Sunday, June 30, 2013

Equal justice under law – finally

One of the great things about the end of Section 3 of DOMA is the end of gratuitous cruelty against legally married same-gender bi-national couples. For the first time, a US citizen who is married to a non-American of the same gender will be able to sponsor his or her spouse for immigration in exactly the same way that legally married opposite-gender couples can.

In fact, it’s already happened.

Just two days after the US Supreme Court ruling striking down Section 3 of DOMA, a gay bi-national couple living in Florida, Julian Marsh and Traian Popov, received word that Julian’s green card petition for his Bulgarian husband was approved by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Previously, all such applications would have been automatically rejected because of DOMA. The couple were married in New York in 2012.

Lavi Soloway, an attorney and Co-Founder of the DOMA Project, noted why this particular case is so important: “It is symbolically important that the first gay couple to receive approval of their green card petition live in Florida, a state that has a constitutional ban preventing same-sex couples from marrying.”

Unlike some other US agencies, USCIS will be using the “place of celebration” standard to determine if a marriage is recognised for immigration purposes. Other agencies use a different standard, “place of domicile” (where a couple lives), and if immigration used that, then Julian’s application would have been rejected since Florida voters banned marriage equality by amending their state constitution.

Lavi Soloway said, “The approval of this petition demonstrates that the Obama administration’s commitment to recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples nationwide is now a reality on the ground.” It may also indicate that this administration is applying the fairest standard, the one most likely to achieve legal equality. I expect that President Obama will make sure other federal agencies use the “place of celebration” standard, unless a specific law requires them to use the other one.

And that’s it: The gratuitous cruelty of the USA’s treatment of same-gender bi-national couples is gone. From now on, no gay American will have to make a choice between the country they love and the love of their life. Just like every American citizen, gay Americans will, for the first time, be able to sponsor the immigration of the person to whom they’re legally married: Straight and gay citizens are equal under the law.

Equal justice under law is at the heart of democratic traditions and values, the thing that’s necessary for liberty itself to exist. It’s hard to believe, but equal justice under law has finally arrived for another segment of LGBT Americans.

Equality feels pretty damn good, too.

Related post on the DOMA Project: Missing husband

Saturday, June 29, 2013

History in California

Proposition 8 plaintiffs Kris Perry and Sandy Stier were the first same-sex couple to get married in California after the Ninth Circuit Court lifted it’s stay and ordered that marriages for same-gender couples resume immediately. California Attorney General Kamela Harris personally performed the ceremony. The video above is from San Francisco’s ABC (US) station.

The male plaintiffs, Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami, are getting married as I post this. If there’s video available, I’ll post that, too, because something this joyous must be shared.

It’s been a long road to get to this point, and it’s important to remember that there are 37 US states where such a joyous event is impossible. The good news is that this will change, and far sooner than any of us realise. It’s up to us to make that day come sooner, by organising, by donating to the groups fighting for the freedom to marry, and by voting out anti-gay politicians. We all have a role to play.

But for today, let’s just bask in the happiness of this loving couple who have done so much for others.

Friday, June 28, 2013

We shouldn’t have to march

The Stonewall Inn, taken September 1969.
Today, June 28, is the 44th anniversary of the start of the Stonewall Riots, the flashpoint for the modern LGBT rights movement. Stonewall, as it’s called, is the event that sparked it all, so today is THE LGBT Pride Day.

So much has been written and said about that 1969 day (including by me), that sometimes I don’t know that there’s anything new to add. There always is, of course, and today it’s more of a personal reflection. You’ve been warned.

If I could wave my fairy wand and make only one thing universally understood about Stonewall, it would be this: It was NOT the creation of white, middle class, “respectable” political activists—not even close. Instead, it was a rebellion sparked by a routine police raid on a bar that welcomed, as the Wikipedia article linked to above says so well, “the poorest and most marginalized people in the gay community: drag queens, representatives of a newly self-aware transgender community, effeminate young men, male prostitutes, and homeless youth.”

What happened next was unexpected by everyone: People fought back. Patrons at first and then, increasingly, those white, middle class, “respectable” political activists (although, some tried to dampen down tensions and “make nice”). In spite of themselves, and despite their huge differences, a more or less cohesive liberation movement was created, one that led, ultimately, to the successes we see today.

But the drag queens, trannies, rent boys and the rest started it all.

The other thing that always strikes me about Stonewall is that more than four decades later, we should NOT still have to be marching to demand our civil and human rights. All Gay Pride parades in the USA (and many around the world) are held to commemorate the Stonewall riots, and to demand social and legal equality for LGBT people. We march because we still haven’t achieved that.

Take marriage equality for example: LGBT people are in perpetual organisation mode, trying to persuade cowardly politicians to do the right thing, and we organise and spend millions of dollars to secure rights that heterosexuals get the minute they’re born. And that’s IF we win those rights: 37 US states don’t have the freedom to marry, and it took 17 years to remove the stain of DOMA. Worse, some countries put gay people to death—or like Uganda, want to.

And we have adversaries who smear and defame us with reckless abandon, people who spread outright lies (which they well know are lies) and, in so doing, incite ever more violence against us. In my view, this is deliberate: They think that if we’re beaten enough, if enough of us are killed for being LGBT, the rest of us will be frightened into suddenly pretending we’re straight. They don’t organise against us and lie about us because they merely disagree with us—they do it because they hate us. Don’t agree? Think that’s too harsh? Tough. The evidence is on my side.

So I look back at Stonewall and the courage of those pioneers of gay liberation. And I look at the countless activists who followed, including those white, middle class, “respectable” political activists like me, and I thank them, too, for the role they played. And then I look at the very long road to freedom and equality we have before us, and the power and wealth of those trying to stop us. There is so much to be done.

So, we keep marching—with our straight allies—because we’re still fighting for the basic civil and human rights that ought to be ours from birth. We keep marching because there are too many young people who, upon realising they’re LGBT, decide that suicide is the only way to escape the rejection of family, church and community who despise them for who they are. We keep marching because there are too many of us who are beaten or killed because of who we are or who we love. We keep marching because too many politicians and public officials think it’s okay to treat us as second class—or worse—citizens, that we’re not as good as other citizens.

We’ll keep marching until every last anti-gay bigot is pushed out of the way of freedom and relegated to the sidelines of history, shunted, finally, into the ignominy they so richly deserve. Because we’re here, we’re queer, and we’re marching.

Happy LGBT Pride Day. Make it count.

Photo above is by Diana Davies, copyright owned by New York Public Library. [Creative Commons License: CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Proud To Love

This video—which I think is really nice—is from YouTube itself, promoting a new LGBT-affirming project, #ProudToLove. They say of it:
“At YouTube, we believe that everyone has the right to love and be loved. We strive to make YouTube a place where all communities can feel proud to express themselves and connect through video. That's why we're proud to stand with the LGBT community and support equal rights and marriage equality for all.”

“JOIN IN: Who, what, or why are you #ProudToLove? Upload a video or share a post with #ProudToLove in the title so others can find it.”
Yes, I’m helping YouTube promote something that will help the get more videos and viewers, and that, in turn, will probably make them more money. I think companies deserve to be applauded and encouraged for being positive about LGBT people, and if they make some money along the way, so much the better.

