Yesterday, I listened with hope to the President Barack Obama’s words at the historic White House celebration of Gay Pride. Instead, when he was done, I found myself very depressed.
White-house-picture As our elected officials search for new words, new institutions and new arrangements to avoid giving us full equality, it is important for people to remember that right now all we have amounts to basically a system of separate but unequal. We have a set of laws at the national, state and local levels that separates LGBT folks from the rest of America.
Let’s call it what it is - Gay Apartheid.
Now some of you might think that is a loaded and unfair word. I have chosen the word very carefully and deliberately. Apartheid is when a group of citizens of a nation is by law separated from all other citizens and the rights, benefits and protections all others are granted.
Having DOMA and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as laws of the land are apartheid laws. They set us apart from all other American citizens. State after state has singled us out in their Constitutions to create a separate body of law for LGBT citizens. States have created laws to forbid us from adopting or participating in the foster care system. Those of us who have foreign national partners are refused to right to co-habitate in America. Creating civil unions and domestic partnership laws to avoid marriage is a failed attempt to sustain a system of ‘separate but equal’ that didn’t work in the segregationist South and won’t work for us. So lets be honest about this as we see an enormous number of laws on the books specially denying LGBT Americans the rights, benefits, privileges and protections granted to all other Americans: we have created and are continuing to expand on a system of Gay Apartheid. There is no other way to look at it.
Despite the President’s warm words and the lovely trappings at the White House, he continues to buy into this system and allows it to continue. In fact, it was a carefully worded warm, fuzzy speech that failed to answer many questions. The use of the words ‘domestic partnership’ seems like out of the 1980’s. He couldn’t even say the words ‘civil unions’? He again mostly addressed Federal employees concerns and repeated his campaign promises to overturn DOMA and DADT. There was no attempt to stop the horrific destruction of the careers of our LGBT military personnel with the announcement of a “stop-loss” order. In fact right after the event Press Secretary Gibbs basically said it isn’t going to happen and threw the entire issue to Congress without Presidential leadership. Marriage? Civil Unions? The President said not a word. Adoption and Foster Care? Not one word was uttered by the President. Immigration for partners of American citizens? Not one word.
We did not hear the answer to the most important question: When?
The fact that the President might feel our pain or understand our impatience or even wants to socialize with us just is not important any more. Quite honesty, I don’t care if he likes us, has us to dinner or even if he believes marriage is between a man and women. I don’t want to hear any more promises or caring words about our future. Please don’t tell me one more time I have to change the hearts of Americans before I am allowed to have my freedom. For me to be a free man doesn’t mean I have to make everyone in America like me. In fact the Constitution protects an unpopular minority from the tyranny of a majority.
The only thing important to me now is when! That is the question. When will these oppressive and horrendous apartheid laws be overturned? When will the President show the powerful leadership shown by President Kennedy and President Johnson in the 1960’s? When will he insist Congress take up and immediately repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?” When will the President address the nation in a powerful speech saying that the time of inequality, injustice and yes, apartheid against the American LGBT community must come to an end. Mr. President, the only question we have for you is when?
White-house-picture The notion that the President feels we might be happy with his term at the end of seven and a half years was depressing. For those who understand the political process, that when might be never happen given the changing nature of the presidency. No one in their right mind believes that he will have credibility, the powerful Congress and the good will of the American people more than he has now. First Lady Michelle Obama wouldn’t tolerate living under the laws of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” for two days and he expects us to live under them until maybe into his second term? Hell, no. Not acceptable, Mr. President.
So there is only one acceptable answer to the question of when the President should seriously begin to deal with ending the system of Gay Apartheid in America.
Now, for God sakes. Now.
I call my wife’s father “Dad” … to his face. But, what do I call him to others? I refer to him as my father-in-law. But, is he really? “In-law” we are strangers. I take “in-law” to literally mean that when people marry, each other’s families become legally like their own. My “father-in-law” refers to my wife and me as “my girls”. He has entrusted me to be the person his precious little girl, his only daughter, will spend the rest of his life with. He knows that she is happy and loved and cared for. I don’t ever feel treated differently than his son’s wife. He has accepted me as his daughter-in-law, but my government has not. So, if in law my wife’s brother and father are strangers to me, is it appropriate for me to call them “in-laws”?
I am strongly of the opinion that if I call them anything other than my “in-laws” they become less important… and I respect and love them too much for that. Even though the term indicates a legal relationship, most people don’t process the word “law” when they hear “in-laws”. The term is more about an immediate recognition that a person is referring to their spouses’ family or their families spouses.
For now, I will continue to refer to my wife’s family as my in-laws with an eye towards the day when the law catches up to us.
Call me crazy, but I believe President Barack Obama supports gay marriage. The sad fact is he doesn’t publicly voice his true opinion because it’s not politically expedient for him to do so. We all know if Sasha or Malia were old enough, in love with a woman and wanted to marry, his public support wouldn’t be an issue— just ask Dick Cheney.
If President Obama does not come out of the closet on this paramount civil rights issue of our generation, his election as the first African-American President will be the biggest anomaly ever in the history of political leaders. Imagine the first African-American President forever turning his back on the biggest civil rights fight of his generation.
Last December, leaders from Yes on Gay Marriage, called for a National March on Washington DC in 2009 to fight for gay civil rights. The March will be held October 11, 2009.
At the time I said, “It couldn’t be more evident we need to make sure our voices are heard because we don’t want our agenda pushed aside, and there’s no better forum than the March. It’s imperative as a community that we stand up for our civil rights and go to Washington D.C.”
Today, six months later, these words ring true more than ever. We must unify as a community to demand our civil rights.
The National March will be about every issue which demands equality for our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. But let’s not sugar coat things. The defining gay rights issue is the civil right of gay marriage. When it comes to Federal Legislation for our community, the order of the LGBT agenda is Hate Crimes, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and finally the Repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The repeal of DOMA is last because this is perceived to be the hardest to achieve. If you listen to what pundits on Capitol Hill are saying, you might see the repeal of DOMA in six or eight years from now.
On a recent trip to Washington, D.C., I visited with a number of United States Senators, Congresspersons, and the White House. Many Democratic Leaders who say they support equality still say it’s not politically acceptable for them to support gay marriage. Well my friends, if you can’t support gay marriage, you don’t support equality.
When will President Obama publicly state his support for the civil right of gay marriage? Let’s all march on Washington D.C. on October 11th and ask him.
Dear Mr. President:
We are not little children to be given a piece of candy when we’re upset. Like the proverbial piece of candy, offering benefits to spouses of LGBT families is a sweet offer, but it doesn’t really address any of the issues we have with your administration. Nor does it really mean anything except for the next 3 years and six months of your administration since you are signing a ‘memorandum’.
This really is a sweet offer, and if it was part of a serious campaign for LGBT rights, it would be well-appreciated. Because it was done the week after your administration filed a brief equating our relationships with incest and child rape; months into an administration where you have done little for us after promising to be our ‘fierce advocate’; and your administration announced it late the night before you actually signed the thing, it is almost like you’re ashamed of it and hope no one notices. Well, this little gesture is made more of a slap in the face than anything we can really appreciate.
Yes, we’ll take the piece of the candy even though what we really want is an invitation to the dinner table where you and your wife enjoy a sumptuous feast with your children. Meanwhile we’ll eat our own food at our own little table in the corner, with our spouses and our children. We’ll even show those children the little pieces of candy and tell them we should be grateful you’re even letting us sit at our own little table together. We may not be able to call that table a ‘marriage’ like you do with yours, but it serves the same function, and after all it’s better than nothing.
So, Mr. President, thank you for the piece of candy. Just don’t expect us to be overjoyed by it and instantly forgive you for all the insults we’ve received from your administration since you took office.
Daniel R. Kirk Jr.
Yes on Gay Marriage
The brief in defense of DOMA filed by President Obama’s Department of Justice could have been written by the Rev. Pat Robertson. Using the worst of stereotypes, it intimates that we don’t have constitutional guarantees, invokes scenarios of incest, of children and advocates that we don’t have the same rights as others who have struggled for civil rights.
