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Archives – April, 2010

It’s Easier To Be A Bigot Behind My Back

By Brian Leubitz

Mike Huckabee, the former Governor of Arkansas and presidential candidate, isn’t shy about appearing on TV. In fact, he’s a favorite guest of Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. He appeared on Rosie O’Donnell’s radio show today, and tried to nuance a friendly conversation with his bigoted views, which, given his previous statements that “children aren’t puppies”, could be hard.

“What I’m saying is that I think the ideal environment for children is in a relationship that has both a mother and a father,” Huckabee told O’Donnell, acknowledging that he had supportted a constitutional amendment banning gay adoption in Arkansas.

O’Donnell, of course, wasn’t hearing any of it.

“I’m mentioning that there are half a million kids in foster care in America,” countered O’Donnell. “To have public officials deem homosexuals unworthy of parenting is disastrous for the nation, for equality and for humanity and, Mike, for Christianity.” …

Huckabee fought back, arguing, “That’s not my intention. I have great respect for your choices.”

“Your children are very fortunate,” he added at one point.(NY Daily News)

See, it’s all well and good to say that you “oppose gay adoption” when you are hanging out on FoxNews. But, in the flesh, when you see real families, living real lives, it becomes a lot harder. In the face of Rosie, he had to back down, and acknowledge that her children were in a very good situation.

And ultimately, that is the case for nearly all of the children in the care of gay and lesbian parents. They are children that are wanted, planned for, and cared for properly. And, as Rosie pointed out, there are far too many children either in foster care or group homes that have no such environment.

Gay and lesbian parents are, without question, better parents than group homes. And frankly, there’s no evidence showing that they are any better or worse than heterosexual parents. Laws banning gay adoption are solely a function of bigotry, and nothing more.

62 Comments April 24, 2010

Gay Enough?

by Brian Leubitz

A few years back, I played in the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Softball League. And though we weren’t all-stars or anything, it was a lot of fun. We actually even went to the “World Series” down in San Diego. We didn’t win, but we performed admirably.

Now, who knew there could be such controversy over a softball league. But, hey, why not throw in some drama with your softball league. In a new lawsuit, a softball team from San Francisco is suing the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance. Apparently, they had three “possibly straight” members of the softball team, higher than the allowed 2 members.

they were marched one by one into a conference room at the tournament in suburban Seattle and asked about their “private sexual attractions and desires,” and their team was stripped of its second-place finish after the men were determined to be “non-gay,” they said in a lawsuit accusing a national gay sports organization of discrimination.

The suit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle, pits the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a San Francisco group backing the men, against the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance, which prides itself on barring discrimination based on sexual orientation. (SF Chronicle)

The legal issue here is the freedom of association, but the question for our community is whether we want to be excluding others. Let’s face it, we have some awesome adult softball leagues. In many cities, they are the best organized adult leagues available. Should we take pride in that, or should we build walls.

In my opinion, let’s throw open the doors to our friends that want to join with us in having a good time. It is a good way for people that perhaps are less informed about our community to see that we are just normal folk, no pitchforks necessary. But, I understand that this is a complicated, and somewhat personal, area of inquiry.

So, how do we feel about this case? Would you support NAGAA’s position on the strict limits of non-gay players?

107 Comments April 23, 2010

What Can You Say About Maggie Gallagher? How About a Haiku?

by Brian Leubitz

I was going to write about Maggie Gallagher’s departure for the National Organization against Marriage (NOM) yesterday, but yesterday, we lost a real champion for human rights. No sense tying a civil rights legend like Dorothy Height to the bigotry of NOM. Nonetheless, the news is still there, on NOM’s website, in blue, gray, red and white. Maggie is stepping down to appoint Brian Brown:

Today, the board of NOM announced that we are promoting Brian Brown, who you all know as NOM’s capable and charismatic executive director, to the position of President of NOM.

This move is in part a recognition of Brian Brown’s incredible record of achievement for the past three years in shepherding NOM’s growth, and in part a recognition of the increasing political profile we hope to build for NOM in 2010 and beyond.

But don’t worry, it’s not one of those, you won’t have me to kick around anymore kind of things. No, she’ll be around, and continuing to meddle in your relationships, in your marriages, and your families. She’s not really going anywhere, she’ll be fighting the crazy, bigoted fight for years to come.

So, what say you, who can write the best haiku for Maggie Gallagher. Here’s my entry:

Maggie, where are you?
First you try to divorce me
Now, I’ll repeal 8

So, you know how this goes, 5-7-5, with some sort of change in the middle. Any other contestants?

105 Comments April 22, 2010

Rest in Peace, Dorothy Height

by Brian Leubitz

There are some people that are special to us all. You want to hold them close, try to bring some of their courage, or their charisma, or their passion, into our own lives. There’s Ghandi and MLK, both fighters for liberty and justice for all. These are simply special people that have moved into the history books because they have done so much for all mankind. And yesterday, we lost one of the great fighters for justice, Dorothy Height.

She may not have received the same kind of attention that Martin Luther King, Jr, or Malcolm X received, but she was right there all the way. As the head of National Council of Negro Women, she worked with civil rights leaders all the way. She was there at the I Have a Dream speech, and she was there at the less glamorous times. More recently, she was a leader in the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and worked with MLK’s widow, Coretta Scott King, on behalf of LGBT rights.

