Monday, June 29, 2015

The Post SCOTUS Right WIng Meltown...

In the wake of Friday's historic US Supreme Court ruling, legalizing same sex marriage across all 50 states, the collective freak out on the social conservative right wing in the United States as been epic.  If you want a great recap of the assorted wailing and gnashing of teeth, by all means head over to Joe Jervis' brilliant  blog  JoeMyGod, for a recap.

My favourite though,  was the American Family Association's delightful spokes-bigot Bryan Fischer who managed to invoke  the death of Buddy Holly, Pearl Harbor, and the Attacks of September 11th during his colossal twitter meltdown.

I get a real kick out of all the Attack on Marriage" rhetoric.      Always when the  subject of equal rights for gay and lesbian couples is part of   our national discourse conservative evangelicals always claim it  is an "attack" on marriage and the family. So I decided to look   up the word `attack' in the dictionary. The Merriam-Webster   Online Dictionary defines it as:

Pronunciation: &-'tak
Function: verb
Etymology: Middle French attaquer, from (assumed) transitive senses.
1 : to set upon or work against forcefully
2 : to assail with unfriendly or bitter words
3 : to begin to affect or to act on injuriously
4 : to set to work on
5 : to threaten (a piece in chess) with immediate capture
intransitive senses : to make an attack
6: the act or action of setting upon with force or violence

 Hmmm… to set upon or work against forcefully huh? Ok, so if we take the arguments being shrieked on the Right seriously, The SCOTUS running last Friday giving gay couples the same rights as straight couples, not more rights, not any new rights that straight couples do not currently have, but only the exact same rights, is going to injure, damage and potentially even destroy heterosexual marriages and families.

Wow. I guess I only have one question then. How?  Does Marriage Equality marriage mean that straight couples have now lost any of the 1,100   federal benefits and protections that they had before last Friday? Does marriage equality now mean straight couples can’t file joint  tax returns, have, adopt or raise children, pass on social   security survivor benefits, or make medical decisions for each
other? Does the legalization of marriage for gays and lesbians   mean that straight people can no longer marry each other and instead must get “SCOTUS Gay Married"? Does it mean those who are presently  married must now get divorced? 

In other words; Have the marriages or families of any heterosexual changed in any way as a result of last Friday’s court decision? 

The answer is, no of course not.   But when faced with these facts , the right wing nuto-sphere spews back   three basic arguments. The first, is the claim that God says being gay is sinful because the bible say!  So Gays want to destroy Christianity.     So  how does that square with the fact that so many LGBT activists ARE Christian?  

Funny how people who say  the United States should be  theocracy where church rules the state are very selective in their piety.  Gay Marriage?  Hell No!   But divorce? No problem.   Yet the Bible says clearly that  divorce should be a criminal offense. ( The fifty percent of heterosexual couples that avail themselves of divorce I am sure are thankful this is not the case.)  Yet you never see  Bryan Fischer or any of his ilk truly following the bible they love to so selectively cite .  A fact brilliantly illustrated in a now famous scene from the TV series  "The West Wing".

The second response was  even more fun. An oldie but a goodie...  Allowing gay marriage  will now lead to polygamy, bestiality, pedophile marriages, and who knows what else. Yet civil marriage is and has only ever been   about two and ONLY two consenting adults of no direct family   relation.  Find me the person who truly wants to marry their dog,   and for that matter, find me a dog who is over 18 years old, can  read and then sign a marriage application and can then say the  words "I do". If Shaggy and Scoobie show up at the Vegas wedding chapel, then this argument might be worth taking seriously.

The third  response to last Friday's ruling  legalizing gay marriage is actually a bit   more honest on their part. Conservative evangelicals say that   gay marriage cheapens or lessens the value of the institution of  marriage in the eyes of society. But since none of the   marriage rights or benefits that straight couples enjoy have  changed now that same sex couples are able to marry, what opponents of equality are really saying is that letting gay couples marry cheapens their straight marriages in their eyes. Letting gays and lesbians get married means they now have a right that until Friday, only heterosexuals had. And that makes them mad.
It's not just  that these people are upset that LGBT Americans now have  equal marriage rights, they are upset that gays and lesbians have any rights at all.  They see equal rights for everyone as an attack on them.

