Category Archives: marriage equality

Lying to Defeat Marriage Equality

by Pat Gozemba

Karen Ocamb wrote an insightful and very instructional piece, “Federal Challenge to Prop 8 Hearing Today,” in LGBT.POV. Ocamb is focused on the Ted Olson and David Boies federal suit on behalf of Americans for Equal Rights. They have set out to prove the unconstitutionality of Prop 8. Ocamb gives important context for today’s case. All of us who are struggling to achieve marriage equality should read her article and consider the strategies that our opponents are mounting against us.

I’m back in Hawaii and looking forward to joining with the LGBT community and our many allies in trying to bring some semblance of equality to this island state where the contemporary marriage equality movement all began with a favorable court decision in 1993. Sure, the brave decision of the Hawai’i high court brought about the backlash of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996, but it also woke up many of us to come to believe that we deserved the right to marry. No matter how many states put in place their own versions of DOMA, the very possibility of a hope for equality ignited the imaginations of millions of people committed to justice.

Since 1993, the creativity of civil rights activists across the country has brought us to courts, legislatures, and public forums of all sorts. It’s pumped up our grassroots organizations like the Courage Campaign and Join the Impact and some of the tried and true warriors on our side like the American Civil Liberties Union.

But that, sixteen year-old court victory in Hawai’i has done the same for the anti-equality movement, those who want to assure that they are more equal and more righteous. Their forums have largely been hidden behind church doors and fueled by church coffers. The religious engines that are stoking the denial of our civil rights are Catholic and Mormon. They have created the National Organization for Marriage, a slick hate group that has served as a conduit for Mormon and Catholic money and kept up an internet presence.

The anti-equality side also hit pay dirt when they hired political consultants Frank Schubert and Jeff Flint to run the “Yes on Prop 8” campaign in California (2008) and then the “Yes on 1 Stand for Marriage” campaign in Maine (2009). The campaigns were virtually the same and were fueled by the big lies of made up “consequences,” of marriage equality particularly the sure-fire inner, the teaching of gay marriage to schoolchildren. We will hear this and all of their other nightmarish projections all over the country. The lies work.

As the Hawai’i Family Equality Coalition focuses its attention on the state senate in hopes of passing HB 444 a civil unions bill, we would all do well to study Karen Ocamb’s analysis of the strategies that Olson and Boies are using in federal court as well as those of Schubert and Flint that local copycats like the Hawaii Family Forum and Transformation Hawai’i.

LGBT allies, read and study Ocamb’s article.


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.

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!

Maine: Will Voters Protect All families?

Pat Gozemba

The “No on 1: Protect Marriage Equality” effort is a civil rights movement to support and protect all Maine families. In contrast, the conservative religious fundamentalist, “Yes on 1: Stand for Marriage Maine,” movement is an effort to limit the rights of families to the heterosexual one man one woman variety. Despite high divorce rates in heterosexual families, fundamentalists opposed to marriage equality insist that the heterosexual dyad is where it is at for raising children. They ignore the reality of successful parenting among single parents and same-sex couples—who are increasingly approaching over half of the families raising children in this country. Preserving heterosexual superiority is the agenda of the Catholic Church, Protestant fundamentalists, and especially Mormons. Not surprisingly these groups are the largest contributors to the Yes on 1 campaign in Maine.

In asserting heterosexual superiority, fundamentalists insist that granting the right of civil marriage to same-sex couples will be giving them special rights, privileges, and benefits. Unspoken is the conservative commitment to reinstating patriarchy. Their movement is bigger than an assault on LGBT civil rights. It is an assault on feminism and a longing for “the way things used to be” before women raised their voices for equality and gays and lesbians busted down closet doors. Most of all it is a cruel denial of reality.

According to the 2000 Census, self-identified LGBT families are in 99% of all US counties and in 96% of those counties these families are raising children. Maine is probably no different. Children in LGBT families are usually not LGBT. They are heterosexual kids who are in our schools and have to listen to ads on TV and radio that denigrate their LGBT parents.

