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January 27, 2006
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Volume 34
Issue 04
 
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Rex Wockner
Wockner Wire
Brokeback Mania

" 'Brokeback' proves potent in theaters," said the headline in The Oklahoman daily newspaper.

"I finally got to see it on New Year's Day at the Magnolia and went with my 13-year-old," Dallas Mayor Laura Miller told the Dallas Voice. "I cried several times. It was just an incredible film, one that will hopefully open some people's hearts and make everyone more tolerant. Love is love, pure and simple."

"No American film before has portrayed love between two men as something this pure and sacred," said Newsweek. "As such, it has the potential to change the national conversation and to challenge people's ideas about the value and validity of same-sex relationships."

"The appeal is universal," said San Jose Mercury News columnist Sue Hutchinson. "As tragic on-screen lovers go, Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal have nothing on the two Brokeback cowboys. No wonder it seems to be turning into a date movie - for heterosexuals."

And author Annie Proulx, who wrote the short story that was made into the movie, told the AP: "I think this country is hungry for this story. [I]t's a love story and there's hardly much love around these days. I think people are sick of divisiveness, hate-mongering, disasters, war, loss and need and want a reminder that sometimes love comes along that is strong and permanent, and that it can happen to anyone."

Indeed, it feels like the whole country is gaga for this film in which two cowboys fall in love in the wrong place at the wrong time and full-on bonk on screen.

This is the same country where 45 states explicitly ban same-sex marriage - and 19 of them have done so by amending their constitutions to permanently discriminate against us.

So what gives?

I'm not sure. But here are some possible explanations for why Brokeback Mountain is filling theaters.

1. Good art is good art. This is a very good film. A very good film can overcome subject matter that might be problematic in an ordinary film.

2. Buzz buzz buzz. When is the last time a movie had this much buzz? People care about that. They don't want to be left out. At a certain point, one has to go see a movie with this much buzz, no matter what it's about.

3. The people who voted for same-sex marriage bans aren't seeing the movie. The people who voted against same-sex marriage bans are seeing the movie. That's still a lot of people.

4. There are a lot of folks who are neither fundamentalist Christian Gay-haters nor flag-waving PFLAG Gay-lovers. They're somewhere in the middle. They may not be fully sure what they think of Gay people. Maybe they want more exposure, more information. Brokeback Mountain gives them that.

5. Women, who always poll more Gay-friendly than men, are taking men to see it with them.

6. Every Gay person in America is seeing this film. Twice. That's a lot of movie tickets.

7. Or maybe there's no rational explanation. Maybe we live in a country where people vote to amend their state constitution to dump on Gay people and then go to the movies and cheer for certain kinds of Gay people on screen.

That's likely as good an explanation as any.

This may not be a country where the majority of people place a high value on intellectual consistency.

Whatever the case, whatever it is that's filling theaters in small cities and red states, it's a very good thing. Because this film is good enough to possibly change some minds or hearts.

I've argued with politicians who believe Gays need to focus on political lobbying and letter writing. I've said that TV and movies and media are just as important, if not more important, to the task of achieving equality for Gay people.

I think Brokeback Mountain may be the piece of evidence my argument needed.

Meanwhile, I was pleased to see that novelist Brett Hartinger got the same take-home message from the movie that I laid out in my last column - a message that many straight reviewers seem to have missed.

Writing at AfterElton.com Jan. 16, Hartinger noted: "This is what Brokeback Mountain implicitly asks of Gay movie-goers: to love now, passionately, regardless of the cost. Seize the day, because one day, possibly before you know it, it will be too late."
Quote/Unquote
sorry, not in this weeks edition
International News
AUSTRALIA TRIES TO STOP CITIZENS FROM MARRYING OVERSEAS

Australia's government is trying to stop its citizens who live overseas from entering same-sex marriages in countries that allow them, The Age newspaper reported Jan. 14.

The tactic being utilized is refusing to provide written proof to the other nation that the Australian in question is free to marry.

In one case, Peter Kakucska, an Australian living in Vienna who wanted to marry his Austrian partner in the Netherlands, where same-sex marriage is allowed, was given stamped certifications of the antiGay policies by Australia's Austrian embassy.

One certification said: "Following the advice of the Australian Attorney-General's Department we herewith certify that Australian law does not allow the issue of a Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage to persons wishing to enter into a same-sex marriage."

A second document refused to confirm that Kakucska was single.

The Netherlands ultimately let the couple marry anyway, when presented with the Australian refusals and Kakucska's affidavit that he was single.

Gay activist Rodney Croome of the Australian Coalition for Equality called the government's actions "mean-spirited and bloody-minded."

