NYT Round-Up: From Gay Ordination and Mary Cheney's Pregnancy to Way Too Heavy Bags

By Christine Cupaiuolo — December 7, 2006

There are so many interesting stories in The New York Times today, a round-up is in order.

First up, an anti-abortion bill was rejected Wednesday when it failed to garner the necessary votes:

On a 250-to-162 vote, backers of the measure fell short of the two-thirds majority necessary to pass the bill, which would require medical personnel to inform women that a fetus could experience pain and to offer anesthesia for the fetus. The supermajority vote was required under special rules used to consider the bill.

Democrats accused Republicans, who will no longer be in the majority next year, of trying to score political points. The measure had no chance of becoming law in the last few days of this session.

“We are wasting time today on a bill that is laden with rhetoric but very little science,” said Representative Lois Capps, Democrat of California.

Gay ordination and same-sex commitment ceremonies are permissible according to the highest legal body of Conservative Judaism, though it will be up to individual synagogues to decide whether to accept or reject gay rabbis and commitment ceremonies.

The decision, which followed years of debate, was denounced by traditionalists in the movement as an indication that Conservative Judaism had abandoned its commitment to adhere to Jewish law, but celebrated by others as a long-awaited move toward full equality for gay people.

“We see this as a giant step forward,” said Sarah Freidson, a rabbinical student and co-chairwoman of Keshet, a student group at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York that has been pushing for change.

The Cheney’s newest grandchild will have two mommies, and while we think that’s just peachy, conservatives are less than thrilled by Mary Cheney’s pregnancy:

Family Pride, a gay rights group, noted that Ms. Cheney’s home state, Virginia, does not recognize same-sex civil unions or marriages.

“The news of Mary Cheney’s pregnancy exemplifies, once again, how the best interests of children are denied when lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens are treated unfairly and accorded different and unequal rights and responsibilities than other parents,” said the group’s executive director, Jennifer Chrisler.

Focus on the Family, a Christian group that has provided crucial political support to President Bush, released a statement that criticized child rearing by same-sex couples.

“Mary Cheney’s pregnancy raises the question of what’s best for children,” said Carrie Gordon Earll, the group’s director of issues analysis. “Just because it’s possible to conceive a child outside of the relationship of a married mother and father doesn’t mean it’s the best for the child.”

A new Canadian television series, “Little Mosque on the Prairie,” looks at Muslim family life in North America post 9/11. The creator, Zarqa Nawaz, a 39-year-old Canadian Muslim of Pakistani origin and mother of four, tells the Times, “It rests on my shoulders to get the balance right between entertainment and representing the community in a reasonable way … You have to push the boundaries so you can grow and evolve as a community.”

Attitudes toward the hijab and women’s dress are central issues on the show:

When a Muslim girl flounces into her immigrant father’s presence with her navel showing, he recoils in horror, saying, “You look like a Protestant.”

She counters, “Dad, you mean a prostitute?”

He responds, “No, I meant a Protestant.”

Ms. Nawaz’s humor also emerges in the pool episode. Johnny, the male water aerobics instructor, is gay, and he pointedly says that the sight of the women’s hair would not be the least bit arousing.

“I always try to start these debates in my community like: Does gay count? Do you have to cover your hair in front of a gay man?” Ms. Nawaz said with a chuckle. (It is not the kind of question that arises in Muslim countries, where being openly gay is virtually out of the question; such behavior is punishable by a death sentence in some places.)

Fellow Muslims often dismiss her thoughts and questions as too outrageous, she admitted. “But now I have a whole series to express them.”

Finally, with “Ouch! My Bag Is Killing Me” listed as the second-most-popular e-mailed NYT story (as of early afternoon), I have to ask: must we injure our bodies with our bags?

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