Monday, June 29, 2015

Same-Sex Marriage is a Constitutional Right

In 2013, The Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act (defining marriage as between a man and a woman), requiring federal agencies to recognize same-sex marriage performed in states where it is legal.  Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote that decision in 2013 as well as last Friday, struck down restrictions in thirteen states that didn’t allow gay marriage.

Kennedy’s rationale was “the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, couples of the same sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty… There is dignity in the bond between two men or two women who seek to marry and in their autonomy to make such profound choices.”

The Constitution Evolves

“…without recognition, stability, and predictability that marriage offers,
 writes Kennedy, “ the children of these couples suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somewhat lesser.”

“The constitution’s power and endurance rest in the Constitution’s ability to evolve along with the nation’s consciousness,” states Kennedy. In a spring Wall St. Journal/NBC News poll, 77% of Americans said they personally know or work with someone who is gay or lesbian, up from 62% in 2004.

Those Who Dissented

With Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayer in accordance with Kennedy,  and Justices Thomas, Roberts, Jr., Alito, Jr. and Antonin Scaila dissenting, the high court’s 5-4 ruling reflected the country’s shift in public attitudes toward gays and lesbians.

Unlike Kennedy, religious groups do not interpret the constitution as a living, evolving document, but as the Framers originally intended it.  More conservative and religious justices and a number of religious groups are annoyed at Kennedy for failing to mention The First Amendment’s “free exercise” clause.  Religious rites aren’t limited to preaching and teaching , but also entail an individual’s and organization’s “free exercise” of faith, a wide swath of activities that run from sacred ceremonies to performing charitable works and running business according to religious principles.

Evangelicals, who make up about 25% of the country’s population, pledged to fight the legal implications of Friday’s rulings. Kennedy, however, states in his majority opinion, that “it must be emphasized that religions and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.”

The Future of Same-Sex Marriage
No doubt, the Conservatives will keep fighting.  In the interim, gay couples, some who have been together for over thirty years, will feel respect and dignity. As one of the plaintiffs Jim Obergefell who was denied signature on a death certificate of his ailing spouse, testified, after the ruling was announced, “ I started to feel a lot more like a full equal American at that moment.”  

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Pope, The Gay & The Church

Pope Francis has said "gay people should not be marginalized but integrated into society. “ July 29, 2013

On gay priests, His Holiness remarked “Who am I to judge?” If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”  July 29, 2013

Vatican spokesman Father Frederico Lombardi told CBS News that the Pope was “for sure” not just referring to gay priests, but to all gays.

For sure, I’m skeptical about what I thought was a young papacy and his emphasis on a church that is more inclusive and merciful rather than critical and disciplinary.

Just this week, one day after thousands marched in Rome’s LGBT Pride Parade, the Pope made claims that heterosexual marriage is the best option for child-rearing.” Saying that heterosexual marriage is essential for “healthy parenting,” Pope Francis contends that marriage between a man and a woman makes for happier couples.

“Children mature seeing their father and mother happy. Their identity matures being confronted with the love their father and mother have confronted with this difference.”     - June 14, 2015, during his General audience

If you are heterosexual in a heavily Catholic country such as Italy, these words don’t sting.  But for LGBT Catholics, the pope’s comments hurt and are hardly symptomatic of a world-wide religion that is supposed to be embracing. Same-sex marriage as well as adoption by gay parents are verboten in Italy’s Catholic Church but civil partnerships for same-sex couples are being considered by Italian lawmakers.

Goes Against the Grain of Scientific Studies

Two days ago, perhaps too late, to influence the Supreme Court’s decision on nation-wide same-sex marriage, University of Oregon Sociology Professor Ryan Light commented that “the consensus is overwhelming in terms of there being no difference in children who are raised by same-sex or heterosexual parents. “

He goes on to say that this consensus had formed by 2000 and took into effect the psychological behavior or educational outcomes of children in both same-sex and heterosexual marriages.

Light and his co-author Jimi Adams of University of Colorado, Denver, came to these conclusions after scrutinizing new research that looked at 19,000 studies and articles related to same-sex parenting from 1977 to 2013.

The American Public Speaks

In a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll,  1,000 adults, between June 14 and June 18, were surveyed about the prospect of the Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.  The poll found that 57% were in favor of the Court finding a right of same-sex couples to marry, while 37% were opposed in America.

The Pope will come to Philadelphia soon during his U.S. tour and is expected to meet with LGBT activists.  Perhaps, he can evolve on gay marriage as Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton did.

One can hope.  Right now, with all due respect, on matters of equality for the LGBT population, he is not infallible.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Father's Day In Particular To Gay Dads

Happy Father's Day, especially to Gay Dads for they have undergone crucibles of complicated laws, great expenses, and societal prejudices in their quest just to become gay parents. Heterosexual parents, on the other hand, can willy-nilly have children.

Increasing Acceptance

Despite the rigors of surrogacy and adoption for same-sex couples, according to the Williams Institute, a sexual orientation policy think tank at the University of Ca., Los Angeles, as of 2009, an estimated 20,000 same-sex couples are raising nearly 30,000 adopted kids.  In 2015, I’m certain the numbers would be greater.

A more recent poll from Gallup, May 2014, found 63% of respondents believed same-sex couples should have legal rights to adopt a child.  A new study by Pew Research Center suggests that attitudes toward non-traditional families are shifting in some ways. Its nationally representative survey of 2,691 people found that Americans are more accepting of families led by gay and lesbian parents, although many still do not approve of single mothers. In other words, it’s better for children to be raised by two parents, gay or straight.

In my home state of Florida, Republic Governor Rick Scott recently signed HB 7013, an adoption bill that offers financial incentives for qualifying couples.  This bill strikes down the 1977 ban on adoptions by gay parents.

Even television and print reflects these accepting attitudes of the public.  Starting last year, there are commercials featuring gay couples in Dove, Coca-Cola, JC Penney, Cheerios, as well as Honey Grahams and more recently Chobani yogurt that dished up controversy as it showed two lesbians, one eating yogurt, in bed. Hallmark has  sentimental cards for same-sex couples and a Tiffany’s print ad shows a good-looking engaged gay couple.

The people portrayed are your neighbors, co-workers, relatives, reflective of society’s “blended” families.  Yet not everyone is excited by the emerging trend.

Hoping to Backlash

Funded by conservative groups, many churches and family organizations try to convince the public that same-sex marriage and its subsequent adoptions are sinful and not normal.  One such researcher, Mark Regnerus, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, argued before the Supreme Court, that same-sex marriage should not be allowed, based on his 2012 study with flawed methodology. See my blogs on the topic:"Are-Straight-Kids-Hurting-With-Same-Sex Parents?"/ and"Mark-Regnerus,-Again"/"Mark-Regnerus,-Again"/

Regnerus’s so-called study surveyed more than 15,000 Americans between the ages of 18 and 39.  As researchers at the Williams Institute told Live Science, a more fair comparison would’ve been of children of the same-sex couples who were raised in similar homes, with no divorces, separations or foster care.

Despite the attempt at backlashing, you have only to look at the pictures of gay fatherhood to know that it right.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

It's Men's Health Month & Week

June 15-21, 2015 is Men’s Health Week this year.  What does that mean? It encourages early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys.  Through the media, it gives awareness to health problems that are preventable.

Health Issues Affect The Whole Family

Young men, still in high school, have many of the same health issues as others within the same family such as smoking and drinking.  Did you know that 90% of smokers began before the age of 19 and that more than 95% of them will become daily smokers. Teen smokers are more likely to have panic attacks, anxiety disorders and depression.

We all know that underage drinking is a major health problem.  Yet did you realize that young men (and women), ages 12 to 20 drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States?  Even worse, more than 90% of this alcohol is consumed by binge drinkers!  The 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that among high school students, during the past thirty days, 35% drank alcohol. Fact Sheets-Underage Drinking-Sheets-underage-drinking.html.

LGBTQ Risk Factors Higher Than Heterosexual Population

Youth who identify as LGBTQ or report same-gender sexual contact are more apt to participate in a variety of sexual health risk behaviors.  From aYouth Risk Behavior Surveillance data, 2001 to 2009, gathered from eight U.S,. sites, researchers discovered that students who identified as lesbian or gay were more likely (median 67%) than students who identified as heterosexuals (median 44%) to ever have engaged in sexual intercourse. The Q or questioning were least likely (median 43%).

Sexually active high school students are more likely to use condoms if they are heterosexual  (66%) than among those who identify as gay or lesbian (median 36%, bisexual (median 54%) or unsure (median 53%).  In the United States alone, 62% of high school seniors have had sex.

Parents, you need to talk to your children about safe sex, if you haven’t already.

Another protection for your sexually active teen is the HPV Vaccine. Available since 2006, it is recommended for preteen boys and girls at age 11 or 12.  However, it’s not too late as a teen to receive the three spaced shots.  HPV infections can cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers in females and penile and anal cancer in men. It is estimated that one in four are affected or 14 million people per year.

Emotional well-being is part of mental health.  Students who identify as LGBT are more likely than heterosexual students to report high levels of drug use, feelings of depression, and suicide attempts.  A national study of students in grades 7-12 found that GLB youth were more than twice as likely than their heterosexual peers to have attempted suicide and were more likely to have completed suicide.  Six in ten felt unsafe at school due to harassment and bullying.

Because of the disproportionate rate of health problems among  the LGBTQ population, parents need to address these concerns not just this week, but always.  The family doctor can help as well as the supportive links above.  Whether it’s physical or mental health or a blend of the two, your child’s health affects the whole family and in many of the cases, the health problems are preventable.

Monday, June 15, 2015

"June Is Busting Out All Over"

Marriage, roses, graduations, and once again, Pride events and Parades in major U.S. cities, they all signal June.  However, unlike the first three harbingers of summer,  not all GLBT persons and their straight parents want to march or spectate at Gay Pride Parades, an annual event (

One Straight Parent Grouses

A mother I interviewed in Pennsylvania who defends her son’s same-sex marriage that was announced in the New York Times told me “ I have no shame about my son being gay and married. But honestly, I think these Gay Pride Parades hurt LGBT equality. You know, the nearly nude showing off their bodies….”

To the naked eye that isn’t used to gawking at men in leather thongs, rainbow-colored Mohawks, lesbians called “dykes on bikes,” riding on motorcycles, gay clowns, the Pride Parade resembles The Christopher Street Halloween Parade in New York City. Granted it shows off the most flamboyant and far-out of the LGBT population.

But as I found out after marching in June 2011 in the Manhattan Gay Pride Parade, after New York passed same-sex marriage on June 24, 2011, and Governor Cuomo was regarded as a hero to the LGBT community, that it was exhilarating! The Parade comes in all sizes: “the so-called “twinks,”(young, slender, no body hair),  the “bears,” (large, usually, heavy, very masculine), the LGBT persons in drag, but also the lawyers marching alongside the beauticians, the celebrities, the out-of-towners,  the parents of PFLAG (Parents of Lesbians and Gays) and other straight allies waving their own banners.  A year later, in 2012, if you can believe it, 300 Mormons, all straight church members would march in support of their gay brethren, at the Gay Pride Parade in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Other Ways You Can Be A Straight Ally

If Gay Pride Parades aren’t for you or your shy LGBT child, there are other ways you can support the LGBT community. There are plenty of resources listed at Resources.  You can choose among workplace, healthcare, faith, trans, and PFLAG categories.  The bonus is you can advocate all year long, not just in June!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Legacy of Bullying

It pained me to watch Jane Clementi talk on June 7th about her life since the death of her gay suicidal son.  “I’m not even near healed,” stated Jane Clementi, New Jersey resident, and mother of  Tyler Clementi, who in 2010 jumped off the George Washington Bridge. As Jane, sitting besides her husband Joseph on CBS Morning, told interviewer Erin Moriarity, “the journey has been as if I’ve been in a fog, a really, really deep fog. It only started lifting last year.”

Tyler confided in his mother that he was gay before he went off to Rutgers University as a Freshman in 2010(his older brother is gay and is active in the Tyler Clementi Foundation now).  His mother expressed fear for Tyler.  She thought “the talk” went well; Tyler didn’t.  However, this was not the only motive for his suicide.

A Master violinist, Tyler had arranged a rendezvous with a man he contacted on the Internet.  Tyler’s roommate Dharun Ravi recorded the meeting and with a friend and live-streamed the intimate encounter.  Tyler became the laughing stock of his college.  Humiliated, ashamed, he killed himself.  Ravi was sentenced to 30 days in jail for invasion of privacy, among other offenses, but was released after 20 days. The case is being appealed.

“My Life Was Shattered Into A Million Pieces”

After his suicide, Tyler’s parents’ life seemed like a sentence. Heartbroken, they formed in 2010, the Tyler Clementi Foundation whose mission is described as promoting “safe and inclusive spaces for LGBT and vulnerable youth and families.”

Now five years later, the Clementis are trying to stop bullying in its tracks before it escalates.  The rationale is the same as it was earlier this year when Jane Clementi commented on the suicide of a young female student who identified as transgender, named Leelah Acorn who took her own life (Leelah’s parents wanted her to partake of “conversion therapy.)  For this reason, “we, as a culture,” commented Tyler’s mother after transgender daughter Leelah Acorn, committed suicide (after her family tried to enroll her in “conversion therapy,)  “must teach the lesson each day that all life has value and purpose, especially the lives of all, young people, regardless of who they are – “that’s an irrevocable value. The only way to make a difference in this world- is to truly change hearts and minds is through celebrating and accepting every life. Nobody knows better than my family that ending life can’t create change”.

After Tyler took his life, the Clementi’s mission has been to ensure that no family endures the pain that Tyler and Leelah endured and that we are sure that the Alcorns are experiencing.  It’s only by building a world where every life is sacred that we move forward.”

Rolling Out Day 1

This week, the initiative Day 1 , introduced on CBS Morning on June 7th to the public, will serve to get authorities in workplaces, schools, universities, and athletic programs to immediately demand tolerance for everyone regardless of sexual orientation, appearance, dress or religion. During orientation in schools, universities, workplaces, athletic programs and other group environments, the audience will have to give a verbal confirmation that they understand the consequences. Day 1 states that some forms of “socially acceptable teasing or cruelty are unaccepted.”

Says Sean Kosofsky, Executive Director, The Clementi Foundation, there will be consequences for” treating people differently for who they love, how they dress or what their body looks like.”  Senators Corey Booker and Patty Murray as well as the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD have all supported Day 1.

Rather than being just a bystander, Day 1 is encouraging the public to be so-called “upstanders,” who actively intervene in or report bullying or harassment when they witness it.

It is estimated that 3.2 million students identify as a victims of bullying each year.  Day 1 is trying to make sure that no victim is ever tormented like Tyler.  

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Fun House Is Anything But...

Last week, I went to see the poignant musical “Fun Home,” based on cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir subtitled “A Family Tragicomic..” ( the book and lyrics are written by playwright Lisa Kron).    As a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama,  “Fun Home” is the “first mainstream musical about a young lesbian.”

Author of comic strip, “Dykes to Watch Out For,”  Alison  takes family secrets head-on while she comments throughout the play as an observer at different stages in her life in small-town rural Pennsylvania. Alison comments on her dysfunctional upbringing with captions, drawings that her father disapproves of, and songs in this moving story.

Becdel, now 55, is raised by a long-suffering  distant Mother who gave up her career in acting  in New York City for a provincial life that feels suffocating, and an unhappy father who teaches English and restores homes while running an inherited funeral home.  Constantly angry, Alison’s father, “flies off the handle” when his daughter, wise-behind-her-years, doesn’t comply with his notions of how a girl should dress and act:  Asking Alison if she wants to be the only girl not wearing a dress to a birthday party, he humors her into changing out of her ubiquitous jeans and T-Shirt.

Later, Alison sings that when she saw a delivery woman, a “butch” with lots of keys, she thought she was “handsome,” and identified with her.   At Oberlin College, Alison is reluctant to go into the College’s Gay Union. But after the urging of her later girlfriend “Joan,” whom she has her first gay sexual experience with and finds rapture as evidenced in the amusing song “I want to Major in Joan.”

Finally finding a name for the way she has felt all these years, Alison writes home that she is a lesbian.  Alison wants her Mother and Father to acknowledge her sexual orientation that she’s proud of, but they never acknowledge it. Trying to make sense of a brooding family, Alison goes home to find her mother tipsy and her father alienating.  Turns out he, for years, has been plying underage boys with liquor to have sex with them and has been arrested by the police.  A closeted gay, Alison’s father commits suicide after Alison has revealed her sexual identity.

Her father is in denial and to discuss the gender queer existence he shares with his daughter would force him to admit he’s gay.  The Elephant in the Room is Alison’s father’s non-authentic life that wrecks havoc on his entire family.

The Bechdel family doesn’t work, not because the father is gay, but because he is an unhappy closeted gay who wanted his daughter to succumb to society’s perception of male and female roles as he tried unsuccessfully to do. In the audience were some who were crying.  One wonders if they experienced the same upbringing as Alison’s and like she, knew better.