Tag Archives: adoption

Women’s History Month 2014: Rosie O’Donnell

21 Mar

RosieToday I would like to wish a happy 54th birthday to a woman who has always used the power and voice of her celebrity status for social justice. Rosie O’Donnell was born in Commack, NY, the third of five children. She was popular in high school, known to be outgoing and funny. She began exploring comedy with Gilda Radner impressions and took that passion with her to college.

After stints at Dickinson College and Boston University, she left college to build on her promising standup career. She got a slot on Star Search and won several weeks in a row, giving her a national profile. O’Donnell built that opportunity into a series of TV and movie appearances. After 15 years of increasing success, she launched her own daytime talk show. The Rosie O’Donnell Show (I really loved this show) quickly took over, with her outspoken, open personality and sense of fun capturing the hearts and minds of millions of viewers.

During this time, O’Donnell became a foster parent, adopting her first child, Parker, just before her show took off. A strong advocate for children’s rights and quality foster, adoption, and care programs, Rosie always took time to share her views and her dollars to support these causes. She gained additional fame in 2002. After appearing as a lesbian single mother on Will and Grace (fantastic episode), she announced at a comedy show to support Ovarian Cancer Research, “I’m a dyke!” While her coming out was not a huge surprise, she was among the first of the early 21st Century wave of celebrities to come out.

Once she was out, she became a strong vocal advocate for the LGBT community, building on previous quietly visible support. She especially focused on the challenges of LGBT parenting, notably shining a harsh light on Florida’s rabidly anti-gay adoption laws (and others like it). After ending her show in 2002, she wrote a book and launched a magazine, donating significant proceeds to children’s charities and cancer research. She also started a family-friendly LGBT travel company, increasing her focus on parenting for all.

Rosie joined The View in 2006. Somewhat ironically for a woman called “the Queen of Nice,” her outspoken views and willingness to speak truth to power ruffled many feathers. She regularly spoke out against the tragic residue of the George W. Bush administration and made sure the chats on the show were informative and thought-provoking. As a former Catholic and strong supporter of children, she came under fire for speaking out about the abuse scandals in the church. Undeterred, she famously observed,

I hope the Catholic Church gets sued until the end of time. Maybe, you know, we can melt down some of the gold toilets in the Pope’s Vatican and pay off some of the lawsuits because, the whole tenet of living a Christ-like life, has been lost in Catholicism.

She also gained attention for questioning Donald Trump’s attempts to assume a position of moral authority when his Miss USA Pageant faced scandal. Never mean but always willing to be honest and direct, her approach eventually led to her departure from The View — a significant loss.  Thank goodness they at least have our Whoopi!

Rosie O’Donnell is very present in the public eye with her wife and children, helping put a familiar, human face on LGBT parenting. She donated all the proceeds from her second book to her children’s charity and continues to spend millions on improving the world for the vulnerable and marginalized. She also donates her talent, helping headline Cyndi Lauper’s True Colours tours.

A strong voice, a fierce advocate, a caring parent, and a great example — Rosie O’Donnell is an easy woman to celebrate. Happy Birthday, Rosie, and thank you!

Hero of the Week Award: July 5, Tim Hardaway

5 Jul
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

This week it is a real pleasure to celebrate a man who has clearly demonstrated the ability to change. Former NBA star, Tim Hardaway was infamous for his homophobia. When recently retired player John Amaechi came out in 2007, Hardaway famously noted in an interview “I hate gay people.” When asked for clarification, he seemed to use the label “homophobic” proudly.  At that point, he certainly would have earned Bigot of the Week Award.  What an absolute delight to celebrate someone who demonstrates bell hooks’ transformative experience.

The NBA did the right thing and sanctioned Hardaway, imposing financial penalties and banning him from the NBA All-Star weekend. This gave him space to consider his words and actions. Not long after, he indicated that he wanted to change his ways, telling a reporter, “I’m going to do whatever I can to correct it.”

He has lived up to that promise. Earlier this year, when Jason Collins became the first active NBA player to come out, Hardaway was among his most vocal supporters. This week, Equal Marriage Florida opened its petition to create marriage equality in the Sunshine State. For the very public kickoff of the campaign, they found a willing celebrity to be the first signer of the petition — Tim Hardaway.

