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.

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.

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.

Heartbreak in New York

Once again, being on the right side of history is proving to be cold comfort when one’s civil rights are at stake. I am so tired of waiting. I am so tired of feeling like I have to justify my existence and my life. I am tired of paying unfair taxes. I am tired of hearing about the growing violence against my LGBT brothers and sisters. And I am tired of people not copping to the hate they feel in their hearts for us, insisting that they not be called bigots while they deny a woman the right to be by her dying spouse’s side in the hospital.

I am tired of bigots claiming moral high ground while they are silent about the outrageous proposed Ugandan law that would put gay HIV positive people to death in that country. I am really tired of people claiming that they love us, when it is clear that hating the “sin” is equivalent to hating the “sinner”.

The real sin is hate and not taking responsibility for one’s own ignorance and fear.

New York missed an opportunity to be on the right side of history today. what a shame.

Marriage Equality Is About Marriage. Period.

I want to be legally married to my wife. I don’t want special rights, just the same rights that are granted to all heterosexual Americans. I don’t want to redefine marriage, rather I want my relationship with my spouse to be recognized and respected as a committed relationship just as other legal spouses are, with the same rights and responsibilities.

Within any same-sex union, marriage is marriage. In terms of how married couples live in the world, being in love, being committed, being responsible to and for each other, some times raising children, certainly working and paying taxes, being there for one another through sickness and health, prosperity and poverty, same-sex couples are no different than opposite-sex couples.

Whether between a man and a woman, two women, or two men, Marriage isn’t straight or gay. Marriage is marriage.

The marriage equality movement is about civil rights, not special rights, as our opponents continue to bark. As long as the media and popular culture continue to frame the marriage equality movement using the term of “gay marriage,” there will be people who see it as an issue of special rights and redefining marriage. This is simply not the case.

The other day on Twitter, the LA Times tweeted a headline about “gay marriage. ” I tweeted back asking that they use the term “marriage equality” instead. I was pleasantly surprised that someone actually tweeted back at me that “gay marriage” is actually in their style guide. This would never have occurred to me!

It turns out that the Associated Press Style Guide recommends using the term “gay marriage” (scroll down to the section on “Debates Over Terminology”) in articles about same-sex marriage, sometimes simply to save headline space! To their credit, they also recommend simply using the term “marriage” in articles about marriage equality. But clearly some education still needs to occur.

Since it’s updated every year, I think that supporters of marriage equality should lobby the AP to update that recommendation. I’m not entirely sure how to go about doing this, so I’m open to suggestion. However, I’m going to start simply by emailing their general info@ap.org address.

We started a civil rights revolution five years ago. We can certainly continue to influence this positive cultural shift.