I also think it’s important for young people (and all people who are distant from welcoming and accepting communities) to be able to see happy, loving LGBT people, because our adversaries constantly lie that we don’t exist. Well, YouTube provides one way to show the real truth, the one our adversaries pretend doesn’t exist.

I always get a little teary when I see positive videos of ordinary LGBT people just being happy with each other. When I was growing up, such examples simply didn’t exist, not accessibly, at least. Without the Internet, they still wouldn’t for far too many people.

So, I say good on YouTube for doing this. I hope it makes them bucketloads of money, because that will mean it’s popular, and THAT will mean a lot of people will see LGBT-affirming messages—and the truth.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Celebration in California

Here are a few video reactions about the US Supreme Court ruling on of California's gay marriage ban, Proposition 8. The court ruled that the defenders of California's gay marriage ban did not have the right to appeal lower rulings that had struck down Prop 8.

In the video above, David Boies of AFER and plaintiffs Kris Perry, Sandy Stier, Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami spoke outside the court. AFER worked long and hard to get Prop 8 overturned, and this ruling accomplished that by letting the lower court ruling against it stand. The California Public Health Department issued a letter to that state’s country clerks and registrars telling them that once the Ninth Circuit Court lifts its stay, they can again issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples. They anticipate this could take about a month (the letter is available online as a PDF).

In the video below, Chad Griffin, President of HRC (and former head of AFER), interrupts an interview with Kris Perry to let them speak with President Obama, who’d rung from Air Force One with his congratulations. It was a nice touch.

And finally, here’s the first celebratory video I’ve seen (I’m sure there will be countless more). This one is by Sean Chapin, whose videos I’ve posted before. I do wonder one thing, though: This looks to have been made in advance, so did Sean make another one in case the ruling went the wrong way? Oh, who cares—let’s just celebrate!

A video of celebration

I ran across the video above on Slate. It shows jubilant reactions to the rulings on DOMA and Proposition 8. Slate said of the video:
“After interns ran the Supreme Court’s decision to the networks, crowds in Washington, D.C., erupted, activists across the country celebrated, and two [Prop 8] plaintiffs got a call from the president on live TV. Luckily, cameras were never far away.”
Celebration, indeed—it’s been a great day.

A hero’s reaction

It’s always good to see history being made, as well as reading about it, so here's a video of DOMA plaintiff Edie Windsor speaks at the New York’s LGBT centre after today’s Supreme US Court ruling striking down Section 3 of the Defense [sic] of Marriage Act.

Edie stood up for what was right, despite being a private person and a part of a generation in which people didn’t talk about being gay. By finding the courage to challenge an unjust law, she has helped bring liberty and equality to thousands of people she will never meet. She is a true hero.

Justice wins

Victory is a great-sounding word when one is on the winning side. When that victory is for justice, freedom and fairness, it’s particularly sweet.

This morning I woke to the news that the US Supreme Court had rejected the appeal on California’s Proposition 8, which took away the freedom to marry for same-gender couples in California, as well as Section 3 of the federal Defense [sic] of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prevented the federal government from recognising the legal marriages of same-gender couples for ANY federal purpose.

It was a great way to start the day.

Writing for the majority on the DOMA case, Justice Kennedy noted that DOMA stomped on the sovereign authority of States by frustrating their attempts to bring equality to all their citizens. This was, of course, what Congress intended to do: “The history of DOMA’s enactment and its own text demonstrate that interference with the equal dignity of same-sex marriages, a dignity conferred by the States in the exercise of their sovereign power, was more than an incidental effect of the federal statute. It was its essence.”

This is the heart of the matter: Congress, motivated by anti-gay animus, passed DOMA specifically to prevent same-gender couples from being treated equally. By enshrining that discrimination in federal law, Congress hoped to discourage states from enacting marriage equality.

The rightwing justices who dissented attacked this idea. They argued that the name of the law—cited by the majority as evidence of animus—was irrelevant because it merely meant that they were merely trying to uphold a “traditional” view of marriage. This is extremely disingenuous. The name was meant to be confrontational, to indicate that conservatives in Congress thought that marriage was under “attack” by gays from which they demanded it be “defended”. If their intent had not been adversarial, they would have called it something milder, like “Definition of Marriage Act”. They didn’t, and that matters.

A lot of this is about semantics, though, when the real issue was that Congress deliberately excluded a whole class of people—legally married same-gender couples—from the rights and responsibilities of opposite-gender married couples. Justice Kennedy highlighted some of those.

In his puerile, condescending dissent, Antonin Scalia—true to form—went on the attack. He rejected everything in the majority opinion, essentially arguing that legally married same-gender couples should wait decades and decades until state legislatures and Congress eventually evened-out what marriage means. Scalia, who has a long history of anti-gay remarks—some quite vile—bristled at the notion that anyone might think they were monsters (his word) because of their anti-gay prejudice and bigotry. Well, as I always say, if someone is upset at being called a bigot, perhaps they should stop acting like one.

Scalia also engaged in a finger-wagging “I told you so!” over Lawrence v. Texas, decided ten years ago today, that struck down the USA’s remaining anti-sodomy laws. Back then, he thundered that in recognising that gay people had the same right to privacy as heterosexuals, the Court would one day find a right to marriage itself for same-gender couples. Despite his puffed-out chest back then, and his over-inflated claims today, the Court today did no such thing.

This ruling dealt with the fact that Congress cannot choose to treat an entire class of people differently solely because of its personal anti-gay animus. Marriage itself is left up to the States, as it always has been. In that sense, nothing’s changed. But if the Constitution doesn’t ensure the equal protection under law of all US citizens, then what good is it?

Still, Scalia thundered anyway that this ruling would one day lead the Court to overturn all bans on same-gender couples marrying. I hope he’s right about that, but his predictive abilities aren’t very acute. Still, I suspect that one day in the future, probably long after Scalia is dead and buried, there will be a Loving v. Virginia-type ruling that will strike down the remaining bans on marriage equality in the few backward states that still retain them then. But that could be decades from now, by which time other rulings will have paved the way as much as this one.

For LGBT people, the ruling on DOMA marks a significant point in the long road toward freedom and equality—but the journey is far from over, even with Section 3 of DOMA gone. There are still 37 states in which same-gender couples cannot marry, and this must be fixed. It will be a long and expensive struggle, but we will ultimately triumph, of course; the work on all that starts now.

There are also many uncertainties about the ways that the federal government will treat married same-gender couples due to differing standards: Some agencies use “place of domicile” (where a couple lives) to determine if their marriage is recognised by the federal government or not (is the couple’s marriage recognised where they live?). Other federal agencies use the “place of celebration” standard (that is, where the marriage was performed—if it’s legal there, the federal government recognises it even if the “place of domicile” state doesn’t). Opposite-gender couples don’t have to worry about this because their marriages are legal in all 50 states, even if there are some minor technical variations. There’s an excellent Fact Sheet on all this available from Lambda Legal’s website.

This ruling is more important nationally than the Prop 8 ruling, though that ruling is still important. As soon as the Courts there lift the stay on marriages, the freedom to marry will return to the USA’s most populous state. That’s a very big deal, indeed.

The frothing rightwing in the US issued their spittle-flecked condemnations of the rulings, of course, still spouting the irrational, absolute nonsense for which they are famous. That was to be expected—and laughed at, of course, because our adversaries are a constant source of amusement. For now.

