Tag Archives: Gay Marriage

If a Married Lesbian Couple Saves 40 Teens from the Norway Massacre and No One Writes About it, Did it Really Happen?

1 Aug

Hege Dalen and Toril Hansen. Photo: Maija Tammi

By this point, most of you have heard about the tragedy in Norway a few weeks ago when a Christian Fundamentalist* murdered 77** people and injured another 96. The story has been well-covered by International media and the mainstream press here in the US.

What you probably have not heard about is the married lesbian couple who rescued 40 teenagers during and after the bloody event. Several blogs and gay and lesbian publications are now picking up the story, but the heavy hitters who usually kill for hero stories like this, have remained silent.

The Finnish capital city’s largest daily newspaper, Helsingin Sanomatpublished this account (translated from Finnish):

Hege Dalen and her spouse, Toril Hansen were near Utöyan having dinner on the opposite shore across from the ill-fated campsite, when they began to hear gunfire and screaming on the island.

“We were eating. Then shooting and then the awful screaming. We saw how the young people ran in panic into the lake,” says Dale to HS in an interview.

The couple immediately took action and pushed the boat into Lake Tyrifjorden.

Dalen and Hansen drove the boat to the island, picked up from the water victims in shock in, the young and wounded, and transported them to the opposite shore to the mainland. Between runs they saw that the bullets had hit the right side of the boat.

Since there were so many and not all fit at once aboard, they returned to the island four times.

They were able to rescue 40 young people from the clutches of the killer.

“We did not sleep last night at all. Today, we have been together and talked about the events,” Dalen said.

Please share this story and make sure people know the heroism of Hege and Toril.

Check out our follow-up to this post here: Hege & Toril: Why We Write, which addresses many of your comments and questions about this article.

*The term “Christian Fundamentalist” has been disputed greatly in both the press and the comments section below this post. According to Norwegian police investigating the massacre, Anders Behrin Breivik was a “Christian Fundamentalist” as described by the New York Times and several Norwegian sources. There is a great post from CNN, which discusses at length, the use of the term being used for Breivik.

**Thank you to readers who have provided credible sources as to the actual number of deaths from this tragedy. We originally reported that 92 had been killed, but according to Norwegian sources, the total number is at 77, with many still in the hospital.

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Avenue Q’s Rod, Ricky & Kate on Gay Republicans, Puppet Presidents and Michele Bachmann

26 Jul

Avenue Q's Rod and Ricky

On Sunday, July 24, 2011, thousands of gay and lesbian New Yorkers legally tied the knot. Among those celebrating marriage equality were cast members from the hit Broadway (and now off-Broadway) musical, Avenue Q.

In this video, recorded before Rod and Ricky took the proverbial plunge, they expound on their thoughts on gay Republicans, the future of puppets in the Oval Office and…Michele Bachmann. Please watch, enjoy and share!

Exclusive: Avenue Q’s Rod & Ricky – The Full Wedding Video!

26 Jul

Having discovered that there is only one video of Rod and Ricky’s wedding out there – (and that video is only of a pre-ceremony rehearsal), we realized we had to post this video of the entire ceremony!

Kate Monster, Ricky and Rod (Photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

As we posted here earlier, two cast members from the Broadway (and now off-Broadway) hit, Avenue Q were married on Monday outside the NY City Clerk’s office. We posted some photos here yesterday and there are some incredible pics over at BroadwayWorld.com as well.

Please check out our video of the entire event, followed by some beautiful coverage by the Family Equality Council of the special day.

 

Avenue Q’s Rod & Ricky Tie the Felt Knot in NYC

24 Jul

I was honored to attend the wedding of Avenue Q’s infamous Republican showtune-loving puppet, Rod and his partner of nearly 8 years now, Ricky. We were happy to get a brief interview with the couple that we will be sharing later, but in the meantime, please enjoy some photos of their nuptials.

Rod says, “To have this finally happen for us — especially so soon after Will and Kate — is unbelievable to me.  I realize there are a lot of broken hearts out there now that Ricky and I are off the market — step back, all you chorus boys! — but I’ve known since Day One that Ricky is the husband for me.  He’s the furry fellow I want to spend my life with both on and off the stage.”

Now in its 9th year in New York — and with productions in countries around the world — AVENUE Q is a three-time Tony Award-winning musical about people and puppets fresh out of college in search of their purposes in life, living as neighbors in an outer-borough of New York City.