For two days, I have searched for an explanation, attempted to make my reading of the consequences of this horrendous document wrong and actually have sought out the opinions of a number of legal scholars. Anyway you cut it, it is a sickening document - one that this administration should be ashamed of and should disgust any friend of this community.
What in the hell were they thinking? Or is that their thinking?
There is some question among scholars as to whether this administration was required to respond to DOMA at all. Most think not, but some very respected ones feel they had to respond. However, to a person, they say that the response is way out of line, totally unnecessary and goes far beyond anything required. They all agree that if the Department of Justice felt they had to respond, a simple, few-paged brief on the very limited issue before the Federal Court would have been all that was necessary. The argument that they were required to write this all-out attack on our rights is simply bogus!
You fully need to understand the ramifications of this brief: it undercuts every conceivable argument that the LGBT community would use to fight for the repeal of DOMA. Right-wing nut cases can now just simply quote horrible stuff from this hateful brief and proclaim loudly it was filed by the Obama Justice Department. The President and his team have not only undercut this community but have damaged his own ability to repeal this hideous law given to us by President Clinton. With Democratic friends like these, God helps us.
I will not attend a fundraiser for the National Democratic Party in Washington next week when the current administration is responsible for these kind of actions. How will they ever take us seriously if we keep forking out money while they harm us. For now on, my money is going to battles within the community such as the fight in Maine or the March on Washington! I am so tired of being told by Democratic operatives to ‘suck it up’ because so many other profound issues are at stake. It is as if our fight for our freedom is single handedly responsible for the fate of all other issues. Bullshit. Maybe, just maybe, it is time for others to ‘suck it up’ for us and finally, without conditions, join our fight for our freedom!
Just in case you think I am overreacting, take a look at a sampling of the reaction around the community in the previous post.. Even HRC and The Task Force issued strong statements against the brief and they are to be commended for doing so. Americablog.com broke the story and they deserve enormous credit for their excellence.
President Obama, even Dick Cheney is for marriage equality. Please don’t try to placate us with actions already taken 16 years ago by President Clinton. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton might be able to help you find the way since she has already written a policy for your approval ending discrimination in her agency. This community is no longer interested in hearing one more time your personal beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman. We want you to rise above your own beliefs and hear you articulate a powerful vision of full equality for LGBT Americans. You must come out for a full, not partial, repeal of DOMA and liberate our brave LGBT soldiers fighting to protect America in order to restore our faith in you and your leadership.
We want to believe; give us a reason.
It’s amazing how busy life can get at times, and the last few weeks have been really, really busy for me. My Domestic Partner (since we were foolish enough not to get married before Prop 8 passed) is going through a Bone Marrow Transplant at Stanford University. This is the last step of the process to deal with his Mantle Cell Lymphoma. Right now he’s getting the high-dose chemotherapy that will kill his immune system right before they transplant healthy stem cells in to replace them.
After the transplant, we have to live in the Stanford area for 28 days. It’s over two hours from our home in Sacramento, and travelling back and forth every day for his appointments after the transplant would be impossible (and very dangerous for his health). Fortunately for us we are staying in a house of a friend of a friend for free. Otherwise we’d be out thousands of dollars.
Robert’s been on state disability since last September. That runs out this September, and in preparation he filed for federal SSDI. The SSDI won’t kick in until a year after the initial disability, which is fine because we have the state coverage. The problem came in when he had to turn in the paperwork.
He couldn’t go.
First off, even if he’d felt really, really good that day, I may not have let him go. There’s a busy waiting room there, filled with lots of people, and thus lots of germs. The biggest risk to the transplant process is his getting sick before the transplant starts, so of course we were being really protective. As it was, he was feeling awful the day we had to turn it in, and so I went for him.
Like thousands of other gay couples across the nation, I got to experience the discrimination of DOMA first hand. Social Security doesn’t have a problem with a spouse coming in and filing the paperwork as well as answering the questions they have to ask. When you’re ‘just a friend’ though, they have issues.
Eventually they did take the paperwork, but I was listed on their documentation not as his ‘spouse’ but as his ‘friend’. They wouldn’t answer any questions I had because I wasn’t legally related to him (in the eyes of the federal law). All I could do was drop them off as if I was some messenger hired to do the task.
Sure, the task at hand, turning in the paperwork got done, but I think every gay person can understand the bitterness the whole experience left in my throat. Because of this 1996 law, written before even Domestic Partnerships or Civil Unions were on the scene at a statewide level, much less full marriage equality, I’m reduced to being only a friend to the most important person in my life.
That exact feeling is why I’ve worked with Yes on Gay Marriage to repeal DOMA. During the last general election, I ended up supporting the candidacy of Barack Obama in big part because of his stance on repealing not only Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, but DOMA as well. The biggest gaping whole in his Presidency so far, has been not only his lack of progress in the other direction, but his steadfast support of both those laws.
In the last few weeks, gay and lesbian service members felt the knife twisting in their backs as the Obama administration successfully supported the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in federal court. Trying to play both sides of the coin, they did their best not to say the policy was right, but they still defended the policy and got the court to agree. While hundreds of gay and lesbian people are being discharged from the military just because of their sexual orientation, Obama promises to end the policy, but his only steps to do just that have been to form a ‘study’ of the issue.
Even the people he has doing the study are the people that believe Don’t Ask Don’t Tell should remain in place. If you’re going to have a study on how to implement it, shouldn’t the people doing the study support what they are supposed to do? Instead, we have people who don’t like gay people and don’t want us in the military ‘studying’ how to implement a repeal of a policy they don’t repealed.
Which leads to the question: Is this what President Obama is doing with DOMA?
While running for the US Senate in 2004, Barack Obama wrote a wonderful op-ed piece in which he related his support for the LGBT community. He had a lot of good things to say in that piece including unequivocal opposition to DOMA. His language was strong, and everything the LGBT community could wish for in a candidate (not only for Senate but for the office of President). His closing statement is, in part, fairly ironic.
“Despite my own feelings about an abhorrent law, the realities of modern politics persist. While the repeal of DOMA is essential, the unfortunate truth is that it is unlikely with Mr. Bush in the White House and Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress. …”
Four years after he wrote that piece, Washington is a changed place. Mr. Bush is no longer President, and the Republicans no longer control both chambers of Congress. Yet the repeal of DOMA is no closer than it was when the piece was written. Sure, the writer is now President, but instead of finding the repeal of DOMA to be ‘essential’, it is something we in the LGBT community should ‘wait’ and ‘be patient’.
That’s a far cry from ‘essential’.
This last week, as reported in the Huffington Post, Barack Obama’s administration defended the DOMA policy in court. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/06/12/obama-defends-antigay-def_n_214764.html) Yes, the man who called DOMA ‘abhorrent’ has no apparent problem with defending it in court and saying that “Under the law, the answer must be no” (in reference to the motion calling for DOMA to be ruled unconstitutional based on the ‘full faith and credit’ clause of the constitution.
Why would a man who has said he is supportive of repealing DOMA, who has called it ‘abhorrent’ go this far to support the policy? Part of it might be that he is doing his job, fulfilling the oath he gave to support and defend the Constitution, etc. Of course, DOMA isn’t in the Constitution, and if he believes the law is wrong, he should at least be making full efforts to change that law. Instead, he’s doing all he can to support it while putting out no effort to change it.
I think this might be at least part of the answer: http://www.dakotavoice.com/2009/01/massive-opposition-to-obama-doma-repeal/
“In less than 24 hours, thousands of people responded, according to NOM. The organization reported that so many e-mails were sent to Pelosi that her website started rejecting e-mails sent by traditional marriage advocates.”
Maybe part of the reason is us. Our opponents can get supporters to take five minutes out of their lives to send an email, write a letter, or make a phone call. Meanwhile, we on this side let ourselves get caught up in our daily lives and don’t spend those five minutes making sure the leaders in Washington know our position. Also, it’s not enough that they just hear from us once, but any time DOMA comes up as an issue.
