“First They Came For Us…”

This past Tuesday, the California Supreme Court instituted mob rule. In their 6-1 ruling to uphold Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage, they set a dangerous precedent. It is unclear that the people of America yet understand how dangerous it is.

What the ruling does, in effect, is surrender the rights of the minority to the mob. They think they’ve only put gays and lesbians in their place. But what they have actually done is enable any minority’s rights to be taken away by the majority. Theoretically, the majority of voters in California can decide, at any time, to deprive the members of any minority of their rights.

Which of our rights are expendable, according to majority opinion? Which of their own rights would they regard as expendable? Will they draw the line (at least for others) at all — and if so, where? First they came for us. For whom will they come next?

There’s an old parable that goes something like this: “First they came for the Jews. Nobody else protested, because they weren’t Jews. Then they came for those with dark skin, and others said nothing because their skin was white. Next they came for those who spoke foreign languages, and no one objected because they spoke the native tongue. Then finally they came for me, and there was no one left to protect me because they had all been taken away.”

Many people know this parable. Very few ever seem to learn from it.

Is there a way to take away the rights of anyone without taking them away from everyone?

Californians intend to find out. And as we all know, they are the nation’s trendsetters. Let’s all watch very closely to see how this turns out.

Marriage Opponents’ “Social Science” Argument Fails

Over at Religion Dispatches, I make the argument in a recent blog that the arguments from “social science” that marriage equality opponents make is just as spurious as the arguments they make based on religion. Opponents argue that the “social sciences” prove that children are better off in homes with their biological mom and dad. Never mind that about half of the children in this country don’t enjoy such a home (with divorce rates at nearly 50 percent).

A study from Canada, conducted in 2007 by Canada’s Department of Justice (so it’s not some left or right research group), after marriage equality was granted to gay and lesbian couples there shoots that theory right out of the water. It showed that gay and lesbian parents are just as good, if not a bit better, at raising well-adjusted, socially competent children:

“Research has consistently shown little difference in children’s social competence, parental socialization, and family functioning between families of heterosexual parents and families of gay or lesbian parents,” the paper says. “The few differences that do emerge consistently suggest that (1) gay and lesbian couples tend to have a more egalitarian and satisfying balance of child-care tasks than heterosexual couples, (2) gay and lesbian parents may be marginally more effective socialization agents than heterosexual parents, and children with gay or lesbian parents may be more concerned with or even experience more discrimination due to their parents’ sexual orientation, although this does not appear to interfere with their social competence. From the perspective of risk and protective factors, the marginally, more effective socialization practices of gay and lesbian parents might act to protect their children from the adverse effects that could otherwise result from concern about or experience of teasing, bullying and discrimination because of the sexual orientation of their parent(s). Additionally, the marginally more positive home environment that likely results from lesbian and gay parents’ greater support of each other’s childcare activities might provide a marginally more supportive context for children’s development of feelings of security and self-worth.”

It’s important to understand that this study has found that same-gender couples are more attentive to their parenting – especially because of the hardships that they know their children will face at the hands of those who may disapprove of their parents’ sexual orientation:

“Perhaps anticipating that their children may be at risk of social disadvantage due to discrimination, gay and lesbian parents may put extra effort into meeting the needs of their children and providing them with strong social and emotional resources. Thus, the expected deleterious effects of economic stress on the quality of parental socialization may be ameliorated to some extent by the added childcare motivation present in many homes with gay or lesbian parents.”

Gay and lesbian parents know they face challenges and they know their kids will face challenges as well, so they are highly motivated to help their children cope with the hatred and fear the world will use to try and cripple them. Heterosexual parents, on the other hand, are more likely to take their kids for granted and not pay that much attention to equipping their children to cope with challenges – and may be more inclined to teach their children to react in fear and hatred to any child that may seem “other” in some way.

The next time someone makes an argument from “social science” about how kids are better off with heterosexual parents – you’re prepared. Canada has had marriage equality for some time now, and they’re discovering that children excel in a home run by two men or two women.