In AVENUE Q, Rod, a Wall Street banker, and Ricky, a “Chelsea boy,” meet through an online personal ad placed by Rod’s best friend and slacker roommate Nicky.  It is love at first sight.  And the rest is soon to become history!!

Also in attendance at today’s marriage ceremony was Amy Hausman, an All Peoples Wedding Officiant for the Starlight Rainbow Wedding Initiative and AVENUE Q’s Jennifer Barnhart, Jed Resnick and Howie Michael Smith.

Thousands of New Yorkers put a ring on it!

24 Jul

This morning in New York City, close to 700 couples made history by being the first gay and lesbian couples to marry in the state.

Talk About Equality and the Family Equality Council were there to document these marriage pioneers!

The new law, which passed in New York and was signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo 30 days ago, has broken the barrier to equality for thousands. Couples of every age, size and shape were lined up starting in the early hours this morning, to finally gain legal recognition for their partnerships. We spoke to couples who’d been together for 2 years and couples who’d been together 42 years – who’ve been patiently waiting for this sunny Sunday morning at the New York City Clerk’s office.

Please enjoy some photos from today’s day downtown, followed by a special reception held by Governor Andrew Cuomo at New York’s Dream Hotel. At the reception, the governor honored several individuals and organizations who joined together to eventually win the fight for marriage equality. And finally this evening at the LGBT Center of New York, several organizations including Empire State Pride Agenda, Transgender Legal Defense Network, Human Rights Campaign and Freedom to Marry hosted an enormous wedding reception for today’s newlyweds. Several elected representatives responsible for the passage of marriage equality and special guest, George Takei helped ring in the celebrations!

Also check out this video we put together about Gabriel and Dylan, one of New York’s first married gay couples. More photos, video and information on how to get married in New York available at FamilyEquality.org :

PHOTOS: DOMA Repeal’s First Senate Hearings

20 Jul

photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com

This morning, i had the distinct honor of joining the Family Equality Council at the very first Senate hearings on the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which was signed into law in 1996. This was my first time attending a Senate hearing and I wanted to walk you through what happened and my impressions along the way.

There was a long line of people waiting to get in to the hearing room, but luckily, we had reserved seats and were able to head in first. Looking around the room as it filled up was a who’s who in the LGBT rights movement – Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign, Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry, Rea Carey from the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and many other important names and faces in our movement.

Seated in the first row, in front of us were representatives from those who oppose equality for LGBT people. Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family, Austin Nimmocks of the Alliance Defense Fund and Ed Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Chairman Leahy (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

Chairman Leahy quickly called the hearings to order and the first panel spoke to their experiences with DOMA. The panel was made up of House members primarily speaking about their constituents. Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights legend – made several references to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as well as the comparisons between the Black Civil Rights movement and the LGBT Civil Rights movement today. he referred to DOMA as a “stain on our democracy.” He wrapped up by saying “These are our brothers and sisters, we cannot turn our back on them; we must join hands and work to create a more perfect union.

Over the course of the rest of the testimonies, I found myself listening more intently to the reasoning of those who stand against equality than those telling our stories. I think this is just because I’ve heard a lot of our stories in person (and even told a few), but to hear bigots spread lies in front of the US Senate was an experience I will never forget.

Rep. Steve King (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

Rep. Steve King, the only anti-gay member of the first panel reiterated statements we’ve heard before. He spoke of the number of states where anti-gay referendums were passed, where the rights of a minority were voted on by the majority. He said that marriage equality would “demean” the institution of marriage. Also stated that same sex marriage would eventually lead to marriage between family members. And he wrapped things up by saying no court has ever found DOMA to be unconstitutional – he apparently never heard of the 14 times it has been in court and has been found to be unconstitutional.

The next panel featured non-members of Congress and was the first to tell first-person accounts of how DOMA has negatively affected our families. The primary focus of testimony from our side was on healthcare and tax law – many cited that same-sex married partners are frequently left out of hospital visitation protection and that the federal tax laws do not protect legally married same-sex couple and their families.

Tom Minnery, Focus on the Family (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

Focus on the Family’s Tom Minnery complained about traditional marriage being destroyed. He kept referring to “mountains of evidence” that state children are better off with opposite-sex parents. I can’t help but note that while we tell our stories about how we are hurt by this bigoted law, during the entire hearing, no one mentioned how straight families are hurt by gays getting married. Minnery went on to complain about 8th graders who were “forced” to deal with the fact that gay people exist.

