Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Does Familiarity Breed Contempt?

It is often said that familiarity breeds contempt, yet for LGBT people, familiarity is our best weapon against the bastions of hatred and discrimination that we are faced with each and every day. This past weekend was an excellent example of the necessity of familiarity in breaking down “walls” that separate people. This holiday weekend, my husband and I traveled to St. Louis (originally had planned Atlanta, but changed at the last minute) to spend a few days with my grandmother. Though we had spent a week with her this summer, during this trip there were frank discussions about being gay, our relationship, etc. In the end, she told us that “it is 2011, we are not living in the early 1900’s, so people just need to get over it”. These words were quite shocking to hear, for though I knew that my grandmother would be the one who would have the least issue with “being gay”, I was surprised that she had come around this quickly.

These discussions that we had with my grandmother started me thinking about the necessity of familiarity when it comes to our community. As much as I am not one to throw my sexuality in people’s faces, it is important that we bring up issues that we feel strongly about. Whether those issues be political or who we are in a relationship with, each and every time that our friends and family hear us speak about our lives are moments where we have once again become “human” to them.

As I have stated numerous times on this blog, discrimination rears its head when we allow ourselves to be “othered”. Such othering can be seen in how African-Americans were treated in the United States, to how the Jews were “othered” by the Nazi’s. When we lose touch of the inherent worth of our fellow human beings, we have successfully “othered” them, and thus find it easier to (1) deny them rights and (2) portray them as a group rather than as individuals. What is the best defense against the “othering” that our community is subjected to every day? The answer is simple, yet hard to play out. In order to overcome “othering” we must be out, be forceful, and be honest with ourselves and those around us. We cannot allow ourselves to back down in the face of societal, religious, or familial pressure. Only by being honest with how we are impacted can we show those who “other” the people behind their sterotype.

Though it is not easy living in honesty and openness regarding our relationships and sexual orientation, it is a necessary component of who we are as a person. We don’t have to constantly talk about our sexuality, no more than a heterosexual person would discuss their sexuality, yet when our family and friends are talking about their significant others, we should bring up ours. When we gather around the holiday tables at our respective homes, we should insist that our spouses are allowed to be present, and if they are not, politely decline to attend (all the while stating the reason why we are not attending). Such a rejection of “othering” is never easy, but after years of lost relationships with family members, those who have rejected us will come back to the table, realizing that their hostility has hurt them more than it did us.

Though our community has made great strides in the past few years to overcome the discrimination that we are faced with every day, there is still much work to be done. We are the foot-soldiers in the war for our very personhood, for as Secretary Clinton said, “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights”. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Marcus Bachmann's Bullying Of LGBT Children

     Marcus Bachmann has decided upon his course of action if he were to become the first 'first gentleman' to occupy the White House. Instead of waging a war against obesity, which is Michelle Obama's cause, he has decided that he is going to pursue something more important: reaffirming the discriminatory notion that ones sexual orientation can exclude you from one of the most valued institutions of society.

      During a campaign event in Le Mars, Iowa -Marcus Bachmann, the controversial  husband of Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, told reporters that his focus as the first gentleman would be to tell the country that "marriage is between one man and one woman" and that they are going to "promote families". 

      Interesting that Michele Obama has focused on obesity and that Laura Bush focused upon reading skills, yet the Bachmann campaign would focus upon reinforcing marital apartheid and devaluing our families. Instead of encouraging children to make themselves better, Marcus Bachmann would rather see LGBT children grow up in a society that says to them "you and your relationship with your significant other are not 'good' for society, and thus instead of being encouraged, should be heavily stigmatized." Instead of helping children see that they are inherently valuable, Bachmann would rather use the force of law to instill in these vulnerable segments of our society the belief that there is something wrong with them. 

      Now I am well aware that the Bachmann candidacy has no chance of going anywhere, whether it be in this election or any in the near future. But regardless, it is important that these issues be addressed. As long as  figures like the Bachmanns are allowed to make statements which demean and actively promote hatred and discrimination against our community, they must be called out. Their words have direct impact upon the lives of countless men and women across the United States (and yes, the world), and every one life that is lost because of the rhetoric that the Bachmann's use is one precious life that can never be regained. 

      As we gather around our families this coming weekend - whether it be my husband and I at my parents house in Atlanta or you at your parents/siblings/aunts and uncles - it is essential that we forcefully assert the value of our relationships and way of life. When we are passive, and speak in code regarding our sexual orientation or relationships, we are giving into the mentality that there is something "wrong" with us. We are giving into the notion that we are "different" from the rest of our family; and every time we do that, we are no better than the Bachmann's. Though they are actively promoting hatred, our passivity in combating the hatred and discrimination that we face every day shows to our closest family members that such discrimination is alright and that it can continue. By not sticking up for our rights in our families, why should we expect society to treat us with dignity and respect? 

With that, though I am sure I will post before then, I wish you and yours an excellent Holiday Season. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

GOProud's Hypocrisy

Just a very quick post - as I am in the middle of finals studying, and must stay focused on that till Thursday - but I could not pass this up.(Though it does feel good to actually be blogging for a change). 

 As most of my readers probably know, the Republicans gay organization GOProud is receiving quite a bit of flack because of their "outing" of a top Rick Perry candidate. According to GOProud, they were not aware that the consultant in question - Tony Fabrizio - was closeted, and that it was assumed that his sexual orientation was well known, 

“From the time this organization was founded we have been clear in our opposition to outing. We would never intentionally out anyone. However, in the case of Tony Fabrizio, top pollster and chief strategist for the Presidential campaign of Texas Governor Rick Perry, we did not believe there was any question about his sexual orientation – nor did the reporters who called us to ask about his involvement in Perry’s anti-gay campaign strategy. Questions about an individual’s sexual orientation should obviously be answered by that individual.
“Let us be crystal clear, however, Tony Fabrizio is not the victim here. Tony Fabrizio has lined his pockets for years with money from gay groups and is now one of the chief architects of a campaign strategy – not just an isolated television ad - intended to demonize gay people in order to score political points. Fabrizio claims he opposed the latest anti-gay Perry television ad. If Fabrizio really does oppose the ad and the broader strategy then the honorable and decent thing to do would be to resign from the campaign. Tony Fabrizio is no junior staffer he is one of the top campaign pollsters and strategists in the country.

In further interviews and conversations with the LGBT media figures like Michelangelo Signorile, GOProud Executive Director Jimmy LaSalvia, asserts that the reason why the Perry campaign was specifically targeted was because anti-gay sentiment became the "the centerpiece strategy of the campaign."