That's interesting. Even though heterosexual marriage clearly  has not changed in ANY way, some people firmly believes that marriage  has now lost value, status and might even come to an end, because gay  couples are now able to marry. It suddenly occurred to me there is   another word for someone who is irrationally fixed on the   artificial preservation of inequality that they feel is in their
favor. Merriam-Webster's dictionary has the same word for it.

Pronunciation: 'bi-g&t
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle French, hypocrite, bigot
1: a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own
opinions and prejudices

This small group of even smaller minds, are angry about losing  what they feel is superiority that is due them. They want to take their religious beliefs and codify them into civil law, then force them on the rest of us. The fact that the US Supreme Court said no, has caused many of them to lose their minds.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Mariage Equality in The United States of America

With those simple yet moving words,  Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the 5 justice majority of the US Supreme Court,  affirmed the idea that equal protection under the law, is not limited to some Americans.  But rather,  is  true for all Americans.

I remember  when I was a child,  watching the movie  The Sound of Music on television.  When it would get to the scene late in the film where Maria and Captain Von Trapp get married in the grandeur of the Salzburg Cathedral;  I always wondered why the nuns had to stay behind a locked iron gate in the back of the church, and were not allowed to attend the wedding with everybody else. 

I remember asking my Mom at the time "What did the Nuns do wrong?  Why are they in Jail?"  Laughing, my Mother replied that Nuns were not allowed to get married,  that they were "married to the church".    At the time I really didn't understand the concept of being married to a church,  but over the years that followed, I would come to understand all to well the idea of not being  "able" to get married.

"...and they lived, happily ever after."  Think of all the stories,  plays, movies,  songs, poems and even paintings, where that idea;  Living happily ever after with the person you love, marrying the person you love,  was exclusively the domain of  boy meets girl.     The coming out experience for LGBT people is as unique as each individual who goes through it.  Yet there are some commonalities.   One of the most common, is the moment when you looked  at world around you,  and became resigned to the idea of marrying the person you love and living  happily ever after ...was not ever going to be in your future.  

As someone who was Gay,  I was convinced  of this.   I  thought, I may as well  just hang out with Nuns locked behind the iron gates.   Marriage,  was not something I would ever be allowed to share.   Or so I thought...  Now years later,  I  can say  that there is incredible  joy in being proved so completely wrong. 

In a week when I recently wrote a blog asking "What is wrong with America?". Today we see what is so completely right with America.   E Pluribus Unum.  Out of Many, One.     The idea that America is never finished.   We are always  and forever a work in progress.  Far more potential than  presently realised.   Forever expanding the idea that  we all created equal, endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 

That is what  the United States Supreme Court did today.   Defended and expanded that Jeffersonian ideal,  that. American ideal.   That my love,  is as valid is yours.   That the  life that my husband and I build together,  is as valid and worthy of affirmation as yours.     That our family is as part of the fabric of America as yours.   My country,  that  on September 21, 1996 passed the odious  "Defence of Marriage Act", a law that fifteen years later,  would force me to leave my country   and move the UK just to be with my spouse;  Today, on June 26, 2015, that same country finally stepped out of that shadow and on to the right side of history.

To those who decry this progress and are filling the airwaves and internet with bile and vitriol, to you I say,  I am sorry.    Sorry that you have so little faith in the country you so loudly say that you  love.   Sorry that you see freedom and equality as zero sum propositions.

But mostly I am sorry you have so completely failed to understand  both the nation in which you live, and  religious faith you claim to profess.   Today is a very GOOD day for America, and  this weekend in cities all over the world, there will be one amazing party.   I am sorry you are too afraid to  step out of those shadows and  join us in celebrating what truly is a victory for all Americans.  