In the days ahead, I’ll say much more about what happens next, as well as about the Prop 8 ruling. For today, however, I just want to bask in that one word: Victory.


The image of the US Supreme Court building at the top of this post a Creative Commons licensed photo by Wikiwopbop, published by Wikimedia Commons. I first used it in a related post early last year.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Hidden history

The worst mass murder of gays in US history happened in New Orleans 40 years ago, on June 24, 1973 (June 24 is today in the USA). Until today, I’d never heard of it.

The video above is the trailer for a documentary about the tragedy, “The UpStairs Lounge Fire”. To this day, it’s uncertain who did it or why, though the most likely suspect has long been thought to be a mentally ill man who was kicked out of the bar earlier that day.

What’s beyond dispute is the horror of that arson attack, which ultimately killed 32 people and injured 15:
“…some attempted to squeeze through barred windows in order to escape. One man managed to squeeze through the 14-inch gap, only to fall to his death while burning. Reverend Bill Larson of the MCC clung to the bars of one window until he died, and his charred remains were visible to onlookers for hours afterwards. MCC assistant pastor George ‘Mitch’ Mitchell managed to escape, but then returned to attempt to rescue his boyfriend, Louis Broussard; both died in the fire, their remains showing them clinging to each other.”
The photo of Reverend Bill Larson’s body fused to the window frame is included in the film and can be viewed on the Friendly Atheist blog post about the tragedy. That post also provides details of the aftermath:
“Homophobia being what it was, several families declined to claim the bodies and one church after another refused to bury or memorialize the dead. Three victims were never identified or claimed, and were interred at the local potters field.”
An Episcopal priest, the Rev. William Richardson, agreed to hold a small memorial service, but he was rebuked for doing so by the Episcopal bishop of New Orleans. Rev. Richardson received piles of hate mail, including a hundred complaints from his own parishioners. Clearly the only person showing any Christianity whatsoever was Rev. Richardson. Two memorial services were eventually held on July 1, one in a Unitarian church (of course), and the other at a United Methodist church.

There was also a lot of secular anti-gay prejudice surrounding the tragedy, too, and also because most if the victims were gay. One radio DJ suggested that since churches wouldn’t hold funerals for victims, they could be “buried in fruit jars.” Police were accused of a lacklustre investigation (partly because no one was ever charged), something they denied. No elected state or local official of the day ever said anything about the tragedy, even though officials frequently comment on much smaller tragedies. This is especially noticeable because this fire claimed more lives than any other fire in New Orleans history.

Pride Month isn’t just about partying for its own sake: It’s also about celebrating the fact that we’ve survived all that we have—we’ve endured despite the hatred and bigotry of some people, and the indifference of far more. What we’ve endured has made us stronger and more determined to win our civil and human rights. So, we’ve succeeded, in part, not just despite our oppression, but sometimes because of it. Survival in the face of oppression ought to be celebrated, and that’s part of what Gay Pride is all about. To me, that’s ample justification for a lot of partying, too. We paid our dues.

Oppressed groups typically have hidden histories. History, it’s often said, is written by the victors, so it’s only when oppression starts to ease that some of that hidden history begins to emerge. I think that those of us who care about freedom and justice and who value our common humanity, have an obligation to help spread awareness of hidden history, especially when it relates to us personally.

The UpStairs Lounge massacre is part of the history of every American gay person. This post is one small way in which I can help bear witness. It’s my duty to do so, and to try and help ensure that history doesn’t remain hidden.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Weekend Diversion: Higa TV

I can’t remember how I found this video, but when I did, I shared it on social media. It turns out, it was one of several clever videos done by 23-year-old film student, Ryan Higa. Because I liked what I saw, I decided to make him a Weekend Diversion—a blog series I’ve neglected—by sharing two of his videos that are among my favourites.

Above is “Candy Crush The Movie (Official Trailer)”, which is a spoof movie trailer centred on the popular Facebook game. When I posted the video, I said, “it's funny because it's so true.” As an addict player of the game, there was plenty about it that rang true. It makes light-hearted fun of Candy Crush and other “social games”, as well as the people who play them—all without being mean or harsh. They also posted a “behind the scenes” video.

The video below, “Bromance (Official Music Video)” is a comedic music video about male bonding. It makes fun mostly of uptight guys, and also guys who are perceived as taking “bromance” a little too seriously.

There’s a discernible gay vibe that runs through many of their videos (and Ryan makes fun of himself being perceived as being gay in some of his videos). This unconcerned air seems to me to be fairly typical of the way a lot of young guys relate to one another nowadays. They’re not worried about being perceived as gay because they don’t think it’s a bad thing, and because they have close friends who are gay. It’s a different world.

Whatever. I just think they’re funny videos. Check out Ryan’s YouTube Channel for more videos, and his website for more information about him and his other work. I bet we’ll be seeing a lot from him in the years ahead.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Facebook anniversary

Six years ago today, June 22, 2007, I joined Facebook. It was the third social network I joined and, like the other two, it was originally to promote my podcast. Times have changed.

Because of that connection to my podcast, it’s appropriate that the first message I got on my “wall” (now called the “timeline”) was from a guy who was a fellow podcaster at the time, the host of the Nik-in-Paris Podcast, which was also the first page I “Liked”. In the early days, all of my Facebook Friends were connected to podcasting—fellow podcasters, listeners of my podcast or people who listened to the same podcasts I did.

When my time available for podcasting dwindled, a change started with my Facebook use, too: An increasing percentage of my Facebook friends were people I knew from real life, such as classmates, as well as friends and family on both sides of the Pacific. The podcasting connection remained (I’ve never “unfriended” anyone), but the connections became more solid ones—they were people I interacted with more.

So, over time Facebook became useful to me personally: It allowed me to stay connected with people I’d never be able to stay in touch with otherwise. This is a good thing.

Back when I joined Facebook, the status updates said, in my example, “Arthur is” and people completed the sentence. So, my very first post to Facebook was properly read as “Arthur is Ecstatic the weekend is here.” But that was on July 6, 2007. Before then, I didn’t use Facebook very much.

The truth is, I probably wouldn’t have noticed this anniversary if I hadn’t been curious about my Twitterversary. When I looked that up, I also looked up when I signed up for Facebook (but I cared so little about MySpace that I never bothered to check my information about that, and now it’s impossible due to the changes to that site; check out how empty my page is there).

I’ve joined other social networks along the way, some of which I’m still part of (others, including two from Google, are gone). I joined Google+ when it was still in beta, and I quite like it (their mobile app is FAR better than Facebook’s). I set up a page of G+ for my blog and one for my podcast, and posts to this blog auto-post to that G+ page (click the G+ logo in the right sidebar to get there).

Like Twitter, I don’t now use Facebook as a way for me to promote my podcast. In fact, I seldom even mention it. It turns out, they’re both useful to me in ways I didn’t imagine at first. Actually, I don’t think I’m alone in that.

And that pretty much sums up my short history on social networks. The story, however, is not over. Yet.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

News and not

I have zero respect for Fox “News” because I don’t think there’s anything about them that deserves respect. Even so, sometimes they surprise me with how bad they really are.

The video above is from Media Matters for America (considered an enemy, apparently, by many Fox “News” performers). The video’s subject: “All three cable news networks covered the beginning of Obama's historic speech in Berlin, but only one network cut away early.”

What struck me about this video is that it’s the first time I’ve seen the antics of Fox shown like this—side-by-side with real news organisations. The sped-up portion made it really easy to see what Fox did without the video getting too boring. I think it works really well. I don’t know whether this has been done before, but I think it’s an effective way of clearly showing what Fox does.

Fox is the way it is because it delivers eyes to advertisers and makes them money. As long as that continues at an amount sufficient to please shareholders, they won’t change. And as long as that’s the case, there will be watchdogs calling them out on it. Good to see another effective way to do that.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The things you find

When I got up today, I certainly wasn’t thinking about the Internet, nor wishing somebody was showing something really cool about washing machines. But that’s what happened.

Someone I know (what's the term? Cousin-in-law?) posted the above video to Facebook, and I watched. Personally, I think this lies somewhere between “WTF?!” and “Whoa!”, but your results many vary.

The woman is demonstrating this on an Elba washing machine, which is a version of the Fisher & Paykel machines. We don’t have such a machine, so I can’t test it.

A YouTube user called ReefusNZ provided longer, detailed instructions (which I can’t link to):
Once you enter the mode by pressing "Power" and "Advance" simultaneously, you can also change between the NZ, Australia and US anthem by pressing and holding the "Water Level Up" button until you hear a beep. The beep signals that the anthem has cycled to the next. (It will also stop the current anthem playing) So, when you then press and hold "Wash Temp Up" it will play the anthem it cycled too. Repeat as often until you cycle through them all. It resets when powered off at the wall.
Part of me thinks this is an unexpectedly cool thing for a washing machine to do, especially because it makes no difference to anything. I suppose I could wonder what other capabilities this machine is hiding—and do other washing machines have hidden abilities? I could wonder about all that, but, quite frankly, I just don’t think about washing machines that much.

I did think one other YouTube comment was quite funny: “Looks like I've reached the end of the internet. Time to turn around and go home.”


Oh! One more thing: Yesterday I saw a mainstream media journalist Tweet something that I think is good advice. Paraphrasing, he said that if you take video on your smart phone, turn the phone sideways! Thank you.

Now, I think it’s time to put another load of washing on.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Wintry weather

I hate winter. I think I’ve made that pretty clear already, but the fact that I still have to endure it in Auckland annoys me. Mind you, winter annoys me.

The video above from The New Zealand Herald talks about what’s coming. What it means for us in Auckland is cold weather: Daytime highs at the end of this week will be lower than the nighttime lows are now. Great.

When we last had a weather system like this, we had snow flurries in Queen Street (but none where I was that day). That could happen again, or just hail. Nice. If snow flurries do happen in the Auckland CBD, it’ll be only the second time in the years I’ve lived in New Zealand.

I'd already planned on going out tomorrow to do some grocery shopping, but I’ll get a bit extra so I don’t have to go out the rest of the week. Yeah, I really do hate winter weather that much.

Actually, to be specific, it’s cold I hate. And in Auckland we get cold without the pay-off of a winter wonderland of snow. That’s just cruel.

But, yeah: I hate winter.

Really, Marco?

US Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was a guest on ABC (USA)’s This Week programme, in part to talk about the immigration reform bill he co-sponsors and helped to draft. Nothing unusual in that—nor with his hypocrisy.

Rubio said that the bill needs “improvement”. He discussed conservative demands for some unspecified “fixes” to the bill to somehow deal more sternly with border security. Somehow.

Guest Host Jonathan Karl asked Rubio, “If the bill stays as it is regarding border security, do you vote for it?” Rubio replied, “Listen, I really don’t want to get involved in these hypotheticals and ultimatums about what I want…” Karl interrupted Rubio, pointing out it wasn’t a “hypothetical” at all: “That’s a very real possibility, Senator…” Rubio then again ducked the question.

So, Rubio said he didn’t want to get involved in “ultimatums about what I want”—oh, really? Just this past week he DID issue an ultimatum: “If this bill has in it something that gives gay couples immigration rights and so forth, it kills the bill. I'm done. I'm off it.”

Rubio wants us all to know he’s not giving ultimatums, and he’s negotiable on pretty much everything—except, of course, on equal opportunity for LGBT immigrants, in which case he does have an ultimatum: Keep the LGBT partners of US citizens out or he walks away from the bill.

This is just more evidence of why Marco Rubio is an anti-gay bigot and a hypocrite.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Everything changed

Everything changed June 16, 1999 when I became a New Zealand permanent resident. I later became a citizen, which changed things again, but this was a very big deal.

Before that point, I depended on employment to be able to stay in New Zealand, which could be—and turned out to be—a problem. When the company that brought me to this country ceased trading, ending my job, there was a real possibility I might have to return to the United States—without Nigel. We faced being separated because I couldn’t sponsor Nigel to move to the USA, and at the time he couldn’t sponsor me for New Zealand.

At that time, same-gender couples had to be together for four years before the New Zealand partner could sponsor the foreign partner (it was two years for unmarried opposite-gender couples, 6 months for married couples, which could only be opposite gender). I wouldn’t be eligible until late 1999.

Then, with the stroke of a pen, things changed: The Immigration Minister changed immigration policy, making all unmarried couples—same-gender and opposite-gender alike—treated the same. I got permanent residence around half a year earlier than I would have been eligible for under the old policy (and about seven months after I’d first lodged my application).

On June 16, 1999, Nigel and went to Immigration for our interviews. We’d already had to supply huge piles of information to prove we were in a genuine and stable relationship, including bank statements (showing money moving back and forth between our accounts to prove mutual dependence), photos of us together, even a letter from Nigel’s Mum attesting that our relationship was real and she supported us and our application.

The interviews weren’t intrusively personal. They asked questions like how we met, and some details about the other person (to show that we were really a couple). Nigel told me that he was afraid I’d screw up his birthday when they asked because I often did; I still do, actually (memory is a tricky thing). Still, the day it really mattered, I was focused—and correct.

They granted my Residence Permit and gave me both it and my first Returning Resident’s Visa, which was good for two years. Details from both, placed on facing pages of my US passport, are in the photo above. We were going to the US on holiday just a short time later, so I used the Returning Resident’s Visa once. I became a citizen, and obtained a New Zealand passport, before I ever needed one again.

The evening after our visit to Immigration, I wrote:
“I was a bit numb after it was all over, and I'm sure it'll take awhile to sink in. Mostly, I was just so relieved that it was over, and I also felt a calm I don't think I've felt in years, a kind of relaxed good feeling … More than three years and eight months of waiting and living in limbo have ended.”
With permanent residence, my life stabilised and, especially, I could stop worrying that we might be separated. Permanent residence was not as good as citizenship, but it was far better than the series of temporary permits and visas that made it possible for me to stay in New Zealand up until that June day fourteen years ago.

Nothing’s changed in the USA in all time I’ve been in New Zealand: The USA still doesn’t allow its citizens to sponsor their unmarried partner, whether of the same or the opposite gender. This won’t change regardless of how the US Supreme Court rules on the infamous Defense [sic] of Marriage Act (DOMA). However, if DOMA’s struck down, the Obama Administration could order that legally married LGBT couples be treated the same as legally married opposite-gender couples, and that would definitely be an improvement.

