Posts Tagged ‘equality’

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1,000 Hits

June 26, 2008

 

That’s right!  This blog has reached 1,000 hits this month!   That’s a new record.

What have I learned?  I’ve learned that the titles of the posts need to be sensational headlines akin to the National Enquirer. 

I’d like to thank my daughter for being the drum major at IUP.  When all those high school drum majors do a search about audition routines, they end up here. 

I’d like to thank a certain Baptist Church whose members are sneaking over to look at my blog after their pastor mentioned me in his sermon last week.  Yes, I am marrying another man; we’re registered at Lowe’s.  Gift cards are acceptible. 

I’d also like to thank Gretchen and Celeste.  God knows there are plenty of people doing searches for “lesbian couples” and they always manage to find my entry about their wedding. 

Thank you, to my readers.  Some of you keep coming back for more, and I appreciate that. 

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Spiritually Deaf and Blind: 2 out of 3 Ain’t Bad

June 23, 2008

I’ve had the pleasure of engaging in somewhat of a dialog with a Southern Baptist Minister for the past day or so.  I thought the discussion was pleasant until this morning when the minister voiced his concern that he was being targeted for his anti-gay speech.  Very quickly, he shut down his church’s blog to comments from the general public.  Note to bloggers:  if you put it out there in the public realm, you can be sure someone will see it, comment, and perhaps disagree with you. 

Pastor Rick’s blog announced that he would be preaching against gay marriage this Sunday morning (June 22) and gave the scripture reference.  I suspected that this would be prooftexting so I made a comment that asked Pastor Rick to go beyond Romans 1: 18-32, and include Romans 2, which demonstrates what Paul was trying to teach the christians in Rome at that time.  Many believe that Paul was condemning homosexuality with this scripture, but careful reading reveals that this is just not the case.  It is hard for some christians to accept this, and this appears to be the case with Pastor Rick. 

By Sunday afternoon, we get a sense of the direction this is going to take.  Pastor Rick feels targeted by myself and the one other person out of six that I messaged about this blog. I brought it to their attention with the purpose of reading my response, not to engage in an attack against Pastor Rick.  We very quickly hear the slippery slope arguments of allowing gay marriage will mean that polygamy, child prostitution, and all forms and expressions of sexuality would become legal.  In a later response to my friend, Matt, Pastor Rick distances himself from comparing homosexuality to child rape, yet it’s clear by listing them together, even in an order meant to show levels of depravity, that P. Rick does not think very highly of gay people. 

I downloaded the sermon and listened to what the good pastor had to say.  I took some notes.  There was a carefully planned introduction that made sure the audience knew that this week’s news story about gay marriage came from a sinful place: California. He now refers to it as the “left coast” because it has “left” America’s morality; it’s left sensibility. There you go, let’s get started with the sweeping generalizations.  P. Rick is in favor of a theocracy as evidenced by his statement that “What is not legal in God’s eyes should not be legal in man’s eyes.”  Human dignity regarding LGBT people is disregarded throughout the sermon as the vocal inflections imply sarcasm: “People who say they are gay” and an elongation of the word “ho-mo-sex-u-al” with a drawl.  Keep in mind, Californians, because of you, “we’re going down the toilet.”

Outside of Matt and myself, Pastor Rick knows all he knows about gay people from his 2, count them, 2 college friends who are gay.  Here’s what Pastor Rick knows:  gay people are not happy, they are afraid of disease, and afraid that their partner will leave them because “that’s the nature of this kind of relationship”; they live in fear.  When Matt pointed out that these were “sweeping generalizations” P. Rick pointed to his 2 college friends as evidence that this was not a generalization.  Hint, P. Rick: drawing a conclusion about an entire group of people based on your experience with just 2 of them is generalizing.  Perhaps these college friends are just losers. 

There is much more in the sermon, but I want to take a look at the interaction that took place today, in P. Rick’s blog.  In the comments section of his blog, I pointed out the inconsistency regarding his “sweeping generalizations” as well as the religious and political conservative’s opinion that LGBT people should be denied Civil marriage.  I asked how he can deny gay and lesbian people the opportunity to commit to each other in a monogamous relationship, then turn around and ridicule them for being promiscuous.  It’s clear to me that people, gay and straight, have looked to their religious leaders for guidance and received bad advice.  When your pastor stands in the pulpit and says that gay men have sex with hundreds of other men in their life time, the young gay man sitting in the pew hears this is what is expected of him because of the way God created him.  Gay people hear that their relationships are worthless, not valid to be considered for marriage, and often fulfill that expectation. 