So, as long as anti-gay sentiment is just a plank in any particular candidates campaign - whether that be the failed campaign of Herman Cain (which GOProud supported till the end), Michelle Bachman (which GOProud has stated they would support if she became theRepublican candidate), Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney - they are not going to be the target of GOProud's malice...yet once anti-gay hysteria becomes a central campaign issue then they are worthy of being called out? 

When will GOProud realize that what Perry did in his campaign ad is just as wrong as Herman Cain asserting that people "choose" to be gay? When will they realize that every time a major candidate talks about the necessity of keeping marriage between one man and one woman, they are reinforcing the stereotype that LGBT people are "less than" their heterosexual counterparts. Just because such a mentality is not a "central" part of a campaign does not make it any less damaging.

If GOProud wants to regain any form of legitimacy that they might have had, they must dispense with the hypocrisy of pointing out LGBT individuals who "line their pockets with checks from homophobes while throwing the rest of us under the bus" while at the same time engaging in similar activities. Instead of saying nothing or hardly making a stir when candidates espouses harmful rhetoric against our community, they must speak out forcefully and passionately against such harassment. As long as they support in word and deed politicians who will "throw our community under the bus", they are no better than Tony Fabrizio. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

To Each His Own Interpretation

On this blog, there have been many times that I have discussed the interplay of religion and sexuality and how religious viewpoints impact the debate over homosexuality.  This is an ever evolving discussion, and in our Judeo-Christian based culture, is especially important in turning the cultural attitudes and opinions about the validity of same-sex relationships and LGBT issues in a positive direction.

Though we are engaged in a fight for legal validity and respect, it cannot be understated that the true war for equality is found in demolishing the cultural and religious edifices which currently discriminate against us and building in their place centers of inclusiveness and respect. For example, why is our community fighting for the word “marriage”? Because in our culture the word "marriage" exudes a sense of commitment, of respectability, and in religious circles, a sense of divine blessing.  

When our enemies in our fight for social legitimacy claim that we are attempting to fundamentally restructure society and society values, we should agree. But what they view as a negative decent into “moral chaos” must instead be framed as our acceptance of everyone no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity.  Instead of playing on their terms, and arguing from a negative perspective, we must frame the debate in positive terms (this in fact, is being accomplished by many a person in our movement).

We must also, in our fight against cultural and religious oppression, make it clear to those who use religious texts to claim that we are living “sinful” lives, that we are not going to let them use such texts with reckless abandon. For example, a normal discussion regarding the sinfulness of homosexuality, goes something like this.

Anti-Gay Person: “Homosexuality is an abomination, it is evil. This is because the Bible says so, and I believe what God’s Word says”

Gay Person: “Who cares, you can feel that way all you want too. I don’t believe in the Bible, so it really does not apply to me”.

What does this exchange accomplish? Does it challenge the “Bible-Basher” to reflect on his usage of a religious text to bash LGBT people? Not at all. Instead, the anti-gay religious person can just go home and pat themselves on the back, content with the notion that they stood up for the truth of God against the homosexual who is living in blatant rebellion.

Instead, let me give you and exchange which would be more likely to plant those “seeds of doubt” regarding an individual’s belief in the evils of homosexuality.  In response to the original statement, our representative from the LGBT community should instead say this,

Gay Person: “How do you know that is what the Bible says? Have you read the original Greek and Hebrew?”

Anti-Gay Person: “No, but I trust the translators, and I know that what they have translated is truth”.

Gay Person: “Were you not aware that even in translating a text, an interpreter places his or her own biases into the text? Did you know that the words in the New Testament which supposedly discuss homosexuality have a checkered history in their translation? Did you know that the passage in Leviticus which is translated “abomination”, does not mean the same thing today as it did back then?”

What did the member of our community do in this exchange? Did they just say that they don’t believe the Bible and therefore that it does not apply? No, instead they engaged in a dialogue on this issue. They showed the religious person that their belief was not necessarily based upon fact, but was instead based upon interpretation of text. This is the planting of doubt.  This doubt is not bad, for doubt allows us to reexamine those truths that we have clung to for our whole life. Doubt allows us to recognize how prejudices and misunderstandings have shaped our interpretation of what we deem The Holy Scriptures.
Thankfully there are many people within our respective religious communities who are working to challenge this fundamentalist adherence to interpretation as dogma. Friends of mine, like Kathy Verbiest Baldock, are having this dialogue within these religious spheres. They recognize that in order to truly win the “culture wars”, we cannot stop at the gate of legal equality. Instead, they know that the bastions of religious and cultural oppression must fall. So this is my challenge to you all. No matter if you are religious or not, respectfully challenge individuals who cling to interpretation as fact and who use the bully pulpit of their religious persuasion to demean others. It is time that our community has a full on dialogue with our religious institutions – whether it be Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, or Sikh – and show them that there is enough room at the table of religion for all of those who are made in the Image of God. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Religious Right Freaks Out Over Washington Disclosure Case

Religious Right groups, from Protect Marriage Washington to Focus On The Families Citizen Link, are having a conniption fit over the fact that Judge Settle ordered the release of the 137,500 names that Protect Marriage Washington gathered to oppose the expansion of domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian couples in Washington State.

Citizen Link, in fact, has gone off the deep end; saying that those who value "traditional marriage" do not have the "right to privacy - even in the face of harassment and intimidation of homosexual activists". Additionally, they assert that the homosexual lobby has done "horrible" things to people and businesses that have opposed equality for LGBT people. My favorite of these "horrible"  things was that, "Business owners were affected as well, with boycotts of establishments where owners or employees had donated money to the cause." Additionally, they assert that there are serious chances of death threats and that this ruling has put "traditional marriage" supporters "at risk". 

Now, if anyone actually read the ruling (which I, as a law nerd actually did) you will notice that Judge Settle meticulously went through the claims of harassment and harm that proponents of Referendum 71 put forth. In each and every case, the judge showed that the "threats" and "harassment" that were claimed by supporters of Referendum 71 were either speculative, made up, or not even related to the Ref. 71 campaign. Some cases which might be labeled "harassment", such as verbal debate on the referendum, were in all cases viewed by those who claimed "intimidation" as a non-issue. 

This once again shows the lack of honesty of our opponents. Instead of actually addressing the issues that Judge Settle raised in his decision, organizations like Citizen Link make blatant accusations not rooted in evidence. 

