Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Fox News Surprise

The blog Gay Rights is reporting that Margaret Hoover, a Fox News commentator and Republican, has come out in favor of same sex marriage.  According to the site, here's what she said:

Gays and lesbians are our friends, neighbors, doctors, colleagues, sisters and brothers.  Does it sit well with you that because of their sexual orientation, a factor outside one’s control, that they should have less rights and protections in the eyes of the law?" Hoover asks. And then she drops the bomb shell. "By supporting [gay marriage] we have an opportunity to establish our historic credibility on civil rights issues once again.

 Sometimes hell does freeze over.

Okay. There has been an intervention.

Not wanting to spend his last full day in Toronto watching me wince non-stop at the computer as I search for polls in the Mass senate race, Bruce has intervened.  He is going to hide the plug to the computer, take out the battery, and then get me out of our home for a full day of bookstore browsing.  No cell phones with Internet access allowed.  If that -- along with a generous supply of valium -- can't help me, nothing will.  Here are some places where we'll be going:

Try not smiling after this video

I posted this video on facebook a few months ago and still watch it on occasion.  I'm not a sports fan, but it's hard not to feel the joy in the gym.

Gee, that's pretty hilarious

The Los Angeles Times reports that "the independent student newspaper for the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary's College has published a staff editorial apologizing for a cartoon that made a joke about violence against gays."  The President of Notre Dame condemned the cartoon.

Here's a copy of the cartoon:

It reads: What's the easiest way to turn a fruit into a vegetable?
              No idea.
              A baseball bat.

Now, we should give the writers some points for sensitivity.  The original answer to the question didn't involve a baseball bat, but AIDS.  The folks at the newspaper thought it was too insensitive to use a deadly disease as a punchline.  (So they chose another deadly disease: homophobia.)

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Company He Keeps

Marriage has not been a major issue in the Massachusetts senate campaign.  Republican Scott Brown, who was one of the most outspoken opponents of marriage equality when the battle was alive at the Massachusetts State House, has tried to sidestep the issue, saying the matter is "settled" in our state.

Other groups who support Brown, disagree.

1. Perhaps the most disturbing group is Mass Resistance,  a group that the Southern Poverty Law Center calls a "hate group" for its anti-gay activism.  An anti-gay hate group, according to the Law Center, is an organization that goes "beyond mere disagreement with homosexuality by subjecting gays and lesbians to personal vilification."

Here's something from their website.  Frankly, I wouldn't put 95% of their stuff on my blog, even as a news item.  That's how hateful it is.  So let me just stick with the facts about their support for Brown, whom they call a "very appealing candidate."  This is just the intro of a post.  Each headline leads to a full story.

Massachusetts US Senate race in dead heat as Brown's support surges!

See articles below:

1. Scott Brown in dead heat with Martha Coakley for US Senate seat. Incredible statewide grassroots effort! Bipartisan (and independent!) support fueled by outrage at status quo.

2. Martha Coakley's predictable reaction: (1) Get help from the media. (2) Sleazy attack ads. (3) Raise big money quickly from lobbyists.

3. How bad is she?  Read Martha Coakley's speech at 2007 homosexual bar association fundraiser.

2. The second group supporting Brown is the National Organization for Marriage, a group that has worked tirelessly to deny same-sex marriage rights to gay couples.  Here's something from a recent email:

H/T: Good AsYou

Mass Campaign Update

The Boston Globe is reporting that President Obama will campaign for Martha Coakley on Sunday. 

It's Time to Act

A friend of mine forwarded this email to me this morning.  It's time for us to act!

Yes, it really is as bad as the press is portraying the polls. If Martha loses, we lose the 60th vote.

Even more important, it will send a bone chilling message to every Democrat in Congress that their campaign could be visited by the tea baggers next. They will be ducking important issues and pursuing compromises that don't fix the problems we have. The Obama agenda will come to a dead halt. It isn't just the big issues, like health care, it is also judicial appointments and a thousand smaller decisions that are better when the  Democrats make those decisions..