Both Sides Lie to and About LGBT Community

Focus on the Family always wants to raise money – and it’s favorite patsy for its fundraising emails is the LGBT community. I’m sure they had a fundraising letter all ready to go out yesterday just in case the Supreme Court in California had struck down Prop 8. I’m sure the email was filled with lies – with hair-on-fire, sky-is-falling rantings about how marriage equality will bring about Armageddon, hair loss and weight gain.

Instead, as we know, the California Supremes upheld Prop 8, so they had to go with fundraising letter, plan B. This one is meant to scare the money out of wallets by screaming about how President Obama is going to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act just any day now. When that happens – all hell breaks loose:

  • Some states—even those with pro-marriage constitutional amendments – will be taken to court by same-sex couples seeking recognition. Those states will face a more difficult legal situation if DOMA is repealed.
  • Your federal taxes will begin paying for benefits for same-sex partners of federal
    employees who identify themselves as homosexual, and President Obama is likely to order Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs to begin immediately issuing benefits to same-sex “spouses” throughout the nation. As a result, nearly insolvent programs will be further weakened by deficit spending.

Oh, gracious, those horrible queers might get legal benefits, just like other human beings. The horror!

To prove this, FotF produces a paragraph from Obama’s campaign site pledging to repeal DOMA:

“I support the complete repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act — a position I have held since before arriving in the U.S. Senate. While some say we should repeal only part of the law, I believe we should get rid of that statute altogether. Federal law should not discriminate in any way against gay and lesbian couples, which is precisely what DOMA does.”

They even trot out as proof a link to the current White House Web site where they say we’ll again find Obama’s support for repealing DOMA.

It’s really too bad that it’s not true. The link they provide will indeed take you to the White House’s Web site where it talks about “civil rights” issues. There you’ll find Obama’s pledge to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and voices his support for “full civil unions and federal rights for LGBT couples” and his opposition to “a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.” What’s missing? There’s no mention at all about repealing DOMA. None.

According to Lorri L. Jean, the Chief Executive Officer of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, in an open letter to Pres. Obama, it used to be there (FotF’s footnote says the reference was there on April 2, 2009), but no more:

Your commitment to repeal DOMA has been removed from the White House website. Your promise to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” was removed and then replaced with a watered-down version.

That won’t stop the con-men at FotF from lying to its constituents about what Pres. Obama intends to do about marriage equality. They’ll continue to raise money off our community’s backs and continue to bear false witness against us. That’s really no surprise.

What is a surprise is how the White House has treated the LGBT community. After coming on strong and declaring himself a “fierce advocate” for LGBT rights, Pres. Obama has not just walked away from our community, he has run as fast and as far away from us as possible. We’re no longer on the guest list. He’s just not that into us anymore and won’t return our repeated phone calls and texts. The LGBT community will soon be branded as Obama’s stalker – a spurned lover who can’t seem to take no for an answer.

Certainly, our community is no stranger to this kind of wining, dining, and ditching. We’ve been here before (remember how Bill Clinton broke our hearts) – but this time, we truly had hope that Obama would not abandon us when the heat was on. But, he too, has proven to be a campaign trail friend – saying what it took to get into office and leaving us out in the cold when it mattered.

So, the lies go on – from places we expect, like FotF – and places we had hoped would be different this time.

In the end, I do not despair. Instead, it is time for our community to pick ourselves up yet again, dust ourselves off, and continue our march toward freedom. No one, not FotF or even Pres. Obama, will prevent us from winning our full civil rights. Their lies make the task more challenging – more daunting – but we shall overcome – someday.

Keep the faith.

CA Prop 8 Ruling – Some Comments

More Light Presbyterians:

It is incredulous that legal, equal and civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and their families were not protected by either the Court or the electorate in a state within a country that is committed to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for all of its citizens.

