Friday, April 30, 2010

Hawaii Legislature Approves Civil Unions For Gay Couples

 On Top Magazine is reporting that the Hawaii Legislature has approved civil unions for gay couples.  The vote seems especially significant because the Hawaii Supreme Court was the first to rule in favor of same-sex unions back in the mid 1990's.  A subsequent amendment to the constitution prohibited same-sex marriage in 1998.

The new bill grants both same-sex and heterosexual couples all the rights and obligations of marriage.  It passed the Senate  in January with a veto-proof 18-to-7 vote.

The measure now heads to the governor's desk, Republican Linda Lingle. Lingle has not said whether she will sign or veto the bill. But she has criticized lawmakers for not focusing on economic issues. (Someone should tell the Governor that for LGBT couples, marriage is the ultimate economic issue.)

If approved, Hawaii would join five states – California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington state – in granting gay and lesbian couples most of the rights of marriage except the name. New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage.  Civil unions are not marriage and for many of us feel like "separate but equal."  But this is progress.  Remember the outrage over the civil unions bill in Vermont only about ten years ago?  And remember: three of the marriage states started out as civil union states.  If the bill becomes law in Hawaii, it would mean that one fifth of the states in the country offer civil unions or marriage to LGBT couples.

Marriage Announcment in the Illinois Legislature

Illinois lawmaker Deborah Mell announced her engagement to her female partner on the House floor on Wednesday. Unfortunately, Illinois passed a law in 1996 that specifically defines marriage as applying only to a man and a woman. Same-sex couples can't get civil unions in Illinois, either.

Mell and her partner will travel to Iowa to get married.

La Cage Revival

Kelsey Grammer's recent support of a right wing "tea bagging" cable station has some people wondering  his feelings about LGBT rights given that he is playing one of the leads in the very, very gay La Cage revival.  Since his advertising the cable channel, Grammer has come out in favor of same-sex marriage.  (Is this just good PR or sincere?)  In any case, here's a montage of scenes form the musical.  I saw the original when it was previewing in Boston before it went to Broadway almost 30 years ago.  I remember a much bigger chorus of dancers than you see here, but that's par for the course given the cost of mounting productions these days.  Grammer has received very good notices for his performance, but in these scenes, at least, I think he was far more believably gay in Frasier (even though he was supposed to be straight).

The source of natural disasters

Perhaps you’ve read lately that some religious leaders have discovered why recent natural disasters have occurred.  Among the claims are:

•  Moscow's Interfax newswire reported that the Association of (Russian) Orthodox Experts blamed the April 14 volcanic eruption and the subsequent grounding of transatlantic flights for more than a week — on gay rights in Europe.  (I think if God were really pissed off s/he might do a little more than delay some flights.)

•Rush Limbaugh (left) said God was angry over health care reform.   (Okay.  That makes sense.  The United States enacts health care legislation that God doesn’t like and punishes Iceland.  Maybe s/he wanted the public option. )

• Iranian cleric Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi recently told his Shiite Muslim followers that immodestly dressed and promiscuous women are to blame for earthquakes. (I wonder why God didn’t make the earth tremble on the French Riviera, with all that topless sunbathing.)

• In February, Rabbi Yehuda Levin of the Rabbinical Alliance of America warned allowing gays in the military could cause natural disasters to strike America.  (That’s okay.  The gay military will redesign in no time.)

•Pat Robertson (right)  blamed the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti on a pact between the devil and Haitians rebelling against French rule in the 18th century.  (I thought God was a little faster than that.)

News like this makes me proud to be a Unitarian Universalist.

