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Posts Tagged ‘gay marriage’

By now, you will have heard the news: The United States Supreme Court has just ruled 5-4 in favor of legalizing same sex marriage nationwide!

This is of course an immense moment not only in LGBT history, but in American history. This is our generation’s Loving vs. Virginia – and for exactly the same reasons.

We have not yet won the war against homophobia; indeed, we probably have many struggles ahead as we work to excise discrimination from our hearts and minds. A look at recent tragedies in Ferguson, Baltimore and Charleston are evidence enough of the fact that racist prejudice is alive and well, and the difficulties experienced by Caitlyn Jenner and Chelsea Manning show that even as we celebrate the L, G and B, the T is a victory that yet eludes us. And there is of course no doubt that gay people still face a great many small daily injustices even though this large one has fallen.

But days like today give us hope. Hope that a better day is not a fantasy, but an achievable goal. Hope that the very same society which marginalizes too many can still be brought to change its mind.

Somewhere in this country, a young person who has been burying his identity in hopes of acceptance rather than ridicule is feeling a great weight slowly easing from his shoulders.

Another is thanking God that her ‘other mom’ can finally have the same legal status as her biological mother.

Weary hearts are being lifted today, in every corner of the country. The road ahead is yet long, but today we took an enormous step forward.

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I am proud of my national identity. I am English by birth, and also American by citizenship. I experience the same moment of delirious elation as many others when England’s soccer team scores a goal, the same heartbreak when the team subsequently suffers the ignominy of being eliminated from the World Cup in a penalty shoot-out. I experience immense pride and satisfaction when it is an American who wins a Nobel or a Pulitzer Prize.

But do I believe that England or America is ‘better’ than another nation? Are we morally or culturally or intellectually superior to the Iranians, or the Japanese, or the Congolese?

My answer to this is a resounding “NO!”, for Humanity is not comprised of nations, or of religions. We are people, each and every one of us, none more ‘human’ than another. America can – and often does – make a case for superiority based on its military muscle or its financial strength, but that doesn’t make David Brennan from Little Rock any more an exemplar of the species than Hidetoshi Yamagata from Sapporo or Abdul ibn-Aziz al-Rashid from Riyadh.

I am also white, male and heterosexual. Does this mean that I am more deserving of any form of recognition or respect than someone who might be black, or female, or gay? Again, “NO!”. Not in the slightest. Each of us is a shining jewel to be treasured and cherished, equally able to contribute to the betterment of our species as a whole.

It seems unfathomable to me that any subset of Humanity is considered ‘lesser’ than another in this day and age. In America, women have made immense strides toward equality over the hundred years since being granted rights which men had long taken for granted, and yet are still often perceived as inferior by some. Similarly, black Americans have made significant progress over the last half century, but still feel the sting of the ethnic divide. The LGBT community is even now struggling for many of the same rights for which women and African-Americans fought for so long. How is it possible that in the twenty-first century we are still discriminating between members of our own species?

This is not to say, however, that these differences do not matter. They matter immensely. Your gender, you ethnic and religious identity, your national origin and your sexuality are all parts of the recipe which makes you uniquely you, worthy of being celebrated. These traits may afford you a degree of insight which the prevalent majority may lack. Coupled with your intelligence, your creativity and your education, these all put you in a unique position to contribute something of immeasurable value to all seven billion of us, and I for one will celebrate alongside you as you do it.

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As any of my readers can imagine, I’ve been following the Perry v. Schwarzenegger case with a great deal of interest.

This was, of course, the case for overturning California’s Proposition 8. By this time, it will come as news to no one that the judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, coming to the conclusion that there is no rational or constitutional basis for denying marriage rights to same sex couples, and indeed that the attempt to do so was unconstitutional in itself.

However, a (slim) majority of California voters supported the proposition in 2008. Does the judge have the right to invalidate the expressed will of the people?