In 1997, she received an award for this work from HRC. Here is her acceptance speech:

She truly was a hero for all Americans, a modern legend who never stopped fighting for justice. Rest in peace, Dorothy Height.

34 Comments April 21, 2010

Dallas Court to Hear Case on Gay Divorce

by Brian Leubitz

I grew up in Dallas, and while the city itself is a pretty great place to live for the LGBT community, greater Texas can be something of a problem. Despite the election of an out lesbian as Mayor in Houston, there is still a long way to go in the Lone Star State.

However, back in 2003, a state court made a little bit of history, becoming just the second state court outside of Vermont to recognize and dissolve a civil union. However, that didn’t last as the Attorney General, then stepped in, and the court reversed itself.

Well, today, the Attorney General, Greg Abbott, is back in court. And again, he’s arguing that Texas courts should not dissolve a marriage that they don’t recognize.

Two Dallas men trying to end their Massachusetts marriage in Texas will be the subject of an appellate hearing Wednesday in a downtown courtroom.

The appeal pits Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott against family court Judge Tena Callahan, who accepted the case last fall and ruled that the state’s ban on gay marriage violates the U.S. Constitution.

But a voter-approved state constitutional amendment and the Texas Family Code prohibit same-sex marriages or civil unions, and Abbott is arguing that a Texas court can’t dissolve a marriage that it doesn’t recognize. (Dallas Morning News)

It’s a strange situation that this puts the couple, and the state, in. This couple simply wants to break up. And while the state might not recognize the relationship, they do need the courts to wrap up a few details. The State of Massachusetts cannot, under rules of jurisdiction, step in to the case. The couple must seek an end in the state in which they reside. However, that state, Texas, wants nothing to do with the divorce.

In effect, Abbott is forcing this gay couple to remain married. The tortured logic of this case is just a sign of the importance of not only winning recognition state by state, but we must also win at the federal level. And ultimately, that’s going to take a court ruling. Whether it’s the Prop 8 case in a few years, or if it takes a while longer. We need the entire nation to recognize our marriages, or they are still second-class imitations. Without that, we can’t travel with the same protections, we can’t move to new states with the same protections, heck, we can’t even break up with the same protections.

There are several ways a federal court could rule on the Prop 8 case. Some of those would apply the federal Constitution in such a way that strikes down all bans on gay marriages. But, there are ways that a court could rule that would only affect California. After all, the special status of the 18,000 couples, my self and my husband included, raises serious equal protection arguments on its own. I’m not saying that issue isn’t tremendously important, but that issue doesn’t end the argument on same-sex marriages. That narrow decision would kick the can down the road a few years.

We still have a long way to go before we know if this is really the case that will break down those walls, but at the very least, the case put on by Olson and Boies provides a factual record that will be looked upon by history as a blueprint. Judge Walker still has time before his decision, and the appeals process will take years. But, the one thing that I do know is that our progress is inexorable.

71 Comments April 20, 2010

Elderly Gay Couple Victimized by the State

by Brian Leubitz

End of life situations can often be even more tragic for LGBT couples. We are far less likely to have children to care for our elderly, and the current generation of LGBT senior citizens is still dealing with a lot of entrenched homophobia from their peers. However, a recent case shows just how difficult this situation can be. Kate Kendall of NCLR wrote about the story of one Sonoma County couple that was tragically separated at the end of their lives:

Without authority, without determining the value of Clay and Harold’s possessions accumulated over the course of their 20 years together or making any effort to determine which items belonged to whom, the county took everything Harold and Clay owned and auctioned off all of their belongings. Adding further insult to grave injury, the county removed Clay from his home and confined him to a nursing home against his will. The county workers then terminated Clay and Harold’s lease and surrendered the home they had shared for many years to the landlord.

Three months after he was hospitalized, Harold died in the nursing home. Because of the county’s actions, Clay missed the final months he should have had with his partner of 20 years. Compounding this tragedy, Clay has literally nothing left of the home he had shared with Harold or the life he was living up until the day that Harold fell, because he has been unable to recover any of his property. The only memento Clay has is a photo album that Harold painstakingly put together for Clay during the last three months of his life.

Take a moment to read the whole article, or find more information at NCLR’s Elder Law Project. Basically, Harold broke his hip, and the County determined that both of them needed to go to nursing homes. They packed them off to different nursing homes that didn’t respect their relationship. Furthermore, they were not granted access and the respect that they deserved, both under common decency as well as under the legal documents that they had signed.

Would such a scenario have occurred with a straight couple? It seems doubtful, and this is the crux of the problem that we face. Not only is our situation simply out of the norm for social workers, but lack of resources means that training is falling behind. There is no way to make up for such a tragedy, but Sonoma County should at the very least start with an apology to Clay and work towards helping him recover as much of his stuff as possible.

Thing is, Sonoma County was well outside of the lines of the law in this case, so legislation can only partly address the situation. The most obvious solution would be marriage equality, and the respect of same-sex marriages. But, we need to ensure that those on the front lines are adequately aware of the laws already on the books and how to treat LGBT couples. This is a shameful story that should never be repeated.

61 Comments April 19, 2010

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