Tuesday, April 13, 2004

At Least Their Pockets Are Holier Than Thou

Anti-Gay Group Accused Of Cheating Own Lawyers
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

Posted: April 6, 2004 12:01 pm. ET

(Virginia Beach, Virginia) A law firm has asked a Virginia judge to seize the assets of the Christian Coalition to collect more than $75,000 in unpaid legal costs.

The firm of Huff, Poole and Mahoney says the coalition, one of the most vocal anti-gay organizations in the county, is seeking a garnishee of assets to pay bills that it says it is owed.

David M. Zobel, an attorney with the Virginia Beach firm, said the fees were from “a combination of several accounts owed on several files.” Zobel would not say if any of the unpaid work was dealing with gay issues.

The coalition has had an association with Huff, Poole and Mahoney since the conservative Christian organization was formed by Virginia Beach broadcaster Pat Robertson in 1989.

“It is unfortunate that it has come to this,” Drew McKissick , spokesperson for the Christian Coalition of America told the Virginian-Pilot newspaper.

“Our accountants have been working with the firm to work this out, and hopefully it will be worked out soon.”

The coalition reached the peak of its influence in 1994, when it was credited with playing a key role in the Newt Gingrich-led Republican Party’s takeover of Congress.

But three years later, its executive director, Ralph Reed, resigned. Currently he is a political consultant on the Campaign To Re-elect The President.

McKissick acknowledges the organization has had money problems. But he said things are looking up.

Since the gay marriage issue has been catapulted to national attention, McKissick said, more money has been coming in.

He said that the coalition is now emphasizing “voter identification, voter registration and voter education” in an all-out effort to support candidates that support a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

©365Gay.com® 2004

Sweet Land of Liberty

"All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression. Let us, then fellow citizens, unite with one heart and one mind."

"And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions."

Thomas Jefferson uttered these words during his first Presidential Inauguration on March 4, 1801. They are words the current President and many conservatives would do well to pay attention to. We seem to have strayed from these ideals: that minorities must possess equal rights and that the will of the majority is not always just or correct. In my opinion the so-called activist judges have done exactly what Mr. Jefferson said they must, making sure that the law protects a minority and to end oppression.

Popular opinion was against the legalization of interracial marriage even when the Supreme Court overruled any law that prohibited it in the 1960's. Popular opinion has been against same-sex marriage. It doesn't mean that the majority is right. Just because the majority isn't in favor of it, doesn't mean that right (and the Supreme Court defined marriage as a right in that landmark case) should be taken from a group. To put it in the words of William Lowndes Yancey, a Congressman of both the US Congress and Confederate Senate, "Constitutions are made solely for the protection of the minorities in government, and for the guidance of majorities."

President Jefferson also alludes to slipping the snare of religious prosecution and intolerance. Fundamentalist want to insist that this is a Christian nation built upon Judeo-Christian ethics. This piece of creative rewriting of history ignores the fact that while many of our founding fathers believed in God or a god, several of them (Jefferson included) were Deist, who believed that God set the wheels in motion and left the system to run on its own. This nation was set up in part to escape state-imposed religion, yet this is exactly what the Religious Right seeks to establish. Fundamentalists will not be satisfied until the United States is a theocratic democracy: you get to participate if you're a right-wing Christian. Christians who disagree are heretics and may not participate. The Religious Right has already done a great job of sinking its hooks into the Republican party. Christians need to wake up and realize that the Religious Right is a political movement about the establishment of power for certain individuals, not about the protection of some idealized Christian nation or even the protection of Christian rights and beliefs. The Religious Right seeks to become that "despotic, wicked" persecuting power not seen since the American Revolution or perhaps the Inquisition.

Hope does exist, however. A recent LA Times study shows an increased support for gay marriage, although not an overwhelming or even a majority numer. Slightly over half the respondants favored at least civil unions. Other values and ideas about gays also tend to be improving. A vast majority support keeping gays in the military (70%) and many feel that gays should have civil right protections similar to other minorities (62%). So, the picture is looking up, although the struggle is not over. Although some may object to my discounting the majority when it disagrees with me, but fully embracing it when its opinion is favorable, certainly that does not inherently make the majority right, but it does make this minority happy.

