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Posts Tagged ‘lgbt’

It turns out that the Federal District Court Judge who will be deciding the Prop 8 case, Judge Vaughn Walker, is gay.  Unfortunately I worry that if he decides that Prop 8 is in fact unconstitutional, conservatives will be quick to blame it on his sexuality – suggesting that he’s biased.  The fact that his sexuality is even making news headlines worries me, especially because there are people questioning whether he can be impartial in deciding this case. (Walker, as it turns out, is fairly conservative as politics go – his decisions have angered the gay community in the past.) I wish this didn’t have to be an issue, but it reminds me that people who are part of any kind of majority, be it sexual, racial, or gender, always forget that they too have a sexual orientation, a race, and a gender. Just because you are a straight, white male does not mean that you are free from bias. Unfortunately, however, if a straight judge was deciding this case we would not see article after article questioning whether he be able to remain unbiased. We do not question whether he will decide in favor of the Prop 8 supporters because he is straight. We assume that being straight (or white, or male) is the neutral center, and we don’t look any deeper. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that when the decision comes out, the media will focus on the legal reasoning and not Judge Walker’s sexuality.

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777px-Gay_flagToday has been a sad day. I had high hopes that Maine would vote to allow gay marriage, and we would be celebrating a victory today. Unfortunately, the Yes on 1 campaign won out, with numbers strikingly similar to the Prop 8 numbers in California last year. As Kate Kendell from NCLR said, this deja vu is far from comforting. It is so disheartening to know that there are still so many people in this country believe that same-sex couples do not deserve the same rights as different sex couples. Of course, no one can ever take away the ability of people to form loving, long-term relationships with same-sex partners, but every state that takes away the right to marry continues to impress upon us that there are those out there who do not think LGBT are as deserving, or not full citizens in some way. 

Sometimes I wonder if the marriage battle is worth all of the money and energy, because the lack of progress is so frustrating, but then I step back and think about everything that comes along with marriage. Without marriage, same-sex couples cannot protect basic parts of their relationship. Without federal recognition of marriage, same-sex couples are not entitled to the same healthcare benefits, cannot secure the same medical rights, or death benefits, and often have trouble securing parentage rights over the children they raise together. I like to think that marriage is just a meaningless status, but when the government makes so many rights contingent upon it, marriage becomes so much more. And unless we get rid of the institution of marriage all together, I think it will continue to be important to fight as hard as we can for marriage equality (not, of course, at the expense of anything else).

And just a word on blame. Everyone seems eager to blame someone or something for the disappointment in Maine, but I really don’t think this is the way to go. The people who worked on the No on 1 campaign worked incredibly hard, and gave all they had to turn out the vote and to convince people to vote no. In order to get the numbers where we want them to be, everyone needs to step up, and not just in the states where the battle happens to be centered. Everyone who thinks that same-sex couples deserve the right to marry (and everyone who thinks that the LGBT community deserves every right straight people have, for that matter) needs to take some time to talk to the people they know who don’t share those beliefs. It will never be possible to suceed if everyone is not participating in the effort.

On the bright side, we will hopefully see a victory in Washington (although the numbers are a little too close for me to be totally satisfied), and there was also victory in Kalmazoo, MI. Houston will (hopefully) have a lesbian mayor, as will Chapel Hill, NC, and Detroit elected an openly gay city council president. Despite the loss in Maine, progress continues to occur.

Now that the election is over, I urge you to continue to move forward and fight for the passage of ENDA, which will secure federal employment protections for LGBT people. If it passes (which it can), it will be an incredible sign of progress and hope. Contact your congressperson to urge them to support it.

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I’m just going to post the NCLR Press Release, because it explains this wonderful news much more eloquently than I can.

THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR LESBIAN RIGHTS APPLAUDS FINAL PASSAGE of HATE CRIMES BILL

(Washington, DC, October 22, 2009) — Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) applauds the United States Senate for final passage of the hate crimes bill, now known as the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The Department of Defense conference report was approved with the hate crimes bill provisions included by a vote of 68-29; earlier in the day Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii cast the final affirmative vote on a procedural motion to limit debate that cleared the last hurdle to final passage as an honor to his long service to the Senate. The conference report accompanies H.R.2647, the underlying Department of Defense Authorization bill. The measure now heads to President Obama for his signature.

