Paradoxical Readings – June 28, 2015

This week I cried tears of grief and joy, as the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to the same rights and responsibilities as opposite-sex couples, and as the funerals proceeded for the nine fallen in South Carolina. While the Confederate flag is being lowered, and the rainbow flag raised, I am acutely aware that there is much more work to do to.

Changing the Flags

President Obama summed it up beautifully in his eulogy for Reverend Clementa Pinckney:

As a nation, out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us, for he has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind. He has given us the chance, where we’ve been lost, to find our best selves. We may not have earned it, this grace, with our rancor and complacency, and short-sightedness and fear of each other — but we got it all the same. He gave it to us anyway. He’s once more given us grace. But it is up to us now to make the most of it, to receive it with gratitude, and to prove ourselves worthy of this gift.

It’s a terrible thing that nine beautiful lives had to be lost in order for the history lesson of the Confederate flag to sink in for many Americans. Finally, many are starting to understand that the flag, as Ken Burns said “is not about heritage, it’s about resistance to civil rights.” So perhaps some good can come of this. The momentum for the removal of the flags continues.

Why it still hasn’t happened in South Carolina (by the time I am writing this), I don’t understand. It is incomprehensible that something so offensive, so hurtful to so many continues to exist on state property. So, clad in tree climbing gear, Bree Newsome took matters into her own hands. Admirers and supporters abound, myself included. Just take the bleeping thing down!

Bree Newsome, our new super hero. Ava Duvernay tweeted that she wants to direct the film about her.*

Gillian and I took in the week’s events, observing the memorials for the fallen nine, and celebrating the Supreme Court marriage equality victory on Friday night with a bottle of bubbly and a beautiful meal (pan seared scallops with arugula, tomatoes, corn, avocado, and a gorgeous herbacious dressing – yes, my spouse is a genius in the kitchen, and that’s how we roll). We’ve been waiting a long time for this, trying to be married for the last eleven years, succeeding once and for all in 2013. Yesterday’s victory is just a sweet conclusion to our personal struggle, and our witness to the national struggle for marriage equality.

The week’s best Twitter hash tags were, hands down, #UrbanOutfittersbelike, mocking Urban Outfitters for ridiculous prices, and #AskTheNearestHippie, making fun of Antonin Scalia’s screed of a dissent of the marriage equality ruling. There was also this tweet from UHaul, who finally seems to get the classic lesbian joke. I can’t believe they haven’t cashed in on it before now.

Tears and laughter are both healing in their own ways. This week was certainly an opportunity to find the paradox of finding hope within sadness, and a realization of work left to do in the same moment we celebrate a significant success.

The wind is at our backs. Let’s not get complacent.

* Ava Duvernay Reportedly Directing Marvel’s Black Panther

The Wind At Our Backs

Civil Rights Movement Builds Momentum In Popular Discourse

Whether you’re talking about marriage equality, hate crimes legislation, or workplace protections, the momentum for LGBT civil rights is undeniable. As a movement, LGBT activists have known for years that we’re on the right side of history, and as such we were never turning back. Now others who have been silent on the issue, whether it’s because they thought it didn’t impact their lives directly or they didn’t think it was important, are starting to recognize its importance and take a stand on the issue.

I’m encouraged by the dialog, even as some of it is painful. I’m seeing people really struggle with the issue with honesty and sincerity. Several politicians have stated that they will not support Chick Fil A restaurant franchises coming into their districts and cities because company president Dan Cathy’s assertion of the company’s stance on same-sex marriage. Even the Muppets have said that they no longer wish to do business with Chick Fil A. Unrelated to the Chick Fil A debate, numerous powerful corporate executives have recently made significant gifts and public statements to support marriage equality.

It may be even more significant that even activists who have been central in the movement to repress LGBT civil rights are starting to change their positions. Insiders to the so-called “ex-gay” movement are starting to say that “curative” therapies developed to make gay people straight do not work. In June of this year, David Blankenhorn, a central figure who provided testimony supporting Proposition 8 in the trial that questioned its constitutionality, publicly changed his position on same-sex marriage.

Also of enormous significance, two major civil rights organizations this year passed resolutions supporting marriage equality, effectively identifying themselves as LGBT rights allies. Both the NAACP and and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR – which coincidentally has the same acronym as the National Center for Lesbian Rights) issued resolutions supporting President Obama’s endorsement of marriage equality.

I could go on. There is no doubt about it, 2012 has been a very important year in turning the tide in the movement for LGBT civil rights.

As more and more people start to get it, the debate has finally been popularly framed as being about fairness, equality, and civil rights.

In the past, those opposed to gay rights have successfully framed the public debate by relating morality to sexuality, and conflating homosexuality with sexual perversion. That framework and way of thinking has been soundly rejected. Currently, in popular discourse the question of morality as it relates to LGBT civil rights is about how people treat one another in a diverse society.

The opposition to protecting LGBT civil rights is widely recognized for what it is: bigotry.

Fear And Prejudice On Trial

Perry v Schwarzenegger put Proposition 8 on trial. More precisely, as attorney David Boies put it, the case put fear and prejudice on trial.

In case you missed it last night, the recording of the reading of 8: A Play About The Fight For Marriage Equality will be available for one week. The new play about Perry v Schwarzenegger, the Proposition 8 trial has been produced and promoted by the American Foundation for Equal Rights as a strategic move in the marriage equality movement. The defendants in this case, the proponents of Prop 8, have argued successfully so far to keep the videos of the actual trial sealed. They want to keep them sealed because they know those tapes will damage their overall cause. They performed so badly and their arguments were so ridiculous that it was laughable. And the families that were there to tell their stories were so touching and compelling, public perception can’t help but land in favor of marriage equality.

You can certainly read about it, as the media covered it. When the trial was going on, I was following the news very closely as an interested party. When I read the news, I remember laughing out loud at some of the testimony. The burden of the defense, the Prop 8 proponents, was to show how “traditional” couples and families would be harmed by gay and lesbian couples getting married. They came with nothing. They could not demonstrate how this would be so, and they looked foolish and mean-spirited in the process.

So, in lieu of being able to see the tapes of the trial, we have “8”. It’s an all-star cast, including Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Jaimie Lee Curtis, Jane Lynch, John C. Reily, and others, all HUGE names behind this! And with Rob Reiner producing, there is an amazing amount of clout and power behind this. I can’t say enough how much I appreciate their commitment to the project and the fight for marriage equality.

To Boycott or Not?

@Target’s Support of Anti-Gay MN Candidate Disappoints

A shiny new Target has opened in my Uptown Chicago neighborhood. I have been looking forward to this anchor business here, having high hopes for convenient access to affordable household goods that we need and like. Also, this neighborhood is struggling economically, and while I have a penchant for supporting mom-and-pop stores (or in some cases around here, mom-and-mom and pop-and-pop), I have hopes that Target will bring new foot traffic and customers to the family-owned shops and restaurants that I love and want to see thrive around here, not to mention the fact that the new store will be an injection of jobs for the neighborhood and environs.

Within days after the store opened the news broke about Target supporting the campaign of Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, notoriously anti-gay and associated with a local band that has openly condoned the killing of gays and lesbians.

Target has done the right thing by its gay and lesbian employees over the years, having received the highest employer rating from the Human Rights Commission. But by comparison, supporting Tom Emmer’s campaign hurts LGBT people more than all of Target’s pro-gay corporate policies.

Many straight people don’t fully understand the impact on our lives of the lack of protections and the lack of access to resources that LGBT folks endure, not to mention the run-of-the-mill bigotry and prejudice that many of us experience every day. Yes, there are some things that are simple inconveniences, like the fact that we have to file new documentation for our partnerships each time we move to a new state or change jobs.

But the discrimination that we face can also be catastrophic and downright heart-breaking, like Janice Langbehn, who, with her children, was prevented from visiting her partner of 18 years, Lisa Pond in a Florida hospital. Pond ended up dying alone. And this happened even after Pond and Langbehn had done everything in their power to prevent exactly this type of situation from happening.

Even when we do everything right in terms of filing our paper work and declaring power of attorney, LGBT families still face the very real possibility that any institution or bigoted employee can decide that they want to disregard our relationships to each other, can fire us from our jobs, and can intimidate and harass us for being who we are.

The reality is that politicians like Tom Emmer pose a real threat to the well-being of LGBT people and our families.

Committed same-sex partnership is not less-than, it is not a separate, distinct institution from committed opposite-sex partnership.

We are family.

Gregg Steinhafel, CEO of Target, issued a response that was a litany of how Target has supported its LGBT employees and the Twin Cities Gay Pride Festival. For all that they have done, I am truly grateful. But this gift to Emmer’s campaign pretty much negates all of that. Emmer’s policies, if he is elected, would most assuredly have a far greater negative impact on the LGBT citizens in Minnesota than any of the good Target has offered its LGBT employees.

When are corporate executives going to recognize that supporting anti-gay policies in any way is not good corporate citizenship? It hurts employees and customers, it is offensive, and it is equivalent to supporting segregation laws. There is no excuse for supporting a candidate who advocates for discrimination against any class of people.

When they do recognize it, they will be ashamed of ever having supported politicians like Tom Emmer. Hopefully Steinhafel will have the presence of mind to see that Target should put its money where its mouth is and give a greater or equal amount of money in support of an LGBT civil rights organization or candidate who supports our community and interests.

Meanwhile, do I shop at Target, or not?

I’m torn because I have liked shopping at Target over the years, and this neighborhood really needs this business. I have believed for a long time that its opening here would improve the quality of life in Uptown. However, I feel hard-pressed to patronize a company that supports a candidate who is actively advocating discrimination against me and my family. I know that it probably isn’t likely to have much effect, but on principle alone I find it hard to stomach giving them my money.

A good week for marriage equality, but struggles still continue

I woke up this morning and found the following three items in my Twitter feed:

It is gratifying to see that the judiciary all over the world is recognizing marriage equality as a civil rights issue. It’s a bumpy ride for LGBT rights right now, and I think that this is an era of gains and losses for LGBT civil rights as religious conservatives foist their internal struggle with bigotry on the rest of us. As a result, religious institutions like the Catholic Church are making unfortunate decisions like ending the foster care program in Washington DC because the Archdiocese there doesn’t want to recognize same-sex marriages.

Meanwhile, Ugandans live in fear for their lives while anti-gay legislation is debated in that country, and in Malawi police have been conducting an anti-gay sweep. Stories like this demonstrate the danger that LGBT folks endure just living their lives day to day.

It is truly astonishing to witness the disconnect of so-called “pro-life” Christian activists who continue to prioritize their own fear and bigotry over protecting human lives that are threatened by violence, hunger, and poverty.