equality

Of Jurisprudence + Ash Heaps

Yesterday, Pennsylvania became the 19th state to win marriage equality. Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down DOMA last June, there have been more than a dozen federal court rulings that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. These rulings have been handed down in courts all over the country – from Idaho to Oklahoma to Michigan to Virginia – and by judges all along the political spectrum. The latest is by John E. Jones III… a Republican who was appointed by George W. Bush.

“The issue we resolve today is a divisive one,” he wrote. “Some of our citizens are made deeply uncomfortable by the notion of same-sex marriage. However, that same-sex marriage causes discomfort in some does not make its prohibition constitutional. Nor can past tradition trump the bedrock constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. Were that not so, ours would still be a racially segregated nation according to the now rightfully discarded doctrine of ‘separate but equal.’”

He noted that in the 60 years since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for integration in Brown v. Board of Education, “’separate’ marmont.trashhas thankfully faded into history, and only ‘equal’ remains. Similarly, in future generations the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage.” Of discriminatory laws, he concluded, “We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.

from Advocate.com

Right-wingers predictably gripe about “activist judges” who are “thwarting the will of the people” when they overturn these discriminatory laws. It’s always the people who wrap themselves in the flag and the Constitution who complain the loudest. That’s sad. Because they obviously don’t understand the first thing about our Constitution. It is the highest law in the land, and it applies to everyone. Sometimes in this country’s history, the will of the people has needed thwarting. Voters can pass referenda (e.g. Prop 8) and politicians can enact whatever laws they like (e.g. DOMA) – and discriminatory laws will always be challenged. Those laws which fail to meet the Constitutional standards of due process and equal treatment… those laws will be struck down. As they should be. As they must be… if we are to be a better people.

The End (so far)

Acme Anti-Gay-Marriage Kit

For more than thirty years, the Republican Party in America has had only one mission: the reduction of taxes. Local taxes. State taxes. Federal taxes. Income taxes. Property taxes. Corporate taxes. Inheritance taxes. Capital gains taxes. Reduce ’em all. Eliminate them, if possible. Nevermind the necessary things that taxes fund, such as schools, highways, research, bank bailouts, etc. Just move whatever money is left into the military. So what if there’s nothing left to defend?

But that produces terrible results for most people. How do you get them to vote for you while you’re cutting them off at the knees? Simple: the Republican Party aligned itself with right-wing passions. It became the Scourge of Communism. The Defender of the Unborn. The Keeper of Traditional (i.e., Christian) Values. The Foe of Gun Control. The Slayer of Regulations. And the Last Line of Defense Against the Homosexual Menace. Wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross – just as Sinclair Lewis warned us.

The GOP has been fairly successful with this strategy. The top marginal federal income tax rate was 70% when Reagan was elected in 1980. When he left office eight years later, it was 28%. Of course, the GOP forgets that St. Ronnie Raygun paid for these massive tax cuts with equally massive federal borrowing. Debt. Same playbook used by W in the first decade of this century. That took $5 trillion out of government revenue, conveniently replaced by (Shhhhhh!) the sale of T-bills (federal debt). “The GOP base” remained loyal – even as their bridges collapsed and their schools crumbled and their drinking water became undrinkable and oil gushed in their waterways and down their streets – because of all those bright shiny objects flashing in front of their eyes: God, guns and gays. 

Funny thing though: here we are, almost 40 years on – and the GOP is losing its touch. Maybe more to the point, its base is succumbing to that age old problem: death. The newest American generations aren’t much interested in singing from the same old Republican hymnal. Communism? What’s that? Young women feel quite capable of making their own reproductive choices. Organized religion (Christian and otherwise) has an ever decreasing hold on Americans under 40. Twenty percent of us now check “none of the above” in answer to the polls about faith. There are more guns in America, but they are held by a shrinking number of gun owners (–only 1/3 of us now). And then there’s the whole gay thing.

There is probably no greater measure of failure than the GOP’s near total defeat vs teh gay. How bad is it? Well, I’m guessing that if you are an anti-gay bigot these days, it probably feels something like this:

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Not that they didn’t have their glory days. If you trace the rainbow’s arc back twenty years, it was a real shitstorm. In 1994, Bill Clinton (yes, that Bill Clinton) signed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) into law – shamefully, in the middle of the night. In 1996, DOMA (the so-called ‘Defense of Marriage Act’) was passed. No state was even contemplating marriage equality at that point. But DOMA made sure that if any gay or lesbian couple managed to get themselves legally hitched in these United States (or anywhere else), then at least the federal government wouldn’t have to recognize that sort of abomination. Morally and ethically, not gay lunchthat’s a problem. But legally, too: there are 1,138 federal benefits and rights bestowed on people who are legally married in this country. DOMA denied all of those rights to gay couples – even if any of the states decided that gay was OK. Which they started to do, early in the next millennium.

