Friday, November 30, 2012

“There’s No Place Like Home For The Holidays.” Or Is There?


Home for the Holidays.  Ah!  Tried-and-true traditions you can count on: church on Christmas eve, Mom’s turkey with giblet gravy, Aunt Elsie’s mulled cider, and Dad’s rants about gay marriage.

Some Tips for a Smoother, More Peaceful Holiday

                        Don’t

·      To keep the peace in your parents’ house, don’t push your agenda on your relatives. While you may want to educate them about your gay lifestyle and how you feel more honest and open being “out,” to your friends, the time to elaborate on your wellbeing is not now.

·      If your parents have had a hard time accepting you for who you are, don’t expect things to be magically different during the holidays.

·      You don’t want to lend more stress to the ubiquitous holiday quest for perfection: this time of year has built-in unrealistic expectations about creating a storybook holiday with the perfect meal, the perfect home, perfectly decorated, and perfect gifts to complement the receivers.

·      Don’t introduce your significant other to the family at this time. Wait until “holiday craziness” is over and the family is more relaxed. Then, maybe your parents can focus on welcoming your boyfriend/girlfriend and getting to know them better.

·      However, if your partner is with you in your parents’ home, and your parents put you in your old bedroom with twin beds, don’t grouse about it. Remember it’s their house! For a few days, you can put up with the sleeping quarters. Sleeping in a “matrimonial bed” may be too “in-your-face” for your folks and may dredge up feelings of disappointment that you’re not heterosexual.

Do

·      Have an escape plan.  If parents make homosexual jokes, don’t get into a fight. Pick your battles. You should be treated with respect, however. For example, you could say to the offender: “ I don’t appreciate that, and quietly excuse yourself for awhile. Don’t compromise your own beliefs, but don’t demand that your family share all your beliefs. By leaving the scene, they can’t continue to harass you.

·      Do have an ally such as an open-minded relative, whom you may prepare before your visit so there’s no arguing about politics, sex, religion during the holiday. Or perhaps a childhood friend who is supportive of you. Check in with your accepting internet buddies while you’re home. 

·      Remember that these are your parents’ and with time, will come to accept your orientation. You’re the same person you’ve always been and whom they’ve loved all along. 

·       Keep in mind that the visit with the family won’t last forever. Try to enjoy yourself. It will soon be over and you will be on your way to your own home.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I Am Grateful for More Than The Norman Rockwell Scene


“With Heart, And Hands, And Voices... Whose Wondrous Things Have Done...”

In two days, I will preside over my great grandfather’s dining table laden with pumpkins, gravy-stained linen, and all those good carbs as I share it with my children and my husband’s siblings (well, two out of three). We will bless the food, thank God for our good health, and good company.
But ever since last year, and especially with this past Election Day, I’ve been grateful for advances in equal rights for GLBT people.

Some Highlights:

For the first time, gay marriage won at the polls by a popular vote in the states of Maine, Washington State, (Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos helped raise 11 million dollars) and Maryland. Sixteen polls show a majority of Americans support the freedom to marry. Public opinion has definitely shifted. Previously, dating back to 1998, same-sex marriage has been rejected in all thirty-two states that have held popular votes.

President Obama “evolved” and endorsed same-sex marriage. Cynics believe he did this as a political move to get more votes while others thought he was preempted by Vice-President Biden’s nod to gay marriage. Whatever the reason, the President’s endorsement represented a historic shift and a milestone. The seeds of this shift were planted in 2011.

DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act stating that marriage is strictly between a man and woman for federal and inter-state recognition purposes in the United States), while still on the books, can not be defended in the courts, according to Obama in 2011. Also, in 2011, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed, allowing gays and lesbians in the military to serve openly.

This year, Edie Windsor (v. U.S.) of New York City was awarded a tax refund after winning her DOMA case in Court of Appeals. Windsor is the surviving same-sex spouse whose inheritance from the deceased spouse was subject to federal taxation. Because the state did not recognize their marriage, Windsor was taxed, but the Court of Appeals found the taxation discriminatory and unconstitutional. Several cases in other states are being challenged on discriminatory grounds as well.

Starting in the New Year, California has outlawed reparative or conversion therapy for minors. Reparation therapy claims to change people from gay to straight. Governor Brown of California says it has no scientific basis and calls it “quackery.”

