There’s Still A Long Way To Go For Gay Rights

Today is the day when the first gay marriages are being performed in New York. That’s a huge step forward and it’s great, but we need to remember that we still have a LONG way to go before we’ve got equality. I’ve been having a back and forth on Facebook with a classmate from grade school (I went to a very conservative Baptist school). One of his comments was “So you have gay marriage in New York, why are you complaining?” Let me explain why I’m still complaining…

Dan and I have been married since 2005. The problem is that our marriage is just not on the same legal footing as straight marriages. I’m being asked to be happy and content with the fact that a state here or there recognizes my marriage. But meantime…

  • I couldn’t give Dan a green card. What if his immigration status had been more tenuous? He would have had to leave the country and there’s a chance I couldn’t have followed him if he came from a country that didn’t recognize me as his spouse. (That’s academic for us, but isn’t for many bi-national gay couples). [Dan did finally get his green card this year, but the issue is that he should have gotten it 10+ ago based on his relationship to me.]
  • We’ve had huge legal bills to keep Dan in the country.
    • Before getting his green card Dan used to be here under NAFTA and we had to go through the process of getting him approved by immigration every year. The first few years we used a lawyer ($$) and then we had to do use a lawyer again after 9/11 when things got tighter… Very little of that would have been necessary if our relationship had been recognized and he had gotten a green card by being my spouse.
    • We had to incorporate our business twice because we did it wrong the first time. Immigrants aren’t allowed to be owners in the companies that sponsor them for work visas/statuses. Before 9/11 the INS didn’t really care, but after 9/11 we had to reincorporate the company ($$) so I was the sole owner.
    • We had to spend $5,000 on rather complicated wills. Since he wasn’t allowed to own the company that sponsored him if something happened to me we had to set things up so a trust would take over the company until he had his green card.
  • Health insurance has been an ongoing issue. 
    • In one company the (lesbian) general manager got rid of domestic partner benefits somewhat by accident (she didn’t realize the company had them since no one was using them). The executives over her were not gay friendly but luckily she was. When she realized her mistake she gave Dan a job so he’d have health insurance (he was already freelancing at the company). We just lucked out – most bosses don’t go that far for their gay employees.
    • When Dan was at other companies that weren’t so gay friendly I had to get health insurance through our company. That cost us an extra $800/month. While we could afford it, a lot of other gay guys and lesbians can’t. And for god’s sake – there were other things I would have rather done with the $800/mo.
    • Even now with Dan working for a gay-friendly state agency (CUNY) I get health insurance, but because the federal government doesn’t recognize our relationship Dan has to pay federal tax on my health coverage as if it were extra income. That tax is not imposed on straight couples.
  • Dan has had to do particular types of work to stay in the country. Since Dan’s Canadian he’s eligible to work here under NAFTA, but he had to do particular types of work – namely graphic design. If I had been able to give him a green card he probably would have pursued some other career option or had more time to pursue art. Only now that CUNY got him his green card last year does he have that flexibility.
  • If we’re hospitalized while traveling we may not be able to make medical decisions for each other. This is potentially a big one. Because there are places where our marriage is not recognized we may not be able to make medical decisions for each other in an emergency. We have executed heath care proxies and living wills but our attorney tells us they’re only valid in the state in which they’re signed. Other states can choose not to honor them.

So while it’s great New York is doing gay marriage now, unfortunately those marriages in many respects still aren’t equal to the same marriage performed in the same place for a straight couple.

My classmate from grade school went on to say “Actually, I feel bad for the situation you find yourself in, but as far as I vote, I answer to a higher authority than you and Dan. It’s not a personal insult.” Thing is, when you can look someone straight in the face and ask them to sit in the back of the bus, how are they supposed to interpret it? He, and people like him, are denying me my civil rights. They’re not necessarily bad people, they just don’t get how offensive their actions are to people like me. At one point he said “Let me ask you this, if you could get a green card would that make you happy? If you could have a ceremony in a liberal church would that make you happy?” What he doesn’t understand is that throwing scraps my way will never make me happy. I don’t want a little here and a little there. I want equality. We keep making progress (like gay marriage in New York), but we’re still not equal.

When you run across people who are against gay rights, please challenge them on their beliefs. They need their world view widened and you can make a difference…

Dan Savage On Marriage

This is one of those “I couldn’t have said it better myself” moments… Dan Savage goes point by point showing that straight people, not gay people, have redefined marriage. Traditional marriage was about passing property (a female) from one male to another (a father to a husband). Needless to say that’s not the case any more, so we no longer have traditional marriage and no one wants to go back to it. Instead we have the union of two equals now and marriage is defined by the people in it, not externally. If it’s about anything it’s about commitment and companionship.

Take a listen…

Senator Burris Opposes Marriage For The Elderly

Senator Roland Burris (D), the man who was appointed by deposed Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to replace Barack Obama in the Senate, came out with the following quote a couple days ago…

My concept of marriage is a male and a female for the perpetuation of the species, for children to be born and identify the bloodline and the heritage. But I’m pretty sure, as things are moving along, that that will probably change. (Source)

So, if we take him at his word that means he opposes marriage for anyone who can’t bear a child. So, if you’re a woman over 45 Burris wants to take away your right to marry. Pretty much all marriage for the elderly is out. If you have fertility problems he feels you shouldn’t be allowed to marry.

Thing is, I’m pretty sure he’d be shocked at what I just said. Apparently he’s not bright enough to understand that from a reproductive standpoint (which is the point he’s arguing) there’s no difference between an elderly straight couple and a gay couple. Actually, the gay couple is more likely to adopt an abandoned child – but of course there’s no place for that in his ideology either – if it doesn’t pop out of your uterus it’s not your ‘bloodline’, ergo not worthy of granting you marriage.

Of course this is ridiculous. Even Burris understands things are changing – too bad he can’t figure out it’s only logical that they’re changing. A bloodline argument for marriage hasn’t made sense for hundreds of years (if it made sense back then).

All I can say is thank god views like his aren’t prevalent among young people – there’s hope for the future!

Why I’m No Longer A Conservative

Back in the day I was pretty much as conserative as they come. When I went off the college I was a member of The Young Conservatives of Texas, I was in the leadership of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, I sang in a church choir, and argued with people about things like evolution. But all that’s changed. In ways it happened quickly, in other ways it’s been a very long process.

It all started when my roommate for the summer, Nial Gaffney, an astrony major, said to me that when he looked into the stars he saw the handiwork of a god that was bigger than the god of the bible. It took me a little while to digest that, but I knew it was true. The bible puts god in a box and makes god in the image of man. The truth of the matter is that our creator is so far above us that it’s impossible to understand him/her/it. We are no more significant to our creator than grains of sand are to us.

That lead me to being a Deist. There’s actually a great deal of Deist history in the US – many of our founding fathers were Deists – Thomas Jefferson being the most notable. But that was just an accident of history since our country was founded at a time that was Deism’s zenith and that was simply because society was moving from a culture where non-believers were killed to one where they were tolerated and Deism was simply the step before atheism. When our country was founded you could be respectable and be a Deist, but you could lose everything (including your life) if you were an Atheist, so the Atheists of their day called themselves Deists.

Other changes in my belief system happened pretty quickly. If the bible wasn’t absolute truth then everything was up for reconsideration. At my heart I knew I was gay and so a year after rejecting Christiantity, I accepted myself and came out.

The process had actually started earlier – when I was in high school. The school I went to in Baltimore (Arlington Baptist School) had whole chapel services about the evils of rock music – including listening to it backwards and hearing things that praised Satan (lol). When I was in Lynchburg (at Jerry Falwell’s high school, Lynchburg Christian Academy) I had to drive with these guys from school to get to driver’s ed. They used to play Chaka Khan on the way almost every day. I got to love “I’m Every Woman” and it struck me – how could something so happy and joyous be evil? Listen to it and you’ll see what I mean…

Like almost no other song that one just puts a huge smile on your face and makes you feel like you’re having a great day. And that was supposed to be evil… Right… At that point I decided to make up my own mind as to what was good and bad, and Chaka Khan was not bad – not in the least.

So deciding that god was bigger than the god of the bible wasn’t really that hard. Deciding that my being gay wasn’t evil wasn’t all that hard either.

The question became what do I do with the conservative elements in my family? For years after I came out to my parents I hoped they’d accept me. But that never happened. When my lover died of AIDS in January of ’95 Mom made a comment about how her mother had been there for her when her first husband died in World War II and I thought she got it, but that was quickly dispelled in our next conversation.

The bottom line was that it was bad for me to weigh myself down with my parents. It’s not good to be around people that tell you there’s something wrong with you – especially when they’re your parents (who are supposed to love you unconditionally) and they can’t just ignore the issue and interact with you without it getting brought up. Their lives revolved around Jerry Falwell’s church and that meant that their lives revolved around fighting liberalism including gay rights. I was the enemy and there was no way for me to be comfortable in their world.

At a point I just had to tell myself that they died and I needed to move on, which is what I did. There’s a song/video out lately, “Fuck You Very Much”…

In a way it resounds with my decision to separate from my parents, but it also trivializes the decision. It’s easy to say “fuck you very much, we hate what you stand for, please don’t stay in touch” to a stranger. It’s a more complicated process when it’s your parents.

When I was growing up our parents were sort of the glue that held our family together. I remember big phone bills calling all my sisters every week. That doesn’t happen any more. I didn’t really get those phone calls even before I had issues with them – not sure why. And now that I’m not really wanting to have much to do with them it’s a bit of a wedge in an already weak relationship with some of my sisters. It’s unfortunate really, but it is what it is…

Of course lately the issue is marriage. Let me put this bluntly – separate but equal is always separate, but never equal. Civil unions will not work – nothing but marriage will work, because only marriage has the full rights. Only with marriage can I finally give Dan citizenship…

But of course the fundamentalists, like my parents, want to tell gay folk like me what marriage means. Somehow they’ve forgotten that there’s a marriage contract involved that requires going down to your local government office. They equate marriage with the wedding ceremony – forgetting that Atheists get married all the time without any religious ceremony. So since I’m on a YouTube kick, let’s remind ourselves what “traditional, biblical marriage” really means…

Yes, biblical marriage really is that messy, and the fact that Christians think it’s some solid, honorable standard is laughable. For a moment let’s consider what it would be like if “traditional marriage” were actually enforced…

That’s right – no divorce, no blacks marrying whites, no women who weren’t virgins on their wedding night… Funny how Christians forget all those bits about “traditional marriage”…

The bottom line is Chaka Khan isn’t evil and neither are gay men and lesbians. Take a deep breath, sit down, and just accept it…

Rebuking The FUDamentalists

Fear Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) is a powerful weapon. It can be as subtle as “well, I don’t know…” at a business meeting to George W. Bush getting everyone riled up with “facts” about Iraq that just weren’t true. The same thing is happening with gay rights.

Here’s a video that refutes the major claims made by the religious right about gay marriage… The bottom line is that their claims are just fears – nothing more. The sky isn’t falling…

I’m sure eventually there will be some bad consequence of gay marriage to someone, somewhere. But there’s obviously many bad consequences now for millions of gay Americans. When the time comes and a heterosexual is harmed in some way, it can be remedied in the courts and, if necessary, the legislature just as we’re trying to remedy our problems now.