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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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On civil disobedience in perilous times

In North Carolina state legislators are seeking to score political points by diminishing the rights of the LGBT community with the impending passage of legislation that State constitution (amendments to constitutions usually expand- not restrict- individual rights)– here as across America there is a frontal assault on our education system, mental and public health systems, our environment, womens’ access to reproductive healthcare and the social compact that once supported a strong middle class. Most cynically, these repressive attacks to undermine equal rights are waged on the backs of the poor, the intimidated and the disenfranchised. What’s playing out before my eyes is the classic “it’s them” divide and conquer ploy, a tactic that has always failed in this nation’s ongoing march towards full equality. “Equal rights” aren’t some nebulous province of this class or the other; rather, equal rights are your rights, they are my rights and they are the rights of all mankind.

I am but one individual, an individual who once campaigned for elective office as a proxy for those having no voice- as politicians all so often do. My campaign didn’t end in 2008 anymore than did our nation’s progress end on the battlefront at Yorktown, the steps of Appomattox Courthouse or the streets of Selma. For until the day when no man, no woman and no child is embraced in the bosom of liberty and justice, there will be equal rights for none.

I am no longer willing to passively bear witness to the ghettoization of LGBT people, the poor, the middle class and the weak. No body and no individual has the rightful dominion to diminish the unalienable rights to to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in our United States of America. And- I do not stand alone.

My defiance of the law today is neither some personal manifesto, act of self-aggrandizement, stunt or press release. What I and others did today was hardly courageous or unprecedented.

As some of you know, two of my heroes are Alexander the Great (hence, the name of my business Agema) and Sir Winston Churchill (hence, the name of my youngest son Winston.) Both men captured my fancy for their courage and leadership and defiance of the status quo.  Alexander, a king of all kings, always led his troops into battle from the front line (protected by his elite regiment, the agema) thereby putting his life at most risk. And Sir Winston, amongst his many quips, said:

You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something sometime in your life.

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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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Every Now and Then

I come across someone- a preacher, a politician, a homeless man on the subway, a little old unemployed lady- who says something to me that make me pause. Stops me dead in my tracks. Grabs my wandering mind and makes me stop and listen.

In short, they make me reflect- abou the society in which I live and my own beliefs and actions.

Profound stuff- often from the most unlikeliest of places.

Meet Evan Garris, a 21 year old student at North Carolina State University from rural North Carolina.

The other night on his weekly radio show on WKNC 88.1 FM Evan didn’t just come out, he knocked the door down.


Evan’s 4:12 monologue may be too long for some. Just fast forward to the 2:15 mark. That’s where the door starts splintering.

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‎”Fundamental rights may not be submitted to a vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.”

as succinctly put today by US District Court Judge in his opinion striking down California’s prohibition on gay marriage.

What an incredible document our Constitution is. It’s hard to believe that a cadre of elitist white men set forth such a brilliant framework for guiding the legislative branch of our government in reviewing the legality of laws enacted by the legislative branch. Disagreements about rulings flare often, but the system of judicial review is a magnificent filter and check and balance to safeguard the pillars of the Constitution.

Judge Vernon Walker’s decision to overturn California’s ban on gay marriage invalidated the results of a ballot initiative know as Prop 8. That 2008 initiative barred gay marriage and overrode the California Supreme Court’s ruling affirming the legality of gay marriage.

Then an odd turn of events emerged. Attorneys David Boies and Ted Olson teamed up to represent plaintiffs  challenging the legality of Prop 8- much to the chagrin of many who argued “the timing is wrong”, “this is our case” and the like. I can’t imagine more of an A Team than the Boies/Olson duo. They squared off as fierce adversaries in the landmark Bush v. Gore suit in which the SCOTUS ruled that George W. Bush was the winner of the 2000 presidential election. Boies- a staunch Democrat- and Olson- a staunch Republican who served as Solicitor General in the administration of former president George W. Bush, share a passionate respect for the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of our Constitution.

In his stunning ruling which overturned Prop 8 , the Judge (nominated to the the bench by former president George H.W. Bush) deconstructed the frivolous arguments of supporters of Prop 8 and set forth a carefully-worded, factual basis for his decision. His decision will set the bar for the inevitable appeal[s.] This case is ultimately going to be decided by the SCOTUS, probably within the next two years. One down.

Many Americans are currently in the midst of fighting the civil rights battle of the 21 century. The effects of legislative prohibitions on gay people having their marriage recognized by the State, denying us the ability to serve our country without telling lies, subjecting us to arbitrary loss of our jobs and housing because we’re gay,  and denying our  ability to protect committed relationships in which one partner is not a US citizen and can not marry the other in order to maintain their relationship…..well, the cumulative effect is to tell gay Americans that we’re second class citizens and send the not-so-subtle message that gays are unwelcome. It’s hardly surprising that gay teens are 4x more likely to attempt suicide than straight teens and that the rate of drug and alcohol abuse amongst gay people dwarfs that of straight people.

Second class citizenship has its costs. It’s demeaning. It’s insulting. It’s stupid– yes, I said stupid as in ignorant. And it’s deadly.

However as today’s ruling demonstrates, it’s also unconstitutional- at least for now. The Constitution is an ally of equality. I haven’t a doubt that the SCOTUS will affirm the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of behalf of full equality for gay people. That timeless conscience of our nation, the US Constitution is equality’s friend- for all oppressed peoples in America.

Dr. King famously said that “the arc of the universe of moral justice is long but it bends toward justice.”

That arc is bending as I write :-)


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