Tag Archives: Marriage

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.


Happy Birthday, Elizabeth Cady Stanton

12 Nov

On this date in 1815, one of the most important figures in early women’s rights was born. Elizabeth Cady was born in Johnstown, NY. Her father, Daniel, was a prominent attorney who served one term in Congress and was a circuit court judge and New York Supreme Court Justice. Her mother, Margaret, was a tall, powerful woman who was energetic in her youth, but lost many children (six of her eleven); Elizabeth mainly remembered her as a sad, distant woman.

A youth spent browsing her father’s home law library fascinated Elizabeth. She also developed a realization of just how dramatically the law favored men over women in every particular. Although her family owned at least one slave — slavery was not abolished in New York until 1827 — early exposure to her abolitionist cousin Gerritt Smith helped form strong sentiments in Elizabeth. Elizabeth becomes an exceedingly strong voice in the abolitionist movement.

Unlike many women of her era, she was formally educated. She attended Johnstown Academy, where she studied until the age of 16. She enjoyed being in co-educational classes where she could compete intellectually and academically with boys her age and older. Since local Union College accepted only men, Stanton enrolled in the Troy Female Seminary, which was founded and run by Emma Willard. During her education she had unpleasant dealings with a local Calvinist preacher(imagine that, a male preacher mistreating a woman); as a result she rejected organized Christianity maintaining that logic and a humane sense of ethics were the best guides to both thought and behavior.

Elizabeth met Henry Brewster Stanton through her involvement in abolitionism. He was a journalist and anti-slavery orator who later became an attorney. They were married in 1840; Elizabeth instructed the minister to eliminate the promise to obey from the wedding vows, later observing, “I obstinately refused to obey one with whom I supposed I was entering into an equal relation.” She also assumed the name Elizabeth Cady Stanton, refusing to be subsumed as Mrs. Henry B. Stanton. She asserted that “[t]he custom of calling women Mrs. John This and Mrs. Tom That and colored men Sambo and Zip Coon, is founded on the principle that white men are lords of all.” Is it any wonder that I love our Elizabeth Cady Stanton?

She was an ardent suffragist as well as an abolitionist. Despite her large family (seven children), she maintained that she planned the birth of each child through “voluntary motherhood” and was a strong proponent of women’s reproductive and sexual rights. She and her husband shared many views but had lively discussions in which they often disagreed. They moved to Seneca Falls, NY for her husband’s health. It was there that her most famous work began.

In 1848, she and Lucretia Mott organized the first women’s rights convention, (The Seneca Falls Convention) attended by over 300 people. She delivered her Declaration of Sentiments at this conference, one of the most important early treatises on women’s rights. She went on to work with other reformers like Susan B. Anthony and Amelia Bloomer. She remained a powerful, often controversial figure throughout her life. Despite her work as an abolitionist, she initially opposed the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments, concerned that explicitly giving African American men the right to vote created a larger bloc that could oppose women’s suffrage. She later used the vague wording of the amendments to maintain that they had, in fact, created a right for women to vote, although that position never had legal support.

She wrote, published and spoke about women’s rights throughout her life. She died in 1902 at the age of 86. Sadly, she never did get to see the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920.

The Power of Civil Discourse: Strengthening Marriage

25 Oct

This is the story of two men who had radically opposing views. By making an effort, and engaging in a real conversation, they came to an understanding that shifted the course of their relationship and of an organizational mission. Thanks to regular TSM reader Bruce Kestelman for pointing me to their tale.

Jonathan Rauch is a well-known political activist, speaker, and writer. He is also a gay man and a staunch advocate for marriage equality; foes have called him “the most formidable and persuasive voice for same-sex marriage.” David Blankenhorn is a conservative fathers’ rights advocate and the founder and president of the Institute for American Values. He has been a strong advocate of “mother-father marriage” and a vocal opponent of equality. The two men have naturally been long aware of each other and have traded barbs in the press. Something fundamental began to shift in their interaction in 2004.

They shared the stage at a 2004 promoting Rauch’s book, Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America. Blankenhorn intended to make his usual (flawed) pitch for marriage as a procreational institution but got caught up in his emotions and engaged in some nasty attacks on Rauch. Shockingly, he called Rauch the next day to apologize, something Rauch says had never happened before. They began talking and over the course of years realized that fundamentally they shared a goal: making marriage a stronger and more viable institution in the United States.

Through their dialogue and growing friendship, Rauch learned the value of finding common ground with an opponent (if possible). Blankenhorn underwent an even more fundamental shift, and has changed his position on marriage. While he still believes in the value of “traditional” marriage, he sees the value in sharing basic civil rights to provide a solid foundation to the institution he values. In June of this year, he published a passionate editorial endorsing marriage equality. That move has cost his organization donors and Board members, but he firmly believes it was right.

There are a couple of valuable lessons here. First, it’s helpful to listen to what your perceived opponents are really saying. Finding common ground may result in real dialogue and create an opportunity to change hearts and minds. (That’s not always possible, of course. Some people will hold onto their positions without thought or care. Discussions with such people become much like the legendary time-waste of teaching a pig to sing. A second — and very valuable — lesson for the LGBT community is the power of visibility. Blankenhorn changed his mind because he got to know a gay man and came to realize that his position was untenable given its impact on his friend. Fear breeds in ignorance; knowledge is power.

Marriage Equality Poised for Historic Gains in November

15 Sep

This November voters in four states are poised to make historic votes on marriage equality. Maine, Maryland and Washington have voter initiatives to create full marriage equality; Minnesota faces the latest in a decade-long string of state constitutional amendments to limit marriage to heterosexuals. What makes the 2012 elections especially interesting is the history of marriage equality votes. No state so far has adopted marriage equality through direct voter approval, depending instead on legislatures and courts. More significantly, all 28 states that have presented voters with constitutional amendments to ban equality have succeeded. It seems very likely that this November will see a major shift in these trends.

MAINE: In 2009, the Maine legislature approved marriage equality, replacing the existing limited civil union law. Anti-gay forces pushed the law to the ballot and defeated it 53-to-47. Since then, Mainers United for Marriage has worked diligently to change hearts and minds through a massive public education campaign. Question One on the November ballot will give voters a chance to re-establish full marriage equality in the state. The most recent poll shows the Question passing 57-to-35.

MARYLAND: Maryland also has limited civil union rights; it is also one of only three states that recognizes same sex marriages from other jurisdictions. Last March after strong lobbying from Marylanders for Marriage Equality and other groups, the legislature approved a marriage equality bill which was signed by the Governor. It was promptly referred to the ballot by anti-gay organizations as Question 6. Equality is polling strong in Maryland as well, at 57-to-37; it received a big boost — especially among the state’s African American population — when President Obama expressed his support in May.

WASHINGTON: Earlier this year Governor Christine Gregoire pushed the legislature to pass a marriage equality bill, which it did. As with Maryland, the bill was promptly referred to the voters as Referendum 74. Washington United for Marriage has mounted a strong public awareness campaign that also seems to be paying off. A poll released this week shows equality leading 56-to-33.

MINNESOTA: Unlike previous congressional election years, there is only one state with a marriage ban on the ballot this year. Minnesota is one of the few states with no law regarding same sex marriage at all. The Republican-led majority in the legislature passed an amendment in 2011 which requires approval by the voters. Minnesotans United for All Families is working hard to make their state the first to reject such an amendment. The vote on this measure is tighter, but the ban seems to be failing 43-to-49 in the latest polls.

True equality can only happen when the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is overturned and every citizen of every state has the right to marry the person they love. With every poll putting equality outside the margin of error and with most surviving even if all the undecideds swing negative, there is reason for optimism. Victory in just one state would be revolutionary; providing and protecting equality in all four would signal a sea change in American attitudes.

Bigot of the Week Award: September 7, Archbishop Timothy Dolan

7 Sep

Bigot of the Week

The Democratic Convention was a stirring, compelling event with many powerful speakers. Sadly, every party has its low point and this one chose to end with it. For some mysterious reason, the DNC selected Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York to deliver its closing benediction. (Ironically, he also closed the RNC — was this a pointless gesture of coalition building?) Dolan is famous for his very Catholic opposition to reproductive choice, including his stand against the Obama administration’s very reasonable birth control requirements. He is also rabidly anti-marriage equality, having written at length about it including a vitriolic post on his Archdiocese’ blog (I think you can find the blog at http://www.whowouldJesusHate).

At an event celebrating American freedom and civil rights, Dolan’s views had little place. Given his staunch opposition to positions held by the very President whose nomination he was blessing, the hypocrisy of the his appearance was palpable. Predictably, Dolan took political advantage of his pulpit podium making anti-equality comments throughout his five-minute prayer. Here are three excerpts that speak for themselves:

We ask your benediction on those waiting to be born, that they may be welcomed and protected…

Empower us with your grace so that we might resist the temptation to replace the moral law with idols of our own making, or to remake those institutions you have given us for the nurturing of life and community…

Oh God of wisdom, justice, and might, we ask your guidance for those who govern us […] including Governor Mitt Romney and Congressman Paul Ryan, who seek to serve the common good by seeking public office.

Undermining the very platform that provides foundation to the event, questioning the leadership of the President for whom the benediction was offered, and creating a false moral equivalence for the Republican candidates who oppose basic human rights at every turn. (As an added bonus, giving moral weight to Paul Ryan, whose use of Catholic theology to defend his nefarious budget has been debunked in stern terms by the American Archbishops!) Badly done, Archbishop Dolan, promoter of ancient white patriarchy over human values. Badly done, DNC. Did Rick Warren teach you nothing?

Hero of the Week: August 3, DNC Platform Drafting Committee

3 Aug

Hero of the Week

This week the Democratic party took a major step toward endorsing full marriage equality. The Platform Drafting Committee is responsible for crafting the planks of the party’s platform for the convention in September. They met last week to debate which things to add or change in the platform. The 15-member committee voted unanimously to include marriage equality for LGBT American’s in the party platform. It’s been a long time coming. The draft platform will go to the full platform committee next week for approval and finalization for adoption at the conference.

