Red Letter Day

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

43 years ago

43 years ago, CBS News aired this 45-minute "news special" about the "homosexual problem" in America.

David White of the Advocate watched and took notes:

This weekend, for my second visit to The Homosexuals, I took notes. And when I was done my pad of paper was a laundry list of every horrible thing you’ve ever heard about the gays: smothering mothers, mental illness, animalistic sexual gratification, society’s repulsion, promiscuity, recruitment, etc.

Some quotes, some from Wallace, some from clergy and other “experts” on the subject:
“They frequent their own bars ... where they can act out…”
“The average homosexual isn’t capable of love.”
“Homosexuality is, in fact, a mental illness.”
“The church has a great deal of sympathy for those who are handicapped in this way.”
“[Being a homosexual] automatically rules out that [the man in question] will remain happy.”

The men (no mention of lesbians is ever made) who aren’t on camera as representatives of fledgling gay rights groups at the time, like the Mattachine Society, are interviewed in shadow or behind plants, and say things like, “I know I’m sick inside ... immature.”

Watching this video is wild. It is such a relic of a primitive time, but that time was only 43 years ago! Lots of people from then are even still alive today and can remember those times.

The closest thing I can compare this report to would be like a TV broadcast from the Salem Witch Trials in which the reporters and audience just assumed that yeah, there were witches and of course you needed to have trials to punish them. The CBS story just assumes lots of stuff that is patently ridiculous now. It makes me wonder what people 43 years in the future will look back at us and think how primitive we are.

Did any of the brave gay folks marching in that little picket line back then think that in 40 years they could get legally married in part of America? It would be fun to be a time traveller and go back and let some of them know what amazing things their efforts would bring forth only a few decades later.

Luckily, at least one of the gay leaders of that time is still alive to see the fruits of his labor.

(hat tips to Todd and JoeMyGod.)

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dave and I were on "The 10th Voice"

Dave and I were guest on the KKFI (Kansas City 90.1 FM) radio program "The 10th Voice" today. Ourselves, along with another couple from Lawrence talked about our relationship and our legal marriage, and how it has affected us. We think it turned out really nice. If you missed the show when it was on the air, you can listen here:

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A turd in the middle of my cake

Got a wonderful delicious cake last night -- President-Elect Obama!

And then California went and crapped in the middle of it....with the passage of Proposition 8, which limits marriage in California to opposite-sex couples.

This sucks.

More thoughts later.


Saturday, June 07, 2008

The story so far

Dave and I are going to be getting married in California on June 17th. This will be a full legal marriage. It is not a domestic partnership, nor is it a civil union (we've collected both of those over the years already). Marriage is the end goal. More specifically, it is the the legal license. You see, Dave and I already have been married for over nine years. Our ceremony, back in 1999, was our wedding, in front of family, friends, and God. What we were going to do in California is getting the legal license to match the reality of our lives. It is an important step; we are citizens of America, after all, and government recognition of our union is important for all kinds of reasons most people never think about.

While we are getting married in California, under full faith and credit our marriage license should be valid anywhere in America, in spite of a (likely unconstitutional) law called "the defense of marriage act" which will hopefully be overturned someday. In the mean time, there are still some questions about the future status of unions like ours. You see, California is one of those strange states that allows any kook with a million bucks to put an initiative on the ballot to take away peoples' fundamental rights, and an amendment against same-sex marriage is on the ballot in November. But that is a matter for the future.

How did Dave and I get here? Well, the California Supreme Court announced their decision in mid-May. As soon as we heard about it, we knew we wanted to get married in California (Massachusetts, which also has same-sex marriage, doesn't allow out of state couples to get married, California does, which is why this is a bigger deal). By lucky coincidence, I was going to be in San Francisco already in mid-June for a work conference. We decided that I would try to stay over a few extra days and Dave would fly out and we would get married. In a flurry of afternoon activity, I made hotel reservations, and made an appointment to get a marriage license at San Francisco's city hall for June 16th, which appeared to be the day that same-sex marriage was actually going to be legal.