At this point, something seems to snap.  Pastor Rick is suddenly complaining that we’ve taken the time to respond and engage in discussion.  In what appears to be anger, he states “You guys knocked on MY door. YOU initiated this. You are the ones that conspired together to make comments on my church website.”  I apologized and assured Pastor Rick that he had not been “targeted” and that there was no conspiracy.  Here’s the final paragraph of my last comment:

You, Bro. Rick, have a degree in psychology. You are probably aware that not only the American Psychological Association, but other professional organizations believe that a homosexual orientation is naturally occurring and unchangeable. How is it justifiable to deny people CIVIL rights based on your religious beliefs when the science says this is natural for some people?

Perhaps that is what ended the discussion.  However, I noticed something about all of my comments; most of them were ignored. There was no acknowledgement that he did indeed make generalizations based on stereotypes or limited exposure to LGBTpeople.  There was no response to my appeal to his psychology degree and the scientific evidence of which, as a psych major, he would surely be aware of.  There was no hint that he understands a marriage license issued by the state government is not the same as a religious ceremony conducted by a minister in a church.  Instead, we get a mantra of “it’s a sin” because God says it is, and a list of buzzwords typically used by fundamentalists to degrade LGBT people:  lifestyle, alternative choice, and claims that orientation is changeable, yet groups like Exodus can not provide valid and reliable studies to demonstrate this. 

Finally, Pastor Rick explodes with this:

You are using a common intimidation argument by GLBTgroups. Civil rights are reserved for groups of people based on race, gender, disabilities & age, but not sexual orientation. While there have been some gains by GLBTgroups in this arena, you aren’t guaranteed civil rights based on your sexual preferences. So don’t go there.

Matt,

 

To all, since this is my website, I get the last word. Comments are now turned off on this post.

 

 

 

My thanks to Wendy at bridgeout for the idea of using the church sign generator to create this pic. 

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Blogging for LGBT Families Day!

June 2, 2008

Blogging for LGBT Families Day 2008

 

I’ve rewritten this first sentence a few times now:  I wanted to talk about how busy we’ve been lately, that being parents of school-age kids means that May has a hectic schedule.  Then I thought about the age range of our seven kids, 9-20, and realized that no matter what age they are, there is always something to command a parent’s attention regarding kids and school.  It starts when you enroll them in preschool and I guess I’ll have to let you  know when it ends. 

In the past month, we’ve attended band concerts, dressed one up for the prom as well as graduation, picked one up at college and taken her back for a spring course, then loaded the van to bring her home again.  We’ve planned a graduation party, arranged for transportation of another kid to school for a sports physical, and attended an awards ceremony for yet another son who did well in art class this past year.  There has been a dentist appointment, a job interview, a school picnic, Boy Scouts, a rock concert, and a road trip.  That sounds like a lot of fun, but the parents have been left out of the fun stuff, except for delivering the kids to some of those events. 

For most parents, I haven’t described anything unfamiliar, some may be wishing that their schedule was so light.  The difference is that this is a blended family, the children are sharing their parents and dealing with step-siblings.  Again, no big deal, a lot of kids do that, some better than others.  No need to write about that:  Been There, Done That, Wore Out the T-Shirt.  Our kids, though, are the offspring of our straight marriages.  I have three children;  two boys 19 & 9, and the only girl, 20.  My partner has 4 boys; the 18yo who just graduated, a 15yo, and 12yo twins.  We all live within 2 miles of each other, and although the mothers have physical custody of the kids, we all share in their care. 

Any problems?  Of course there are, children who find themselves in a new family dynamic that they didn’t choose will let you know when they aren’t happy.  At some point during the past 5 years, each kid has had their moment to let us know how they feel.  For us, the gay dads worried about how this will affect the kids, we’ve come to watch for certain indications that things are going well.  I like to watch for humor.  If the kids can joke about it, take a good-natured ribbing and turn it back on us with a snappy comeback and we all laugh about it, then I know we’re doing well. 

There are many voices from the religious right who would say that we’re destroying the American family, that if my partner and I would be allowed to marry, society would collapse, the children would become juvenile delinquents, and hurricanes would visit our great land.  They believe that a family is one man, one woman, and whatever children God sees fit to bless them with as a natural result of their physical intimacy.  While that may appear to be the paradigm, those who wish to enforce this on everyone by any means possible, including legislation by a civil government (not a theocracy) are ignoring one major issue.  There have always been families that do not fit.  These families exist now, have been around for a long time, and do not threaten to destroy our society. 