In 2004, Massachusetts made history as the first state to sanction same-sex marriage. It was followed in 2008 by Connecticut and California. Uh-oh. California. You know what that means… the slippery slope… 15% of the American population lives there. And it’s the place where all the most popular trends start. Like hula hoops and Valley girls and convertibles and dirty dancing. Better nip that in the bud. So the right wing flapped mightily, with massive funding and organization and fear campaigns about the children! from the Catholic Church (seriously?!) and the Mormons (the irony!), and they mustered 52% to pass Prop 8 – amending the California constitution to restrict civil marriage to one-man-and-one-woman.

That began a five-year-long cascade of court decisions and appeals. At the same time, a number of anti-DOMA cases and decisions and appeals were working their way through the judiciary. Prop 8 and the Windsor challenge to DOMA both reached the U.S. Supreme Court in late 2012, and the Court indicated in taking both cases that it would consider them together.

Meanwhile, over in Congress… a fierce political battle was waged throughout 2010 – and after at least 14,000 service members were forced out of the military for the ‘crime’ of being gay – an act repealing DADT was passed and signed into law by President Obama on 22 December 2010. The law was fully implemented and DADT finally received a dishonorable discharge on 30 September 2011.

Then… on 26 June 2013 – on the 44th anniversary of the Stonewall riots that are commemorated each year by Gay Pride celebrations all over the country –  the United States Supreme Court handed down two momentous decisions. It swatted away the Prop 8 appellants, leaving in place Judge Vaughan Walker’s historic 2010 ruling that Prop 8 was unconstitutional. Two ediewindsor days later, marriage equality was once again the law of the land in California. And in a 5-4 ruling, the Court handed the indefatigable Edie Windsor her long-fought victory over the so called Defense of Marriage Act. In the process, the Court eviscerated DOMA and required the federal government of the United States to give full recognition (and all of those 1,138 rights) to all legally married couples in this country. (Click on Edie’s photo > links to amazing Time slideshow of Edie & Thea by Paul Moakley.)

Civil marriage is administered by each state. Whether you do a religious ceremony or not, you need to secure a marriage license from the state. Just as you need a driver’s license to drive, or a hunting license to hunt. The words are so familiar, whether uttered by a priest or a minister, rabbi, imam or a justice of the peace: “By the power vested in me by the State of (insert state name here), I now pronounce you spouse and spouse.” And this is why the Windsor decision did not instantly make same-sex marriage legal nationwide. It told the federal government to recognize all marriages legally performed in any state. And so, the battles shifted back to the states.

On 26 June 2013 there were 9 American states and the District of Columbia with marriage equality. Less than one year later, there are now 18 states (shaded dark on map, below) plus DC with marriage equality. Just today, we welcomed Oregon to the wedding party. And those numbers may be changing even more dramatically in the very near future. Here’s why:

us.marriage.051914

The 18 dark shaded states plus DC have marriage equality as of today (19 May 2014). The medium shading shows 7 states where a court has found the ban to be unconstitutional, and those cases are now in the appeals process. These are seven of the reddest (most conservative) states in the country: Idaho, Utah, Oklahoma, Texas, Michigan, Virginia and Arkansas (which isn’t correctly shaded on this map). Some of these cases (UT, OK and VA) have already been heard by the various Courts of Appeal, and a ruling could come down at any time. Oddly, the three states in yellow have bans in place that have not yet been challenged. Montana, North & South Dakota are home collectively to 2.5 million people; about eight-tenths of one percent of the American population. Just sayin’…
***UPDATE: Challenges were filed in MT and SD on 5/22, and ND on 6/6. No state bans remain unchallenged.***

So, 18 + 7 + 3 = 28. That leaves 22 states with the lightest shading on the map (see updates*, below). And in every one of those states, lawsuits have been filed to challenge the bans on same-sex marriage and these are working their way through the judicial system. It is only a matter of time before each one of those cases produces a ruling… the likely appeal… and a final decision. But what is no longer in doubt is the final outcome: marriage equality will be the law of the land in all fifty states, and it will happen sooner rather than later. I predict before 2017 – which will be the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Loving v. Virginia decision which swept away all the remaining state laws criminalizing interracial marriage.

