Tag Archives: Gay Marriage

Marriage Equality Not the Cure All…

29 Jun

marriage equalityWhile I am absolutely elated and ecstatic about the SCOTUS ruling for both healthcare and marriage equality — for I never thought in my lifetime I would see marriage equality in the United States — I am also reflecting on how complicated the institution of marriage is, with its deep roots of misogyny and racism. I am also grateful that I benefit from marriage and happy that the SCOTUS decision was on the anniversary of Lawrence v. Texas, and US v. Windsor.  

There remain many problems around marriage equality. Marriage equality hardly signals the eradication of homophobia, racism, or misogyny. In twenty-nine states, it is still legal to discriminate against the LGBT community in employment, housing, and education. In fact, fourteen of the states that already offered marriage equality simultaneously refuse to provide these basic protections (Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming). This is a horrible disconnect. In practice it means that a couple who celebrate a happy, significant occasion are in fact opening themselves up to more discrimination, perhaps even the loss of their homes or livelihoods.

I also want to address why the conversation has to address more than just marriage equality. I hope we will devote our collective energy in eradicating white supremacy, in solidarity around trans rights, in supporting undocumented people, and dismantling poverty.

I am also exceedingly sad about the legacy of hate, bigotry, homophobia, and racism that Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Scalia (and Scalia’s minions) are leaving.  Talk about being on the wrong side of history. Scalia is now a parody of himself, with his dissenting commenting, “jiggery pokery.”  Here we have two of the most powerful men in the world, using their power to undermine civil rights. Something to think about as we look at a presidential race in the United States that will be appointing new justices.Demons

While I am happy to celebrate marriage equality, I hope we take a call to action individually and collectively to address all of the intersections of racism, homophobia, misogyny, ableism, and poverty.

Marriage Equality Makes It To Oregon At Last!

19 May

Oregon-United-for-MarriageMay 19, 2014 what a lovely, historic day for the state of Oregon and for the country. The Honorable Judge McShane made it clear that same sex couples should enjoy the privileges of marriage.  This is a time to rejoice and celebrate, for I believe that the liberation of LGBT people only contributes to the liberation of cisgender heterosexuals.  Here we have a decision that has a far reaching ripple effect. Marriage equality by design addresses issues of sexual orientation, race, class, privilege, power, and the intersections of all of these identities.

Well Done!  It looks like Robert and I need to get in line to get a marriage license.  Today we celebrate and tomorrow we pick up the torch to continue our dedication to expanding civil rights for all.

Number 1 Hero of the Year Award 2013: United States Supreme Court

31 Dec

marriage-equalityI always love to find people and events to celebrate, especially when they move humanity forward.  This past June, the Supreme Court helped to create equity and equality and move humanity forward with its decision to end the nefarious Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a rather sad legacy of President Bill Clinton. One presumes he has had a change of heart.

Sadly, the move towards equity and equality was not a resounding unanimous cheer.  The country certainly needs to celebrate and acknowledge the wonderful work of Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Not a big surprise that the following four justices leave a legacy of hate, bigotry, and discrimination:  Chief Justice John Roberts, Antonin (I hate the gays) Scalia, Samuel Alito, and of course Clarence Thomas.  How very sad for these four powerful men and even more sad that the Chief Justice sent a very loud message about how he will misuse his power regarding civil rights.

Today, we now have 18 states (if one counts Utah) that provide marriage equality; this is far better than what I expected in my lifetime. Now I have hope that we will see full marriage equality throughout the United States within my lifetime.

There were many nominations for the following Honorable Mentions this year:

Antoinette Tuff

Russell Brand

Pope Francis

I look forward to being able to celebrate many heroes in 2014!  Happy New Year!

Good News in Oregon and New Jersey, While Rick Scarborough Foams at Mouth

21 Oct

MarrNewsNJORWhat a lovely way to start off a Monday morning with good news for LGBT folk who want to get married. Today marks the first day for marriage equality in the state of New Jersey, despite Governor Chris Christie’s homophobic protest.  To make this story even lovelier, Senator Elect Cory Booker, is performing same-sex marriages right now in his position as Mayor of Newark. Booker has made a point of not officiating weddings while equality was blocked in his state. A NJ appeals court had ruled that the lack of marriage equality was unconstitutional but stayed that opinion pending further legal action; the state supreme court lifted the stay last week noting that equality was legally sound.

More good news across the country in Oregon. Last week, the state of Oregon now recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other states.  Now we just need to achieve full marriage equality in Oregon. Despite a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, the Oregon Department of Justice released an opinion that a refusal to recognize out-of-state marriages was unconstitutional. The state COO immediately issued a memo requiring all state agencies to begin recognizing legal out-of-state marriages. Oregon United for Marriage is moving a marriage equality initiative forward for Nov. 2014; it is widely expected to succeed. The effort got a surprise boost last week when all three Oregon professional sports teams (the Portland Thorns, Timbers, and Trailblazers) endorsed the initiative.

