The Supremes and getting married

Marriage is several things.  It is a contract between two people recognized by the state and it is a spiritual and, for some, a religious bond.  When my parents were married in a Buddhist ceremony, one of their friends, a Jewish lawyer, is alleged to have said in a stage whisper, “It doesn’t matter what ritual is used, it’s still just a contract.”  I wish I had thought to ask him about this when I became an adult, but true or not it makes a nice story.

Yes, same sex couples can live together and in some places they can have a recognized civil union which may provide some benefits, but it is not the same as being married.  I can tell you from personal experience that they create very different states of mind.  Being married provides a level of comfort and security just living together does not.  And part of this comes from marriage being a contract.  Yes, all types of relationships fail and they fail for as many reasons as there are failures, but marriages are more difficult to sever therefore can provide more of a base on which a relationship can grow.

I’ve been writing about gay marriage as states are added to the list and I’ve been watching the attitude of the country toward gay marriage change.  Chris Cillizza posted two helpful charts on his Washington Post blog, the Fix.

Pretty amazing change is a relatively short period of time.  And Democrats have gone from not wanting to touch the issue to running for office supporting gay marriage in the space of one presidential election cycle.  This change was reflected at the ballot box.  I am happy that Washington State, Maryland, and Maine voted to legalize same sex marriage, but I still have this voice in the back of my head that says equal rights are not something that should be determined by a majority vote.

The Boston Globe reported

Last month, Washington, Maine, and Maryland became the first states to pass same-sex marriage by popular vote. They joined six other states — New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont — and the District of Columbia that had already enacted laws or issued court rulings permitting same-sex marriage.

And now the Supreme Court will be ruling on the issue.  The New York Times explains

One of the cases, from California, could establish or reject a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. The justices could also rule on narrower grounds that would apply only to marriages in California.

The second case, from New York, challenges a federal law that requires the federal government to deny benefits to gay and lesbian couples married in states that allow such unions.

The California case was brought by the two lawyers who were on opposing sides in the infamous, Bush v. Gore case, Ted Olson and David Boies.  The second case is one of several that challenged the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA.  It is interesting that the Massachusetts case is not the one being heard.

There was reason to think that Justice Elena Kagan was not free to hear an appeal from the Boston case because she had worked on it or a related case as United States solicitor general. The current solicitor general, Donald B. Verrilli Jr., gave the court a number of other options, including Windsor, probably partly to make sure that a case of such importance could be heard by a full nine-member court.

Edith Windsor of New York sued to be treated as a surviving spouse

The Obama Administration is not defending DOMA.

Chris Cillizza ended his post with this thought.

Go deeper into the Pew numbers — and thanks to Pew, you can! —  and you see why those trend lines won’t be reversing themselves.  In 2011-2012, 62 percent of people 18-29 supported gay marriage — by far the strongest support among any age group. During that same time period, just 32 percent of those 65 or older supported gay marriage.

The simple truth: Support for gay marriage tracks directly with age. The younger you are, the more likely you are to support it. Given that, it’s hard to imagine gay marriage getting less popular as the years go on.

Whatever the Supreme Court does with its two gay marriage cases next year, the die has been cast on the politics of the issue. By the 2016 presidential election, this could well be a decided issue that neither party — yes, that includes Republicans — spends much time talking about.

My guess is that the Supreme Court will overturn DOMA and rule that states can allow gay marriage if they want.  We will see in a few months if I’m right.

Photograph – Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

Romney’s empathy or the lack thereof

I’ve been following closely the stories on the bullying incident at Cranbrook.  I was, like many, horrified at the incident.  But I was more horrified by the fact that no one at Cranbrook thought it necessary to discipline the young men involved.  And I was most horrified by Mitt Romney’s nervous giggle when asked about the incident.  I’ve been groping for an explanation of why he doesn’t remember what happened when the others involved remember it clearly.  Then I read this very interesting article in the Boston Globe this morning.  The story quoted a gentleman named Don Gorton.