Additionally, it seems as though the Religious Right has raised the bar for something to be considered "harassment". Instead of recognizing, for example, the right of citizens to vote with their dollars and decide which business to support; that has been elevated to "harassment". So now, it must be asked, is me having the freedom to decide who I wish to purchase from harassment? Does Focus On The Family want to have corporations and businesses not be accountable for any of their actions that affect society? How does this jive with Christian boycotts of places like Disney and Home Depot because of their pro-gay policies? Are Christians, through those boycotts, now harassing the LGBT community?

These are questions that need to be answered by the Religious Right. Why does harassment only go one way? Why is it that LGBT people are singled out for "harassing" those on the Religious Right, yet those same people who claim harassment, are the ones who are actually doing the harassing? 

In my opinion, they are the ones who are knowingly telling lies about our community, who are turning their LGBT sons and daughters into the cold because of who they are, and who are ones who are the ones directly causing the suicides of America's youth because of their religious based oppression and bullying. They are the true harassers, they are the ones who have the "majority", and we are the persecuted minority. They are the ones who, instead of recognizing that they are the ones who have caused pain and suffering in our community, have claimed for themselves the mantle of "victim". 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mid-South Pride - An Awesome Day To Be Gay

Yesterday was a beautiful day in the city of Memphis, Tennessee; the sky was blue, the clouds were sparse, and the weather was warm. It was the perfect day for the annual Mid-South Pride parade, where LGBT people from all over West Tennessee, Eastern Arkansas, North Mississippi, and Southeast Missouri came to be open and honest with who they are and celebrate their love and families.
For a bit of Pride, Nathan and I helped volunteer at the Tennessee Equality Project booth, our states  LGBT lobbying group. Members of our equality posse dressed up as zombies who were in search of the brains of pro-equality government officials. It was awesome, I can say, dumping fake blood on our pro-equality zombies, and see them staggering down Beale street. 
Though Pride was a great experience, and one which has received mostly positive feedback from the Memphis community, it showed me something which I have always known, yet been very hesitant to voice. In some estimates given, there were thousands of LGBT people and straight allies at this event; yet does this "pride" in our community spill over into the ballot box? We can have floats and paraders galore, but how many of these people who put time and energy into building a float, put the same time and energy in advocating for our legal and social equality? Why does our community come out in droves for events such as Pride, but yet when we have the option to elect pro-equality members of our city government, no one shows up? 

Though there are many dedicated individuals, whether they be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or a straight ally, who are fighting the good fight of equality against the hateful masses in Tennessee; it is an understatement to say that we are not exerting the full pressure that our community could exert. Instead of our whole community standing for our rights, we expect others to do it for us. We go about our day to day lives existing in a society that asserts that we are inferior, yet many of us take that inferiority sitting down. Instead of "occupying" the statehouse, or even the mayors office; we go to work and then we go home. When is our community (ALL of our community, not just the subset that we see now) going to demand our equality? When are we going to become a force to be reckoned with in the South? When will we get as many people in a protest in front of the mayors office, as we do at Pride? I for one, hope that we can take the pride that we had yesterday in this city, and exude it to our government and society. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Is Tennessee Really That Bad?

Tennessee has been getting a bad rap lately. From the passage of anti-gay legislation in the last session of the state legislature, to the current issue regarding Gay-Straight alliances in East Tennessee schools, or anti-gay assault in West Tennessee, national (and international) communities have lambasted the state as a haven for bigots and religious extremists.

Though this perception of Tennessee may in fact be true; it gives us a very one sided perception of a state that has so much going for it. Though extremists may run the state, and though there are many people who harbor anti-gay views, Tennessee is, in fact, one of the most progressive of the Southern States. To paint a picture of Tennessee as a place where only those with hate in their hearts live, is to paint those equality minded residents with a brush that does not do them justice at all.

Within this state are individuals who work day and night to advance the interests of equality and equal protections for gays and lesbians. It was through these individuals efforts that the Metro Council of Nashville/Davidson county enacted its anti-discrimination provision (which was overturned by the state legislature). It was through the efforts of dedicated allies in the fight for equality that the issue of Sequoyah High School's drive to ratify a gay-straight alliance has gained national press. And it is through the outspokenness of individuals such as Jerry Pittman Jr. and Dustin Lee that we can address head on the issue of hate-crimes in this state. These past few years we have seen a profound shift in how we are dealing with anti-gay bigotry, for instead of staying in our closets, we will not take the degredation of our community sitting down. Instead we will stand and fight! Tennessee is getting a bad rap, not because anything "new" is happening, but instead because we are actually doing something about what is going on, we are fighting against the forces of bigotry and hate. And, as everyone well knows, when the fight happens, the push-back is that much stronger.

This coming weekend, the City of Memphis and the Mid-South region will be celebrating its annual Mid-South Pride. In the city which is known for the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.  and encapsulates the reality of the civil rights struggle firsthand, LGBT people will cry out for their civil rights to be recognized. Only blocks from the National Civil Rights museum, we will celebrate our community, and the impacts that we have made in this, and every, Mid-South city. In recognition of our struggle for societal acceptance, Memphis mayor A.C. Wharton issued the a statement commemorating our celebration, a snippet of which follows,
"Mid-South Pride Festival and Parade is an annual, multicultural and educational event in Memphis that highlights the continued need for better understanding, respect, fairness, justice and equality for all people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, in the crusade to outlaw discriminatory laws and practices"
Though Tennessee may treat its LGBT citizens with condemnation and hate, it is not hopeless. Change does not come easy, but even if it did, change that comes with sacrifice is that much sweeter. Let us rejoice that we are seeing change happen each and every day in this great state.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My Thoughts On John Smid's Revelation That He Is A Homosexual

On his blog, former reparative therapy organization Love In Action director John Smid, has written a startling piece detailing his change of heart in regards to the effectiveness of reparative therapy. Though Smid has issued formal and public apologies to many that he has harmed through his work (myself included), this is the first time that he has made some of the statements that he made in his post. Writing to an unidentified reader, Smid dissects the reality of the ex-gay movement, giving the victims of his ex-gay theology and practice much needed closure,  yet one that can have serious and negative repercussions to the LGBT community and our goal of full legal and social equality. 