There will  plenty of time in the weeks to come to analyse  and debate the events of today and what it means  for the United States, but for now,  even here in London we will celebrate this latest chapter in the American story.  

Happy Pride Weekend everyone,  and  God Bless America.

Friday, June 19, 2015

"Dave, What is Wrong with America...?"

I met a good friend of mine for coffee yesterday in Central London. She is also an American who married a Brit, and has lived here for nearly two decades. As we were catching up on the details of each other's lives, families etc; the subject of moving back to the United States, came up.

I moved here to the UK, because at the time of our wedding, it was not possible for me to sponsor Eric to move to the US. This was due to legalized discrimination against same sex couples through the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA). I have blogged extensively over the years detailing how DOMA has impacted our lives, if you want a refresher you can read some it here.

But with Supreme Court ruling in the Windsor case, the court over turned the provision of DOMA that barred federal recognition of our marriage, clearing the way for me to sponsor Eric for immigration to the United States, just as he had sponsored my immigration to the United Kingdom.  Thus  prompting  the occasional question about returning to the United States.  

Eric and I have always had the assumption that one day we will move back to the US. With all of my family, and some of his there, it just seemed like a logical eventuality. So consequently when horrific mass shootings like the one this week at an African American Church  in Charleston, South Carolina, happen in America, I struggle to answer the question my husband invariably asks me as we watch the news...

"What is wrong with America...?"

Each time I honestly struggle to answer that question. You see,  my husband is a very intelligent and sensible person,  so when  he reads the full text of the 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution, like anyone who can read and comprehend written words, he fails to see how a "well regulated militia" means anyone can have any kind of gun and as many guns as they want. He also fails to understand Americans who don't decry the shootings, but instead, froth at the mouth with nonsensical ravings in response to ANY attempt to address the KEY ISSUE that helps facilitate these horrific crimes; the American FETISH with guns.

I think part of this stems from the fact that we live in the United Kingdom,  a nation that doesn't have these kinds of mass shootings. Crimes that in America are now commonplace. A fact that was not lost on President Obama when he spoke yesterday.

Almost immediately on the American Cultural right-wing, came the shrill hysterical cries of  "Obama is coming for your Guns!!"  And right wing nut jobs like Alex Jones, claiming that  this shooting may have been  actually planned and carried out BY the Obama Administration  as a "false flag attack " to use as pretext for declaring martial law , and "taking everyone's guns away"   Why?  To disarm white people for the coming "socialist race war" .. Oh of course, why else?
If you can stomach 7 seconds of racist, paranoid delusional hate, feel free to watch Alex Jones in action, yesterday.

So when I get asked by rational intelligent people , "What is wrong with America...?"  I honestly don't know what to say.   But I do know what I don't want to hear...

I don't want to hear  or  read comments on how this tragedy would have been averted if the parishioners at the  Charleston A.M.E. church  had been carrying guns, so don't write them,  I won't post them.  I don't want to read mindless pap  that says  "guns don't kill,  people do",  because only an idiot can't  see  how having such easy access to  the gun in the first place helps make horrors like this possible.  So don't bother writing it.  I won't post it  
If  you say you believe that more guns are the answer , you are wrong,  and you know it, you just are not honest enough to admit it.
I don't want to hear perverse misinterpretations of the 2nd Amendment . Spare me the  Alex Jones/Fox News/Matt Drudge  BS that stricter controls on guns wouldn't have helped prevent this. When in 2014, the total number of Gun related deaths (accidental and otherwise,) in the UK was 58,  and in the US it is was over 10,000,  regurgitated  NRA propaganda  just makes whoever is spewing it look heartless and stupid.  So spare yourselves  the embarrassment , and  turn your computer off  and  for now,  just be quiet.   