That question, rather than any religious objection, is likely to be central when this case reaches the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Legally, however, the answer is “yes”. The Constitution specifically forbids the individual states from enacting laws which deny equal rights to any of its citizens. As such, the proposition was invalid from the moment the ink was dry, and should never have been put to the vote in the first place. The fact that a majority of today’s voters supported it will be irrelevant in the long term, whereas the highest law of the land is designed to stand for ever.

I’d like to congratulate Judge Walker (who is, incidentally, both gay and Catholic) on a meticulously thought-out ruling which applied the rule of law to the proposition without allowing for any non-legal bias, much as the Supreme Court is supposed to (and may yet be called upon to).

Congratulations also to the California couples who have fought for so long against an uncertain future; this is a milestone for all of us, but you will be the ones to feel it most keenly.

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Among the certain truths held to be self-evident by the founders of this country is the tenet that all men are created equal. While it took a little while to recognize that a minority skin color did not actually constitute being 40% less equal, and that a person’s gender did not automatically render them more or less qualified for certain tasks and duties, we pride ourselves on the level of equality we have achieved.

Unless, of course, one happens to be gay. Why is it that I fail to see any kind of distinction between this and other discriminatory ideology?

One of the biggest issues right now is the proposed repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. I support this repeal wholeheartedly, and favor the full integration of LGBT personnel into all levels of the military. Personally, I believe that a nation which prides itself on its diversity and its freedoms should be represented by military personnel with a similar respect for diversity and freedom.

Allow me to illuminate something for you here: placing a homosexual soldier in barracks with the rest of a platoon does not mean that the homosexual soldier is going to be desperately trying to get conjugal with the others. We are all capable of the same levels of discipline and restraint.

I would further venture to suggest that if a heterosexual soldier has a problem with serving in the same unit as a homosexual soldier, perhaps it is the heterosexual soldier who, by dint of his prejudice and bigotry, merits a dishonorable discharge.

The other big issue is of course gay marriage. I have ranted about this in the past on this blog, but some points are worth re-making. The objections to gay marriage have been almost exclusively religious in nature. It has been explicitly stated by the founders of this country that religion has no place in the governing of the land, and therefore in the making of its laws. Ultimately, who is harmed by the marriage of Adam and Steve? These are not people who would otherwise marry women and continue the great chain of life. However, their union can provide a stable family unit into which an orphaned child can be adopted and provided with care which would otherwise never come. Also, it should be noted that if you (a hypothetical heterosexual married person) honestly think that allowing the gay couple down the street to marry in any way cheapens or degrades the meaning of your own marriage, you should perhaps look to what weaknesses must lie within your own marriage to make it so susceptible to such cheapening.

We’re all people. Let’s all treat each other that way.

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I know that the use of language in today’s mass media is geared toward a fifth-grade (or thereabouts) comprehension level. Surely, though, the folks we elect to serve in the highest offices should be at least a little smarter than a fifth grader. Perhaps we should have Jeff Foxworthy come and test the entire lot of our nation’s politicians for actual fitness to serve.

Jeff Foxworthy
Our nation’s savior?

Allow me to illuminate a few things for all of you in national politics.

1. Bush was not a Nazi. Obama is not a socialist. Labels of ‘fascist’ (which few of you appear able to spell) and ‘communist’ are similarly inapplicable to either of them – though it is inordinately amusing to hear words like these applied to two men of quite different ideology. Less amusingly, I believe anyone who has suffered under the rule of such regimes as those of Hitler and Stalin would be rather offended to hear the comparatively trivial measures taken by these Presidents compared to the savagery they were forced to submit to.

Enough name-calling. If you have an issue with a President’s policies, come up with a reasonable alternative and we can all have a civilized debate. If you can’t do that, then keep your mouth shut.

2. Stop talking about whether there is too much God or too little God in the running of the country. Both of these are meaningless. The country was founded in part to ESCAPE the notion of any kind of state endorsement of religion. I have no problem with people worshipping according to their beliefs and legislating according to their values, but don’t use confuse the two and use religion to justify your political acts. In a nation whose founders specifically tried to avoid mixing religion into the law, such actions are hypocritical and offensive.

3. Related to the above: if you’re a bigot, just man up and be a bigot. If you have a problem with blacks, or Muslims, or the poor, or women, or gays, or conservatives, or any other group, just say so. Don’t get into the “un-American” line of bullshit. They’re just as American as you are. They love freedom just as much as you do. (Not that you even know what ‘freedom’ means, if you’re trying to deny it to anybody else.) Last but by no means least: any right which you would claim for yourself, you should also accord to them, whether it’s specifically spelled out in the Constitution or not.

4. Keep your promises. Don’t tell the public one thing and then do another, unless you also give us a damn good reason for the change. Don’t tell one group something and another group the opposite. We live in the Internet age, and we WILL find out. When it happens, enjoy your retirement money. We won’t vote for you to keep darkening our doorsteps.

5. When you watched movies as a youngster, remember how you cheered when the schoolyard bully got his comeuppance. Look at America’s standing in the international community around, say, 2006-7. If elementary school parable is indeed the limit of your understanding, maybe it can at least be allowed to guide foreign policy in years to come.

6. The national media have provided you with a means of understanding whether you are acting logically – whether you identify with the right or left. His name is Jon Stewart. If your name is mentioned on his show more than twice in any given month, you might wish to take a look at your priorities. Jon Stewart, you see, IS smarter than a fifth grader.

7. Perhaps above all, remember this quote from former President Harry Truman – another individual who was smarter than a fifth grader:

“Don’t piss in the soup, boys – we’ve all got to eat.”

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Just a few bits regarding some of my favorite posting topics:


Dollhouse: The season finale of Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse last night was amazing, astounding, astonishing, and quite possibly a lot of other words beginning with A.

For those of you who are interested in the show, but haven’t yet caught last week’s episode or last night’s, I’m not going to give away the identity of the guest star, but his performances in those two episodes have had “Give this man an Emmy!” written all over them. Just incredible.

Citizenship: Thank you to everyone who tweeted and Facebooked and LiveJournaled and texted and in other ways passed along their congratulations; each helped to make an already special day a little more so.

I came home last night to find this:

handmade card

… which was amazingly sweet.


Gay marriage: So I got a little pocket-sized copy of the Constitution at the ceremony yesterday, and was reading through it when I noticed something.

“Article IV, Section 1: Full faith and credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records and judicial Proceedings of every other State;”

Doesn’t that mean that these supposed decisions taken by states to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states are really just the states in question deciding to do what they were already constitutionally bound to do?

And by extension, if every state is required to recognize gay marriages performed in other states, doesn’t that make banning them a little pointless?

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And then there were five. 

With the stroke of a pen, Maine Governor John Baldacci (D) today made his state the fifth to allow same-sex marriage. This makes 10% of the states now, and it looks as though New Hampshire may not be far behind. 

It’s great to see more and more states looking beyond a discriminatory ideology and embracing ALL of their citizens.

Congratulations to Maine’s legislature, voters and same-sex couples on a well-deserved victory.

  maine

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4 down, 46 to go!

And one more state comes through! Well done to Vermont’s state legislature. For all of the economic misery which is being heaped upon us each day, it is still an inspirational time.

vermont   This is perhaps less surprising from Vermont than many other states, since it is very much a progressive state. I hope to see a similarly bold initiative pass in New York someday soon.

So who’s next? Maine, Rhode Island, Minnesota and New Hampshire all have legislation pending that would do the same.

And perhaps there is hope yet that Proposition 8 will be overturned in California. With each new blow struck for equality, the arguments against it become less and less tenable.

I hadn’t intended to post on the same subject twice in a row like this – but two pieces of good news in such quick succession are hard to ignore.

As an American-to-be, I am very proud of what Americans are achieving here.

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Congratulations, Iowa

So the Iowa Supreme Court just ruled – unanimously! – that a ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. Marriage licenses will be available to same-sex couples beginning in three weeks’ time.

iowa

I’m not gay, and I’ve never been to Iowa, and yet I can’t express how happy this makes me.

I will never accept that a minority group should be denied any right enjoyed by a majority. I do not feel that allowing same-sex couples to marry will in any way threaten my own marriage. I do not feel that having my child learn that a homosexual lifestyle is acceptable is in any way a bad thing – indeed, I look forward to seeing him learn that.

So congratulations, Iowa, on being the first of the states in the middle to recognize the plain and simple truth when you see it.

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The dust is finally settling. Democrats now have the White House, and majorities in both Houses of Congress. If you’re bothering to read this, you undoubtedly know what happened in your neck of the woods, so I’m not going to re-hash the results themselves.

Nor am I going to talk at length about the crucial factors that made the difference; suffice it to say that a more organized campaign, a massive get-out-the-vote operation, the economic collapse, a nationwide feeling of Bush fatigue and, yes, race all played hefty roles.

I will say this: I have for a long time had a great deal of respect for Senator McCain. Unfortunately, Candidate McCain wasn’t even the same man, and lost a great deal of that respect as the campaign wore on.

What is far more important than all of the above is what the result actually MEANS for the country. We have, in our President-elect, a man with a great deal of intelligence and charisma, but a notable lack of experience. This is offset by the vast experience Joe Biden brings to the table, and the immensely long list of advisors from whom Obama will hopefully solicit opinions before making his decisions. However, the ultimate authority in many situations will lie with Obama. I desperately hope that he has the wisdom to listen to the advice he is given.

I also desperately hope that Obama’s presidency is a successful one; if not, it could be a substantial setback for subsequent “minority” candidates. The weight of expectation now thrust onto his shoulders is immense, considering both his quasi-messianic status among devotees and the fact that he is inheriting two wars and an economy in crisis. The definition of “success” for the next four years may well be simply a matter of not screwing anything up too badly, but I very much hope to see more. It’s not going to be an easy term, for him or for us, but I do have hope that better days are in store.

I have seen two separate writers, both of whose opinions I greatly respect, refer to the job of President as Persuader-in-Chief. Indeed, it will not be Obama’s job to make the laws (hence the separation of the executive and legislative branches) but he will nonetheless have a role in shaping them. The charm and charisma so often displayed during the campaign may indeed be his most valuable asset as he asks members of Congress and foreign leaders for their support on specific initiatives. A smile and a handshake from “That One” could be as effective as the Majority Whip will be.

One area in which I fervently hope that the Democratic Party make bold steps forward is GLBT rights. Over half the states in the Union now have bans in place on same-sex marriage, and some of them ban or restrict the adoption of children by same-sex couples. However you slice it, this IS discriminatory – a subset of the populace is being denied rights which the rest enjoy. This is not particularly different from the long-gone classification of black people as three-fifths of a person, nor from the restriction on voting rights to men only. I do not contest that the legal frameworks of the nation and the individual states allow for such bans, but I cannot, and will not, accept that they should ever be enacted. Personally, I feel that banning anyone else’s marriage threatens my own far more than allowing it ever could. I also do not accept the argument that allowing same-sex marriages will culminate in people being allowed to marry their pets, or whatever the latest idiocy is. I believe that if you are able to give your informed consent to a marriage, you should be allowed to enter into it, regardless of gender, gender identity or sexuality. 

Another area is lobbying reform. When lawmakers are being offered inducements in return for their votes on legislation, the best interests of the nation are no longer being served. If the special interests are not a factor and members of Congress can vote with their consciences instead of their pocketbooks, we might see real accomplishments.

Due in part to Obama’s race and in part to the polarization of the country, many people have raised the horrific specter of another presidential assassination. We can all pray that this does not transpire, for I do not believe it would do anybody any good. However, it does reinforce the single piece of advice I would give to President-elect Obama, and would ask that he heed above all else: govern each day as though it is your last. Don’t think about re-election in four years, think about what you can do each and every day to make the United States of America better for all its citizens. I believe that four years of operating in this manner will do infinitely more good than eight years without.

Another blogger I read came to these shores with his family while he was still a boy. Last night, his father texted him with the words “THIS is the reason I brought you to America.” Let’s not have that faith – that hope – be in vain.

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