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So…who’s the bride?

18 Apr

gay_wedding_lo-713823It’s no secret that I’m getting married a month from today. The generally frazzled look, messy hair, hundreds of wedding planning Google docs open on my computer – there’s really no hiding it.

I’ve always heard that the three most stressful things in a person’s life are moving, depression and planning a wedding. I’ve dealt with the other two, but this is my first wedding. I can happily say that overall, it’s been a very happy event. A few minor disagreements here and there, but overall it’s been pretty smooth sailing. Except for one little thing.

We all know stories and maybe even have friends who’ve experienced direct discrimination when it comes to wedding planning. A good friend of ours just dealt with someone on Etsy who refused to make a guestbook for them because Jesus didn’t want her to or something. And then there’s the story of the Washington florist. A gay man went to her regularly, spending lots of money and developing a nice relationship with this florist – all of a sudden, when it came time for the man’s wedding – the woman could no longer take his money. Having zero to do with marriage equality of course, and everything to do with that state’s anti-discrimination laws, the woman is now being sued by the state for violating those laws.

Those are huge infractions and those business owners who choose to violate state laws banning discrimination against gay people should absolutely be held accountable for breaking those laws. But then there are the seemingly little things.

With nearly every vendor we’ve dealt with (with the exception of the caterer who is located in Provincetown and services more gay weddings than straight) has asked us “who’s the bride” at one point or another. It’s an understandable question as I realize that gay weddings are a relatively new phenomenon. But it’s nonetheless a constant reminder of the fact that we’re still not “normal.”

Luckily, we haven’t run into any outright bigotry with any of our wedding vendors – so we feel very fortunate. But every time I see a form, or am asked for the name of my soon-to-be wife, it’s another conversation I have to have. But instead of feeling that shame I spent much of my 20s trying to get rid of, I take it to the next step and ask to speak to a manager. Or I simply make a formal request for that company to change the form and educate their employees.

255414_313640668743948_771725876_nFrom the time I was a little kid – every movie I saw, every book I read, every TV show I watched – featured straight couples, causing me to think there was something wrong with me. If by asking a company to correct a form or change their phrasing to “what’s the name of the other party?” or “what is your fiancé’s name?”, I can help stop someone from recalling those unfortunate feelings of inadequacy, I’m happy to do it.

At the end of the day, we’re in a very exciting time – it means more work for us – more calling out of the things that make us feel less than, and most importantly, more patience and assumption of good intent.

The guy who works at Men’s Wearhouse who asks me the bride’s name isn’t intentionally trying to make me feel bad that I’m not straight. But if I take a moment to calmly tell him that there’s no bride, but I’m happy to tell him the other groom’s name, he may stumble and feel awkward for a moment – but I bet he’ll think twice next time he makes that assumption.

Look, it sometimes sucks to have to be the ones who forge new territory, but at the end of the day we have an awesome opportunity to make the next generation of LGBT people feel more comfortable through some really easy conversations. Speak out when someone says one of those things that makes you feel less than. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to change their form so that it’s inclusive of you and your family.

Again, most often, there’s no ill-intent, just a lack of education or experience. It’s up to us to make it easier for the next generation.

 

Members of band hurt by NOM speak out

20 Mar

It’s been a tumultuous week for the National Organization for Marriage. Last week, they released a video to advertise their anti-gay hate march in Washington D.C. – that video has now been yanked from Youtube because NOM had stolen the background music from the equality-supporting Katie Herzig.

The Lee Boys, one of their two announced acts to play at the big anti-gay hate march pulled out seconds after they were announced. Seems someone tipped them off to the fact that NOM exists solely to attack gay families.

Then a little poll came out announcing Americans were 58% in favor of marriage equality.

And upon researching their 2nd announced act, I discovered the band didn’t exist. Called “Ultramontane,” the celtic fiddle boy band was actually 3 of the 5 members of a popular ensemble known as Scythian. There was great mystery shrouded in the circumstances surrounding the split, but the band released a statement essentially saying they agreed to disagree.

Scythian's Josef Crosby

Scythian’s Josef Crosby

Since then, an uproar from equality-loving and some gay-hating fans have caused them to delete their Facebook and Twitter accounts. The individual band members have also been approached on their personal social networking sites and while we’ve heard nothing from the band members who’ve decided to play for the anti-gay march, the two who’ve opted out are now speaking out.

Drummer Andrew Toy briefly took to his Facebook page to state his support for equality a few days ago and now his fellow equality-loving band mate has made a beautiful statement of his own:

“I’ve always made it a point to leave politics at the door when it came to Scythian, but I feel I have to go on record as saying that I am completely in support of full equality for all couples, no matter their orientation. I can only hope the Supreme Court agrees.”