One of the commonalities of the expatriate experience is you often find yourself defending your home  country in casual conversation.  Yet lately I have had to admit that were we to move back to the US,  and I don't mean to Chicago, or San Francisco.  I mean even if we were  to move to Madison, Wisconsin, (population : 233,209)  the beautiful city where I was born, and  grew up;  The likelihood of one of us being a victim of gun related violence,  is nearly ten times greater than it is living in here  London,   a city of  over 8 million people.

I love my country.  I am proud to say  that I am an American.  I have travelled, lived and worked in may other places around the world,  In Europe  and Asia.   Yet there is no other nation I would have wanted to be born a citizen of.    I truly believe the greatness of the United States is, and will always be  our diversity.   E Pluribus Unum...  Out of many, One.  

Yet  the fact remains.   There IS something very  wrong with America.   When these horrific crimes of mass murder are somehow  accepted as  the price America has to pay for our "right to bear arms", then clearly that right has been perverted and twisted into something the founding fathers  never intended.   America suffers from an illness,  an addiction to guns that kills  thousands of our fellow Americans every year.    An addiction that kills more Americans than Al Qaida, ISISL or any other terrorist group.

Until we as a nation can honestly come to terms with that fact,  the death toll will only continue to climb.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

So there is a bit of policial news....

Rather than try to explain the joyous gift to comedians everywhere, that the Republican Party unwrapped yesterday...   I'll just let Jon Stewart take it from here...
There is a God of Comedy, and he LOVES Jon Stewart!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Prideful Thoughts...

June is LGBT Pride month in many cities around the world.  So as the rainbow flags fly along Market Street in downtown San Francisco, on the Social Conservative Right wing,  something else springs  up as well.   The annual debate on why are Gay Pride celebrations acceptable but. "Straight Pride" celebrations are not.

This year in particular we are seeing some remarkable reactions to the recent advances in LGBT civil rights, especially in the United States.  But certainly the US is not alone in having its share of folks who are convinced that equal rights for people they don't like is somehow an attack on them.  An Australian couple are so upset at the idea of possible marriage equality for Gays Lesbians that they have publicly threatened to divorce should same sex marriage become legal down under. (hat tip to joemygod..)

Nick Jensen, who posed with his wife Sarah on the cover of the latest issue of Canberra CityNews, writes of the Christian couple’s decision to end their marriage under the headline, “Gay law change may force us to divorce”.

"My wife and I just celebrated our 10-year anniversary. But later this year, we may be getting a divorce. The decision to divorce is not one we’ve taken lightly. And certainly, it’s not one that many will readily understand. And that’s because it’s not a traditional divorce. Our view is that marriage is a fundamental order of creation. Part of God’s human history. Marriage is the union of a man and a woman before a community in the sight of God. And marriage of any couple is important to God regardless of whether that couple recognises God’s involvement or authority in it."

- Nick Jansen, writing for Canberra's City News. Jansen adds that he and his future ex-wife will continue to live together.

It's very  easy  to laugh at wackjobs like the  Jansens,  or the  various American Talabangelicals  who are shrieking hysterically how an anticipated US Supreme Court ruling on Same Sex marriage  will result in nothing less than some sort of  Gay,   Nazi... apocalypse.


Setting aside the fact that allowing same sex couples the same legal rights as opposite sex couples doesn't impact Bryan Fischer's life in any way.    Fischer and his assorted ilk in the social conservative wingnutosphere  are doing all they can to flog the talking point that giving equal rights to Gay people is somehow taking rights away  from  them.

Which brings us back to annual debate over the merits of LGBT Pride celebrations. It's a debate that rages both inside and outside the broader LGBTQ-XYZ123-whatever-else-you-want-to-add-on... community. Inside the community the question always gets asked ; does some of the imagery of Pride celebrations hurt the cause of equal rights? In addition, this year in the wake of significant legal victories for LGBT rights, especially around an expected SCOTUS ruling legalizing Marriage Equality for the whole US; Some are asking do we even need pride celebrations anymore?

While on the other side of the debate , critics and opponents love to point to that same imagery as evidence of Gay folks wanting "special rights", and then pull out their favorite chestnut, of asking why are Gay Pride Celebrations acceptable but Straight Pride celebrations are not?   The debate is also in full swing on social  media.   With some people adopting a straight "pride logo" as a response to rainbow flag or red and white equal signs.

Seriously??  It's like asking why isn't there a "White History Month".  It's always interesting to see people who have never faced  discrimination based on their sexual orientation, claim any sort of recognition of the dignity of people who have faced that discrimination , is somehow an attack on them.

I think a fundamental question here is what is the actual purpose of  Gay  Pride celebrations in 2015?   Is it "celebrating" being LGBT?   Is it (as it was originally), a protest to fight bigotry  and discrimination?   Or is it a bit of both?   In truth,  Pride celebrations are more than all that.  They are a message.  Sent to those  who are not actually there attending those celebrations.

I remember the first Pride event I ever attended.  It was Chicago's  pride parade in 1998.    I had recently moved to Chicago,  and had not yet  had the "coming out talk" with my own family.   I lived on the North side of in the city in the Lakeview neighbourhood.  An area known as "Boystown". As it was centre of Chicago's LGBT Community. 

My reasons for attending the parade that day were not to "celebrate" the fact that I was a Gay man, who finally had come to terms with my own sexuality;  But rather to do for someone else what Pride participants years past had done for me.  Send a clear and very public message that being who you are is ok,  and there  really was life outside the "closet."

The truth is, Pride celebrations are not for the people who attend them. Instead they are for the people who cannot attend them. Growing up as a Gay kid in a small town in South Central Wisconsin, there were times when I was convinced I was the only gay person on Earth. The constant message from popular culture, religion, family and peer groups was "boy meets girl, they fall in love, get married (or not) and have kids (or not) and live happily ever after". There was no happily ever after for someone who felt what I was feeling.

Then, in  June, I would turn on the TV News and see thousands of people...  just like me, in places like New York, San Francisco and Chicago saying "No, that's not true, you are not alone, and there is a big wide world out here beyond Sun Prairie Wisconsin. So hang in there .... we're here and we're waiting for you!" 

Pride Celebrations are the original  "It Gets Better Project". 

So  "straight pride" isn't  bigoted, it's just silly.   No straight kid growing up was told that being heterosexual was evil, or that God was going to send them to hell, for  wanting to be happy and fall in love.  Growing up,  how many books, songs, television programs, and movies  did you see that  featured  straight couples meeting,  falling in love and living happily ever after?   Pretty much all of them.   Ask someone who is Gay and  was born before say... 1990,  how many  positive images in popular culture they had  growing up that affirmed who they are?  The answer is, none, or at best few,  if any at all.

To my Straight friends,  I have to ask,  how many times have "respected" public figures, politicians, pundits and clergy gone on national television demanding that everyone be given the chance to VOTE on your civil rights?  How often has someone told you that not being able to discriminate against you was somehow an attack on them?  When was the last time  you heard a member of the Supreme Court saying that simply by being allowed to exist, you were "an attack" on the moral fibre of America?

Anyone??   Yeah...I didn't think so... I have a flash of the obvious for you, every month is "Straight Pride Month."   Saying LGBT people are human too, isn't an attack on straight people.  
My straight friends never needed to be told that being straight was  okay, and that they were okay   because nobody ever told them they weren't.   Pride isn't about celebrating being Gay, it's  about publicly showing that being  LGBT  is just as much a part of the  human experience as being straight is.    I for one would love to see the day when Pride is obsolete. When that scared closeted  kid,   doesn't need to be told that he or she is fine just the way they are. 
But until that day comes, my husband and I will be adding our voices to the joyous mob in places like Market Street in San Francisco, Oxford Street and Trafalgar Square here in London, Halsted Street in Chicago and Fifth Avenue in New York City. If for no other reason to let that kid know, it really does get better. There is a world where "boy meets boy" and "girl meets girl", where they fall in love and (if they want to) get married, and yes, even live happily ever after...

Happy Pride Everyone.