Many people have ugly beliefs, say hateful things, take hurtful actions. They should be called out for their behavior. Too seldom do we see even a real apology. Even rarer is someone who truly demonstrates that they have learned from their mistakes and want to be and do better and do the necessary repair work. Thank you, Tim Hardaway, for showing that our strongest allies can be forged from the lessons learned by our former opponents.  There is a lesson for us all here.  For those that commit trespass, we must try our best to create a space for people to make mistakes, be accountable, and allow for repair work.  If I, or our culture, simply dismisses a fellow human being as just a homophobe, or just a racist, we lose the opportunity for richer deeper conversations to be had and we also lose the opportunity for targeted, or marginalized people to gain allies.

It’s a delight to have two honorable mentions this week. First, a big thank you to the Department of Homeland Security. (I never thought I’d write that!) In one of the first executive branch actions since the overturn of DOMA Section 3, DHS began issuing green cards to legally married same-sex couples. This will end decades of discrimination and estrangement and banishes one of the most visibly cruel aspects of DOMA.

Honorable mention also goes to April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, a couple in Michigan who have been working to overturn that state’s ban on adoption by same-sex couples. They recently expanded their case to take on the Wolverine State’s marriage ban. Judge Bernard Friedman put a stay on the case in March, awaiting the Supreme Court’s DOMA and Prop 8 decisions. Citing the DOMA verdict, Friedman lifted his stay, noting that the language of the decision “has provided the requisite precedential fodder for both parties to this litigation.” It’s wonderful to see so many positive results emerge from that one decision so quickly. Thank you, April and Jayne, for your courage, and best of luck on your journey to end discrimination.

How Wrong Can the Right Be?

16 Aug

Minister of Hate

This will sadly be James Queale’s last contribution to TSM, as he is starting his own blog.  Jamie thank you for your contribution to TSM. We all look forward to reading your new blog.

After the fire storm over Bryan Fischer’s advocating for kidnapping children from gay parents, I would like to fully examine how the extreme right-wing affects the LGBT community and allies. In doing this, I want to show that claims against the LGBT community are false.
Extreme Right-Wing:
Bullying – They advocate that schools allow people of faith to discriminate against LGBT students if their religious text or beliefs “justify” the persecution. This causes various students to feel unsafe and unwanted causing lapses in attendance and increasing gay teen suicide.
Adoption – They advocate that children should not be allowed to be adopted by same-sex couples. Many claim that gay men are automatically pedophiles and children should not be allowed around them, even though statistics show that pedophiles are predominately heterosexual. Also, same-sex couples go through the very same screening that opposite sex couples go through when adopting.
Marriage – They advocate against allowing same-sex couples marrying, causing numerous couples to not have the same spousal benefits that straight married couples have. Same-sex couples in a bi-national relationship may be separated and left to find other options to be together because of the Defense of Marriage Act.
Employment – They advocate not allowing the government to ban businesses from firing or not hiring someone because they are from the LGBT community. This causes many to not find jobs which increases unemployment.
LGBT Advocates:
Bullying – We advocate that schools have protections for students regardless of religion, race, gender, or sexual orientation. This builds a productive environment and allows students to learn tolerance and diversity.
Adoption – We advocate that loving same-sex couples be allowed to adopt children, which gives children a home and a sense of belonging. This limits the number of children that are bounced around the system and helps build stronger communities.
Marriage – We advocate that marriage is a right and that everyone of any sexuality should be able to enjoy it. This allows same-sex couples to have full spousal benefits, which removes a significant financial burden. This also allows bi-national couples to sponsor their foreign born partners instead of being separated. This has no affect on “traditional” marriage as straight people are not forced to marry someone of the same sex. Even when it comes to religious institutions, exemptions are made so that churches that do not acknowledge same sex couples do not have to marry them.
Employment – We advocate that businesses should not be allowed to fire an employee because of their sexual orientation. Sexuality has no affect on work ability and should not be a factor when hiring or firing. This helps keep unemployment down and helps the workplace be a more productive and diverse environment. New ideas and innovation come from diversity.
As you can see, what the LGBT community advocates and what the extreme right-wing advocates are very different. One community wants to put policies into place that strengthen society and one wants to harm society.