EURO PARLIAMENT DEMANDS CLAMPDOWN ON HOMOPHOBIA

The European Parliament passed a resolution Jan. 17 demanding that its 25 member states clamp down on homophobia, protect GLBT people from discrimination and extend them full equal rights.

The vote was 468 to 149 with 41 abstentions.

The resolution was aimed in particular at nations such as Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania where governments, religious leaders and antiGay organizations have stepped up oppression of the Gay community in recent years.

The document cited "a series of worrying events ... in a number of EU Member States ... ranging from banning Gay pride or equality marches to the use by leading politicians and religious leaders of inflammatory or threatening language or hate speech, failure by police to provide adequate protection or even breaking up peaceful demonstrations, violent demonstrations by homophobic groups, and the introduction of changes to constitutions explicitly to prohibit same-sex unions."

The parliamentarians urged the European Commission "to ensure that all Member States ... are correctly implementing Directive 2000/78/EC (establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation) and to start infringement proceedings against those Member States that fail to do so."

They also told the commission "to consider the use of criminal penalties in cases of violation" of directives based on Article 13 of the European Community Treaty, which empowers the Council of the European Union to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and other factors.

In a press release coinciding with the parliamentary debate, the European branch of the International Lesbian and Gay Association stated: "Last year the European Union witnessed the most appalling manifestations of homophobia and discrimination against LGBT people. [P]eaceful LGBT marches promoting equality and tolerance were banned or hindered by authorities in Poland, Latvia and Romania. Appallingly extreme and hateful statements humiliating, ridiculing and discriminating against LGBT people came out from some senior politicians and religious leaders in Poland and Latvia.

"Poland closed the nation's equality body, which dealt with various forms of discrimination including on the grounds of sexual orientation," the group continued. "Latvia remains the only EU member state which, despite the requirement of the EU Employment Equality Directive, did not explicitly ban sexual orientation discrimination in employment and has now amended its constitution to ban same-sex marriage. A similar proposal is being debated in Lithuania."

POPE BLASTS SAME-SEX UNIONS

In a Jan. 12 speech to political leaders from the Rome area, Pope Benedict XVI spoke against government recognition of same-sex unions, calling it a grave mistake.

"It is a serious error to obscure the value and function of the legitimate family founded on matrimony, attributing to other forms of unions improper legal recognition, for which there really is no social need," Benedict said.

The day after his remarks, about 40 Gay activists staged a protest outside Vatican City's St. Peter's Square.

The following day, around 1,000 people rallied in Rome, demanding legal recognition of same-sex relationships.

STUDENT WHO CALLED HORSE 'GAY' ACQUITTED

A college student in Oxford, England, who was arrested for calling a policeman's horse "Gay" saw his case dismissed by the Oxford Magistrates' Court Jan. 12.

The court cited a lack of evidence that Sam Brown's remark violated the Public Order Act, which prohibits homophobic statements that are "likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress."

Brown, 21, had said to a mounted policeman, "Excuse me, do you realize your horse is Gay?"

He was hauled off to jail for the night and later taken to court for refusing to pay a $140 fine.

TASMANIAN PARTNER LAW UNPOPULAR

Only 58 couples have taken advantage of the relationships register in the Australian state of Tasmania during its two years of existence, The Mercury newspaper reported Jan. 16.

Forty-three couples got hitched in 2003 and 15 in 2004. Forty-six were same-sex couples and 12 opposite-sex. Of the same-sex couples, 24 are male and 22 are female.

Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesman Rodney Croome blamed the slow take-up on the government, saying it has failed to promote the register.

The register also is available to nonsexual partnerships, such as when one person is a caregiver to another. It grants spousal rights in areas such as pensions, taxes, insurance, health care, hospital visitation, wills, property, parenting and bereavement leave.

Tasmania has a population of 484,700.

CZECH CHURCHES OPPOSE PARTNERSHIP BILL

Ten religious denominations published a letter on the Czech Bishops Conference Web site Jan. 16 urging Parliament and President Vaclav Klaus to reject a same-sex partnership bill that has passed the lower house and awaits consideration in the Senate.

The letter said such a law would "weaken family life" and "cause chaos in values."

It was signed by Czech officials of the Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox Church and eight Protestant churches.

Observers believe the bill is unlikely to pass in the Senate regardless.

SPANISH GAY MARRIAGES IN ANDALUCIA

Since Spain legalized same-sex marriage last June, 55 percent of Gay marriages have occurred in Andalusia, where Seville is located.

Of the 425 same-sex marriages recorded by the Justice Ministry, 235 took place in the southern region, said the Andalusian COLEGAS Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals.

The group called Andalusia "a land of tolerance and coexistence."

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