Michigan Uses Information About Patients Tested For HIV to Build Civil and Criminal Cases Against Them

Since 2003, the Michigan Department of Community Health has been secretly collecting the names, dates of birth, risk categories, and other demographic information of people submitting for confidential HIV testing at grant-funded locations throughout the state and storing them in a massive database, a months-long investigation by The American Independent has discovered. […]

While MDCH claims the database does not contain personally identifiable information, a recent study, published last month in the University of California Press’ journal Social Problems, has found that some Michigan local health departments with access to the database are using it to pursue both civil actions—known as “health threat to others” actions—aand criminal prosecutions against people living with HIV.

Two separate issues in play here: 1) Patients are not being informed that the state could reassemble their data to connect names with health information, and 2) this seems like it must violate the Fifth Amendment, which protects against self-incrimination.

Via ThinkProgress.

Congress Passes Violence Against Women Act

Includes the provisions covering LGBT women and immigrants and expanding the jurisdictions of Native American tribal courts to crimes committed by non-Indians. Not a moment too soon.

President Obama is expected to sign the bill.

Some Republicans Come Out in Favor of Same-Sex Marriage

More than 100 prominent Republicans signed an amicus brief last week, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn California’s ban on gay marriage. Almost 300 businesses signed a similar brief asking the court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage, for purposes of federal law, as the union of one man and one woman.

The national GOP platform, adopted in August at the Republican National Convention, called for a constitutional amendment echoing the one man, one woman standard. When President Barack Obama instructed his Justice Department not to defend DOMA in court, House Republican leaders authorized spending taxpayer money to do so.

But as the high court prepares to hear arguments in back-to-back cases challenging DOMA and California’s Proposition 8, some big Republican names are asking the court to recognize that gay couples have a constitutional right to wed.

I suspect this just indicates that a few of the more foresighted members of the GOP have realized they need to get ahead of the game or face inevitable defeat, but I’ll take equality however I can get it.

The 300 businesses, on the other hand, may just be seeking good buzz, but I’m inclined to be optimistic and think that they really do want marriage equality. Let’s hope it becomes a trend.

Grassley Amendment on VAWA Dies

An amendment to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) proposed by Senator Charles E. Grassley (R-IA) has failed yesterday on a 65 to 34 Senate vote. The proposed amendment would have removed protections for LGBT victims of domestic violence, allow for new restrictions on U visas given to immigrant victims of domestic violence, prevented tribal courts from prosecuting non-Native defendants who are accused of assaulting Native women on tribal lands, and would even eliminate the language “woman” from the largest grant program within VAWA.

Good job it failed, then. What would be the point of passing a bill like this if all the teeth are going to be removed from it?

Oh. Right.

Homosexuality Under the Reign of Christ

J.R. Daniel Kirk, author of Jesus Have I Loved, but Paul? responds to the many questions he has received regarding the chapter of the book that addresses homosexuality:

There have been times in the history of the church when God decided that what was unequivocally required earlier was no longer needful. Indeed, Paul depicts as enemies of the gospel those who would require gentiles to comply with the eternal, covenantal sign of circumcision. Repeatedly in the New Testament the presence of the Spirit comes in to demonstrate to the church that the old stipulation has been overturned.

I suggested that we should be aware of the possibility that the Spirit might make such a demonstration today.

Evangelicals tend to be uncomfortable with this kind of thinking because we like to consider ourselves “people of the book”—meaning that the Bible is the ultimate authority for our faith—and we perceive appeals to the Holy Spirit or new revelation to the Church as thinly-veiled attempts to just ignore the Bible and believe whatever we want. But that isn’t actually very biblical.

Violence Against Women Act Reintroduced

The 112th Congress let it fall through the cracks, but Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) are reintroducing not only the bill but the provisions intended to include Native American and LGBT women. Leahy’s statement on Tuesday pulls no punches:

"The fate of the Violence Against Women Act still lays squarely on the shoulders of Eric Cantor and John Boehner. To date they have refused to listen to countless law enforcement and women’s groups as well as moderate voices in their own party in the House and Senate who’ve said we need to pass the Senate’s bipartisan bill that extends protections to millions of new women.

"In a new Congress, on a newly reintroduced bill, the House Republican leadership faces the same choice. They can either kowtow [to] those on the far right of their caucus who would turn battered women away from care, or they can stand with Democrats, moderate Republicans, and the many millions of Americans who believe that who a person loves, where they live, or their immigration status shouldn’t determine whether they are protected from violence.

Too right.

Pedophilia, Preemptive Imprisonment, and the Ethics of Predisposition

Pedophilia as a “sexual orientation” has been in the news again recently, and everyone is angry. Kyle Edwards at Practical Ethics examines the implications of contending that some people are born with a predisposition to be sexually attracted to children:

Rush Limbaugh and some members of the religious right have argued that recognizing pedophilia as a sexual orientation will have the same result as the relatively recent recognition of homosexuality as a sexual orientation: it will become more acceptable to act upon those sexual desires. This logic seems obviously confused. The reason we think that homosexual intercourse is morally acceptable (and was before society “recognized” it as so) seems primarily to do with the understanding that it is a consensual act, not because it follows from an innate orientation rather than an acquired desire. Similarly, it would be strange to say that we think having sex with a child is wrong because pedophilia is an acquired rather than an innate attraction; we think it is wrong because children are not capable of consenting to sex due largely to their underdeveloped reasoning and decision-making capacities.

The backlash against the concept of pedophilia as a sexual orientation seems to revolve around two points: firstly, that the term “sexual orientation” associates pedophilia in the minds of the public with homosexuality (the most talked-about “sexual orientation”), thereby threatening to contaminate gay and queer people with the taint of deviancy they have so long striven to shake off; secondly—and, seemingly, more subconsciously—that describing pedophiles as immutably attracted to minors co-opts one of the arguments that people have long employed in seeking public acceptance for homosexuality: that gay people are born that way and cannot choose to be otherwise.

The first of these points is a real concern, but only for PR purposes. As Edwards points out, consent—not “orientation”—is what makes a sexual act acceptable from a legal (and to some people, moral) standpoint. The second point does seem more thorny because the argument from genetics has been such a tentpole of the gay-rights platform, but I think the libertarian argument could serve us well in distinguishing between the morality of public acceptance of homosexuality and that of child molestation. That is, the real reason homosexuality should be permitted by a truly free society is not that gay people were born that way but that all people should be allowed to do whatever they want, provided they are not infringing on the rights of anyone else.

If you noticed that the response to both of these points revolves around consent… well, then.

"Night after night, I cried myself to sleep"

Rachel Held Evans opens her series on sexuality by reviewing Chapters 1–5 of Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate, a memoir by Justin Lee, a gay Christian man.

“It was, I thought, the worst secret in the world,” writes Justin. “It was the deepest, darkest secret I could ever imagine having, one that I could never tell anyone, not even my parents or best friends. It was the secret I would take with me to my grave.”

I used to think, along with nearly every Christian I knew, that being gay was a choice. But the second you engage your imagination on that subject, you realize this idea is absolutely ridiculous, and most of all for people who claim to be Christians. Who would choose crippling guilt and anxiety? Who would choose to risk rejection by everyone they love? Who would choose what amounts, in conservative Christian circles, to a disability?

Even if you think gay sex is against God’s will, let’s have no more of this “it’s a choice” business. Being sexually active with someone of your own sex is a choice; being gay is not.

Marine Corps Enforces Marriage Equality in Spouse Clubs

Most likely responding to this story about a woman rejected from the officers’ spouse club at the Army’s Ft. Bragg because her spouse is a woman, Maj. Gen. Vaughn Ary has instructed that similar clubs meeting on any Marine Corps base must open membership to same-sex partners of Marines.

Ary wrote that clubs cannot discriminate against any member because of “race, color, creed, sex, age, disability, or national origin. We would interpret a spouse’s club’s decision to exclude a same-sex spouse as sexual discrimination because the exclusion was based upon the spouse’s sex.”

This seems like a pre-emptive step, since no one in the Marine Corps has reported any issues similar to Ft. Bragg’s. Way to get ahead of the game, Marines.