Thursday, May 29, 2008

Colorado Democrats enact LGBT accomodations law

The Colorado Senate and House passed SB 200, which will make it illegal to discriminate in housing and public accomodations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Democratic Governor Bill Ritter signed it into law earlier today.

In the Senate, 100% (20 of 20) of Democrats voted for SB 200; 0% (0 of 15) of Senate Republicans voted for it.

In the House, 93% (37 of 40) of Democrats voted for SB 200; 4% (1 of 25) of House Republicans voted for it.

The Senate voted thusly:

Democrats -- Yes

Democrats -- No


Republicans -- Yes


Republicans -- No
Mitchell, S

The House voted thusly:

Democrats -- Yes
Carroll, M
Carroll, T
Kerr, A

Democrats -- No or Excused

McKinley (excused)

Republicans -- Yes


Republicans -- No
Gardner, B
Gardner, C

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Are Republicans conceding Fossella's House seat?

New York Republicans are having the gosh-darnedest time finding a replacement for swinish Rep. Vito Fossella (R-NY-13), who announced last week that he will not seek re-election. Fossella became a national punchline after being arrested for drunk driving in Virginia; statements he made to the police at the time brought attention to the existence of the family values Congressman's three-year-old love child in Alexandria.

A veritable Who's Who of Staten Island and Brooklyn Republicans are running like crazy from the race, giving excuses such as an antipathy for raising large sums of money.

These are politicians saying this, mind you.

Two more years for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, that's for sure. Thanks, Vito!

Boy Scouts sue Philadelphia over rent, gay rights

The Boy Scouts Cradle of Liberty Council in Philadelphia actually tried to do the right thing and enact a nondiscrimination policy, but the Boy Scouts of America forced them to rescind it and to kick out those pesky gays and atheists. And now they're getting kicked out, and so they're suing to avoid eviction.

Inasmuch as the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly acted to allow municipalities to sever ties with groups that violate local nondiscrimination requirements, the Boy Scouts' last best hope may be finding an activist judge.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) trailing in latest poll

Republican Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is trailing his Democratic rival Bruce Lunsford by 5% in this year's U.S. Senate race from Kentucky, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports poll.

McConnell has certainly been no friend of the LGBT community. His most recent HRC scores have been 0, 0, and 0.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


♦ A South Carolina high school principal is submitting his resignation because of the outrage of having to allow a gay-straight alliance on campus. "The formation of this club conflicts with my professional beliefs in that we do not have other clubs at Irmo High School based on sexual orientation, sexual preference, or sexual activity", Eddie Walker wrote in his resignation letter. Future Homemakers of America could not be reached for comment.

Pam's House Blend unearthed a nugget about the GOP's difficulty in finding minority candidates for Congress and for governorships. One-time GeeOhPeeVeePeeNominee Jack Kemp was succinct in describing Republicans' minority outreach: "pitiful".

♦ Taking kids away from polygamists is wrong. Taking kids away from lesbians is right. Glad to have cleared that up.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Gay Democrat Sam Adams elected Portland mayor

Our favorite gay wonk, city commissioner Sam Adams, has been elected mayor of Portland, Oregon in a landslide.

With nearly 75% of the vote counted, Adams has 57.5%, compared to 34.1% for his closest opponent. By winning more than 50% in the primary, Adams wins outright and avoids a runoff.

Portland will become the largest city in the United States with an out mayor, a distinction now held by Providence, Rhode Island. Portland is the 31st most populous city, with over 537,000 people in 2006; Providence, with out Democrat David Cicilline as mayor, ranks 128th.

In the photo above, Adams is the one with the laptop posture, the arty-trendy glasses, and the organic watermelon. Talk capital budget growth velocity to us, Sam! Purr!

See Adams' Flickr photostream for more pics.

Sen. Edward Kennedy on California gay marriage ruling

Sen. Edward Kennedy (right) (D-MA) has been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor after having had a seizure at home three days ago. Long a progressive stalwart in the United States Senate, he had this to say about last week's California Supreme Court ruling overturning laws that excluded same-sex couples from marriage:

May 15, 2008

WASHINGTON, DC— Today, Senator Edward M. Kennedy released the following statement in response to the decision by the California Supreme Court overturning a previous ruling banning same-sex marriages.

"I congratulate the California Supreme Court on its recognition that true equality demands that all people have the right to marry and form families. Massachusetts has recognized the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry since 2004 and our experience has refuted the critics. We only strengthen our society when we allow all our citizens to enter into a solemn commitment to share in life’s joys and difficulties."

Anti-gay adulterer/drunk driver Fossella won't seek re-election

Rep. Vito Fossella (R-NY-13), the disgraced drunk driving adulterer from Staten Island, announced today that he would not seek re-election to his House seat. In spite of pressure from Republican leadership in the House, Fossella will hang on to the seat through the end of his current term. He will still be holding office when voters go to the polls on Election Day.

Fossella chalked up quite an anti-gay record in his ten years on Capitol Hill. As noted in an earlier post, he voted repeatedly against basic fairness for gay Americans and their families. His homophobia was so deeply rooted that he reportedly even shunned his lesbian sister Victoria Fossella and her partner Maggie Scharsella.

Friday, May 16, 2008

California Dreamin'

Get Me to the Church on Time videos

Alfred Doolittle

Brian Setzer

Frank Sinatra

California Republican Party Chair Ron Nehring on gay marriage ruling

In which Chairman Nehring expresses pride that the California GOP is opposed to equality for all citizens:


On the domestic side, the California Supreme Court re-opened the issue of same-sex marriage with its 4-3 decision substituting its will for the will of the people on the matter (vote for Proposition 22: 61%). This is certainly an emotional issue for many people, and understandably so. Yet, Republicans can agree that it is not the role of the judiciary to fundamentally redefine the basic tenets of society. That is a function appropriate for the legislative process, and Governor Schwarzenegger has consistently vetoed bills aimed at reversing Proposition 22. (See today's Wall Street Journal editorial.)

It will be interesting to see how Barack Obama tip-toes around this issue. Make no mistake: the activists behind his campaign insist on rewriting the definition of marriage as a beginning, rather than an end point, on their agenda of social engineering.

When we witness judicial activism, it's worth noting that the legislative branch -- that closest to the people -- is outlined in the Constitution's Article I, while the branch most removed from the people, the judiciary, is described in its Article III. The judiciary is intended to interpret laws, not make them, as the California Supreme Court in his case has chosen to do.

Significantly, the state Republican Party has already endorsed the November constitutional amendment ballot initiative that would reverse this court decision by putting Proposition 22 into the state constitution, as other states have done.

California Democratic Party Chair Art Torres on gay marriage ruling

In which Chairman Torres expresses the view that gays and lesbians are people too:

Statement from Chairman Art Torres on California Supreme Court Decision on Gay Marriage

Release Date: May 15, 2008

Sacramento -- Senator Art Torres (Ret.), Chairman of the California Democratic Party, issued the following statement after the California Supreme Court overturned the state’s ban on gay marriage:

"The California Supreme Court’s ruling is a momentous decision for our state and nation that marks a giant step toward in our march toward true equality for all our citizens.

"We all owe Mayor Gavin Newsom a debt of gratitude for his visionary leadership on this crucial civil rights issue, as well as San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera and the courageous plaintiffs in this case.

"But our march for justice and equality is far from over. We now must re-focus our efforts on fighting the divisive and discriminatory proposed constitutional amendment that would take away marriage equality for same-sex couples.

"Working together, we can ensure that once again, justice and equality will prevail."

DNC Chair Howard Dean on California gay marriage ruling

This is on the LGBT page, but it is not on the main Press page:

A Step Toward Equal Rights

Governor Dean today issued the following statement on the California Supreme Court decision to overturn the state's anti-marriage ban:

"The Supreme Court of California today took a step forward in the long march toward protecting equal rights under the law for every American. This should not be a matter of politics or partisanship; it is a matter of protecting the rights and dignity of all American families."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

California gay marriage case highlights

The 172 pages of majority, concurring, and dissenting opinions in California's same-sex marriage case are here.

The 4-3 majority opinion was issued by Chief Justice Ronald George (appointed by Gov. Wilson (R)); Justices Joyce Kennard (Deukmejian (R)), Kathryn Werdegar (Wilson (R)), Carlos Moreno (Davis (D)) concurred. Justices Marvin Baxter (Deukmejian (R)) and Ming Chin (Wilson (R)) concurred in part and dissented in part (they dissented from the majority ruling overturning the California Court of Appeals decision upholding opposite-sex-only marriage statutes). Justice Carol Corrigan (Schwarzenegger (R)) concurred in part and dissented in part (she ruled that the voters should decide).

100% of the Democratic appointees (all one of him) ruled for us. 50% of the Republican appointees ruled for us, and 50% ruled against us. Thank you, Governor Gray Davis!


"...we determine that the language of section 300 limiting the designation of marriage to a union “between a man and a woman” is unconstitutional and must be stricken from the statute, and that the remaining statutory language must be understood as making the designation of marriage available both to opposite-sex and same-sex couples. In addition, because the limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples imposed by section 308.5 can have no constitutionally permissible effect in light of the constitutional conclusions set forth in this opinion, that provision cannot stand.

Plaintiffs are entitled to the issuance of a writ of mandate directing the appropriate state officials to take all actions necessary to effectuate our ruling in this case so as to ensure that county clerks and other local officials throughout the state, in performing their duty to enforce the marriage statutes in their jurisdictions, apply those provisions in a manner consistent with the decision of this court. Further, as the prevailing parties, plaintiffs are entitled to their costs.

The judgment of the Court of Appeal is reversed, and the matter is remanded to that court for further action consistent with this opinion."

BREAKING: Barring gay marriage unconstitutional in California

The ruling by the Supreme Court of California in the same-sex marriage case is here.

Details to follow.

"...we cannot find that retention of the traditional definition of marriage constitutes a compelling state interest. Accordingly, we conclude that to the extent the current California statutory provisions limit marriage to opposite-sex couples, these statutes are unconstitutional."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Larry McKeon, first openly gay Illinois lawmaker, passes away

Former state Rep. Larry McKeon (right), the first openly gay member of the Illinois General Assembly, passed away yesterday. He was 63.

The former Army first lieutenant and former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department lieutenant was elected to the Assembly in 1996 from Chicago's North Side District 34 (now District 13). He was also openly HIV+.

Before his election to the Assembly, he served as the city's gay and lesbian liaison as Director of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations’ Advisory Council on Gay and Lesbian Issues.

After being renominated to the Assembly in 2006, he announced that he would not be a candidate for re-election because of deteriorating health. He was replaced as the Democratic nominee by Greg Harris, also openly gay and openly HIV+. Harris was elected in November 2006 and is seeking re-election this year.

The Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame has a profile of McKeon here.