Updates – Bans now struck down in: (5/20) Pennsylvania; (6/6) Wisconsin (stayed); (6/25) Indiana (stayed); (7/1) Kentucky (stayed); (7/9) Colorado

***MAJOR MILESTONE: On 6/25, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver issued its ruling in Utah’s appeal of the federal court finding its ban unconstitutional. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the lower court ruling. This is the most significant judicial action since last year’s Supreme Court invalidation of DOMA and Prop 8, as it is the first time one of the Appeals Courts have ruled on a marriage equality case. The Tenth Circuit issued a stay pending Utah’s expected appeal to the Supreme Court. However, its ruling applies to all of the states in its jurisdiction: UT (stayed on appeal), NM (which already had marriage equality), WY, KS, CO and OK. The Tenth Circuit has already heard arguments in the appeal by OK (virtually identical to the UT case) and may issue its ruling at any time. In CO, a state judge struck down the ban on 7/9; county clerks in Boulder and Denver are issuing marriage licenses and a judge today refused to stop them. The confusion stems from the fact that the Tenth Circuit ruling found Utah’s anti-gay discrimination in marriage to be unconstitutional, which does apply to all six states in its jurisdiction. Does the stay apply only to UT or to the other five states too? The Tenth hasn’t said, and only county clerks in Colorado have tested it (successfully) by issuing marriage licenses. Don’t hold your breath for that to happen in WY, KS or OK. What is also interesting is that UT has elected to skip requesting an en banc review by the Tenth Circuit, and says it will soon ask the Supreme Court to hear its appeal. The next shoes to drop are the other Appeals Court rulings that are in various stages of the process. Idaho has appealed to the Ninth Circuit, and that’s a no-brainer. The Fourth Circuit (MD, VA, WV, SC) heard arguments in VA’s case in May and can rule any time now. The Sixth Circuit will hear arguments on 8/6 in six marriage cases from the four states in its jurisdiction (MI, OH, KY, TN) and can issue its ruling any time afterwards. The Fifth Circuit (TX, LA, MS) now has a case on appeal from TX. The Seventh Circuit (WI, IL, IN) has an appeal from IN, and maybe WI. Stay tuned! For up-to-the-minute info on all the cases in all the states and courts, go to FreedomToMarry.org.

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But in the meantime, we can count on the Republicans and their “Grand Old Party” with their teabaggers and teavangelicals to hang on to their institutional bigotry until the bitter end. And that’s probably a good thing for the country, really. Because the more out-of-step the GOP is with the majority of Americans, the more marginalized it will become… the less power it will wield… and this country may one day soon be able to shake off the last effects of this infection that has raged in our body politic for decades. That would be a very good thing, for this nation and our world. (Witness the Republican primary contests being waged right now across the country… especially that clusterfuck in Idaho. Oh myyyyyhere’s a link. And here.) You know, before Antarctica melts and ExxonMobilShellGazpromWalmart acquires nuclear weapons.

And you wonder why I call this blog: The End (so far)

Feeling moreish? Here are some related posts from the archives:

This Is Why We Fight The Hate

Act Up! Fight Back! 

Loving v. Virginia – Again

Continuum

Thank You, Edie Windsor

Homomentum

Semper Fi – Finally

It Was A Tres Gay Day In The USA

It Was A Très Gay Day In The USA

The National Football League is the biggest, baddest sports league in the galaxy America. Everything about the NFL is over-the-top. Teams of massive, muscle-bound multi-millionaires clash on billion-dollar battlefields, annihilating each other until only two armies are left standing. And then, Armageddon. The ultimate battle for WORLD* SUPREMACY. The Super Bowl.

* If you live in any of the other 195 countries (out of 196) where American football is not played, please forgive the slight exaggeration. You know how we are.

Baseball may be our national pastime, but football is the last redoubt of hyper-masculinity in USA! USA! If you’re not familiar with American sport (as the rest of the world – plus Mitt Romney – clips it), the ultimate primer on baseball vs football was given to us by the great George Carlin:

So, it was big news today when an NFL team drafted its first openly gay player. Michael Sam was a star player for the University of Missouri Tigers. He came out to his teammates at the start of his senior year season in 2013. They took the news in stride, the Mizzou Tigers went on to win the 2014 Cotton Bowl and Michael Sam was named a Defensive Player of the Year.

Michael Sam

Then in February, he came out to the rest of the world, taking a huge risk with his anticipated career in the NFL – which has never had, and certainly never drafted, an openly gay player. A handful of cowards anonymously expressed some negative comments, but the response from the NFL, its teams, players and fans was overwhelmingly positive and supportive. When the “god hates fags” pestilence descended on Missouri’s celebration of its Cotton Bowl win, a thousand students lined the roadway with signs of support and t-shirts that read “STAND WITH SAM” to shield Michael from the haters. The hashtag #standwithsam trended for @mikesamfootball.

Stand_With_Sam_WBC_counterprotestors

The St Louis Rams drafted Mike Sam today, and there’s a certain symmetry to that. It means he’ll have a built-in fan base in Missouri cheering him on. Congrats to Mike Sam, the Rams and the NFL. Everyone wins.

That news alone would make May 10th a banner day for the gay. But wait – there’s more. The state just south of Missouri (by pure coincidence) is Arkansas. In an America divided into conservative “red” and progressive “blue” states, Arkansas runs blood red in the former (-ish) Confederacy of the American South. It is the buckle of the “Bible belt”. Got the picture?

