Monday, February 24, 2014

Unfinished Business

Chelsea Clinton was wise when she said that LGBT rights are the unfinished business of the 21st Century. Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr. said “fighting for gay and lesbian rights is one of “the defining civil rights challenges of our times.”  LGBT rights are what civil rights for blacks were over fifty years ago.

Rapidly Growing Majority Steamrolling

While over 50% of the U.S. approves of same-sex marriage, this majority approval is not states’ voting,  Pew Surveys show that more Democrats than Republicans vote for gay marriage as do adults under 35, as opposed to those over 60.

Windsor’s Case Used as Template in States’ Equality Campaigns

Since the Supreme Court of the United States struck down The Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as between a man and a woman last June, confusion has reigned. Lower court judges now cite Justice Kennedy’s basis for striking down bans on same-sex marriage.  The states that don’t have legalized marriage want the benefits that gay couples are receiving in the states where same-sex marriage is legal.

In the latter states, those benefits are supposed to be equal to heterosexual benefits regarding taxation (Edie Windsor made sure of that! }, military benefits, and  many more! Only seventeen states and the District of Columbia allow legal marriages, not counting the recent decisions, all stayed, from Oklahoma, Utah, and Virginia. There are 29 states, mostly in the South and Midwest that have constitutional bans on same-sex marriages. Talk about unfinished business!

Pandora’s Box

This has caused fury in those states,. The unwed gay couples want the same benefits as legally wed gay couples. Anthony M. Kennedy’s majority opinion in U.S. v. Windsor  extolls the central role of states in defining marriage . It would have been so much easier if the U.S. Supreme Court had extended benefits to all the states.  State by state, lawsuits have ensued all over the U.S. with equality lawyers such as the one that Edie Windsor employed or if you’re lucky, the famous team of David Boies and Ted Olsen who argued away Proposition 8 in California.

Chaos erupts because the laws change. I spoke to a lesbian couple whose marriage was recorded in The New York Times.  They married in Utah when it was legal, only to find there is now a stay on gay marriage in that state.  In Indiana, a conservative state controlled by Republicans, lawmakers pushed forward a constitutional amendment; in the end, the measure was changed, removing language some supporters considered essential.  This will probably result in delaying a statewide vote on marriage for at least two years. A federal judge in Kentucky last week ruled that his state must recognize same-sex marriage from other states.  

Gay couples have sued to overturn Colorado’s same-sex ban in state court.  Oregon has turned against its own marriage ban. Pennsylvania clerks were warned not to marry gay couples  In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Corbett’s administration have urged a state judge ban on gay marriage by throwing out a lawsuit brought by more than twenty-four couples to challenge its constitutionality. Bruce Hanes, an elected country clerk in Pa. , disobeyed the state law when he decided to grant 174 licenses between the time when Windsor won her case last June and the state court’s order in September.  Virginia overturned the state ban as an infringement of states’ rights and vowed to take the issue to the Supreme Court.

A Solution in the Supreme Court

Maybe it would be simpler if the U.S. Supreme Court issued a uniform decree for all the states. What do you think?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Take Care of Those In Your Heart

February is National Heart Month. Most  magazine articles and health columns stress the physical aspects of a healthy heart: the alarming statistics of heart attacks in the U.S., heart attack signs and how you can prevent them with a Mediterranean diet rich in plant-based foods.  Many have self-quizzes designed to snare you into reading the pieces.

But seldom is written in February about the domino effect that stress and conflict have on the heart. - the overpowering feelings that make your heart race, leaving you feeling dizzy.  While olive oil and eggplant may be good for your heart, they don’t do a whole lot for your emotional state.

Angst Is An =Opportunity Abuser

Straight parents who constantly worry about their LGBT’s children’s futures that they have little control over or what their church parishioners will say when they find out their children are gay are in a constant state of turmoil, whipping up a tempest of anxieties, setting their hearts off -kilter.  Fear takes hold.

Their children, in turn, worry, maybe even feel guilty, because they think they have caused the imbalance in their Mother and Father.  The worry and fear in the parents begat the same feelings in the children and so the insidious cycle continues within the family. Your child becomes the victim, taking in the most collateral damage.  They share in the indigestion of the material.

While many GLBT children expect their parents to be surprised at news of their sexual orientation, what the child does not expect is rejection.  The Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State has done studies on the effects of parental rejection and has found that LGBT children who are not accepted unconditionally are at greater risk for drug abuse, promiscuity, truancy, homelessness, and even suicide. They are dragged into those unhealthy places.

Tea And Sympathy

Gay or straight, your child is still your child.  If you are broadsided by his sexual orientation, it may be helpful to talk to other parents of gays, find a PFLAG (Parents for Lesbian and Gays), a gay-friendly therapist so your heart and mind will be more at ease with one another.

This month, as well as the other eleven, have a heart.   Whatever you’re experiencing that is unsettling, imagine what your child is confronting! 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

What Do Punxsutawney Phil, GLBT Kids & Their Straight Parents Have in Common?

Today is February 2nd, Groundhog Day.  People gathered this morning at Gobbler’s Knob, a wooded knoll just outside of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, 65 miles NorthEast of Pittsburgh.  Like the ancient Greeks, the audience is looking to a sorcerer to predict an important event. 

This sorcerer has been predicting early spring or a long winter since 1887.  Seldom has he been right – 39% of the time, but the crowd loves him and he has been immortalized in the film “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray.  You see the Punxsutawney Phil is the smallest weather forecaster (also the furriest) – he’s a groundhog.

This morning, Phil saw his own shadow – an omen that we are in for six more weeks of a winter that has already been frigid.  Why am I writing about this?  It may seem off-topic until you realize the importance of shadows, psychological ones, that is, that follow people.

The Importance of Shadows, From Fables to Real Life

A gay friend of mine once referred to his sexual orientation as a shadow – something he couldn’t shake, because it was part of him. As the song “Me and My Shadow” says,
            Me and my Shadow
            We’re closer than smog when it clings to L.A.
             We’re closer than Bobby is (was now) to J.F.K.
             Not a soul can bust this team in two
             We stick together like glue...

My friend tried to bury his shadow with denial, only to have it surface again like the groundhog periodically. 

Eventually, he became proud of his shadow, and like Peter Pan’s Tinkerbell, who for a while was a dim light, became bright because people clapped and believed in him. (Peter Pan’s shadow was so important to him that Wendy Darling reattaches it to Peter when he, trying to escape, loses his shadow).

Parental Reactions to Shadows

Not only are GLBT persons cognizant of their shadows, but so are their straight parents. Some Mothers and Dads are haunted by the dark of a shadow, ubiqutous, yet regarded as an uninvited threat to their homes. Still, others regard their child’s orientation as simply there, somewhat invisible to them, sort of like the Prophet Elijah at Passover; you symbolically set a place for him at the Seder, knowing he won’t show up, but you believe he’s at the table anyway. And then there are those who see the shadow as such an integral part of their child’s sexual orientation that it’s bright and burnished in their hearts as well as their minds. 

The parents may have struggled to get to that place or they, from the onset, may have accepted the child’s inseparable shadow as they would their child. It’s a similar journey, though for their child, perhaps, a longer one.