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.”

Obama Administration Repudiates DOMA

Pat Gozemba

As we await Hawai’i Governor Neil Abercrombie’s signature on a civil unions bill later today, the news from Washington, Dc is fabulous. US Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama have concluded that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and indefensible.

Of course this will not be the end of the story. Congress and other parties will probably get involved and do a lot of grandstanding about marriage equality but a very big decision for equality has been made.

It will be thrilling and challenging to watch how this next phase of our civil rights battle plays out. I do not expect it to be a cakewalk–by any means.

The DOMA challenges from GLAD’s Mary Bonauto and MA Atty. Gen. Martha Coakley pushed the envelope in the struggle for equality.

Check out the full story in Obama Orders End to Defense of Federal Gay Marriage Law.

Julian Bond: MD Must End Marriage Inequality

Pat Gozemba
Honolulu, February 19, 2011

Julian Bond of the NAACP and Coretta Scott King have long been our allies. Important to remember this when some Black folks speak out against LGBT people and use the Bible and their social experience to continue to oppress us.

Story from Baltimore Sun

As a civil right activist, I have spent my life fighting to make ours a more just and fair society. That’s why I urge the Maryland General Assembly to support marriage equality and pass the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act. I firmly believe that this is a matter of civil rights, equal protection and equality. Civil rights are positive legal prerogatives — the right to equal treatment before the law. These are rights shared by everyone; there is no one in the United States who does not — or should not — share in enjoying these rights. Discrimination is wrong no matter who the victim is. We cannot move toward full human rights protection and opportunity without confronting — and ending — homophobia. For it is homophobia that is at the root of denying the freedom to marry to gays and lesbians. As my late neighbor and friend, Coretta Scott King, said in 1998:

“Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood.”

And in 2000 she added:

“We have a lot more work to do in our common struggle against bigotry and discrimination. I say ‘common struggle’ because I believe very strongly that all forms of bigotry and discrimination are equally wrong and should be opposed by right-thinking Americans everywhere. Freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation is surely a fundamental human right in any great democracy, as much as freedom from racial, religious, gender or ethnic discrimination.”
Text OPINION to 70701 to get weekday commentary roundups delivered to your mobile device

Three years ago we celebrated the 40th anniversary of a case aptly called Loving v. Virginia, which struck down anti-miscegenation laws and, many years later, allowed my wife, Pam, and me to marry in the state that declares “Virginia is for lovers.” Then, as now, proponents of marriage-as-is invoked “God’s plan.” The trial judge who sentenced the Lovings said that when God created the races: “He placed them on separate continents. … The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

God seems to have made room in his plan for interracial marriage. He will no doubt do the same for same-sex marriage.

Standing for the freedom to marry is about supporting all families, but I would be remiss without highlighting the impact that this inequality has on black same-sex couples, who statistically are already economically disadvantaged compared to their straight sisters and brothers. In comparison to black opposite-sex couples and white same-sex couples, black same-sex couples are more likely to parent children and earn a lower annual income. The lack of marriage rights negatively affects black same-sex couples because they are also more likely to work in the public sector, relying on health insurance that is often only afforded to married couples.

Furthermore, I firmly believe that marriage strengthens communities. Allowing more couples the opportunity to marry will strengthen the communities — and families — that most need it.

I served for 20 years in the Georgia State House and Senate; I recall difficult decisions my colleagues and I had to make, often torn between conscience and public opinion. I hope the General Assembly will stand for what’s right and bring the freedom to marry to Maryland.

Julian Bond

The writer is chairman emeritus of the NAACP National Board of Directors.

Intelligent Impassioned Catholic Voice for LGBT Equality

Pat Gozemba
Would like you all to check out the FreeCatholic808 blog of my friend and ally, Dawn Webster. Here is one of her recent blogs on a “local girl,” Connie Florez–a long time LGBT activist.

Let Love Prevail

February 9, 2011

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. John 1:4-8

Connie Florez, Director/Producer and supporter of civil unions in Hawaii

Connie Florez is the founder and CEO of Hula Girl Productions and the director/producer of several award-winning films that perpetuate the stories of the past through the digital technology of the present. http://www.hulagirlproductions.com/

Yesterday she told her own story in under two minutes, in person. The cameras in the State Capitol auditorium were trained on her as she stood at the podium to testify in front of the Hawaii House Judiciary Committee in support of civil unions legislation.

She spoke with love and pride about the diversity of her inclusive extended family, of growing up in Hilo and going to St.Joseph’s.

Connie & siblings after church: memories of a Catholic childhood

She spoke of her gay brother, his long committed relationship with his partner and their four successful children, three college-educated, one in the military.

She spoke of being an Aunty to 26 nieces and nephews.

She spoke of family gatherings where all were welcome, whatever their ethnic heritage or their sexual orientation.

She spoke of how she and her sister cared for their mother in her final years before she died.

A Hilo family where all are welcome.

Her voice was heard in an auditorium where other voices were also raised by those who would perpetuate the past by preserving old prejudices and sustaining old inequalities.

To those who would deny LGBT families equal rights under the law, Connie said: “Let love prevail. “

Bill Corona Florez and Genevieve Florez, parents of Connie

She spoke of the Catholic values she was raised with, many of which she still holds dear. But holding up her mother’s wedding ring, she said: “My mother also hoped I would someday be able to use this. To have what she had had.”

In supporting civil unions in Hawaii, Connie Florez asked for nothing more than what anyone hopes for: “To love the one you are with.”

Hawaii legislators appear ready to listen to what she and other advocates had to say. The civil unions bill has passed its second reading in the Hawaii House of Representatives and has been tabled for a third reading, expected this Friday.

See the great photos for this article and check out other posts on: FreeCatholic808

Joan Rivers Supports Marriage Equality

Contrary to the belief that only young people support marriage equality, Joan Rivers does us proud:

MA Lessons for Hawai’i Civil Unions Struggle

by Pat Gozemba
Testimony that I submitted to the Hawai’i House Judiciary Committee for its Feb. 8, 2011 hearing:

Civil Unions in Hawai’i
Understanding the Massachusetts Experience

To: Members of the House and Senate, Hawai’i State Legislature, considering civil unions legislation (SB 232, SB 231, HB 1244, and HB 1453)

From: Patricia A. Gozemba, co-author of Courting Equality: A Documentary History of America’s First Legal Same-Sex Marriages (Beacon Press, 2007)

Re: FIVE TRUTHS BASED ON THE MASSACHUSETTS EXPERIENCE
Getting Beyond the Mistruths in “The Effects of Same-Sex Marriage in Massachusetts” (2008) by Brian Camenker of MassResistance

Date: February 7, 2011
I have the utmost respect and appreciation for the manner in which Senator Clayton Hee conducted the Senate Judiciary Hearing on SB 232 on January 25, 2011. Throughout the hearing, however, one senator on the Judiciary Committee and several members of the public quoted, without citing, “The Effects of Same-Sex Marriage in Massachusetts” (2008).

I am a part-time resident of Hawai’i and permanent resident of Massachusetts, as well as a researcher and writer on issues of concern to our LGBT community. I know first-hand the distortion of reality by Brian Camenker in relation to the book, Courting Equality that my spouse, Karen Kahn and I co-authored.

His Massachusetts-based group Mass Resistance has been cited for the past four years as an Anti-Gay Hate Group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a watchdog of hate groups in the US.

In Massachusetts, Brian Camenker’s work is generally regarded as not worth addressing seriously because it is so fraught with purposeful distortions. But given its emergence again in Hawai’i at this critical moment of the consideration of several bills addressing civil unions, I want to give you a sense of the egregiousness of some of Camenker’s misinformation. To that end, I highlight just five truths that are lost in the many deliberate “mistruths” of Camenker’s “The Effects of Same-Sex Marriage in Massachusetts.”

Karen and I were married in MA in 2005. Like the nearly 19,000 married same-sex couples in our state, we are grateful to have been able to marry and to enjoy the same rights, benefits, and family protections as all other citizens of the Commonwealth. We wish the same for other LGBT couples in Hawai’i.

As you consider Civil Unions Legislation in Hawai’i, you may find this helpful.

Five Truths based on the Massachusetts Experience

1. It will NOT force any school or any teacher to teach about marriage or homosexuality

2. Books about the struggle for same sex marriage were NOT distributed at taxpayer expense to schools
3. Rates of HIV/AIDS have dropped since same-sex marriage became legal.
4. Domestic violence occurs among people in same-sex relationships at similar rates to people in heterosexual relationships.
5. The legalization of same-sex marriage has had NO EFFECT on the level of funding for programs to combat homophobia and provide respite and support for youth who may or may not be gay, but who may be subject to bullying

TRUTH #1

The First Circuit’s ruling in the Parker v. Hurley case DID NOT mandate the teaching of any subject or course material, nor did it say that the school had any duty to teach about marriage or any other subject. Rather, in response to the claims by Robert and Robin Wirthlin and David and Tonia Parker of Lexington, MA that their free exercise rights had been violated, the Court found that “the mere fact that a child is exposed on occasion in public school to a concept offensive to a parent’s religious belief does not inhibit the parent from instructing the child differently.” Overall, the decision found that including a few books with depictions of same-sex couples in the curriculum did not violate the constitutional rights of students or parents – NOT that those books must be included or taught. (Source: Nima Eshgsi, Esq. of Gay, Lesbian, Advocates and Defenders).

Brian Camenker’s assertions to the contrary do not make them true.

TRUTH # 2

Courting Equality tells the story of how LGBT people and their allies across the state used the democratic political process to expand civil rights for LGBT people. The donors thought this book would inspire teenagers to become active participants in democracy. They “offered” the book as a gift, and no high school GSA or library was forced to accept it.

Locally, Dawn Morais Webster wrote about Courting Equality in “Seeing Is Believing for LGBT Family and Friends,” Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Jan. 31, 2011.

Camenker’s statement that “homosexual groups have been using taxpayer money to distribute a large, slick hardcover book celebrating homosexual marriage titled “Courting Equality” to every school library in the state” is a lie. He demonstrated as much when he reported on Sept. 27, 2007, to his own listserv that Chip McLaughlin and Keith Maynard donated private funds to PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) for distribution of Courting Equality (Beacon Press, 2007), to Gay/Straight Alliances (GSA) in MA public high schools and to the libraries of high schools that do not have GSAs.

TRUTH # 3
Rates of HIV/AIDS have NOT gone up since same-sex marriage became legal.
In fact, the number of new HIV cases has dropped by more than 25 percent over the past six years, the decrease accelerating since the implementation of same-sex marriage. Additional funding was available at the beginning of FY09 to address the disparate impact of HIV/AIDS in communities of color. However, since then, given current budget crises, funding for HIV/AIDS has declined by $1.75M. (Source: Kevin Cranston, Director, Bureau of Infectious Disease, Massachusetts Department of Public Health).

Again, Camenker lies when he says that “Since homosexual marriage became ‘legal’ the rates of HIV / AIDS have gone up considerably in Massachusetts. This year public funding to deal with HIV/AIDS has risen by $500,000.”

TRUTH # 4
Domestic violence occurs among people in same-sex relationships at similar rates to people in heterosexual relationships. However, many domestic violence programs are unable to work effectively with same-sex victims of domestic violence because they lack adequate training—thus, the state’s interest in providing funding. The legalizing of same-sex marriage has had no detectable effect on rates of same-sex domestic violence. (Source: Carlene Pavlos, Director, Division of Violence and Injury Prevention, Massachusetts Department of Public Health.)

Camenker offers this lie on the subject: “Given the extreme dysfunctional nature of homosexual relationships, the Massachusetts Legislature has felt the need to spend more money every year to deal with skyrocketing homosexual domestic violence. This year $350,000 was budgeted, up $100,000 from last year.”

TRUTH # 5
The legalization of same-sex marriage has had NO EFFECT on the level of funding for efforts to combat homophobia by supporting programs such as Gay-Straight Alliances and Safe Spaces for LGBT Youth. These programs, which began in the early 1990s long before same-sex marriage became legal, provide respite and support for youth who may or may not be gay, but who may be subject to slurs and hate speech from their peers or sometimes hateful adults.

Camenker, however, asserts: “Since homosexual relationships are now officially ‘normal,’ the Legislature now gives enormous tax money to homosexual activist groups. “ Not true.
Additional General Information about Anti-Gay Hate Groups and Their Message
The hateful portrayal of LGBT people promoted by Brian Camenker through his organization Mass Resistance.org has been rebutted by LGBT organizations and mainstream, predominantly heterosexual, organizations ranging from the NAACP to the ACLU.

In their Intelligence Report (Winter 2010), the Southern Poverty Law Center published an article by Evelyn Schlatter and Robert Steinback, “10 Anti-Gay Myths Debunked,” which lays bare the specious arguments promoted by anti-gay hate groups including Mass Resistance. Hateful messages hurt us all. Let’s speak truth to hate.

Sources
Southern Poverty Law Center

Brian Camenker

GLAD


Dawn Morais Webster

Commonwealth of Massachusetts

“10 Anti-Gay Myths Debunked”

Patricia A. Gozemba
http://www.courtingequality.com

Zach Wahls and His Lesbian Moms

Effect of marriage equality on kids? Listen to Zach Wahls of Iowa. I wish all of the homophobes in the world could listen to this son of two lesbian moms.