Families are supposed to be our safe havens. Indeed they serve that purpose for other minorities. But LGBT kids are not likely to have LGBT parents and they often have no one at home who understands them. Perhaps they are in a heterosexual family that supports denying any rights, especially marriage to LGBT people. What message are these heterosexual parents giving to their LGBT kid? You’re not worthy of rights, especially the right to marry.

Maine voters have an opportunity to affirm all of Maine’s families at the polls on November 3rd. Voters have an opportunity to protect all of Maine’s children making sure that the families that they live in are protected by all the rights, privileges, and benefits that is the birthright of all Americans. Marriage is the gold-standard for family protection in this country and that is why LGBT people are seeking it.

Morality, Maine, and Marriage Equality

Pat Gozemba

November 3rd in Maine is nearly upon us. As we close in on yet another election that will determine if LGBT people are really deserving of the rights of all other citizens, I turned once again to literature for insight and solace.

Sarah Orne Jewett’s American classic The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896) and Elizabeth Strout’s  Pulitzer prize winner Olive Kittredge (2008)—both novels set in Maine—capture what I have come to think of as the quintessential characteristics of the state’s people: decency and a regard for the well-being of one’s neighbors.

In both of these novels there are characters who are “different” but the guiding ethos of the communities that Jewett and Strout write about is a compassionate caring and a determination to live and let live. No orthodoxy makes the beliefs of any of their characters more compelling than those of others.  Spirituality, not religion, is the moral force.

Folks in Maine are generally thoughtful and forthright and that’s why when I read today’s editorial in the Biddeford Journal Tribune, “Question 1 denies Maine’s same-sex couples equal rights,” I wasn’t surprised. Biddeford is a small old mill town of just over twenty thousand people, 97% of whom are white. It’s not San Francisco or Los Angeles. It’s not edgy or hip. It’s classic Maine and its newspaper offers a view that I wish could have resonated in California last November:

“The arguments against same-sex marriage seem hollow and some of them reminiscent of the arguments of old, against interracial marriage: It’s not natural, it’s immoral, it’s bad for the children.

It might not be something we’re used to – just as people once were not used to seeing a white hand and a black hand clasped firmly together – but that doesn’t make it wrong. Some people may still be uncomfortable with those of another race, culture or lifestyle, but it has largely been agreed that the predominant race or culture’s “comfort zone” should not dictate everyone else’s rights.

We agree with Marvin Ellison, the Presbyterian minister who is active in the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry, who said that the ultimate human right is the right to choose whom you marry.”

The dignity and civil rights of LGBT people and indeed all people are safe in the hands of thoughtful editorial boards such as the one at the Biddeford Journal Tribune. The simple and powerful arguments that they offer for full equality, full personhood would have meaning in the spiritual worlds of the characters in Jewett and Strout.

The introspection of the people of Maine and their sense of decency give me hope that the dashing of the LGBT community’s hope for equality under the law in California will not be repeated in Maine.

Maine: Gay Marriage and the Church

Pat Gozemba

September 9, 2009

On April 22, 2009, I watched with awe as pro-marriage equality forces gathered to testify before a legislative committee in Maine. The breadth and depth of the testimony, coming as it did in the 3 minute segments allotted to each speaker, ably represented the wide diversity of voices in Maine and this country supporting marriage equality.

The legislature later deliberated and voted to support marriage equality and the governor signed the bill. But it wasn’t long before the forces opposed to marriage equality gathered enough signatures to put the issue of equality for a minority, in this case LGBT people, on the ballot in November 2009.

Labor Day has passed and Maine, the Vacationland state, is now entering into a period of fierce struggle around marriage equality. The same hardball players who wrested marriage equality from the people of California are in Maine and spinning their old tales. Schubert  Flint Public Affairs, the major architects of the inequality campaign in California, are running the show in Maine. Major funds have come in from the National Organization for Marriage, Focus on the family, the Knights of Columbus, and the Catholic Archdiocese of Portland, Maine.

Maine is 29% Catholic (higher than the nation at 24%) and the Catholics are organized. They are the largest religious group in the state, probably in part because of the high concentration of French-Canadians.  Mormons make up 1% of the population but they are from a religious tradition that draws heavily on Mormon resources in other parts of the country. So, factoring in the Catholic/Mormon nexus with the media and campaign savvy of Schubert Flint, Maine is bracing for what we call in New England a fierce Nor’easter. Sebastian Junger wrote about The Perfect Storm. I see another one brewing.

A small paragraph in the Boston Globe on September 7th noted:

“The Catholic Church in Maine is stepping up its effort to defeat a gay marriage law in November. The WBLZ News Center reported that the Roman Catholic diocese of Portland is asking its parishes to take a special second collection next weekend to help pay for a campaign on a referendum that could reverse the same-sex marriage law passed by the state Legislature. Money raised in the effort will go to Stand for marriage Maine, which is leading the effort to repeal the law.”

The separation of church and state has little meaning in marriage equality battles across the country.  Catholics like to call their church, The Church. Soon they may have all of us doing it. We need to stave off foes of inequality and foes of the separation of church and state. They are one and the same in Maine.

Happy Five Years of Marriage Equality

Pat Gozemba

The sky has not fallen. Heather still has her two mommies. The religious right is still predicting dire consequences. Thus far their crystal ball has been very murky at best to downright wrong at worst.

As of September 2008, 12, 350 same-sex couples have married in Massachusetts. The latest reports by UCLA’s Williams Institute indicate that “after five years of extending marriage to gay couples, new studies show Massachusetts has attracted highly-skilled workers and experienced an economic boost of over $100 million.”

The Williams Institute continues to do important research indicating the economic impact of marriage equality on states like Iowa, Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire. Now they have five years of data about Massachusetts and the results are convincing about the wedding industry windfall.  But even more exciting is the data they present from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey that shows the enhanced attractiveness of our state to the “creative class.”

According to the census survey, same-sex couples in the creative class are 2.5 times more likely to move to Massachusetts since marriage equality became legal in 2004. So, we have Cape Cod, the beautiful Berkshires, world class universities and research institutes, historic cities galore, museums for everything, sports teams without parallel, and marriage equality.

Who wouldn’t want to move here? Maybe the religious right who think the sky will fall any day now? But folks who are interested in contributing to an even greater Commonwealth and living where they are part of the “we” in “we the people” are coming. That’s more good news on this Fifth Anniversary.

Marriage Equality for Five Years

Pat Gozemba

It seems hard to believe that as of May 17, 2009, we’ve had marriage equality in Massachusetts for five years. Part of the reason for disbelief is that we had to fight off constitutional amendment efforts until June 14, 2007. And then we had to fight off, until July 2008, a racist 1913 law that kept same-sex couples from out of state from coming to Massachusetts to marry. Our legislators and our governor, Deval Patrick, deserve huge praise for protecting and expanding marriage equality.

So we have almost had a year of marriage equality that brings all of the rights of Massachusetts marriage law to all married Massachusetts residents.  But we need to keep remembering that the 1,138 federal rights that accrue to married couples are still not ours. The work of securing equality for all is not done.

But yesterday was a day to feel grateful.  MassEquality kicked off the celebrations heading up to May 17th with a press conference at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Boston.

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Peter Hams, Susan Shepherd, and Marcia Hams cut the 5th Anniversary cake as Attorney General Martha Coakley and Lt. Governor Tim Murray and others looked on. Photo: Marilyn Humphries.

Shepherd and Hams applied for the first legal same-sex marriage license just after midnight on May 17, 2004 inCambridge City Hall. We tell their thrilling story in Courting Equality.

NECN Cable News captured much of the excitement of yesterday and the past five years. Check it out

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The Gathering Norm: Marriage Equality

Pat Gozemba

Book Cover for Courting Equality links to Beacon Press page for book The marriage equality victory in Iowa was greeted with heartfelt cheers on our side and an attempt to rain on our parade with a 60 second homophobic commercial, “The Gathering Storm,” from a Mormon front group, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). They want all Americans to be afraid—like them. NOM claims to have spent $1.5 million to produce and air what looks like a bad high school production. I’m afraid they got taken.  Read and see more.

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.