Of course, nothing turns out as easy as you expect. The court didn't set a date for their ruling to take effect, and furthermore, the actual bureaucratic instruments of marriage needed to be updated. New forms had to be created, and so forth, and it was all up in the air how long this would take. Finally, the "Christian" groups opposed to equal rights were petitioning the court to issue a stay of its own ruling, which might have caused further delays. In sum, nobody (including state officials) had any idea when people could get married.

In early June, several of these issues were resolved. The state health department decided that marriages would begin on June 17 and set about creating new forms and language. The Supreme Court then clarified the date that marriage would be legal by denying the request for a stay and setting 5 PM on Monday June 16th as the date when marriage could being. This presented a bit of a problem for us (and 43 other couples) who had originally made appointments for June 16. You see, the San Francisco city clerk's office would not allow us to reschedule our appointment for the next day, because all the slots on the 17th had already been filled weeks before.

The middle of June crept ever closer, and we still had no idea if we would be allowed to marry. Of course, the longer we waited, the more expensive flights and so forth became, as well as the more stressful it got to try to make contingency plans for what might turn out to be a last minute trip. Making things even more frustrating, the county clerk's office initially said that the June 16th couples would be accommodated on the 17th, then they changed their minds. Dave was even able to actually call and talk to the county clerk, and we were impressed that this overworked public servant actually took the time to talk to Dave. Her position was that as long as things were in the air implementation wise, that there wasn't much she could do, other the try to be fair to everyone. We gambled on the 16th, but the roulette wheel came up the 17th, so we lost.

Luckily, after the court rejected the stay attempt, the state health department officially declared that as of 5:01 PM on June 16th, same-sex marriage could begin in California. Meanwhile, the San Francisco mayors office worked with the clerks office to expands the resources for conducting marriages the first week, which opened up a large amount of extra slots. All of this happened very fast on Friday June 6th. Dave and I were literally checking the clerk's web site every half hour to see if new appointment slots would open up; all of our plans were in the air until this happened. It was very stressful, to say the least, because we really had to know for sure before dropping a couple grand on a trip to San Francisco (and Mike having to extend his work trip for several extra days).

But, it worked out. New time slots opened, and Dave got our original (invalid) appointment time switched to Tuesday the 17th. This mean that short of a meteor hitting California (the right-wings fantasy!) that we were going to get married on the 17th. So the date is on! Dave made his trip reservations and I changed mine.

Both of us are obviously excited, but it is also going to be stressful. I don't like being gone for such a long time (10 days!) for my work conference (Apple's Developer Conference for anyone interested), but it is also a busy time for me at work, with my team being at the end of a stressful and very busy software release. So I hate being gone during this time. And of course, Dave hates traveling in general. But, this is a once in a lifetime experience. When we had our religious ceremony 9 years ago, we filled out a Jewish marriage contract, called a Ketubah. In one of its clauses, we agreed to seek any legal recognition of our union that we could. And now, finally, we have that chance. Almost undoubtedly, we will be the first gay couple from the state of Kansas to be legally married. We are going to take our Kansas flag with us to SF, so we can show the world that real Kansas values are the same as they were during the Civil War era -- freedom for everybody and equal rights!

I know I haven't posted to this blog much this year, but I will try to keep a day by day diary here as the date approaches, so hopefully at least family and friends can keep up on things! Talk to you soon!