Things are even better in New Zealand now: Civil Unions arrived in 2005, and we’ll get the freedom to marry when marriage equality arrives in August. This will eventually have implications for Kiwi/American LGBT couples in the future; legally, things are very much better now than they were for me, or us, back in 1999. This is a very, very good thing.

Everything’s changed since this date in 1999, and for me, and other LGBT Kiwi-US couples in New Zealand, it’s all been for the better.

AFER's Journey to the Day of Decision

This video from the American Foundation for Equal Rights is striking. It reminds us of the history of the fight to strike down California’s Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative in which California voters took away the right of same-gender couples to marry.

So much has changed since the fight began, and much of that is depicted in the video. Public opinion polls show increasing majority support for marriage equality, backed up more and more states enacting the freedom to marry, including at the ballot box. Even California wouldn’t enact Prop 8 if it was on the ballot now.

No one knows how the US Supreme Court will rule on the case, but AFER has produced a handy visual chart to show the possible outcomes. We’ll all know the outcome sometime in the next couple weeks.

No matter how the Supreme Court rules on the Prop 8 case, or on the equally important challenge to the federal Defense [sic] of Marriage Act, one fact remains as clear as ever: None of us are free until all of us are free. That won’t change, and the work remaining won’t go away, even if we get a sweeping ruling in our favour.

But as we wait, anxiously, to find out what the next chapter will be, it’s good to remember how far we’ve come. It helps to plan where we go next.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Reception at the White House

I love it when President Obama does something that pisses-off the radical right—which, of course, is pretty much everything he does every day, starting by waking up in the morning.

But among the things that make wingnut heads explode is President Obama’s annual LGBT Pride Month Reception at the White House (official White House video above), and his proclamation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. While I’m not 100% happy with the president overall (and, of course, I never will be with any president), he has finally become the “fierce advocate” for LGBT Americans that he promised to be.

Some activists urge (others demand…) that the president issue an Executive Order banning discrimination against LGBT workers by federal contractors. The problem with this is that a future president could easily rescind it, and it would become a lightening rod for anti-gay agitators and activists heading into the 2014 Congressional elections, potentially making things much worse than they are now if wingnuts gain control of the entire US Congress in 2014 (and the White House in 2016).

What we need is passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which will ban anti-gay workplace discrimination nationwide. This can't happen in this Congress, and indeed won't happen until Democrats have overwhelming majorities in both houses of the US Congress. Because it can’t pass in this Congress, ENDA won’t galvanise the frothing far right base of the Republican Party.

Apart from a handful of Republican politicians, who are despised by that frothing far right activist base, the party’s elected officials are lock-step in their opposition to LGBT Americans and their human rights. We shouldn’t give up on Republicans, though, because some of them will be waiting and hoping their party one day returns to a more rational and mainstream ideology.

In the meantime, things are changing for the better, and while we’ve made a lot of progress lately, there’s still a long way to go. The White House reception is important mostly for its symbolism, sure, but in politics, symbolism IS important.

I just want to see more progress, too.

Related (from The White House):

Remarks by the President at a Reception for LGBT Pride Month
Presidential Proclamation – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, 2013

Rubio’s true nature

Marco Rubio was the darling of the “tea party” extremists of the Republican Party, their hero—but then he advocated for immigration reform, something they ardently oppose. It turns out, however, he’s just like them.

Yesterday, the junior US Senator from Florida said that if LGBT people are included in the immigration reform bill, he’ll withdraw as a co-sponsor: "If this bill has in it something that gives gay couples immigration rights and so forth, it kills the bill. I'm done. I'm off it, and I've said that repeatedly. I don't think that's going to happen and it shouldn't happen. This is already a difficult enough issue as it is."

Nice guy, eh? It takes a special kind of bigotry to walk away from a bill he cosponsors and wants passed just because he hates LGBT people.

Rubio then turned up the heat on his bigotry and stirred in a healthy dollop of hypocrisy.

ThinkProgress caught up with Rubio at a far-right religious political conference and asked him if he supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would ban workplace discrimination against LGBT people. Rubio replied: “I haven’t read the legislation. By and large I think all Americans should be protected but I’m not for any special protections based on orientation.” [emphasis by ThinkProgress]. The complete video is below.

ThinkProgress followed up: “What about on race or gender?” and Rubio responded, “Well that’s established law.” To be overly charitable to Rubio, perhaps he just wasn’t thinking at the time. Race and gender once were NOT “settled law”, just as protection for LGBT people is not now. Politicians braver than Rubio MADE race and gender “settled law”—it didn’t happen by magic! And at one time politicians just like Rubio made equally bigoted remarks against equal opportunity for those covered by the “settled law”.

The graphic at the top of this post, found on Facebook, sums up Rubio’s hypocrisy in one visual. Many Hispanic commentators are pointing out the irony of the child of Cuban immigrants advocating anti-gay positions on employment similar to those that Castro held. Others noted the hypocrisy of Rubio, a child of immigrants, wanting to slam the door shut on immigrants he doesn’t like. However, the graphic is slightly misleading, because Rubio lied about why his parents left Cuba: He claimed they left because of Castro when, in fact, they left three years before he came to power for purely economic reasons. “Oppression” may have kept them in the USA, but it’s not the reason moved there.

So what we have in Marco Rubio is a hypocritical bigot (or bigoted hypocrite) who also has some trouble with facts. Nevertheless, he’s one of the Republicans Americans view most favourably—which isn’t actually saying much, actually, since he has a 37% favourable rating overall (the top-rated Republican, NJ Governor Chris Christie has only a 52% favourable rating). Only 21% of Democrats view him favourably, but 58% of Republicans do.

Based on the latest poll, it would seem that the radical base of the Republican Party hasn’t soured on Rubio as much as has been claimed in the newsmedia—and why would they? His weak advocacy of immigration reform aside, Rubio’s record proves he’s really just like them: Radical, bigoted and hypocritical.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Cereal bigotry

A couple weeks ago, controversy erupted over cereal. Well, not cereal, but a commercial for one: The makers of Cheerios posted on YouTube a commercial called “Just Checking”. It was a cute commercial, but not a particularly big deal. Except, it was.

The ad featured a child and her bi-racial parents and the racist comments became so extreme that comments on the video were shut down. To be honest, extreme and/or offensive comments on YouTube are nothing new; in fact, they’re more common than not. But these were apparently particularly vile, even by normal YouTube standards.

The video above is one response. Called a parody, it’s more accurately a re-imagining, and designed to take on the haters. I think it works really well.

As I’ve often said, I like the use of clever humour and sarcasm to confront bigotry and hatred; getting mad at bigots only feeds their egos, but mocking them—as long as it’s clever, not childish—belittles them and their hatred. This would make them even madder, if they understood irony, but haters generally aren’t bright enough for that, so this instead reinforces for normal people that bigotry is not okay.

This video is a lighthearted response, but my initial reaction was not at all lighthearted. In fact, In this case it was a good thing that I was too busy to blog about it at the time; my words would not have been kind.

Others had more reasoned responses. For example, Roger Green posted “TV: controversy over a Cheerios ad?”. Roger made excellent points, such as “Of course, you KNOW what the real problem is for some people with that ad? It suggests that black people and white people were – hold onto your hats – having SEX!” Too true.