The hate crimes legislation gives the Justice Department the authority to fully investigate and prosecute bias-motivated crimes where the victim has been targeted because of actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. President Barack Obama has vowed to sign the bill.

“We thank the Senate—indeed the full Congress—for passing the hate crimes bill, and especially those who provided strong leadership on this measure,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. “My heart is very full today as I think of families who have lost loved ones, of Senator Kennedy, who championed this bill for so many years, and also as I imagine all those who may be saved by this measure. I look forward to President Obama swiftly signing this measure into law.” 

On October 8, 2009, the United States House of Representatives voted 281-146 in favor of a joint House-Senate “conference report” on a defense authorization measure that also includes provisions that would expand the definition of federal hate crimes to cover attacks based on gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and military service.

The bill was introduced in the Senate on April 28, 2009 by the late Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), among others. At the June 25, 2009 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder testified that the Obama administration strongly supported the bill, stating, “The President and I seek swift passage of this legislation because hate crimes victimize not only individuals, but entire communities.”

 NCLR has long supported passage of this key measure, assisting with drafting bill provisions, drawing public attention to the problem of hate violence and the need for hate crimes legislation, and providing grassroots support necessary for its passage.

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Gavin Creel, a (irrestibly dreamy) cast-member of the current Broadway revival of the musical Hair (which won this year’s Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical), convinced the producers to close the show for one day on October 11, so that the cast could march and perform in the gay rights rally in Washington, D.C.  The producers agreed, despite the fact that the Sunday matinee is an extremely lucrative performance and they will end up losing quite a bit of money.

For those who aren’t musical theater nerds like me, Hair is to 1960s/70s musical theater what Rent is to current musical theater. Okay, that may not have clarified anything. Hair is the story of a group of hippies who are fighting for sexual liberation and protesting the war in Vietnam. Although it may seem dated now, when it was originally produced on Broadway, it was extremely risque, with scenes where the entire cast (gasp!) smokes pot and (double gasp!) gets entirely naked. Seriously though, the show brought political activism and protest to the Broadway stage, a place where it hadn’t really ever been. So it seems to make sense that of all Broadway casts, the cast of Hair would be the one to go down to D.C. and take a stand for the issues they care about today.

I’m not a huge fan of the show Hair. I think it lacks coherence and seems extremely dated on today’s stage. However, I have a huge amount of respect for the cast as they take their jobs to a new level. It’s great to see that more than merely acting on stage, these actors are embodying the spirit of the show and putting their energy towards trying to create change in the real world. It’s also incredibly refreshing to hear about producers who will forego profits in order to make a political statement. For this action, I certainly give the cast and crew of Hair a standing ovation.

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slide_2780_38698_large(via Huffington Post)

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My love for the NY Times magazine just seems to grow with time. This weekend’s issue includes a story by Benoit Denizet-Lewis (who wrote a fabulous piece last year about young, gay married couples) called “Coming Out in Middle School.” The article documents the struggles as well as the triumphs that young gay adolescents have experienced as they try to navigate their way through the terrifying world of middle school.

 

What is clear is that for many gay youth, middle school is more survival than learning — one parent of a gay teenager I spent time with likened her child’s middle school to a “war zone.” In a 2007 survey of 626 gay, bisexual and transgender middle-schoolers from across the country by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Educators Network (Glsen), 81 percent reported being regularly harassed on campus because of their sexual orientation. Another 39 percent reported physical assaults. Of the students who told teachers or administrators about the bullying, only 29 percent said it resulted in effective intervention.

I think this article does a great job in describing both the progress that has been made in schools (formation and protection of Gay Straight Alliances) while also explaining how far we have to go before gay adolescents truly feel safe coming out to all of their peers and teachers rather than just a handful of close friends.

What always shocks me the most about accounts of discrimination and harassment of gay adolescents is how frequently their teachers ignore the discrimination and even participate in it. It’s one thing for schools to put anti-bullying measures in place that prevent bullying among students, but I personally would like to see more towns and states taking action to prevent teachers from being complicit in the discrimination and harassment. Every student, whether gay or straight, should be able to view his or her teachers as role models and people that he or she can trust – I know I wouldn’t have made it through high school without the support of a few fabulous teachers. For schools to not take action against teachers who are not providing this kind of support is appalling.

This article is also lacking a discussion of transgender adolescents and the different kinds of discrimination and harassment they face at school. These children are often misunderstood, and their gender identity is not taken seriously. Any school that seeks to address LGBT discrimination must make sure that it is specifically addressing the “T” in addition to the “LGB.”

It gives me some hope when articles like this are published in the NY Times (although I do realize that it has quite a liberal reader base), because I like to think that it will make readers more aware of these issues than they have been before and incite some people to action.

For further research and reading here are some organizations with great information about LGBT Youth:

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As an alternative to purity rings, the National Marriage Boycott has created Equality Rings. Members wear these on their ring finger as a symbol of committment to not get married until DOMA is repealed.  As the co director of the boycott states:

We wanted to create a movement that enabled straight people to show their support for LGBT rights, and we wanted this movement to have the capacity to rapidly expand in a financially sustainable way. The rings allow us to finance our expansion, while creating a recognizable symbol for our cause.

Show your support and buy one here for $10!

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DOMA to be Repealed?

The Respect for Marriage Act was introduced in the House, which would repeal DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) which provides federal recognition for heterosexual married couples only.

As Kate Kendell at the NCLR explains:

The Respect for Marriage Act would repeal both sections 2 and 3 of DOMA. Section 2 creates an exception to the full faith and credit clause for married same-sex couples. The Respect for Marriage Act would eliminate that provision, but it would leave each state free to decide whether to recognize marriages of same-sex couples from other states. Section 3 excludes same-sex spouses from all federal benefits and protections, including Social Security survivor benefits, the right to file joint taxes, and the right to petition for permanent residence for a foreign spouse. The Respect for Marriage Act would require that the federal government treat all married couples equally.


Our friend and partner Jason Bartlett from the National Black Justice Coalition reminds us of what exactly DOMA has meant for our community. “DOMA is an egregious piece of legislation as it codifies discrimination into federal law. As African Americans, we know all too well the injustices that laws such as this impose on our communities and our families and we are sensitive to the federal government trying to define our families. Let us consign the mistakes of the past to history and move forward together. We call on Congress to pass the Respect to Marriage Act as we continue to fight for our civil rights.”


NCLR is proud to have worked in close cooperation with other groups and lead co-sponsors to help define the scope of the bill to repeal DOMA and to secure federal respect for the marriages of same-sex couples. We support the legislative repeal, as well as the legal overturn, of DOMA.
President Obama has made it clear that he, too, supports an end to DOMA. On June 17, 2009, President Barack Obama said, “I stand by my long-standing commitment to work with Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. It’s discriminatory, it interferes with states’ rights, and it’s time we overturned it.” The President most recently reiterated his support for the repeal of DOMA in an August 17, 2009 White House statement.

This may be a long shot, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed. After all, with Obama in the White House, there’s really no excuse for keeping DOMA on the books. It will be a great year if the Respect for Marriage Act and ENDA both get passed.

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benandjerrysBen and Jerry’s has temporarily renamed “Chubby Hubby” ice cream to “Hubby Hubby” ice cream to celebrate the start of gay marriage in Vermont today. And there will be a wedding truck driving throughout the state handing out free ice cream.

News like this makes my day!

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Jezebel has a great post today on women in sports. The post discusses two recent articles published in the New York Times and The Daily Beast where the authors spend most of the articles talking about the beauty and maternity habits of female athletes. The post states:

Female athletes seem to serve as a never-ending well of material for those obsessed with both the female body and the importance of femininity. There seems to be a real difficulty marketing athletic women to the general public without resorting to these tricks, which continually reiterate that this is about a woman in sports, a female athlete, someone with two X chromosomes.

I think this is a fascinating issue, one which I am not very well-versed. But with my new internship at the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), I have been exposed to some great information about women in sports thanks to Helen Carroll, a truly amazing woman. Other great sites to check out are: It Takes A Team and Pat Griffin’s blog.

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