Category Archives: civil rights

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.

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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 sentaniguchi@capitol.hawaii.gov 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 senhanabusa@capitol.hawaii.gov the same thing.

Then check out www.civilunionshawaii.com

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Marriage Equality: Facts v Lies

Pat GozembaIf you spend time reading religious objections to marriage equality, watching ads like the National Organization for Marriage blockbuster “The Gathering Storm,” or tuning in to Brian Camenker’s MassResistance blather, then you might enjoy a straightforward rebuttal to the anti-equality messaging.

 

The same old objections to marriage equality are recycled through all the media and the more often we can correct the lies, the better it will be for civil discourse to begin. 

Check out the “facts” from WakingUpNow.com. No laughs. Just facts.

 

 


Hawaii’s community leaders speak up for civil unions

With the legislative session half over, Hawaii’s civil unions bill, HB444 HD1, is still stuck in the Senate Judiciary Commitee, where a 3-3 split vote prevented the bill from moving to the floor. All that is needed is for 9 of the 25 sentators to vote to pull the bill from committee, but the pressure from the opposition seems to be weakening support. A move toward “compromise” has angered supporters, who believe that now is the time to grant same-sex couples all the rights, benefits and responsibilities afforded heterosexual spouses.

To reinforce the message that people across the islands believe in equality, Unite Here Local 5 hosted a press conference on March 18 showcasing community leaders in favor of civil unions. The group of leaders, which included native Hawaiians, civil rights advocates from the Japanese, Filipino, African-American communities, and labor leaders, issued the following joint statement:

Dear Senators:

In 1998, Hawai‘i voted to grant our state legislators “the power to reserve marriage to opposite sex couples.” However, this did not obviate the Legislature’s obligation under the constitution to provide equal protection to all of Hawai‘i’s citizens.

Now, more than a decade later, you have before you an historic opportunity to extend equality to same-sex couples and their families. HB 444 HD1 has already passed the House with overwhelming support. It is now up to you.

As leaders of diverse communities across the islands, we call on you to bring the Civil Unions bill to the floor for passage. We believe:

• This is a civil rights issue. Married couples in Hawai‘i, and their children, have access to an extensive package of rights, benefits, and responsibilities. Same-sex couples have very limited access to these same rights and benefits, though they fully participate in our communities, pay taxes, support their children, care for their elders and carry out all the same obligations as other families in our communities. Civil unions would provide equality under State law, as guaranteed by the Hawai‘i State Constitution.

• This is an issue of economic justice. In these times of extreme economic vulnerability for all of Hawai‘i’s families, civil unions would provide greater economic stability for families currently excluded from the State’s marriage laws. As an example, same-sex couples are unable to benefit from joint tax filings and must spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on legal documents, only to obtain a small fraction of the protections afforded to married couples. Civil unions would provide equal and fair treatment for all of Hawai‘i’s families.

• This is about ‘ohana. Across our islands, our most important deeply held values are about ‘ohana and malama, supporting and caring for our families and communities. We have always accepted and embraced all members of our families, from keiki to kupuna, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender expression. We must stop the discrimination and instead offer respect, love, and equality under the law.

We call on you to uphold Hawai‘i’s constitution, to support equality and economic justice, and to strengthen all of Hawai‘i’s ‘ohana by enacting civil union legislation now.

Sincerely,

Aloha,

Dr. Amy Agbayani, Co-Chair, Friends of Civil Rights and Filipinos for Affirmative Action
S
hawn Benton, President, Japanese American Citizens League – Honolulu Chapter
Alphonso Braggs, President, Honolulu – Hawai‘i NAACP
Puanani Burgess, Principle, One Peace-At-A-Time
Eric Gill, Financial Secretary-Treasurer, UNITE HERE Local 5
Debi Hartmann, Former Chair, Hawai‘i State Board of Education
Lynette Hi‘ilani Cruz, Professor of Anthropology; President, Ka Lei Maile Ali‘i Hawaiian Civic Club
Faye Kennedy, Co-Chair, Hawai‘i Friends of Civil Rights
Poka Laenui, Director, Institute for the Advancement of Hawaiian Affairs
Brien Matson, President, Musicians’ Association of Hawai‘i, Local 677
James Nakapa‘ahu, Representative, Hui o Na Ike, alternative media for alternative voices
Wayne Kaho‘onei Panoke, Executive Director, ‘Ilio‘ulaokalani Coalition
Vicky Holt Takamine, Executive Director, PA‘I Foundation
Allicyn Tasaka & Debbie Shimizu, Co-Chairs, Hawai‘i State Democratic Women’s Caucus

 

 

 

Joke: Marriage Equality Fails in Massachusetts

Pat Gozemba

If one did nothing but read even the half-baked right-wing screeds about the effects of same-sex marriage, life could be pretty scary. Take for example Brian Camenker’s insane piece “The Effects of Same-Sex Marriage on Massachusetts” and put it in the hands of the Hawaii Family Forum and these folks: Parents for Righteousness Corporation, Ka’Ala View Baptise Chapel, and Jesus Christ Gathering His People Ministry. (No, I did not make up those names.) So is Hawaii scared?

As the fundamentalist churches (evangelical, Catholic, and Mormon)  in Hawaii struggle to defeat HB 444 Civil Unions, they are relying on Camenker’s arguments about Massachusetts. Ethan Jacobs in “MassResistance Goes Hawaiian” details the ways in which Dennis Arakaki the Executive Director of Hawaii Family Forum denies that they have pushed Camenker’s “research.” All one has to do is check out the Hawaii Family Forum site and there is Camenker’s insanity spun out once again.

Parents for Righteousness Corporation, Ka’Ala View Baptise Chapel, and Jesus Christ Gathering His People Ministry sent “The Effects of Same-Sex Marriage” to every Hawaii senator. I follow that act with my own memo to the senators that I hand-delievered with Jo-Ann Adams, Co-Chair of the LGBT Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. Here’s my response to Camenker that I crafted with the assistance of research by Stewart Landers, DPH, and GLAD.

To all Hawaii Senators
As a part-time resident of Hawaii and permanent resident of Massachusetts, as well as scholar and writer on issues of concern to the LGBT community, I follow Camenker’s work. Note that the Southern Poverty Law Center, a watchdog of hate groups in the US, has named MassResistance an Anti-Gay Hate Group for the second year in a row.

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 in Hawai’i at this critical moment of the consideration of HB 444 HD 1 and its posting on the Hawaii Family Forum website, I want to give you a sense of the egregiousness of some of Camenker’s misinformation. To that end, in contrast and as an example, I detail the truth of five “mistruths” in “The Effects of Same-Sex Marriage in Massachusetts” by Camenker.

I call your attention in particular to Mistruth #2 that refers to Courting Equality, a book my spouse, Karen Kahn, and I co-authored. I know first-hand the distortion of reality regarding our book. And on a final note, I would like to say that our experience in Massachusetts with same-sex marriage has been very positive—and there is not a shred of evidence to suggest otherwise.

MISTRUTH  #1
In 2006 the Parkers and Wirthlins filed a federal civil rights lawsuit to force the schools to notify parents and allow them to opt-out their elementary-school children when homosexual-related subjects were taught.  The federal judges dismissed the case. The judges ruled that because same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts, the school actually had a duty to normalize homosexual relationships to children, and that schools have no obligation to notify parents or let them opt-out their children! Acceptance of homosexuality had become a matter of good citizenship!

TRUTH: This is a completely inaccurate statement about the First Circuit’s ruling in the Parker v. Hurley case.  The Court 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 the Wirthlins and the Parkers 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 http://www.GLAD.org)

MISTRUTH # 2
Libraries have also radically changed.  School libraries across the state, from elementary school to high school, now have shelves of books to normalize homosexual behavior and the lifestyle in the minds of kids, some of them quite explicit and even pornographic.
Parents’ complaints are ignored or met with hostility. Over the past year, homosexual groups have been using taxpayer money to distribute a large, slick hardcover book celebrating homosexual marriage titled “Courting Equality” into every school library in the state.
TRUTH: On Sept. 27, 2007, Camenker reported 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. A year later, he “reports” that taxpayer money was used and that the book is in every school not just high schools.  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.

MISTRUTH # 3
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: Rates of HIV/AIDS have not gone up considerably since same-sex marriage became legal. In fact, the number of new HIV cases has dropped by 25 percent over the past five 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).

MISTRUTH # 4
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: 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.)

MISTRUTH # 5
Since homosexual relationships are now officially “normal”, the Legislature now gives enormous tax money to homosexual activist groups. In particular, the Massachusetts Commission on Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender Youth is made up of the most
radical and militant homosexual groups which target children in the schools. This year they are getting $700,000 of taxpayer money to go into the public schools.

TRUTH: Massachusetts was one of the first states to support efforts to combat homophobia by supporting programs such as Gay-Straight Alliances and Safe Spaces for GLBT 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. The legalization of same-sex marriage has had no effect on the level of funding
for these programs, though recent budget cuts have reduced this year’s appropriation to $550,000. (Source: Stewart Landers, Senior Program Director, Massachusetts Department of Public Health)

END

So is Hawaii scared? Only the religious bigots are scared. Scared that their propaganda from Camenker is not working and the newly formed alliance of Native Hawaiians, labor, religious groups, the ACLU and over 80 other organizations is impressing theHawaii Senate to follow the lead of the Hawaii House and vote for civil unions.

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.