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The very public, very desperate crumbling of the anti-gay Right

4 Jul

One week ago, I sat in front of the Supreme Court of the United States among hundred of others anxiously awaiting their decisions on marriage equality.

Interviewing the first openly gay person of color in Congress, Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA)

Interviewing the first openly gay person of color in Congress, Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) photo by Sarah Baker

It’s strange, because there in the sun, just a few hundred feet from where the decisions were being read, we actually found out quite a bit later than many of you at home reading SCOTUSblog. Phone service was sparse and in the bright, direct sunlight, I couldn’t see a thing on my screen. Not to mention, I was busy hosting streaming coverage and interviews for WeActRadio. While talking with Congressman Mark Takano (D-CA), the decision striking down Section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) came out.

I wanted to scream and hug the Congress member, but we didn’t quite have that kind of relationship yet. I continued covering the day’s events and followed up with several other interviews on radio stations around the country and finished up the day on SiriusXM Radio with my husband and another friend and her wife…and a bottle of champagne. What a day!

My husband, Sean and I standing with Brendon Ayanbadejo outside the Supreme Court in March

My husband, Sean and I standing with Brendon Ayanbadejo outside the Supreme Court in March

My husband Sean and I had helped to organize rallies that happened outside the Supreme Court back in March while the DOMA and Prop 8 arguments were being heard. So much of our time was spent considering what “the other side” would be planning while we rallied. Partly we wanted to know so that we could respond courteously and effectively to the things they said. But the other reason we wanted to be prepared for them was so we could protect the families we knew would be standing with us, from the hateful, toxic things the anti-gay right seems to spew when they’re angry. Our kids don’t need to hear that.

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Last week at the Supreme Court

Last week in front of the court was different though. Despite hate groups like the National Organization for Marriage and Family Research Council calling for “days of prayer” and for their followers to stand with them that morning on the steps of the court, no one came. I could count on one hand the number of people standing their with anti-gay signs. The rest was a sea of rainbows and love. Maybe despite their screams to the press that they would win, they knew what was coming, what was inevitable.

What followed that amazing day when my husband and I woke up without equality and went to bed with 1,100 more rights, was truly dumbfounding.

The National Organization immediately began attacking the court for making an “Illegitimate” decision. In their first email/blog post, they asked for money and linked to their fundraising page 8 TIMES. As a person who works in digital media for a living, I can tell you with some certainty that 3-4 times is excessive when asking for money in one email, but 8?!? Not even street canvassers will bother you that many times.

NOM President Brian Brown’s initial response to the court’s decision was scathing:

“There is a stench coming from this case that has now stained the Supreme Court. They’ve allowed corrupt politicians and judges to betray the voters, rewarding them for their betrayal. It’s an illegitimate decision. We and millions of other Americans will refuse to accept this rogue decision rewarding corruption. “

NOM President Brian Brown

NOM President Brian Brown

Then came the emails. The angry, angry emails. NOM’s emails accused California lawmakers of participating in “lawlessness” when they began issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples (which was now legal following Prop 8 being struck down). Another email was filled with vitriol and borderline racist comments about CA Attorney General Kamala Harris. In this message, they refer to Harris’ “arrogance,” a term usually reserved for those we think don’t deserve a place in leadership. Additionally, they use the email to twist and misquote remarks made by the President about Harris a few months ago.

They followed with a tweet that said “Polygamists are actually celebrating the Supreme Court’s decisions this week as a personal victory for them” and linked to a blog post which of course, said nothing of the sort.

In other posts, they continued their usual outdated theme claiming that marriage equality is bad for children somehow. Yet they continue to ignore the fact that their argument completely discounts the millions of kids being raised by LGBT parents.

NOM wrapped up the week with a patriotic 4th of July email claiming that a person cannot be gay or a supporter of equality for gay people and an American at the same time.

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Graphic from NOM’s most recent email

The anti-gay Right is disintegrating before our eyes and the desperation with which they are clinging onto life has never been more apparent. They will never be gone forever, though. Just as we’ve seen with groups that fought integration and some in the South who are still fighting the Civil War, they’re never gone for good.