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Registration nation

Dave and I went to City Hall today to register for the domestic partnership. It was quite easy, just filling out a form online and paying $75.00 to the city via PayPal. It almost felt like buying something on eBay! The actual legal aspect of the registry wasn't the highlight today, rather it was the amazing atmosphere at City Hall. It was like a wonderful know those videos of City Hall in San Francisco three years ago when their mayor started marrying same-sex couples, just the amount of joy and support and happiness in the room...that is what it was like here in Lawrence this morning, kind of a tiny bubble of San Francisco transferred to Kansas. The crowd cheered after each couple finished registering (there were computers set up there by the Kansas Equality Coalition for this purpose), and there were lots of cameras and media folks around taking pictures and interviewing people, as well as dozens of supporters mingling about in the Commission chambers. Among the supporters were two of our elected officials, Senator Marci Francisco, who brought heart-shaped candy tins to hand out to all the couples who registered, and Mayor Sue Hack, who talked wonderfully about how this made Lawrence a better place. Dave even got to do some impromptu tech support when the browser on one of the computers kept messing up! There's a ton of emotion and it was really a wonderful event. No matter what the future holds, Lawrence made Kansas history today and it was awesome to be a part of it.

Thanks to the City Commission, the City of Lawrence, Kansas Equality Coalition and so many other folks who made today happen. Stay tune to Diane Silver's blog, which promises to have a bunch of pictures and more coverage of today's festivities. And if you are reading this on Wednesday afternoon, check out the front page of the online Journal-World for a nice shot of the back of my head.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A lot of nothing means something

Tomorrow, the City of Lawrence will become the first public body in the state of Kansas to register domestic partnerships. The registry is notable for what it doesn't do -- much of anything. It provides no new rights or protections for couples, and to add insult to injury, the cost for registering is $75 - which is $25 more then the state charges for a marriage license (although domestic partners will get nice laminated wallet cards!). At best, the registry will provide folks proof of their relationship so that they can qualify for health insurance at some employers. This will obviously help people needing insurance, and will make for a more business-friendly environment in Lawrence and attract higher-paying jobs and smart people, which is good for all of us.

Still, please do not think I am complaining about the price or lack of concrete benefits! On the contrary, this registry is the most significant step forward in civil rights in Kansas in over 10 years, and is an important symbolic statement that Lawrence is different from the rest of Kansas. We are the city that voted overwhelmingly against the anti-gay marriage amendment two years ago, after all. The fact that this passed here in Lawrence means a lot, and whatever the future of the registry, the fact is, the City of Lawrence stood up for what is right. 130 years ago, they got burned down by Confederate terrorists for doing the same thing. At least we don't have to worry about that any more!

Dave and I will be at City Hall at 10 AM tomorrow. We might even be in the Kansas City Star (a photographer came by to take our picture today). So, stay tuned and I will blog tomorrow after the event.

UPDATE: The Kansas City Star story is online now.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Domestic partner registry in Lawrence passed, 4-1

The proposed domesitc partner registry passed its major hurdle tonight, passing on a 4-1 vote of the City Commission here in Lawrence. The vote was not technically a final vote on the ordinance; rather it was a vote by the Commission in favor of moving forward, having the city staff do some minor tweaking to the proposed ordinance which would then be sent back to the Commission for final approval at two consecutive meetings in June. The likely date for couples to actually register would be late summer.

Even though this wasn't the final adoption of the ordinance, it was the biggest hurdle for several reasons, among them this is the first time that two newly-elected commissioners, Mike Dever and Rob Chestnut could weigh in on the issue. There was also an extended period of public comment, with the vast majority speaking in favor, and only a couple folks opposed. Although all the legal issues with the registry have been addressed by the city attorney and state Attorney General, I wouldn't be surprised if right-wingers threaten a lawsuit to stop the registry.

Still, that is a worry for another day. For now, I want to thank our city commissioners for voting in favor of a law that will help make Lawrence a better place to live for its citizens and a better place to do business for its businesses.

If you have a minute, drop a quick line and thank Commissioners Sue Hack, Mike Dever, Rob Chestnut and Boog Highberger for supporting the ordinance.