In his post, Smid makes some startling claims, one of the most preeminent being when he discussed "changing" from homosexuality to heterosexuality, 
 Actually I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual. I have met some women who claim that is the case but then again, male sexuality and female sexuality are vastly biologically different so this would not be a fair comparison.
This was not the only shocking thing that was stated by Smid, for, further into his writing, he states bluntly that "I am homosexual". For one of the former major leaders of the ex-gay movement to say this is quite astounding, and shows a man who not only has thought through his sexuality, but one that is willing to deal with the consequences of his new-found comfort with his sexual orientation. 

Though I am glad that Smid has stated that he has never actually met a man who has experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual and has come out as a homosexual, the rest of his writing gives me a bit of pause. Maybe this is because I myself was subjected to this mans program for eight months, and as such, have trust issues in regards to statements that he makes. Though I have formally and internally accepted the apology that he has given me, I still approach his thoughts with a grain of salt.

The main danger that I see in Smid's writing, and one that I think has a very large potential to harm our movement as a whole, is this notion that he as a homosexual, is having a successful marriage with a heterosexual woman. Though I am not in the position to judge his relationship with his wife, he also make the statement that, 
I have met men who find their transformation to include marriage to a woman and having a family and it is something for them that is a wonderful life experience.  I’ve met some who find their transformation to include satisfaction in living a single life in Christ and His calling.  But, I’ve also met some who experience transformation from sexual promiscuity to  a faithful gay relationship that is truly, in their experience,  a great blessing to their relationship with Christ. Oh, I understand the controversy in all of this.
Why is this statement, as well as Smid's acknowledgement of his homosexuality and living in a heterosexual marriage, important? It is important because Smid, though most likely not realizing it, has given fuel to the fire of religious organizations such as the National Organization for Marriage, the American Family Association, and the Family Research Council in their quest to demonize and undermine any advances in equality for the LGBT community. 

Years ago, one of the main critiques of the marriage equality movement by those who were attempting to "preserve traditional marriage" was that LGBT made the "choice" to be gay, and that if we wanted to, we could choose to be heterosexual. This is what drove organizations such as Exodus and Love In Action to even exist. Though there is still a large following of that position (see the recent controversy with Herman Cain) many in the Religious Right have gotten wise to the science that backs up the immutablity of sexual orientation. Now, instead of going against the scientific community by claiming that our orientation is changeable, they state that our actions are changeable...and that if we wanted to, we could "act" heterosexual and marry someone of the opposite gender. Why, they ask, change such a fundamental institution such as marriage, for people who are "choosing" to have homosexual sex or be in a homosexual relationship? 

Smid, in his discussion on his blog, presents us with a claim that bolsters this new "action" definition of change. In coming out as a homosexual who is successfully married to a heterosexual woman, as well as stating that he knows of many homosexual men who are also in heterosexual relationships with women, Smid is playing into the hands of our enemies. He is, albeit unintentionally, giving credence to their idea that we are seeking "special rights" because if we really wanted to, we could act as heterosexuals. 

Though his overall message is one of respecting the personal choices of individuals, being non-judgmental, that gay people can be Christians, and accepting the reality that he must be open to changing his views and not be trapped in the fundamentalist bubble, his story goes farther than that. Many within the LGBT community (especially the Memphis community) have the right to celebrate this chapter in the tragic novel of the Love In Action program, but we must also remember what this post is actually saying. Instead of bolstering our claim that our orientation is immutable, thus we are being discriminated against, Smid is opening the door for those on the Right to say that we have brought this discrimination upon ourselves for "choosing" a homosexual partner. 

Maybe I am cynical but I would only be comfortable with Smid's recent post (and the subsequent consequence of it that I have shared), if he came out unequivocally on the side of LGBT equality; stating that to deny same-sex couples the benefits of marriage and other legal protections is not only legally wrong, but that is violates every standard of Scripture. Though organizations within the Religious Right may then twist Smid's words regarding homosexual's marrying heterosexuals, it would then be clear where Smid stands on the matter. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Bev Perdue's Real Statement On Gay Marriage

Yesterday, North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue, stated her opposition to the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage that North Carolina voters will vote on this coming May. In a statement released on her website and quoted by news sites such as LGBTQNation and the Huffington Post, she asserted that she is opposed to the amendment, yet qualified that statement with the following words. 
“My top priority is creating jobs. Too many people are out of work and I’ve heard from several business leaders who’ve told me that the proposed constitutional amendment will harm our state’s business climate and make it harder to grow jobs here. I believe that marriage is between one man and one woman: That’s why I voted for the law in 1996 that defines marriage as between one man and one woman, and that’s why I continue to support that law today. But I’m going to vote against the amendment because I cannot in good conscience look an unemployed man or woman in the eye and tell them that this amendment is more important than finding them a job."
It seems as though she may have to take this "middle ground" in regards to equality in order to keep her governorship away from her potential challengers (according to recent polling by Public Policy Polling she has a very low approval rating and is trailing or equal in the polls with her gubernatorial challengers). 

But is this a stand that should be applauded, or even just met with statements like "well that's good or "at least its a no vote" by LGBT activists?  I think not, for this statement out of the Governors office shows nothing more than a lack of substance or interest in promoting equality for her gay and lesbian constituents. Based upon her language, if a bill came before her to legalize marriage equality in the state, we would see a veto - since she continues to support and believe the discriminatory notion that marriage is only between one-man one-woman. 

Instead of holding her feet to the fire, Equality North Carolina - an organization with which I normally respect and admire - issued a tepid response. Instead of calling out the governor on the ridiculousness of her "opposition", they instead release a statement saying
Governor Perdue's statement makes clear that while there are issues on which we do not agree, we do agree that this amendment, and this debate, is not about legalizing same-sex marriage, but is and should be about what this amendment would actually do: eliminate legal recognition and protections for all unmarried couples, regardless of their sexual orientation.
With our communities focus on the negative economic impacts of anti-gay marriage amendments, it might seem as though we have gotten away from why marriage equality actually matters. Marriage bans are wrong because in them, we are being singled out for exclusion strictly because of our sexual orientation. We are denied legal relationship recognition because we were wired to love someone of the same-sex. Instead of  elevating the reality of our exclusion and denial of a basic fundamental right, organizations like Equality North Carolina is allowing individuals like Governor Perdue to assert that economics is the only reason to vote pro-equality. Because its "bad for business", it is bad for the North Carolina. It is only because it is better to "focus on jobs" and not fundamental rights that she will be voting against the bill. So does that mean that if business was booming and we were in the middle of economic growth, that the Governor would be voting for the discriminatory amendment?

That is the problem with allowing individuals like Governor Perdue to state that their opposition for marriage equality is strictly economic, rather than because such an amendment is a fundamental disregard of human rights and legal equality. A friend to our community who is only a friend because of economics is not a true friend at all. Instead, Perdue is an opportunist and a true politician, not only disregarding standing firm for equality, but embracing economic justifications for social policy. The slave-owners of the pre-war South would find much in common with her. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Memphis Church Embroiled In Gay Rights Election Controversy

One of the largest Southern Baptist churches in the country, Bellevue Baptist, has been recently become entangled in a thorny controversy regarding its alleged support of political candidates in the upcoming Memphis City Council Elections. Flanked by its three imposing crosses, Bellevue has not been without controversy in its treatment of LGBT people, as last year it refused to allow a lesbian team to play in its softball league. 

In this most recent controversy regarding its treatment of LGBT people, Pastor Steve Gaines sent out an email alert on Tuesday of this week (which also appears on the front page of their website), calling on all Bellevue members to vote for "pro-family" city council members. 
 The election for City of Memphis council members is in progress, with early voting taking place now through October 1 and Election Day October 6. The Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) has made a concerted effort to unseat councilmen who voted against a TEP-supported and proposed ordinance that would have provided preferential treatment to local government employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. The ordinance did not pass.
Since that time the Tennessee state legislature and governor have passed a law that prohibits cities and municipalities from imposing a "protected class" of employees on private employers. However, the TEP is pressing their agenda with respect to government employees by working to replace councilmen who opposed their original proposed ordinances.
We are asking our people to become fully informed before voting for city council members by being aware of candidates who have supported treating ALL employees equally and do not want to put additional burden on any employer by granting certain employees a special civil rights status based on sexual preferences or gender identity/expression.
For more information, visit the Family Action Council of Tennessee website at www.familyactiontn.org.
Americans United For Separation of Church and State (AU) as well as the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) has responded to this message by Pastor Gaines; both of them demanding an investigation of whether the Church is violating IRS rules regarding endorsement of political candidates. According to Rob Boston of AU
The Internal Revenue Service warns houses of worship about linking to campaign related sites, noting that choosing to link to another site is a proactive activity. Asserts the IRS, “An organization has control over whether it establishes a link to another site. When an organization establishes a link to another web site, the organization is responsible for the consequences of establishing and maintaining that link, even if the organization does not have control over the content of the linked site.”
(Bellevue Baptist) linked to one site that endorsed three candidates. That site happens to be run by a 501 (c)(4) organization that may legally endorse candidates. But the church, as 501 (c)(3) is subject to a different set of rules, one of which prohibits intervention in politics. (The Family Action Council of Tennessee, by the way, is an affiliate of Focus on the Family.)
The Tennessee Equality Project also has had some strong words for Pastor Gaines, stating on their blog - Grand Divisions - that not only does Pastor Gaines not embody true "family values", but that he is also using his pastoral office in an unacceptable way. 
Pastor Gaines is using his bully pulpit to attack law abiding people who simply want the right to make a living in Memphis. He's also using his Bible and church to prop up his personal bias and bigotry against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Gaines lives outside Memphis city limits yet believes he should determine the fate of city elections.
 Bellevue Baptist has not commented on this specific issue, yet their statement at the end of their pro-family exhortation seems to show that they believe they are free to link to such sites.
Some members have inquired regarding Bellevue's tax-exempt status. Please know that we are fully aware of the law granting tax-exempt status to churches.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lesbian Asserts That Being Gay Is A Choice

In a very badly worded article published by The Atlantic this past Monday, writer Lindsay Miller describes her experiences as a "lesbian" and then goes on to describe her feelings about being "born gay".  Though the entire article is an interesting read - it seems to be based upon anecdotal stories - one specific paragraph should give readers pause.
In direct opposition to both the mainstream gay movement and Lady Gaga, I would like to state for the record that I was not born this way. I have dated both men and women in the past, and when I've been with men, I never had to lie back and think of Megan Fox. I still notice attractive men on the street and on television. If I were terrified of the stigma associated with homosexuality, it would have been easy enough to date men exclusively and stay in the closet my whole life.
Though Ms. Miller attempts to provide cover for her argument by stating that "not all of us" were "born this way", her argument - being from a self-identified lesbian perspective, rather than what is more clearly a bisexual one - gives credence to our oppositions argument that ones sexual orientation is easily altered.

Later in the the article, we can see Ms. Miller's point regarding the "born gay" controversy. Instead of arguing, as we are so prone to hear, that LGBT people should not have rights because they have chosen to be that way, Ms. Miller argues that all choices - no matter how society views them - should be valid under the law.

This may be Ms. Millers point, but our political opponents have glossed over this point in favor of the more controversial, are you "born gay".   For example, the National Organization for Marriage has picked up on the article and has posted it proudly on its website, goading its readers to "weigh in" on the "born gay" issue. Naturally,as it normally is with NOM, the "weighing in" on this issue is blatantly one sided, with commentators comparing LGBT people with alcoholics and thieves.

Though I am sure it is unintentional, not only has Ms. Miller given cover for the opponents of LGBT equality (in that we can always "choose" to marry a member of the opposite sex); she has also given cover to the concept of "reparative therapy". If sexual orientation is a choice, individuals can change to become "normal" members of their faith and social communities. Individuals who experience "same-sex attraction" do not have to struggle with such a deviant malady; for people have the ability to switch their sexual orientation at a whim. 

Ms. Miller also fails to realize that when our community says that we are "born this way", it is not a form of derision and condensation. It does not mean that straight people can feel bad for us and that we are "apologizing for who we are". Instead, it is the reality that a very large percentage of LGBT people live with; we did not "choose" to be gay, and we have an unchangeable and God-given sexual orientation, thus we deserve all of the rights given to our heterosexual counterparts. 

Though Ms. Miller may be comfortable in her chosen "sexual orientation", her word choice, and her lack of scientific understanding regarding the science of sexual orientation, shows not only an immature writer, but one who does not understand that words do have consequences, and when you are perceived to speak for a group - that group will come under fire for your actions. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

As Religion Comes To Our Side

Equality North Carolina has released a press release that should give all LGBT people, no matter the religion (or non-religion) that we ascribe too, hope during these dark times in the fight for LGBT equality.

In response to the anti-gay constitutional amendment that is being proposed in the North Carolina legislature in the coming weeks, nearly 250 Clergy and Faith leaders from across the state have signed onto a declaration which affirms that,
  • While we respect the fact that debate and discussion continue in many of our religious communities as to the scriptural, theological and liturgical issues involved, we draw on our many faith traditions to arrive at a common conviction. We oppose the use of sacred texts and religious traditions to deny legal equity to gay and lesbian people. 
  • We oppose any amendment to the North Carolina Constitution that would prohibit gay and lesbian couples from receiving the protections like health benefits and hospital visitation afforded by recognition of their relationships.
  • We affirm freedom of conscience in this matter. We recognize that the state may not require religious clergy to officiate at, or bless, gay and lesbian marriages. Likewise, a denial of state civil recognition dishonors the religious convictions of those clergy, supported by their faith communities, who officiate at and bless gay and lesbian marriages.
These faith leaders, in submitting their names to these three principles, show us once again that the love of God knows no gender or sexual orientation. Many times, those of us in the LGBT community view religion and religious organizations as hindrances in our effort to gain social equality with our heterosexual brethren. Too often, we see religious groups (such as Focus On The Family, the National Organization for Marriage, the Catholic Conference, and the Southern Baptist Convention)  working to deny us our rights and "change" our God given sexual orientation, and thus we falsely paint all religious organizations as being the same way.

Thankfully, these 200+ clergy members in North Carolina - from diverse denominations, movements, and religions - are working to shatter this misconception. These clergy are telling LGBT people that God accepts and affirms us for who we are, and not what men want us to be. They affirm that not only are LGBT people welcome in their congregations, but they also affirm that our relationships and love are valid and sacred before God.

Not only is this bridge building between the religious and LGBT communities happening in North Carolina, but it is happening across our nation. From here in Memphis, where religious groups have allied with the Universities SafeZone program, to national denominations such as the Presbyterian Church (USA) affirming the place of openly gay leaders, we are seeing the walls of institutionalized religious discrimination come tumbling down.

This is just another reason my friends, why it is essential that we be out and proud in our religious groups and communities; for without our voices being heard, we will remain an invisible minority, and change, instead of being slow to come, will not come at all. Thus, my challenge to you is that no matter how hard it may seem, live with dignity, honesty, and openness in your daily life...because YOU are change.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

To The Republicans - We Should Go Back Into The Political Closet

Now that the Republican Debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library has ended, it is important that we look back at what was said - or more accurately what was not said - during the debate.

Though the candidates argued about issues such things as healthcare, climate change, the role of the Department of Homeland Security, and the death penalty, what was conspicuously absent was any questions or comments regarding LGBT rights and/or equality. Even when discussing the issue of Immigration reform, there was no mention by any of the candidates about the struggles of gay and lesbian Americans who have a foreign spouse.

To me, it is a representation of the Republican parties overall dismissal of LGBT rights and equality which leads us to the situation that we had tonight; that is, of the complete absence of any mention of LGBT Americans.  Considering that candidates such as Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann have made their mark in politics by being warriors in the "culture wars", this absence is even more surprising. This absence could be viewed in two different ways.

First, it could be construed to remind us Americans who are LGBT that the majority of the Republican party - save a few individuals and groups like Fred Karger, Log Cabin Republicans, and Jon Hunstman - would like nothing more than to see us put back into the closet. They do not view our issues as "important" or even worthy of airtime; to these candidates, our cry for legal and social equality does not compare to the economic ills that plague the U.S.. There are more "important" things to worry about, why even worry about the gays.

On the other hand, the absence of LGBT issues in the debate could be construed as a positive development. LGBT rights are not the "hot-button" issue that they were in the 2004 election; so why risk alienating the moderate voters? Could it be that there was no mention of marriage equality, workplace discrimination, or immigration reform for LGBT people, because the candidates don't want their radical views on the subject to be the main topic of media reports? Could it be that these candidates know that the reign of the Religious Right and social conservative wing of the Republican party is slowly coming to an end?

Though the second rational may seem logical and even preferable to believe, it fails to recognize that these candidates have not only made their opposition to LGBT equality clear (read Bachmann, Perry, and Santorum), but they have gone out of their way to do so. It is therefore more likely that these candidates do not even recognize the legitimacy of our struggle (no surprise there) and do not even think that it is worthy of discussion.

It is clear, that to these candidates for the Republican nomination for President, LGBT people should be relegated back to the political closet; in favor of the more "important" issues facing America. Tonight's debate should be a lesson for our community; we must not be silent...otherwise, we will be forced to be so.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

N.C. Marriage Ban Opponents Get Clever - Bring In Economics

It is said that as the years go by, people recognize their mistakes and how, because of those mistakes, learn how to make better choices. This seems to be the case in North Carolina, where equality advocates are placing front and center arguments normally regulated to the peripheral  in defense of their opposition to a statewide constitutional amendment establishing the supremacy of heterosexual relationships.

According to Equality North Carolina, the states foremost advocate for equality matters, the proposed anti-gay constitutional amendment would make it difficult for North Carolina to attract top firms and corporations; thus having a negative economic impact on a state which has an unemployment rate of 10.1%. In a statement provided to EqualityNC, the Senior Vice President of Finance, Membership and Operations at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), Anthony J. Pugliese, made it clear that this amendment is bad for business and the states national competitiveness, 
"The proposed amendment is bad for business. It interferes with our ability to recruit talent and our right to provide competitive benefits to our employees.  It also signals to major employers like ours that our state is not welcoming to the diverse, creative workforce that we need to compete in the global economy. It’s also bad for future business development in the state as we seek top grow our tax base. It is very unlikely we would have ever relocated our global headquarters to the Triangle and hired 450 local employees in 2006 if this amendment had been the law."
Mr. Pugliese's comments echo a theory of economics developed by Dr. Richard Florida of the University of Toronto; a theory which asserts that any region or city which desires to flourish economically must attract what is known as the "Creative Class". This "creative class" of entrepreneurs and business-people are the drivers of a regions research potential, innovation, and economic growth. In his book The Rise of the Creative Class, Florida argues that for a city to attract this "creative class" of individuals, it must posses the three "T"'s: Talent (an educated, skilled workforce), Tolerance (an atmosphere where individuals, regardless of sexual orientation, race, and gender feel welcome), and Technology. 

But others disagree with Mr. Pugliese's analysis of the impact that the anti-gay constitutional amendment will have upon North Carolina's business climate. Backers of the proposed amendment assert that states which have enacted similar prohibitions (such as neighboring Tennessee and Virginia)  have not experienced any decrease in economic growth or seen an unwillingness for businesses to locate in their respective states. 

But Andrew Spainhour, the general counsel for the Greensboro based firm, Replacements Ltd, does not see how this could be the case. In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, he challenges this assumption by amendment backers, saying, 
 "How can we say we take economic development seriously when we propose an anti-gay campaign that runs contrary to the employment practices of a majority of Fortune 500 companies?"

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Inequality Of Small Things

Today, as happens quite frequently in the South, I was confronted with another stark reality of the inequality that I face as a married gay man. Inequality, in this sense, to how my marriage is treated compared to a married heterosexual couple.

 Now, as I live in Tennessee, I am not surprised when gay and lesbian people and their relationships are looked down upon, and even ridiculed. I am not surprised when transgender people are made fun of, and called deranged and mentally ill (something which actually happened in class yesterday). Interestingly, these individual expressions of bigotry and hatred I have been able to withstand, mainly because I have a supportive husband, and an inclusive and welcoming group of friends. I also realize that in order to change the minds and hearts of fellow Tennesseans, it is necessary that I conduct myself with dignity when confronted with these attitudes; In essence I must, borrowing from a biblical passage, "heap burning coals upon their head".

Though I have learned to deal with discrimination by individuals in society, every time I am reminded of the institutional discrimination that LGBT Tennesseans and Americans face, I am discouraged. Not discouraged in the way of "I want to stop fighting", but instead discouraged because my neighbors, when passing anti-gay rights laws, have known not what they have done. In their zeal to "protect marriage" (whatever that means) they have restricted and caused untold harm to gay and lesbian couples. A specific example of this harm occurred today, when I went to the Student Health Center on campus to inquire about health insurance.

As a student at the University of Memphis, I am allowed to participate in a health insurance program through the State University and Community College System of Tennessee . This program allows me to access rates for health insurance that I would normally not be able to access as a non-student. As a married man, I would also like to add my husband to my health insurance, so that we would both be covered in case of an accident or medical emergency. But am I allowed to do this? Of course not; simply because of Tennessee's anti-gay constitutional amendment restricting marriage rights to heterosexual couples. Because I am married to a man, I am not allowed to put my husband on my  health insurance - because he does not meet Tennessee's definition of "spouse".

There are many other examples that we have faced living here in the South, whether it be not being allowed to live in married housing from the University, or being allowed to join the YMCA on a family plan. All of these things are directly the result of constitutional amendments and state policies which attempt to "protect marriage". It is easy for those who oppose granting us our rights to say that we can go to a lawyer and ensure that we have hospital visitation rights, wills, etc., but they are not the ones living under a government which won't even allow me to do the little things; such as put my husband on my health insurance.

Right now, a battle is being waged in North Carolina, to decide whether or not same-sex marriage - or any form of relationship recognition for gay and lesbian couples - should be outlawed. In the debate which will be, and has been, taking place in that state, it MUST be emphasized that there are grave consequences for gay and lesbian couples if the amendment passes. Not only does some N.C. cities, such as Chapel Hill, offer domestic partner benefits, but also many universities offer same-sex domestic partners/spouses the ability to be on their partners health insurance. All of these small victories for our community would be lost, as governmental organizations would not be able to support any other "definition" of marriage.

If the amendment passes in North Carolina, expect to see another Tennessee; a state where my family is not a  "real family" and where I cannot even get health insurance for my husband. I pray that the people of North Carolina will look to their western border, and see the inequality that spans from Knoxville to Memphis; an inequality that I hope they will want nothing to do with.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Focus On.The Families Citizen Link Facing Budget Crisis

In an interesting turn of events, Focus On The Famlies political arm - Citizen Link - has fallen on hard times, reporting a budget shortfall of $2.3 million dollars.

In a message, which pops up for all visitors on the Citizen Link webpage, Executive Director Tom Minnery is requesting donations to help cover the costs of Citizen Link's operations.

CitizenLink's gift income is down dramatically.  In the next 30 days, I need to raise $2.3 million to help close the gap, or our ability to act on your behalf will be severly, and perhaps irreparably, hurt.
That's why I need to hear from you right away.  To give now, just complete the simple giving form below and click "Submit."
We'll put your generosity to work immediately to keep CitizenLink working actively and aggressively on behalf of your family and other families.
Thanks -- and God bless you.
Remember that Tom Minnery is not only the same individual who was called out in a Senate Hearing by Senator Al Franken of  Minnesota for misrepresenting a federal study, but he is also oversees "Family Policy Councils" in 38 states. Just one of these organizations, the Minnesota Family Policy Council, has labeled gay and lesbian people as pedophiles and has asserted that gay people know that they are not "normal".

Citizen Link is also famous for promoting one-sided "analysis" of issues regarding not only LGBT equality, but also abortion regulations, parental choice, and other social conservative causes. I have written about some of their misrepresentations and absurdities on this blog; some of which can be found here, here, and here.

I for one am not surprised that Citizen Link is having financial issues. Whenever an organizations exists that purposefully demonizes and fabricates evidence about a minority, they will lose most of their support and legitimacy. It is one thing for an organization to be anti-marriage equality; but it is another thing for that same organization to assert that our community is inherently disordered.

The fact that Citizen Link is having these financial issues I feel shows that our community is actually reaching the hearts and minds of Americans. Americans no longer view our community as as "immoral" or "evil"; and realize that there is no "homosexual agenda". The Iron Curtain of the Religious Right is finally starting to lift, and we are walking into the freedom and equality that all Americans  deserve.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Irene: God's Judgement on New York?

I am sure that tonight, people all around the nation are in a buzz about Hurricane Irene and the potential devastation that might come to the eastern seaboard of the U.S. in the coming days. Many people, desiring to make sense of it all, will ask questions such as "Is Hurricane Irene a sign from God?" or "Is God punishing the Northeast - especially the state of New York - for its acceptance of the "gay lifestyle" and the regions embrace of gay marriage?"

I would not be surprised if these are questions/statements that we will be hearing from many Religious Right leaders if Irene has the impact on the New England coastline that forecasters are predicting it will.  After all, it was Pat Robertson, founder of the Religious Right's Regent University, who just a few days ago, claimed that the cracks in the Washington Monument, caused by the recent Virginia earthquake, were a sign from God that His favor upon the U.S. was diminishing.

To those in the Religious Right, the Bible "clearly" teaches that God controls where and why natural disasters strike. In order to make sense of these natural disasters in their own minds and their view of a loving omnipotent God, they assign blame to those whom the natural disaster strikes. It must be those in New Orleans' fault, for example, for being so hedonistic that Katrina would cause such devastation. The Haitian earthquake must have been the people of Haiti's fault; because they made a "pact with the devil" (Pat Robertson). In the world of the Religious Right, natural disasters are not "natural disasters" and do not happen indiscriminately. Instead, they happen for a distinct and purposeful reason.

Yet, at the same time, when a tornado hits Joplin, Missouri or Tuscaloosa, Alabama,  leaders of the Religious Right are interestingly silent. Though they like to preach messages of judgement, it does not make sense for the socially conservative and "Christian" states of the Bible Belt to receive the wrath of God. But, if God controls and has a purpose with natural disasters, does that not necessitate that disasters, such as the devastating tornadoes, are the result of His judgement as well? Would an earthquake which levels Memphis, Tennessee and St. Louis, Missouri be a direct consequence of the actions of individuals in those cities?

To Religious Right leaders, judgement upon the good "Christians" cannot happen. Instead, there must be something in God's plan that we are fallible human beings do not understand. Maybe God uses situations like Joplin or Tuscaloosa to bring people to His son? Maybe he does it to test the resolve, trust, and patience of His followers? A natural disaster is an opportunity to grow closer to, and lean more upon Christ. Yet, if it happens in New York, its clearly the fault of the gays. Clearly...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Gay Groups Make Religious Individuals "Second Class Citizens"

Though I should be surprised, I have found myself expecting the National Organization for Marriage to make outlandish and ridiculous statements. In today's episode of "what did NOM say", I give you the repeat of "NOM becomes a victim". 

President of NOM, Brian Brown, writing in his weekly email to his followers, asserted that recent events have made known the real intolerance of pro-marriage equality groups, saying, 
The mask of tolerance has been cast aside. We are looking into the face of a movement which wants, in the name of equality, to take away your rights and the rights of millions of decent, loving, law-abiding Americans who "cling"—yes, I'm not afraid to call it that!—to God, common sense, and the best of America's long traditions of respect for Judeo-Christian values.
 But he is confident that those who know "God's truth about marriage" will not be stopped, and instead will not bow to the intimidation of the homosexual lobby. "They" asserts Brown, talking about pro-marriage equality groups, "can only win if they can get us to accept and internalize the second-class status they propose for us. To accept our own marginalization, to be quiet, to stand down and keep our heads down. To live in fear, instead of acting, with courage, out of hope. They do not know us. They do not know the One whom we know."

For NOM to complain that they or their followers are being treated as "second class citizens" is in a sad way, amusing. Because their religious privilege - and that is what it is, privilege, not freedom - is being threatened, they claim that the minority that they are oppressing is making them "second class". Is it "second class" for a State government to require that an organization which receives state funding treat everyone equally, or would it be second class when a husband cannot be at the bedside of his dying partner because the nurse doesn't "like" their relationship. I think the answer to that is obvious. 

To Brian Brown, they are the ones who are advocating for "Truth" and "Love". They are the ones who claim to have truth that is "Not without the love of God and our neighbor in our hearts. Nor a Love which is afraid to speak truth for fear of being labeled a bigot or a hater by those who wield scorn and hatred as a weapon to suppress the truth and those who speak it." 

Maybe that is their version of "truth" and their version of "love", but its a "truth" and a "love" built upon the backs of LGBT people the nation over. Their words, their actions, and their alliances with certified hate groups such as the American Family Association and the Family Research Council, show that their "truth" is not based upon fact, but instead upon an animus and prejudice against gay and lesbian people themselves. Second class citizens? I think not!! 

In other news, it seems as though divorce rates, as compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau, are higher in (shockingly) the Bible Belt states of the South, and (another shocker) those states with the lowest divorce rates are in the Northeast. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why I Don't Like Obama's New Deportation Rules - And Their Effect On Bi-National Couples

As reported widely on LGBT websites around the world, the Obama administrations recent decision to review all deportation cases currently working its way through immigration courts has the potential to benefit gay and lesbian bi-national couples. As reported by the Washington Blade
Those who have been convicted of crimes or pose a security risk will be a higher priority for deportation, while those who are deemed lower priority will be taken out of the pipeline.
 Administration officials will weigh a person’s ties and contributions to the community and family relationships. During an on background conference call with media outlets on Thursday, a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said these criteria are inclusive of LGBT families and same-sex couples.

“The prosecutorial discretion memo provides for the use of discretion for people with strong community ties, with community contributions and with family relationships,” the official said. “We consider LGBT families to be families in this context.”
Though this could be perceived as a good development for all who are in same-sex bi-national  relationships, as one who is in a bi-national relationship myself, I find that this new policy by the Obama administration does two things - neither of which are positive. 

First, it effectively says that deportations involving gay and lesbian bi-national relationships are equal to all deportation cases currently being reviewed by the Department of Homeland Security. This does not do justice in showing the unique discrimination and unequal status that same-sex bi-national couples are facing. Instead of addressing the fact that gay and lesbian Americans are not allowed to sponsor their foreign spouses because of a patently unconstitutional law (DOMA), these couples are lumped with everyone who has or is going through deportation proceedings. Our community, as much as anyone else, realizes the power of words, and when the Right is attacking this new policy on deportations as amnesty for "illegals", same-sex couples who want to obey the law through spousal sponsorship, yet are rejected from doing so, are unfairly lumped into this definition. Thus by not addressing the issue of gay and lesbian immigration discrimination directly, the Obama Administrations move not only devalues the specific injustice and unequal treatment that we receive, but it also forces us into the undesirable corner of being termed something that we are not.  

Second, in effectively putting a halt to deportations, Obama has only reached the 50 yard line for same-sex bi-national couples. Yes, not having the constant threat of being deported will release much strain on gay and lesbian couples in the U.S., but at the same time, what does this really give us? Are we allowed to now apply for a green card? Are committed same-sex couples who are married given the same rights as heterosexual married couples in immigration law? Are American citizens now allowed to sponsor their foreign born spouse? Of course not!!  

This lack of actual solution by the Obama Administration is like giving a dying man in the desert food, but no water. It allows same-sex couples to keep going through their daily lives just existing, but does not allow them to flourish. It reinforces that our relationships are not as valuable or meaningful as heterosexual ones.  And this, my friends, is why I do NOT applaud the new deportation regulations. 

Related Posts with Thumbnails