Well, imagine the surprise yesterday when an Arkansas judge ruled that his state’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the Constitution. BOOM! And he didn’t stay his ruling (in spite of the likely appeal), which meant that county clerks began issuing marriage licenses today to gay couples. First in line: Kristin Seaton and Jennifer Rambo received their marriage license and wasted no time at all. They married in an impromptu ceremony on the sidewalk outside the courthouse in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

arkansas.first couple marriage license

 

Congratulations to Kristen & Jennifer! And to Michael Sam – and his boyfriend (who probably also made history today as the first gay liplock on ESPN? Trey Wingo – can you confirm this stat?)

NFL drafts Sam

So, 10 May 2014. Big day all around. You know, this country often takes two steps forward and one step back. Sometimes we take one step forward and two steps back. But in the end, what we remember… what history records… what defines us… are the steps forward.

The End (so far)

P.S. Meanwhile, over in Europe…

Connect the Dots

Two years ago, a 4-year-old boy named Zachary was beaten to death. By his mother and her boyfriend. Because she thought he might be gay.

Next time you read a story about bullying or gay marriage or employment non-discrimination or homophobia or anti-gay ‘pastors’ of real or imagined ‘churches’… I want you to take a moment to connect the dots.

connectthedots2

As long as we live in a society which discounts a person’s humanity – in any way – because s/he is gay or perceived to be gay (or at all different)… then we will continue to live in a society in which a child like Zachary can be murdered by people like this. That she has been convicted of this crime is a pathetic acknowledgment that we failed to save this child in the first place.

I’m reblogging this powerful post and hope you’ll share it, too.

 

The End (so far)

evoL =

Image When my sons were very little, about three years old, there were times when I would sit back and just marvel at them.  Here were these incredible little boys exploring and reacting to the world around them.  Since my sons are “almost twins”, only four months apart in age having been born to different drug addicted mothers, they experienced most things at the same developmental level.

Because each had his own individual personality, the reactions and interactions became unique and fascinating.  As they grew, they seemed to depart from things that were generically baby gestures, to behaviors that were characteristic of them themselves.  They were becoming their own people with personalities.

This was both exciting and daunting for a parent to observe.  On the one hand, it was the watch of time and change interceding far too quickly, and at too great a rapid pace. On the other, it was…

View original post 1,042 more words

[051] Homomentum

Today was another terrible, horrible, no good day for “religious” bigots in America. I put that word in quotes, because they only feign religiosity. All they really are is grotesquely ignorant, small-minded, bitter, sniveling imbeciles. The breaking news, as I write this, is that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has vetoed SB 1062 – the bill passed by both houses of the Arizona legislature which would have permitted anti-gay (and other forms of) discrimination by people and businesses… as long as the discrimination was said to come from “deeply held religious beliefs.” Oh, bite me!

from the Jim Crow Museum at Ferris State University

Jim Crow Museum, Ferris State Univ

Governor Brewer’s veto should not be construed as support for the notion of equal civil rights for all Arizonans. There are hundreds of millions of other reasons for her veto – in the form of a guaranteed financial hit to Arizona’s economy and state tax revenues. Most of the major companies headquartered or doing business in Arizona came out publicly against this bigoted law. The real coup de grace was a thinly veiled warning from the National Football League that Phoenix would lose next year’s Super Bowl if this abominable license to discriminate were to become law. Remember that Arizona has unique experience losing a Super Bowl to state-sanctioned bigotry. In 1993, Super Bowl XXVII was moved from Phoenix to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena because Arizona refused to recognize the federal holiday honoring Dr Martin Luther King Jr. The ghosts of 1993’s debacle apparently still haunt the AZ governor’s chambers in 2014.

This veto is not a surprise. Nor is the failure of other such bills in the states which have recently attempted to enact anti-gay discrimination under the guise of so-called “religious freedom”. Kansas, South Dakota, restrooms.whiteonlyTennessee, Oregon, Idaho, Maine and Georgia have all gone down this rutted road recently. Arizona was just the first state to get a bill on its governor’s desk. It may not be the last. So, good news that Arizona today rejected a law that would have permitted businesses to turn away customers they don’t like. Fifty years later, and the bigots are still trying to serve up steaming piles of Jim Crow – this time aimed at LGBT Americans. And of course, it’s the same thing in all the states attempting to restrict voting access for people of color, students and the elderly. What a proud chapter in America’s ongoing fight for social justice! The Republicans are behind these noxious attempts at legislative discrimination, and they should hang their heads in shame. We already know how history will view them and their supporters: with the same revulsion that civilized people reserve for the Jim Crow signage displayed on this page. And that is exactly how offensive these fraudulent excuses for hatred are.