If you want this country to pursue the reforms we all voted for, please consider what you can do in the next few days.

First of all, call and email your friends and family.

To volunteer to help get-out-the-vote, please consider phone banking, which you can do from your home or at a local phone bank. There are other jobs as well. Please email and the campaign staff will assign you.

Here are sample time slots for phone banking for Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Election Day on Tuesday, January 19.


An Anniversary Post

Five years ago today, my husband and I were married in the state of Massachusetts.  It was a small affair, with a ceremony at our church, followed by an afternoon reception at our house less than a mile away.  Sometimes it's still hard to believe we are married. Other times it's hard to decide which is our real anniversary: the day we met almost fifteen years ago or the formal ceremony with the minister and the marriage license?  Both are important, of course, but it's the formal union that we celebrate today.

How have our lives changed?  Perhaps a few examples will illustrate what a marriage license has meant to us.  First, my husband's two daughters from a previous marriage are now officially my stepdaughters.  This is enormously important to me because they have been, and still are, central to my life.  For years there was no name for our relationship.  Now there is.

Two years ago, I had a stroke a few weeks after I turned 50.  Quite a surprise, given that I was in very good health!   But I'll never forget the day Bruce and I went to the emergency ward.  It was a Saturday morning.  I had planned to see Avenue Q with one of my stepdaughters.  Instead I found myself singing Christmas carols as I tried to ignore the magnetic rumble of the MRI.  The results came in: I'd had a stroke, possibly two.  I'm fine now.  And I was in better shape then because of one word: husband.  As soon as I introduced Bruce as my husband, the staff knew exactly what he was to me.  He was in on the information as I heard it.  They treated him as my relative, my spouse.

The word partner just doesn't have the same weight.  For that matter, try telling a hospital worker that you are civil unionized.

I could go on and on.  Suffice it to say that our marriage has had unexpected benefits and comforts.

Now how is it that we weakened the institution of marriage when we wed five years ago?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

They are already rewriting history....

This has been a mixed year for same-sex marriage supporters. We've had losses in New York, Maine and New Jersey but victories in other parts of the country, such as DC,Vermont and Iowa. What's interesting is that despite this mixed year, politicians are already rewriting history because either (1) they are realizing they were on the wrong side or (2) they are realizing their constituents don't agree with them. Here are two examples. One is a Republican running for Senator of Massachusetts and the other is a Democrat who might run as a senate candidate in New York.

Scott Brown was one of the most vociferous opponents of same-sex marriage in the Massachusetts legislature when the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled that the state had to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  He referred to a family led by two women as "not normal." Now as a senate candidate in a state that has had five years of same-sex marriage, he says he doesn't want to change the law and calls himself "pro civil-union." He has barely mentioned same-sex marriage in his campaign.  He wants us to forget about his anti-gay past without ever acknowledging he might have been on the wrong side of history.

Harold Ford is a former senator from Tennessee who is now considering a run for Senator of New York.  Ford has recently come out in support of same-sex marriage (which reflects the polls taken of New Yorkers), yet while he was in the senate not too long ago, he voted for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage federally.  This amendment might very well have also banned civil unions.  Today Ford says he was always was in favor of fairness, but that he doesn't regret his vote in the senate.  And the icing on the cake?  Ann Coulter called him her "favorite Democrat."

I'm all for people evolving.  But at least have the decency to acknowledge your mistakes.  And don't expect me to choose you over someone who was there for me when the going was tough.  We'll see more and more politicians conveniently forgetting history.  We can't let them.

President Obama's video for Martha Coakley

Good News from DC

The Washington Post is reporting that D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith N. Macaluso has ruled that opponents of same-sex marriage do not have the right to put the issue on the ballot.  In her ruling she stated the the election board of DC "properly rejected the proposed initiative" because of the Human Rights Act, which outlaws discrimination against gay men and lesbians and other minority groups.

So unless Congress intervenes, marriage licenses will be available to same sex couples in March.

