Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Two January Speeches by Heads of State Couldn’t be More Different

Pope Benedict XVI Vs. President Barack Obama

The Pope Has Not Evolved
In his global message for World Day of Peace, on January 1, 2013, His Holiness condemned same-sex marriage “ a serious harm to justice and peace.” The pope delineated his views that the cause of preserving the institution of marriage should be supported by everyone concerned about the family whether or not they are Christian, and that “it is a union only between a man and woman even though some attempt to make it juridically equivalent to “radically different types of union.” 

If gays and lesbians are allowed to wed, it will do harm and help to destabilize marriage which will in turn ”obscure marriage’s specific nature and its indispensable role in society," according to Pope Benedict’s conviction. “They are principles inscribed in human nature itself, accessible to reason and thus common to all humanity. “

Bolstered by Roman Catholic leaders in Britain, the Pope also gave public warnings to heads of state (directed especially to David Cameron without naming him) that plans for same-sex marriage will undermine the family. His message warned that coalition’s reforms will reduce the status of marriage and harm the families that are built around it.

As expected, LGBT activists the follow Sunday during the Pope’s weekly prayers gathered near St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City to protest comments the Pontiff made about gay marriage during his New Year’s Message. 

Earlier in the year, Benedict called same-sex marriage a threat to “human dignity and the future of humanity itself” and that a weakened appreciation for “traditional marriage” has led to “grave social problems bearing an immense human and economic cost.”

Obama’s Second Inaugural Address:  A New Year
In contrast to the Pope’s declarations, Obama, in his Inaugural Address, declared that ‘our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.” For a President who nine months ago, stated he did not believe in same-sex marriage, “he’s come a long way, baby.”

The above remarks indicate that Obama believes we haven’t gone far enough to support LGBT rights in this country. How best the nation should address “the little girl born into the bleakest poverty, the parents of a child with disability, the gay men and women seeking to marry, voters facing hurdles because of their race and immigrants seeking a toehold in a land of opportunity.”

As he began his second term, President Obama made two references to gay rights, even invoking The Stonewall Riots of 1969 in Greenwich Village regarded as the birth of the gay rights movement. He chose the first Latino gay man as his Inaugural Poet and had Luis Leon, gay-friendly Priest of St. John’s, execute the Inaugural Benediction.  The Inaugural Address was inclusive and well received by the LGBT community.

The Similarities
The President and the Pontiff are both world leaders, peace messengers.  They are simpatico with their distaste for unbridled capitalism and the inequality between the rich and the poor, but the similarities end, unfortunately, there.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Stranger’s Death Impacts My Life

Jeanne Manford and I are Connected

There are people in your life, past, present, and future who have a major impact on the way you turn out. Maybe it was your fourth grade teacher, like Mrs. Campbell, who had a kind word for you even when you couldn’t get the hang of long division, but who every afternoon would pat you on the back for encouragement.
Or, your grandmother, who was an executive way before most women were working. and taught you that you could do anything you set your mind to. Or maybe a brilliant employer, who would be willing to impart knowledge, gleaned from his years working in the same business, to you, a trainee. These people you knew well, saw them almost daily, and they affected you and shaped you into what you would become.
Last week, someone who had an impact on my life died. She was 92.  Her name was Jeanne Manford. Did I know her? Not directly. But I cried nevertheless when she died.  It turns out that  I knew her work because I partook of its advantages. But it wasn’t until I read her obituary that I understood the connection.

Pioneering Gay Rights Ally

Jeanne’s pioneering work began in 1972 when she, a Bronx schoolteacher, chose to stickup for her son who had been beaten because he was gay. From her irate letter to the New York Post publicizing the beating of her son in 1972 to her march with her son in the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade two months later, Jeanne and her husband started a grassroots organization  Parents of Gays” or POG.
At first, in Manhattan, only twenty desperate-for-answers parents attended a meeting headed by Jeanne and her husband Jules in 1973. The interest mushroomed and her tentacles reached television, newspaper, and radio interviews. By the early 1980’s, the group formally established itself as a national organization fighting for equality for LGBT people. The name was changed to PFLAG  or Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

PFLAG Takes Off

PFLAG’s mission of support, education, and advocacy is felt in its 350 chapters and over 200,000 members in the United States alone. Because of this pioneer, the mother of the straight ally movement, overwhelmed straight parents can find advice from parents who’ve “been there,” LGBTQ teens can find allies so they don’t feel so alone, and parents in numbers can brainstorm how they can change existing conditions so equality is met for their children.

What People- In- the- Know Acknowledge

President Barack Obama in a 2009 speech, called Jeanne’s work “the story of America... of ordinary citizens organizing, agitating educating for change, of hope stronger than hate, of love more powerful than any insult or injury. Jody Huckaby, Executive Director of PFLAG National, said that “all of us- people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight allies alike – owe Jeanne our gratitude. We are all beneficiaries of her courage.”

What I’ve Experienced

Last night at a PFLAG meeting in my town, we all said we were indebted to this courageous woman. Without Jeanne Manford’s foresight, we would not have been at a meeting discussing Gay Pride events, the play “Next Fall” about a romance between two gay guys or a fundraiser  for the Spring.  

Monday, January 7, 2013

2012 in Sound bites

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

First, The Bad and The Ugly
2012 had some horrific moments:  October’s Superstorm Sandy devastated, with biblical proportions, the Eastern Seaboard, from New York to Ohio. In December, a lone gunman annihilated elementary school children in Newtown, Connecticut. This followed the July “Batman” killings by another single “disturbed” shooter in a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado.
Despite these catastrophic events of 2012, there were bright moments, particularly with the election in November. Several inroads were made with the advancement of LGBT rights.

The Good
The highlights were:
·      President Obama announced his support for marriage equality during an interview last May with ABC News.
·      Voters at the ballot box decided to usher in gay marriage in the states of Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington.   
·      Businesses such as Starbucks, Amazon, General Mills, Google, and Levi  backed LGBT rights while Chick-Fil-A defended Defense of Marriage Act.
·      Sixteen national polls found that a majority of Americans are now in favor of equality.
·      California became the first state to ban reparative or gay conversion therapy ( trying to make patients straight) for minors .
·      The documentary “Bully” had its movie rating changed to PG-13 so that teens could see it.
·      Edie Windsor, a married lesbian in New York City, was billed $363,000 for federal estate taxes owed on her deceased partner’s estate. ( She was not considered legally married to her late wife, Thea Spyer. )
·      Many LGBT supporters cut a wide swath to Congress, with six in the House and one in the Senate – the highest number ever in the 113th Congress. Some wins: Tammy Baldwin from Wisconsin became the first out Senator, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema  became the first bisexual member of Congress, Rep. Mark Pocan, who happens to be gay, took Baldwin’s House seat, Rep. Mark Takano from California was the first openly LGBT person of color to serve in Congress,  Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado became the first openly gay LGBT parent in Congress, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney became New York State’s first gay congressman and Rhode Island  Rep. David Cicilline, who is gay, and serves on the Foreign Affairs and Small Business committees, was re-elected.

The Future
2013 proves to be an exciting year already.  The Supreme Court will be reviewing in late March some DOMA cases including Edie Windsor’s and the future of Proposition 8 in California.