soon. Good news nonetheless.
Homophobe Surgeon General nominee?
Chronologically speaking, James Holsinger’s objectionable behavior predates these later, more tolerant views:
Phyllis Nash, a professor of behavioral medicine, paints a reassuring portrait of the Holsinger she worked with at the University of Kentucky for nine years. In the late 1990s, she says, Holsinger helped a gay university lawyer and his partner cope with terminal cancer. “The morning after he was diagnosed, Dr. Holsinger was there in his living room with him and his partner, offering support and guidance and counsel.”
Later, Holsinger helped a lesbian employee of the university become a mother. “She wanted to have a baby, and Dr. Holsinger intervened and helped her to a sperm bank,” says Nash, adding that the woman told her the story.
Then in 2002, several Kentucky lawmakers went into a tizzy because the university medical center intended to host a panel on lesbian health. Nash alerted Holsinger, the center’s chancellor.
“He was unflinching,” she says. “He said, ‘We have an absolute responsibility to help health care practitioners meet the health care needs of lesbian patients.’” The panel met.
A man’s views can change over a decade. In fact, we who work for social change hope they do. I’d rather reward change than punish past behavior. But in politics the story’s more complex. The confirmation hearings will be interesting.
Via Pam Spaulding, who quotes Former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders:
“It would be very difficult for me to feel that this is the person that we should be confirming in this day and time with all the problems we have, related to sexual health...I think as the nation’s chief health educator we need to know what he would do to help America evolve into a sexually healthy nation. As far as I’m concerned his views on homosexuality should not matter, but how he uses those views to educate and promote attitudes and feelings in our country should matter.” (More.)