This came as a reminder to me that it had been a while since I took an hour to write a blog entry, and that I needed to do better. Having a loved one going through a Bone Marrow Transplant wasn’t really an excuse. There are moments in the day when I can take five minutes to write the White House and tell them that I am disappointed they filed a motion to uphold DOMA in that court case. I could take even fewer minutes to call Nancy Pelosi’s office and ask why they haven’t moved on the repeal of DOMA.
We can’t take this issue for granted. If the voices our leaders here tell them to not touch DOMA, they won’t touch DOMA. Sure, we can have lobbyists go to Washington and tell them something different, but unless those lobbyists are backed up by the voices of every day people like you, they are wasting their breath.
And we’ll still be just a ‘friend’ in the eyes of the federal government.
WTF??? Hand Wringing? To What End?
In my morning web surf a few days ago, I ran across a VERY interesting piece about nine of our “leading” gay and lesbian organizations or supporters who encouraged all of us (queers who are not them) not to sue for equal rights. Their warning? That lawsuits could set back the progress for gay marriage. Their little entreaty is entitle Make Change, Not Lawsuits.
What a great idea!!! Let’s stay our tried and true course of the usual acquiescence. That has worked so well for so long. We certainly don’t want to upset the straight people.
I am doing my best right now to not type cuss words. WTF???
I counted up the times their entreaty used the word ‘ask.’ Then I counted up the times they used the word ‘demand.’ The score: Ask – 15, Demand – 0.
I’m tired of asking. All my friends are tired of asking. Every queer on Facebook is tired of asking. And the anger and frustration are spilling into the streets.
The authors’ tone in “Make Change, Not Lawsuits” reminds me of the current self-destructive by GOP party leaders, bankers and Wall Street barons. Tone deaf. Not a clue. Out of touch with reality. Without a single clue.
Did any of you “leaders” attend any of the rallies across the country after the California voters passed Proposition 8? Did you attend the marches and protests when the Supreme Court upheld Prop 8? I don’t believe you did.
Most of my young queer friends were in the streets raising hell over the bigotry demonstrated both by the voters and the court. Several of them got arrested. They are pissed. I am pissed. Now is not the time to stop and reflect, to wring our hands and worry about what will happen if someone actually does something other than talk, if someone (God Forbid) takes some action.
Cleave Jones got it right. The Harvey Milk protégé called for a march on Washington October 10 and 11 this year. Jones recognizes the anger and frustration, the interminable waiting, the energy and focus just waiting to be tapped that can push the government into recognizing separate is not equal, no matter how much make-up you put on the pig.
Now is the time to demand what is guaranteed us in the Constitution…equal protection under the law. EQUAL!!! NO civil unions, NO ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, NO DOMA! FULL EQUALITY – NOW!!!
I hope every queer in the country who gives a damn about getting legally married, who wants to serve our country openly in the military, who wants equality in every aspect of their lives, files suit in every jurisdiction of every state and every federal court, takes to the streets, marches, protests, shouts at the top of his or her voice, blocks traffic and raises nine kinds of hell. We ARE NOT going away. So deal with us…NOW!
David Carter, in his excellent book, Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution (1), interviewed Michael Fader, one of the participants in the Riots.
We all had a collective feeling [that] we’d had enough of this kind of shit. It wasn’t anything tangible anybody said to anyone else, it was just…everything over the years had come to a head on that one particular night in that one particular place…
Everyone in the crowd felt that we were never going to go back. It was…the last straw. It was time to reclaim something that had always been taken from us…All kinds of people, all different reasons, but mostly it was total outrage, anger, sorrow, everything combined, and everything just…ran its course…
And we felt that we had freedom at last, or freedom to at least show that we demanded freedom. We weren’t going to be walking meekly in the night and letting them shove us around. It was like standing your ground for the first time and in a really strong way…
There was something in the air, freedom a long time overdue, and we [were] going to fight for it. It took different forms, but the bottom line was, we weren’t going to go away. And we didn’t.