I may need to reevaluate my support of marriage equality after seeing this sign.

via zanypickle

The slippery slope just got more slippery

The Iowa Register
is reporting that a Republican congressional candidate in the state says he supports inserting microchips into illegal immigrants to track their movements, noting that's how he keeps track of his dog:

Speaking at a forum Monday in Toledo, 3rd District Republican candidate Pat Bertroche said police should catch illegal immigrants and document their
The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported that he added, "I can microchip my dog so I can find it. Why can't I microchip an illegal?"
Bertroche — one of seven Republicans seeking thenomination to run against Democrat LeonardBoswell — said in a statement Tuesday that hiscomment was social commentary on how inane the immigration issue has become.  He said using microchips is as radical an idea as suggestions to build a fence across the nation's border with Mexico to stop the flow of illegal immigrants.
Can this get any scarier?  And could anyone disagree that if microchips were available during WWII that Hitler would have used them?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Rachel Maddow calls the Governor of Arizona on her ignorance

This is a long clip, so you might not have time for the whole thing, but as Joe Jervis points out on his blog, at least watch until the governor is asked, "What does an illegal immigrant look like?"  This story just gets scarier and scarier.

(H/T: Joe. My. God.)

Gay issue goes to the US Supreme Court

A gay marriage issue (of sorts) will soon be heard by the United States Supreme Court.  At issue is whether or not Washington state officials can release the names of people who have signed on to a ballot measure to repeal a gay rights law.

Writes Carlos Santoscoy of On Top magazine:
Opponents say releasing the names would put signers at risk of harassment, reprisals and boycotts of their businesses, amounting to an unconstitutional infringement of free speech rights.

Gay rights groups announced early in the campaign their intention to make the names public via the Internet.

Under Washington state law, names of people who sign petitions become public record after the Secretary of State verifies a petition, but Referendum 71 names have remained sealed pending the court's decision. State officials argue that the names should be released because signers are acting in place of lawmakers, who do not approve laws in secret.
The debate over whether or not people who provide the signatures to get ant-equality measures on the ballot is not new.  In Massachusetts, for example, a group called "Know Thy Neighbor" has published  the names of signers.  Their purpose, they say, is to encourage dialog between supporters and opponents.  If you are gay and you know your neighbors have helped put same sex marriage issues on the ballot, why not talk to them?

Yes, there has been fear that some anti-equality folks would be the victims of harassment, but so far that hasn't been an issue.  What is at issue is that these documents are open to the public.  All the "Know Thy Neighbor" groups have done is to put the names together and publish them on the Internet.  Given that the Supreme Court recently ruled that videos of animal cruelty is a protected form of free speech, it will be interesting to see if they allow "Know Thy Neighbor" groups their freedom of speech but publishing information that is already public.

I looked at the list from Massachusetts a few years ago, hoping that I would not find the names of people I thought might devote their time and energy to keep me from being married.  Sadly, I found their names.  I'm sure many LGBT people have had a similar experience.

A moving letter

Here's a moving letter about the effects of DADT.  This letter was printed in towleroad.

April 27, 2010 

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

My name is Joan Darrah and I served in silence under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) for almost two decades. I share my personal story with you as we’re at a critical point in the fight to repeal this discriminatory law.

We urgently need your voice and leadership as we lobby the Armed Services Committees and the full House and Senate to end DADT this year.

I’m sure, as I do, you remember exactly where you were on September 11, 2001.

At 8:30 a.m. that day, I went to a meeting in the Pentagon. At 9:30 a.m., I left that meeting. At 9:37 a.m., American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon and destroyed the exact space I had left less than eight minutes earlier, killing seven of my colleagues.

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was a lesbian Navy captain who, at that time, had more than 28 years of dedicated military service. My partner, Lynne Kennedy, an openly gay reference librarian at the Library of Congress, and I had been together for more than 11 years. Each day, I went to work wondering if that would be the day I would be fired because someone had figured out I was gay.

In spite of that stress, somehow Lynne and I had learned to deal with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"; we had made the requisite sacrifices. I had pretended to be straight and had played the games most gays in the military are all too familiar with.

But after Sept. 11 our perspective changed dramatically. In the days and weeks that followed, I went to at least seven funerals and memorial services for shipmates who had been killed in the Pentagon attack. As the numbness began to wear off, it hit me how incredibly alone Lynne would have been had I been killed.

The military is known for how it pulls together and helps people; we talk of the "military family" which is a way of saying we always look after each other, especially in times of need. But none of that support would have been available for Lynne, because under "don't ask, don't tell," she couldn't exist.

In fact, had I been killed, Lynne would have been one of the last people to know, because nowhere in my paperwork or emergency contact information had I dared to list Lynne's name. This realization caused us both to stop and reassess exactly what was most important in our lives. During that process we realized that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was causing us to make a much bigger sacrifice than either of us had ever admitted.

Nine months later, in June 2002, I retired after 29 years in the U.S. Navy, an organization I will always love and respect.

Today, nine years after that fateful day at the Pentagon, I am now committed to doing everything I possibly can to get rid of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" so our military can finally be open to all qualified and motivated individuals who want to serve their country. This is the right step for our country, for our military, and for all gay men and lesbians.

As a veteran, and as a witness to the 14,000 men and women who have been discharged, I thank you for your bold words in your State of The Union address: “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do.”

I have great love and respect for our country, and I know that we will be a stronger and better country when we repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

With great respect,

Capt. Joan Darrah
United States Navy (Ret.)

Laura Bush on the same-sex marriage issue

John Wright of The Dallas Voice has run a fascinating quote from Laura Bush's upcoming memoir:

In 2004 the social question that animated the campaign was gay marriage. Before the election season had unfolded, I had talked to George about not making gay marriage a significant issue. We have, I reminded him, a number of close friends who are gay or whose children are gay. But at that moment I could never have imagined what path this issue would take and where it would lead.
What really would have been courageous is if Laura Bush made these feelings known to voters.  It's not so outlandish to think this could happen.  Her mother-in-law Barbara did this over the issue of abortion. 
If what Laura is saying is true about her not wanting marriage to be a political issue, it means that two of George Bush's closest advisors -- Laura Bush and Dick Cheeney -- were at odds with him over the ultimate strategy during that election.

What's also interesting is that Karl Rove  just published a memoir on which he claims that there was no strategy whatsoever to get out the anti-gay conservative vote by making marriage an issue.  This I have a much harder time believing.

Funny, though, how people are already distancing themselves from the anti-gay rhetoric of the past decade when it comes to marriage.  We can't let them rewrite history.   We know who was there for us, and who wasn't.

The Gay Exodus

Tara Siegel Bernard of The New York Times wrote an article yesterday about the growing number of LGBT couples who are leaving the country because the United States refuses to recognize their unions.  Even LGBT couples are married in one of the states (or Washington, DC) that offer same-sex marriage, the federal government refuses to acknowledge our relationships. Also, because the US won't recognize these unions, immigrant partners of Americans find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to obtain US citizenship.

Below you'll find an edited version of Ms. Bernard's article:

Many same-sex couples who decide to leave the United States head for countries that recognize their unions. In fact, when we wrote a story about the extra costs same-sex couples face here in America, we learned that many leave because of immigration obstacles.

Several readers left comments stating that they could not sponsor their same-sex partners for American citizenship — so they decided to migrate to places like Canada, where it’s easier to gain permanent resident status for couples since only one partner has to qualify. Besides, gay marriage is recognized there.

David Cohen, a senior partner at Campbell Cohen, an immigration law firm in Montreal, said he had seen a significant increase in the number of same-sex couples who emigrated from the United States to Canada over the last 10 years.

The following readers, who commented on our October story about the costs of being gay, echoed those sentiments:

Rich and Luis, of Vancouver, wrote:

Heterosexuals can sponsor their partners to become U.S. permanent residents; same-sex couples cannot. My now-husband and I had to move to Canada to stay together. We were both professionals in our native countries. Now my husband, a medical technologist, is working at Staples, and I’m making $25,000 less annually with poor benefits at a temporary job with no job security, although at least the job is in my field. It was expensive to become permanent residents, and the move was expensive, as are trips back to see my family.

Megan, of Canada, said:

Try being a bi-national gay couple. We have paid over $70,000 to be together. My partner is Indian and I am American and yet we have to live in Canada if we are to be together.

And Rebecca, of New Jersey:

My wife and I have been together for 5 years and I am in the process of becoming a Canadian permanent resident so that we can live in the same country. It has cost nearly $10,000 so far.
 I've written about this before, but it's worth repeating: how many times in United States history have people fled the country for greater freedom elsewhere?  Haven't we prided ourselves as being the place where people are drawn to because offer a freer life?

Monday, April 26, 2010

An interesting legal take on the Arizona Immigration Law

I've been pretty emotionally worked up over the Arizona Immigration Law, so much so that I really haven't been able look at things dispassionately and think through all of the legal issues.  This clip from CNN helped.

What if.....

Michael Jones of has an interesting story about a basketball coach.  Here's part of it:

If it's your first day of basketball practice, and you're just about to meet your new coach, what would you say if this was the first thing out of your coach's mouth?

"I’m a Christian that happens to be a coach. … My values are very important to me. … I’m very blessed to have my staff here. This is something very unique, I think, for Division I women’s basketball to have a staff that the entire staff is married with kids. Family is important to us and we live it every day."

If you were religious, particularly Christian, you might be very pleased that a coach shares your values. But what if you're a member of a different religion, or non-religious? What about if you're gay?

Those are just a few questions being raised after the University of Missouri introduced their brand new women's basketball coach, Robin Pingeton, and these were her welcoming words for her players and her staff. On the surface, it seems as if Pingeton is counting her lucky stars that her entire staff is heterosexually married, and that she's going to bring to her coaching game a heavy dose of Christianity.
I started thinking: can you imagine the uproar if a coach introduced herself this way?

I’m an atheist that happens to be a coach. … I'm also married to a woman.  And as far as I know, the entire staff is married in a few of the states that allow gay marriage.  Being gay is important to us
and we live it every day.

I only changed a few words here.  How fast do you think this coach would be called into an office and reprimanded?

No gay marriage in least for now

After heavy pressure from the Vatican, Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva (right, with Pope Benedict)  has announced that he will veto a same-sex marriage bill passed by the legislature.  And guess what?  He's going to do it during the Pope's visit to Portugal.  How convenient.

The president tried to hand the denial of marriage rights on to the country's Constitutional Court, but the court ruled that the bill was, in fact, constitutional.

This intrusion of the church is getting very, very, very old.  The Pope has done such a terrible job running his own church, why on earth are we letting him run the world?  Stick to your flock, Pope Benedict, but leave me alone.  I left your flock decades ago and have no desire to return.  And I'd like to ask you this: would you ever return to an organization that is responsible for the sexual abuse of thousands of children?  That closes its eyes to immorality? That is run off the backs of working men and women so that the elite of the church can live in total elegance?

The double standard of the far right wing

After the Governor of Arizona signed a bill that requires Arizonans to carry papers to prove their citizenship, I began to wonder why all those folks supporting the bill weren't actually opposing it.  They should have been enraged!  Weren't these the same folks who protested the health care bill because the government would be too intrusive?  And really, who could possibly say that the health care bill is more intrusive than forcing people to carry identification papers wherever they go?  Then I started thinking: what are the double standards of the right wing? 

1. They support a law that requires Arizonans to carry papers (or else risk jail time), but they think making sure Americans get health care is giving the government far to big a role.  Hmm.  Seth Myers on Saturday Night Live said that there's never been a movie about Nazis that didn't include the words, "Papers, please."  I'd like to add that there's never been a movie about Nazis that did include, "Do you have health care?"

2. They are outraged over economic help for families with young children (far too much government intervention), but urge the government to control women's bodies by outlawing abortion.

3. They want people to carry papers on them at all time, but they see the census -- which basically asks name, address and family circumstances -- as far too intrusive of government.  They refuse to fill out one sheet of paper while demanding that others carry them at all times.

4. They would protest like crazy if the government limited their right to divorce, but protest like crazy to make sure that same government outlaws same-sex marriages.

5. They get all worked up over the very idea of background checks to carry handguns, but insist that the government do background checks on people based on their race in Arizona.

 6. They think the Supreme Court is too interventionist when it comes to issues like same-sex marriage and abortion, but were only too happy to let the court decide that George Bush won an election.

7. They oppose the health care bill but embrace medicare -- the ultimate health care public option -- when they reach retirement age.

I know these assumptions aren't true of all those on the right wing, but they are true of many.  The bottom line is this: they'll support government intrusion if it is intruding on someone else, but will scream like hell if the government asks them to do the  even the tiniest thing, like fill out a census form.