While some observers have expressed doubt that anyone could forget such a dramatic episode, one activist who has studied bullying said he believes Romney may, in fact, have no recollection.

Teenagers who bully others often don’t remember the incidents because they weren’t traumatic for them, said Don Gorton, chairman of the Anti-Violence Project of Massachusetts, a nonprofit group that seeks to reduce violence against gays and lesbians.

“Empathy is the critical variable,’’ Gorton said. “If they don’t feel their victims’ pain, the episode won’t stand out. It wasn’t a big deal for them.’’

Empathy.  That is what explains a great deal about Mitt Romney.  He lacks empathy.  People have been saying that he can’t relate to the common person and he has given many examples.  He likes to fire people.  A young person who can’t find a job should get his or her parents to give them a loan to start a business.  He supports the Ryan budget which raises the defense budget at the expense of the middle class and poor.  Plus he certainly was cruel to poor Seamus the dog.

 In the Massachusetts Governor’s Office

 

More from Gorton

Gorton, however, said he was offended that Romney described the episode as typical high school hijinks, even though an 18-year-old Romney was reportedly using scissors to cut Lauber’s hair as Lauber screamed for help.

“I wish he had said nothing,’’ Gorton said. “The fact is, high school pranks are whoopee cushions and wedgies. This was assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.’’

Gorton and other gay-rights activists in Massachusetts said the episode made them recall how Romney disbanded the Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth and the Governor’s Task Force on Hate Crimes – two panels that sought to combat bullying and were created under a previous Republican governor.

“It is relevant to judge him for his record in office and he was lackluster, to put it kindly, in his efforts to fight bullying when he was governor,’’ said Gorton, who was cochairman of the Task Force on Hate Crimes when it was disbanded in 2003.

“It is relevant to judge him for his record in office and he was lackluster, to put it kindly, in his efforts to fight bullying when he was governor,’’ said Gorton, who was cochairman of the Task Force on Hate Crimes when it was disbanded in 2003.

Romney has said the groups were disbanded to save money.

I understand that some people are disappointed that President Obama has not brought about miraculous change.  But ask yourself this question:  Would you rather have a President with the courage to come out in favor of an idea, gay marriage, that, while growing in acceptance, is still viewed in horror by many or a President Romney who lacks any kind of empathy?  The answer for me is clear:  a President without empathy is a dangerous one.

 

The President and Gay Marriage

The commentators are in full flower.  “This is a great move.”  “It is risky.”  “This could cost him the election.”  What does it really mean?  We won’t know until the election in November, but we can try to bring some clarity to some of the noise.

Photograph by Pete Souza

We know that many of those who oppose gay marriage for religious or other grounds will never be convinced, but I expect that some will come around to saying something like “I personally don’t support gay marriage, but as a matter of rights, people should be able to choose.”  Kind of like what many Democrats have said about abortion.  But the majority of the opposition will remain opposed. 

Some will say this was a cynical move on the part of the President to solidify his gay and lesbian supporter.  I don’t think so.  Richard Socarides wrote in the New Yorker

For a long time, Democrats have taken the gay vote for granted. Political consultants tell Democrats that gay and lesbian voters have nowhere else to go, and thus, in effect, can be counted on, so long as politicians pay lip service to the issue. But that is old thinking, out of touch with the new reality of the gay-rights movement. While I know that most gays and lesbians would have supported President Obama, both with their votes and with their financial contributions, no matter what he did on the issue of marriage equality, we were also not going to take “no” for an answer on the most important civil-rights issue of our day. That meant holding the President’s feet to the fire—first on the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and then on marriage equality.

What we do know is that this was an act of courage and leadership.  President Obama may be part of the tide rising toward marriage equality, but he is part of the leading edge.  Andrew Sullivan

I do not know how orchestrated this was; and I do not know how calculated it is. What I know is that, absorbing the news, I was uncharacteristically at a loss for words for a while, didn’t know what to write, and, like many Dish readers, there are tears in my eyes.

