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Same-sex marriage update: puppets, hypocrites, fabulous Americans and the Southern Hemisphere

BY ROB SALERNO – The big distraction news in same-sex marriage this week is an ongoing internet campaign to get the Sesame Street puppet roommates Bert and Ernie to tie the knot. And it only makes sense, now that New York has legalized gay marriage, for the state’s most famous odd couple to finally get hitched, right?

A petition for the marriage has already attracted more than 7,000 signatures in nine days, and the Bert and Ernie Get Married Facebook page has more than 4,000 members.


Despite this, Sesame Street has released a statement on its own Facebook page scuttling the idea of Bert and Ernie coming out of the closet and getting married: 

Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach
preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very
different from themselves.

Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets™ do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.

The statement has received more than 250 “likes” and almost 300 comments. But although Bert and Ernie can be just roommates and friends if the creators so desire, it’s pretty disingenuous that they claim that Muppets are sexual-orientation-neutral when Miss Piggy has been throwing herself at every human or puppet male for almost 40 years (although to be fair, despite petitioners’ claims to the contrary, Miss Piggy has never appeared on Sesame Street, according to her I-Can’t-Believe-It-Exists IMDB page).


Snopes has a good roundup of the Bert and Ernie rumours over the years. And I have to agree with Sesame Street here. If Bert were gay, he’d pluck that monobrow.

In the real world, same-sex marriage advocates continue to celebrate victories and shrug off losses and roll our eyes at opponents.

Starting with victories, the Australian Labor Party, which controls the federal government, has seen seven of its eight state branches pass motions calling for the legalization of same-sex marriage in that country. As well, the new premier of Southern Australia is calling on the federal government to legalize gay marriage, or at least stop blocking Australians from getting same-sex married abroad. Thus far, Prime Minister Julia Gillard remains firmly opposed to same-sex marriage — though not as opposed as her predecessor, John Howard, who passed a law banning same-sex marriages that would need to be repealed for same-sex marriage to go forward. And making cabinet meetings surely awkward: Gillard’s finance minister, Penny Wong, is openly lesbian and she and her partner just announced they are expecting their first child together. 

It’s all going to come to a head at Australian Labor’s annual national conference in December, where the federal party will likely be forced to revisit its policy on same-sex marriage. If the party endorses it, Gillard would be put in the awkward position of rejecting her own party’s policy or backtracking on her opposition to same-sex marriage. After the conference, it would have to pass through the Australian parliament before becoming law.

Speaking of unpopular Southern Hemisphere politicians and same-sex marriage, the recently elected conservative president of Chile, Sebastián Pinera, has announced he will table legislation recognizing same-sex civil unions. While it’s a bold step for a conservative politician anywhere — and especially in a country the AP denotes as “ultra-Catholic” in its lede — the proposal faces strong opposition from Pinera’s conservative coalition in parliament. While we’ll welcome this news, we hold some skepticism that it will actually pass.

Wondering what makes a country “ultra-Catholic"? It’s not superpowered nuns. Chile didn’t even legalize divorce until 2004.

BTW, the AP is wrong to note that only a handful of countries recognize civil unions in South America. Argentina legalized gay marriage last year, Brazil legalized same-sex civil unions in May (which quickly turned into same-sex marriage later that month), Uruguay, Ecuador and French Guyana offer civil unions, and Colombia is considering civil union or marriage legislation now.

Meanwhile, in the United States, it’s time for yet another Republican same-sex marriage opponent to get caught in a gay sex scandal! The Indianapolis Star reports that a Republican state legislator who voted for Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage has gotten himself caught up meeting an 18-year-old male hustler at a hotel. According to the report, no sex happened, and their email exchange refers only to money for “services rendered” and a “really good time” — which is apparently how you avoid prostitution charges in Indiana. The Star’s report is deliciously awful in a schadenfreude way. 

And a bizarre editorial from the National Post salutes gay US conservatives and the gay Republican group GOProud’s decision to select Ann Coulter as honorary chair of their advisory council (her official title is apparenty “gay icon,” which, wait, what?). While it’s easy to poke fun at gay conservatives — and at the National Post — the editorial does make some salient points about why homosexuals might support conservative politicians and pundits, and that may merit broader investigation and dialogue.

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