As people of faith and Christians committed to justice, equality and ending discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in both Church and society, while we lament the failure of the state court to maintain marriage equality in California, we are absolutely committed to continue our work for justice. Through PEP, the Presbyterian Equality Project, we will continue to work for marriage equality in civil society as we work for marriage equality within the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Marriage is an equal right, not a heterosexual privilege. We are grateful that a growing number of Christians and citizens are recognizing that love is not restricted by gender and that God’s gift of love is bestowed upon same gender loving couples in addition to opposite gender couples. Everyone has the right to be part of a family.

with hope and grace,
Michael Adee

Integrity reaction:

LOS ANGELES–Integrity joins with those around the nation who express profound disappointment in the California Supreme Court’s abdication of its responsibility to offer equal protection to all California citizens in today’s decision regarding Proposition 8.

“This morning we saw justice both denied and delayed,” said Integrity President Susan Russell. “Today’s ruling by the California Supreme Court does not just affect the lives of same-sex couples hoping to live happily ever after with the love of their life; it sets a terrible precedent that a simple majority of voters can relegate millions of citizens to second class status. Until ‘liberty and justice for all’ really means ‘all’ we are not yet the nation we are called to be and today was a sad step backward on that arc of history that generations of equality leaders have told us bends toward justice.”

Russell continued, “It is a decision that is not only antithetical to the core American values of liberty and justice for all, it flies in the face of the core Christian commitment to love our neighbors as ourselves. It is a decision that grieves the heart of God, violates core values of both our faith and our founding fathers, and puts the State of California on the wrong side of history on the issue of marriage equality. It is a decision that should not and will not stand.”

“As the mother of a son in uniform,” said Russell, “I find it deeply ironic that our Supreme Court would issue an opinion allowing discrimination to be written into our statutes the day after a national holiday dedicated to the memory of the brave men and women who have given their lives to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic–to preserve for their fellow citizens the American dream of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

“Integrity will work, pray, and advocate for the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments within the Episcopal Church and work with our California Faith for Equality allies toward marriage equality in California as we continue our 35-year history of giving voice to the LGBT faithful within the Episcopal Church and from the church to the world.”

Soulforce reaction:

“My husband and I were married on Zuma Beach in Malibu on June 17, 2008, with our three children and a dozen close friends by our side. We cried our way through our vows, and sang James Taylor’s ‘You’ve Got A Friend’ with everyone who came to love and support us,” said Jeff Lutes, Soulforce Executive Director. “We are heartbroken for all those couples in California, and around the country, who have been denied the fundamental right to marry the person they love. But today’s ruling does absolutely nothing to weaken our resolve. We are more determined than ever – we will win full civil equality under the law for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people – make no mistake about it. We must continue to expose and resist the direct link between religious dogma and the attack on our human rights.”

Freedom to Marry reacts:

“The California Supreme Court today failed to uphold the core principle of American constitutional government that a simple majority may not selectively vote away a fundamental right from a minority targeted for invidious, suspect reasons,” said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry and author of Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality and Gay People’s Right to Marry. “It is now going to be up to the people of California to undo Prop 8’s discriminatory misstep through a ballot-measure in 2012 or sooner. The Prop 8 campaign is over; the campaign to restore the freedom to marry and remove this blemish on the constitution and cruel hardship on California’s gay couples and their families is now underway.”

HRC reacts:

The California Supreme Court ruling brings bitter news: Proposition 8 will stand.

We will work relentlessly, organizing communities of faith and other allies across the state, until Prop. 8 is repealed. It will take major resources to win — but the momentum of history is on our side.

While we take some solace that the loving couples who did marry in California will stay married, an estimated one million more individuals have been denied that dignity and right.
We are heartbroken. But we won’t back down.

And posts a video:

CA Supremes Do the Supreme Wimp Out

As many New England states and Iowa (for pete’s sake) move to approve marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples, the state that has been the trendsetter for equality has taken a giant step back as the state Supreme Court upheld the discriminatory Prop 8 outlawing marriage equality:

California’s highest court upheld a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages Tuesday but allowed about 18,000 unions performed before the ban to remain valid.