Where Is It Safest to Be Gay? Ranking the States

12 May

Come for the scenery, stay for the civil rights

Despite President Obama’s wonderful declaration of support for marriage equality, the devastating passage of Amendment One in North Carolina shows how far we have to go as a nation. It is also imporant to understand how your rights are protected based on where you live. Now there’s a handy tool to look at gay rights by state.

In a very thorough analysis this week, British news daily The Guardian, published a ranking of all 50 states (plus the District of Columbia) on seven key areas of civil rights. The factors rated by The Guardian include:

  1. Marriage, indicating whether it is fully allowed or banned and including partial credit for domestic partnerships.
  2. Hospital visitation rights, including how same-sex partners are respected as family members.
  3. Adoption rights, indicating whether LGBT couples can jointly adopt (or are explicitly banned from doing so).
  4. Employment, indicating what workplace protections exist based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  5. Housing, indicating laws requiring fair treatment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  6. Hate crimes, indicating laws providing for harsher punishment of crimes motivated by the victim’s real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
  7. Schools, indicating laws that protect students based on sexual orientation and gender identity and any explicit anti-LGBT bullying provision.

The analysis also compares states by region. Generally speaking, the Northeast has the strongest, most consistent protections (including three states with perfect scores – CT, MA, and VT) and the Southeast has the weakest (followed closely by the Midwest). Using a distinctly British approach to the regions, The Guardian identifies six Northwest states (OR, WA, ID, AK, MT, and WY). Washington received a perfect score; Oregon fell short on marriage equality but was otherwise perfect, ranking in the top 10. Only Oregon and Washington meet any of the categories other than some school protections. It’s also nice to know that many elected officials in Oregon responded positively to the President’s announcement on Wednesday.

Of course day-to-day safety and success for LGBT Americans varies based on more than the state or region in which one lives. Metropolitan areas are generally safer and more accepting than more rural areas, regardless of the state. But knowing how a region demonstrates its support (or hostility) to gay rights is an important factor in daily life.

Women’s History Month 2012: Pearl S. Buck

8 Mar

Today we honor and celebrate noted author and humanitarian Pearl S. Buck. Her parents were Presbyterian missionaries in China; they returned briefly to the U.S. for her birth in 1892. Buck was raised in China, returning to the U.S. where she attended Randolph-Macon Women’s College from 1911 – 1914. She married John L. Buck on her return to China and began her work as a missionary. Her long association with the Chinese people led her to believe that traditional conversion missionary work was not in the best interest of the locals (reminiscent of our Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible). In the raging Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy, she took a vocal stand for religion being a tool for people rather than a prescriptive truth. Her strong liberal and humanist stand cost her her missionary job in China( No good deed will go unpunished).

The Bucks moved to the U.S. in 1925 for John’s sabbatical. Pearl obtained her MA in English Literature from Cornell during this time and began writing short fiction and essays. After a year they returned to China where she began teaching English literature at Nanking University. Concerned about building a sufficient nest egg for her daughter, she wrote her first novel in 1930. In 1932, she wrote her most well-known work,The Good Earth, a novel of Chinese family village life. It won the Pulitzer prize for the Novel in 1932.

The political unrest in China eventually drove the Bucks into hiding. In 1934 they reluctantly moved to the U.S. and never returned to China. Pearl divorced John shortly after their move. At the same time, she and her publisher, Richard Walsh had developed a more personal relationship; they married in 1935. She purchased Green Hills Farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where she and Richard raised a large international family including their seven adopted children and several foster children. In 1938, Pearl Buck was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature for her epic portrayal of Chinese peasant life and for her biographies of her parents.

Buck was highly committed to and passionate about a range of issues and wrote on a diverse variety of topics including women’s rights, Asian cultures, immigration, adoption, missionary work, and war. In 1949, outraged that existing adoption services considered Asian and mixed-race children unadoptable, Buck established Welcome House, Inc., the first international, interracial adoption agency. In 1964, to support children who were not eligible for adoption, Buck established the Pearl S. Buck Foundation to “address poverty and discrimination faced by children in Asian countries.”

Pearl S. Buck challenged the American public on topics such as racism, sex discrimination and the plight of the thousands of babies born to Asian women left behind and unwanted wherever American soldiers were based in Asia. During her life Buck combined the multiple careers of wife, mother, author, editor and political activist. She died in 1973, leaving behind a significant body of writing and a legacy of humanitarian accomplishments.

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