Happily though, with support for marriage equality in this country hitting all time highs and a Gallup poll following last week’s rulings finding support at 55% for and 40% against legalizing same-sex marriages, these hate groups will continue to lose funding and support.

The fight is far from over, and as NOM is only too quick to recognize, there are still 37 states which do not recognize marriage equality. I think this number will drop quickly, but not without our work.

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NOM Takes on HRC Viral Red Campaign

27 Mar

DSC_0493I’m not one to revel in the downfall of the anti-gay movement. LOL who am I kidding? It’s brilliant to see bigotry and discrimination going the way of the car phone.

After spending the past two days organizing and helping run the stage at the United for Marriage rallies at the Supreme Court, doing about a dozen radio interviews and holding my soon-to-be husband’s hand while Edie Windsor walked down the court steps, I’m tired.

Yesterday after the rally, Sean and I walked to the anti-gay rally and were surprised to find a remarkably tiny crowd and horrifically boring rally. The only fireworks were from a 15 year old gay activist being bullied by some adults in the crowd. I was able to take a few photos of the scant crowd before leaving (or being bored to tears). Thomas Peters of the National Organization for Marriage claimed 15,000 people attended the rally and NOM President Brian Brown claimed over 10,000. Of course, the pictures show otherwise and the Capitol Police count (you know – the people in charge of counting crowds) claimed between 1,500 and 2,000.

The stage at the anti-gay march

The stage at the anti-gay march

The view from the stage at the anti-gay march

The view from the stage at the anti-gay march

And then there’s science. You may have notice 1 or 2 or 1,000 of your Facebook friends have changed their profile photo to a red equal sign or some version of it. According to SpotCo’s media team:

7580_434351313319009_1554855818_nMarriage Equality ‘Red & Pink’ Logo Dominates Facebook 3/26/13-HRC’s Facebook timeline was visited by over 9 million people yesterday.

-The photo was shared over 77,000 times just from the organization’s Facebook page directly.

-Number of profile photo changes to HRC logo estimated in the over 1 million.

-Big Brands jump on board to support. (Madonna, Beyonce, Martha Stewart Bud Light, among others…).

-People from 26 other countries chimed in for support – Japan being at the top of the list.

-Photo remixes estimated over 3,000 just yesterday

And then tonight happened. After at least doubling the crowd of the anti-gay group marching on Tuesday, Thomas Peters, Spokesman for the anti-gay group National Organization for Marriage (and might I add, the worst Communications Director of all time) has launched his own little viral campaign.
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I can’t wait to see the stats.
In case you’re looking for a better version of their icon, please share this one:
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My two moms can beat up your eight wives: a marriage update

15 Feb

DSC_0418Since there’s a lot going on, I thought it might be time for a little update on what’s going on in the big gay world.

ILLIONOIS – Yesterday, the Illionois Senate approved marriage overwhelmingly with a vote of 34-21! Happy Valentine’s Day! Support is expected to be thinner but still winnable in the House and we don’t yet know when it will be taken up. Governor Pat Quinn has pledged to sign it into law should the House pass it. YAY!

RHODE ISLAND – About 3 weeks ago, the RI House approved marriage even more overwhelmingly with a 51-19 vote. The Senate is a bit of an uphill battle but certainly not unwinnable. They are looking at a Spring vote and again the Governor is a huge supporter.

OHIO – Currently collecting signatures for a pro-equality ballot measure in 2013

-ARIZONA, MICHIGAN & OREON – Currently collecting signatures for a pro-equality ballot measure in 2014

-MINNESOTA  – Following the beatdown of an anti-gay marriage ballot measure in 2012, and a pwnership of the house, senate and the election of awesome pro-equality Governor Mark Dayton, advocates are pushing for a pro-equality bill in the next few months.

One of these states will most likely be state #10 to (not including the unstate of DC) to approve marriage equality.

