Author of Adam and Steve, a novel about reexamining your prejudices

Posts tagged ‘Marriage equality’

Governor Christy – the majority is NOT always right

Governor of New Jersey at a town hall in Hills...

Image courtesy of: http://bit.ly/11aCWSW

Governor Christy, the moderate Republican governor of New Jersey, has made his position on marriage equality abundantly clear. He is against it. Nonetheless, he is willing to accept same-sex marriage if a majority of the people of New Jersey, by referendum, tell him to. The granting of basic civil and human rights to a minority should never be left to the will of the majority.  These rights, including the right to marry someone of one’s choosing, are not the majority’s to “give”. It is the epitome of arrogance for the Governor to think otherwise, even if he is willing to go along with the majority on the issue.

Governor Christy has now compounded his error. On Wednesday’s Ask the Governor radio show on NJ 101.5 FM, the Governor condemned the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision voiding a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act. He said the decision was not only “bad”, but “just another example of judicial supremacy rather than … the government [being] run by the people we actually vote for,” and “incredibly insulting to those … members of Congress who voted for the Defense of Marriage Act.”

Governor Christy’s words are astounding in light of this country’s history. Majorities have abridged and, in some instances, obliterated minority rights. Surely, he needs no reminder:

  • of the Jim Crow laws, enacted by the majority, that relegated African-Americans to second-class citizens and assured that the White majority would never suffer African-American proximity in restaurants, movies, hotels, schools and bathrooms to mention only a few legislated locations;
  • of the miscegenation laws, enacted by the majority, that banned inter-racial marriage in many states so that the blood of the White majority would not be diluted;
  • of the sexist laws that gave control over females’ bodies to the male legislative majority who enacted those laws;
  • of the homophobic laws, like the Defense of Marriage Act,  enacted by the majority, that withheld rights and benefits because the sexual orientation of the affected individuals was different from that of the majority, and that

the Supreme Court of the United States protected the rights of the minority in all of these cases.

Governor Christy should be applauded for providing moderation at a time when moderation is critically important to the viability of our two-party system of government. However, the Governor is running for reelection and harbors Presidential aspirations, both of which may account for Wednesday’s blatant appeal to the Conservative faction of his party. His position on marriage equality, his re-election campaign and his political aspirations aside, the Governor’s denouncement of the Supreme Court’s role in insuring minority rights is foolish in light of the majority’s history of malevolence. Whether by referendum or by legislative enactment, the majority cannot be the ultimate arbiter of minority rights. Sadly, that reality should be apparent to all Americans, including Governor Christy.

See, http://www.advocate.com/politics/marriage-equality/2013/06/27/chris-christie-denounces-doma-ruling, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/new-jersey-gov-chris-christie-rips-supreme-court-doma-decision-article-1.1384015 and http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/06/christie_gay_marriage.html

Same-sex marriage is here to stay

English: The United States Supreme Court, the ...

The United States Supreme Court, the highest court in the United States, in 2010. Top row (left to right): Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer, Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito, and Associate Justice Elena Kagan. Bottom row (left to right): Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, and Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today and tomorrow the Supreme Court will hear arguments as to whether the government has a legal basis for denying gays and lesbians both the right to marry and the benefits of marriage.  If precedent governs the Court’s decision, the Justices will search for harm caused by same-sex marriage. Unfortunately, for those diehard marriage equality haters, there simply is none. Even the lawyers who argued the case in California admitted as much.

If there is no provable harm, then the Court will be faced with a different, more perplexing question. Can the Supreme Court uphold same-sex marriage bans and the Federal government’s discrimination against same-sex couples if a majority of the nine Justices believe same-sex marriage is morally reprehensible or homosexuality is just plain yucky? Our country is a country of laws. As such, the Justices’ religious beliefs or personal distaste should never be an adequate reason for denying civil rights. At least one Justice, Antonin Scalia, however, might disagree. He vociferously opposes same-sex marriage, and has telegraphed his moral outrage from the bench. When dissenting against the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down anti-sodomy laws, the Justice was fearful that allowing sodomy would inexorably lead to allowing same-sex marriage and would obliterate any distinction “between heterosexual and homosexual unions”. (Sodomy isn’t even the distinction the Justice believes it to be, since sodomy is practiced willingly by many heterosexual couples.) See, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/24/opinion/sunday/bruni-marriage-and-the-supremes.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

Justice Scalia is now in the minority in America. A monumental shift has occurred in just a few years.  In an ABC News/Washington Post survey, respondents favored same-sex marriage by a margin of 58% to 36%, almost an exact reversal from the respondents in a similar poll conducted seven years ago. Over 81% of young adults now support same-sex marriage.  Http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/03/18/gay-marriage-support-hits-new-high-in-post-abc-poll/ Our President is a staunch supporter when just a year ago he was not. The Republican Party, the standard-bearer of anti-gay rights, has done an about-face in only a matter of months.