There are so many possible combinations that constitute a family:  single parents, grandparents raising kids, aunts and uncles taking in their nephews and nieces, extended families in one household, lesbian moms who have adopted, lesbian moms who carry their own babies, gay dads who became parents through a surrogate, gay dads like us who had their own kids through a straight relationship.  I know of blended families in which children no longer live with a biological parent because mom or dad have passed on after their divorce and remarriage.  They stay with the step-parent and are cared for by a loving new parent.  There are foster families and group homes, and probably many other arrangements that my mind can not conceive but those families work, in spite of varying from what some would declare normal. 

LGBT families are here, and have been for a long time.  If you’ve got a gay or lesbian family member, someone who is bisexual or transgendered in your own family, then you are part of an LGBT family.  Those LGBT people are living in their own nuclear families in a myriad of ways, and it is working.  It succeeds because of love. 

It is time for our country to stop bullying people into living lives that are dishonest.  The nuclear family of a man and a woman and a boy and a girl is a great example, but not the only example of what a family can be.  It doesn’t reflect the reality of our communities.  To write legislation into state constitutions that discriminates against LGBT people, preventing them from accessing marriage and the attending benefits and protections is not only wrong, but ignorant of what already exists and succeeds. 

Our family succeeds when I help my step-sons with their homework.  It succeeds when my partner helps my daughter move her belongings back home at the end of the college semester.  Love shows the way when one of my step-sons calls to say he’s lost and I get on google to find the street names he’s calling out and map him a way back home.  Family values guide us to sit down together for a meal and enjoy each other’s company.  Teaching those values to the kids cause my partner to involve my youngest son in a home remodelling project.  Those precious few “teachable” moments come when the twins need a haircut and money is short, so I get out the clippers and scissors and talk to them while I trim their hair. 

We already exist as a family.  To continue ignoring us, or to try to legislate us away, will not cause us to disappear.  That would only permit a certain group of people to feel good about their bigotry.

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75 Days to Go

May 24, 2008

The wedding is approaching quickly and by the time most of you see this post, we will be at the 75 day point in the countdown.  There seems to be so much to do, and yet so much has been done already.  So let’s just review what has been done in the past few weeks.

  • Wine kits were purchased to make the favors.  We have 12 gallons of wine fermenting to give to our guests.
  • Labels have been printed for the wine bottles.
  • Vows have been selected, including a ring ceremony, invocation, benediction and a few other features unique to our wedding.
  • We have agreed on the wording of the invitation.
  • The invitations have been printed.
  • A deposit has been mailed to the DJ.
  • Unique, personal stamps for the invitations have been purchased.
  • Plans for the cake have been discussed with the baker, silk flowers for between the layers have been selected.
  • The guest list is being finalized and addresses for those people have been acquired.
  • Scott and I have had a discussion about our “first dance”.  Do we need lessons?  Can we watch a youtube instructional video and do this ourselves?  I don’t want to get out there and waddle back and forth like so many couples.  We’re gay!  We’ve got to do this right and do it big!
  • Discussion with the musicians is ongoing.  I knew this part would be tough.  Being a musician, I have so many ideas of what I like and making a decision has been difficult.  My friends who are singing and playing are no help as they assure me that they will do whatever I ask them to do. 

It’s exciting, and nerve-wracking, and wonderful to plan a wedding.  It’s amazing to be so in love that we feel compelled to get married.  It’s also disheartening that the marriage won’t be legal.  In many ways, it doesn’t matter that the government won’t recognize this marriage.  When we say our vows, make our commitment to each other in front of friends and family, we will be married.  That marriage will be as strong, as valid as any other marriage;  it just won’t be legally recognized here in Pennsylvania. 

I suppose that I should warn all of the straight married couples now, Guard Your Marriage!  As of August 9th, 2008  Steve and Scott will be married; your straight marriage is in danger.  Don’t be surprised if you find yourself arguing more with your spouse.  Your husband may call to say he’s “working late” at the office; your wife may be especially vague about her weekend visit to her sister’s house.  Check your cell phone bill carefully and note any unfamiliar numbers and the time of the calls.  These are all signs that your marriage is crumbling and it’s most likely caused by the gay couple in your town who decided to get married.

 

 

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Way to Go California!

May 15, 2008

Grooms

 

California strikes down the same sex marriage ban clearing the way for gay and lesbian couples to get married legally!  That makes 2 states who have recognized they can no longer deny equal rights to couples based on their orientation.