Now comes the good part. The members of Senate are now allowed to question members of the panel. The first question came from Chairman Leahy. He asked Minnery to answer a simple question. After Minnery’s claims that children are far better off with opposite-sex parents and that his most important reason for being there was to protect children, Leahy asked if children of same-sex parents are better off for not receiving the same benefits that children of opposite-sex parents? He needed to explain the question 4 times before Minnery finally agreed that DOMA is indeed hurting children of same-sex parents.

Sen. Al Franken (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

Following that, Al Franken asked for a specific example from Minnery’s “mountains of evidence” claiming that children of opposite-sex parents are better off than those of same-sex parents…in Minnery’s written testimony, he cited a study by the Department of Health and Human Services. Franken pulled out the study and let’s just say my favorite sentence of the day was – “I….checked the study out.” and instead of paraphrasing the whole thing here, please watch – and please keep in mind that ti’s fairly verboten for the audience to laugh, applaud, etc during these hearings:

 

So there was that.

Ed Whelan, who believes polyamory is a "project of the Left" (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

The next panel came in, which featured the aforementioned Solmonese,  Wolfson, Nimmocks and Whelan. The information that came out during these testimonies were for the most part, things we have heard before from both sides…and then came Ed Whelan. This was the only time all morning where there was an audible laugh from the audience at the testimony of a panelist. His full testimony (which does not include random quips he made like the one I’m about to reference) can be found here. After referring to the terms polyamory or polygamy at least nine times in five minutes, he then referred to polyamory as “a current project of the Left.” Because ya know…multiple partners are never mentioned in the Bible or the Book of Mormon…we just made it up. I think it was Dan Savage actually who invented it (apologies for the snark, it was just a bit much to listen to).

Another interesting thing to note from Whelan’s testimony is that he claimed heterosexual taxpayers would be forced to “subsidize” same-sex marriages because of having equal protection under tax law. It astounds me that he doesn’t seem to see the irony that LGBT folk have been subsidizing heterosexual marriages since the government first got in the business of giving tax credits to married couples.

New York’s Sen. Chuck Schumer wrapped things up with a strongly-worded statement in support of the Respect for Marriage Act.

Sen. Charles Schumer (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

In closing, I’m very excited to attend another hearing like this. To see this at work and to see bigots called-out for their lies for the whole nation to see was empowering to say the least. I should also note that there were only two anti-gay Senators in attendance at this hearing – Sens. Grassley and Hatch (who didn’t say a word at the hearing). There were eight pro-equality Senators (Chairman Leahy, Sens. Feinstein, Franken, Schumer, Whitehouse, Klobuchar, Coons and Blumenthal) in attendance with one of our biggest champions (Sen Kirsten Gillibrand) sitting in the audience. If this was really so important to their constituents, don’t you think more Republicans would have shown up?

Enjoy some photos from today and thanks for following @TalkEquality on Twitter!

For an excellent blow-by-blow account of today’s hearing, check out Adam Bink’s Prop8TrialTracker.


HRC's Joe Solmonese (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

 

A family in support of DOMA repeal (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

 

Sen. Chris Coons (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

 

Sen. Durbin (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

Sen. Chuck Grassley (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

Sen. Feinstein (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

 

Rep. Nadler (photo by Jamie McGonnigal EqualityPhotography.com)

 

Straight Women Change Husbands’ Minds on Marriage Equality

5 Jul

“We should treat other people the way we want to be treated.”

This is what Timi Parker, a member of the group “Straight Women for Marriage Equality” recently told OregonLive.com. Parker and other members of the group are pushing to see Oregon’s Measure 36 overturned. Measure 36, which voters passed in 2004 defining marriage in Oregon as between one man and one woman, passed in all but two counties.

The idea behind Straight Women for Marriage Equality stems from research saying that the biggest single influence on conservative-leaning men when it comes to social issues, are the women in their lives. Could talking about equality with ones’ own family members possibly make a difference? Absolutely – we’ve seen such a major shift in attitudes as people have come out and spoken to their loved ones about who they are. What’s different here is that our allies are now jumping on board – seeing marriage equality as a matter of basic fairness.

Timi Parker is a grandmother who wants to see her grandchildren grow up in a world where people are equal – and so this ally is doing what she can to make a difference. Not unlike Friendfactor, Straight Women for Marriage Equality is all about asking our straight allies to speak up for us – not only be supportive, but actually do the work required to help us gain our equality.

We can’t win this without a little help from our friends and we can no longer be so timid as to only ask for a pat on the back when we tell someone the truth about who we are. We MUST begin engaging our friends and families and kindly ask that they stand up for us whenever possible. The more work we do now, the more freedom the next generation will have.

Pledge now to make a phone call to at least 5 friends or family members and ask them to stand up for you. You may even find an ally where you least expected.

Happy Pride! Take It Back.

26 Jun

There is so much to celebrate today at the 42nd Annual Gay Pride March in New York City. As you know, New York became the 6th and largest state in the country to recognize marriage equality for gays and lesbians. For many, this is something we never thought we’d see i our lifetime – but because of our hard work and because we refuse to stop talking about equality, something incredible happened.


Through the coordinated efforts of many organizations and thousands of individuals, we changed the minds of elected officials and their constituents.


While we celebrate this victory and the progress we’ve made as a community, we must do so with thoughts of the future in mind. We must continue to educate our friends, family and allies on the inequalities we still face. Even with marriage equality becoming a reality in New York, there are still 1,138 rights that legally married gay and lesbian couples do not have. Our bi-national families can still face deportation, federal tax laws to not apply to us and 44 states still discriminate against us. On top of that, we can be fired from our jobs or evicted from our homes in over 30 states – simply because we are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.


Please continue to use Pride as the educational tool it was intended to be. Wear your thong, but carry a sign while you do it. Pledge to call your mother or grandfather or best friend from high school and have a real conversation about equality. But most importantly, have Pride. Celebrate what we have accomplished and promise to commit yourself to winning our FULL equality – not for you, but for the generation that comes after you. We will have it. We will have it in our lifetime, but not without your work.


Happy Pride. Take It Back.


							

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

UPDATED: Will Sen. Grisanti Decide NY Marriage Equality?

16 Jun

Judge James Wilson

On July, 2, 1776, the greatest question of American liberty was posed to the 2nd Continental Congress in Philadelphia. After weeks of debate, it had been decided that the vote to declare independence from England, the 13 colonies had to vote unanimously. James Wilson of Pennsylvania had joined with more conservative colleagues, Edward Rutledge of South Carolina, Robert Livingston of New York, and John Dickinson of Pennsylvania. Together, they successfully caused a 3-week delay in the vote for independence. Wilson didn’t feel that we were ready for this change. As a country, he didn’t believe we were “ripe” enough to be on our own.

When the time came for the vote that would forever change the course of our history, Wilson arguably became the deciding vote when Pennsylvania voted 3-2 to declare our independence from England. When faced with the question of what this country was about, Wilson saw that his vote could be the deciding factor between oppression and freedom. He chose freedom.

Today, the New York State Senate will again debate marriage equality after the Assembly passed it last night with an 80-63 vote. In order for New York to pass the Marriage Equality Bill, which would mean freedom for all New Yorkers to marry and be protected equally under our laws, the bill must garner 32 votes. As of right now, there are 31 votes and several undecided senators. With so many undecided Republican senators, it’s hard to find someone who will be a real leader and break from the pack to truly represent all their constituents.

Senator Mark Grisanti, (R) Buffalo, NY

For months now, Senator Mark Grisanti of Buffalo, NY has said that he would vote against the marriage equality bill, but now he has declared that he is “undecided.” Grisanti is clearly wrestling with the idea and met with Governor Cuomo on Tuesday night to discuss the bill. While he has still not said how he will vote, some see him as the deciding vote on marriage equality in New York.

So over the next 24-48 hours, Grisanti will continue to balance out the weight of this important decision. He must ask himself if he wants to be remembered as a bold leader who bravely chose to protect all New Yorkers or if he wants to stick with the status quo, leaving his LGBT constituents to flounder in inequality. This is no small decision for Grisanti, but we can hope that he will take a page out of James Wilson’s book. We can hope that he will see that New York and America are more than ready to live up to the standards set forth in the Declaration of Independence – that all men are created equal.

Stand on the right side of history, Senator Grisanti.

UPDATE: Last night, in a vote of 33 to 29, the New York Senate voted to approve marriage equality in the state. Senator Mark Grisanti of Buffalo said to his Republican colleagues who were voting against the bill:

“The issue of same-sex marriage was never a strong topic of discussion among family and friends. I simply opposed it in the Catholic sense of my upbringing.”

“As a Catholic, I was raised to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. I’m not here, however, as a senator who is just Catholic. I’m also here with a background as an attorney. To which I look at things and I apply reason.”

“I have studied this issue. To those who know me, they know I have struggled with it.”

“I cannot legally come up with an argument against same-sex marriage. Who am I to say that someone does not have the same rights that I have with my wife, who I love, or to have the 1300-plus rights that I share with her”