Category Archives: lgbt family

Hawaii Becomes 15th State to Embrace Marriage Equality

On Tuesday, November 13, Hawaii’s State Senate put its final approval on the marriage equality bill. The Senate passed the bill 19-4, and it awaits the Governor’s signature, expected today.

In the many days of debate in the Hawaii House, I was particularly moved by House Member, Representative Kaniela Ing:

Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of Senate Bill 1, relating to equal rights.

 Thank you, a couple days ago I spoke to young mainstream Christians, today I have a broader message.  In 1998, my parents voted on a constitutional amendment to “reserve marriage between one woman and one man.”

 I remember commercials: vote “yes” for “traditional marriage,” our family liked that one, and vote “no” on the constitutional amendment, that one was bad.

 You see, like most 9 year olds, morality was a very black and white concept–there’s right, and then there’s wrong.  I carried a due north/ due south moral compass oriented primarily on what my incredibly loving parents, hi mom, taught me.  And they along with my church taught me gay was bad.

 But in October 1998, a few weeks before that vote, something happened that shook and recalibrated my young conscience.  Matthew Shepard, a gay teenager going to college in Wyoming, was inhumanely tortured and murdered by straight classmates–a hate crime that made national news.  He was tied to a fence, and beat with a pistol and left to bleed to death.

 I remember discussing this with a friend of mine from church, and my friend said, “Good for him, God says he is evil.”  But I knew, in my young heart, that no one deserved that kind of brutality, no one.  This is where my convictions began.

 You see, if we want to understand the gay rights issue, we need to understand the LGBT experience.

 Many of us just can’t grasp what it would be like.  Until college, like many of the testifiers here, I thought being gay was a lifestyle choice that went against nature.  But when you actually hear from the LGBT community, as we have witnessed, it is clearly not a choice.

 In fact, many gay people who testified last week, proclaimed that as teenagers, they fought who they are, and tried to force themselves straight.  Many faced self-loathing and torment because of this, and thank God that unlike the thousands of gay teenagers that take their own lives every year, these brave people persevered, and they were able to be here today– in front of an less-than-friendly crowd–to stand up like champions for equal rights for all.

 For those opponents who say this isn’t about civil rights, I challenge you to tell that with a clear conscience to Alan Spector, who had the love of his life deported back to South America because his post-doctoral research funding expired.

 I challenge you to tell that to Kimberly Allen, who was not allowed to see her life-partner in the hospital during the last hours of her life,

 I challenge you to tell that Tambry Young who had to reconsider adoption and delay forming the family she desires because of the costs without the rights and benefits of marriage

 …tell that to Bart Zobel, a soldier fighting for his freedom who was called a flaming homo mistake by a rank-and-file superior,

 …tell that to Jeremy White who slipped into depression trying to force or pray himself straight…

 …I challenge you to tell the parents of Matthew Shepard, that the suffering and tragic death that their own son that they experienced is not sufficient to call this is civil rights issue.

 Tell these people hold on until the majority is ready. Tell them they must continue to suffer inequality and hate, because other people are not ready to grant them full equality.  Can you do that with a clear conscience?

 Some testifiers have spoken about this bill ushering in an onslaught of the gay lifestyle.  And they challenged your committee members, Mr. Speaker, would you wish homosexuality upon your own kids?

 So I really thought about this.

 …If the gay lifestyle they speak of pertains to the highly successful physicians, attorneys, economists, the world renowned microbiologists and psychologists that we’ve seen testify.

 …If this gay lifestyle is the inspiringly committed couples who have been together for decades, yet are still viewed as strangers in the eyes of their government.

 …If this gay lifestyle is boldly standing up in the face of hate to fight for equal rights for all

 …If that’s what the gay agenda will bring…If that’s how gay children will be like.  Then hey, sign me up.  I’ll take three.

 And please don’t write scripts for your kids to tell me children need a mother and a father in order to be raised right—when my father passed away when I was a young child, and just like our junior U.S. Senator, and just like our Hawaii-born president of the united states, I come from a single parent home.  Don’t tell me that I, and my brothers and sisters who are exceling in sports, academics, and art—that we are any lesser than your child.

 Especially in Hawaii, where hanai adoption is enshrined in tradition, where multi-generation families are valued as much as our kupuna are, and where diversity is the hallmark of our aloha spirit.   We need to embrace empirical evidence stating that the nuclear family is no better off than other familial structures.  Our children need to continue to learn that in Hawaii, we’re all equals, no matter your sexual orientation, and no matter how your family is structured.

 You see, I live in Kihei, with one of the largest gay populations in the State and with a majority of my constituents in support, but for my colleagues who have the majority in their districts in opposition, let me leave you with this.

 In high school, my friends just like most kids in high school, we used gay as an insult, or as the great Philosopher Mackelmore said, “As synonymous with the lesser.” We hurled it at each other to make fun of each other, one day a gay classmate of mine was walking to band class, he tripped and he dropped a glass jar that was full of colorful paper stars, my friends started laughing at him. I felt bad, so I went over there and helped him, and that didn’t make me very cool, as a matter of fact every time we walked by that guy later on, my friends would say “hey there goes your boyfriend.” But, I did it not because it was the popular thing to do, but because it was the right thing to do. Standing up for this individual did not make me popular, but it was the right thing to do.

 Just because the numerical majority is in one place, it does not mean they are in the right place.  We are in a position right now, that we must lead our state to the right place.  Sometimes the right thing to do, goes against the popular thing to do.

 While I cannot take back my parents 1998 vote back, the people placed me in a position where I can help correct an injustice here in Hawaii. And I am prepared to face the consequences of my vote. To me this bill is about love and acceptance, in Hawaii we call that Aloha. One person in the audience stated that it’s the wrong love, I don’t agree, again I agree with Macklemore, “It’s the same love.” I have one last question, how many more gay people must God create until we realize that he wants them here? How many more gay people must God create until we realize that he wants them here?

 Mr Speaker, let the people decide…who they marry

Gov. Abercrombie: Democrats Make A Difference

Pat Gozemba

On February 23rd, Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) signed the civil unions bill for his state. Karen Kahn and I, who are married in Massachusetts, now feel as if we can move to Hawai’i one day and be protected with the same rights and benefits as all other married couples in Hawai’i.

“For me, this bill represents equal rights for everyone in Hawaii–everyone who comes here,” Abercrombie said. “This is, to me, the essence of the aloha spirit.”

Marriage Proposal

Tambry makes a long-distance proposal to Suzanne

Tambry makes a long-distance proposal to Suzanne

Tambry arrived in Massachusetts from Honolulu, HI, a week ago to help out with Maine’s “No on 1″ campaign. Then she realized, she could do more than fight for the right to marriage—she could marry her partner of 28 years here in Massachusetts. So an elaborate proposal was put together long-distance, that included the above photograph. Suzanne said “yes”—and on Saturday, November 7, Suzane and Tambry will marry in Salem, MA, with many of our Courting Equality friends there as witnesses. Suzanne and daughter, Shylar, fly in on November 4 to begin the festivities! Everybody wish them well!

Married in Massachusetts… Not in Hawaii …

Kath Sands and Linda Krieger

Kath Sands, former professor of religion at UMass-Boston, and her partner Linda Krieger, an attorney, have a marriage license in Massachusetts. But last year, they moved to Honolulu, where they both teach at the university–Kath in American Studies, and Linda at the Richardson School of Law. Linda grew up in Hawaii, and so it was a homecoming of sorts. But here in Hawaii, their marriage isn’t recognized. Like us, they have joined the struggle to pass a civil unions bill this legislative session.

This week’s Honolulu Weekly, features Kath and Linda in an extraodinarily moving story by the paper’s editor Ragnar Carlson. There haven’t been many stories that cover the challenges for married Massachusetts couples who leave our state–and with few exceptions–have to leave the legal recognition of their relationships behind as well. As Carlson says, “For Kreiger and Sands, who had preiously enjoyed equal status under the law, the transition was rough.” Read the full story.

GLAD Challenges DOMA

On March 3, 2009, GLAD, with Mary Bonauto acting as lead attorney, opened the first salvo in the battle to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act. In particular, GLAD is challenging Section 3 of the law, which denies federal benefits to married same-sex couples. Here’s what The Progress Report, from the Center for America Progress, had to say:

 LAWSUIT TO OVERTURN DOMA: During the campaign, Obama promised to repeal DOMA, noting that “federal law should not discriminate in any way against gay and lesbian couples, which is precisely what DOMA does.” Today, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) filed the first concerted, multi-plaintiff legal challenge to Section 3 of DOMA. GLAD is representing a group of gay plaintiffs who have been harmed by the federal refusal to recognize their marital rights. Under Section 3, legally married same-sex couples are excluded from any federal law or program that benefits other married individuals. The consequence of Section 3 is that gays and lesbians have been denied spousal protections in Social Security, federal income tax, federal employees’ and retirees’ benefits, and in the issuance of passports. In fact, according to a forthcoming Center for American Progress study by Ben Furnas and Josh Rosenthal, the average same-sex couple “will be denied over $8,000 a year in Social Security survivor benefits upon the death of the higher-earning spouse after retirement.” In Gill et al. v. Office of Personnel Management — filed in federal District Court in Boston — GLAD is arguing that Section 3 is unconstitutional because it violates the federal constitutional guarantee of equal protection and that it is “an unprecedented intrusion by the federal government into marriage law.” “I think one way of looking at it is it’s about change and accepting diversity, and I believe that I’m no different than anybody else,” one plaintiff in the case explained. “I should get the same benefits as any other spouse of a federal employee for 27 years. I think our relationship may look different but it’s ultimately the same.” GLAD believes the suit “may ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, which would mark the first time the nation’s highest court heard a major DOMA challenge.”

Please, No Gay Divorcees

On March 5th the California Supreme Court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of Proposition 8. Opponents of marriage equality will have the infamous Ken Starr representing them and arguing in essence that the 18,000 same-sex couples married in California must divorce. The Courage Campaign brings us a touching video on what Starr’s assault on marriage will mean.

Hey Finally somebody in California got the idea that putting real gay people in the public relations materials might be a good idea. Dianne Feinstein, the Governator, and the rest of the abstract blatherers about our civil rights didn’t work. Now some folks with courage and common sense are presenting the gay and lesbian families whose civil rights have been voted on by the majority. And whose civil rights have been taken away by a slim plurality.

 

The Obama Family Supports LGBT Families


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The Obama Family is not threatened by our families. Now we have partners to work with. Finally, LGBT families are gaining credibility and respectability at the level of the White House.

At the very moment that Barack Obama legally became president, 12:01 p.m. on January 20th (even before the swearing in), the Obama administration website went live. Support for our families is there.

So as Rick Warren prepared for his moment in the sun, the Obama administration was demonstrating real support for us. It’s worth checking out the White House site, but here are some highlights:

•  Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples: President Obama supports full civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples. Obama also believes we need to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions. These rights and benefits include the right to assist a loved one in times of emergency, the right to equal health insurance and other employment benefits, and property rights.


•  Oppose a Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage: President Obama voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006 which would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman and prevented judicial extension of marriage-like rights to same-sex or other unmarried couples.


•  Expand Adoption Rights: President Obama believes that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation. He thinks that a child will benefit from a healthy and loving home, whether the parents are gay or not.

Now it’s time for us to keep up the pressure and get the rights our families deserve. We’ve never had a better friend in the White House. We should not give up the struggle for full marriage equality. For now, it’s important to achieve social and economic justice.


Gene Robinson: Our Consolation Prize on YouTube

Well, we all watched to see the bone that was being thrown to us. To be fair, being offered the prayer slot in the all-star lineup of the We Are One concert wasn’t all that bad. I know that the Big Homophobe, Rick Warren,  got the primo spot, the Invocation at the Inauguration, but we did get a bone . . .. Or so I thought until I listened to the concert on NPR. No Gene Robinson. I went over to a friend’s later to watch the HBO rebroadcast of We Are One. Robinson was not there either.What a joke.You can catch Gene on YouTube below. Meanwhile, here’s the prayer.

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“O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.”

Consolation prize coming up:


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Yes We Can

Last week, America voted for hope, not fear. For peace, not war. For love, not hatred. The election of Barack Obama represents what is best in the American spirit—fairness, equality, respect for hardworking people, a belief in a better tomorrow. It has been a long time coming. As Obama has said again and again over the last 21 months, America is a nation defined by its continued desire to form “a more perfect union.”

Unfortunately, for the LGBT community, voters who went to the polls in record numbers on Tuesday, voted their fears on the issues that matter to us most—respect for our families. We lost votes on marriage equality in three states: California, Florida and Arizona. And in Arkansas, voters banned unmarried couples from serving as foster or adoptive parents. This measure, clearly aimed at gay families, is perhaps the most damaging of this year’s initiatives in that it so blatantly carries the message that gay people are harmful to children.

Continue reading at Beacon Broadside.

Swift-Boating Gay Marriage

Swift-Boating Gay Marriage

Pat Gozemba

A look at the election maps for California shows how the LGBT community blew it on Proposition 8.

First of all, we ran TV ads that did not include LGBT people and our families. Jonathan Rauch called us “invisible.” No loving families smiling at each other on their wedding day, at the breakfast table getting their day started, or at their kid’s soccer game. Instead we had straight people from parents to politicians talking about us. Isn’t that what went on before we all came out and spoke for ourselves?

Secondly we forgot to use simple addition in calculating how many African-Americans and Latinos would come out to vote for Barack Obama in his historic candidacy. With all of these folks at the polls, we really needed to prepare them with our view of how important marriage is. Instead of doing this, we allowed bigoted fundamentalist preachers in the Catholic, evangelical, and Mormon churches to psyche these folks up to vote “Yes on Prop 8.”

How did Prop 8 succeed in Los Angeles and San Diego counties? Dismal. These counties are predominantly people of color. They came out to break a hold on another privilege denied all of us, having an African-American President  by voting overwhelmingly for Barack Obama. People who ought to “get it” about being denied civil rights voted to take away ours. They and people of color throughout the state did not vote to uphold our civil right to marriage. They never made the connection between our civil right and their civil right to marriage. We lost big-time in communities of color.

Did anyone on our “No on Prop 8”side, during the campaign, effectively remind people of color that until the California Supreme Court ruled in 1948 in Perez v Sharp that their marriage rights were limited?  They could not marry a white person. The same court that granted people of color that civil right of marriage granted us our right to marriage. Did any of the “No on 8″ folks believe that deep organizing in communities of color was crucial? Did we believe that homogenized “No on 8″ ads would appeal to voters of all communities?

There is no question that the time of the campaign was short. But the lack of work that we have done in an ongoing way in communities of color came back to haunt us. We learned again the mistake of taking communities of color for granted.

Here’s what my friend and heterosexual ally Karen Rudolph, who coincidentally is married to a man of color, had to say about this:

“I think that we didn’t get LA and San Diego because of the larger African American and Latino populations.  The next time around we have to focus on them.  We need African American performers speaking in ads on Black radio stations.  We need television ads with Black grandmothers saying how they want their grandchildren’s father to have the right to marry his partner.  We need ads on TeleMundo in Spanish and Spanish language robo calls.  This intellectual stuff in the English language didn’t reach those communities.”

Rudolph went on to say, “I think that we need to let people know that gay marriage doesn’t turn kids gay, that no one is recruiting, that no teacher is forcing children to approve of gay relationships.  We need to let them know that no church will be forced to approve of the morality of gay marriage and no one will be forced to have gay weddings in their churches.  If we don’t confront those slanders head on, we allow ourselves to be swift-boated.”

And swift-boated we were.