Monday, April 12, 2004

The Hand of Providence

According to 365gay.com, Providencetown is set to issue marriage licenses to out-of-towners without checking up on if their state forbids same-sex marriage. You may already be aware that a law passed in 1913 that forbids non-Massachusetts residents from getting married in Massachusetts if their home state does not legally allow it. The law was originally passed to restrict interracial marriage and hasn't been enforced in years. Many have been concerned that this law will be enforced come May 17 to restrict gays in DOMA states from coming to Massachusetts.

In a very surprising turn of events, officials in Providencetown said they will not check up on applicants if applicants claim that their state permits same-sex marriage. Other municipalities in the state may or may not follow this example.

I'm exceptionally happy about this news and hope it continues to stand. I have been skeptical of gay marriage becoming a reality so soon, but signs are now very positive. I thought that Mitt Romney might actually prevail in derailing the ceremonies, but he is almost out of options. Although Romney is currently trying to get a special appointee to plead to the court to delay their ruling, so he could still prevail. Hopefully it will be a long-shot, however, as this attempt is very unusual and exceptionally desperate. I have to agree with Rex Wockner who questions why Romney is so fervently anti-gay. Doth the governor protest too much?

Instead of a garter, guess what the guys wear...

A friend sent this to me and I thought it was hilarious. We all certainly need some levity while we struggle with this important issue.

Same-Sex Wedding Etiquette

A couple of things you should know before the same-sex wedding.....

1) On the day of a gay wedding, it's bad luck for the two grooms to see each other at the gym.

2) Superstition suggests that for good luck the couple should have: Something bold, something fierce, Something trashy, something dirty.

3) It's customary at gay and lesbian nuptials for the parents to have an open bar during the ceremony.

4) Gay wedding tradition dictates that both grooms refrain from eating wedding cake because it's all carbs.

5) It's considered bad luck for either of the grooms to have dated the priest.

6) During the first dance, it's considered unlucky to use glow sticks, flags, whistles or handheld lasers.

7) For good luck at the union of a drag queen, the bouquet is always thrown in the face of a hated rival drag queen.

8) A local saying from colonial Northampton: A lesbian who owns a horse will never tell a lie, But a lesbian who votes Republican will leave you for a guy.

9) The wedding singer is not allowed to play/sing Let's hear it for the boy, YMCA or I will Survive.

10) The father of the Bottom pays for everything!

To Know Me is to Love Me

I'm solidly convinced the way to get gay rights in America is to humanize ourselves. That doesn't mean "mainstream" ourselves - we should be who we are whether that is flamboyant, conservative, campy, quiet, partiers, 9 to 5ers, urban dwellers, country folk. I'm solidly against trying to Aberclone ourselves or fit into some preconceived notion of who we should be. Although I've made the point before, it was saddening to hear at a recent talk on gay marriage a student in the audience ask, "What's wrong with our community? Why do we fight and label ourselves? We call people circuit boys or ask in our personal ads for no fats or fems." We need to start accepting the diversity within our community if we are going to ask American society to accept us as a whole.

But I think the best way to fight any "isms" is to make ourself known, to let others we work and play with, let others in our families know that we are gay. If people can put a face to what they hate, it's harder to hate. Probably a gruesome analogy, in Silence of the Lambs, the senator whose daughter is kidnapped starts repeating her daughter's name "Kathryn" on a television ad. Jodie Foster's character comments on how smart that is because it makes the victim a person and not just an object. A similiar principle holds true here. If people can see that we're not freaks, or at least no more freakier than they are, then they are less likely to view us as such.

Another example comes from when I was a graduate hall director. One night I had a white freshman guy screaming racial slurs constantly and loudly in the middle of the hallway. One of the black residents on the floor, whom he knew, looked like he was on the verge of hitting the guy (and rightfully so). I pulled the white guy into a room and pointed out, "how do you think your screaming that word makes your friend feel?" His reply? "Well, he's different; he's not like the others." Okay, maybe the guy didn't quite get the point. But, he was at least beginning to see that not all black people fit into his tiny world view. His object of hate had a face that he couldn't hate or reject. As for extending his worldview, well it was nothing a good sledgehammer couldn't cure.

Being out also builds allies. They can help put a human face on what seems to be a ponderously huge metaphysical and legal entanglement. One of the smartest things I ever did was come out to my sister early on. My sister has been a wonderful supporter of me. She's never waivered in her devotion. She has actively advocated for me and gay rights. She is the inspiriation for this particular entry. A photographer, she recently did a photo project on gay marriage for one of her college classes. One particular student was being fairly aggressive and provocative and asked her, apparently spoiling for a good debate, "well, why did you choose gay marriage?" My sister simply stated, "because my brother is gay and I think he should have the right to marry just like I do." Her questioner immediately shut up with an "oh."

It's hard to argue with love.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Heather Has Two Narrow-Minded Bigots

According to Q-Notes, a North Carolina GLBT newspaper, a couple in Wilmington, NC are holding a children's book hostage because they are outraged that their daughter (age undisclosed) checked out book called "King and King" from her elementary school library. The children's book is the tale of a young prince whose mother demands he get married, and so he does, to another boy (and he doesn't settle for a "separate but equal" civil union). Publishers Weekly deems the book suitable for children age six and up. But the conservative Christian couple disagrees and is refusing to return the book until the school promises to keep it out of circulation. Although the county has a review process for books that concerned parents can utilize, Michael and Tonya Hartsell prefer to enforce their position on the entire community. One suspects the Hartsells would not give back copies of Catcher in the Rye or Huckleberry Finn either. One also wonders if they also favor banning the Bible from the same library, given its graphic depictions of violence and sexual situations.

Fortunately, the school principal is standing firm on the issue for not removing the book and demanding it's return. According to Q-Notes, Principal Elizabeth Miars stated, "What might be inappropriate for one family, in another family is a totally acceptable thing." My full range of thanks and appreciation to Ms. Miars for taking this position, particularly in such a conservative state and during such a volatile time over gay rights. (Others who wish to express their appreciation to Ms. Miars may email her at the school, Freeman Elementary at freeman@nhcs.k12.nc.us. I know I plan to do so.)

The Hartsells say they are considering removing their daughter and putting her in a Christian Academy where views contrary to their own will not be expressed. Has anyone else noticed this trend among the Religious Right? Homeschooling is very popular with Conservative Christians nowadays so they can protect their children from undesireable viewpoints and experiences. These couples want to "rear their child up in the ways of the Lord." Politicially, the Religious Right tries to institute laws that enshrine their own views into mainstream American society. Anybody who challenges laws they favor is instantly labelled as persecuting Christianity. Although nothing new, book banning and censorship seems on the rise, particularly after all the hub-bub over Ms. Jackson's nub. And family groups have labored for years to "clean up" television and movies to make them more suitable for children.

I wonder if this new strategy is a misunderstanding of Jesus' proclamation that "you do not belong to the world, but I have chose you out of the world." (John 15:19). They must have missed the other parts about "going out into the world" (Mark 15:16). I don't recall Jesus telling Christians to be isolationists. It also seems to reveal a fundamental uncertainty about Fundamentalism if these people don't think their faith and tenets are strong enough to be tested. Isn't it good to have the opportunity to teach a child why you believe a certain way or disagree with a certain viewpoint? And, furthermore, what ever happened to the responsibility that parents have to monitor and control what their children see in various media? Why have conservative Christians decided to abdicate their God-given mandate to watch over their child and hand that responsibility over to media watchdog groups and media networks? Are Fundamentalists unaware of the censorship technology of, not the V-chip, but the "off" button?

