Category Archives: marriage equality

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.

GLAD Challenges DOMA

On March 3, 2009, GLAD, with Mary Bonauto acting as lead attorney, opened the first salvo in the battle to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act. In particular, GLAD is challenging Section 3 of the law, which denies federal benefits to married same-sex couples. Here’s what The Progress Report, from the Center for America Progress, had to say:

 LAWSUIT TO OVERTURN DOMA: During the campaign, Obama promised to repeal DOMA, noting that “federal law should not discriminate in any way against gay and lesbian couples, which is precisely what DOMA does.” Today, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) filed the first concerted, multi-plaintiff legal challenge to Section 3 of DOMA. GLAD is representing a group of gay plaintiffs who have been harmed by the federal refusal to recognize their marital rights. Under Section 3, legally married same-sex couples are excluded from any federal law or program that benefits other married individuals. The consequence of Section 3 is that gays and lesbians have been denied spousal protections in Social Security, federal income tax, federal employees’ and retirees’ benefits, and in the issuance of passports. In fact, according to a forthcoming Center for American Progress study by Ben Furnas and Josh Rosenthal, the average same-sex couple “will be denied over $8,000 a year in Social Security survivor benefits upon the death of the higher-earning spouse after retirement.” In Gill et al. v. Office of Personnel Management — filed in federal District Court in Boston — GLAD is arguing that Section 3 is unconstitutional because it violates the federal constitutional guarantee of equal protection and that it is “an unprecedented intrusion by the federal government into marriage law.” “I think one way of looking at it is it’s about change and accepting diversity, and I believe that I’m no different than anybody else,” one plaintiff in the case explained. “I should get the same benefits as any other spouse of a federal employee for 27 years. I think our relationship may look different but it’s ultimately the same.” GLAD believes the suit “may ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, which would mark the first time the nation’s highest court heard a major DOMA challenge.”

Please, No Gay Divorcees

On March 5th the California Supreme Court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of Proposition 8. Opponents of marriage equality will have the infamous Ken Starr representing them and arguing in essence that the 18,000 same-sex couples married in California must divorce. The Courage Campaign brings us a touching video on what Starr’s assault on marriage will mean.

Hey Finally somebody in California got the idea that putting real gay people in the public relations materials might be a good idea. Dianne Feinstein, the Governator, and the rest of the abstract blatherers about our civil rights didn’t work. Now some folks with courage and common sense are presenting the gay and lesbian families whose civil rights have been voted on by the majority. And whose civil rights have been taken away by a slim plurality.

 

Stewart: Religion Is a Choice Not Homosexuality


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And while I’m on Arkansas, let’s remember Arkansas is the state where voters just supported a ban on allowing unmarried (read LGBT) couples from adopting children or even becoming foster parents. Huckabee supported that ban and he continues to call homosexuality a choice. And his logic goes: if it’s a choice, it can be un-chosen.

Appropriately, Stewart asked the governor, “At what age did you choose not to be gay?” The governor had no answer. Stewart chided him, “You’re not being asked to marry a guy.” Huckabee’s response, a big old “aw shucks” smile.

Pushing his new book, “Do the Right Thing” (couldn’t Huckabee do the right thing himself and think up a new title instead of stealing Spike Lee’s), the very righteous governor trotted out the old canards against marriage equality. He recited the litany: anatomically gay couples are unfit to procreate, 5,000 years of recorded human history (back to the Old Testament) says marriage is between a man and a woman, and now 30 states have voted that marriage is one man and one woman. (Stewart pointed out that in 30 states more folks voted for McCain than Huckabee).  

Stewart knows his stuff. He came back at the Old Testament’s moral authority by noting its support of polygamy and slavery. He pointed out that marriage wasn’t a sacrament until the Twelfth Century and that for a long time it was nothing more than a property arrangement. He wondered if Huckabee had thought about the prohibition of people of different races marrying. Huckabee just smiled, preparing to recite his next inane objection to marriage equality: the definition of marriage.

How could society change the definition of marriage, Huckabee wondered incredulously? Stewart had just pointed out that throughout history, the definition has changed many times. Non-sequiturs are standard operating procedure for the religious right. “They’re asking people to redefine the word,” Huckabee blustered. “They have a lot of work to do to convince . . . the American people.”

At his point, Stewart rose to eloquence on the self-righteous posturing about the semantic absolutism of the definition of marriage. “It’s a travesty that people have forced someone who is gay to have to make their case that they deserve the same basic rights as someone else. It seems like semantics is cold comfort . . ..”  

In essence, Huckabee wants us to know: You’re a same-sex couple. You don’t fit the definition. Sorry, that’s the definition and the definition cannot change. Stewart’s forthrightness in arguing the case of marriage equality to an evangelical absolutist is an excellent primer for all of us who still have to argue for our civil right to marriage. And besides, he does it with such good humor. Take a look:

 

(Tip of the hat to Cathy Burack for sending the link to Stewart on YouTube)

 


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Get Wanda Sykes in Their Face

Patricia A. Gozemba
For those who doubt the efficacy of nation-wide rallies like last Saturday’s about Prop 8, I have two words: Wanda Sykes. It was worth dragging thousands of us out from Honolulu to Portland, Maine to have Wanda Sykes show up at a Las Vegas rally and come out to the world.

 Married for just 10 days before the Prop 8 vote torpedoed marriage equality in California, Sykes and her wife are in marriage limbo along with 17, 999 other couples. Hopefully Sykes’s public reflection on being in the closet will resonate with those in the LGBT community, still not ready to come out.

When Sykes told the crowd, “You know, I don’t really talk about my sexual orientation. I didn’t feel like I had to. I was just living my life, not necessarily in the closet, but I was living my life. Everybody that knows me personally, they know I’m gay. But that’s the way people should be able to live their lives. Now, I gotta get in their face.”

Yeah, Wanda, we all have to come out. We can assume that people who voted for Prop 8 didn’t know that you were gay. Maybe that would have shifted opinions. I can imagine a great 30 second ad with you and your wife. California could have used some gay people in their ads for sure. The elegant logic in “Wanda Sykes on Gay Marriage,” is a winner. “If you don’t believe in same-sex marriage, then don’t marry someone of the same-sex.”

Okay, Wanda, now that you’re out, I want more. You were right “our community was attacked” by the vote on Prop 8.  Your logic, “We shouldn’t have to be out here demanding something that we should automatically have as citizens of this country.” Wanda, tell the world. Feel free to get in the face of those who don’t believe that you are as good as they are. It will make a difference. Everyone’s coming out does.

Yes We Can

Last week, America voted for hope, not fear. For peace, not war. For love, not hatred. The election of Barack Obama represents what is best in the American spirit—fairness, equality, respect for hardworking people, a belief in a better tomorrow. It has been a long time coming. As Obama has said again and again over the last 21 months, America is a nation defined by its continued desire to form “a more perfect union.”

Unfortunately, for the LGBT community, voters who went to the polls in record numbers on Tuesday, voted their fears on the issues that matter to us most—respect for our families. We lost votes on marriage equality in three states: California, Florida and Arizona. And in Arkansas, voters banned unmarried couples from serving as foster or adoptive parents. This measure, clearly aimed at gay families, is perhaps the most damaging of this year’s initiatives in that it so blatantly carries the message that gay people are harmful to children.

Continue reading at Beacon Broadside.

48 More Hours of Gay Marriage in CA?


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In 48 hours, a California minority group may lose an important civil right at the ballot box. Almost sounds Machiavellian. Certainly it sounds un-American. In an election that by all indications looks as if it will be historic in elevating the first African American to the presidency, mean-spirited and biased California voters can still show that all prejudice is not dead by voting Yes on Proposition 8 to eliminate gay marriage. Or a majority of California voters, led by their better angels, can uphold the California Supreme Court decision approving gay marriage and sweep aside homophobia along with racism.

 

As the November 4th election looms, same-sex couples in California are rushing to town and city halls to get marriage licenses and marry. California courts have determined that couples married before (or if) their civil rights are voted away will still be legally married. Another class of Californians will be created, gays who once had the civil right to marry as opposed to those who weren’t born at the right time, or in love at the right time, or . . ..

 

Approximately 16,000 couples have married in four and a half months.

What a mind-boggling situation these couples are thrust into because they are part of an apparently despised minority. Some folks like Focus on the Family, the Catholic Knights of Columbus, the Mormon Church, and clusters of other right-wing ideological groups have raised millions of dollars to convince Californians that some people do not deserve full civil rights. They are urging a Yes vote on Proposition 8.

 

In perhaps their most despicable moment, these Yes on Proposition 8 folks just sent a targeted mailing to African American voters indicating that Barack Obama and Joe Biden are also for Yes on Proposition 8. In response to the duplicitous direct-mail piece, Obama campaign spokesman Ben Bolt released this statement: “Senator Obama has already announced that the Obama-Biden ticket opposes Proposition 8 and similar discriminatory constitutional amendments that could roll back the civil rights he and Senator Biden strongly believe should be afforded to all Americans.”

 

What Obama and Biden have never said is that they are for marriage equality. Of course, that’s the stickler. They’ve said that they are for civil unions. Californians had that separate but equal solution and their high court said that it was not enough—just as Connecticut’s high court said a few weeks ago. There’s a lesson here about being for full equality—unequivocally. Nonetheless in this last minute showdown the Obama campaign has said it “opposes Proposition 8.”

 

Meanwhile gay and lesbian couples in California are rushing to marry while they still have that civil right. Let’s hope this last ditch ad by NO on Prop 8 helps. It says all the right things but I just wish that some of the political heroes had the guts to really be for marriage equality.

 

Courting Equality video promotes marriage equality

Thanks to our good friends at Two Rivers Circle Productions and Aboriginal Lens, the story of LGBT people winning marriage equality is now available in a 5-minute documentary video. Using the photos from our book, the filmmakers created a video that will warm your heart—and hopefully move the hearts and minds of voters on November 4. California film producer Karen Rudolph has already been giving the video to local activists fighting Proposition 8, the California ballot question that would eliminate the right of same-sex couoples to marry in that state. Please send the video link to your friends, family, and contacts in California, Arizona, and Florida, and encourage them to share it with those who don’t yet understand the importance of this civil rights issue. The photographs of families sharing their love–and fighting for their rights can’t help but move people along. As Ellen DeGeneres explained recently to John McCain, we just want to celebrate our love the same way that everyone else does!

Parents Fight Another Iwo Jima for Marriage Equality

by Pat Gozemba

Shortly after the Goodridge decision affirmed marriage equality in Massachusetts on November 18, 2003, Rev. Lou Sheldon of California mustered his troops declaring, “Massachusetts is our Iwo Jima.” Well, the Rev. Sheldon and his ilk lost that battle and now Iwo Jima has come to him in California—the land of sequels. Sheldon’s Yes on Proposition 8 folks are up against a powerful No on Proposition 8 band of Love Warriors—parents.

In Massachusetts our ground troops of families, religious leaders, and committed citizens willing to go out and speak with their neighbors, co-workers, fellow-worshippers, and anyone with a willing ear and an open mind won the day. Families of origin, the families we have created, and our families of choice played a huge role in protecting marriage equality and the constitution of our state. That’s the message that Karen Kahn and I brought to a MarriageEqualityUSA training session a few days ago in San Francisco.

One workshop attendee, Sam Thoron, wields a powerful weapon, love, for the No on Prop 8 campaign. Both Sam and his wife Julia are actively involved in PFLAG and are extremely proud of their lesbian daughter. Their commitment to equality for all of their children is unconditional.

thorons.jpg

Sam and Julia Thoron

“All we have ever wanted for our daughter is that she be treated with the same respect and dignity as her brothers—with the same freedoms and responsibilities as every other Californian. My wife and I never treated our children differently, we never loved them any differently and now the law doesn’t treat them differently, either.”

The mothers and fathers of LGBT children speak with a very compelling voice about their hopes for their children. With his wife at his side, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, a Republican, sent seismic waves throughout California and the nation in September 2007, when, in an about-face, he delivered a very moving endorsement of marriage equality.  Why did he do it? He believed that his lesbian daughter should have the same rights as everyone else.

Right-wing conservatives immediately pledged to unseat Sanders. But in June 2008 as weddings of same-sex couples began in California, Sanders was returned to office. Another Iwo Jima won by fair minded citizens.

What the conservatives did manage to do was get Prop 8 on the ballot which amends the state constitution and “Eliminates the right of same-sex couples to marry.” Thanks to Attorney General Jerry Brown for this forthright wording of Prop 8. The Lou Sheldons of the world wanted the language wrapped in the Bible, the flag, apple pie, and motherhood. In other words, obscure but sounding good. Few will be confused by what they are voting on with Prop 8.

For millions of LGBT Americans this vote in California is an Iwo Jima. Money is pouring into the state from Catholics, Mormons, and every other stripe of religious conservatives—all those supposedly pro-family groups.

I’m hoping that Californians will listen to the eloquent and passionate voices of the Thoron and Sanders families, the real Love Warriors, and vote No on Prop 8.

Crossing Borders, Expanding Equality, and Seeking Justice

 by Patricia A. Gozemba

Equality is a core value in Massachusetts. More than two weeks have passed since our Massachusetts borders fell to the further expansion of equality. When Governor Deval Patrick signed the repeal of the 1913 law that prohibited out-of-state same-sex couples from coming to our state to marry, our state borders became more permeable and we are glad of it. At the July 31, 2008, signing ceremony, Patrick said, “the repeal will confirm a simple truth: that is, in Massachusetts, equal means equal.” More