Gay, Lesbian, and Transgenders Won Seats in Congress and House:  Just to name a few, Tammy Baldwin (Democrat – Wisconsin) became the first openly Lesbian Senator.  New Hampshire voted transgender Stacie Laughton a State Representative Seat.  California’s Mark Tokano, a Japanese-American is the first gay minority to win in Congress.

Out of the 180 candidates endorsed by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, 118 won, including first gay state legislators in North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Florida.  In Colorado and Oregon, gay legislators became State House Speakers.

Sean Patrick Maloney, the first openly gay congressman, won a seat from the 18th Congressional District (Westchester and Putnam Counties in New York). Kyrsten Sinema, the first openly bisexual in the House,  (Democrat – Arizona) won the United States House Seat. 

Attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies, who were adversaries in Bush v. Gore, are now working together in California  as co-counsel for AFER (American Foundation for Equal Rights). They will continue to work together to argue their cases that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional and that DOMA should be struck down.

Miles to Go

While there is still much to be done with tolerance, inclusion, and equal rights for GLBT people, we’ve “come a long way, baby,” and for this I’m very grateful.   

Friday, November 9, 2012

Slouching Towards Universal Gay Marriage



Prior to Election night 2012, gay marriage had been defeated every time it has been on a ballot in the U.S. In Maine, voters in 2009 overturned a law passed by the state legislature that permitted it. Thirty-two states followed suit and voted it down. The six states that allowed gay marriage were decided by lawmakers or courts. But in this election, Maine, Maryland, and Washington State decided by popular vote to legalize same-sex marriage and Minnesota defeated the ban on same-sex marriage.

“You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby”

What has changed since 2009 is American support of gay marriage. In 2009, only 37% of Americans were in favor of gay marriage. In July 2012, support in the U.S. reached 48% in July, according to the nonpartisan Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. A poll by the Wall Street Journal/NBC News in March found 49% favored gay marriage, and 40% opposed it.

Like the President, Many ‘Evolved'

Our nation reelected a President who endorsed marriage equality, repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and refused to defend the “Defense of Marriage Act.” He also endorsed LGBT students’ rights and LFBT-inclusive bullying-prevention legislation. Led by example, many voters reexamined their consciences.

Polls turned around after the President’s announcement in May that he now favored same-sex marriage. Fifty-nine percent of Latino voters backed marriage equality, ahead of the 48% of the general public. A Public Policy Polling survey after Obama’s change-of-heart found a 10-percent jump in support, especially among African-Americans.

Other Contributing Factors Influencing Marriage Equality and LGBT Rights

New York City Michael Bloomberg and businesses like Starbuck’s advocated for LGBT rights. Studies of gay and lesbian parents show that their parenting skills are just as effective as those of the heterosexuals:  “The Kids Are Alright.” “Modern Family” each week brings a gay married couple into the living rooms of Americans and illustrates that they are a normal family. More people are identifying as openly gay, including this year’s wins for House and Senate, making history.

What will Happen in the Future?

The Catholic Church, NOM (National Organization for Marriage) are not going away with their “tail between their legs.” Nor will Frank Schubert, the mastermind who launched many anti--gay marriage campaigns, quit.

Is Gay Marriage Headed to The Supreme Court? 

How much political clout do gays and lesbians have? The Supreme Court has to decide this. Is Tuesday’s election proof that they have plenty of power or are they politically powerless groups that are discriminated against and consequently deserve greater examination from the court?

Some of the lower courts in New York and Massachusetts have already found the 1996 federal DOMA law unconstitutional. So, does this mean that the current cases considered are of a disadvantaged group that qualifies for more rigorous protection?

Will gay marriage, now allowed in nine states, continue to be settled, state-by-state or will the Supreme Court create a national standard, eliminating the Defense of Marriage Act in all the states? With Tuesday’s gains, will more people be adversely affected by DOMA?

Marriage is Marriage

One question which the American public needs to address is how are homosexual marriages harming heterosexual marriages? How do you define marriage? Isn’t any marriage about compatibility, loyalty, accountability,  commitment, and love, universally? Whether same-sex or opposite sex, that should be marriage’s definition.