The interview changes no laws; it has no tangible effect. But it reaffirms for me the integrity of this man we are immensely lucky to have in the White House. Obama’s journey on this has been like that of many other Americans, when faced with the actual reality of gay lives and gay relationships. Yes, there was politics in a lot of it. But not all of it. I was in the room long before the 2008 primaries when Obama spoke to the mother of a gay son about marriage equality. He said he was for equality, but not marriage. Five years later, he sees – as we all see – that you cannot have one without the other. But even then, you knew he saw that woman’s son as his equal as a citizen. It was a moment – way off the record at the time – that clinched my support for him.

Today Obama did more than make a logical step. He let go of fear. He is clearly prepared to let the political chips fall as they may. That’s why we elected him. That’s the change we believed in. The contrast with a candidate who wants to abolish all rights for gay couples by amending the federal constitution, and who has donated to organizations that seek to “cure” gays, who bowed to pressure from bigots who demanded the head of a spokesman on foreign policy solely because he was gay: how much starker can it get?

Both Sullivan and Socarides do believe that in the long run, this will not hurt Obama’s reelection chances.  Sullivan first

My view politically is that this will help Obama. He will be looking to the future generations as his opponent panders to the past. The clearer the choice this year the likelier his victory. And after the darkness of last night, this feels like a widening dawn.

Then Socarides

This is not to take anything away from the courage exhibited by President Obama today. His willingness to share with the American people his thinking, indeed, his struggle around this issue will help build a national consensus. Everyone is entitled to a journey on this issue.

I suspect that at the end of this national conversation the result will be a good one, and the process, including Obama’s painstakingly slow evolution, will have been a positive experience for the country. Hopefully, it will lead us in a positive direction—which, after all, is the job of a President.

This is a conversation that is just beginning and we owe the President a conversation that is at once passionate and reasoned.  Let me end with this from him

This is something that, you know, we’ve talked about over the years and she, you know, she feels the same way, she feels the same way that I do. And that is that, in the end the values that I care most deeply about and she cares most deeply about is how we treat other people and, you know, I, you know, we are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I think that’s what we try to impart to our kids and that’s what motivates me as president, and I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts, the better I’ll be as a dad and a husband and, hopefully, the better I’ll be as president.

 

Wonderful response to Pastor Sean Harris.

Raising My Rainbow

Homophobic North Carolina preacher Sean Norris recently gave a sermon in which he advocated physically assaulting gender variant toddlers.  Listen to it here.  This letter is my response to him.

Dear Pastor Harris,

Hi.  I’m C.J.’s Mom and boy would you hate me!  I have a little boy who likes “feminine” things and I’ve allowed him to do so.  I’ve even shared it with people on the internet.  But, not by taking pictures and posting them on YouTube, as you suggest — mostly because that’s not exactly how YouTube works, I think you have it confused with Facebook, but that’s not really the point I’m trying to get at anyway.

My point is my son is gender variant.  He’s a little boy who likes all things girly, like playing with dolls and wearing skirts.  My son started acting a little girlish at age two and a half and I…

View original post 300 more words

Civil Rights and Gay Rights

In case you didn’t see it, Jonathan Capehart had an excellent and thoughtful essay in yesterday’s Washington Post.  Titled “Blacks and gays:  the shared struggle for civil rights”, it laid out the reasons why blacks (and I might add Asians, Hispanics and other minorities) need to support gay rights.  I am going to try to give you the highlights, but you really should read the entire essay.

It opens

You may recall that last month Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) and I sparred over same-sex marriageon “Morning Joe.” You may also recall that at the end of the interview, the show’s anchor, Joe Scarborough, asked me, “[W]ould you compare the civil rights struggles of African Americans over 300 years in America to marriage equity?” Without hesitation, I said, “Yes.”

“It’s an issue of civil rights, as you said. It’s an issue of equality. It’s an issue of equal treatment under the law,” I said. “No one is asking for special rights. No one is asking for any kind of special favors. We’re just looking for the same rights and responsibilities that come with marriage and also the protections that are provided under marriage. In that regard overall we’re talking about a civil rights issue and what African Americans continue to struggle with is exactly what lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are struggling with today.”

That didn’t go over so well with more than a few African Americans. They don’t see the struggles as comparable, equivalent or even related. Last Wednesday, @Brokenb4God tweeted to me, “@CapehartJ still can’t believe u think the choice of being gay is congruent to the struggle of blacks. Ain’t never seen no gay plantations!”

Clearly, she’s from the misguided pray-the-gay-away cabal, so no need to address that. I’ll leave the cheap and provocative “gay plantations” stink bomb alone, too, and get to my main point. What links the two struggles is the quest for equality, dignity and equal protection under the law. In short, gay rights are civil rights. It’s that simple.

Capehart goes through several points of similarity under topic headings:  “Bullying and Murder”, “Denied equal protection:  the right to marry” and finally, “Black leaders.”  He quotes Reverend Al Sharpton and John Lewis.  Lewis quoted Dr. Martin Luther King during the debate in 1996 on the Defense of Marriage Act. 

You cannot tell people they cannot fall in love. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used to say when people talked about interracial marriages, and I quote, ‘Races do not fall in love and get married. Individuals fall in love and get married.’ Why don’t you want your fellow men and women, your fellow Americans to be happy? Why do you attack them? Why do you want to destroy the love they hold in their hearts? Why do you want to crush their hopes, their dreams, their longings, their aspirations? We are talking about human beings, people like you, people who want to get married, buy a house, and spend their lives with the one they love. They have done no wrong.

Lewis supported Massachusetts activists during the debate over marriage equality.

In a 2003 opinion piece for the Boston Globe, Lewis wrote, “I have fought too hard and too long against discrimination based on race and color not to stand up against discrimination based on sexual orientation. I’ve heard the reasons for opposing civil marriage for same-sex couples. Cut through the distractions, and they stink of the same fear, hatred, and intolerance I have known in racism and in bigotry.”

Much of the resistance to the Maryland Marriage Equality law came from black churches who are traditionally unwilling to acknowledge a gay and lesbian presence in their own communities.  One exception is my husband’s church, Union United Methodist in Boston.  Their pioneering was highlighted in this recent article in the Boston Globe

Eziah Karter-Sabir Blake swiped the play debit card through a plastic reader during a game of Monopoly recently. Another multimillion-dollar sale. The buyer, Giftson Joseph, rubbed his hands together, a glimmer creeping in his eyes as he playfully nudged the Rev. Catharine A. Cummings.

The three – one gay, one transgender, one straight – sat around a table at a new youth drop-in center at Union United Methodist Church, a historically black congregation in the South End, the heart of Boston’s gay community.

Simply by being there, the trio was straddling a divisive line between the gay community and the black church, where many gay and lesbian minorities have long felt ignored or unwelcome in the pews.

“It’s a big risk they are taking in the black community,’’ said Joseph, an 18-year-old African-American college student who is gay. “There’s already enough stigma in the church. But this is a church that is accepting of all races and sexual orientations.’’

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In 2000, Union began the process of educating themself about homosexuality and gay rights.

 In 2000, church member Hilda Evans pushed Union United to again change course, and the church agreed to defy United Methodist leaders by declaring itself an open and affirming congregation to gays and straight people alike. It held its first gay service in June 2007 at the height of the state’s same-sex marriage debate.

Other black church leaders and churches in Boston have not followed Union’s lead.  But as the Globe story pointed out

Union United has a long history of bucking tradition. In the 1800s, black worshipers walked out of their segregated Beacon Hill church home after whites grew uncomfortable and complained about their vibrant, African-style of worship. In 1818, members founded the May Street Church, which became a stop on the Underground Railroad, according to the church’s website,

What the Globe does not point out is Union’s civil rights activism during the 1960’s.  You can read about that in the J. Anthony Lukas classic, Common Ground..

It takes a long time for people to see themselves in someone else’s stuggle but we can look at Jonathan Capehart for his articulate arguments about what is right and to places like Union United Methodist Church for leading the way.