If the politicians wish to remain in office, then they will support same-sex marriage, making the Court’s decision somewhat irrelevant. If the Court decides that the Defense of Marriage Act is constitutional, Congress can repeal it. If the Court decides a state’s ban on same-sex marriage is constitutional, the state legislature can repeal it and replace it with a marriage equality law. Same-sex marriage is here to stay, because Americans have finally stood for what is right and fair and will cause their politicians to do the same even if the Supreme Court chooses not to.

The Loving precedent

Mildred and Richard Loving

Mildred and Richard Loving (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was 1958. They were from Small Point, Virginia, young, pregnant and so much in love that they travelled to the District of Columbia to marry. As husband and wife they returned home to Small Point to raise their family.

This sounds like a happy ending for a typical American couple.  The couple, however, was not typical and this wasn’t the ending, but the beginning of a nightmare. The couple, Mildred and Richard Loving, were awakened one night to a home invasion orchestrated by their local police. They were arrested and charged under Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924, making it illegal for the Lovings, a white man and African-American/Native American woman, to be married.

Virginia’s punishment for this felonious crime of inter-racial marrying was “confinement in the penitentiary for not less than one nor more than five years.” A grand jury issued an indictment, the Lovings pled guilty, and they were sentenced to jail. The judge, however, suspended the sentence on the condition that the Lovings leave Virginia. In his opinion, the judge explained the legitimacy of Virginia’s racist laws.

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

Rather than live outside their home state of Virginia, the Lovings ultimately took their case to the Supreme Court.  Finding that “marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man’, fundamental to our very existence and survival,” the Court ruled all mixed-racial marriage bans were void as a violation of both the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause of the Federal Constitution (388 US 1 (1967)).

 The Loving case will be used in arguments before the Supreme Court scheduled to occur this March to overturn same-sex marriage bans.  Thanks to the Lovings, marriage and the right to choose one’s marital partner are now basic civil rights in America.

Today, same-sex couples cannot marry in Virginia and their lawful marriages outside Virginia are not recognized in Virginia. Virginia’s once-upon-a-time blatant racial intolerance will be used to help end the nation’s gay intolerance.  It’s funny how your worst behavior can come back to bite you.

Commitment – does it curb promiscuity?

I know you’ve heard the old stereotype that gays are promiscuous? It’s been around for a long time, and it’s been used to justify the denial of basic human and civil rights.  In fact, I was just reading a blog written by the son of a gay man. Because of his experiences being raised by his father, he wondered if gays should be permitted to raise children.  As he tells it, his upbringing was one of serial abuse – a horror show of his father’s numerous lovers and overt sexual activity in which he was made a party.  It must have been traumatic growing up under those circumstances to say the least. But, I wondered why he thought a significant portion of gay fathers abused their children – such a significant portion as to warrant forbidding gays from parenthood.

The abusive behavior this young man experienced is not confined to gay men. Heterosexual men have been known to abuse their children too. Children suffer from the sexual behavior of their parents not because of their parents’ sexual orientation, but rather because their parents can be sexual predators or their behavior can range from criminally abusive to immature idiocy. Gay fathers come in all types, just as their counterparts in the heterosexual community. Stupidity is an equal opportunity trait affecting both the gay and heterosexual communities. There are good and bad parents, caring and uncaring parents, smart and stupid parents. Sexual orientation is not the deciding factor.

Nevertheless, there are many out there that might still argue the existence of a greater percentage of overt promiscuity in the gay community than in the heterosexual community. I don’t know the percentages. What I do know is that our society has provided no incentive to the gay community to build committed relationships, because it has for so long denied the community the right to marry. Marriage, the commitment made between two people to each other and to their resultant family, strikes me as society’s attempt to, among other things, curb promiscuity. If not at the heart of the commitment, it’s pretty damn central to it. If you believe the stereotype, then you should support same-sex marriage for no other reason then the marital commitment is in the best interest of the children. How can you say, “no”?

Image Courtesy of: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-07/gay-marriage-gets-supreme-court-review-for-the-first-time.html

I’m from Washington, so why should I care?

A few days ago, someone said to me: “Finally, I live in a state where same-sex marriage is legal. So, I’m just not that concerned about the issue any longer.” For a moment, I was stumped for the proper response. “So long as one couple is discriminated against, then all couples are discriminated against,” appeared to be the obvious rejoinder. Though true, it misses the mark. The speaker had always cared deeply about the issue, and deserved better than a facile response. A little more thought made me realize that the statement stemmed from a misunderstanding of our Federal government’s role in the marriage equality debate.

In 1996, Congress enacted the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  That act permits the Federal government to not recognize legal same-sex marriages performed in any state of our union. The Feds non-recognition of same-sex marriage results in same-sex married couples being denied over 1,100 Federal rights and benefits which flow to opposite-sex married couples.  Those rights and benefits include, for example, the right oppostite-sex couples have to:  transfer property between spouses tax-free; receive Social Security spousal benefits; and not suffer the sale of their home upon the death of one of the spouses.  In short, a same-sex couple legally married in, for example, Washington does not enjoy the same Federal rights and benefits as enjoyed by an opposite-sex couple married in Washington.  That’s the rub.

The legitimacy of DOMA – whether same-sex couples will continue to be discriminated against for Federal purposes – is now before the Supreme Court. Hopefully, the Court will end this discrimination, since there appears to be no legally sufficient reason to continue treating one lawful marriage differently from another lawful marriage. Congress may wish it to be so, but its prejudices do not rise to a legally sufficient reason for imposing those prejudices on the states.

Image Courtesy of: http://yilb.com/defense-of-marriage-act-deemed-unconstitutional-by-new-york-federal-court/

Defend Marriage From DOMA

“Slavery, sir, it’s done,” were the words President Lincoln, in the recently released movie Lincoln, says to the envoy from the Confederate States. So can it be said for the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA, as it is called.   Marriage inequality, my follow Americans, it’s done.

The Supreme Court is to decide this term whether DOMA is Constitutional or not.  Hopefully, the Supremes will see what is readily apparent to civil rights advocates.  DOMA, Congress’ shameful and degrading slap on the gay and lesbian community, is unconstitutional and should be rended null and unenforceable. Here’s what it’s about.

DOMA was federally enacted in 1996 and signed into law by Bill Clinton, one of our more liberal Presidents. It has only three invidious sections. Section 1 defines marriage for Federal purposes as exclusively between a man and a woman.  Coupled with Section 3 which permits the Federal government to disregard same-sex marriages for Federal purposes, same-sex couples are denied over 1,100 federal rights that benefit heterosexual couples, including:

  • joint parenting rights;
  • joint adoption rights;
  • status as next-of-kin for hospital visits and medical decisions;
  • wrongful death benefits for a surviving spouse;
  • tax-free transfer of property between spouses;
  • spousal rights to Social Security benefits;
  • exemption from “due on sale” clauses in home mortgages when one spouse dies; and
  • rights to funeral and bereavement leave,

just to name a few.   One of the less obvious, but more odious effects of the law is as follows: If a married couple is, for example, comprised of two men, one of the men will never be permitted to be the father of their child, because the child will already have a father.

The second provision of DOMA authorizes each state to ignore same-sex marriages performed legally in another jurisdiction. Here’s were the Congressional slap becomes apparent. Article IV, Section 1 of our Federal Constitution – a provision which helped create a federal union from our many States – requires that each State recognize and respect the laws and acts of every other State. That’s why, Virginia, for example, is required to recognize a Connecticut driver’s license or a heterosexual marriage legally performed in Connecticut.  Because of DOMA, however, Virginia is not required to recognize a same-sex marriage legally performed in Connecticut, and, as of today, it does not.

If marriage needs defending, then all marriages need defending. When one marriage is under attack, then all marriages are under attack. What the feds took from the gay and lesbian community, they can take from the heterosexual community.  Indeed, today marriage needs defending. It needs defending from Congress, and the Supreme Court is poised to do just that.

 

President Bill Clinton signing DOMA into law. Image curtesy of: http://kirkcameron.com/2012/10/defense-of-marriage-act-is-declared-unconstitutional/

Someone Close to me Must be Gay.

This is a caption I know this is going to sound like a sermon,  so I beg your foregiveness first.  But I am so tired of people assuming that someone close to me, like my son or daughter, must be gay, just because I’ve written a novel about marriage equality.  Why make that assumption? Do we really need to experience first hand or damn near close to first hand, the pain of inequality and intolerance, before we can understand the harm they cause, much less before we affirmately speak out?

The pain of inequality and intolerance cross all human boundaries.  Many groups and individuals have felt that pain at different times and under different circumstances.  We shouldn’t need to be close to someone in the targeted group to understand and be compassionate. Intolerance is just plain wrong, and nobody should be made to suffer its pain. As Americans, we should know this viscerally.

But even if the appearance of our better self is only triggered by the pain of knowing someone well who is suffering, then rest assured each of us knows such a person.  It might be our daughter, mother, wife or sister experiencing sexual harrassment or unequal treatment; our African-American, Muslim or Jewish friend or family member experiencing the hatred caused by prejudice; or our grandparent or great uncle or aunt manueving the uncharted waters of age discrimination at a time in their lives when they may be least able to handle the pain. In fact, if you think about it, you, personally, may have felt the sting of intolerance at the office or in your home.  Are you too heavy, too blond, too “gay”?  Simply, people hate for many reasons, and we are not ammune from them all.

Inequality and mistreatment are general concepts. They follow naturally from prejudice and intolerance.  It’s unnecessary to experience first hand the suffering they cause, because intolerance of someone else is truly “but for the grace of God go I”.  It’s just right to care about intolerance and the mistreatment of others.  Do what’s right.  Don’t wait for the pain of intolerance to hit home, because it’s hitting someone’s home, if not yours.

Marriage Equality – A Human Rights Issue

We don’t really need the Supreme Court to tell us that basic human and civil rights are our inheritance as citizens of the United States of America. Do we?  Hasn’t the legality of marriage equality and the illegality of the Defense of Marriage Act already been decided in this country a multitude of times in different contexts?  Why must we go this route again and again to make our basic human rights and our Constitutional promises a reality to ever-widening groups of Americans?

The battle was literally fought, through guns and war, at the very inception of this nation when we banded together against the Goliath Great Britain for our freedom, and created our country founded on inalienable rights. Then we fought again, Americans against Americans, in our horrendous Civil War.  The outcome of that war expanded the group benefitting from those inalienable rights and our Constitutional freedoms.

Many times groups of Americans have come before our courts to ask to be recognized as having our Constitutionally mandated inalienable and basic rights. The courts have extended these rights and freedoms to woman and to African-Americans, to name two such groups. These decisions should have been foregone conclusions based on the promise of our Constitution and the many, many Americans who have died fighting for our freedoms.  Even if they were not foregone conclusions, at least we now have a body of law to serve as precedent for gay, lebian and transgender equality.

So what is the difference between the gay, lesbian and transgender quest for equality and the other hard fought and won quests that came before?  Nothing.  Like all before, arguments were made that God was against the particular equality being sought. I don’t know about you, but I have a really hard time getting into God’s head, and a harder time carrying out God’s vast plan to supposedly keep certain of God’s creation inferior under man’s law. Besides, we are a nation founded on the separation of church and state. What your God may find repulsive, mine may not, and those difference are not legal theories upon which our courts can or should base their decisions.

Image courtesy of http://bit.ly/xvQ2nC

Image courtesy of http://bit.ly/xvQ2nC

Injustice to a few is injustice to all. I know it has been said many times before, but it bears mentioning again. We must stand together, as Americans of all stripes, to assure that the very foundations of our Constitutional freedoms are available to all Americans, regardless of race, gender, national origin and sexual orientation.

You might find Cory Booker’s human rights speech enlightening on this subject.

 

Adam and Steve

Kate is apprehensive about meeting her son Joey for the first time in thirteen years-the first time Adam&Stevesince she gave birth to him and relinquished custody to the father, Michael Shaw. She’s invited to Michael’s home where he lives with his husband, Stuart Shaw, a restaurant manager. Kate feels a bit uncomfortable, and this turns to shock when she discovers naked pictures of Joey on Stuart’s phone.

Thinking her son is in danger from a pedophile stepfather, she and her husband, Larry, sue for custody of Joey. For Stuart, the possible loss of his stepson culminates a lifetime of victimization by homophobes, whether it be his mother, classmate, employer, the average man in a bar letting loose after a hard day’s work, or the judge who decides his family’s fate. Michael and Stuart must discover who took the pictures in order to prove Stuart didn’t do anything to endanger his stepson and to regain custody of Joey. Stuart refuses to be a victim and demands to be heard, but that could change his destiny.

A novel of legal intrigue, Adam and Steve explores the timely subjects of marriage equality, child custody, prejudice against homosexuality, and gay marriage laws as Michael and Stuart face a difficult struggle to maintain their family.

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