Story from Yahoo News here.

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We’re Just Defining One Word

April 13, 2008

On Thursday, April 10th, I took a personal day from work to attend a Pennsylvania State Senate hearing in Pittsburgh, concerning SB1250, the Marriage Protection Amendment.  (appropriate groans can be made here.)  It was a long hearing, and I invested more than 8 hours in driving, walking, sitting and listening to more than 3 hours of testimony, having a beer afterward as I waited for traffic to clear, then heading home again.  I’ve waited a few days on writing this entry because I wanted to write about the things that stand out in my mind. 

I am struck by the argument from the religious right that their purpose, their goal in proposing a marriage protection amendment is to define one word:  marriage.  At least, that is what some would have us believe by their testimony at this hearing.  Is it even possible for a government to define a word, and hold everyone to that definition of that particular word.  How would it be enforced?  Who would be responsible if the meaning begins to change, the person using it, or the word itself? 

Proponents of the bill would like to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.  They claim that all other unions could be called anything else, just not “marriage”  which would be reserved for the union of one man and one woman.  It’s clear, from other information put forth by these conservative organizations, and from the wording of the bill itself, that they have something else in mind.  The intent is not to define marriage, but to exclude certain people from participating in marriage, and the attending civil benefits.  If it were not otherwise, there would be no need to include the phrase “functional equivalent of marriage” in the bill.  By adding this to the wording of the proposed amendment, supporters have guaranteed that gay and lesbian couples would never benefit from marriage, nor would they ever receive the blessings of civil unions. 

Words change.  Their spellings evolve, their meanings either change, or develop additional uses.  Think about a few words that have changed in the course of a generation or two:  smack is generally accepted to indicate a sharp strike with a hand or flat object; it has also come to mean a loud kiss, and an accepted term for the drug heroin.  Crack has developed in a similar fashion, acquiring the new definition of a form of cocaine in addition to meaning a fissure and at least 30 other concepts.  Awful is another word that has changed from something that is full of awe, to a word that has a negative connotation.  How many words have re-entered the language with new meanings with the advent of technology?  Words like backup, monitor, cell, download, hardware, virus, peripheral, and memory have taken on new meanings in the past 25-30 years. 

“Marriage” is one of those words that has changed.  In simple forms marriage indicates that civil or sacred contract between two individuals who are intent to spend the rest of their lives together.  It also indicates an intimate or close union, as in the marriage of vocal music and drama to create opera or musical theater for example.  At one time, marriage conjured up thoughts of the deals made by fathers as they negotiated the contracts dictated by arranged marriages.  Looking at biblical history, we can see that marriage could mean different things for the husband and wife, as the husband was considered of greater importance, while the wife could be just one of many women with a similar union to her husband.  Today when we think of marriage, we think of two people searching for that special someone, dating, building common experiences, and finally committing to each other.  Even “until death do us part” is optional.  Is it so hard to think that marriage is two people, either of different gender or the same gender, who have paired up, committed to caring for each other in a loving relationship? 

The bottom line for me, concerning the testimony given by William C. Duncan via Deborah Hamilton,  Randy Lee, Sharon Capretto, & Rita Joyce, is that they wish to legislate a definition of marriage that simply prevents a certain group of citizens from participating in a civil right that is offered only to those who happen to have been born as a heterosexual.  Some of those who testified in favor of the bill hid their agenda of religion-based discrimination behind convoluted explanations of the definition of a word, and how courts would then continue to define it.  Randy Lee even claimed it was a way of ensuring fair trade practices, and compared it to the labeling of canned vegetables:  businesses can not put a picture of corn on a can of peas.  In the same way, Mr. Lee claimed that calling a same-sex relationship marriage, is deceptive because marriage is reserved for two people of the opposite sex.  Sharon Capretto, and to some extent, Rita Joyce, were the most honest about their reasons for supporting SB1250.  They expressed their support for this bill based on their religious convictions, their understanding of scripture.  However, we do not live in a theocracy and no one’s religious views should be imposed on all of our citizens. 

Finally, in a dramatic testimony, Doris Cipolla of Erie, made a passionate, heartbreaking plea to defeat this amendment.  She pointed out that we are people, not cans of vegetables. Cans are man-made, vegetables, peas carrots or corn, come from the earth and are easily identified.  Sadly, Doris and her partner CharleneTanner lived their lives as a closeted couple.  it was only after Charlene’s death that Doris realized that she could no longer be silent.  She speaks with such a passion, that several times during the hearing we were moved to tears, or cheering, and spontaneous applause.  As she left the desk from which she testified, we stood to honor this woman who spoke so eloquently on our behalf. 