Texas Court Ruling

But wait! For most of the day, Arizona wasn’t even the biggest story on the bigot-busting beat. No! That spotlight belonged to Texas – where a federal judge ruled its ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. U.S. District Court Judge Orlando Garcia issued the ruling which struck down Texas’ 2003 law banning same-sex marriage as well as its 2005 state constitutional ban. In his opinion, Judge Garcia wrote:

Today’s court decision is not made in defiance of the great people of Texas or the Texas Legislature, but in compliance with the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court precedent. Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our U.S. Constitution.

Frankly, it’s getting difficult to keep up with all the action in the courts. In the last two months alone, there have been at least six federal court rulings declaring anti-gay marriage bans to be unconstitutional, in the reddest of states: Texas, Kentucky, Virginia, Oklahoma, Utah and Ohio. And with more than a dozen active cases being pursued in other states, this list will inevitably grow. Some of these cases will be not gay lunchappealed to the Circuit Courts, others will not – and that is a Red State / Blue State divide. Given the Supreme Court’s ruling last June invalidating DOMA (the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act”), it is virtually a foregone conclusion that federal judges will find state laws restricting marriage to heterosexuals to be unconstitutional. And as it did with all the district court rulings striking down DOMA, the Supreme Court will likely consolidate whatever cases rise through the Courts of Appeal in the various circuits – and decide the question of marriage equality in this country, once and for all.

It has been ten years since Massachusetts became the first state in the country to endorse marriage equality. Since then, the following states have joined that growing list: California, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, District of Columbia, New York, Washington State, Maryland, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Delaware, New Jersey, Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico. We are rapidly approaching half of the population of the country living in marriage equality states, with the federal government now automatically recognizing all legal marriages. The remaining state bans will continue to be challenged until they all fall. Unless the Supreme Court expedites that result with a ruling echoing Loving v. Virginia which struck down the interracial marriage bans in this country. If you’re keeping score at home, the Washington Post has a terrific interactive map of marriage equality status in the states. Check back often, as they say.

Day 051 #100happydays

[045] Continuum

= Throwback Thursday =

In 1922, science fiction writer Ray Cummings put it this way: “Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.” Makes sense. You drop an egg. A half-second ticks by. The egg smashes on the kitchen floor. Time separates the egg from its demise. And us from ours. But then… some wisecrackers came along and challenged our notion of time as nonsense. They plunked down this idea at the intersection of physics and philosophy: the past, the present and the future are all happening, together, all at once. The fabric of spacetime folds back onto itself and the point of contact – the now – is also the past and the future. It gets even more bizarre, but let’s leave it at everything-happens-at-once. And here’s a joke, because it never was/is/will be more relevant to any post I ever did/do/will do:

The past, the present and the future walked into a bar.

It was tense.

I cannot explain how the past, present and future can coexist. But… when I look at this photograph, I sort of get it. It’s not just that I remember exactly where this was taken or why we were there… it’s not that I remember the excitement of the moment… it’s not that I remember being there with Eileen… it’s not even that I remember thinking I can’t believe I’m wearing a t-shirt that says Homos For Hillary (it was a gift from my sister). It’s that this doesn’t feel like a memory at all. That 31-year-old me is peering out from this photo and connecting with himself, which is to say, with myself – the 51-year-old me. Him. Well, you know. The photo is just an artifact, but that moment is somehow contemporaneous with this moment.

My friend Eileen sent me that snapshot in a “happy Throwback Thursday” email today. It’s one of our favorite pictures of us together, and for so many reasons. First of all, we’re so young this is practically a sonogram. It was 1993. Eileen lived in Boston, I was in San Francisco. We met in Washington DC with entourages of old and new friends in tow. And we were there for two reasons.

This:
MOW93paradebanner

And these two:
mario.jim.dc1993

Our pals Mario and Jim tied the knot (for the first time) waaaaaaaay back in 1993. Before it was legal. Or fashionable. Or even a thing. They married again in Connecticut in 2009. And their federal government finally got around to recognizing their legal marriage less than a year ago, when the Supreme Court tossed DOMA on the trash heap of bigoted legal history. So… the photo Eileen shared with me today triggers a cascade of memories and emotions and connections. That weekend in Washington was one of those times in my life where the personal and the public got tossed in a blender and puréed.

Americans gather in stadiums for sports. We gather on the Fourth of July for parades and fireworks. We gather at beaches and parks over Labor Day weekend. But I think it’s fair to say that most Americans have never marched in the streets – for any reason. And even fewer have traveled to the nation’s capital to join hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens to say, We’re here. We matter. And this is what we want. It is powerful stuff, putting yourself out there, using your body, your voice, your self… to try to change the world. Standing up, being counted. It is part of our birthright as Americans, explicitly protected by the 1st Amendment to the Constitution in the Bill of Rights:

Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting
the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;
or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,
and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances
.

Ukraine ProtestThese are not abstract notions. Look at the horror unfolding this week in the streets of Kiev. Ukrainians have turned out en masse to protest the games being played with their lives by Russia and the EU. And the government has viciously attacked its own people, firing on them, killing dozens or hundreds, escalating the violence. It is a war zone, and the Ukraine is on fire. The US certainly has its problems – but Americans can march on their capital to demand change, criticize our leaders and their decisions… without worrying about being murdered by the police or the military. This is precisely why it is so important to fight for your rights when they are being denied.

So, there we were in 1993, coming from every corner of the country to demand equal justice under the law. Equal rights, not special rights. There was another component of this March on Washington: AIDS. Only a decade into the epidemic at that point. The dead already numbered in the tens of thousands. The gay community and its AIDSQuiltImg5allies had rallied magnificently to take care of our own. But the FDA was plodding along in the face of an ongoing disaster, taking entirely too long to approve new drugs and treatment regimens. ACT-UP was taking the fight to the government, and this March on Washington delivered a powerful dose of urgency to the Clinton Administration – then only three months old. Part of our presence in Washington that weekend was a massive display of the Quilt – the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt – on the Mall. I have never experienced more raw emotional power than the times I’ve stood in the midst of the Quilt. It is overwhelming, in every way: the crushing weight of the loss, the fierce love in every stitch. Tens of thousands of 3′ x 6′ panels; the dimensions of a grave. Handmade with heartbreaking intimacy, awash in tears. Each panel commemorates a person, a man, a woman, a child, a life… lost to AIDS, lost to a decade of murderous disregard and unforgivable inaction by our own government. The Quilt acted as a lens, gathering all of our grief and anger and loss and sorrow and focusing it like a laser beam of resolve: to be relentless in our demands to take care of the sick and to stop this disease from wiping out an entire generation, or more. To be recognized as human beings, to say We’re here. We matter. This is what we need.

Still, it would take another four years of constant pressure before the new class of anti-retroviral drugs was made available to combat HIV infection and the progression of AIDS. That was a huge victory, both medical and moral. But those were also the years when Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) were passed by Congress – and signed, shamefully, in the middle of the night by Bill Clinton. Those were dark days for me, for mine, for this country. Little did we know it would only get worse with the cataclysm of the coming Bush years.

But the arc of history does bend toward justice… slowly… slowly. It’s messy. It’s a knife fight. It’s two steps forward, one step back. Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug. But you keep going. Because it’s your life you’re fighting for, and for the lives of those around you. And also for the country you believe in, even when it seems to have abandoned you. As Gandhi is said to have said:

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you – and then you win.

The general perception these days is that the fight for equal rights for gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender Americans is just cruising along at presto-chango speed! But I’ve lived now through enough of that arc of history to know that the successes of the last few years could never have happened without the blood, sweat and tears of all the generations past, to the beginnings of the last century. We stand on the shoulders of giants: Larry Kramer, Cleve Jones, Harvey Milk, Margarethe Cammermeyer, Barney Frank, Annise Parker, Harry burstdownthoseclosetdoors.milkHay, Frank Kameny, Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, Troy Perry, Bayard Rustin, Tammy Baldwin, Dan Savage, Urvashi Vaid, Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer, Ellen DeGeneres, Billie Jean King, Armistead Maupin, Eugene Robinson… hundreds of trailblazers… thousands of unsung heroes… millions of people living their lives in quiet dignity, waiting for the day when that dignity could speak with a louder voice. Many never saw that day. And that is why we never gave up, will never give up. If you’re a kid who feels different today, a wide path has been cleared for you – but you still might need to hear that “It Gets Better”. Because it does. Because we all came together, so many times, in so many places, across so many years, to make it better. We gay folk, the LGBT you hear so much about, have been ignored. We’ve been laughed at. We’ve been fought at every turn. And now, we’re winning.

It’s about time. And I wonder if this continuum of past, present and future means that an older me is on the future end of this party line. Are we like those hideous Russian nesting dolls? Wherever we are in our lives now, we contain all of our younger selves; we are, likewise, contained within all of our older selves. We just haven’t met them yet. It’s like temporal schizophrenia. Only better. Because there’s something comforting in the notion of the past and the future having a party.

Day 045 #100happydays

[038] Loving v. Virginia – Again

For a state whose marketing slogan has long been “Virginia Is For Lovers”, it sure does like to make laws preventing many of those lovers from marrying each other. Fortunately, federal courts exist to remind Virginia of the Constitution of the United States. (Which is ironic since one of Virginia’s greatest sons, James Madison, is remembered as “the Father of the Constitution” and had a hand in writing much of it. You’d think they’d pay a little more attention to it, huh?)

In 1958, Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving traveled from Virginia to Washington DC to get married, and then returned home to Virginia. Police raided their home in the middle of the night and arrested them for the crime of miscegenation (interracial marriage). They were each given a sentence of one year in prison – suspended on the condition that they leave Virginia immediately.

So the Lovings moved to DC, where they were legally married, to live their lives. Nine years later, on 12 June 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision in Loving v. Virginia. It struck down all of the country’s remaining miscegenation laws (throughout the South, of course) and forever removed race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.

Mildred + Richard Loving

Mildred + Richard Loving


Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…

Nearly 50 years later, a new legal challenge to another Virginia marriage law is making its way through the federal courts. Today’s ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Arenda Wright Allen struck down as unconstitutional Virginia’s prohibitions against same-sex marriage, or the recognition of legal same-sex marriages performed in other states. As a preface to the 41-page ruling, Judge Allen incorporated these comments made by Mildred Loving in 2007 on the 40th anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia ruling:

Mildred Loving statement

marriage-equality“Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others.” Words to live by. Today’s ruling has been stayed pending the inevitable appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and will almost certainly then be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. There are similar legal cases moving through the federal judiciary all across the country. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia already provide for marriage equality, and the federal government has moved swiftly to recognize these legal marriages since the Supreme Court struck down the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” last year. So, America is in a remarkably similar position with regard to “gay marriage” as it was in 1967 with “interracial marriage”. And the day is coming when the Supreme Court will decide the case which puts an end, once and for all, to anti-gay bias in marriage laws in the United States. That won’t put an end to ignorant or hateful people… but it will make their ignorance and hatred legally irrelevant to the rest of us.

And that makes me so very gay… you know, happy.
Day 038 #100happydays

Deep in the Heart of Texas!

I was going to update my earlier post (Sam vs Sam) to include this… but it really does deserve its very own space pedestal.

There is a sportscaster on WFAA-TV in Dallas. That’s in Texas, y’all. Goes by the name of Dale Hansen. And boy oh boy oh BOY! does Mr Dale Hansen have something to say about the NFL and football and Mike Sam.

To appreciate what you’re about to see, you don’t have to know anything about Dallas or Texas or WFAA or sports or Dale Hansen or Mike Sam or the NFL. You just have to have a pulse.

Here’s the link to the best two-minutes of video I’ve seen since Julia Sugarbaker defended her sister Suzanne to that bitch Marjorie Leigh Winnick! And that bit of television history is too delicious to mention in passing, so here it is:

I know, right?! The best of 80s tv! You haven’t lived until you’ve watched that clip for the hundredth time on a Sunday afternoon in the Midnight Sun bar in the Castro in San Francisco – but that’s another post.

Now you owe it to yourself to watch Dale Hansen, Unplugged. I hope you’ll share it. And to those around the world who may see this, I want you to know: Dale Hansen is an example of all the decent folks in America. The bigots and the assholes hog the spotlight – but they are in the minority. And shrinking.

DALE HANSEN :: UNPLUGGED (WFAA-TV, DALLAS)

Touchdown!

[037] Sam vs Sam

May you live in interesting times.

This is not the ancient Chinese curse that most of us heard it described as, including RFK who used it in a speech he gave in Cape Town in 1966:

“There is a Chinese curse which says ‘May he live in interesting times.’ Like it or not, we live in interesting times.”

I’m sure any public opinion poll conducted at any moment of human history would reveal that we always think of the times we live in as “interesting”. How could we not?

Of course, as curses go, condemning an enemy to live in interesting times doesn’t sound so terrible. The i-word must be a euphemism for challenging or even perilous. We do live in such times. asteroidInteresting? Always. Challenging? Frequently. Perilous? Probably moreso than we know. (An extinction-size asteroid could be whizzing past the moon as I tap out this post. That would suck… though it would (briefly) elevate the name of this blog – The End – from mere snark to exquisite prophecy.)

What do you find interesting about these times? My answer is probably different from yours, or Chris Christie’s or that of anyone named Kardashian. Probably.

mizzou.sam

Photo STLToday.com

There’s a story playing out in the national news this week that strikes me as one of the most interesting signs of our times. Three days ago, one of the best college football players in the country, on his way to the NFL draft, revealed that he is gay. He had come out to his team, the Missouri Tigers, before the start of this last season, with total support from his coaches and teammates. And they had a great, winning season.

“I am an openly proud gay man,” said Michael Sam, two weeks before the NFL scouts meeting. Why? For years, NFL scouts have been asking potential recruits questions like “Do you have a girlfriend?” or “Are you married?” or “Do you like girls?” Mike Sam just continued his habit of being honest and comfortable in his own skin. And in the process, he sets himself up to become the first openly gay player in the National Football League.

You would think the world of sports got hit by that rogue asteroid. But the reaction – while tumultuous – has been overwhelmingly positive. Starting with the NFL, which put out this statement:

“We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage. Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014.”

The chorus of support continued, including the Tweeter-in-Chief.

Obama to Sam tweet

Of course, not everyone was full of cheer at Mike Sam’s coming out party. Sports Illustrated took a particularly cowardly route, giving “NFL executives” an anonymous platform for their negative comments. None worth repeating here.

Here’s one that is worth repeating. Jonathan Vilma, a linebacker with the New Orleans Saints shared his fears with NFL screaming.smallNetwork: “Imagine if he’s the guy next to me, and you know, I get dressed, naked, taking a shower, the whole nine, and it just so happens he looks at me, how am I supposed to respond?”

Seriously? Yeah. But this kind of reaction is instructive, because it so painfully reveals that people fear what they don’t understand. Ignorance is the root of all bigotry, all racism, all sexism, all xenophobia and all anti-gay hatred. I don’t mean ignorance as an intellectual deficit, but as a lack of experience. As every gay person who has ever come out knows, attitudes change when people come to understand that they know someone who is gay. “Gay is OK!” is the message, but the messenger carries the truth of it.

Here’s the most interesting part of these interesting times this week. While Missouri football-playing Mike Sam’s coming out was trending on Twitter, a wrestler at Ohio’s Kent State also got busy tweeting his opinion:

sam wheeler slur

“I can’t even watch sportcenter today cause all there talking about is Marcus Smart or that fag from mizzou….”

The NFL welcomes Mike Sam with open arms. The President of the United States congratulates Mike Sam for “real sportsmanship”. And Sam Wheeler of the KSU Golden Flashes (I won’t even go there) wrestling squad is complaining about “that fag from mizzou”.

Kent State University wasted no time with this statement:

“We are aware of the insensitive tweets by one of our student athletes. On behalf of Kent State University, we consider these comments to be ignorant and not indicative of the beliefs held by our university community as a whole. This is an educational opportunity for all of our student-athletes.”

And then they put Mr Wheeler on indefinite suspension. Where this “student athlete” belongs. Given the grammar exhibited in his offensive tweet, young Sam W. should be hitting the books while he’s unable to hit the mats. And since the most outspoken homophobes are often of the self-hating variety, maybe a little soul searching is in order, too.

With the 50th anniversary of MLK’s I Have A Dream speech last summer, another quote that’s had a lot of play lately is the one about “the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice”. But it bends slowly. And as President Obama has remarked, “it doesn’t bend by itself”.

marriage-equalityIt has been ten years since Massachusetts recognized marriage equality. Marriage isn’t everything, but the recognition of these rights are tangential to everything. We have seen marriage equality progress, in fits and starts, over the past decade. Especially in the passion play of Prop 8 in California leading up to the Supreme Court ruling last summer neutering that and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. Marriage equality is the law in nearly 20 states, with rulings pending in many more; and all marriages are equal in the eyes of the federal government. The bigoted Don’t Ask Don’t Tell military policy now seems like ancient history. The Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) will pass as soon as we have ethical leadership in the House once more. And here we are, on the verge of an openly gay player in the NFL.

We do live in interesting times. And for those who don’t like it, here’s the curse I’ll put on you: May your times get ever more interesting.

*UPDATE: YOU’LL WANT TO SEE THIS!

That would make me happy.
Day 037 #100happydays

[029] Scots Rock!

Scottish parliament votes to legalise gay marriage

The Guardian, Tuesday 4 February 2014

We have always maintained at the heart of this issue there is one simple fact: a marriage is about love. All couples in Scotland in a loving relationship must know that they have the same rights and responsibilities and, regardless of their gender, the same opportunity to get married.  – Alex Neil, Scottish health secretary

Those crazy Scots, eh? A marriage is about love! Who knew?! Apparently, the only folks in Scotland who don’t understand this simple truth are the Catholics, Baptists, Muslims and Presbyterians who opposed this landmark legislation because… well, I’m sorry, but as you can see, I just don’t give a fuck.

give-a-fuck-o-meter

Scotland now joins England and Wales in the 21st century. Speaking of national legislatures, it must be said that the lawmakers of Holyrood are now light years ahead of their colleagues on Capitol Hill, where Boehner’s Bunch are still trying to repeal Obamacare, abortion rights and gays. (Note to American readers: if you are not registered to vote, will you please click on the link at the top right column on this page? It’s important. Thanks.) Northern Ireland is now the only corner of the U.K. still dragging its heels on marriage equality. C’mon Belfast. You can do it.

To celebrate today’s news, here are some other gifts Scotland has given the world.

Men in kilts

dress to kilt

Scotch

scotchontherocks

Sean Connery

sean_connery_intro

Loch Ness

LochNessUrquhart

Gingers

redddd

Plaid

burberry-camel-check-woven-boxers-beige-product-3-287379-160071101_large_flex

And the soulful wailing of bagpipes

scot flag 2

Scotland makes me happy – especially today.
Day 029 #100happydays