SCOTUS! (Supreme Court of the United States) March 26th, SCOTUS will be hearing oral arguments on two marriage cases. The first is on CA’s Prop 8. (Perry)

Possible outcomes of Prop 8 decisions: 

All gay marriage bans will be struck down: This is not a likely scenario, but would make me very happy. Our lawyers are arguing to make this happen by pointing out the unconstitutionality of anti-gay marriage bans and the creation of different classes of citizens federally.

Prop 8. will be overturned: This is what most pundits are thinking will happen. It will overturn the discriminatory law and once again allow gay and lesbian Californians to marry in that state only. CA is different from other states because the courts legalized marriage in May of 2008. From May through November (prior to Prop 8 passing), more than 30,000 gay and lesbian Californians were married. This means, there are three separate classes in CA. Heterosexuals who can legally marry, Gays and Lesbians who are legally married and Gays and Lesbians who are prohibited from marrying. This is a good basis for overturning the ban and some think this is the argument the court will use to do so.

Prop 8 will be upheld: Many think this is unlikely considering the proponents of Prop 8 have no legitimate argument outside of “this is how the people voted.” Every court thus far has overturned or upheld the decision of the previous ruling.

SCOTUS will punt: One of the questions presented by the court was whether or not those defending the anti-gay law had the right to defend it in court. The Brown administration and the one before him had both pulled out of defending Prop 8 because they found it to be discriminatory. After that, the anti-gay campaign began defending it in court. Some don’t believe that a biased campaign has the right to defend a state law in court. If SCOTUS punts, then two things could happen, the decisions of the earlier courts could be upheld or they could essentially issue a do-over.

On March 27th (the next day), SCOTUS will be hearing oral arguments on the constitutionality of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). As many of you know, as a side note – Obama’s DoJ stopped defending DOMA a few years ago as on 8 separate occasions now, when the government was sued over DOMA, it has been found unconstitutional – so there’s a bit of precedent here. It’s also clearly a waste of money to defend a clearly unconstitutional law. Yet John Boehner has just increased to $2 million the amount of money they will spend towards lawyers to defend DOMA…yet they keep screaming that we spend too much on frivolous things.

But I digress…

The reason most courts have found DOMA to be unconstitutional is that it violates state’s rights. Legally married gay couples in states that recognize equality are not afforded more than 1100 rights and responsibilities given to heterosexual couples granted by the federal government. This includes everything from federal tax benefits, to citizenship. If I were to marry a man from Argentina – legally, let’s say in DC – they could still be deported because of DOMA. If I (a very gay man) were to marry a woman from Argentina, that marriage would give her the opportunity to apply (and win) US citizenship.

Edie Windos, lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court DOMA cases

Edie Windos, lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court DOMA cases

Possible outcomes of DOMA decisions:

DOMA is struck down: The court could decide that Section 3 of DOMA (that which defines marriage as being only between a man and a woman) violates state’s rights and the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection for all under the law.

DOMA is upheld: The court could uphold DOMA which would enshrine two classes of citizen where one class is treated differently under federal law than the other. Legally married gay couples would continue to not receive tax and social security survivor benefits. Another side note: 17 year – Congressman Gerry Studds, the first openly-gay member of Congress, was legally married to his partner of 16 years Dean Hara. When Studds died in 2006, Hara was not elegible to receive spousal survivor benefits and pension afforded every other Congressional spouse.

SCOTUS punts: Due to the aforementioned discrepancies with who is defending this law, the court could dismiss the case on procedural grounds. It would of course, find it’s way back to the Supreme Court eventually, but this would make it so they didn’t have to make a potentially unpopular opinion.

There are actions happening all over the country for you to get involved with. Everything from vigils to lobby days to house parties. Go find out what’s going on near you or plan something and let us know about it at Light to Justice or visit the March4Marriage Facebook page.

In the meantime, might I recommend the film Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement (also available on Netflix). It’s a story about Edie Windsor and her wife, Thea. Edie is the lead plaintiff in the upcoming DOMA cases coming before the Supreme Court.

We Will Not Be Erased.

7 May

Tom Bridegroom & Shane Bitney Crone

It’s been said that telling our stories is what will make the biggest difference in the end. It’s easy to see the statistics that have changed since more and more people have come out and more and more of our loved ones have changed their minds about support for our equality.

Tom Bridegroom was the host of MTV’s The X Effect in 2006 and 2007. One year ago today, while photographing a model, Tom fell off a rooftop to his death. While his passing was discussed on a handful of websites and amongst friends and fans, very little has been said about his relationship with Shane Bitney Crone.

As any story about a couple that had been together 6 years and then broken apart by tragedy would be, their story is heartbreaking. But what’s different about Tom & Shane’s story is that they were set to marry. And while I could write the story here, Shane has found the courage to tell the story himself 0 in the hopes of spreading the word about the inequalities we face and the irreparable harm it does to our families.

Thank you Shane for your bravery and for telling your story so that others may live to see a day when things are different.

Please watch. And share as much as you can.

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

BREAKING: Obama endorses Respect for Marriage Act to repeal DOMA

19 Jul

The so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is on its last legs. The legislation, signed into law in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, has caused the breakup of hundreds of LGBT families across the country. Bi-national couples have faced deportation over DOMA, Federal courts have stripped legally married couples of their rights over DOMA and due to 14 recent federal court challenges, DOMA is crumbling.

The Respect for Marriage Act, the act that would repeal DOMA goes into Senate Judiciary Committee hearings tomorrow, and now that I live ten blocks from the Capitol, I’m very excited to be attending. I’ll be reporting on the happenings via twitter if you follow us @TalkEquality.

The exciting news today, via Adam Bink at Prop8TrialTracker with the Courage Campaign is that President Barack Obama has endorsed the Respect for Marriage Act. Adam outlines why this move is so historic:

“Why is this a big deal? Because the White House rarely, if ever, endorses legislation that hasn’t passed a house of Congress… and this one hasn’t even passed committee yet. It underscores the urgency of this issue, and it also generates huge momentum to our efforts to bring more Senators on board. How many pro-LGBT Senators are going to let President Obama be ahead of them on this?”

Obama campaigned on the idea that DOMA should be repealed, but his support for the repeal over the course of his term has been less-than lukewarm. His Department of Justice on several occasions defended the unconstitutional law. The first time it went to court during his presidency, the DoJ’s brief on the case offensively compared lesbian and gay relationships to incest and pedophilia. The LGBT community lashed back and since that time, Obama’s administration has done a 180 on the issue and has ended it’s defense of the homophobic law.

The fight over DOMA is going to be long and costly. House Republicans needlessly voted last week to re-affirm DOMA as the law of the land (a symbolic show of support they decided to spend time on instead of working to stop the economy from going into free-fall).

VICTORY! CA Gov. Jerry Brown Signs Gay History Bill

14 Jul

CA Gov. Jerry Brown

While Californians continue to fight for marriage equality through the courts, they will now be making history by sharing ours.

Today, Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 48 into law. The new law, the Fair Education Act will allow teachers to educate on LGBT issues and historical figures. Combatting the bigoted “Don’t Say Gay” law recently passed in Tennessee – which stops educators from discussing anything about LGBT people, SB 48 is now the law in the home of some of the country’s largest textbook distributors.

Brown signed the law after a huge campaign from the National Organization for Marriage to persuade him not to. Some of the lies spread regarding the law claim that kindergartners would be “indoctrinated into homosexuality” and sexualizing children.

Randy Thomasson, President of SaveCalifornia.com refers to the act as “sexual brainwashing.” In an interview on Alan Colmes radio show, CA State Sen. Mark Leno (the author of the bill) argued with Thomasson with regards to the facts of the bill. Thomasson doesn’t believe the history of Harvey Milk should be taught because of his sexual history. Leno Responds with the point that students aren’t taught about John F. Kennedy’s or Martin Luther King Jr.’s sexual history when being taught about them. Leno also pointed out the focus and obsession on sexuality when it comes to those who oppose equality measures like this one. Watch below: