Category Archives: civil rights

Mary Bonauto Wins MacArthur Genius Award

GLAD attorney Mary Bonauto addresses the crowd at the March 10, 2004, MassEquality candlelight vigil. Rep. Byron Rushing, a longtime supporter of the gay community and a leader on the same-sex marriage issue, is standing next to her.

GLAD attorney Mary Bonauto addresses the crowd at the March 10, 2004, MassEquality candlelight vigil. Rep. Byron Rushing is standing next to her.

Mary Bonauto, the lawyer who brought same-sex marriage to Massachusetts–and has been the legal strategist who laid the groundwork for victories at the state and federal level–was among those who won this year’s MacArthur genius awards. This is a well-deserved triumph for the greatest civil rights leader of the LGBT movement. Congratulations, Mary Bonauto, and GLAD!

Equal, But What About the 48%?

42% of US citizens have relationship equality but what about the other 48%? Marriage Equality lays out the map.

Lesbian Nominated to Hawaii Supreme Court

Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie nominated Hawaii’s Chief Family Court Judge, Sabrina McKenna, for an open seat on the Hawaii Supreme Court. McKenna, well-known in the 1970s as a University of Hawaii basketball star has accomplished an equally stellar record in the courts of the judiciary. What’s powerful to me is that McKenna has busted open the doors of Hawaii’s huge closet filled with LGBT people from all walks of life and demonstrated that we can be at the top reaches of society and be open about who we are–whole people, adults.

Judge Sabrina McKenna and Gov. Neil Abercrombie

The religious right continues to try to demonize LGBT people, noting that we do not lead full lives as they do. When more LGBT people in Hawaii step out of the shadows the myth can begin to be dispelled.

Marriage Equality Gains Support

The Pew Research Center reports that more Americans are supporting the supposed all-American principle of equality for all. I find this really refreshing–especially these days when LGBT kids especially are not believing that there is any future for them and are committing suicide.

I hope that older members of the LGBT community will go out there and talk to kids and let them know that there is a future after the travail of growing up gay. I applaud Dan Savage’s It Gets Better initiative. More of us have got to speak the truth to LGBT youth. I want LGBT youth to expect total equality. Not just marriage equality.

A Senate Hero in White: “I Vote for Love”

Pat Gozemba

On January 22nd, when opponents of civil unions wore white to the Hawai’i State Capitol to symbolize their opposition to our civil rights, a brave senator also wore white.

King.KidaniSuzanne King of Equality Hawai’i (l) and Senator Michele Kidani (D)

Senator Kidani took the brave step of introducing an important amendment to HB444 that ultimately failed 10-15. But she was back leading the charge when the unamended bill was brought up in Third Reading.

Many senators had poignant arguments to make for HB444 but the one that resonated most with me was Kidani’s:

“To deny our gay brothers and sisters their rights is unjust. I vote for love. Give love a chance.”

Senator Kidani gets it. What we are looking for is relationship recognition, but at the core of that recognition is the love that we have for our chosen partner. Fundamentalist Christians and particularly Catholics want to talk about sex (in their code words “complementarity”) but we need to speak out more loudly about love.

In her great looking white suit, Kidani spoke for love. No one else in white on either the Senate floor or the Senate gallery spoke of love. But the Senate did vote for love 18-7–a super majority.

Love is where it’s at.

Powerful, Handsome, Rich and Anti-Equality

By Pat Gozemba

“Powerful, handsome, rich people like JFK Jr. and Princess Di are dead so now it’s up to me to take care of the world.” So saith Republican Scott Brown, candidate for the US Senate seat once occupied by Ted Kennedy. Don’t believe me? I know it’s pretty unbelievable.

On December 11th , WCVB-TV Channel 5 in Boston ran a piece on Brown and his opponent Democrat Martha Coakley. She talked about her heroes, people like Abigail Adams and John Adams. But Brown identified with the “powerful, handsome and rich”—JFK, Jr. and Princess Di. He promised to pick up where they left off. He’s alive. They’re dead. It’s up to Scott. Check it out:

Tina Fey couldn’t have thought up a better routine to pump up Coakley’s campaign.

Besides his sheer arrogance, I am truly disturbed by his consistent commitment to deny equality to LGBT people in Massachusetts. Whenever there is an opportunity to make sure: that funding does not go to LGBT youth, that marriage equality should be blocked, that the rights of trans people should be curtailed, that LGBT seniors should not get the same coverage that heterosexuals get, Brown is there in the Massachusetts Senate to vote anti-equality.

In contrast, Coakley continues to be one of the LGBT community’s staunchest allies. As Massachusetts Attorney General her most recent bold move on our behalf was in challenging the constitutionality of Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”). On July 8, 2009, Coakley became the highest elected official in the US to take on this discriminatory federal act. No other attorney general in our country had the insight or guts to file a case in a federal district court challenging this blatantly discriminatory act.

Brown did not vote to support marriage equality in Massachusetts—even over a 5 year period. Nothing. He’s that far away from even imagining looking for equality for LGBT people at the federal level. Meanwhile Coakley’s office explained the discrimination against us in the July 8th press release:

“The Commonwealth’s complaint alleges that Section 3 of DOMA unlawfully creates separate and unequal categories of married individuals in Massachusetts, due to the fact that only different-sex married couples are considered married under federal law.  Among other things, DOMA prohibits married individuals in same-sex relationships from taking advantage of the ability to file a joint federal tax return, Social Security survivor benefits, guaranteed leave from work to care for sick spouses, flexible spending accounts for medical expenses of spouses, and gift tax and estate tax exemptions for spouses.  These rights and protections affect all facets of life from the workplace to healthcare to retirement, and every married person is affected significantly by these laws.

The Attorney General’s Office further contends that Section 3 of DOMA unlawfully requires Massachusetts to disregard valid marriages in its implementation of federally funded programs.  The complaint focuses specifically on two programs, MassHealth and veterans’ cemeteries.” More

The senate choice for people who support civil rights for LGBT people is clear: Coakley.  What Brown fails to realize is that the “powerful, handsome, rich” JFK Jr. and Princess Di actually did support civil rights for LGBT people, as did Ted Kennedy.

Handsome is as handsome does, Scott.

Kennedy: LGBT Equality Champion

By Pat Gozemba

Ted Kennedy, a champion of so many causes for equality for such diverse communities, is gone. But his legacy and example will continue to inspire many of us for years to come.

On November 18, 2003, when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of marriage equality in the Goodridge v DPH decision, Kennedy was one of the first voices to speak out and laud the decision. In Courting Equality we captured that moment. “Senator Edward Kennedy greeted the Goodridge decision as ‘a welcome milestone on the road to full civil rights for all our citizens.’” He added emphatically, “Gay couples deserve these rights as well” (p. 22)

While a Catholic, he saw the problems with that faith’s discrimination against LGBT people. Like his brother, John F. Kennedy, and the founders of this country, he understood that religion has no place in government.

As the Goodridge decision captured the imaginations of LGBT people across the country to strive for the equality newly granted in Massachusetts, religion-driven conservatives threw up roadblocks in state after state. Claiming that our equality impinged on their religious values, these cultural conservatives held enormous sway. Despite their acrimonious uproar about marriage equality, Kennedy stuck with his principled position.

In 2005, he said “On the issue of gay rights, I continue to strongly support civil marriage. It is wrong for our civil laws to deny any American the basic right to be part of a family, to have loved ones with whom to build a future and share life’s joys and tears, and to be free from the stain of bigotry and discrimination.” Kennedy brought the values of Massachusetts to the national stage.

He was one of the few who voted in the Senate against DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) in 1996. And sometimes in the Senate he pushed values that Massachusetts had not quite caught up with like a transgender-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

A great champion for LGBT people is gone. The person who will attempt to fill his shoes must be as committed to equality.

Obama and the “Before” of LGBT Rights

Obama hasn’t given us much of what he promised on the campaign trail but he did give 250 “professional” gays a swanky cocktail party at the White House to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Stonewall. Oh, if only those drags queens from the Stonewall Inn who wielded their high heels to beat cops over the head could have been there, my, my.

It’s easy, way too easy, to be critical of Obama but I do want to laud an official act that the administration took that began to recognize the LGBT community’s longstanding discrimination in employment and to apologize for it.

John Berry the administration’s most senior gay official, director of the Office of Personnel Management, offered an apology to one of the most brilliant and courageous pioneers in our civil rights movement, Frank Kameny. Kameny lost his government job for being gay and he fought back all the way to the Supreme Court and lost. He fought back when it wasn’t fashionable and he spent his life fighting for LGBT rights. Berry acknowledged this in a letter to Kameny.

“In what we know today was a shameful action, the United States Civil Service Commission in 1957 upheld your dismissal from your job solely on the basis of your sexual orientation,” Berry’s letter states. “… And by virtue of the authority vested in me as Director of the Office Of Personnel Management, it is my duty and great pleasure to inform you that I am adding my support … for the repudiation of the reasoning of the 1957 finding by the United States Civil Service Commission to dismiss you from your job solely on the basis of your sexual orientation. Please accept our apology for the consequences of the previous policy of the United States government.”

“Apology accepted,” Kameny replied.

This apology to Kameny makes me feel more sanguine about the Obama administration.

Check out Kameny and see some vintage footage of a protest that he and Barbara Gittings mounted in the early 1960s outside the White House.

Losing a Civil Right in California

by Pat Gozemba

Stuart Gaffney and John Lewis represent one of the most compelling stories in the California civil rights struggle for equality for all people. Gaffney’s parents are of mixed heritage so once upon a time in California, they could not marry. Gaffney and his partner of over 20 years also could not marry because they are a same-sex couple. They decided to fight for civil marriage for same-sex couples in California and eventually became one of the plaintiff couples.

When the historic CA Supreme Court decision came down on May 15, 2008, Gaffney and Lewis made their wedding plans for June 2008. They are one of the lucky California gay couples that is married. Their story is historic. Check them out:

HB 444 Civil Unions in HI: A Creative Struggle

 Pat Gozemba

Even those of us on the very “Big Island” of America can help the civil rights struggle in Hawai’i–from our computers.  Help the movement get more hits on the great videos that are aimed at legislators who are turning their backs on civil rights. Movement leaders are combining creative art with political struggle. Give their “views” a boost. Click on . . . “What’s Going On”

Hawai’i needs our help! Click away.

Email Sen. Brian Taniguchi and tell him that you’re not interested in visiting a state that does not recognize the civil rights of LGBT people.

Tell Sen. President Colleen Hanabusa the same thing.

Then check out

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