Washington Makes Seven

Lots of news these days on the gay marriage front almost all of it good.  Washington State has joined Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Connecticut, and Iowa (plus Washington, D.C.) in legalizing gay marriage.  Maryland and New Jersey are moving closer and the Appeals Court upheld the California ruling on Prop 8.  And polls now show that most Americans support the equal right of gays and lesbians to marry.  The tide has turned and the wave of gay marriage is coming in quickly now.

Washington state Governor Christine Gregoire signs legislation legalizing gay marriage in the state, in Olympia, Washington February 13, 2012. REUTERS/Robert Sorbo

On the day before Valentine’s Day, Washington Governor, Christine Gregoire signed the bill legalizing gay marriage in that state.  It will take effect in 90 days.  According to the Reuters story

Gregoire, a Democrat and a Roman Catholic, signed the measure to raucous applause during a ceremony in the ornate reception room of the Olympia statehouse, declaring, “This is a very proud moment. … I’m proud of who and what we are as a state.” It was the latest victory for the U.S. gay rights movement.

Anticipating the repeal campaign that lies ahead later this year, the governor added, “I ask all Washingtonians to look into your hearts and ask yourselves – isn’t it time? … We in this state stand proud for equality.”

Democrats, who control both legislative bodies in Olympia, accounted for the lion’s share of support for the measure. The stage for swift passage was set after Gregoire, who is in her last term of office, said last month she would endorse the law.

Several prominent Washington-based companies employing tens of thousands of workers in the state have supported the bill, including Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks.

Opponents were led by Roman Catholic bishops and other religious conservatives.

Meanwhile on the East Coast bills were advancing in Maryland and New Jersey.  Taking Maryland first, Reuters reported

A joint panel of the Maryland legislature approved on Valentines’s Day a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, adding to national momentum for gay nuptials following advances in California, New Jersey and Washington state over the last week.

Committee approval of Governor Martin O’Malley’s bill on Tuesday moves Maryland closer to becoming the eighth state to legalize gay marriage.

The House of Delegates’ Judiciary Committee and the Health and Government Operations Committee approved the measure 25-18 in a joint vote, a judiciary panel spokeswoman said. The measure is expected to go to the full House on Wednesday, she said.

Interestingly the opposition in the Maryland legislature – and in the state –  is coming from African Americans.  Rev. Al Sharpton is lobbying black ministers to support the bill.  Anyone who wants to characterize the black community as monolithic is mistaken as when the Massachusetts bill passed some of the most passionate supporters were African American legislators like Dianne Wilkerson. 

New Jersey is, unlike Washington and Maryland, facing opposition from Governor Chris Christie who believes that civil rights issues should be referendum issues.  The New York Times reported

The New Jersey State Senate voted on Monday to legalize same-sex marriage, a significant shift in support from two years ago, when a similar measure failed.

The legislation faces a vote on Thursday in the State Assembly, but even if that chamber passes the measure, as expected, Gov. Chris Christie, who favors holding a referendum on the issue, has said he will veto it.

But advocates hailed the Senate vote as a huge advance, noting that they won 10 more votes than they did two years ago. And both supporters and opponents said they were surprised by the margin: the bill needed 21 votes to succeed and passed 24 to 16.

“The margin brought the notion of an override out of fantasyland,” said Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, a gay rights group. “Before today, I would have said the chances of an override were one in a million. Now I’d say it’s about one in two.”

Mr. Christie, a Republican, has said the issue should be put on the ballot in November as a constitutional amendment. Some polls have found that a slight majority of New Jersey voters support same-sex marriage. Advocates note, however, that in 31 states where same-sex marriage has been put to a referendum, it has failed.

On Monday, Mr. Sweeney [Senate President] said there was “not a chance in hell” that he would support the legislation required to put the question to a ballot, which he said would mean allowing “millions of dollars to come into this state to override a civil right.”

New Jersey already has legalized civil unions.

Watch to see if Rick Santorum makes gay marriage repeal an issue if he gets the nomination.  Likewise Mitt Romney.  The Republicans are, I think, swimming against the tide.