Category Archives: MA

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:

http://www.thebostonchannel.com/video/21945397/index.html

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.

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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.

More Wedded Bliss

Brian Jewell is right when he notes in his Bay Windows article, The bliss off, the Peabody Essex Museum “Wedded Bliss” exhibit doesn’t explicitly address same-sex marriage. Nonetheless, it does an exceptional job of including art that both celebrates and critiques this central social institution. One of my favorites is a piece by Robert Boyd called “Cake Cutter,” in which a large knife is wielded to hack apart bride and groom wedding toppers. With the white bride and groom lying lifeless by the wedding cake, viewers are invited to think about all those who are excluded from the happy white wedding images that are so common in our culture. That made me think about what it meant to have been newly invited to the wedding party. What has changed for our community in Massachusetts–and now in California? Here’s a little of what I said at the museum on June 26:

Whether we are conformists or rebels, we cannot escape the importance of marriage to our society.  Thus it should be no surprise that gay men and lesbians have finally forced open that once tightly closed door. Being denied the social legitimacy and material benefits of marriage hurt—it hurt our self-esteem, it subjected us to psychological and sometimes physical violence, it threatened our relationships to partners and children. Marriage is no small matter.  

In Massachusetts, after four years of same-sex marriage, we can see the results of broadening the definition of marriage. Same-sex couples and their children have far more legitimacy as “families,” accepted by their communities (whether neighbors, school teachers, hospital personnel, car mechanics, or city clerks) in ways that gay and lesbian people in other parts of the country can hardly imagine. As our friend Steven Galante explained so eloquently in our book Courting Equality, “When marriage was made legal, it relieved people of their moral struggle with this particular issue. It allowed them to follow their hearts, their best instincts, and embrace our family.”

That embrace has been very important to LGBT families. But it is also important to remember, that as we move from the margin to the center, we can wrap ourselves in the romanticized commercialism of the white wedding industry or we can unpack the contradictions as many of the artists do in the Wedded Bliss exhibit.

Karen Kahn
July 6, 2008 

The bliss off
Brian Jewell
arts writer
Wednesday Jul 2, 2008

Sandy Skoglund’s faintly ominous
Sandy Skoglund’s faintly ominous
“The Wedding” provoked much discussion.   

While enjoying the beautiful Wedded Bliss exhibit at The Peabody Essex Museum, it is hard not to notice that something is missing. A survey of weddings as artistic inspiration, the exhibit gathers together both art inspired by marriage and objects associated with marriage (such as American wedding dresses and Japanese furoshiki). As the Museum’s Education Director, Peggy Fogelman, explained at a panel discussion last week, the exhibition explores courtship and weddings “across cultures, across centuries, and across lifestyles.”Yet same-sex relationships and marriage equality are all but ignored. Sharp-eyed viewers will spot a few gay couples in a video montage of wedding imagery, and a copy of Courting Equality, a chronicle of the journey to the country’s first same-sex marriages, on a table with other books about marriage. The biggest innovation in marriage since at least The Divorce Act of 1857 is given less attention than a handful of contemporary critiques of heterosexual marriage, and a couple of humorous nods to divorce. It’s a strange omission for an exhibit whose breadth reminds viewers that marriage rituals and traditions are constantly evolving. Never mind the fact that the country’s first same-sex civil marriages took place right here in Massachusetts.On June 26, the Peabody Essex addressed this omission with a screening of the film The Gay Marriage Thing and a panel discussion on same-sex marriage. Read the rest of this article.

Suzanne Brockmann Courts Equality

Courting equality with romance, thrills, and suspense
by Patricia A. Gozemba
Bay Windows Contributor
Thursday Feb 21, 2008

Reading the dedication to Suzanne Brockmann’s novel Hot Target blew me away. NY Times best-selling romance author Brockmann came out as the mother of a gay son, explained his coming out, lauded PFLAG (Parents Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), and became an instant role model of a straight ally for millions of readers of the romance-thriller-suspense genre. Not exactly the crowd one would routinely target to win over to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality movement. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Read the whole article.

Goodridge anniversary commentary at Beacon Broadside

Take a look at Beacon Broadside, where Karen reflects on the fourth anniversary of the Goodridge decsion, and late summer adventures in Tennessee, Gerogia, and North Carolina (below, a photograph of Karen & Pat with Laurel Scherer and Virginia Balfour, in Asheville, North Carolina). 

 scherer-balfour-asheville-9-5-07.JPG

As we approach the fourth anniversary of Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, the Supreme Judicial Court decision that granted marriage equality to same-sex couples in Massachusetts, I find myself reflecting on the profound impact of this decision in my life. Before November 18, 2003, I had not considered marriage as anything more than an outdated, sexist institution. With the energy of the spurned outsider, I rejected marriage and all its trappings. I had no expectation that, in my life time, same-sex couples would be allowed to participate in this exclusively heterosexual ritual. Read more.

Marilyn Humphries featured in November Boston Spirit Magazine

If you are in the Boston area, pick up the November/December 2007 copy of Boston Spirit or go to the website to order your free subscription http://www.bostonspiritmagazine.com/   In this month’s issue, Pat Gozemba has a feature article on Marilyn Humphries’ two-plus decades photographing Boston’s LGBT community. Lots of pictures tracing LGBT activism since the early 1980s.

Gay Marriage, Lexington High, and Mass Resistance

“Gay.” “Lesbian.” “Same-sex marriage.” Words you’re not supposed to hear uttered in the Lexington Public Schools that is according to Brian Camenker and his pack at Mass Resistance. But Mass Resistance is not having its way.

PFLAG gave the first of over 240 copies of Courting Equality slated to go to Massachusetts Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs)to the GSA at Lexington High School.

Carla Yengo-Kahn, a sophomore, a Lexington High School accepted on behalf of her school’s GSA. In accepting the book Carla said, “It seems appropriate that we should get the first book going to GSAs. We are from Lexington, the birthplace of the American Revolution that was fought for the very principles of freedom central to our democracy, and appropriately, our educational system.”

She added that the Lexington curriculum includes, all people, all who should be part of “we the people.”

Mass Resistance continues to threaten open, safe, and welcoming school communities that respect all families by including them in the curriculum–especially when they include anything relating to the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender community. With the David Parker case centering around his and Brian Camenker’s objection to the use of King and King, Lexington has become another battleground.

Chuck Colbert writes this week on the PFLAG meeting and the presentation of Courting Equality and the challenges to democratic education.