Another perspective is from Meagan Hatcher-Mays who wrote on Jezebel that the ad “also validates the existence of biracial and multiracial people.” And so it does.

I reacted so viscerally to the disgusting racism in the comments because I’m half of a biracial couple: I take it rather personally when people attack the very idea. And, the fact that the response video above features a same-sex couple made it resonate with me.

What also struck me about this is the importance of all sorts of people being reflected in popular culture, including commercials. GLBT couples and families portrayed in ads or TV shows or whatever draw every bit as much hatred—but the mainstream newsmedia almost never notices, let alone turns it into something that good people can feel even better about themselves when tut-tutting the bigotry on display.

Hatred and bigotry are around us every day. Mostly we don’t notice, or we choose not to notice, but it’s there nonetheless. It’s good when people do notice and react with disgust, like they did against the racism directed at the Cheerios commercial. I just wish this was the common reaction to all bigotry, and not just at what the mainstream newsmedia tells us is shocking.

Is the Republican Party fascist?

A friend posed an interesting question on Facebook, wondering whether the Republican Party is fascist:
“Since fascism is defined by ultranationalism, ethocentrism, and militarism, is the current Republican party fascist?”
It’s a question that’s often asked by progressives and even true libertarians (about which, more later). Here’s how I answered the question:
No, I don't think that the current Republican Party is fascist, though it's proto-fascist in many ways. Fascist regimes, historically, have all involved the usurpation of legitimate government in favour of a military dictatorship. Republicans don't need to do that when they can use the current system to achieve their goal, namely, a corporatocracy (the system in which corporations control the government and its policies).

Republicans, through their control of state legislatures (changes to state electoral law) and the US Supreme Court (Citizens United, Bush v. Gore), have stacked the electoral deck against mainstream Americans (and minorities in particular). This means that they can continue to win elections they'd lose in a fairer, more democratic system. That allows them to set policy even when they're technically not in power—like, for example, they don't control the US Senate or presidency, but they still call the shots.

So, they don't need to usurp the US Constitution to establish a dictatorship as true fascists would; instead, they just game the current system to enable them to do the bidding of the plutocrats and oligarchs. As long as the elites are satisfied enough, the Republicans don't need to go full fascist—but that could change, and they ARE a long way down that road already.
As I see it, many Republican Party priorities, and its socially conservative ideology, are certainly consistent with traditional fascism, but overall they are more proto-fascist, that is, have much in common with true fascism, and they could yet morph into true fascists, but they’re not there yet. As I said in my reply, I don’t think they need to be fascist to achieve their goal of a corporatocracy, which is a subject in itself.

Republicans venerate the US Constitution and the men who wrote it with what would be called religious zeal if they didn’t display actual religious zeal (whether that overt religiosity is real or cynical acting is beside the point). While Republicans do sometimes advocate usurping the Constitution, most of the time they don’t.

Libertarians are an interesting bunch. True libertarians—none of whom are currently elected to national office—deplore fascism, socialism and modern liberal social democracy with pretty much equal fervour. However, the faux libertarian “tea party” is, more often than not, an actual fascist movement. For example, they preach authoritarian actions to suppress dissent by liberals, gays, “activist judges”, gun control activists, “the media”—basically, everyone they don’t like. Two years ago, I talked about some of the fascist and proto-fascist actions by “tea party” politicians at that time. Not much has changed.

The bigger problem is that a party that flirts with fascist ideology is one that’s already started down the road. The “tea party” folks are well on the way, and they call the shots in the Republican Party—can full fascist ideology be far away? Or, can saner heads prevail and pull the party back from that moral and intellectual darkness? I honestly don’t know.

What do you think? Is the Republican Party fascist? Or, do you, like me, say it isn’t but it’s at least sympathetic with some fascist ideology? And, if the answer to either question is yes, can the party be saved? Or do you thing the very idea is absurd? I welcome your comments, either here or in a post on your own site (if you do that latter, come back and leave a comment with a link).

The more we discuss these sorts of questions, the less likely we are to have to worry about the answers.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

The chart above accompanied a story on The Daily Kos about the amount of annual leave US workers DON’T get: It’s really bad in the US.

The chart compares the amount of time off that governments require employers to give to workers, and in the US, that would be nothing. Japan, the next-worst developed country for time off, has no mandated public holidays, but ten days of annual leave.

The chart has a significant error for New Zealand: Too few public holidays. There are actually 9½ national public holidays, plus an additional day for each region (called “Anniversary Day”)*. However, one and a half days—Waitangi Day and Anzac Day—didn't used to be “Mondayised”, so for workers who were normally off on a weekend, they missed out on that paid time off. This changes next year when both holidays will be Mondayised.

So, New Zealand workers have a total of 30½ paid days off a year, made up of 20 days of annual leave and 10½ public holidays (I should note that everyone I’ve ever known has had all of Anzac Day off, not just a half day).

There have been three significant changes to this since I moved to New Zealand. First, the former Labour Government extended the annual leave requirement from 15 to 20 days. Then, the current National/Act Government changed the law to allow workers and employers to transfer the paid time off from a public holiday to another mutually-agreeable day. The other change allows workers to “sell” up to a week (five days) of their annual leave back to their employer. I’m dubious about both moves, particularly because of how they may impact low-skilled and low-wage workers. Still, maybe they’ll work.

Another problem with the chart is that just because US workers don’t have any paid days off mandated by federal law, that doesn't mean states can't impose requirements. Most American workers still get at least some paid leave. According to the Daily Kos article, the average US worker gets nine days off per year and six paid holidays. It’s not enough, and because it’s not enshrined in law, some workers get no paid time off at all.

I think it’s interesting that there’s such wide discrepancy in how workers are treated in developed countries. It’s also interesting that the economic performance of the countries on the chart varies widely, so clearly paid time off alone doesn’t seem to help or a hinder (not that this stops partisans from either end of the spectrum arguing otherwise).

In any case, time off is good.

*New Zealand’s public holidays are: New Year’s Day and Day After, Waitangi Day (February 6), Good Friday and Easter Monday (dates vary), Anzac Day morning (April 25 – that’s the half day), Queen’s Birthday (first Monday in June), Labour Day (fourth Monday in October, Christmas Day and Boxing Day (December 25-26). An additional Provincial Anniversary Day holiday varies by region.

The title of this post is taken from a lyric in the Go-Go’s song, “Vacation”.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Gayest Of All Time

June is Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, and it’s time to celebrate. Right on cue, Jonny McGovern has released his latest video and song. Fun as the song is, I had to post the video mostly because my fellow podcaster, the fabulous Donna Suggarz, is featured.

When I watched the video for the second time, I realised that there are more than a few references that non-LGBT people won’t get. Oh, well. I’m used to having to find my truth in overtly heterosexual songs, so a little turnabout is fair play.

And, a little fun never hurt anyone.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Change creates inevitability

Lately, there’s been a lot of further evidence about how much American society has moved toward acceptance of LGBT people, and all of it explains why marriage equality is an idea whose time has come. The changes have been remarkable—and broad.

The latest Pew Research report found that opponents and proponents alike realise that marriage equality is inevitable. This explains why our adversaries have been so, um, determined lately to make people believe that inevitability is a “lie”: They realised that since even their supporters know that marriage equality is inevitable, future donations will dry up.