Gay Democrat elected to Norman, Oklahoma city council

Sent out by Steve VanHook and Karen Parsons, co-chairs of the Oklahoma Stonewall Democrats; James Nimmo, treasurer:

Tom Kovach, an out gay Democrat, was elected to the Norman City Council yesterday in a runoff against political consultant Chebon Marshall.

Kovach was a guest speaker at our Oklahoma Stonewall business meeting on May 6th, seeking our support. We Stonewallers gave him a $350 donation that helped him purchase a final large ad in Norman's Sunday newspaper. We're proud of Tom and proud we were able to help him over to top. We thank Stonewall member Father Henry Roberson for calling Tom's race to our attention and sharing Tom's need for last-minute funds.

And we thank you, our members and generous donors, who make it possible for us to help worthy candidates. We know our donation wasn't huge by any stretch, but we're glad we could help at a critical point in Tom's election.

Tom's opponent tried to use his sexuality against him, among other alleged dirty tricks, but Tom's knowledge of the city and it's needs and his sincerity during intense campaigning paid off. Despite Marshall's much larger campaign budget, Tom has proved once again that Oklahoma voters can overcome prejudice to elect knowledgeable and hard-working candidates without regard for whom they love.

We congratulate Tom (and his dedicated partner) on his victory, and on his courage and determination. With his already rich history of community service, we know Tom will work hard and continue to make us proud.

Hugs to all,
Steve and Karen

California gay marriage ruling is imminent

The Supreme Court of California issued an e-mail and web alert just minutes ago declaring that its ruling in the consolidated same-sex marriage case (case #S147999) is imminent.

According to the Court's Internal Operating Practices and Procedures manual,
Notices of forthcoming filings, posted the day before each opinion is filed, alert the public and press to upcoming decisions and identify the issues presented.

That means we'll know tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Vito Fonzarelli

Disgraced drunk driving adulterer Rep. Vito Fossella (R-NY-13) has taken refuge in the upstairs garage apartment of one of his non-lesbian sisters, apparently having been booted from the Fossella manse by his wife Mary Pat, mother of three of his children. Presumably he wouldn't stay with his lesbian sister Victoria Fossella even if she offered because she's, well, a lesbian; and he has a family values image to uphold.

Fossella joins the list of grown men of marginal circumstance who took up abode in someone else's garage, such as Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli (right, top) and Kato Kaelin (right, bottom). Fonzarelli lived in the upstairs garage apartment of Mr. and Mrs. C for ten years, and Kaelin lived for free in O.J. Simpson's garage guesthouse during a period of flux in Simpson's life.

Fossella has not yet announced whether he will resign from his congressional seat, serve out his current term and retire, or run for re-election. If he runs for re-election, it is not clear if he would intend his new digs to serve as campaign command central. Since campaign funding would likely be scarce, that may be his only option.

Two-dimensional sitcom lothario, perpetual guest, shark jumper. When people start groaning at how bad the whole program is, it's time for the show to be canceled.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Is Henry Hager a coward?

First-father-in-law George W. Bush is all over the media today describing daughter Jenna's new husband as a "really good guy". One question: if he's such a "really good guy", why has Henry Hager never worn a uniform of the Armed Forces of the United States of America?

If Henry enlisted, at least our Commander in Chief could put one less gun into the hands of one less felon. And there's no reason Jenna can't enlist, either. ("Won't" is a different matter.)

As long as we're on the subject, where has presidential nephew George P. Bush (right) been throughout the entire war? The half-Hispanic George P. (mom Columba was from Mexico, where she met dad Jeb) was used prominently to woo Latino voters during the 2000 election, and he was spoken of as a potential future candidate. But he dropped quietly and conveniently out of view after 9/11. He did join the Navy Reserve last year, however, giving some low-key aw-shucks interviews feigning disappointment that the news of his stateside service had leaked and denying that it was all part of a political plan. But let's face it: George P. is hiding out in today's version of Uncle Dubya's infamous Champagne Unit, and he'll never come within a thousand miles of danger.

If the Democrat wins the White House this year, expect George P. to resurface next year as a critic of the new president's conduct of the war. He'll be wearing a uniform, too. You heard it here first.

Fossella reportedly shuns his lesbian sister

Rep. Vito Fossella (R-NY-13), who tried to burnish an image as a family values conservative in preparation for higher office before his drunk-driving/adultery/love-child trifecta destroyed everything, can add a new moniker to his credentials: bigot. It seems the congressman won't attend family functions that his sister Victoria Fossella and her partner Maggie Scharsella attend.

Fossella's behavior toward his own flesh and blood is reminiscent of the conduct of other hard-right conservatives like Alan Keyes and Newt Gingrich, who also rejected openly gay members of their families. In Keyes' case, he actually threw his daughter Maya Marcel-Keyes out of the house, cut her off financially, and refused contact with her.

Apparently it all depends on what the meaning of the word "family" is.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Vito Fossella with some cats

These pictures are from adulterer Rep. Vito Fossella's congressional web page. He was at an animal shelter. Notice how he starts out with the calico cat, then with the black cat, and then back with the calico again. What a pig.

Still pals

Vito Fossella is still a drunk-driving adulterer, and John McCain still wants him as one of his supporters.

Will McCain pull the endorsement only upon a conviction or resignation? We'll keep checking.

Marriage equality backbone helper

If you have any shy Democratic candidates who need a little coaxing to get them to come out for marriage equality, perhaps give them a copy of the Candidates' Guide on How to Support Marriage Equality and Get Elected. Put out by Evan Wolfson's Freedom to Marry organization, the nine-page blueprint helps candidates with sections such as "Standing for Values", "Making the Case", "Winning Elections", and "Debate Preparation".

