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Posts Tagged gay marriage

Letter to a friend about Marriage

Dear Thomas:

I wanted to give you a bit of food for thought in regard to something you said in our conversation the other day: that you support civil unions. At one point I did as well, until I made the statement in front of two dear friends of mine in San Francisco. Sean and David had been married during that window in time when same sex marriage was legal in the state.

David and Sean spoke forcefully about civil unions and marriage not being equal, arguing that the term has been coined to avoid the usage of “marriage” which is embedded in civil laws across America. I had to ask myself the question: do we as a society want a distinction- a carve-out if you will- for the loving unions of two people of the same sex as opposed to the loving union of a heterosexual couple?

In the middle of our conversation, David disappeared for a moment and returned with what appeared to be a framed photograph. To the contrary it was his and Sean’s framed marriage certificate issued by the State of California. David broke out in tears as he said to me “do you realize how important it is to us to be able to show this to our friends, to have a piece of paper that recognizes that we’re all equal under the laws of California?”

I couldn’t help but agree. Words matter. There is absolutely no compelling reason for a “separate but equal” definition of any loving union between two people. Today I’d say to you as I do to all: I don’t want a civil union. I want the same civil rights that you and Mary have and I want them defined in the exactly same manner as yours. That is the American way. At the same time I’d man the barricades to protect the right of secular institutions in America to marry whomever they wish according to their beliefs. That is also the American way.

Here are a few eloquent quotes I’d offer for your consideration:

“Marriage in the United States is a civil union; but a civil union, as it has come to be called, is not marriage,” said Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry. “It is a proposed hypothetical legal mechanism, since it doesn’t exist in most places, to give some of the protections but also withhold something precious from gay people. There’s no good reason to do that.”

Or consider the logical argument offered by Ted Olson, former US Solicitor General in the George W. Bush administration. During opening statements in the the landmark Perry v. Brown case he argued that recognizing same-sex couples under the term ‘domestic partnership’ stigmatizes gay people’s relationships treating them as if they were “something akin to a commercial venture, not a loving union”.

Thomas if you truly believe in equality for gay people, then there is only marriage. A civil union is a half-baked legal construction which will never satisfy me or my friends Sean and David.



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Time for Sports to Gay Up

The recent revelation by the president and CEO of the Phoenix Suns that he is gay is another step toward cracking the door to one of the last vestiges of homophobia- the sports world. More athletes, coaches, front office leaders and fans need to step forward and put a game face on for gay athletes- instead of getting away with stupid comments like those of Kobe Bryant in a game last month. That didn’t make much of an impression on NC State’s star forward C.J. Leslie who tweeted last month

The NC State athletic department’s response? Lame.

Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried has spoken with the rising sophomore, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.

N.C. State assistant athletic director for media relations Annabelle Myers responded to the News & Observer by saying: “Any student has the right to express his or her personal opinion, but those comments certainly don’t reflect the diverse and welcoming atmosphere at N.C. State. Our student-athletes are reminded and encouraged to be circumspect in what they say, post or tweet.”

Coach goes mum and the assistant AD suggests that athletes be circumspect. That sent a strong signal to all of NC State’s athletes and fans. God forbid the reassurance that those responses signaled to NC State gay athletes past, present and prospective. I wonder what the reaction would have been to a similar incident by Kay Yow, the former NC State women’s basketball coach and Naismith Hall of Fame winner?

But the ice is beginning to thaw. A decorated collegiate wrestler and world-class English rugby star have teamed up to combat bullying and homophobia in sports. And last year the Indiana Hoosiers Athletics Department declared a home game vs. Northwestern as LGBT Appreciation Day.

“We want to show that we really value the support that the LGBT community has shown IU Athletics this year,” says Senior Assistant Athletic Director Pat Kraft.

“I want to say ‘thank you’ to all our LGBT fans,” said Hoosier football head coach Bill Lynch. “Join us Oct.30 as we take on the Northwestern Wildcats and help us make this a day to remember.

As a UNC Tar Heel fan I don’t have to wonder what our legendary basketball coach Dean Smith would have to say about gay rights and sports. He’s already spoken.

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A Dirty War, Crisis, and Human Rights

In voting to extend the full and complete rights of marriage and adoption to same-sex couples, the Argentine government has taken another step away from the nightmare of military bureaucratic authoritarian regimes, and has opened a new chapter in South American Human Rights. It is an astounding accomplishment just 27 years after the return to democracy, and a direct defiance of the acerbic campaign rhetoric of the Catholic Church in a country that is 91% Catholic. Equally striking is that the measure was supported by an estimated 70% of the population. To understand what happened, let’s look at two major historical periods which continue to shape Argentine society: the military regime of 1976-1983 and its dirty war, and the economic collapse of 2001. These pivotal events shed light on the thought processes that lead to Wednesday’s legislation, and show that Argentina’s Human Rights debate is leapfrogging not just its neighbors’, but our own.

The military regime waged a war against its own people, “disappearing” thousands of the opposition, labeling them “subversive” members of society. This complete disregard of Human Rights is etched in Argentine memory. Rights aren’t taken for granted to the extent that they are in the States, because older generations of Argentines know what it is like to lose them. The Madres de la Plaza de Mayo (Mothers of the May Plaza) marched for decades to protest the disappearance of their children, and singer Mercedes Sosa was converted into a folk hero after her exile. Millions of footprints circling the Plaza de Mayo, the adrenaline of prolific protest drums, and the formation of dozens of political parties are testament that in Argentina, Human Rights discussions are not hypothetical, nor are they taken lightly.

Argentines know how to use their voices because they were stripped of the things that had let them be silent. During the financial crisis of 2001, 57% of the country was plunged into poverty overnight, something our “Great Recession” hasn’t come close to touching. Families lost everything, and housewives in Buenos Aires took to the streets in the cacerolazo protests, banging pots and pans because they couldn’t feed their families. The pot and pan protesters became the symbol of the crisis, and their image was so strong that they are still invoked today. These protests escalated violently, leading to the president’s resignation, and a string of failed successions right up to Nestor Kirchner, the current president’s husband.

So, what we have is a society that has dealt with terrible Human Rights violations by the state, is suspicious of powerful institutions, and knows that opiates like stability, continuity, and money can fail. The country’s history is punctuated not just by strongmen rulers, but also by strong women (hello, Evita) and minorities with strong voices at the center of protest movements. The first elected female president (sorry, Evita) just asserted that extending rights to minorities strengthens the rights of all, and that the Church’s incursion on civil issues is akin to the Inquisition. Those, my friends, are fighting words. Earlier, her ruling party had shot down a “compromise” civil union bill which did not include adoption—they recognized that you cannot compromise on rights.

What we have is an example of how the US isn’t just behind the curve on debating and supporting Human Rights, but that in this instance, it doesn’t even seem to know what that sort of debate would look like. Get your pots and pans ready, because I feel like taking to the streets.

The author is a volunteer in the US Peace Corps.  This post does not express the views of the US Peace Corps, or of the US Government.

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