Commissioner Mike Amyx was the only negative vote. I am disappointed in his vote, but I am hopeful that as he sees in the months and years ahead how this ordinance benefits his fellow Lawrencians that he will change his mind.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Domestic partnership registry discussion set

Two weeks from now, according to the paper. Expect a long meeting; the commission could do any one of several things; approve the registry, reject it, or take no action. They could also send it back to the city staff for more tweaking.

The responses of the commissioners to citizens' emails and letters has been very mixed. Boog Highberger gets extra credit for personally sending individual responses to several peoples' emails. Mike Amyx and Sue Hack have not replied to anyone's letters that I know. Mike Dever has been replying to emails, but he said he was too busy to meet Dave and I to talk about the issue in person, and Rob Chestnut has been sending everyone who writes him a form letter.

If you have read this and haven't yet emailed or called the city commissioners, please do so. Just click here and send an email. Public officials, even if they don't respond, do understand the volume of citizen contact, so if you care about the issue, drop a line.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Domestic bliss

Good news out of the Kansas Attorney General's office this afternoon, as his review of Lawrence's proposed domestic partnership registry was completed and the AG found nothing in the proposal that would not pass constitutional muster, although he did suggest to be 100% sure, Lawrence may want to restrict the registry to city residents.

You can read the complete memo if you want.

At this point, I feel a bit of annoyance that the AG couldn't have been a bit more punctual, since the outgoing City Commission would have passed this thing in a heartbeat. The incoming Commission, with two new members, is less certain, although I think that with the AG's imprimatur on the registry, there shouldn't be too much opposition and it will hopefully pass soon. If I had to predict, I would say the new Commission will direct city staff to add a section limiting the registry to city residents, and this will take a couple weeks. Figuring in a couple additional weeks for the new Commission to get settled in, I predict the registry will become law by mid to late May.

As a side note, given the new Commission's business-friendly makeup, I think strategically, it is very important to point out that the registry is not just a good idea out of fairness and human decency, but it will also be very good for the bottom line. There's a reason domestic partner benefits originally appeared in the high tech industry in Silicon Valley -- because those companies wanted to attract the kind of workers that made that region of America into the engine that has driven America's economy for the past 20 years. Enabling more businesses to provide these benefits would help Lawrence attract the kind of forward-looking and valuable companies and jobs that would help Lawrence's bottom line...making this city a better place to work and live.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Eh, there's no gay Jews anyway

The University of Kansas gay student group, Queers and Allies does some wonderful work in Lawrence and on the KU campus. Much of their programming is directed, obviously, at the student population they serve, but every spring traditionally they hold their annual Pride Week, which usually involves community-wide events such as nationally-known speakers and lectures, entertainment, and a parade. This year's schedule looks superb, highlighted by a visit from well-known sex/political writer Dan Savage.

As great is all these events sound, Pride Week will likely be as friendly to Jews as a Hezbollah homecoming parade given Queers and Allies' inexplicable decision to schedule Pride Week in conflict with the Jewish holiday of Passover. Passover (especially the first two nights) is basically the Jewish cultural equivalent of Thanksgiving -- celebrated by even very secular Jews with a special festive meal with family and friends. The holiday is listed on pretty much every cleandar ever printed, including the KU academic and event calendars.

Given that Pride Week is scheduled many, many months in advance, it is inexcusable that a student organization dedicated to fighting against the marginalization of one minority would schedule its keynote event of the year in such a way that they in turn marginalize a different minority. The further irony, of course, is that Passover is the original celebration of freedom over oppression...perhaps this is the reason that Passover resonates heavily with many gay and lesbian Jews; there are numerous gay and lesbian Seders (festive Passover meals) and inclusive Haggadot (Passover liturgies).

I have no ill-will towards KU's queer student group, and I wish them a successful week. I just wish they would have avoided marginalizing Jews -- both gays Jews and straight Jews who support the struggle for equal rights. It would be nice to see Queers and Allies apologize and promise that in the future they will consult a calendar before scheduling Pride Week. I would hope that organization's student leaders and faculty advisors take this to heart. At the end of every Passover meal, it is traditional to say "next year in Jerusalem" as a sign of hope for a better future, so in that vein, may I say regarding Pride Week, "next year in Lawrence!" for all Jews, non-Jews, gay folks, and straight folks alike.

April 2 followup: Apparently many other people complained as well. Queers and Allies (the KU student group) has posted an apology and promised to consult a calendar in the future. This has hopefully been a good learning experience for them.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Fourth City Commission candidate comes out in favor of domestic partnerships

Former Southern Baptist minister James Bush is much more progressive then I gave him credit for. I had thought he was a stealth candidate for the radical right -- I was wrong.

I have read the report the City Commission received from the city staff as well as reviewed the comments made by citizens of Lawrence and members of the City Commission. If I am elected to the City Commission, I would vote in favor of adopting the domestic registry. I support the registry because it affirms the relationship of domestic partners and it can provide employers an avenue to provide health insurance to employees who participate in the domestic registry. I think the big question now concerns how the Kansas Attorney General’s office will rule on the proposal. - James Bush

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Immoral principles

"The question is whether personal moral beliefs should disqualify an individual from positions of leadership in the U.S. military? We think not. General Pace’s recent remarks do not deserve the criticism they have received. In fact, we applaud General Pace for maintaining a personal commitment to moral principles." - Kansas Senator Sam Brownback

The problem isn't Chairman Pace's moral principles, it is Pace's immoral principles -- such as the principle, shared by our Senator, that bigotry is not only something to tolerated, but something to be celebrated enthusiastically.

I think Pace would do better is a military leader in a different country that better shares his values, and Senator Brownback could probably find a good job there, too. Don't laugh -- apparently, the latest thing for right-wingers is the goal of a worldwide Islamic-right-wing Christian common cause to take (rhetorical, for now) arms against American and Western European ideas of liberty and freedom. Dinesh DeSouza just wrote a book about this. Here's a very good analysis of said book. Maybe Pace and Brownback have read it too.

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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The domestic partner registry: The Candidates speak

Below you will find the official pubic-stated opinions of all six Lawrence City Commission candidates on the proposed domestic partner registry for Lawrence. I am pretty sure that this is the first time all of these have been in one place for comparison. Click on each candidate's name to be linked to the complete interview from which the domestic registry opinion was excerpted.

A couple notable trends stand out:

1. The three "progressive" candidates are the only ones who forthrightly said "yes" they will support the registry.
2. None of the "developer" candidates gave an outright "no" answer, but none said "yes" either. All of them seemed to weasel out of giving any kind of straight answer (pun intended). Judging from the answers Dever and Chestnut gave, I think it may be possible to educate these folks on the need and desirability of a domestic partnership ordinance.

Even though the Kansas Equality PAC has officially endorsed the three progressive candidates (Maynard-Moody, Schauner, and Highberger), an endorsement I agree with, we should try to educate the other candidates as well about why the domestic partner ordinance is both good for business and good for the town as a whole. Both Dever and Chestnut I think could be brough around to this point of view, although I doubt Bush (as a Southern Baptist minister) would.

Anyway, here are the views of the six candidates:

Carey Maynard-Moody: I'm very supportive of it. Human rights should not distinguish between race, religion, gender, sexual orientation... We all benefit from protecting human rights.

David Schauner: Thanks for your inquiry about this important issue. I voted to support creation of the registry and believe that it will offer a valuable benefit to all unmarried couples without regard to sexual orientation if their employers choose to make those benefits available.

Boog Highberger: I support creation of a local domestic partnership registry. I share the view of former Attorney Phill Kline (as reported in the Journal World) that a domestic partnership registry would not conflict with the recently passed Marriage Amendment. A domestic partnership registry could help give a lot of Lawrence citizens access to health care benefits that they are not eligible for now.

