Sea Change/See Change

Momentum and Impatience for Marriage Equality

During the last week in March, like many others across the country I was focused on the Supreme Court hearings about same-sex marriage. The cases they heard stand to have enormous impact on my life personally, so I was eager to follow the tweets and the Facebook posts by friends who were at the hearings and on the steps of the Supreme Court on those days, as well as to see how the story was playing out in the press.

During that news cycle, the meme seemed to be that same-sex marriage has “already won,” that there is a sea change in public opinion, and everyone acknowledges that eventually one day same-sex couples will be able to get married legally. I was practically blinded by all of the bright red in my Facebook news feed that week as all of my friends changed their profile pictures to express support the Human Rights Campaign. For a while there, politicians and public figures seemed to be stepping over each other in order to publicly declare their support for marriage equality or civil rights. Indeed it really does seem like folks are starting to truly recognize the bigotry for what it is, and realize that they are going to look ridiculous in the history books. I’m encouraged by the so-called “sea change” in public opinion. Indeed, we seem to have some real momentum in terms of popular support for LGBT civil rights.

While I gladly welcome this change and momentum, I also wonder what is taking so long, especially for those in public office. I’m pleased that Rob Portman, the GOP Senator from Ohio, has done some soul searching to come out on the right side of LGBT rights, particularly marriage equality. What bothers me is that he made the decision for personal reasons instead of considering how this discrimination impacts LGBT citizens that he represents. When Portman’s son came out as gay, he challenged his father to rethink his position on the matter. When he was able to see how discrimination impacted his own son’s life, he had a change of heart.

I know that this is how it this sort of evolution and revelation works for many people, and it makes sense. Once you know someone personally, a family member or a friend, the issue becomes personalized for you. You feel the impact yourself. It becomes about you and your community. This is how progress has been made in the LGBT rights movement.

However, Portman is a public servant, and he has a responsibility to represent ALL of his constituents. I feel compassion for him personally, and I applaud his efforts to evolve his personal beliefs about the issue of same-sex marriage. He stands as a role model for other parents of gay children. But when it comes to policy, I hold people in public office to a higher standard, and I expect them to understand fairness and justice. It is irresponsible for elected officials to legislate based on how those laws are going to impact the lives of their family and friends.

This incremental change, though ultimately moving in the right direction, is really hard to endure at times. The  recent decision of the Boy Scouts of America to accept gay kids into its membership, though to keep the ban on gay scoutmasters seems to some like progress. But truly this policy continues to send the message that being gay is wrong. It seems that some think I should be happy about the decision, but in fact it really hurts. Likewise, the public debate on the marriage equality vote in MN was really painful to hear. The anti-gay folks who testified spewed such hatred and bigotry that I had to turn the hearings off. I just don’t want to subject myself to that any more. I know that change is gonna come, and we’re on the right side of history. My right to exist is not a matter for public debate, so it is hard for me not to feel some resentment about the level of public discourse about public policy that impacts my life.

Twenty years ago it never even occurred to me that marriage equality would happen in my lifetime. But now it’s becoming a reality state by state, and now that I am building a life with the love of my life, I have grown impatient for it. I have glimpsed what a world with respect for my spouse and me will look like, what it will feel like to me and to us. Once you are used to living with an injustice, you get used to it, and you almost don’t notice how uncomfortable you are after a while. After the Supreme Court hearings on Prop 8 and DOMA, after all of the shows of public support for marriage equality, I was suddenly aware of the additional confidence I felt just walking down the street with Gillian. I hadn’t even been aware of the self-consciousness I feel each day, the worry that people will stare or be uncomfortable because we are two women together. I like to believe that I don’t have to worry about what people think, but the fact is that I do.

The truth is that we couldn’t be more “normal,” whatever that means.

So as we celebrate marriage equality in my home state of Minnesota, and we eagerly await the decision of our former home state of Illinois and the Supreme Court decision on DOMA and Prop 8, we continue to live out our days here in on the Main Line outside of Philadelphia. I go to my 9-5 office job, we make dinner together at night, walk the dog before bed, maybe go to the movies with friends on the weekend, or stay in for a flick with a bowl of popcorn. We’re building our little nest egg, saving to buy a house, saving for retirement, and just hoping that we will soon have fair tax laws,  inheritance protections, and hospital visitation rights that will be respected everywhere.

#Gratitude and the Silver Lining

In Light of the Midterm #Election

After last Tuesday’s brutal election results, it has been slowly sinking in what this means for progressives like me and our movements for civil rights, social and environmental justice, and feeding hungry people. The results of that day do not bode well for us.

I take solace in the persistence of all that we do every day in my community of friends and family. Everyone I know is in their own small way determined to make the world better for everyone. So we get up in the morning, make our coffee, and get down to the hard work of living. Simply taking care of ourselves and each other in some cases is a radical act.

We are determined to build communities that thrive, families that raise healthy children, provide homes for wayward animals, get married and commit to loving each other, volunteer at our local libraries and food pantries, build our spiritual communities, plant gardens, support local businesses. All in all we are simply taking responsibility for the way we live every day to make life a little sweeter for ourselves and our loved ones, leave a lighter footprint while enjoying the blessings of this life.

My Dad sent out an email to the family on Wednesday morning, encouraging all of us to think of everything positive in our lives in the midst of this unfortunate outcome. We have a lot to be thankful for, so let’s remember that and share our good news with each other.

Yes, Tuesday was a bad day, but as a result of that outcome, nothing is going to change for me in terms of the way I live my life. Our opponents may throw obstacles in our path, but that is not going to stop us from building our vision of a more just and kinder society. The outcome of the election might make things a little harder in terms of the social climate and the very real limits and disadvantages that the radical right would like to impose on me and my family.

I know I am privileged and blessed, and to the extent that I am able I will use that privilege and blessing to make my life and the life of my community better. For all of that I am grateful.

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Disappointment

As the second same-sex couple to be married in San Francisco in 2004, which we followed up with a family wedding celebration in Minnesota the following August, Gillian and I are disappointed by the latest news coming out of my home state. Governor Pawlenty has vetoed the legislation that would have given some rights same-sex couples when a partner dies.

Real Marriage

Intimacy is what makes a marriage, not a ceremony, not a piece of paper from the state. — Kathleen Norris

I came across this quote on Twitter the other day, and something resonated with me. It is not the first time I have heard this sentiment, and I think it’s absolutely right. The only thing required to make a marriage is a relationship between two people who know in their hearts that they are committed to each other as life partners. Their thoughts, words, and deeds are what enable intimacy, love, commitment, and family to flourish.

By this definition, my wife and I married to each other; in the eyes of the law and most of the world we are virtual strangers to each other. Despite that and the lack of a piece of paper that would make our marriage legal, my wife and I, and our loved ones know that we are married.

And while I believe this, my wedding day six years ago is an important moment in our past that has a presence in our daily lives now.  The ceremony and celebration of our relationship, and the certificate that all of our guests signed as witnesses, while symbolic, is a bonding moment for us. While long since past, being able to reach back to the moment of that day and the love and care of our family has helped us get through some very difficult moments.

Same sex couples everywhere know all too well that marriage doesn’t require legal documents or ceremony. However, the support and respect that these offer strengthens relationships, families, and communities.

2010: Resolve and Determination

In the tradition of New Year holiday reflection, I am reorganizing my goals and creating a plan to achieve them. As I embrace the opportunity to join the popular conversation about resolutions, I remember that every day presents the opportunity to make changes, that the New Year is not the only time to find resolve.

Gillian and I were discussing how we want to start this year with a plan of cleaning up our joint finances, and although we are beginning this new plan in January, she would rather establish long term goals than make resolutions. Indeed, many people don’t succeed in attaining their resolutions, so I wonder what besides the inspiration of a New Year and a clean slate will make one’s resolve stick.

In 2010, I resolve to work slowly day by day on achievable goals, and to enjoy the journey without obsessing about the destination. Meanwhile, here is a working list of things I would like to be mindful of in my daily plans.

  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Food
  • Rest
  • Yoga
  • Spirit
  • Connections
  • Knitting
  • Responsibility
  • Courage
  • Community
  • Forgiveness
  • Sustainability
  • Gratitude
  • Generosity
  • Breath
  • Always Love

Namaste. Amen.

2009 Passages

I keep a page on this blog for Inspiring Lives where I post links to obituaries for people whom I admire. In a past professional life, one of my assignments was to read obituaries, and it was a task I began to enjoy. I find them to be beautiful tributes written with care and love. Over the years I have read many that truly are inspiring, so much so that from time to time I would cut one out of the paper and tack it too the cork board above my desk. Friends have observed that they feel sad when the read the obits, but I also find joy and celebration in the words.

I am no longer required to read the obits, but I have kept the habit. I subscribe to a few obituary blogs, and I will share my favorites on Facebook and Twitter, and of course track them here.

2009 has marked many passings, and honestly I haven’t been able to keep up. Today, as I begin a New Years resolution to write and blog more, I am updating my page and remembering all of the wonderful people who we lost in 2009 who made life on this earth a little sweeter. Even in their passing we can be happy that they lived, and honor them with acknowledgement and celebration.

This year, these death hit close to home. I shed tears as I watched the telecasts of the memorials for Ted Kennedy and Michael Jackson, sharing in the popular grief of the rest of the Nation as we witnessed the end of an era. My family lost our beloved uncle, Ted Larson, in February, and on Little Christmas Eve Lula Maria Walker Smith, my wife’s mother, passed away after a long illness.

The nine-year anniversary of my mother’s death is coming up on January 10th. The profundity of her passing, continues to teach me that death is a gift, if you are open to to receiving it as such.

For every life that I cite here, I am grateful. Namaste.

Here are some of the collected tributes for 2009:

Beat Cancer! #beatcancer

In honor of my brother, David, who is fighting cancer, an my mother, Anne who passed away from cancer nearly ten years ago, I am joining the social media campaign to fight cancer today. For every blog post, Facebook update, and Twitter post with the hashtag #beatcancer, $.01 is donated to cancer charities. I’m helping to raise funds to #beatcancer, by blogging, tweeting and posting Facebook status updates. Click here to join me!