While I certainly am taking time to celebrate this movement forward in civil rights for the LGBT community, alas we cannot rest here or grow complacent. Sadly, one of the  homophobic leaders of the Tea Party (Gays, Blacks, any non-white “Christians” not welcome), the odious Rick Scarborough, has announced that he wants to file a class action law suit against homosexuality.  Hmm, I wonder how that will work? Of course, he has partnered with the nefarious homophobic Peter LaBarbera.

It is clear that the Tea Party learned nothing from holding the country hostage during the Government Shutdown.  When will this small racist greedy group get it? Is there no chance of them showing any sense of decency or humanity?  Of course, I guess when your pockets are being filled with Koch money, there is less to motivate people to love rather than to hate.

Bigot of the Week Award: September 6, Texas National Guard

6 Sep
Bigot of the Week:Texas Weak, Texas Pathetic

Bigot of the Week:
Texas Weak, Texas Pathetic

Thank you to my dear friend and LGBT ally, Jennifer Carey, and Arturo Schultz, for inspiring me to write about this week’s Bigot.  Despite the Death of DOMA, Texas wants to create its own laws and refuses to abide by the Supreme Court’s decision. Recent actions by the Texas National Guard refuse to treat LGBT people as equal citizens of the United States.  Yet again we see Texas on the wrong side of history.  Lest we forget the misogynistic Rick Perry beaten back by the amazing Wendy Davis.

Sadly, The Texas National Guard refused to process requests from same-sex couples for benefits on Tuesday,  September 3, 2013.  Despite a Pentagon directive to honor these requests, they tried to justify this discrimination by citing the state constitution’s ban on gay marriage. Interestingly enough, Maj. Gen. John Nichols, the commanding general of Texas Military Forces, wrote in a letter, …”the Texas Constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman, his state agency couldn’t process applications from gay and lesbian couples.”  However, in this rather convoluted state of confusion, he added that ” the Texas National Guard, Texas Air Guard and Texas State Guard would not deny anyone benefits.”  How to reconcile these statements is unclear. And incidentally, what about the rest of the LGBT population in Texas?

To my surprise and delight, National guard officials in Florida, Michigan and Oklahoma – all states that ban marriage equality for LGBT couples – said they will follow federal law.  I say with a great sigh, when will the rest of the South and the rest of country abide by Federal Law and work towards equality and equity for all LGBT people?

While I am able to enjoy and appreciate the steps towards progress, I cannot rest in that place. When do each of us actively work to stand in solidarity with all targeted people? When do we say enough to racism, homophobia, misogyny, and when do we pull together to eradicate poverty and look at a more equitable distribution of wealth?

Hero of the Week Award, August 9: Judge Harvey Brownstone

9 Aug

HarveyI need to thank my friend Bruce for inspiring me to celebrate Judge Harvey Brownstone as this week’s HWA.  Brownstone, the first openly gay judge in Canada, had the great pleasure and honor of officiating the wedding of Thea Spyer and Edith Windsor.  You might recall that it was Windsor who was the plaintiff in the case in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the core of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act — which restricted federal marriage benefits to opposite-sex married couples — as a violation of the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. Thank goodness we finally saw the death of DOMA.

Our Brownstone takes Tikkun olam  (Repair the World) quite seriously.  As a gay Reform Jew, Brownstone recounts:

I came from a Jewish community devoted to inclusiveness, helping one another, and fighting injustice—or, at least that’s what I thought growing up in Hamilton, Ontario.

Our Jewish community was filled with Eastern European immigrants and Holocaust survivors, and my father, a social worker who directed the Jewish Community Center, would bring affluent community members together to assist the newcomers with housing, furniture, clothing, and jobs.

While I do not subscribe to any religion, I have to admit that I wish more humans behaved in this inclusive manner and navigated the world through a lens of social justice.

It is important to note that Brownstone’s start was a difficult and painful one.  Coming from this social justice Jewish background, one would think his parents would have embraced their only child when coming out of the closet.  Sadly, this was not the case:

I decided to tell my parents that I was gay. We had always been close—I was an only child—and I anticipated that my father’s social work background, coupled with my parents’ strong Jewish values of “supporting your children no matter what,” would govern their reaction.

I could not have been more wrong. My parents exploded. They felt shame (“What did we do to cause this?”) and embarrassment (“What will people say when they find out?”). One of the most painful things my mother said to me was, “I survived the Holocaust for this?”

It was immensely painful to know that I had caused my parents such anguish and turmoil simply by revealing the truth about myself. To me, being gay was no different than being right-handed or having brown eyes. I believed—and still do—that we’re born this way. But to my parents, being gay was a choice, a “lifestyle.” I had been taught that what Jewish parents want most of all is for their children to be happy. But I quickly realized that my parents’ definition of “happy” was what counted, not mine.

Fortunately, Brownstone and his parents had a great reconciliation and he was celebrated for the mensch he is:

I invited my parents to my law school graduation, and they proudly attended. That was the beginning of a rapprochement that, over the next five years, would result in a full reconciliation…

In the early ’80s the Jewish community didn’t get that we were all Jews. If the Holocaust had taught us one thing, it was that to the Nazis it didn’t matter if you were gay or straight, Reform or Orthodox—you would share the same fate. But in my experience, this startling reality was overlooked when it came to accepting Jews who were different than the norm.

Eventually I became Chutzpah’s president. And in 1985, I persuaded the board to engage as gays and lesbians with the mainstream Toronto Jewish community.

Again, I am not a religious human, albeit I am spiritual, I do love how Brownstone concludes his interview with ReformJudaism.org:

Put simply—and no one should understand this better than we Jews—civil rights are not just about the law, and they’re not just about rights; they’re about human dignity. We were all made in God’s image. When we discriminate against and hurt each other, we hurt God. And that is why—whether we’re gay, straight, or plaid—this issue needs to matter to us all.

Bigot of the Week Award: July 12, Cleveland Right to Life

12 Jul
Bigot of the Week

Bigot of the Week

Wow! This week’s BWA goes to Cleveland Right to Life, who have shown appalling dedication to HATE.  In a move that shows how intertwined misogyny and homophobia are, these Clevelanders have extended their mission from working against women’s health to include opposing marriage equality.  This is what I would call a BIG BALL OF HATE.  Those of you in the greater Cleveland area may need to take cover.  I suspect this type of intense hate is enough to catch the Cuyahoga River on fire again.

Shall we also talk about how this move translates into not only homophobia, misogyny, and classism, but it also ties directly into racism?  These Cleveland Right to Lifers are targeting the most vulnerable and marginalized populations and the impact is far more severe if you are a woman of color or a gay person of color.

The announcement of this expansion of bigotry came as the group responded to Sen. Rob Portman’s (R – OH) announcement that he supported marriage equality because his son is gay. explaining their need to hate more people, Cleveland Right to Life officials observed that marriage equality, euthanasia, and abortion are all

contrary to the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God … every human life is created by the sexual union of male and female.

God forbid a parent should carefully consider policy that impacts his child and then make an informed, compassionate decision. NO! Jesus said no abortions and hate the gays and hate women! Well, they’re sure he meant to, anyway…

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.

LGBT History Month 2013: Reflections and Work Yet to Be Done

30 Jun

AlbusDumbledoreAs we celebrate the last day of LGBT History Month, I am reflecting on the victory of the Death of DOMA, the tepid Supreme Court Decision regarding Prop 8, and the work yet to be done towards full equality for the LGBT community.  The striking down of DOMA does not mean that LGBT folk are no longer targeted or marginalized. Of course, the marginalization is even worse for people of color who are also LGBT.

Sadly, when I shared my Death of DOMA article on a social work social media page, most of the comments I received were from “Christian” social workers that were defending DOMA and acting as if they were victims because they were afraid to come out as Christians.  Really?  REALLY?  When was the last time a bunch of folk committed suicide because they are Christians? When was the last time in the United States people were denied housing, health care, employment because they are Christian?  I candidly was ashamed of my colleagues in the field of social work and I fully understand why people outside of the dominant culture would not trust us!

We still have a long way to go regarding equity and equality for the LGBT community.  Regardless of Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, in most states in the south it is still illegal to be gay and in most states in the south it is completely legal to deny employment, healthcare, housing because of being LGBT, not to mention the many states that have constitutional amendments banning marriage equality, including South Carolina.  You remember South Carolina, the state where they just re-elected Mark Sanford after he spend tax payer money abandoning his job to take his now famous “Appalachian Trail” hike.

While we have so much work to do, I do want to close with a very sweet celebration of LGBT History.  For me, it was absolutely profound to learn that Dumbledore, the Headmaster at Hogwarts, was gay.  What a lovely message for J.K. Rowling to send to young people, that LGBT folk can be wonderful caretakers of children and role models of integrity.

LGBT History Month 2013: The Death of DOMA!

26 Jun

Constitution-No-DOMAToday marks a landmark decision from the United States Supreme Court and a victory for the LGBT community.  Clinton’s legacy of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is now dead.  Even now, I am having to write this article through tears of joy!  The unconstitutional, shamefully discriminatory DOMA has finally been put to rest.

The 5-4 decision found Justice Kennedy siding with the reliably progressive Justices Bader Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor. The ruling is quite clear, emphasizing that by ignoring state marriage law, the federal government violated the Fifth Amendment. It reads, in part:

The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others.

Of course, Scalia and his other school yard bullies  (including homophobic Chief Justice Roberts) voted to keep DOMA intact. They put forward a few different rationales, but basically relied on the “gays are icky” defense.  Sadly, Chief Justice Roberts who holds enormous power, has sent a clear message that he does not intend to treat all citizens equally or equitably.

Congratulations to Edie Windsor, whose steadfast insistence on having her marriage recognized moved this case forward. She is a true hero and her legal team deserves our thanks.

We still have a way to go. The patchwork of state-by-state marriage equality means that LGBT Americans get different rights based on where they live. This decision, however, makes it clear that marriage is marriage. That’s a huge step forward.  Poor John Boehner who spent so much of our tax payer dollars defending DOMA.  Is that a tear I see, Mr. Boehner?

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