Screen Shot 2013-03-20 at 10.15.39 AM

 

Read this letter from Obama to a little girl and try not to cry

4 Nov

On Tuesday, we have an extraordinarily important decision to make. Many look at the economy and wish the recovery was happening more rapidly. Some would like to see a larger return on their stocks. And a select few look at their family and hope each day for the same protections most every other family in the country currently has.

You might remember a letter I posted last week from young Sophia Bailey Klugh.

10 year-old Sophia penned a letter to President Barack Obama. In the letter, she told the President how happy she was that he agreed with her on the topic of marriage equality. You see, young Sophia has two dads.

She continued on and asked the President an important question.

“I am so glad that you agree two men can love each other because I have two dads and they love each other, but at school kids think that it’s gross and weird, but it really hurts my heart and feelings…If you were me and you had two dads that loved each other and kids at school teased you about it, what would you do?”

Well, lo and behold, in the middle of his fight to be re-elected, the President took some important time to share a little advice with a little girl.

Dear Sophia,

Thank you for writing me such a thoughtful letter about your family. Reading it made me proud to be your president and even more hopeful about the future of our nation.

In America, no two families look the same. We celebrate this diversity. And we recognize that whether you have two dads or one mom what matters above all is the love we show one another. You are very fortunate to have two parents who care deeply for you. They are lucky to have such an exceptional daughter in you.

Our differences unite us. you and I are blessed to live in a country where we are born equal no matter what we look like on the outside, where we grow up, ow who our parents are. A good rule is to treat others the way you hope they will treat you. Remind your friends at school about this rule if they say something that hurts your feelings.

Thanks again for taking the time to write me. I’m honored to have your support and inspired by your compassion. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it to dinner, but I’ll be sure to tell Sasha and Malia you say hello.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama

Governor Mitt Romney’s campaign recently stated that he believes gay and lesbian families visiting one another in the hospital is a privilege and not a right. Additionally, he has spoken out against gay parents adopting children. Finally, the Governor has pledged to write discrimination against LGBT people into the US Constitution.

I hope that young Sophia wakes up on Wednesday morning to find there’s someone in the White House who believes her family should have the same protections as every other family in the country.

10-year old shows us all why this election is so important

29 Oct

On May 9th, 2012, I was visiting New York. I was with my fiancé who works for the Family Equality Council and I was taking some pictures for them as they rang the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

No one knew until a few hours before it was going to happen that the first sitting President in U.S. history was about to come out in favor of marriage equality.

I was in a room off the NYSE floor with 7 or 8 families led by gay parents when the text came in. “He said it.” Sean said to me. scrambling for cell service in this marble room in the depths of Wall Street, finally I was able to pull up the text of the interview.

Jennifer Chrisler, Family Equality Council’s Executive Director spoke to the room and read the text of Barack Obama’s interview to all these moms and dads and they in turn, took a moment to tell their young children just how important this moment was. Then we walked across the floor, the kids and their parents climbed the steps and rang the bell to close the stock exchange for the day.

A lot has happened in these short few months since then, but one thing remains the same. President Obama hopes to fight for full equality for LGBT Americans, while the alternative has pledged to write discrimination against LGBT Americans into the U.S. Constitution.

Many don’t realize just the difference a President’s acknowledgment made when it comes to his recognition of our families. But one little girl sees the importance.

10-year old Sophia Bailey Klugh has written a letter to President Obama which is quickly making the rounds on Facebook. Sophia’s Dads Jonathan Bailey and Triton Klugh posted the unprompted letter with the comment:

I’ve refrained from all the political posts, but this is just too close to home to ignore. This is not about President Obama – it’s about what’s right. So frankly, if you don’t agree with the innocent, heartfelt and surprisingly straightforward position of my 10 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER, then please unfriend me because we don’t actually belong connected here in the first place.

Please take a look at just how much someone notices when someone everyone knows stands up and does the right thing.

Romney May Stop Hospital Visitation for Gay Couples

21 Oct

It’s known that Romney stands against rights for LGBT people. He signed the National Organization for Marriage pledge to stand against marriage equality, appoint Supreme Court Justices who would also stand against equal rights for gays and lesbians and fight to write discrimination against us into the US Constitution.

This, despite at one point saying he would be “better than Ted” Kennedy on gay rights.

This week, Romney apparently believes that when my husband is in the hospital, I do not have the right to visit him and that it should be up to each state to decide whether or not I am the next of kin. He believes that a lesbian spouse like Janice Langbehn visiting her dying wife in the hospital is a “privilege” and not a right.

In an interview with Buzzfeed today, Romney  adviser Bay Buchanan told Chris Geidner:

“Governor Romney also believes, consistent with the 10th Amendment, that it should be left to states to decide whether to grant same-sex couples certain benefits, such as hospital visitation rights and the ability to adopt children.”

In April of 2010, recognizing the extraordinary miscarriage of justice and horrifying stories of families being split apart while fathers, mothers, husbands and wives were barred from visiting one another in the hospital, Barack Obama signed an Executive Order stating that any hospital which receives government funding (including Medicare and Medicaid) shall recognize the relationships between gays and lesbians.

This was a simple move. There are truly very few Americans who believe any couple should be separated in their hours of need. But according to his advisers, Romney believes and will fight to make sure if (God forbid) I should need to visit my husband in the hospital, that my legal relationship is not recognized by hospital administration.

How cruel can a person be to leave a person potentially dying alone while their husband, wife, son or daughter sits in a sterile waiting room to hear their loved one has passed? And what kind of leader would support this kind of barbaric sentiment?

Please spread the word and understand why November 6th is such an important day. Please understand what is at risk for me, for you and for the people you love.

Broadway Siblings Launch Broadway for Obama

18 Sep

The Broadway community is one that holds a very special place in my heart. For 12 years, I lived in New York and had the unique opportunity of working with hundreds of the most talented people who’ve ever grapevined across a stage.

Andrew & Celia Keenan-Bolger

What always amazed me though, was that these people who work harder than most people I know, were always willing to give more to help people who needed it. I produced over 200 Broadway concerts while I lived there and members of the community were always willing to go the extra mile, sparing precious time off and much-needed rest when it came to helping Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, The Matthew Shepard Foundation, The National AIDS Fund, marriage equality fights, hurricane victims, and whoever else needed their help.

The Presidential election is no different for those who believe in social justice. Sister and brother Broadway team Celia and Andrew Keenan-Bolger  have activated the Broadway community to take part in an election which stands to define at least the next four years.

The two Tony Award nominees, while not performing 8 shows a week in Peter and the Starcatcher or Newsies, have started “Broadway for Obama.” They’ve started engaging other members of the Broadway community and their fans to make sure they get out the vote for Obama.

As a young gay man, Andrew sees this work as vital due to the rights he and hundreds of other colleagues are being denied:

“We work in an industry that celebrates the contributions of thousands of gay people. Broadway would not be possible without its performers, directors, writers, choreographers, designers, dressers, ushers, crew members, administrators and musicians, a large percentage of whom are gay.

Millions of Americans come to New York every year to share in the art that these people create but many still believe that they shouldn’t have the same rights as everyone else. We want them to know where we stand.”

For his sister Celia, who was married two years ago to fellow Broadway performer John Ellison Conlee, she felt she needed to stand up for her LGBT family and friends. Four years ago, Celia left New York to campaign in Pennsylvania for then-candidate Barack Obama. Her resolve is made even stronger considering the advancement of LGBT rights made under the Obama administration:

“2 years ago my husband John Conlee and I decided to get married in Vermont because gay marriage was legal there and it was not yet in NY. We felt we couldn’t stand in front of our dearest friends and family (some of whom are LGBT) and ask them to support and celebrate us in a state where they did not have the same rights as us I want everyone I know and love to enjoy the same rights I do.

Gay marriage is just the beginning. My sister has educated me a lot about LGBT homelessness. I know under a Romney presidency not only would these issues lose forward momentum but we would probably move backwards. I want to do everything I can to make sure this doesn’t happen and I believe an Obama administration is better for ALL of us.”

Evita’s Max von Essen

Together, they’re working on organizing the Broadway community around different small things they can do to help the President get re-elected. One of their first actions is to get Broadway performers to make sure they’re wearing Obama T-shirts, pins or whatever they want. Saturday Obama Swag (or #SOS if you’re on the Twitter) will have stars exiting their stage doors hoping to find fans also wearing Obama swag and getting an extra few moments of their favorite performer’s time – with bragging rights to bring home.

Their efforts are already being rewarded with tweets from Evita’s Max von Essen and Tony Winner Audra McDonald promoting their work.

For more information about Broadway for Obama, visit www.facebook.com/BroadwayForObama

The best thing you’ll read today.

17 Aug

In April of last year, I got a call from my friends at Freedom to Marry. They frequently ask me to come take photos for their events and this time they had a special request.

They were going to be interviewing an elderly gay couple that had been together for 60 years and couldn’t be married. They wanted me to come take some portraits of the couple while they were being interviewed.

This adorable elderly couple spoke at length about their war stories (and I mean literally – both men served in World War II). As they were both singers and voice teachers, they also treated us to a couple songs.

I’d write more of their beautiful story for you, but it’s been done – by the New York Times. Check it out.

The purpose of us going there was to get their story out. This was a few months before New York would pass the marriage equality law and Richard & John didn’t want to leave the state to get married. Their romance was a New York romance and they believed they should have the right to tie the knot in the state they called home.

Well, last Friday after 62 years, Richard Mace and John Dorr were married. In New York. We want to congratulate the happy couple whose only advice to me was to “Never go to bed angry.”

You can watch the Freedom to Marry video that was shot that day here:

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