Tag Archives: marriage equality

Eye-opener

This past weekend in Paris was an eye-opener.

When foreigners think of Paris, we of course imagine the Eiffel Tour, the Triumphal Arc and the Mona Lisa hanging in the Louvre.

But beyond the museums and tourist attractions, we also think of Paris as being a center of intellectual liberalism. The home of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. The city of American expatriates like Hemmingway and Langston Hughes. The sight of the sexual revolution protests in 1968 that witnessed a seemingly out-of-touch Charles de Gaulle resign from office.

On Sunday, Paris was the sight of a very different sort of protest from those of ‘68. Rather than students descending on the streets of Paris to protest for reproductive rights, thousands of bourgeois Parisians swarmed such iconic sights of past protests as the Bastille all in the name of opposing France’s new gay marriage law.

My boyfriend and I unwittingly picked a horrible time to visit the city. A friend of ours was on a whirlwind, 8-day tour of Europe and happened to be stopping through Paris the same weekend as the protest – something we only realized once we arrived and saw hundreds of posters across the city inviting “Tous à Paris” (Everyone to Paris) on May 26.

On the day of the protest, we did our best to avoid the crowds of homophobic, Right-wing protestors but it was inevitable that we came across more than our fair share. When we woke up on Sunday morning, several dozen had gathered at the Gare de Lyon near our hotel and our friend’s hostel.

My boyfriend made the observation that all of the protestors exuded an image of wealth and class.

And it’s true. While it’s true that there was nothing classy about their hoodies adorned with stick-figure heteronormative families, they all seemed like they hailed from the same white, bourgeois neighborhoods. While some protestors made their way towards La Place de la Bastille, a number of others sat down to expensive sidewalk cafés for Sunday lunch.

A nice Bordeaux, perhaps, to go with your protest, Monsieur?

We spent the afternoon in Montmartre away from the protestors. There were still signs pasted on notice boards and street lamps, of course, but we could happily forget that the city streets below were swollen with well-to-do Catholics, many of whom decided this would be an appropriate occasion to trot out their own young children as if this was an appropriate occasion for showing off to gay couples what they were missing out on.

A train ride north and we were in Saint-Denis to visit the first gothic-style basilica in Europe and the final resting place of France’s royalty. Saint-Denis is outside Paris and as you ride the metro you notice a significant shift in the demographics from what you see in the city’s core.

In the two or three hours we were in Saint-Denis, I saw a total of one sticker near the metro entrance announcing the protest. Mind you, we didn’t simply walk to the basilica, turn around and leave; we went to a café afterwards and then walked down the main street to a McDonalds for internet access. We saw a lot of kids with their families playing out on the street, riding their bikes and playing soccer. But no hoodies or flags with stick figures of mom, dad and the kids.

The complete lack of interest in this working class, heavily Muslim neighborhood synthesized for me what a divided city Paris is. Where before I’d only seen the classic 19th century architecture and wide boulevards along the Seine River, I could now see the conservative ruling class that was still in place 150 years after Paris’ reconstruction largely rid the inner parts of the city of its poor and working classes.

My hunch is that many in this diverse community don’t have favorable feelings towards gay marriage or gay adoption. I don’t want to suppose a percentage or a proportion, but I’m sure that if you conducted a poll, you would find plenty who oppose the new law. The protests in Paris, however, don’t reflect the values of the suburbs since many of the same wealthy few in the city’s core are the very same ones who support anti-immigration and Islamophobic measures.

Here I will make one concession to Americans who oppose gay marriage: they are generally very fervently convicted of their beliefs. It’s not a question of propriety or preserving the status quo, but rather a question of moral rightness. Yes, of course it is wrong to impose a religious system of beliefs on what should be a free and open democracy, but at least there is some misguided conviction present which drives such actions, some idea that what is at stake is the very heart and soul of our country.

Meanwhile in Paris, the haves hold the have-nots at arm’s length in the suburbs as a tribute to the 19th century reconstruction of the city, just as they tried to keep immigrants out in the 20th century and just as they are trying to keep non-traditional families from enjoying the same rights today in the 21st century.

A symbol of intellectual liberalism and progress? Perhaps yes, but only as spurned on by the overbearing conservative bourgeois who dominate still today.

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Dear Advocate, Please Stop

Last year, there was an uproar following The Advocate naming Grand Rapids to its list of the top 15 gayest cities in America.

It bothered me that my hometown had been named to the list. While I understand that The Advocate is trying to spotlight gay life in other corners of the country besides the East and West Coasts, this was a complete misrepresentation of my hometown.

A year later, Grand Rapids is off the list but other small towns across America like Salt Lake City and Spokane, Washington remain firmly entrenched on the list because of The Advocates’ questionable criteria:

The Advocate Gay cities criteria

You can pick apart the criteria for yourself and decide how fair you think it is. I think this year’s criteria is slightly less eyebrow-raising than last year (no more nude yoga?), but still. Whole Foods makes a city gay? Glee concerts? Rugby?

You know what I think would make a city gay friendly? How about not getting harassed when you want to hold hands in public? How about not having to worry about whether or not you can go look at an apartment together and be seen as a couple or if you should act like you’re just friends? How about partner benefits?

The best part is that MARRIAGE EQUALITY is 5 points. Marriage equality is not equality. Legal recognition, though a step in the right direction, guarantees relatively little in life. Legal recognition doesn’t mean that your family will be accepting or that you won’t have people lean out their car windows and yell hateful words at you.

For the sake of all of us in Middle America, The Advocate needs to seriously reevaluate what makes a city “gay”. If these cities really are so gay, they should make a great vacation destination for the staff at The Advocate. You know, they can go to the roller derby and stuff.

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2013 is our year

Equality DE

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28/01/2013 · 16:55

People really think this way

Since I follow NOM on Facebook, I have at least one “WTF!?” moment every day when I see something on my newsfeed.

Today, I learned that I’m a fascist.

I don’t know how much credence can be given to this story that a woman got bullied at her front door by a liberal, pro-gay rights activist. Anyone can go on Rush Limbaugh or any other call-in radio show and make up anything they want. But for the sake of it, let’s pretend that this really did happen and this woman really was intimidated by a canvasser in her own home to the point where she felt threatened by this “evil person”.

Apparently she was asked to sign a petition against the ballot initiative in Minnesota to define marriage between one man and one woman and she told this canvasser that she supported his right to his own opinion but she disagreed with his views on marriage at which point the conversation went from bad to worse.  According to the caller, “Then he really went off the wall and started yelling and screaming and shouting and waving his arms.”

First of all, I would like to apologize to this woman first and foremost as a canvasser. Supposing that this really did happen. As a canvasser, I do everything I can to approach people with sensitivity, recognizing that not everyone I talk to is going to agree with me on politics. In fact, I had my own interesting run-in last weekend. Long story short, no one should ever feel intimidated by a canvasser. That’s not our job. Our job is to connect with voters, to have conversations, to exchange ideas and try our best to sell ours. If people don’t want to talk to us, we shake the dust off our feet and go on our way.

Secondly, I would like to say that when we frame political discussion based on extremes, we get nowhere. The only way forward is earnest discussion between reasonable people of good faith. People who “go berserk” are not going to lead the way forward, whatever side you’re on. People who compare gays to Nazis or terrorists are not going to lead the way forward. People who propose an “underground railroad” to save kids from gay parents are not going to lead the way forward.

As an advocate for LGBT rights, I ask heterosexual people who oppose LGBT rights to examine what exactly they’re opposing and why. As necessary as legislation is, the best way forward is for all LGBT people to live their lives as authentically as possible – something that’s not always easy, which is why I would like to particularly call on other gay men to do so since we, as a group, enjoy the greatest privilege of any letter in our community. (Of course I don’t want to say that all gay men enjoy the same level of privilege, any number of other factors come into play from religion to socio-economic background, to where you live, etc.)

The more visible we are, the more authentic we are as queer people, the less credence the Right Wing has when they point to stories like this about “gay fascists” taking over America and trying to “take away religious freedom”. People will be able to dismiss these stories when they know our faces, when they know our own stories, when they know that we’re they’re friends, co-workers, children, sisters and brothers.

I’m out. Are you?

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Straight families versus LGBT families

Dear National Organization for Marriage,

I love you. Every time I think I have no real purpose in the blogosphere, you remind me that I have a purpose in the digital world – and that purpose is laughing at you.

Seriously. Following you on Facebook was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Whenever I need a good laugh, I make sure to read your status updates. You don’t even make me angry because you’re arguments in defense of heterosexual marriage make so little sense to me. I mean, of course, I used to be one of you. I understand. You think that gay people are images from gay pride parades. That we’re a bunch of shirtless men having orgies on floats in broad daylight – GOOD GOD, JUNE! GO RUN AND HIDE THE KIDS THE HOMOS ARE COMING.

I used to think that, too. Imagine how much fun that was for me as a teenager when my hormones started raging and I realized that I was one of them.

It was so much fun I wanted to kill myself. That’s some pretty crazy intense fun.

Watch out, parents. The gays are coming for your kids through their cereal boxes now.
Thanks to Destructoid.com for the image – a great article by them is linked through the photo.

So getting to the point, I just had to say how much I enjoyed your gem of a blogpost today decrying “one the dumbest corporate PR stunts of ALL TIME.”

Yup, that’s right, folks. General Mills today declared war on marriage. They’ve joined those West Coast lefties Starbucks in pushing their pro-SSM worldview.

As best as I can tell from their blogpost, the general argument here is that A) you make cereal, B) you market cereal to families with children and C) we must make sure to tell our kids that gays and queers are freaks and not worthy of loving, life-long relationships.

I get all of that. What I don’t get is the implied argument which follows: “According to the US Census Bureau, there are only 111,033 same-sex households in America with children under age 18 who are living in the household. By contrast, there are over 35 million households with children under age 18.”

Dear NOM, can you elucidate this for me? I don’t get what you’re trying to say here. I think it’s strange when homophobic people start citing the fact that LGBT are such a small minority as if that justifies oppression, as if that means that we don’t have rights. So what? We’re a small minority. And? So are redheads.

For what it’s worth, I would like to point out that there are more states where it’s legal to marry your cousin in the US of A than states where gay couples can adopt. So just sayin’.

More importantly, I’d like to point out that of those 35 million “traditional” American households, a pretty decent number most definitely have an LGBT member. So please don’t try to divide our families up in “Gay” and “Traditional”.

The vast majority of LGBT people are born to heterosexual people. We’re already a part of your families. We’re your daughters and sisters, we’re your sons and brothers.

So, what is it that you’re trying to point out with these numbers you included? There has to be some reason you made a point of mentioning this apparent disparity.

Help me out, NOM.

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Injustice by any other name

I’ve been contemplating an entry like this for a long time. Now the National Organization for Marriage has given me the perfect excuse by making hay out of Reverend Keith Ratliff’s resignation from the NAACP over their recent endorsement of marriage equality.

Here’s what Mr. Ratliff is reported to have said according to the NOM’s Facebook page:

There is not a parallel between the homosexual community and the struggles of African-Americans in our country. I haven’t seen any signs on any restrooms that say ‘For Homosexuals Only.’ Homosexuals do not have to sit on the back of the bus, as African-Americans had to.

Now I don’t want to get anything wrong here, because on the one hand, Mr. Ratliff is 100% correct. There never has been a segregation between straight people and queer people in this country. We are the invisible minority. We can pass for a member of the majority if necessary; and, besides, without trying to hide ourselves, we usually don’t get picked out of a crowd as being any different.

Gay is not the new black.

I also want to point out that holding a competition between who’s the most discriminated against is a dangerous and futile business; the last thing I’m trying to do today is argue that queer people suffer from more discrimination than African Americans. Since the groups overlap, collectively speaking, queer African Americans take the trophy on this one, I think.

But I firmly believe in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which I do not throw around flippantly, but with the greatest reverence. As I made my first steps to being out at a Christian college, these words moved me more profoundly than anything else I’d ever read up to that point in my life. They shape my life still today:

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

Excerpt thanks to the UPenn website. See the rest of it here.

Although Dr. King was speaking within the context of the Civil Rights Movement, this same principle of “an inescapable network of mutuality” holds true in broader terms, as well – even in Dr. King’s own life. In 1968 before his assassination, he was working on organizing the Poor People’s Campaign to turn the spotlight on Americans of all backgrounds who were being shut out from the American Dream.

In one way or another, all discrimination, all injustice is interconnected.

I don’t echo Dr. King on this because it’s simply a memorable phrase. I think there’s something more to this. If, as minorities of one sort or another, all we do is fight for our own inclusion in the dominant society of our day without also trying to reform it, then we are no better than our oppressors. If all we’re doing is looking out for our own selves without trying to help others along the way, then that’s a sad commentary on the state of our outlook on existence.

Here’s what Kim Randle and I had to say in a newspaper article we wrote together back in 2009:

We need a communitarian commitment to one another — to understand one another, to learn from one another, to value and cherish our neighbors. A meaningful communitarian approach means valuing all of our neighbors and actively affirming our equality. This means white people need to stand up and demand justice for racial minorities. This means men need to demand equal opportunity for women. This means that heterosexual people need to demand integration of LGBT peers into our community.

There is not just one injustice that should rile the community that deserves our attention. Because of the fallen world and inherent evil we live in, we must strive continually to rectify all of our societal wrongs. This means that we should be angry about all injustice, all wrong, all prejudice, all hate and all marginalization. What makes us angry about race should also make us angry about homophobia, sexism, child sex trafficking, xenophobia and more.

So, in short Rev. Ratliff, I humbly submit to you my firm belief that injustice does not exist in isolation. Although I don’t know your own journey – I respect it. I respect you for the challenges that you face.

To the NAACP, thank you. Thank you for recognizing that the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. hold true today. That injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Thank you for recognizing that although my own story is different than yours, we can still fight for one another.

Let’s keep working, let’s keep fighting.

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Rethinking Marriage Pt. 3

The family is changing whether or not the Religious Right likes it. The family has changed over our entire history. There’s never been a concrete definition of what marriage should be since we’ve adapted it to new social situations, new technology, new vocations, new needs.

I realize that the word “adapt” sounds like a euphemism for “evolve” – but we see this just in the Bible itself as my great friend Alissa pointed out the last time I went on a marriage rant.

What our collective history shows us is that marriage and the family are remarkably fluid things. Rick Santorum and others on the RR (and by RR I mean Religious Right not Reading Rainbow) cling to Genesis [REF] where God joins together Adam and Eve as if this is such a permanent, enduring image representative of how marriage ought to be.

Obvious problems arise right away if you’re Rick Santorum and you believe in a literal version of this story (you already have some clue as to where I’m going if you watched the video): What about the kids?

Supposing Adam and Eve fulfilled hetero Christians’ favorite mandate to go out and be prosperous and they had lots of kids – their family still committed incest.

What’s next? Man on dog? After all, suppose one of your sisters doesn’t want to sleep with you. The options are limited, aren’t they, Rick?

Is this not a slippery slope? A fuzzy moral grey area that should lead the Rick Santorums of the world to pause in reflection? Necessity be damned. This is a not-so-glorious start to our existence if you believe in a literal interpretation of Genesis.

The RR in the USA silently condones incest through their affirmation and celebration of the Genesis accounts of creation, do they not?

And then it gets better.

Cue the protest rallies with the RR groupies and their ONE MAN + ONE WOMAN posters.

All the kids at school will think you’re awesome.

Have you read your Bible? Have you read your owner’s manual??

I know that I am not the first to point this out – but there’s a lot of screwed up shit in the Bible.

Anyone else ever wondered how many STIs Solomon the manwhore had?

David – the man after God’s own heart taking a young virgin to bed with him in his declining years?

These are only two famous examples. If you want more, open up the Old Testament just about anywhere you please. You have to look way harder for verses “condemning” homosexuality than you do for instances of screwed up straight relationships.

Moral ambiguity?

Hazy grey areas?

Slippery slopes?

Forget about telling your kids not to read Harry Potter. Don’t read the Old Testament! At least there’s no genocide in Harry Potter.

So the next time you show up at a protest because you feel like supporting the sacred, unchanging institution of marriage – ask yourself why just one man and one woman? Why not one man and a thousand women? Why not a brother and his sister? There is a Biblical basis for all of this. So if you’re going to deny people marriage based off of your holy text, why not say these other God approved marriages are OK? If marriage is so unchanging and a reflection of the immutable character of God, you should support this. You should be demanding that the US government support incestuous and polygamous relationships.

So if you want to be homophobic, go right ahead. Just be consistent. Read your Bible.

As for me, I think that the Bible is rife with ambiguities as I already stated. It is in many ways a beautiful book that tells the story of the widening of God’s circle from a small tribe to a nation to every tribe and nation – every color, gender, nationality, language, whathaveyou.

It shows that God’s relationship with us has evolved and is still evolving.

The Bible shows that our understanding of God is evolving, too. I don’t think that that means that God is changing, but instead that maybe we are – we are delving deeper into the workings of the world, of our minds, of the universe and as we do so we realize more and more just how intricate the universe is, and in my opinion how much sense it makes that God exists.

Could it be possible that our understanding of relationships is meant to evolve at the same time?

This brings me back to my understanding of marriage and the family as something particularly fluid and beautiful – because it’s evolving at the same time that we are. We can’t claim our 1950s image of the family as anything Biblical. Eve is not June Cleaver. Eve was not wearing high heels while she did the vacuuming. This black and white image may seem eternal – but my grandparents have been married longer than Leave it to Beaver has existed – they still are. 70 years. God bless them. They are my ultimate relationship heroes.

We can’t make the 1950s image we have into a security blanket, as I think it is for many.

Although I have long been hesitant on gay marriage, I am beginning to realize that, basically, we all want the same thing: Legal protection, tax benefits, visitation rights. That’s not so romantic, I realize, but strictly speaking that’s what marriage is about and what it has been about for centuries.

Long live romance.

Marriage is pliable and adaptable. I don’t care what word you use to call a union between two people. If you want queers to have civil unions instead, so be it.

The institution of marriage was big enough for incest and polygamy – I think it’s probably big enough for the gays as well.

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