But what’s behind that realisation? What’s made this both an inevitability and something that people recognise as such?

Turns out, there was a lot of other interesting stuff in that Pew report. For example, they looked at people’s answers to whether or not homosexuality should be accepted by society or discouraged by society. In 2003, a bare plurality—47%—thought it should be accepted (against 45% who thought it should be “discouraged”). A decade later, supporters outnumber opponents by two to one: 60% say homosexuality should be accepted by society, and a mere 31% still say it should be “discouraged”.

A couple weeks before the Pew research was released, Gallup released the results from its annual “Values and Beliefs” survey. They found that 59% of Americans felt that gay and lesbian relationships are morally acceptable, up from only 40% in 2001. This means that the rates of acceptance and disapproval have swapped since 2001.

These changes in attitude are remarkable, and since they get at people’s overall attitudes, they explain why marriage equality is advancing. However, both organisations provided even more information that fills out the picture.

Gallup found that 47% of Americans believe that people are born LGBT, with 33% of them thinking it’s “upbringing and environment”. Just two years ago, it was environment slightly ahead of birth, 42% to 40%.

Similar changes in attitudes can also be seen in data from Pew. They said that ten years ago, 60% would be “Very/Somewhat upset” if their child told them they were gay, but today 55% say they would NOT be upset. Even the “very upset” percentage dropped from 33% to 19%.

And yet, many people have religious conflicts: Today, Pew’s questions on whether homosexual behaviour is a “sin” have the yes and no tied at 45% each. That’s down significantly from a decade ago, when 55% said it was a sin and 33% said it wasn’t. That, too, is clearly moving in a more tolerant direction. This is significant because even now, 56% say that same-gender marriage would go against their religious beliefs, as opposed to 41% who say it wouldn’t (in 2003, that was 62% and 33%, respectively).

Our adversaries see in this a justification for them to double-down on religious rhetoric, assuming that this is the one area in which they might be able to win back supporters. They clearly don’t understand what’s really going on.

In reporting on Americans’ pessimistic views on morality in general, Gallup noted:
“Last year, Gallup asked Americans to give their views on the most important problem with the state of moral values. Americans were more likely to cite a lack of respect or tolerance for other people than divisive political and social issues such as abortion or same-sex marriage. So their sour outlook on U.S. values may have more to do with basic matters of civility than with the more controversial moral issues that currently divide Americans.”
With their self-expressed tolerance for LGBT people in general, and marriage equality specifically, it’s clear that mainstream Americans’ definition of “morality” is quite different from the views of religious political activists on the far right. This is what the far right doesn’t understand: They’re using the same words, but they have completely different meanings, leading them to fail at connecting even with religious people.

Still, the most anti-gay attitudes in all these studies were held by those who were older, more conservative, more religious and least educated. That hasn’t changed in a very long time—and yet, it IS changing.

Older Americans’ (described as 55+) support for “gay or lesbian relations” is up 25% since 2001, according to Gallup. A bare majority—51%—find that such relations are morally acceptable. They still have the smallest percentage of support, but it is a majority, and it will continue to grow.

Part of the reason for the changes is demographics: Younger people (18-34) are more tolerant and accepting than any other age segment, but the next oldest age band (35-54) is more accepting than the oldest. As these more tolerant types age, they increase majorities in each older age group.

As many studies have shown, people are more tolerant and accepting of LGBT people when they actually know someone who is LGBT—particularly if that person is a family member or close friend. The increasing openness of society will only accelerate these shifts in attitude. This is what will prevent society from slipping backwards: As people continue to increasingly embrace the LGBT people in their own families, they’ll defend their family members against any who would try to oppress them.

So, what all of this means is this: Things really are moving forward more quickly, and it’s happening because of changes in societal attitudes, brought about, in part, by generational change. This is a one-way journey because of those attitude changes: People will defend their families.

It is this fundamental societal change that makes marriage equality inevitable. And we’re all the better for it.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

You're having a lesbian

This video was commissioned by Shelley Argent, Australian National Spokesperson for the Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays (PFLAG) for their What R U Having? project. I think it works really well.

Their essential point is that since any child can be born gay, marriage equality is every family’s issue. That being the case, Australian families should start lobbying their members of Parliament to bring the freedom to marry to Australia.

All true and sensible, but our adversaries deny that LGBT people are born, declaring that homosexuality is a “choice”. They’re so obviously wrong that simple common sense easily shows it: Not one of our adversaries has been able to say at what moment they “chose” to be heterosexual, or why. And, of course, even if they were right, it wouldn’t matter: Religion is 100% choice, yet we don’t deny people the freedom to marry based on their religion.

I’m sure some people would be very challenged by this ad: The way it matter-of-factly deals with the reality that children are born LGBT, as well as the fact that the soon-to-be parents are delighted. Such people are unlikely to be able to grasp the meaning in the ad, and how they should fight for their LGBT family members’ freedom to marry because they’re family members.

See? This issue really is much simpler than our adversaries like to suggest.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Crooked border

In this video, CGP Grey, one of my favourite YouTube explainers, looks at the Canada-US border, which makes it perfect to share on this blog. He’s also posted Google Earth coordinates (along with the script) on his site.

Well worth a look!

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Liars and bigots

This video is from the Human Rights Campaign and shows the frothing of the liars and bigots of the anti-gay hate groups “protesting” outside their headquarters. Don’t expect this video to last long: Far right groups, embarrassed by any public display of their bigotry, almost always file phony “copyright” claims to get videos like this taken down.

I couldn’t possibly care less what these people’s religious beliefs are, assuming they have some. All people are entitled to believe whatever they want, and that must include bizarre, crackpot religious beliefs, too. If their religion demands it, people are also entitled to believe whatever lies and utter nonsense they want to. When a church enters the public square, however, their espoused beliefs become entirely debateable—that’s called democracy and free speech.

However, these bigots are NOT from churches—they’re from anti-LGBT hate groups. The bigots operate in the public square, not some church, so their lies, smears, defamation and bigoted hatred will be confronted wherever they go. As they should be,

I think that this video is good because it just lets the bigot spew their lies and bigotry, quietly posting links to facts and truth the bigots and hate group leaders are so desperately trying to hide, like that “reparative therapy” is a scam and torture (HRC has a page just about the truth on that issue).

These bigots are flat out evil: They know that they’re deliberately spreading lies, smears, distortions, defamation and outright bigotry, but they do it anyway. Obviously, doing this provides them with a nice income, so it’s not like they have any incentive to repent and start telling the truth.

The good news is that these bigots are a tiny, tiny minority among a minority (far right political activists) who are in turn a tiny minority among a minority (conservatives generally). They are, however, influential far beyond their miniscule numbers: With huge piles of money to promote their lies and bigotry, they have access to politicians most people don’t have, and are the “go to” people when the mainstream people wants “balance” in a news report on issues affecting LGBT people.

These people hate us, simply put. They lie about everything to do with LGBT people. Put the two together, and it’s clear: They’re nothing but liars and bigots.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Undercover cover

Sometimes life just presents photo ops. Or, maybe I’m just cursed to notice them. Either way, they happen more than I document.