It's better than a glass of milk per day for developing spine. Now if only we could salt Hillary's and Barack's campaign appearances with a couple of dozen fresh-faced volunteers with crisp copies ready to be thrust into the candidates' hands.

Everyone turns up the heat on Nation

As absentee ballots start to go out for California's 03 June 2008 primary, everyone seems to be going for Joe Nation's jugular. Former Assemblymember Nation is locked in a tie for first place in recent polls with Assemblymember Mark Leno for the Senate District 03 Democratic nomination, with incumbent Senator Carole Migden trailing them but still within striking distance.

Leno and Migden are openly gay; Nation is openly moderate.

In a flurry of weekend press, Leno, Migden, and their supporters pointedly call Nation's Democratic credentials into question on a host of issues. In this morning's Chronicle,

Leno said Nation's vote against a Democrat-backed single-payer health care plan, his opposition to financial privacy legislation and his criticism of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's approval of gay marriage show that he is out of step with voters in the district.

By contrast, Leno said, he has voted to protect the most vulnerable people by pushing bills making it harder to evict renters and backing gay marriage - issues, he said, that "no one had brought up before."

In yesterday's Marin Independent Journal,

...Migden and Leno backers say Nation is out of step with local Democrats.

"Probably anywhere else, he would be the liberal, but not in Marin County or San Francisco," said Dotty Lemieux, a local campaign consultant working for Migden.

Greg Brockbank, a longtime Leno backer and chairman of the Marin Democratic Party, agrees.

"I think we progressives are going to go Leno because he's a progressive, and Joe Nation's not," he said.

"He is the most moderate in the race," said Kerry Mazzoni, Nation's predecessor in Marin's Assembly seat. "That doesn't necessarily get you elected in the primary."

Brockbank, a San Rafael councilman, says many Democrats won't forgive Nation for running against Rep. Lynn Woolsey two years ago. It was a race that Woolsey, a darling of progressive Democrats, handily won with a solid two-to-one edge.

And Fog City Journal gave an entire column to ask and answer the question, "Is Nation Out of Touch With San Francisco?" Their short answer is "yes". Nation has yet to weigh in on controversial San Francisco ballot Propositions F and G regarding development of the Bayview Hunters Point area, even though both had been submitted to the Department of Elections by January of this year. He says he needs more time to study them.

The election is 23 days away.

Gay Nevada assemblymember runs for state senate

Out Nevada Assemblymember David Parks (right) filed last week to run for the state senate seat being given up by Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus. Parks is the state's only out elected or appointed public official.

Titus is running for the congressional seat in Nevada's Third District against incumbent Republican Jon Porter. Porter has held the seat since it was created after the 2000 census. He runs as a moderate when election time approaches, but has been a faithful Bush rubber stamp. His HRC scores have been 11 (2004) and 0 (2006).

Both Parks and Titus have primary opposition. Titus is expected to win nomination easily and to have a good chance of unseating Porter in November. The district has a Democratic-Republican-other voter registration of 41-39-20 as of January 2008.

Parks is facing primary challenger Steve Nathan, who has admitted to receiving a sudden, massive cash inflow from anonymous sources whom state law does not require him to reveal until August, after primary election early voting has already begun. Whoever wins the primary is likely to win in November; the district favors Democrats over Republicans with 50-29-21 as of January 2008.

This isn't the first time Parks has faced shady opposition, and he has prevailed each time in the past. The primary is 12 August 2008, only 93 days away. Early voting starts 26 July, and campaign finance reports are due by 05 August. We'll find out then what it is that Nathan needs to hide.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Fun with Vito Fossella anagrams

What was revealed when REP. VITO FOSSELLA was pulled over for running a red light?





♦ Right-wing demagoguess Phyllis Schlafly (right) is scheduled to receive an honorary degree from Washington University in St. Louis. The university's Athenian community isn't too keen on the idea.

♦ Atlanta Pride is declining a sponsorship by the Human Rights Campaign because of HRC's support for the transgenderless ENDA bill.

♦ The drive to get a gay marriage ban amendment on the Illinois ballot this November failed to get enough signatures.

♦ Falls Church, Virginia, elected Lawrence Webb, a gay black man, to its city council on Tuesday.

♦ Übergay David Mixner is to receive GLAAD's Pioneer Award. The Bay Area Reporter has a profile of Bill Clinton's one-time multi-million-dollar-man.

Vito Fossella's lesbian sister

Rep. Vito Fossella (R-NY-13) has opposed family equality for same-sex couples and their children for years. He has voted repeatedly for the Federal Marriage Amendment, and voted against or declined to co-sponsor the Uniting American Familes/Permanent Partners Immigration Act, the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, the Tax Equity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act, and the Family Medical Leave Inclusion Act. Quite the family values guy, isn't he?

His sister Victoria might not think so.

From the 09 June 2005 Gay City News:

Staten Island Turns Out for Pride
Borough Holds Its First LGBT Parade, Festival Under Spectacular Skies

Last Saturday afternoon, as balmy sunshine banished the morning’s threat of continual rain showers, another historic New York City event unfolded—Staten Island’s first gay pride parade....

Parade participants included a sizable number of gay and lesbian parents and their families. Victoria Fosella [sic], the sister of Congressman Vito Fosella [sic], the only Republican in the city’s congressional delegation and oft-mentioned mayoral aspirant, and Ms. Fossella’s partner, Maggie Scharsella, marched the route with their twins, 1-year-old Jake and sister Karlie, to whom Ms. Scharsella gave birth....

Thursday, May 8, 2008

John McCain and Vito Fossella are still pals

Republican presidential soon-to-be-nominee John McCain isn't letting a little tavern trashing, drunk driving, and winky wagging get between him and his little buddy Vito Fossella. At this writing, Senator McCain is still proud to have Rep. Fossella listed as one of his New York supporters on his campaign web site.

A word of caution to the Senator, though: when you run with dogs, you smell like dogs. Having serial adulterers like Vito and Rudy Giuliani as your wing men doesn't play well with the religious crowd. Or the Main Street crowd. Or the progressive crowd.

Come to think of it, the whole adultery thing didn't play too well with the first Mrs. McCain either, did it?

Rep. Vito Fossella admits to adultery, love child

Rep. Vito Fossella (R-NY-13), who was arrested in Alexandria, Virginia, one week ago for drunk driving, admitted today that he had an extra-marital affair that resulted in the birth of a daughter. The child is now three years old.

Fossella has a lengthy record as an anti-gay Republican Member of Congress, scoring "zero" on the Human Rights Campaign's Congressional Scorecard for the last three sessions. He voted for the Federal Marriage Amendment twice, in 2004 and 2006. The Amendment would alter the United States Constitution to prohibit any governmental recognition of same-sex marriages, civil unions, or domestic partnerships.

The affair came to light when Fossella was pulled over for running a red light and then told Alexandria police officers that "his daughter was sick and needed to go to the hospital". Fossella's wife and his children with her live in Staten Island, New York.

According to the New York Daily News, Fossella and a friend of his were thrown out of Logan Tavern, a D.C. watering hole three blocks from the city's gay club district, earlier that evening after the friend passed out repeatedly and then belly-flopped onto a table.

For only $9.95, they could have gotten Logan Tavern's Grilled Burger (9 oz) w. Hand Cut Fries -Add Cheese, Bacon, Sauteed Onions & Mushrooms or Avocado $.75. Filling and arrest-forestalling.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

2008 Democratic National Convention -- by Mark Twain

Cannibalism In The Cars
A short story by Mark Twain

I visited St. Louis lately, and on my way West, after changing cars at Terre Haute, Indiana, a mild, benevolent- looking gentleman of about forty-five, or maybe fifty, came in at one of the way-stations and sat down beside me. We talked together pleasantly on various subjects for an hour, perhaps, and I found him exceedingly intelligent and entertaining. When he learned that I was from Washington, he immediately began to ask questions about various public men, and about Congressional affairs; and I saw very shortly that I was conversing with a man who was perfectly familiar with the ins and outs of political life at the Capital, even to the ways and manners, and customs of procedure of Senators and Representatives in the Chambers of the national Legislature. Presently two men halted near us for a single moment, and one said to the other:

"Harris, if you'll do that for me, I'll never forget you, my boy."

My new comrade's eye lighted pleasantly. The words had touched upon a happy memory, I thought. Then his face settled into thoughtfulness-- almost into gloom. He turned to me and said,

"Let me tell you a story; let me give you a secret chapter of my life-- a chapter that has never been referred to by me since its events transpired. Listen patiently, and promise that you will not interrupt me."

I said I would not, and he related the following strange adventure, speaking sometimes with animation, sometimes with melancholy, but always with feeling and earnestness.


"On the 19th of December, 1853, I started from St. Louis on the evening train bound for Chicago. There were only twenty-four passengers, all told. There were no ladies and no children. We were in excellent spirits, and pleasant acquaintanceships were soon formed. The journey bade fair to be a happy one; and no individual in the party, I think, had even the vaguest presentiment of the horrors we were soon to undergo.

"At 11 P.m. it began to snow hard. Shortly after leaving the small village of Welden, we entered upon that tremendous prairie solitude that stretches its leagues on leagues of houseless dreariness far away toward the jubilee Settlements. The winds, unobstructed by trees or hills, or even vagrant rocks, whistled fiercely across the level desert, driving the falling snow before it like spray from the crested waves of a stormy sea. The snow was deepening fast; and we knew, by the diminished speed of the train, that the engine was plowing through it with steadily increasing difficulty. Indeed, it almost came to a dead halt sometimes, in the midst of great drifts that piled themselves like colossal graves across the track. Conversation began to flag. Cheerfulness gave place to grave concern. The possibility of being imprisoned in the snow, on the bleak prairie, fifty miles from any house, presented itself to every mind, and extended its depressing influence over every spirit.

"At two o'clock in the morning I was aroused out of an uneasy slumber by the ceasing of all motion about me. The appalling truth flashed upon me instantly--we were captives in a snow-drift! 'All hands to the rescue!' Every man sprang to obey. Out into the wild night, the pitchy darkness, the billowy snow, the driving storm, every soul leaped, with the consciousness that a moment lost now might bring destruction to us all. Shovels, hands, boards--anything, everything that could displace snow, was brought into instant requisition. It was a weird picture, that small company of frantic men fighting the banking snows, half in the blackest shadow and half in the angry light of the locomotive's reflector.

"One short hour sufficed to prove the utter uselessness of our efforts. The storm barricaded the track with a dozen drifts while we dug one away. And worse than this, it was discovered that the last grand charge the engine had made upon the enemy had broken the fore-and-aft shaft of the driving-wheel! With a free track before us we should still have been helpless. We entered the car wearied with labor, and very sorrowful. We gathered about the stoves, and gravely canvassed our situation. We had no provisions whatever--in this lay our chief distress. We could not freeze, for there was a good supply of wood in the tender. This was our only comfort. The discussion ended at last in accepting the disheartening decision of the conductor, viz., that it would be death for any man to attempt to travel fifty miles on foot through snow like that. We could not send for help, and even if we could it would not come. We must submit, and await, as patiently as we might, succor or starvation! I think the stoutest heart there felt a momentary chill when those words were uttered.

"Within the hour conversation subsided to a low murmur here and there about the car, caught fitfully between the rising and falling of the blast; the lamps grew dim; and the majority of the castaways settled themselves among the flickering shadows to think--to forget the present, if they could--to sleep, if they might.

"The eternal night-it surely seemed eternal to us-wore its lagging hours away at last, and the cold gray dawn broke in the east. As the light grew stronger the passengers began to stir and give signs of life, one after another, and each in turn pushed his slouched hat up from his forehead, stretched his stiffened limbs, and glanced out of the windows upon the cheerless prospect. It was cheer less, indeed!-not a living thing visible anywhere, not a human habitation; nothing but a vast white desert; uplifted sheets of snow drifting hither and thither before the wind--a world of eddying flakes shutting out the firmament above.

"All day we moped about the cars, saying little, thinking much. Another lingering dreary night-- and hunger.

"Another dawning-- another day of silence, sadness, wasting hunger, hopeless watching for succor that could not come. A night of restless slumber, filled with dreams of feasting-- wakings distressed with the gnawings of hunger.

"The fourth day came and went--and the fifth! Five days of dreadful imprisonment! A savage hunger looked out at every eye. There was in it a sign of awful import--the foreshadowing of a something that was vaguely shaping itself in every heart--a something which no tongue dared yet to frame into words.

"The sixth day passed-- the seventh dawned upon as gaunt and haggard and hopeless a company of men as ever stood in the shadow of death. It must out now! That thing which had been growing up in every heart was ready to leap from every lip at last! Nature had been taxed to the utmost-- she must yield. RICHARD H. GASTON of Minnesota, tall, cadaverous, and pale, rose up. All knew what was coming. All prepared-- every emotion, every semblance of excitement-- was smothered-- only a calm, thoughtful seriousness appeared in the eyes that were lately so wild.

"'Gentlemen: It cannot be delayed longer! The time is at hand! We must determine which of us shall die to furnish food for the rest!'

"MR. JOHN J. WILLIAMS of Illinois rose and said: 'Gentlemen-- I nominate the Rev. James Sawyer of Tennessee.'

"MR. Wm. R. ADAMS of Indiana said: 'I nominate Mr. Daniel Slote of New York.'

"MR. CHARLES J. LANGDON: 'I nominate Mr. Samuel A. Bowen of St. Louis.'

"MR. SLOTE: 'Gentlemen-- I desire to decline in favor of Mr. John A. Van Nostrand, Jun., of New Jersey.'

"MR. GASTON: 'If there be no objection, the gentleman's desire will be acceded to.'

"MR. VAN NOSTRAND objecting, the resignation of Mr. Slote was rejected. The resignations of Messrs. Sawyer and Bowen were also offered, and refused upon the same grounds.

"MR. A. L. BASCOM of Ohio: 'I move that the nominations now close, and that the House proceed to an election by ballot.'

"MR. SAWYER: 'Gentlemen-- I protest earnestly against these proceedings. They are, in every way, irregular and unbecoming. I must beg to move that they be dropped at once, and that we elect a chairman of the meeting and proper officers to assist him, and then we can go on with the business before us understandingly.'

"MR. BELL of Iowa: 'Gentlemen-- I object. This is no time to stand upon forms and ceremonious observances. For more than seven days we have been without food. Every moment we lose in idle discussion increases our distress. I am satisfied with the nominations that have been made-- every gentleman present is, I believe--and I, for one, do not see why we should not proceed at once to elect one or more of them. I wish to offer a resolution--'

"MR. GASTON: 'It would be objected to, and have to lie over one day under the rules, thus bringing about the very delay you wish to avoid. The gentleman from New Jersey--'

"MR. VAN NOSTRAND: 'Gentlemen-- I am a stranger among you; I have not sought the distinction that has been conferred upon me, and I feel a delicacy--'

"MR. MORGAN Of Alabama (interrupting): 'I move the previous question.'

"The motion was carried, and further debate shut off, of course. The motion to elect officers was passed, and under it Mr. Gaston was chosen chairman, Mr. Blake, secretary, Messrs. Holcomb, Dyer, and Baldwin a committee on nominations, and Mr. R. M. Howland, purveyor, to assist the committee in making selections.

"A recess of half an hour was then taken, and some little caucusing followed. At the sound of the gavel the meeting reassembled, and the committee reported in favor of Messrs. George Ferguson of Kentucky, Lucien Herrman of Louisiana, and W. Messick of Colorado as candidates. The report was accepted.

"MR. ROGERS of Missouri: 'Mr. President The report being properly before the House now, I move to amend it by substituting for the name of Mr. Herrman that of Mr. Lucius Harris of St. Louis, who is well and honorably known to us all. I do not wish to be understood as casting the least reflection upon the high character and standing of the gentleman from Louisiana far from it. I respect and esteem him as much as any gentleman here present possibly can; but none of us can be blind to the fact that he has lost more flesh during the week that we have lain here than any among us--none of us can be blind to the fact that the committee has been derelict in its duty, either through negligence or a graver fault, in thus offering for our suffrages a gentleman who, however pure his own motives may be, has really less nutriment in him--'

"THE CHAIR: 'The gentleman from Missouri will take his seat. The Chair cannot allow the integrity of the committee to be questioned save by the regular course, under the rules. What action will the House take upon the gentleman's motion?'

"MR. HALLIDAY of Virginia: 'I move to further amend the report by substituting Mr. Harvey Davis of Oregon for Mr. Messick. It may be urged by gentlemen that the hardships and privations of a frontier life have rendered Mr. Davis tough; but, gentlemen, is this a time to cavil at toughness? Is this a time to be fastidious concerning trifles? Is this a time to dispute about matters of paltry significance? No, gentlemen, bulk is what we desire-- substance, weight, bulk-- these are the supreme requisites now-- not talent, not genius, not education. I insist upon my motion.'

"MR. MORGAN (excitedly): 'Mr. Chairman-- I do most strenuously object to this amendment. The gentleman from Oregon is old, and furthermore is bulky only in bone-- not in flesh. I ask the gentleman from Virginia if it is soup we want instead of solid sustenance? if he would delude us with shadows? if he would mock our suffering with an Oregonian specter? I ask him if he can look upon the anxious faces around him, if he can gaze into our sad eyes, if he can listen to the beating of our expectant hearts, and still thrust this famine-stricken fraud upon us? I ask him
if he can think of our desolate state, of our past sorrows, of our dark future, and still unpityingly foist upon us this wreck, this ruin, this tottering swindle, this gnarled and blighted and sapless vagabond from Oregon's hospitable shores? Never!' [Applause.]

"The amendment was put to vote, after a fiery debate, and lost. Mr. Harris was substituted on the first amendment. The balloting then began. Five ballots were held without a choice. On the sixth, Mr. Harris was elected, all voting for him but himself. It was then moved that his election should be ratified by acclamation, which was lost, in consequence of his again voting against himself.

"MR. RADWAY moved that the House now take up the remaining candidates, and go into an election for breakfast. This was carried.

"On the first ballot-- there was a tie, half the members favoring one candidate on account of his youth, and half favoring the other on account of his superior size. The President gave the casting vote for the latter, Mr. Messick. This decision created considerable dissatisfaction among the friends of Mr. Ferguson, the defeated candidate, and there was some talk of demanding a new ballot; but in the midst of it a motion to adjourn was carried, and the meeting broke up at once.

"The preparations for supper diverted the attention of the Ferguson faction from the discussion of their grievance for a long time, and then, when they would have taken it up again, the happy announcement that Mr. Harris was ready drove all thought of it to the winds.

"We improvised tables by propping up the backs of car-seats, and sat down with hearts full of gratitude to the finest supper that had blessed our vision for seven torturing days. How changed we were from what we had been a few short hours before! Hopeless, sad-eyed misery, hunger, feverish anxiety, desperation, then; thankfulness, serenity, joy too deep for utterance now. That I know was the cheeriest hour of my eventful life. The winds howled, and blew the snow wildly about our prison house, but they were powerless to distress us any more. I liked Harris. He might have been better done, perhaps, but I am free to say that no man ever agreed with me better than Harris, or afforded me so large a degree of satisfaction. Messick was very well, though rather high-flavored, but for genuine nutritiousness and delicacy of fiber, give me Harris. Messick had his good points-- I will not attempt to deny it, nor do I wish to do it but he was no more fitted for breakfast than a mummy would be, sir-- not a bit. Lean?--why, bless me!-- and tough? Ah, he was very tough! You could not imagine it-- you could never imagine anything like it."

"Do you mean to tell me that--"

"Do not interrupt me, please. After breakfast we elected a man by the name of Walker, from Detroit, for supper. He was very good. I wrote his wife so afterward. He was worthy of all praise. I shall always remember Walker. He was a little rare, but very good. And then the next morning we had Morgan of Alabama for breakfast. He was one of the finest men I ever sat down to handsome, educated, refined, spoke several languages fluently a perfect gentleman he was a perfect gentleman, and singularly juicy. For supper we had that Oregon patriarch, and he was a fraud, there is no question about it--old, scraggy, tough, nobody can picture the reality. I finally said, gentlemen, you can do as you like, but I will wait for another election. And Grimes of Illinois said, 'Gentlemen, I will wait also. When you elect a man that has something to recommend him, I shall be glad to join you again.' It soon became evident that there was general dissatisfaction with Davis of Oregon, and so, to preserve the good will that had prevailed so pleasantly since we had had Harris, an election was called, and the result of it was that Baker of Georgia was chosen. He was splendid! Well, well-- after that we had Doolittle, and Hawkins, and McElroy (there was some complaint about McElroy, because he was uncommonly short and thin), and Penrod, and two Smiths, and Bailey (Bailey had a wooden leg, which was clear loss, but he was otherwise good), and an Indian boy, and an organ-grinder, and a gentleman by the name of Buckminster-- a poor stick of a vagabond that wasn't any good for company and no account for breakfast. We were glad we got him elected before relief came."

"And so the blessed relief did come at last?"

"Yes, it came one bright, sunny morning, just after election. John Murphy was the choice, and there never was a better, I am willing to testify; but John Murphy came home with us, in the train that came to succor us, and lived to marry the widow Harris--"

"Relict of--"

"Relict of our first choice. He married her, and is happy and respected and prosperous yet. Ah, it was like a novel, sir-- it was like a romance. This is my stopping-place, sir; I must bid you goodby. Any time that you can make it convenient to tarry a day or two with me, I shall be glad to have you. I like you, sir; I have conceived an affection for you. I could like you as well as I liked Harris himself, sir. Good day, sir, and a pleasant journey."

He was gone. I never felt so stunned, so distressed, so bewildered in my life. But in my soul I was glad he was gone. With all his gentleness of manner and his soft voice, I shuddered whenever he turned his hungry eye upon me; and when I heard that I had achieved his perilous affection, and that I stood almost with the late Harris in his esteem, my heart fairly stood still!

I was bewildered beyond description. I did not doubt his word; I could not question a single item in a statement so stamped with the earnestness of truth as his; but its dreadful details overpowered me, and threw my thoughts into hopeless confusion. I saw the conductor looking at me. I said, "Who is that man?"

"He was a member of Congress once, and a good one. But he got caught in a snow-drift in the cars, and like to have been starved to death. He got so frost-bitten and frozen up generally, and used up for want of something to eat, that he was sick and out of his head two or three months afterward. He is all right now, only he is a monomaniac, and when he gets on that old subject he never stops till he has eat up that whole car-load of people he talks about. He would have finished the crowd by this time, only he had to get out here. He has got their names as pat as A B C. When he gets them all eat up but himself, he always says: 'Then the hour for the usual election for breakfast having arrived; and there being no opposition, I was duly elected, after which, there being no objections offered, I resigned. Thus I am here.'"

I felt inexpressibly relieved to know that I had only been listening to the harmless vagaries of a madman instead of the genuine experiences of a bloodthirsty cannibal.


Monday, May 5, 2008

Pennsylvania committee sends gay marriage ban to full Senate

The Pennsylvania Senate Appropriations committee passed a marriage and civil unions ban bill. The measure, which would enshrine the ban in the state's constitution, now goes to the full Senate (29 Rs, 21 Ds).

Approps passed it 18-8. Six of 10 Democrats (60%) voted "no"; 14 of 16 Republicans (88%) voted "yes". Remember who your friends are.

The bill is here; the Approps roll call is here; party affiliations are here.

Maryland is not for gay lovers

Nothing much happened in Maryland this year. No movement on gay marriage, no movement on civil unions, no movement on domestic partner benefits, no movement on transgender protections.

But Republican Senate minority leader David R. Brinkley sees a silver lining:

"I don't see fire hoses and dogs being turned on gay activists. That, to me, is not a civil rights problem."

Take your east coast beach vacations elsewhere this year. Massachusetts is lovely.

Marriage equality pioneer Mildred Loving passes away

Mildred Jeter Loving, a plaintiff in the historic Loving v. Virginia case that saw the U.S. Supreme Court overturn state laws against interracial marriage, passed away last week.

The Loving ruling will almost certainly play a major role in overturning state anti-gay marriage statutes and constitutional amendments in the next five to ten years.

"We loved each other and got married", Mrs. Loving told a newspaper simply, while the case was pending.

It should be noted that Senator Barack Obama, himself the product of an interracial marriage, is opposed to same-sex marriage; he instead supports civil unions. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that separate-but-equal is unconstitutional when applied to racial categories in the public schools. Perhaps Brown will be used to strike down separate-but-unequal civil unions in favor of real marriage.

The text of the Loving ruling and a recording of the oral arguments can be found on the Court's media page.

Democrat Mark Warner has big lead for Virginia Senate seat

The Newport News Daily Press gives us another reason to feel good about being Democrats this year. Virginia Democratic former Governor Mark Warner is way ahead of his likely Republican opponent, former Governor Jim Gilmore.

Warner has a double-digit lead in the polls and raised $6.3 million through March 2008 versus Gilmore's $747,000. Gilmore is largely thrashing around and still has to face a primary opponent even farther to the right than he is.

This one's for Chuck Robb.

Does Migden-Leno-Nation tussle threaten effort to defeat the marriage ban initiative?

The Bay Area Reporter is concerned about whether the grappling among out legislators Carole Migden and Mark Leno and enviro former legislator Joe Nation for the state senate seat currently held by Migden could harm the effort against the marriage ban proposal that will likely be on the November statewide ballot.

Whoever wins the primary for the state senate seat would be expected to lead the fight against the initiative -- if one of the two Babylonians gets the Democratic nod. Senator Migden or a Senator Leno would be one of the two highest-ranking queer elected officials in the state (Christine Kehoe of San Diego will be the other out senator) and could bring in much additional funding from the LGBT community nationwide.

But half of the senate district is north of the Golden Gate Bridge in Nation's Marin-Sonoma territory, and there is a real possibility that Migden and Leno will split San Francisco as they scratch each other's eyes out and let Nation walk through the breach. A Senator Nation would certainly be earnest, but one must ask if he could bring in the green to fight the marriage apartheid initiative.

One Migden supporter seems to think not, setting up the laying of blame at Leno's feet with this kidney jab in the Reporter article:
"It raises the issue, and this came up early when Mark first got into the race, about resources. Why are we spending over a million dollars with two gay people fighting?...Now we have set up a situation where we could lose the Senate seat and the marriage fight."

Expect all kinds of rainbow finger pointing if Nation walks away with what some thespians think of as "our" state senate seat. If he does, green will be the new pink.

Just 29 more days to go.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Migden, Leno on the bus

The San Francisco Citizen has a droll photo of Carole Migden and Mark Leno campaign signs on the same public bus. One question: where's a sign for enviro candidate Joe Nation?

Click for better view.
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