Historians Dudley Clendinen and Adam Nagourney, writing about the Stonewall Riots in their book Out for Good (2), stated homosexuals were
a secret legion of people, known of but discounted, ignored, laughed at or despised. And like the holders of a secret, they had an advantage which was a disadvantage, too, and which was true of no other minority group in the United States. They were invisible. Unlike African Americans, women, Native Americans, Jews, the Irish, Italians, Asians, Hispanics, or any other cultural group which struggled for respect and equal rights, homosexuals had no physical or cultural markings, no language or dialect which could identify them to each other, or to anyone else … But that night, for the first time, the usual acquiescence turned into violent resistance … From that night the lives of millions of gay men and lesbians, and the attitude toward them of the larger culture in which they lived, began to change rapidly. People began to appear in public as homosexuals, demanding respect.
The hand wringers in our community, those who would have us wait, seem to want us back in the closet, back in our places, back in the line. We’ll wait, they say.
Wait for what? Wait for the time to be right? The time will never be right. Had others waited for the time to be “right,” the time would never have been right for the Civil Rights Movement, would never have been right to confront a megalomaniacal dictator who would exterminate a whole people for racial “purity,” would never have been right for abolition, would never have been right to break from a cruel king and found a new country.
What if Dr. Martin Luther King, speaking from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, had said, “I have a dream but we should wait until the rest of America is ready…” (From my friend, Tim Counts.)
Our “leaders” complicity centers around those who refuse to deal with their own homophobia, those we make uncomfortable by our very existence.
I do my best to treat everyone I meet with dignity and respect whether or not they treat me in the same manner, something I learned from my father. That has served me well. However, he also taught me that I never need accept unacceptable behavior no matter who the person, their position, their power or station in life.
So I suggest to you hand wringers that you move to the back of the bus and the back of the line and make room for those of us who are worn out with standing in line and riding in the back. You want us in the back of the line and the back of the bus, not making waves, not raising our voices, not making the heteros uncomfortable. Well, we’re riding in the front now and to hell with the line and the back of the bus. So, you can lead, follow or get the hell out of our way.
To paraphrase Michael Fader: We feel that we have the freedom to demand freedom. We aren’t going to be walking meekly in the night and letting you or them shove us around. There is something glorious in the air, freedom a long time overdue, and we are going to fight for it. We aren’t going to go away no matter how much you want us to.
(1) Carter, D. (2004). Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution. New York: St. Martin’s Press, ISBN 0312342691
(2) Clendinen, D. and Nagourney, A. (1999). Out for Good. New York: Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0684810913.
My Day in the Middle
by Felicia Houston
While in Fresno (smack dab in the middle of California) rallying with the people for same-sex marriage equality, I went to the library. I learn not only from the books themselves but the keepers of the books, too, and then it hit me!!! I was going to have to use the public bathroom.
Now, probably many of you don’t concern yourself with something as mundane as entering a restroom. I headed towards the door, my consciousness on alert. Outside of the restroom stood a man and a woman - she was filling a bottle at the water fountain.
Just as I crossed the threshold I hear, “Did you see that man go into the bathroom?”
Now remember the event that I was attending was called “Meet in the Middle for Equality”. This time (this has happened before) the woman who spoke these words just happened to be African American. I am noting this for no other reason than to say when I first saw her outside the bathroom I eased up. I relaxed for just one second too long.
People, I am at the middle! I drew the line in the sand, right there and then. I turned to her and said,
DO NOT call me a man…
because my hair is short…
because you did not take the time to really look at me…
because I wear clothes that do not conform to your idea of how a woman should dress…
because you are so entrenched in stereotypical gender roles…
because I make you uncomfortable.
I am not making a statement. I am not trying to be something I am not.
You do not have the right to impose your bigotry on me when you find that you’re mistaken by calling me a dyke.
I will not stand for your intolerance justified by a pulpit.
No longer will I allow my humanity to be discounted for even one second.
