Happy First Anniversary

Coming hot on the heels of Federal District Court judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling that California’s Proposition 8 unfairly discriminates against gay men and women in their right to marry the partner of their choosing, the timing of my first anniversary of marriage to Tawn seems quite appropriate.  Yes, it was a year ago today that a group of family and friends gathered in a courtroom in Iowa and Tawn and I exchanged vows and started our life together as spouses. 

Not wanting to get into a tangent about legal issues, as I’ve written on the topic of same-sex marriage rights many times before, I’ll simply say that I agree with the gist of the 136-page ruling: My having the right to marry Tawn does nothing to diminish the value of any different-sex marriages, but denying me the right does me grievous harm while doing nothing to benefit the interests of the state.

Having just celebrated my grandparents’ 67th anniversary, I am hopeful that medical technology will progress to the point that Tawn and I, too, have the opportunity to reach such a milestone.  Realistically, of course, I’ll be happy if we get thirty or forty years.  Most importantly, though, I will focus on just enjoying each day we have together.

Happy anniversary, Tawn!

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The full entry about that wedding is here, for those who didn’t see it and are interested. 

 

Gotta vent

Sanford Update below

Excuse me.  I hate to get political on you, but I just need to let off some steam.  On Wednesday, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford joined a long list of Republican big-wigs who – ooops! – cheated on their wives.  Newt Gingrich, John Ensign, Mark Foley, Larry Craig (well, kind of… does having a wide stance in a restroom stall count?), the list of Republican sexual indiscretions goes on and on.

Right: Sanford posing with his family.  Filed in the dictionary under “sanctimonious”.

Now, let’s be clear, the Republicans aren’t alone in the world of wayward moral compasses.  Democrats Elliot Spitzer, John Edwards and Jim McGreevey have done no better.

But here’s what really burns me up: In general, the Republicans are the ones who are anti-same sex marriage because – get this – they want to protect the sanctity of marriage.

Excuse me!?

There is a special place in hell for hypocrites like that.  Unlike many Americans who are hung up on issues that in other cultures would largely be seen as a personal matter between a wife and her philandering husband, I don’t see these affairs as any of my business.

But when the people having those affairs tell me at the same time that me getting the right to marry would somehow cheapen marriage for everyone else, that crosses the line of all decency.  It is an indefensible argument and leads me to believe that the Republican leaders have no moral standing whatsoever to lecture me about the sanctity of marriage.

Oh, and let’s add Rush Limbaugh to the list.  Sanctity of marriage, my ass!  He’s been married and divorced three time, the pill-popping windbag.

 

Update

So after having the opportunity to blow off some steam and get a full night’s sleep, I’m over it.  Ready to move on and see the hilarity in the news of Sanford’s affair.  But there have been so many Republican sex scandals lately that I get confused about them all.

Thankfully, this web site has posted a handy flow chart to keep things clear:

sex-scandal-flow-chart (1)  

I hope you find it helpful.  It certainly got things sorted out for me!

 

Response to the Prop 8 Ruling: It’s a Red Herring

Pardon me while I briefly interrupt the series about making friends as an expat to provide this commentary and feedback on today’s ruling by the California Supreme Court, upholding Proposition 8, which defines marraige as “between one man and one woman”.

07 While my initial reaction to today’s California Supreme Court ruling upholding Proposition 8 was one of disappointment, I really am not that worked up over it, for two reasons:

 

First, the court was ruling on whether the ballot initiative process was a legal way to change the constitution.  For better or for worse, the supporters of Prop 8 did follow the process.  The problem here is less one of equality and more one of California having a dysfunctional ballot initiative process.  As a Californian for more than thirty years, I’ll be the first to say that the initiative process has caused many more problems that it has solved.  So, if you’re upset at the ruling, turn some of that righteous indignation towards changing the state’s way of creating laws.

 

Second, while the word “marriage” is very powerful, same sex couples in California still have all the rights, responsibilities, and privileges of marriage through the state’s civil union process.  So, from a practical standpoint, a couple who gets a civil union tomorrow is afforded all of the same state benefits as couples who have one of the 18,000 same-sex marriages that the court ruled are still valid.

 

The fight over Prop 8, while important, is a red herring.

Here’s the real battle, friends: At the federal level, regardless of whether we have a “marriage” or a “civil union” in any of the fifty states or the District of Columbia, same sex couples do not have ANY federal rights.  There are 1,138 specific federal rights identified by the Government Accounting Office that married couples are afforded, including (most importantly for me and Tawn) immigration rights.

 

The struggle to gain full equal rights will be a long one.  Along that road we will face significant setbacks, obstacles and distractions.  We need to look at things in a broad context at each step of the way, making sure our efforts are focused on the endgame.  While winning back the right to have a “marriage” versus a “civil union” in California is important, and something that I look forward to, in forty of the states we can’t even have the civil union and at the federal level, having either doesn’t matter.  That’s where the real battle lies.

 

NAACP Chair Addresses Human Rights Campaign

NAACP Board Chair Julian Bond spoke Sunday evening at a gathering of Human Rights Campaign, a gay-rights organization, in Los Angeles.  In his 25-minute speech, he eloquently compares the push for gay marriage rights to the struggle for civil rights for people of color.

As you may or may not be aware, there has been a lot of friction within the gay community since the passage of Proposition 8 in California, over the way that pro-gay marriage campaigners failed to effectively engage the communities of color, including gay and lesbian people of color.  In the days after Proposition 8 passed, there were nasty attempts to pin its passage on the members of black churches who turned out in record numbers to vote for President Obama.

It is against this backdrop that the words of Mr. Bond are especially important to listen to.  This is a man who has been involved in the struggle for civil rights and who has joined his gay and lesbian friends as they push for equality.

Help me and Tawn get married

Tawn and I need your help, please.  Just a few minutes of it.

On November 4th, Californians will vote on Proposition 8 which will explicity take away the right of gay men and lesbian women to marry.  Tawn and I, now together for almost nine years, are planning on getting married when we are back in California this December.  We need your help to get the word out to Californians to vote NO on Proposition 8.

No On Prop 8

Outside of the issue of equal rights, this would represent a frightening precedent of the rights of a minority being taken away after they have been won.  This is a disturbing example of Alex de Tocqueville’s “tyranny of the majority”, whereby majority opinion is allowed to trample the civil rights of the minority.

Here’s how you can help me and Tawn:

Contact the people you know in California – let them know about me and Tawn and that if Proposition 8 passes, we’ll be unable to marry in December.  Ask them to vote no on the proposition and to talk with their friends, family and fellow citizens, too.  

If you are a Californian, talk to people who think differently from you – it is easy to “preach to the choir” but the ones who need to hear form you are the undecided voters, the ones for whom a personal story will make all the differentce.  Studies have shown that personalizing the issues makes people more supportive of equal rights.

If you are a registered voter in California, remember to vote – right now the proposition is slightly ahead in voter support.  To defeat it, we will need ever supporter who is registered to vote to actually get out to the polls.  Your vote will count!

Consider contributing to the “No on 8” campaign – They are being outspent by 2-to-1 by donations from outside the state, 30% of which have come from the Mormon Church.  I have already made a donation and hope you will join me.  Even if you donate just $10, you will help buy valuable television airtime so our side of the debate can be heard.  Click here to donate at Equality California’s secure website.

I know that we are ready for the political silly season to be over.  Hang in there and help me and Tawn out for this one last issue!  We’re looking forward to sharing your marriage with you this December, but we can’t do it without your support.  Vote NO on Proposition 8.

Thanks for your help.

CA Justices strike down limitations on marriage to only different-sex couples

The war for equality is far from over but another important battle has been won.  Yesterday the California Supreme Court ruled that statutes limiting marriage to only between a man and a woman are not constitutional.  The 4-3 ruling drew heavily on its 1948 ruling in a case that ended restrictions on interracial marriage.

The opinion is a fascinating read and you can find the full text here.  Some key thoughts:

The court ruled that differential treatment provided to same-sex couples (through domestic partnership laws) did not serve a compelling state interest:

“…permitting same-sex couples access to the designation of marriage will not deprive opposite-sex couples of any rights and will not alter the legal framework of the institution of marriage…”

“…affording same-sex couples only a separate and differently named family relationship will … impose appreciable harm on same-sex couples and their children, because denying such couples access to the familiar and highly favored designation of marriage is likely to cast doubt on whether the official family relationship of same-sex couples enjoys dignity equal to that of opposite-sex couples.”

“…providing only a separate and distinct designation for same-sex couples may well have the effect of perpetuating a more general premise – now emphatically rejected by this state – that gay individuals and same-sex couples are in some respects ‘second-class citizens’…”

As mentioned before, conservative forces in the state are gathering momentum and will likely place an initiative on the November ballot to change the state constitution and define marriage specifically as between a man and a woman, a move that would invalidate Thursday’s ruling.  There is also the question of if – and how – the court’s ruling will play out in the Presidential campaign.

There seems to be good reason to think that it won’t carry the weight that it had in the 2004 and other previous elections.  Matthew Dowd, one of Bush’s chief strategists in the 2004 campaign, was quoted in the NY Times talking about the effect the ruling will have in the general election: “At best, it doesn’t move voters, and at worst for the Republicans, it moves them against them.  Not so much on the issue, but it becomes, ‘Why are we having a discussion on this issue when we should be talking about things that matter, like the economy, or health care, or the war?’ “

But don’t relax and let your guard down.  Christianists – those hard-line fundamentalist Christians that have more in common with their Jihadist brethren than they do with the teachings of Jesus – won’t rest until the world is remade in their own image and each of us either march in lock-step with them, or are (in their assumption of how it will work out) roasting in hell.

Tonight, though, Tawn and I will open a bottle of sparkling wine (with Mario, a visiting guest from Chicago) and toast the victory in this battle.  In doing so, I will make a wish that those who would oppress us will perhaps be moved upon seeing that even in their loss, the world has not ended: Marriages will remain marriages, faith will remain faith, and respect and compassion will remain the abiding ways with which we should treat each other.

 

California Supreme Court set to announce gay marriage ruling

On March 4th the California Supreme Court heard case S147999, in re Marriage Cases.  This is a compilation of six appellate court cases that have been filed on the issue of whether California’s statutory ban on marriage between two persons of the same sex violates the “equal protection” clause of the state constitution.  The recording of the arguments before the court and the questioning by the justices is available here in the audio archive.  It is 214 minutes long and is tremendously fascinating to listen to.

One of the most interesting challenges the justices made to lawyers on both sides of the case was about the fact that California already gives domestic partners virtually the exact same rights and responsibilities as different-sex couples receive through marriage.

For the petitioners on behalf of overturning the ban on same-sex marriage, the justices asked why, when the state already gives the same functional rights and benefits to same-sex couples as different-sex ones, is it discrimination?

For the petitioners on behalf of sustaining the ban, the justices asked whether the very existence of a “separate but equal” status proves the discriminatory nature of the ban.

simpsons-gay-marriage My general impression after listening to the audio is that those in favor of sustaining the ban faced much tougher scrutiny by the justices.  This makes me hopeful that the justices will rule in favor of overturning the ban.

Right: Does its visibility in popular culture mean that the nation is ready for gay marriage?

Already, there is an effort underway to put an initiative on the California ballot that will alter the state constitution to define marriage as only between one man and one woman.  If this were to happen, it would be a tremendous setback.  I’ll be asking for your support whether or not you are a Californian (or even an American) to encourage the voters of the state to make the choice that preserves the rights and liberties of all the state’s citizens and does not enshrine discrimination into the constitution.

The court has announced that it will release its ruling on Thursday, May 15th at 10:00 am PDT (5:00 pm GMT).  Stay tuned as the announcement, regardless of the ruling is, will represent an important and significant milestone in the march towards equal rights for gay and lesbian people.

It is worth noting that it was this same court that in 1948 was the first supreme court in the nation to rule that anti-miscegenation laws (prohibiting marriage between people of different races) were unconstitutional in the case Perez v. Sharp.  This landmark ruling preceded the nation’s Supreme Court ruling on the same issue by 19 years. 

I hope that on Thursday the state supreme court once again serves as a bellwether of changes to come across the nation, so that one day Tawn and I will have the legal right to be married in the United States and enjoy federal benefits such as immigration rights.