Supporters of the November ballot initiative Proposition 8 hailed the ruling, but about 1,000 advocates of same-sex marriages who gathered outside the court building in San Francisco met the 6-1 decision with chants of “Shame on you.”

“It’s nice that my marriage is still intact, but that’s not the point,” said Kathleen White, who married her partner in 2008. “The point is that everybody should have the same civil rights across the board.”

The protests – and arrests – are beginning around the country, including San Francisco. Join the Impact is asking those around the country to hold their own peaceful rallies to protest the ruling – and can provide free resources.

What this decision does is point up the inherent danger in California’s ballot initiative law. Basically, it means that any group can get enough signatures, tell enough lies about their opposition and impose their will on the rest of the population – and courts cannot overrule them. The South would have loved to have ballot initiatives when the Supreme Court was forcing integration and the suspension of Jim Crow laws. California Justice Ronald George had even acknowledged at one point that the ballot system could repeal free speech if they had enough votes. So, instead of living out the courts original ruling that Prop 22 – which outlawed marriage equality – was unconstitutional – it backed off, split the baby and pleased exactly no one and did justice for exactly no one. A point not missed by a dissenting justice:

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Carlos Moreno wrote that the measure “violates the essence of the equal protection clause of the California Constitution and fundamentally alters its scope and meaning.”

“The majority’s holding is not just a defeat for same-sex couples, but for any minority group that seeks the protection of the equal protection clause of the California Constitution,” wrote Moreno, the court’s only Democratic appointee.

The courts are supposed to help protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority. The California Supremes have not just failed gay and lesbian Americans, but have betrayed one of America’s greatest values at the same time.

The Big Razzle-Dazzle

This whole week of news has been dominated by Dick Cheney’s roving dog-and-pony show. Frantically trying to keep himself from being prosecuted for the very crimes for which we indicted the Nazis after World War II, he’s filling the atmosphere with razzle-dazzle. Our former Vice-President would have us believe that if the prison camps at Gitmo and Guantanamo are closed, terrorists will be our new next-door neighbors. President Obama (the “secret Muslim” of far-fringe fantasy) will have ’em teaching all the little kiddies in Sunday school.

When the Berlin Wall fell and communism bit the dust as a worldwide menace, the far Right cast about for a new enemy. Not coincidentally, all at once they thrust gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans into this role. Now we share the spotlight with the terrorists in the horror-show of evils extremist conservatives claim will destroy the earth unless we keep them in power. In fact, some of their more shameless minions even try to equate us with terrorists.

Mr. Cheney once spoke in at least tepid support of LGBT rights — his own daughter being one of us. We don’t hear much about that anymore. Now the GOP needs all the enemies it can round up. And if they have their way, there couldn’t be enough prison camps in which to keep us.

The answer of the Nazis, to every dreamed-up threat, was to stick all those they proclaimed dangerous into prison camps. How many parallels do the Americans of today need to see before they recognize where the real threat lies?

The current, tired Right-Wing crusade against “homosexuality” is only their latest attempt to distract the American people from the genuine immorality with which we need to be concerned. Let’s make sure that this razzle-dazzle campaign meets the fate it deserves and fizzles away.

All But Marriage in Washington State

Washington state Governor Chris Gregoire has signed a law expanding rights to gay and lesbian domestic partners.

Surrounded by about 300 people — most of them gay and lesbian couples and their children — Gov. Chris Gregoire on Monday signed legislation giving registered same-sex domestic partners all the rights and benefits that Washington now offers married couples.

The legislation expands on previous domestic-partnership laws by adding such partnerships to all remaining areas of state law that now address only married couples.

The measure also extends coverage to unmarried heterosexual couples when one person is at least 62.

As of Monday, there were 5,395 registered domestic partners, representing every county in the state.

The anti-equality folks are already working to gather enough signatures for a referendum to repeal the measure.