That poor woman. I can only imagine. For what she mistook for a man turned out to be an irate black lesbian!
Friends – family, I will be on the mall in Washington D.C. on October 10th and 11th, 2009. To stand and demand once and for all that the LGBTQ community be given equal protection under the law as it is laid out in our constitution. I will be there holding the line.
Lastly, the time will come when we will once again be asked to vote for these civil rights. Not just in California but all over the nation.
My parents marched on Washington for the right to be married when their love was illegal in this country. She was black. He was white.
If you are not able to stand with me in Washington please stand with me on that day. Stand in the love that you have for me and vote for equality.
Felicia Houston lives and works in San Francisco. She is a writer and photographer, and serves as Director of A Woman’s Place, the only gender specific shelter for homeless women in the city of San Francisco. She has been involved in the fight for equality for 26 years since participating in the first gay rights march on Washington.
“It sucks they don’t want gay people to get married.”
These were the words my nephew spoke when he heard about the California Supreme Court’s decision on Proposition 8. He’d come home from school and saw the news on the television. Then he followed up his statement with a question.
“Why don’t they want gay people to get married?”
Fast forward to a few days later and a friend forwards me an email that brings my nephew’s words back to my thoughts. The email was from the folks at the Family Research Council, a right-wing Christian organization that seems to focus a lot of time fighting against the LGBT community.
In their email, the FRC Action committee evoked the image of vicious attacks on a ‘Christian young lady in a beauty pageant’, frenzied ‘radicals’ on the Iowa supreme courts, and even more frenzied radicals in the Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire legislatures pushing ‘counterfeit’ marriages. Then they get to the focus of their fundraising email, the defense of DOMA. In the email, they answer my nephew’s question far better than I did.
“If DOMA is abolished or weakened and counterfeit marriage is spread nationally by radical judges, then:
Children in elementary school will be required to learn that homosexual marriage and same-sex behavior are normal and good … and that their parents or pastors are bigots if they oppose it. It’s happening where counterfeit marriage is legal.
Religious charities that oppose homosexual marriage could be forced to close -it happened to Catholic Charities’ adoption services in Massachusetts because they refused to hand over innocent orphans to “married” same-sex couples.
Their goal is to silence the moral voices of America. Our social fabric will unravel.
That’s the quote from their email. Want to know something interesting? Until the Christian Right put Proposition 8 on the ballot, we’d never really discussed gay marriage with my nephew, even though he’s lived with us off and on for the last several years. When we did talk about the issue, he got a confused look on his face and asked another of his wonderful questions.
“What’s wrong with gay people getting married?”
For him, and for children like him all over this country, the issue of gay marriage isn’t about some strangers, it’s about his family. It’s about the two people in his life who he sees as a safe harbor, a steady home, and loving adults who are there when he needs them. He can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want his Uncle Dan and Uncle Robert to get married.
Folks like Tony Perkins and the FRC want people to believe that it is NOT okay to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or heaven help us, transgendered. They would prefer that everyone be taught that people like us are evil incarnate and have no rights whatsoever. Unfortunately for Mr. Perkins and people like him, young people like my nephew are learning something other than what the FRC wants them to learn.
They are beginning to worry that DOMA could fall. Sure, they’ve gotten a handful of victories in recent days, but they’ve suffered some defeats that are pretty stunning. Certainly the fact that gay marriages are happening in Iowa really does make a difference.
Yes on Gay Marriage has focused primarily on repealing DOMA because we know, as does Tony Perkins and the FRC, that even with the amazing victories in Iowa, New Hampshire, Washington D.C., and hopefully soon another victory in New York, ultimately it is the repeal of DOMA that will make the biggest difference for same-sex couples. There are now half-a-dozen states where gay marriage is legal. Several more states have Civil Unions or Domestic Partnership laws granting the same rights as marriage to same-sex couples. Thanks to DOMA, there are no same-sex couples who are able to file federal tax returns as a couple. Nor are there any same-sex couples able to pass through customs as a married couple. I could list all 1,100+ rights and responsibilities that are denied by DOMA, but I think we get the picture.
Until we get DOMA repealed, even in those states that allow same-sex couples to get married, true equality has not been achieved. DOMA is, and will continue to be the big elephant in the room, blocking us from the doorway to full equality. So, even as Tony Perkins and the FRC calls upon their bigoted supporters to stand up and be counted for supporting DOMA, I’m going to call on you to stand up and call for the repeal of DOMA.
Now is the time.
First published in Metro Weekly, May 14, 2009
“Every single person who voted for this, they’re gone,” shouted Rev. Anthony Evans, associate pastor of D.C.’s Mount Zion Baptist Church, into a news camera. We were standing in the hallway after the D.C. Council voted 12-1 to give final approval to a measure recognizing same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions. Evans and several other anti-gay ministers, led by Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church in Maryland, were outraged, and Evans vowed to defeat all 12 legislators who supported equality.
I asked, “What track record do you have to back up your threats?” He ignored me and talked of asking Congress to overturn the Council’s action. He also referred to a bill pending in Congress that would give D.C. a full voting member in the House of Representatives, and promised to get an amendment that would force the District to choose between gay rights and voting rights.
Seeking congressional intervention when you lose in the D.C. Council is what D.C. Delegate to Congress Eleanor Holmes Norton calls “getting a second bite at the apple.” She rightly sees it as a betrayal of D.C. self-determination, and those who attempt it earn her wrath.
I have heard Rev. Evans’ threats before. In 2003, he called me to accuse the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA), on which I serve as political vice president, of blocking a federal abstinence-only HIV-education grant for D.C. that he wanted. GLAA was opposing the federal program because it treated abstinence as the only answer rather than part of comprehensive sex education that included information on using condoms and contraception to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.
“He threatened to set the gay movement back ten years. On a more conciliatory note, he said that he didn’t think gay people should be put to death.”
In that 2003 phone call, Rev. Evans said that he could not approve of homosexuality because he believed in the Bible, but that he considered me his brother in Christ. He suggested a breakfast meeting to work out a compromise. I said I would be happy to meet, but I didn’t feel respected by someone who insisted that I abstain from sex until marriage yet opposed my right to marry.
I accused Rev. Evans of being selective in his use of biblical passages, and mentioned the pro-slavery references in Paul’s Epistles. He acknowledged this but said that clergy are uniquely empowered by God with interpreting Scripture. (In fact, since Martin Luther translated the Bible into a common tongue, there is a strong Reform tradition that literate, reasoning folk are equally empowered as the clergy.) I said I did not need his permission to think for myself, and that he was free to preach as he liked but was not entitled to a subsidy from taxpayers. He threatened to set the gay movement back 10 years. On a more conciliatory note, he said that he didn’t think gay people should be put to death. I said that was generous but inconsistent with his scriptural literalism.
Rev. Evans and his allies say they are defending the family. As it happens, on the Saturday after our legislative victory, I am going through a connect-the-dots book with 5-year-old Sam, the son of my friends Alan and Will. Papa Alan is in Fort Worth, Texas, and I offered to baby-sit for a couple of hours so Daddy Will, who has just finished nurturing Sam back to health from a fever and ear infection, could unwind at the gym. Sam opens a pop-up book and challenges me to find various sea creatures in it. He confesses that he studied it earlier so he could point them out faster.
The presence of a child changes a home. This child and these parents have enriched each other’s lives beyond measure. Rev. Evans refuses to see the harm he does to children like Sam by denying their parents legal protections. But for the moment I am content as Sam pages through The New Yorker and asks me to read him the cartoon captions.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.” Real love requires understanding. But let the angry ministers make their noise. Others, including gay-affirming ministers, will make a better noise, and the next generation will benefit from their efforts.
The phone rings. I let Sam answer, and he hears a familiar voice. We pack up his things, and in the elevator he pushes L for lobby. Daddy is waiting.
Copyright © 2009 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.
The latest item GLAA has produced for the DC marriage equality fight is a Spanish translation of our talking points flyer, now online at:
The English-language version is at:
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