25 August 2009

Rest in Peace, Senator

Comments disabled because I am not in the mood to argue about this right now.

Edward Kennedy dies of a brain tumor at 77.

The article describes him as "gifted and flawed". He's the only one of the Kennedy brothers to die an old man, pretty well sums him up, and history will show that he had the more of impact on American law and policy than either John or Bobby.

But the one word that comes to my mind to describe him as "compassionate". The list of legislation that he was involved with includes the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act. He was dedicated to the belief that health care should be a right, and not a privilege. He was a liberal in the best sense of the word and embraced the label with pride.

I'm actually quite upset by this. Ted Kennedy was one of the first political figures I was aware of, starting with the 1980 presidential election, and for 13 years, I was proud to say that he was the Senator for my state. He will be greatly missed.

"The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dreams shall never die."

--Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democratic National Convention, 1980.

12 June 2009

Letter to the President

Mr. President,

Words can't adequately convey how disappointed I am by your decision to have the Justice Department file a brief opposing a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Amendment. Despite your stated opposition to DOMA during the campaign, it seems that you now feel that denying same-sex couples the same benefits as heterosexual couples is a legitimate means of "preserving scarce government resources".

In other words, equality is too expensive.

I have been with my partner for over six years. I am fortunate that my employer counts her as a "spousal equivalent" for the purposes of health insurance; however, unlike my straight married co-workers, the IRS considers this to be a taxable "fringe benefit". I also know that should my partner outlive me, she will not be eligible to receive my Social Security benefits; the same benefits that I've worked for all my life, just like any heterosexual person, would be denied to my spouse solely because we are both female.

How is it fair that I should be treated differently from any other taxpaying citizen based on my sexual orientation? How is this anything other than gross discrimination? Why is it acceptable to the U.S. Government to define my relationship as “less-than” because of my gender and my partner’s gender?

I was excited about your election. I honestly never thought that a family that looks like my family would ever be the First Family of the United States. I was also pleased that during the campaign, that you said you would be a "fierce advocate" for LGBT equality. However, since taking office, you have repeatedly and clearly sent the message that I am still a second-class citizen in the country of my birth, this time because of who I love rather than the color of my skin.

Fifty years ago, had either my partner or I of been male, we would still have been denied the right to have our marriage legally recognized in many states because I am black and she is white. Would the Justice Department have filed a similar brief to argue that interracial marriage should not be recognized by the Federal Government? Would you have argued that it’s more important that the government not spend tax money by denying benefits to taxpayers if they happen to fall in love with someone of another race?

If it’s not acceptable to tell me that I can’t marry the person I love because she’s white, why is it not only acceptable but desireable to tell me that I can’t marry the person I love because she’s a woman?

I truly did think better of you, Mr. President. I believed that you meant what you said. How sad to see that your words were empty. It seems that “change” and “hope” are only available for some Americans—not for all.


"The constitutional propriety of Congress's decision to decline to extend federal benefits immediately to newly recognized types of marriages is bolstered by Congress's articulated interest in preserving the scarce resources of both the federal and State governments. DOMA ensures that evolving understandings of the institution of marriage at the State level do not place greater financial and administrative obligations on federal and state benefits programs. Preserving scarce government resources — and deciding to extend benefits incrementally — are well-recognized legitimate interests under rational-basis review. See Butler, 144 F.3d at 625 ("There is nothing irrational about Congress's stated goal of conserving social security resources, and Congress can incrementally pursue that goal."); Hassan v. Wright, 45 F.3d 1063, 1069 (7th Cir. 1995) ("[P]rotecting the fisc provides a rational basis for Congress' line drawing in this instance."). Congress expressly relied on these interests in enacting DOMA: Government currently provides an array of material and other benefits to married couples in an effort to promote, protect, and prefer the institution of marriage. . . . If [a State] were to permit homosexuals to marry, these marital benefits would, absent some legislative response, presumably have to be made available to homosexual couples and surviving spouses of homosexual marriages on the same terms as they are now available to opposite-sex married couples and spouses. To deny federal recognition to same-sex marriages will thus preserve scarce government resources, surely a legitimate government purpose."

This is from the US Justice Department's filing in a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act in California. This paragraph effectively says that it's okay for me to be taxed on Ruth's health benefits when my straight married co-workers spouses' benefits are tax-exempt--because there's only so much money, and the government has to preserve resources. If I die, Ruth doesn't get my Social Security benefits, and oh well, I guess that's the Gay Tax.

I distinctly remember Obama promising to work to repeal DOMA during the campaign. Yeah, only not so much.

10 June 2009

Simple Answers to Stupid Questions

First, a man kills 2 people and injures 6 others when he starts shooting up a children's musical performance at a Unitarian church. His motive? "Liberals are a pest like termites, millions of them...the only way we can rid ourselves of this evil is kill them in the streets, kill them where they gather." 

Then, someone else murders Dr. George Tiller in his church. Because for the people who think violence is the way to control women and their scary sexuality, life begins at conception and ends at birth.

So when do we start rounding up all the old white guys? Or is it only "terrorism" when it's Skeery Brown People doing the killing?

Don't answer that.

31 May 2009

Who we lost today

I don't even know what to say about the assassination of Dr. George Tiller. But I do want to link to this, from one of my regular blogs.  It's a commenter talking about his wife's and his experience with Dr. Tiller at a time when they had to make one the most agonizing decisions imaginable.

ETA: If you're looking for something to do, I encourage you to drop some money toward Medical Students for Choice.