They will then have about 60 days — until July 25 — to collect 120,577 signatures. If they are successful, the law would be suspended until voters decide the referendum.

Several gay-rights advocacy groups, through a campaign called Decline 2 Sign, are seeking to raise money to turn back the challenge.

It’s amazing to me that anti-gay groups will spend tons of time and money – and force us to spend tons of time and money – to make sure we can’t visit our loved one in the hospital or get their social security or secure our property together or gain any of the other rights of marriage. Jesus, who had a lot to say about divorce, but nothing to say about gays and lesbians , would rather see these people spending their time clothing the naked and feeding the poor – but that’s boring work. It’s way more fun to make other human beings suffer for your bigotry than it is to improve the lives of others and celebrate love wherever we can find it.

Marriage Equality Good for Business

Republican party chairman Michael Steele has said that allowing marriage equality for gays and lesbians will be an expensive proposition for businesses.

“Now all of a sudden I’ve got someone who wasn’t a spouse before, that I had no responsibility for, who is now getting claimed as a spouse that I now have financial responsibility for,” Steele told Republicans at the state convention in traditionally conservative Georgia. “So how do I pay for that? Who pays for that? You just cost me money.”

Republicans like Steele are never ones to let the facts get in the way of a good story. Two new studies have shown that marriage equality in Massachusetts has been a boon to business:

A new survey of married same-sex couples shows that the typical gay or lesbian couple spent $7,400 on their weddings in Massachusetts, with one in ten couples spending more than $20,000. The study’s analysis of state data on hotel occupancy tax payments confirms the boost from out-of-state guests at these weddings.

“Florists, caterers, hotels, bakers, restaurants, and many other businesses have gotten a share of the $111 million spent on the 12,000-plus weddings of same-sex couples,” notes economist M. V. Lee Badgett, a study co-author and director of the Center for Public Policy & Administration at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “Allowing gay couples to marry won’t end the recession, but their spending still helps in tough times for businesses.”

In addition, marriage equality has helped Massachusetts attract younger, highly educated people to the state – which in turn, helps the state’s economy overall:

“Data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey show that same-sex couples in the ‘creative class’ were 2.5 times more likely to move to Massachusetts after 2004 than before,” notes Gary J. Gates, Williams Distinguished Scholar at UCLA’s Williams Institute and the author of one study. “The timing of this movement to Massachusetts suggests that those couples were flocking to the first state to allow them to marry.”

Marriage equality is not just the right thing to do because it increases fairness for a group facing discrimination – but it improves the economies of states where it has been approved. It’s really a win-win – unless you’re Michael Steele, who has once again been defeated by just the facts.

First, Do No Harm

With the election of President Barack Obama, many of us believed that our allies had taken charge. During his campaign, the President gave every indication he would reverse the cynical, demonizing course of our military on gay issues. Then came the inaugural invocation by homophobic preacher Rick Warren. Then the inaction on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Now, on President Obama’s watch, gay and lesbian servicepeople are being kicked out of the military simply for being gay.

President Obama can blame it on nobody else now. It is still happening — and he is doing nothing. We are being told that he must move slowly — that he can’t accomplish every wonderful thing we want him to do at once. That much is fair enough.

But at the very least, we had a right to expect he would do no more harm.

President Obama is the head of the United States government. And the United States government, under his leadership, is doing us harm.

He said he would sign the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Now we must rise up, with one, strong voice, and demand that he stand and speak out immediately on this issue. Every day that good people are dismissed from our armed forces for stupid reasons, the lives of all who fight for this country are unnecessarily placed at greater risk.

We have brothers and sisters over there. We have children and grandchildren over there. This is not only about us. Even to the extent that it is about us, it is also — in a larger sense — about justice. How can we stand for justice, freedom and truth around the world when our own country betrays justice, freedom and truth in its treatment of its own citizens?

This policy does not serve Christian morality, as its advocates claim. It doesn’t even serve human decency or common sense.

President Obama has a right to ask us to be patient. But we have every right to ask him to do us no more harm.