We Need to Smile Even in Hard Times

A friend of mine sent me this video this morning, saying she needed a smile to start the day given all that is going on the world.  I agree.

Keith Responds to Robertson and Company

No Wonder They Don't Want to be Televised

The Canadian Press is reporting that one of the defendants in the Prop 8 trial who has asked to withdraw from the case (in part thinking that it would be televised, which, thanks to the US Supreme Court, it will not be), wrote a letter to church organizations saying that gay rights groups had a broader agenda than marriage.  According to this defendant, "On their agenda list is: legalize having sex with children."

Can this get any uglier?  Is he channeling Anita Bryant?

Take that, Pat Roberston

The Haitian Ambassador's response to Pat Robertson's outrageous claims about Haiti (see earlier video).

Hat tip to Americablog.

Sorry. Will & Grace is not Enough.

I've been reading a lot today about the Prop 8 trial.  Forgive me if I can't thank all the blogs that have helped me with this post.  I've read them all as well as a transcript (or at least live reports on twitter) of the proceedings.  It seems like the defendants of Prop 8 tried to use the day to prove that there is no discrimination against gay people in the US.  I would think that would be rather tough, seeing that you are defending discrimination against gay people at the trial, but hey, logic was never on the Prop 8 supporters' side.

So what is the evidence of this brave new safe and non-discriminatory world of today's LGBT folks?  In no particular order, the defense cited Will & Grace, Brokeback Mountain, and Philadelphia.   Now, not to be too critical here, but at least two of these endeavors -- Brokeback Mountain and Philadelphia -- struck a chord because they actually dealt with discrimination.   Even Will & Grace, on occasion, ventured into the political realm.  (Remember the episode where Jack and Will kiss on the Today Show?)

Could this trial get any more insane?  Next thing you know they'll be telling us to shut up about discrimination given that Cher and Liza both won Oscars.

Tom Hanks as an AIDS
patient in Philadelphia 

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

US Supreme Court Blocks Cameras in Prop 8 Trial

The Associated Press is reporting that the US Supreme Court has determined that cameras may not be allowed in the courtroom for the Prop 8 trial.  No surprisingly, the court was divided 5-4, with the 5 conservative justices making up the majority.  The four dissenting judges were Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and John Paul Stevens.  In a dissent written by Breyer, they said the high court should have stayed out of the issue, saying that "the public interest weighs in favor of providing access to the courts."

This is not welcome news for our side.  It's hard not to see the vote as a harbinger of things to come, but I'll try to remain positive and believe that this vote had nothing to do with the subject of same-ex marriage and only to do with cameras in the courtroom. 

Beyond disgraceful

Joe.My.God posted this video of Pat Robinson, blaming the Haitians "pact with the devil" for the unspeakable misery the Haitian people are now experiencing.  Unbelievable.  This is what his God does to people?

It's Crunch Time In Massachusetts

Although I voted for Mike Capuano in the special primary race for the senate seat vacated by Ted Kennedy, I just made a contribution to the Martha Coakly campaign.  Because I have decided not to contribute to the Democratic Party or any branch of that party (you can look back at about a zillion of my posts to see why), I made my donation directly to the Coakley campaign.  Here's why.

1. Martha Coakley is a good candidate and has demonstrated time and again her support of LGBT people, reproductive rights, and many other issues important to those of us who are left of center.  She is also not afraid to disagree with President Obama, as she has over his Afghanistan policy.  She would be the 60th vote for health care reform.  And as flawed as the bill is, it is a start.

2. We are not just voting for one senator.  We are voting for control of the senate.  If Scott Brown, the Republican, wins, we are giving up that super majority for the foreseeable future.  This would be a disaster for anything President Obama wants to accomplish.  It would also be a major setback for any LGBT progress.

3. Scott Brown has been hostile to LGBT rights his entire career.  He was one of the most aggressive and vocal opponents of same-sex marriage and civil unions.  He did sponsor a bill that would restrict abortion options for victims of rape.  No matter how many times his daughters hold a press conference (as they did yesterday) to condemn Coakley for mentioning this in an ad, it is true.  Not many people have focused on Brown's temperament for the job, but I will.  He was the man who entered a high school and lectured the student body using language that the students themselves would have been suspended for using at such a forum.  I guess he was angry, I guess.  He has also raised over a million dollars over the past day or two, much of the money coming from right wing Republican groups.  Is this who we want to continue the legacy of Ted Kennedy?

A new poll just out shows the race too close to call.  This is frightening.  Vote.  Tell your friends to vote.  Tell your pets to vote. Tell strangers on the street to vote.  And give, if you can, to the Coakley campaign.

What the Bible Really Says About Marriage

Why the Obama Administration Needs to Speak Up Now

I understand the politics of gay rights.  Shortly after Bill Clinton was sworn in, he broke his promise to allow LGBT people to serve openly in the military when he agreed to the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.  And lest we forget, it was Bill Clinton who signed the Defense of Marriage Act, which for the last decade or so has prohibited the federal government from recognizing LGBT relationships.  Bill Clinton taught me pretty much all I needed to know about how much I can trust national politicians with my rights.

And there was, unfortunately, something to be learned from Don't Ask, Don't Tell.  It became the focus of Clinton's first months, distracting from the many other issues of the day.  So I understand that President Obama might want to wait to get some major legislation, like health care, behind him.

Unfortunately, history doesn't wait, even if our President wants to.  On Monday one of the most important trials in history for LGBT people began.  It will not wait.  It will not go away.  And if we lose this trial, it will, eventually, be a deep stain on the Obama presidency.  That is, if the administration remains silent.  Because if we lose, it will be years, perhaps decades, before we will be heard by the Supreme Court of the United States -- where this trial is eventually headed -- again.

The time is now.  If the administration waits, the time will be yesterday.  The Justice Department must file a brief in support of LGBT people.

As for the three other major issues in America now -- health care, the economy, the war -- it is easy for a predominantly heterosexual administration to see LGBT concerns as a distraction.  That is, unless you live it.  Unless you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.  Or unless you understand that these LGBT concerns are very much a part of these issues.

1. Health Care: Right now, the vast majority of LGBT couples are denied health care through their spouses.  And those who can get spousal benefits are taxed heavily -- unlike heterosexual couples -- by the federal government.  For example, I am on my husband's health plan.  But because the federal government doesn't recognize us, my health care is taxable income. This inequity was addressed in the House version of the Health Care Reform Bill but was cut out of the Senate version.  Health care is an LGBT issue.

2. The Economy:  The list of economic benefits denied same-sex couples is endless.  No social security benefits should a spouse die.  A heavy tax on what might be left to a spouse after the death of a partner.  Over 1,000 financial benefits are denied to LGBT couples during the worst economic crisis since The Great Depression.  The economy is an LGBT issue.

3. The WarWhether you are for it or against it, one thing is clear.  We need more servicemen and women if we are to pursue Obama's strategy.  I happen to oppose the strategy, but that's not what's at issue here.  At issue is that by denying LGBT people the right to serve openly, that strategy is at risk.  Period.  The war is an LGBT issue.

History isn't waiting.  Neither should the Obama administration.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Prop 8 Trial Update: Will Documents of the Mormon Church Play a Role?

Thanks to Towleroad for bringing this to my attention.

Where is Your Anti-Gay Pride?

The Real Reason Why a Prop 8 Defendant Withdrew?

Americablog has an interesting piece on  Hak-Shing William Tam, the defendant who has asked to withdraw from the Prop 8 trial.  He has said that he does "not like the burden of complying with discovery requests"  and that he does "not like people questioning me on my private personal beliefs." You can understand why when you see what's he's written.  Here's just a snippet of something he wrote about what might happen if same-sex marriage were legalized: "One by one, other states would fall into Satan’s hands.  Every child, when growing up, would fantasize marrying someone of the same sex. More children would become homosexuals.”

This would be important evidence since the plaintiffs are trying to prove that the motivation behind Prop 8 was anti-gay violence.

He also elaborates on the "harassment" he faced during the Prop 8 battle: "During the Proposition 8 campaign period a young woman tried to remove the Proposition 8 yard sign in my front yard. When I opened my door she ran."  Wow.  Sounds like a violent hate crime to me.  Bring in the FBI.

Thanks to AP, Americablog, and Box Turtle Bulletin.

More Pressure on Obama Administration during Prop 8 Trial

Geoff Kors (left), Executive Director of Equality California, released a statement urging the Justice Department to issue an amicus brief supporting the elimination of Prop 8:

"The time has come for elected leaders to empower all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Once again, we call on the Obama administration to join Equality California and others in urging the federal courts to strike down this grossly unjust law. In doing so, we will bring our nation one step closer to realizing its promise of equality for all. Our country’s bedrock principles of  democracy and freedom are at stake."

The Administration's stance has become especially tricky since President Obama's words are being used  to support Proposition 8.  Unless the Justice Department comes out against Prop 8, the opponents of same-sex marriage will continue to use Candidate Obama's words opposing same-sex marriage to uphold discrimination in the California Constitution.

Now is the time, President Obama.   We need your help.

Proposition 8 Trial: Day One

The Mercury News is providing excellent coverage of the Prop 8 trial.  This is especially important, given that the US Supreme Court issued a temporary ban on video coverage of the trial.

Here's a summary of what the Mercury News had to say:
"(Judge) Walker did not tip his hand through his questioning, but interjected often with musings that pointed in all directions. At one point, he asked Theodore Olson, one of the lead plaintiffs attorneys and former U.S. Solicitor General during the Bush administration, 'Why shouldn't the courts stand back and let this develop?'

At another point, he flipped the question on Charles Cooper, the lead attorney for the Prop 8 campaign, who insisted judges should stay out of the fight and allow voters in states such as California decide on the definition of marriage. 'There are certainly lots of issues taken out of the body politic," the judge replied. 'Why isn't this one of them?"
But the highlight of the trial seemed to be the testimony of the two couples who are bringing the case to federal court:
Under questioning from Olson and David Boies, another high-profile attorney, the four plaintiffs described their difficult roads to "coming out" and their quest to marry their partners. 'There's something humiliating about everybody knowing you want to make that decision (to marry), and you don't get to,' Perry told the judge.
Tomorrow, Nancy Cott (left)will be the first expert witness in the trial.  She is a Harvard University historian who will be testifying on behalf of the "Perry" (the plaintiffs favoring same-sex marriage).

Monday, January 11, 2010

"It's wonderful to be part of a place that so values fair and balanced news."

Sarah Palin, upon agreeing to be a political commentator on FOX News

Follow Up on the Prop 8 Trial

It's not quite clear yet whether or not the US Supreme Court decision to temporarily bar video streaming from the courtroom is a major blow to same-sex marriage.

First, it was one judge's decision (Justice Kennedy, left) under whose jurisdiction Judge Walker's (Prop 8 judge) district exists.  Right now, the ruling simply means, "we haven't had enough time to consider what the defendants have presented to us." (The defendants -- Prop 8 supporters -- went to the Supreme Court to block cameras, saying they feared for their safety.)  It is still very possible that the Supreme Court could decide this week that cameras should be allowed.

If the Supreme Court does bar the cameras permanently, that is not good.  The hope is that with cameras, the defendants would be less likely to make unsubstantiated claims against LGBT people.  Logic is not on their side, so they have often turned to emotion.  It was hoped that in a televised court trial, the pro-gay marriage side would win a public relations victory.

Of course, it is also possible that a Supreme Court decision to permanently bar cameras would be just that and not a harbinger of how the Supreme Court would ultimately decide a same-sex marriage case.  What is worrisome (at least to me) is that Kennedy was the one who ruled to temporarily bar cameras.  With the departure of Sandra Day O'Connor, Kennedy is seen as the swing vote, a somewhat moderate voice in a conservative court.  If this is an indication of his feelings about same-sex marriage, it's over.  If it is merely an indication of his feelings about televising the trial, we could be in better shape.

Breaking news about Prop 8

Firedoglake is reporting that  the United States Supreme Court has overruled Judge Vaughn Walker, moving to prevent cameras from recording the proceedings in Perry v. Schwarzenegger for later-in-the-day distribution on YouTube.

The stay came from Judge Kennedy.  The full court will decide within the next few days.  

David Boies, lawyer arguing against Prop 8, discusses the case

Prop 8 Trial Begins Monday, January 11th

The gay couples law blog has done a wonderful job of putting together the basics about the upcoming Prop 8 trial.  I've used their post in creating my own "what you should know" list for the trial.  Thanks also to Pam's House Blend, who also published the post by the gay couples law blog.

1. The name of the case is officially  Perry v. Schwarzenegger.  Perry is the last name of Kristen Perry, who was denied a marriage license when she and her partner, Sandra Steir, applied.  Another gay couple, Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo, was also denied a license and has joined in the case.  The name "Perry" refers to all four plaintiffs.

2. The couples are challenging Prop 8, saying it violates the US Constitution.  That's why they have gone to a federal court.  Rulings about same-sex marriage have typically been at the state level.

3. Representing "Perry" are two famous judges who form an unlikely legal team.  Former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson is a Republican and Atty David Boies is a Democrat.  The two argued on opposite sides in Bush v Gore,  which decided the 2000 presidential election.

Although the defendant in the case is Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, it is the Atty General of California who would usually defend the state.  The current Atty General, Jerry Brown, has decided not to defend the case because he sides with the plaintiffs and believes Prop 8 was, in fact, unconstitutional under federal law.  Therefore, a group of supporters of Prop 8 will be defending the referendum.  The main lawyer for the defendants is Charles Cooper.

4. The lawyers representing "Perry" will try to prove that the law the resulted after Prop 8's passage is unconstitutional because the US Constitution prohibits discriminatory laws without a compelling reason.  Therefore, "Perry" will try to convince the presiding judge that there is no such compelling reason to discriminate against gay couples when it comes to marriage.  The opposing side will try to prove the opposite: that the effects of gay marriage are detrimental to both heterosexual marriages as well as to society.  Expect gay parenting to be a major focus.

5. In all likelihood, the decision by the presiding judge, Judge Vaughn Walker, will not be the end of the case.  It's quite possible that the case could could reach the US Supreme Court.  A decision at that level -- perhaps years away -- could effect all states, not just California.

6. The trial will be televised with a delay.  It will also be seem in its entirety on youtube.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Good News in the Mass Senate Race

The Boston Globe is reporting that Democrat Martha Coakley (right) is leading Republican Scott Brown (left) by 15 points as we head into the final full week of the special election campaign to fill the Senate seat vacated after the death of Ted Kennedy.  This is good news on a number of fronts.  During the same-sex marriage battle in Massachusetts five years ago, Scott Brown was one of the most vocal and strident opponents of equality.  Suffice it to say that if Scott Brown had his way, marriage would not be the law of the land in Massachusetts.

The sad irony of Scott Brown's present position as a state senator in Massachusetts is that his seat was formerly held by openly gay Cheryl Jacques, who left her seat mid-term to become head of the Human Rights Campaign.  She resigned this position shortly thereafter, having sparred with the HRC board over strategy.  The most successful Republicans in Massachusetts politics have usually been social liberals and fiscal moderates/conservatives.  In fact, one of Kevin Jennings biggest supporters -- something that seems to be lost on those Republicans in attack mode -- was Republican Governor William Weld.  Then again, Weld was denied an ambassadorship to Mexico by Jesse Helms for his progressive views on gay rights.

A nice footnote on the Globe poll.  Same-sex marriage isn't mentioned once as an issue.  I searched the actual report, and there's not a word about it.  Looks like we come s along way, at least in Massachusetts.