But, I digress. I'm both amused and disturbed at the hijacking of this book. Parents have every right to chose what their child reads, but not a right to mandate what other children read. Truly, it's a snapshot of the struggles going on currently in America in micro-scale.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Georgia on My Mind

I'm distressed that the state of Georgia has passed through the legislature a state constitutional amendment against gay marriage. The amendment goes to the voters in November. Georgia is already a DOMA state, so here is yet another case of trying to make gay marriage more illegal than it already is. Advocates for these amendments say it's necessary because the DOMA laws may get struck down in court cases. But isn't that what the court system is for? If the law should stand, then won't the courts uphold it?

I lived in Georgia for six great years. And while I realize Georgia is a Southern state, I'm very disappointed. I always felt that Georgia was one of the more progressive Southern states. Georgia holds the great city of Atlanta, which is heavily populated by gays and lesbians. Atlanta is the Southern mecca for queers. Miami doesn't count because Florida is just a Northern state that got lost. Still among the gay residents of Atlanta is my partner. We're carrying on a long distance relationship since I have a job in North Carolina. And although we're trying to arrange things so we are eventually in the same city at the same time, I also have family in Georgia that I visit often.

Georgia played some significant roles in the black civil rights movement, and Atlanta is the final resting place of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I would have hoped that the lessons and struggles of that movement would have sensitized the citizens of this great state to issues of discrimination. However, many in the black community support this amendment as well, due to the highly religious nature of Southern (and American) black culture.

Cynthia Tucker, a woman of color, and one of my favorite editors of the Atlanta Journal Constitution makes this same point in an article with WorkingForChange.com as she denounces black America's "knee jerk hostility towards gays." You can read Ms. Tucker's article here. I will at some point write an article parallelling and actually differentiating gay and black civil rights struggles, but I won't address that here.

I'm certainly not laying blame at the feet of black Georgians. And despite Atlanta's fairly progressive attitudes and policies towards gays, there has been plenty of discrimination for years from various quarters. Still, I never thought the Georgia legislature, seated in the center of Atlanta, would pass such a resolution.

It's painful to me to think that should my partner and I legally become husbands one day that while visiting Georgia, our rights and privledges could be stripped away. It's upsetting to think that if one of us were injured while travelling visiting my parents or just going back to Atlanta to play, we could be denied seeing each other. I can imagine worse than that even.

Even though I am in another state now, I will mobilize as much support as I can for people to vote against this hateful piece of legislation. I pray that the gay community in Georgia will rise up against this measure and soundly defeat it along with our straight allies. Then, I hope they vote every politician that supported this amendment out of office. Georgians, do what is right. Lead the way. In the 1960's, an NBC program said that Atlanta was an example to Southern cities in regards to civil rights. I hope that same sense of morality prevails in the 2000's.

Until these things are done, I'm afraid the state anthem rings truer than ever: "No peace I find / with that old sweet song / Georgia on my mind."

Sunday, April 04, 2004

King of My Heart

I understand the complexities of equating gay civil rights with black civil rights. There are some significant differences, yet also some significant parallels. Many black community leaders have balked at equating the two. Some black leaders support it, many others do not. If I thought black leaders would unilaterally support gay rights, I would happily acequesce in the debate. Given this, it's nice to hear from this prominent figure in the black community.

From the Miami Herald:

Posted on Wed, Mar. 24, 2004

MLK's Widow Supports Gay Marriage

Associated Press

POMONA, N.J. - The widow of Martin Luther King Jr. called gay marriage a civil rights issue, denouncing a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban it.

Constitutional amendments should be used to expand freedom, not restrict it, Coretta Scott King said Tuesday.

"Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union," she said. "A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages."

Last month, President Bush said he backed an amendment that would ban same-sex unions, calling marriage "the most fundamental institution of civilization."

On Monday, more than two dozen black pastors rallied against gay marriage at a church in Atlanta, attempting to distance the civil rights struggle from the gay rights movement. They signed a declaration outlining their beliefs that marriage should remain a union between a man and a woman.

"To equate a lifestyle choice to racism demeans the work of the entire civil rights movement," the statement said. "People are free in our nation to pursue relationships as they choose. To redefine marriage, however, to suit the preference of those choosing alternative lifestyles is wrong."

King, the widow of the slain civil rights leader, made her comments Tuesday during a speech at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.