Yesterday, I was changing the bedding and moved my sleeping shorts aside. I put my Kindle, in sleep mode, on top. When I was done making the bed I looked over and noticed that it was almost as if it was camouflaged. I grabbed my phone and took the photo above. It's exactly as I found it.

When I was younger—say, thirty years or so ago—I often looked around and saw interesting patterns, natural compositions, studies of light and shadow, or just juxtaposition and I snapped photos.

Then, I just stopped—just like I stopped writing fiction. No reason, and certainly no plan, I just stopped.

From time to time, I’ve posted some of my photos on this blog, including some I particularly liked. The earliest, probably, was in February 2007. I posted two more a year later (the second one has popped up in later Tweets). There have been others.

The point about my photos, writing and any other creative endeavours is that I put them out there because I like them or because I need to express myself (sometimes, fortunately, both); I’m not really concerned whether they find a mass audience or not—I know that some people will connect. I imagine most creative people think similarly.

Sometimes I still see things the way I used to, decades ago, and sometimes I have a camera handy. Like I did yesterday. I must make that happen more often.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Lutheran progress

Four years after finally deciding to allow gay clergy who are in a committed relationship, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has now elected Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin as its first openly gay bishop. This is good progress.

It was only in August of 2009 that the church decided to allow gay clergy who are in a committed same-gender relationship, after roughly a quarter century of “studying” the issue. Once the decision was made, it was inevitable that this day would come, and by Lutheran standards, it happened really quickly after the 2009 rule change.

In November, 1970, The Lutheran Church in America (of which I was a member at the time; in 1988, it merged with other US Lutheran churches to form the ELCA) became the first Lutheran church in the US to ordain female clergy. Elizabeth Platz was the first American woman to be ordained a Lutheran pastor.

The first female Lutheran Bishop worldwide was Maria Jepsen of Germany, who was elected bishop in April, 1992. That same month, Ulring Larson was elected bishop of the Lacrosse (Wisconsin) synod, making her the first female American bishop, and second in the world.

So, it was 22 years from the ordination of the USA’s first Lutheran female clergy to the church’s first female bishop, and the first openly gay and partnered bishop was elected only four years after gay partnered clergy were first permitted. However, since it took 25 years to get to that rule change, it actually took 29 years before the first gay partnered bishop was elected. Lutherans do nothing quickly.

Still, Lutherans have a long history of eventually doing the right thing, even if it takes them awhile to get there. The point is, they do get there eventually. Well, done!

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Debunking a lie

The radical right religious/political activists have been caught out in another lie, and they’ve been exposed in their continuing attempt to divide LGBT people and Black people.

Tracy Baim, publisher of Windy City Times, videoed this interview with Black Caucus chair Rep. Ken Dunkin after the marriage equality non-vote. He is adamant: This was NOT a Black Caucus issue.

Brian Brown, spokesbigot for the National Organisation for Man/Lady Only Marriage, went WAY out of his way to praise the Black community. This was crass, partisan politics—Bri was trying to put in action NOM’s cynical plan to create division between LGBT people and Black people.

Brian Brown couldn’t possibly care less what Black people think or want, and his organisation is clearly racist, given its deliberate strategy of fomenting division between Black and LGBT people—using Black people, in other words. NO one should buy into the far right’s propaganda attempts to create division where none exists.

There are anti-gay Black legislators, but you know what? There are a helluva lot more anti-gay white legislators—why is their race not an issue? Republicans overwhelmingly oppose the freedom to marry—why is party not an issue? The fact is, radical right religious/political activists have a vested political interest in framing this as a Gay vs. Black issue, when it is absolutely NOT that at all.

Obviously, the modern phrase is, there are lies, damned lies, and the radical right religious/political activists.

Illinois cowards

Rank, vile cowards: That’s what’s in the Illinois House of Representatives. The Illinois Senate passed marriage equality on Valentine’s Day, but the Illinois House is too cowardly to do the same. I have contempt for them.

Apologists will say that there are many members of the House—mostly Democrats, of course, but Republicans, too—who would do the right thing (if they ever get to vote on the bill…). That’s true, there are. Those people should be applauded and supported as heroes of democracy. But what about the rest—especially the rest of the Democrats? Where the hell are they?

Today (May 31 in the USA), the Illinois House of Representatives adjourned its session without voting on the state’s marriage equality bill.

Chief sponsor of the bill, Rep. Greg Harris, speaking though apparently choked up, told the House that some of his colleagues wanted more time to go back to their districts to “consult”. We’re really supposed to believe that the three-and-a-half months since the Senate vote was not “enough” time? It is alleged that Harris acted alone, without ever consulting any members of the coalition—who, in fact, wanted a vote.

Clearly, the obstacles are crass and craven politicians who care only about their paychecks or “power”, political scum who see LGBT people as nothing more than a cash machine; they don’t think they need to do anything more than speak the right words and we’ll all loyally fall in line to give them money and votes because, well, they’re NOT Republicans! The truth is, Republicans hate us and tell us to our face while Democrats say they’re with us, but as soon as we turn our back they plunge the knife in. It’s what Illinois Democrats do, because it’s who they are.

Obviously anti-equality legislators should all be primaried, Democrats included, but apart from those who have publicly declared their opposition to equality, how can we know who our enemies are?

When the legislature reconvenes in autumn, the House will vote on the bill, or it won’t. If it passes, then the state will have marriage equality and all this rage will go away. If it fails, supporters of freedom and equality will know who to target for defeat. But if they still don’t vote, it’s the situation same as right now. This cannot be allowed to happen.

Whatever happens in the autumn “veto session”, there will be politicians to target for defeat, and that must happen. However, that should include at least the most craven of those who refused to commit their support. Illinois voters should never tolerate legislators who persist in being cowards, and neither should political contributors.

My personal view is that those who would ordinarily donate to the Illinois Democratic Party (or any of its sub-units) should tell them that they're putting all donations on hold until the marriage equality bill passes. If it doesn't, apart from Democrats willing to challenge the incumbent cowards, there are plenty of REAL friends who would welcome the contributions so we can punish our faux-friends.

This is important, too, because there will be some supporters of equality who will be targeted by the theocratic extreme right, and those politicians need to be supported. Our side must raise funds for them and help provide support on the campaign trail. Most of those who do the right thing should be rewarded, but they absolutely should be defended against the forces of bigotry and intolerance.

The only people who won today are, in fact, from the theocratic extreme right, who are already gloating about finally winning a victory after a string of major defeats (Hey! Thanks, Illinois Democrats!!). Their lies, threats and bigotry have prevented equality from arriving in Illinois—for now. But good eventually triumphs over evil, and this is no different: The freedom to marry will come to Illinois, not today, obviously, but soon.

The important thing is to begin organising primary challenges in case they’re needed, to withhold all contributions from all Illinois Democratic legislators until/unless they deliver, and to make it clear that delivering the freedom to marry is a prerequisite to receiving any donations in the future.

Our enemies on the theocratic radical right routinely threaten politicians with retribution if they resist the imposition of a radical right theocracy. Our side must be at least as bold. Just as we can no longer tolerate cowards among our “friends” in the Democratic party, neither can we afford to be afraid of walking away and letting Democrats sink. Republicans hate us and tell us; Democrats pretend to be our friends and then betray us. To get our money, they need to prove they’re real Democrats and real friends—words are NOT enough.

No more cowards on our side—anywhere.