Openly gay Rep. Barney Frank (D, MA) serves on the committee and made the announcement on Monday. While the exact language is not yet available, reports indicate that the plank not only supports marriage equality but specifically calls for repealing DOMA and adds support for a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). This would be the first time either major party weighed in positively on any of these issues–nice to see a party actually moving toward civil rights!

Blunt as always, the recently married Frank later expressed his surprise that the announcement got so much attention.

I was surprised that this got the attention that it did, because in this instance, it is not even a promise or a prediction of what the Democrats will do. It is an after-the-fact statement of what we have already done. President Obama has already stated his support for marriage equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. […] Equally important (as an exercise of presidential authority) is the president’s refusal to defend DOMA in court because it is so blatantly unconstitutional, as well as his articulation that any government action discriminating against LGBT Americans must meet a higher standard than the simple “rational basis” test. […] Governor Romney, of course, opposes the president on every one of these points.

While it’s true that the President and the party have made great strides in recent years, codifying these principles into the platform is more than symbolic. It signals a great step forward for LGBT-inclusive equality, and sends the message that we are not subhuman.  We are full citizens entitled to the exact same rights as our heterosexual brothers and sisters.

The Marrying Kind: A Novel by Ken O’Neill

27 Jun

It is with great pleasure that I get to talk about a book written by a friend of mine.  I have known Ken for over two years and I’m so proud that he had his book, The Marrying Kind published.  Ken is such a kind and compassionate human being, dedicated to issues of social justice and civil rights.

Ken just celebrated his 15th anniversary with his partner and spent some time with me visiting about life and about his new book.

Fortunately, we live in NY so we could get married, but at present we stand in solidarity with those that cannot marry legally.  I realize there is great sacrifice for heterosexual couples that don’t get married for solidarity because they are giving up a lot.  I came out when I was  30 and my family is great and very supportive—I had an older brother who was also gay and died of AIDS. After acting for many years, but not enjoying auditioning, I became a massage therapist and I needed to do more—I can’t draw, so I turned to writing.  I have written a screenplay, which I’m still hopeful about.  The Marrying Kind is my first novel.

Can you give TSM a teaser about the novel?

It is a comic novel about a gay wedding planner who wakes up one morning realizing that he has devoted his life and career for people that are allowed to marry and he and his partner cannot.  He wants nothing to do with the economy of marriage and refuses to attend any marriages.  Adam (the wedding planner) has a sister that is marrying his partner Steven’s brother and they have to decide if they will attend the wedding or send their regrets.  I did not want it to be preachy, and I knew it had to be funny.  I’m glad it is funny and I’m quite proud of that.  I wanted to write a funny zany beach book where at the end of the book someone would have changed their minds about marriage equality and not even be aware that happened because they just enjoyed themselves so much.

What inspired you to write this book?

One day I was watching Oprah waiting for a massage client.  On the show was an over the top wedding, and I started crying—almost at the keening level.  I realized it was a little crazy—these are strangers, this is tv.  After the commercial and the show came back on, Oprah turned to the wedding planner who seemed very gay and I started thinking I really wanted to be married.  It was the first time I allowed myself to entertain that thought.  I started thinking about this wedding planner and what must it be like for him to plan weddings like this but never be able to have a wedding for himself.  I also wondered what would happen if the wedding planners, the florists, dress designers, and hair dressers all refused to work in the industry until there was marriage equality.

Is there a particular call to action for the LGBTQ community you would ask for?

I really see this as bigger than just the LGBTQ community, but a community that believes in marriage equality.  As long as there is a large population of people that cannot get married, it has an ill effect on everyone’s marriage.  It’s like if someone who likes to golf, but can’t get into a country club to play golf because they don’t allow Jews—it all ties into –it’s not good enough to want Jews allowed in the country club, but there needs to be action–segregation  keeps people from thinking and talking about equality, about health insurance, about benefits for spouses.  We are talking about Federal rights—it would be nice for people to step back and acknowledge this is not good, we need to fix this—it comes down to economics.

Ken thank you so much for our visit and for all you do for social justice. Here are some ways to go out and buy your copy of The Marrying Kind:

Bold Strokes Books:

Powell’s:  http://www.powells.com/biblio/62-9781602826700-0


Happy Birthday, Husband…

15 Feb

I know this is a bit self-indulgent but I wanted to wish my husband a Happy Birthday today.  He shares a birthday with Susan B. Anthony and Galileo.  I am always in awe of my husband, for he possesses so many talents and attributes that I lack.

He is wholehearted.  He shares his whole heart with me, which ties into his amazing courage.  He is able to move through life with optimism and without fear or panic, even during times of distress or injustice, Robert moved forward with the same love of life.  He has an amazing capacity for joy, which ties into his ability to be vulnerable.  He dances in our kitchen without being self-conscious.  He puts strange hats and holiday bows on top of his head.

There are so many reasons I love Robert, but today I love him for his whole heart, his courage, and his vulnerability.

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