 

Doris Cipolla testifying against SB1250 in Pittsburgh, April 10, 2008

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My Visit to my State Representative’s Office

March 1, 2008

Sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression are about to become protected by law in the state of Pennsylvania.  HB1400 is a bill intended to amend our current Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) to prohibit discrimination of these minorities, in addition to race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, handicap or disability, education and the use of a guide dog.  I fall into one of those minorities since I am a gay man, but I suppose I could claim another group that has been the target of discrimination.  I do have Irish ancestry, after all. 

So I got my Irish up, (oops, is that perpetuating the stereotype of the Irish being quick to anger?) and made an appointment to visit my State Representative, Deberah Kula, to ask her to support this amendment to the existing PHRA.  I was prepared.  I had my talking points printed up.  I did more research on those points that were provided to me by Equality Advocates PA.  I walked into her office with my head held high, ready to engage in some lively conversation. 

I barely got through the greetings and small talk, when I realized this was not going to be a problem.  When I mentioned the particular bill and its purpose, she replied with “not a problem.”  She indicated to me that everyone should have access to housing and employment.  I was disappointed that I didn’t get to demonstrate my knowledge of the statistics, but I was happy to have a common entry point for the conversation that followed. 

I brought up the bill that has been introduced into our state senate, that would amend our state constitution to define marriage as one man and one woman.  It was at this point that the conversation became more intense.  Rep. Kula explained to me that she just could not see this amendment passing.  It is difficult to amend the state constitution, and this just did not seem like a bill that could pass, in her opinion.  A quick search for a copy of the state constitution, followed by a swift perusal of same, leads me to believe that the last amendment to this document was in 1978.  It is encouraging that Pennsylvania has not seen fit to alter this constitution in the past 30 years.  I would also add here how much I appreciate her willingness to discuss this “Marriage Protection Amendment” when, as a representative, this bill has not been introduced in the House. 

Our conversation continued, and Rep. Kula stated that she would be honest with me, that her personal convictions did not allow her to support same-sex marriages.  I smiled and thanked her for being upfront with me, and decided to dive in and explore those convictions.  She told me that her religious beliefs just did not permit her to support us in acquiring the right to marry.  I countered with my own, rather strong religious beliefs.  I explained how I struggled to reconcile my faith with my orientation, as I was coming out.  Then I engaged her in a discussion of how a person comes to be gay or lesbian.  We talked about genetics, environment, and the complex interaction of both that medical science and psychological research believes to be responsible for sexual orientation.  I talked about choice, and how, knowing that discrimination and violence is a real possibility for gays and lesbians, no one would willingly choose to be homosexual.  Then I asked the question, somewhat rhetorically, “knowing that this isn’t a choice, what is the appropriate behavior for committed, loving, same-sex couples?”  Of course, I went on to answer my own question by stating that it is in the best interest of society that individuals pair up to care for each other so as not to be a burden on extended family or the government.  I spoke of health care, inheritance benefits, as well as hospital visitation, all of which are granted to straight couples within a few minutes at the local courthouse, yet denied to gay and lesbian couples.  My desire to care for my partner, and his wishes to care for me, as any married couple would and should, was also mentioned. 

At one point, she tried to explain her position, and found herself in a spot where she did not want to be.  Rep. Kula started to speak of natural inclinations, like mass murder.  She caught herself, and said, “and I don’t mean to compare you to mass murderers, perhaps I could have found a better comparison.”  To which I replied with a laugh “good, I was going to have to go after you on that one.”

One final, somewhat melancholy exchange came when Rep. Kula told me that she didn’t know how she would vote for such an amendment if she were forced to do so tomorrow.  She said that she would have a difficult time deciding, but most likely would vote against same-sex marriage.  She apologized to me, saying that she knew it was not what I wanted to hear.  I was gracious, replied politely, and again thanked her for her honesty.  I genuinely valued her candor, as I felt no malicious intent from her.  I believe she holds her convictions because of misinformation, a lack of understanding about what it means to be gay or lesbian in our society. 

As I got up to leave, we shook hands and looked intently at each other.  It was at that point she said  “beautiful blue eyes.”  Perhaps I made the connection that I was attempting.  Something that I said at some point in that half hour may have stayed with her, and caused her to think.  I was pleased that I was able to leave her without experiencing “violence of the fist, the tongue, or the heart” as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught.