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He Died Waiting to Get Married

8 Dec

Ed Watson and Derence Kernek

A heartbreaking story out of California tonight.

Last March, we posted this article about Derence Kernek and Ed Watson, who recorded a video for California’s 9th Circuit Court, requesting that they allow Judge Walker’s decision to overturn Prop 8 to stand. This request was because Watson had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and they wanted to be married while he still had memories of their 40 years together.

On August 4th, 2010, Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional as it denied gays and lesbians due process and equal protection under the law. As Walker had not disclosed that he was gay and in a relationship at the time, Prop 8 supporters filed a motion to dismiss his decision as he would stand to benefit from it. Of course their argument fails to recognize that according to their anti-gay claims – any heterosexual judge would stand to benefit from a decision in their favor.

That argument failed in a lower court and today’s hearings before the 9th circuit were in regards to the anti-gay side’s appeal of that decision.

Last night, on the eve of these arguments, Ed passed away due to complications from his quickly-advancing Alzheimer’s and Diabetes. They were never married.

On top of that, because of the inequality in the law, and the couple’s inability to marry, Watson had been denied coverage under Kernek’s retirement plan (as any heterosexual couple would be entitled to). This caused incredible financial hardships.

Kernek could not be reached for comment as their phone had been disconnected.

Please watch the video that this couple put together urging for marriage equality in California

NY Marriage Equality: How Did We Get There? A Photo Retrospective

26 Jun

I moved from New York to Washington DC three weeks ago to be with my boyfriend. It’s hard not to still consider New York City home after nearly 13 years living there, but after last night – my struggle to move on became even more difficult. For the past several years, I’ve proudly fought alongside some incredible activists, lobbyists, politicians and allies in the struggle for equality. And last night in New York, we finally won.

I thought of writing a diatribe about how much we have to learn from this victory – how for one of the first times in our movement’s history, we worked together to accomplish something. I could be heavy-handed and speak endlessly at the incredible work done by this partnership of several organizations all working towards the same thing. I could even go so far as to reflect on the fact that even though we have this beautiful victory at long last, that there are still 1,138 rights not afforded to legally married gay and lesbian couples and that we MUST focus on equality on the federal level. But instead, I decided to post some photos.

For the past 3+ years, I’ve discovered a love for photography and in my own way, I’ve been documenting some of the movement from my perspective as a New Yorker. So please enjoy these photos which reflect some of my favorite moments and people involved in the recent part of our struggle for equality. Please note: there are photos here from swanky cocktail parties, from pride marches, from rallies, protests, political speeches, phone banks and even a living room or two. New York Marriage Equality happened because of ALL of it, not some.

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All photos copyright Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com

Prop 8 Decision Upheld and NY Marriage Equality On The Way!

14 Jun

What a day for equality from coast-to-coast!

- PROP 8 NEWS! -

Judge Vaughn Walker

The history: As you may or may not know, a few months ago, Judge Walker (who had overturned Proposition 8 at the District Court level last year), came out of the closet. This of course sent the rabid anti-gay crusaders on a new mission – since Walker stood to benefit from the outcome as a gay man who could now get married in California, the bigots claimed his decision should be overturned.

The fun part: The Prop 8 proponents who fought tooth and nail for “traditional marriage,” used as their main argument that “protecting [heterosexual] marriage” would benefit straight people and straight families. So NOW their argument is that Judge Walker should have recused himself because he was gay – but apparently a straight judge would be fine because well…he wouldn’t benefit from Prop 8 (so long as you ignore their primary argument from the previous trial). Aaaaaawkwaaaard.

The news: The federal judge who heard yesterday’s case claiming that Judge Walker should have opted out of the trial just found that Walker had “no legal obligation” to recuse himself from the case. No word yet on when gay and lesbian Californians can again start saying “I do,” but it’s great to hear that once again, this homophobic law has been found unconstitutional.

 

-NEW YORK MARRIAGE EQUALITY NEWS -

The history: In 2009, the Marriage Equality Bill was defeated in New York after many Democratic senators betrayed their parties, their constituents and their colleagues after breaking promises made and voting against equality for all New Yorkers. Several of these senators then faced primary challenges for seats they had held for many years.

NY Sen. Carl Kruger

The fun part: One of these Democrats that voted against equality was protested at his home, when activist Corey Johnson demanded that he come out of the closet. Sen. Carl Kruger was then investigated by the FBI on a bribery sting and arrested in February for allegedly pocketing close to $1 million in bribes for he and his live-in boyfriend. His boyfriend was also charged, as he was not only a beneficiary but he’d set up several shell companies to help hide the money.

The news: Kruger, though STILL not admitting he’s gay, had this to say about his change of mind on the upcoming marriage equality bill:

“My vote comes not as an outgrowth of media attacks or picketing outside my home or political pressure, but due to a better understanding of the impact that this bill will have on the rights to countless New Yorkers”

Wondering where that “better understanding” came from?

NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com

Okay, the real news: The Marriage Equality Bill was introduced today by Governor Cuomo. In earlier reports, Cuomo said that he would absolutely not introduce the bill unless he was certain he had the votes in the Senate to pass it. According to reports from pretty much every marriage equality organization, after 4 previously anti-equality Democrats (including the aforementioned Kruger) and one previously anti-equality Republican announced today that they would be voting for marriage equality, we now have 31 of the 32 votes necessary to pass the bill. If what Cuomo had promised before remains true though, he’s certain there is at least one other Republican vote. So…keep your fingers crossed as the vote has to happen in the coming few days before the end of their session. And if you live in New York, CALL YOUR SENATOR! New Yorkers for Marriage Equality/HRC has set up a very easy to use site which will connect you directly with your state senator. Just click here to make it happen now! AND SPREAD THE WORD!

 

 

MUST-WATCH VIDEO: “We deserve the dignity of marriage…before I can’t remember what marriage is.”

3 Mar

On Tuesday, California Attorney General Kamala Harris asked the Federal Court to dismiss its order prohibiting same-sex marriages in the state while an appeal of Proposition 8 is pending. By lifting the stay it previously ordered, the court would allow marriage equality to be the standing law while the case is being considered and argued in the courts.

Additionally, the Courage Campaign has filed an amicus curiae letter to the 9th Circuit, also asking that the stay be lifted. Named in that letter are Ed Watson and Derence Kernek. Ed and Derence have been together more than 40 years.

Last Summer, Ed was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. They are hoping to have a wedding as soon as possible because Ed desperately wants to be able to remember it. As Derence puts it in the following video:

“We’re committed to each other. We’ve had a long long life with lots of love, lots of attention. We respect each other. We cherish each other and we don’t know many people who’ve had 40 years of anything. We hope to have that service as soon as possible.”

If ever there was an argument for marriage equality, Ed and Derence are it. It’s horrific that they’ve had to live as long as they have without the same rights as their neighbors. Let’s hope they are given the respect and dignity they deserve. Please share this and go to the link above to sign on to the letter.

 

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