Mike Dever: I am against discrimination of any kind. I believe that we as a community must be prepared to defend the rights of our citizens. I need to become more informed on this issue to be able to make a sound decision as a commissioner if I am elected.

Rob Chestnut: I would like to ensure that we are not going to have any legal entanglements going forward in considering the domestic partner registry. Secondly, I need to understand more about the potential benefits that it offers citizens of Lawrence. I am not aware of those employers that offer benefits to domestic partners, so I would like to make an informed decision on the impact of the ordinance. Finally, I would like to know what the cost is to the city. This would allow me to make an informed decision.

James Bush: Thank you for asking this question that so many in the community are pondering during this election season. I haven't seen the actual wording of the proposed ordinance so I may be at a disadvantage to address specific language but, I do have an opinion. First, I am opposed to discrimination in any form. I do know the city has an ordinance that addresses discrimination in hiring practices. The questions I have in regard to this registry is what the economic impacts are from such a registry and have these consequences been fully considered.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Marriage is good and protected in Michigan

The truth that "protecting marriage" apparently requires gay people to lose their employer-provided health care benefits was proven true in Michigan today as a court ruled that Michigan's anti-gay marriage amendment (adopted in 2004) doesn't allow cities or state universities to grant health care benefits to the partners of their gay employees.

This is similar, but not quite the same issue as the situation here in Lawrence; in Michigan the issue is employment benefits; in Lawrence the proposed ordinance is a symbolic public registry, but if, say, the University of Kansas were to grant benefits, then a situation such as they have in Michigan would be set up here.

Either way, this proves that in expanding these various amendments to do more then merely ban gay marriage, the right wing supporters of these measures are intending to do exactly what actually happened in Michigan - take away people's health care and go way beyond "protecting marriage" to actively try to harm gay people living in their state.

Hopefully, city and university administrators can re-rig their health care plans to perhaps cover "any designated adult" or something like that, rather then specifying a "spouse" or "domestic partner" -- that would insure that people don't lose their health care coverage.

Or maybe a new amendment can be drafted that would strip health insurance from bigots. One can dream, I suppose.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Conservatives are in favor of local control of government...

...Except when they're not.

In a state where marriage is quite definitely "protected" from the depravations of loving gay couples thanks to a constitutional amendment approved by voters two years ago, it looks like even that isn't enough for a random state legislator, Lance Kinzer, who hails from Olathe, but somehow thinks he should be able to tell the citizens of Lawrence what kind of local ordinances they are allowed to pass. He has introduced a bill that would prohibit cities such as Lawrence from adopting any kind of domestic partner registries or programs.

Lawrence, you might recall, was the only county in Kansas to vote against the marriage amendment, and it did so by an overwhelming margin. The city commissioners of Lawrence are planning on implementing a domestic partner registry. Although the reigstry cannot counter state law, and will be basically symbolic, it is an important statement that clearly reflects the will of the citizens of Lawrence.

Representative Lance Kinzer has no right to tell Lawrence what ordinances it may adopt. Home rule is a fundamental building block of our system of government, and it basically means that cities are free to govern themselves and enact any ordinances they see fit so long as they do not violate state law. The legislature has the power to enforce uniform state law on any subject it wishes, but this power is to be used sparingly, on the principle that local control is the best.

There is no matter of statewide concern here. Lawrence's registry doesn't force other cities to do anything, nor does it violate state law (unless a court or the Attorney General say otherwise; and there will certainly be a suit to determine this).

The reason Lance Kinzer is trying to tell the people of Lawrence what to do is bigotry. He cannot abide by the thought that anywhere in this state there might be a city where gay people are actually thought by the majority of their neighbors to be fully human. The Kansas legislature is hardly a bastion of liberalism, but I doubt the leadership is spoiling for a "culture war" fight this year. Hopefully this disgusting bill will die alone in a committee, and the people of Lawrence -- and Olathe -- can make of their communities what they wish.

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