26 May 2009

Tyranny of the majority

I called it after oral arguments. The CA Supreme Court doesn't have the gonads to actually say flat-out that the people were wrong, and that you can't amend the Constitution to allow the majority to take rights away from a minority. But because of the insanely fucked up ballot initiative process, apparently, you can take away rights from a minority. I want to start a ballot initiative to outlaw the Mormon Church.*

In all seriousness, though, while I Am Not A Lawyer, even I can tell that this ruling has a hole big enough to drive the Narada through. By allowing those of us 18,000 couples who'd already gotten married to stay married, the Court has just created two classes: LGBT people who are legally married, and LBGT people who can't legally marry. This would seem to be a direct violation of the equal protection clauses in the state constitution.

One thing I do know is that if we want a hope in hell of reversing this in 2010, the No on 8 side needs to do a much better job at presenting our case. We simply can't just react to the lies of the other side; we need to be proactive about explaining why banning same-sex marriage is bad policy, and show the actual people who will be hurt by this. Why didn't the "Don't Divorce Us" slideshow get done last August? Why did the No on 8 campaign hardly ever mention the words "gay" or "lesbian" in their ads, and rarely show actual GLBT people? 

Last night before we went to bed, I told Ruth that I didn't give a fuck what the Court said today: as far as I'm concerned, we're married until one of us says we're not. 

* Yes, I am aware that this wouldn't be upheld because it would violate the U.S. Constitution. But I'm feeling bitchy and vindictive and angry--which, again, illustrates why civil rights should never be put to a popular vote.

12 April 2009

Letter to Amazon

After reading about the massive fail from Amazon, I fired off a letter:

I have been an amazon customer for many years. Recently I signed up for Amazon Prime, because I knew that the savings would pay for themselves within a few months.

Many of the books I buy from Amazon are gay and lesbian themed. I buy these at Amazon because they're difficult to find in my local Borders or Barnes and Noble. I have always appreciated the fact that Amazon does not treat GLBT literature like a dirty secret, something that has to be hidden behind the counter.

Apparently, that policy has now changed, and I am writing to express my disappointment. The excuse given to Mark Probst by customer service representative Ashlyn D that the removal of GLBT books from the sales ranking is because you "exclude "adult" material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists" out of "consideration" for your customer base is weak at best. This "reasoning" fails to explain why "Heather Has Two Mommies" and "Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws" have been removed from the rankings; the only possible explanation is that you have now decided that any content related to gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered people must be sexual in nature and therefore must be hidden away to "protect the children". I am appalled that in 2009, days after marriage equality was affirmed in two states, Amazon has chosen to adopt an attitude toward GLBT people that would not be out of place in 1959.

This policy is appalling, and until it is changed, I will not be placing any further orders with Amazon, even if it means having to order from other sources and pay more. It's worth it to me to do business with a company that doesn't believe my existence should be a dirty little secret.

18 March 2009

Rest in peace, Natasha Richardson

Even though she was in one of my favorite movies, I actually didn't know who Natasha Richardson was until I started becoming a big fan of Liam Neeson. I always noticed how happy they looked together; this year was their 15th anniversary, and they still totally looked like they were head over heels for each other.

I can't imagine how devastating this must be for Liam, and for Vanessa Redgrave and Joely Richardson. I can imagine all too well what it's like for her 12 and 13 year old sons, though, when one minute your mom's right there and then....she's not. It's taken me over 20 years and a lot of therapy to even start getting closure on my father's death, and I still take the occasional Egyptian river cruise. ("What do you mean, Daddy wasn't perfect!")

She was 45, and she died as the result of what everyone, including her, thought was a minor accident that she got up and walked away from. She will be missed.

28 February 2009

I do not think that means what you think it means.

This post, about the so-called "Chicago Tea Party" to protest the stimulus package, is truly comedy gold:

When we reached the Michigan Ave Bridge, a tea bag was broken open and dumped into the river to signify the birth of a new American Revolution.

A. Tea. Bag.

That'll show 'em!

And don't even get me started on these fuckwits.

18 January 2009


Bishop Gene Robinson gave the invocation at the opening inaugural event today. His selection was supposed to make up for Rick Warren giving the main invocation at the inauguration. For those of you who don't follow the ongoing Anglican Drama, Gene Robinson is a partnered gay man who was elected by the people of his diocese to be their bishop in the Episcopal Church. This was the last straw for some of the conservatives in the Anglican Communion, many of whom still haven't gotten on board with the whole women's ordination thing, which happened back in the early 1970's. Rick Warren reacted to Robinson's consecration (to which he had to wear a bulletproof vest under his vestments) by inviting conservative Episcopalians to come to his church where they wouldn't have to deal with Teh Icky Gay.

Anyway, while HBO showed almost all of the event today, strangely, Bishop Robinson's invocation wasn't part of the broadcast. Pam Spaulding posted the full text on her blog; it's also available at the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire website. It's worth reading, and I'll venture to say that it's more profound than anything the Money-Driven Hypocrite is going to say on Tuesday.

A Prayer for the Nation and Our Next President, Barack Obama

By The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire

Opening Inaugural Event
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC
January 18, 2009

Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God's blessing upon our nation and our next president.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will...

Bless us with tears - for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger - at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort - at the easy, simplistic "answers" we've preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience - and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be "fixed" anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility - open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance - replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity - remembering that every religion's God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln's reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy's ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King's dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters' childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we're asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand - that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.