Friday, June 28, 2013

Signs , Symbols and Prideful Assumptions....

Well now... It's been a pretty exciting  couple days.

The two recent United States Supreme Court rulings on the issue of Marriage Equality have prompted intense reaction  from all parts of the  political and social spectrum.    For proponents of equal rights, Wednesday's court victories  marked a historic  turning point in the LGBT civil rights struggle.   The two rulings which  stuck down Section 3 of the so-called  "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA), and upheld a lower court ruling in California , striking down CA Proposition 8 were greeted with joy and celebration in many quarters.  The reaction in my old stomping grounds of San Francisco was jubilant.



Over on the  far right wing  of American social-politics,  there was considerably less joy.... The favorite talking point over the past  24 hours has been how granting equal rights to  Gay and Lesbian Americans is going somehow cause Straight "Christians" to be  "bashed" or taken to court for their beliefs.     Our favorite American Taliban spokesnut, and dementia patient,  Pat Robertson  drives the  Waaaambulance full speed to crazy town...



We will set  aside  for a moment,  the  ridiculous notion at  any straight person has ever been bashed by gay people  for their sexual orientation or beliefs. The death toll  of  LGBT Americans who have been killed in the name of Robertson's  twisted and sick  abuse of religion could fill hundreds of blog entries.   Rather it is  the  idea  that  people who opposed  marriage equality are  now somehow victims of some sort of "judicial attack" that I find interesting,

In response to this, a popular  graphic/meme has sprung up on the internet  making the point that opponents of equality were never able to prove how ending  discrimination against Gays and Lesbians hurts them.

One side aspect of this whole recent  Supreme Court saga has been how various sides have expressed themselves through social media platforms, most notably on Facebook and Twitter.  The Human Rights Campaign started an online trend where their familiar Blue and Yellow  equal sign logo was turned red and white (red for valentines/love and white for marriage)  and urged people to adopt the modified logo as their social media profile picture.   Hundreds of thousands of people, including Eric and I,  did.

While scrolling through facebook today  I  happened upon the profile of an old friend of mine.  He is the younger brother of an old of friend of mine, with whom I am no longer in touch.  The elder of the two, lives and  works in a fairly conservative world and promptly ended our more than twenty-five year  friendship when he found out I was Gay.   As many others  who have gone through the coming out process can attest,  there are friends who you lose as a result of being honest,  I don't fault them,  it's just part of life.

His younger brother, however  while fairly conservative  on some issues,  like the  2nd Amendment and Gun Rights,  had always seemed  more progressive  on  other social issues.  So I was somewhat surprised to see this graphic on his Facebook Profile, with the caption; "I'll see your red equality sign & raise you a blue one.  :) "

The argument being that  where showing support for LGBT rights is okay, to express the same sentiment about heterosexuals  is considered to be bigotry.   Sigh...  Every June, during  LGBT Pride Month, at some point this ridiculous argument  always pops up, and I always amazed to see it put forward by otherwise  rational  people.

It is the idea that  an overwhelming majority point of view is somehow under attack if any other point of view is given any credence.   It is the insane notion that  somehow my marriage  is an attack on his.   That by my having  equal rights,  his rights are diminished.    I have news for my friend.   EVERY month is  "Straight Pride Month".   My friend has never  been  discriminated against because of his sexuality,  he has never been denied any of the rights  and privileges of being an American because he is Straight,   His Marriage ( not his first I would add..)  has never been subjected to public vote.    He  has never faced  having to leave the United States simply to be with person he is married to.     No one has ever said  he should be ashamed of being straight,  or  that  God hates him for loving who he loves.

Yet my friend, and others who have posted the aforementioned graphic,  somehow can't see, how given the reality  of their lives, how the idea of "Straight Pride"  seems as redundant, as ridiculous and as offensive  as  "White Pride" does to many people of color.  

I have blinding flash of the obvious for my friend;  When the entire world is geared to affirm who and what you are, when most every movie, book,  TV Show,  song on the radio and cultural "norm" supports  your sexual orientation;  saying that others who are different from  you are okay too,  is NOT a viscous attack on you.  You are not being discriminated against,  you are not being attacked   you are not  a victim of "reverse bigotry".  

To claim that you are,  just makes you look remarkably stupid.

So we will go to  London's LGBT Pride celebration this weekend.  Because in a world where a straight kid  growing up doesn't need  to be told  that it's okay to like yourself for who you are,  a logo, or rainbow flag  carried in a parade celebrating  these historic court rulings, can send the  simple  message to LGBT people of all ages,  that  you are just fine the way  you are.   



Happy Pride Everyone...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

DOMA IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL!!!!!

FROM
SCOTUSBLOG

UPDATE!   Ruling holding PROP 8  in CA unconstitutional is UPHELD!

Here is the Plaintiff's victory press conference

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Here we go AGAIN - Playing the SCOTUS Waiting Game

As usual , The Onion nails it...

WASHINGTON—Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in an ongoing affirmative action lawsuit Monday, the impatient American public reportedly demanded that the nation’s highest court stop jerking around with all these other cases and just get to the gay stuff already. “Screw all these other cases, man, we’re ready for the real stuff—you know...the gay stuff,” said Indianapolis resident Eric Newcomb, 36, just one of millions of restless Americans who claimed they are sick of waiting for the Supreme Court to pull the trigger on a gay rights decision, noting that the judicial body has already had “a solid three months” to consider the constitutional issues associated with homosexual marriage and same-sex partner benefits. “Seriously, stop wasting time with all these boring appeals nobody cares about and bring on the gays. I mean, do they honestly think anyone gives a shit about any other case?” At press time, the nation had thrown up its hands in frustration upon learning that the Supreme Court was currently preparing a 46-page opinion addressing the jurisdictional conflicts raised by Mutual Pharmaceutical Co. v. Bartlett.
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It's hard not to think they are just attention seeking drama queens on the court, where SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States),  is going to have their moment in the spotlight no matter what. And I actually can understand that if it is the case, After all the President and Congress seem to get all the limelight, I really can't blame the Justices if they use this process as a not so subtle reminder that there IS a third branch of government., and by God... attention WILL be paid!!     That being said, it still seems needlessly overdrawn and even somewhat childish how they do it.

Allow me to also deliver a  small reality check for anybody who was annoyed that there weren't any "Death to DOMA" drink specials at the Big Apple Ranch, Sidetracks, Badlands or the Abbey last night, take a moment to put yourself in the shoes of bi-national same sex couples living oversees in DOMA Exile, for whom this decision literally will determine if we can ever return to  the United States, or those living in the U.S. who are facing the very real prospect of having to leave the country just to be with their spouse.


For folks like us, this whole waiting game just seems cruel....

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Daily Show tackles the myth of "anti-Christian bullying"

Brilliant....

video

The segment features right wing nutcase, Boise, Idaho, pastor and radio host Matt Slick attempting to make the case that Christians are becoming victims.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Defining Patriotism and Privacy in a Digital Age...

Press reports on both sides of the Atlantic have  been full of  stories about the revelations of American National Security "whistle blower"  Edward Snowden .

Snowden, a former U.S. Intelligence analyst,  spilled  the beans to the UK newspaper The Guardian, on  how  the US National Security Agency monitors electronic communications  all over the world in its efforts to thwart terrorism.    In a recent interview,  Snowden explained his motives.


Over here  in London,  the government has been quick to  say to anyone with a microphone that  civil liberties  of people living int he UK  were not violated, and "appropriate safeguards"  were in place at all times.   Uh... okay.   They of course can't say what those safeguards actaully are,  because  that's...  you know...  secret n' stuff.   

Meanwhile  back in the  United States, the same folks who were all for spying on pretty much everyone in the name of  "homeland security" back during the Bush Administration  are now,  ( wait for it....) "shocked and deeply concerned" over  what the government has been doing!


I'll be honest,  I have always just assumed  that in a post 9-11 world, the government was monitoring  everybody,  and  using PRISM, or  whatever the system is called to  search for keywords,  I.P. addresses and  suspicious activity  between people with known or  possible links to terror groups.  And I realize I am going to horrify my libertarian friends when I say...  I am pretty much okay with that...   I know  many of you  right now are screaming the  Ben Franklin quote about  liberty and safety  at  your computer screens  and  wondering why  I am not more worried about  this intrusion on our right to privacy.


Let's be clear,  I never said I wasn't worried about it,  I never said I liked it.   I am saying I have accepted it as a necessary evil.  And yes, there needs to be clear and full congressional oversight of these programs to ensure the needed safeguards for  civil liberties.  I would remind folks that  it was  the Bush Administration's lack of interest in  intercepted "chatter"  that was at least partly responsible for America being caught unaware and unprepared for the attacks of September 2001.    

Which is why, even though  I may not be joining the call to storm the NSA with pitchforks and torches.  Yet at the same time,   I also am not ready to agree with those  who say  Edward Snowden, and the American Journalist Genn Greenwald,  (who broke his story),  are traitors.  Clearly  Snowden, (rightly or wrongly)  felt  that there were not adequate safeguards or  oversight structures in place  at the NSA  to protect the civil  liberties of  all the people who's emails, phone calls, and  web usage is being monitored.  

video

It is very easy to side with the argument that  "if you have nothing to hide,  this shouldn't bother you..."  and there is a certain logic to that,  yet   the flip side of that  argument is the issue of privacy.   Don't we all have the right NOT to have our lives examined by total strangers?   I'll  say  what bothers me the  most  in that interview with Snowden,  is the revelation that wasn't the Government  was possibly reading my email, but rather  Booz Allen Hamilton, a private corporation that  was doing all this, as a Government contractor.    

Am I saying I trust  the  Government more than I trust a private company?  Yeah, pretty much.    The Tea Party may think government is the problem,  but the sheer lack of accountability Snowden describes is pretty unsettling.   

So  what about the question of Patriotism here?  Are Snowden and Greenwald  traitors?   Well, motives aside,  Snowden is a criminal.   He broke the law. And Glenn Greenwald, aided and abetted that criminal activity  We can, and many will,  argue the nobility of  their  reasons, and  even argue over the right or wrong nature of the laws they  broke,  but  the fact remains,  they did break the law.     The real question is;  have they  put the country, or  any person, other than themselves  in danger because of  their actions?   If you listen to voices on the poltical right in the  United States,  you would certainly think so.


Fox News  certainly  has it's own ideological  tint on all this,  but  it raises the question,  are Snowden and Greenwald  heroes who have struck a blow for  all of our civil liberties,  or are they traitors who have but the lives of Americans and  National Security at risk.   You can  make a very convincing case for both.  Yet it is worth noting,  Fox News had no problem with  the outing of CIA Agent  Valerie Plame Wilson, by the Bush Administration,  and never once asked if  Scooter Libby and his boss,  Vice President Dick Cheney should be charged with Treason. 

An interesting  side story to all this,  is  the background of the Journalist who broke the story.   Glenn Greenwald .  He is a columnist on civil liberties and US national security issues for the Guardian Newspaper . A former constitutional lawyer, he was until 2012 a contributing writer at Salon. He is the author two recent books, highly critical of the use of executive power and the Patriot Act,  by the Bush Administration.  

Another interesting fact about  Greenwald, who is Gay,  is he also is living in DOMA  (Defense of Marriage Act)  Exile.   He was forced to move to Brazil because his relationship with his Brazilian partner is not recognized by the U.S. Federal Government for immigration purposes.   Greenwald and his partner were recently profiled by  OUT Magazine where they told their story..

"Brazil recognizes our relationship for immigration purposes, while the government of my supposedly 'free,' liberty-loving country enacted a law explicitly barring such recognition," says Greenwald, referring to the Defense of Marriage Act with the disdain he typically shows for policies he believes are eroding Americans' freedoms. Greenwald's attacks on the powerful make him a tempting target for reprisals. So it's no surprise that, soon after he started blogging, critics sometimes tried to out him in a game of "gotcha." But what upset Greenwald was the implication that he had been closeted in the first place. "There was nothing to out," he says. "I've been as out as I can be since I was 20."

CNN's Christiane Amanpour also featured Greenwald on her program


A Canadian friend of mine here in London  asked me an interesting question yesterday;  Did I think that  having to live as a DOMA Exile  may have colored Greenwald's  attitudes towards the U.S. Government,  in  a way where he maybe didn't  look as critically at the impact of breaking this story, as he might have otherwise?   In other words  did I think Greenwald might have taken some personal satisfaction  in punishing the Government that currently is treating him as  2nd class citizen, and his partner as non-existent?    I  don't have access to Greenwald's though process so I can't answer that.  However,   I will be honest enough to say it's possible.

Like most Americans,  I want the U.S. Government to do what is necessary to keep people safe and to thwart  potential threats.  These recent revelations  give  the American People a chance to examine and perhaps more clearly define  what  "doing what is necessary" actually entails.    In the meantime,  both Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald  may well be thinking of another famous quote from Benjamin Franklin...


Monday, June 10, 2013

You know it's the Tony Awards when...

The opening number STOPS THE SHOW.....

video


From the Huffington Post...

Neil Patrick Harris was host at 67th annual Tony Awards on Sunday night, marking the fourth time Harris has acted as ringmaster for the prestigious celebration of Broadway. That veteran status wasn't lost on him: "Stick with me, your emcee's a seasoned pro," Harris sang during the 2013 Tony Awards opening number, a raucous performance that included everything from jokes about Shia LaBeouf, Alec Baldwin and Tom Hooper's "Les Miserables" close-ups to a pretty serious magic trick to even Mike Tyson. (The former champ was the star of a one-man show on Broadway last fall.) In short, Harris owned all.

Monday, June 03, 2013

When Words Lose Their Meaning...

It's June,  and that means LGBT Pride month.  To mark this  the White House released  the President's 2013  pride month proclamation.
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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A PROCLAMATION

For more than two centuries, our Nation has struggled to transform the ideals of liberty and equality from founding promise into lasting reality. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans and their allies have been hard at work on the next great chapter of that history -- from the patrons of The Stonewall Inn who sparked a movement to service members who can finally be honest about who they love to brave young people who come out and speak out every day.

This year, we celebrate LGBT Pride Month at a moment of great hope and progress, recognizing that more needs to be done. Support for LGBT equality is growing, led by a generation which understands that, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." In the past year, for the first time, voters in multiple States affirmed marriage equality for same-sex couples. State and local governments have taken important steps to provide much-needed protections for transgender Americans.

My Administration is a proud partner in the journey toward LGBT equality. We extended hate crimes protections to include attacks based on sexual orientation or gender identity and repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." We lifted the HIV entry ban and ensured hospital visitation rights for LGBT patients. Together, we have investigated and addressed pervasive bullying faced by LGBT students, prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Federal housing, and extended benefits for same-sex domestic partners. Earlier this year, I signed a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in the implementation of any VAWA-funded program. And because LGBT rights are human rights, my Administration is implementing the first-ever Federal strategy to advance equality for LGBT people around the world.

We have witnessed real and lasting change, but our work is not complete. I continue to support a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, as well as the Respect for Marriage Act. My Administration continues to implement the Affordable Care Act, which beginning in 2014, prohibits insurers from denying coverage to consumers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which addresses the disparate impact of the HIV epidemic among certain LGBT sub-communities. We have a long way to go, but if we continue on this path together, I am confident too that one day soon, from coast to coast, all of our young people will look to the future with the same sense of promise and possibility. I am confident because I have seen the talent, passion, and commitment of LGBT advocates and their allies, and I know that when voices are joined in common purpose, they cannot be stopped.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2013 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.


BARACK OBAMA
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It's lengthy, it's elegantly worded and as in years past,  a powerful testament to how far we have co.....zzzzzzzzzzzzz....    Oh sorry, I seem to have nodded off  the middle of this blog post.   Mostly because we have heard  all these wonderful words before.    

Yes they are truly, wonderful, powerful and  inspiring words.    There is the problem.   On the key issues  facing the LGBT community that is  pretty much all we have had lately.   Just words.   The most recent example of this being the  Comprehensive  Immigration Reform bill (CIR) currently  working it's way through the  United States Senate.  On the issue of inclusion of  same sex couples into this key piece of legislation,  the President  has been full of  the right words.  

At a recent press conference while on a state visit to Mexico, the subject of immigration  was front and center,  the President was clear and eloquent (again)  with his wonderfully supportive words.  


It is also worth noting, that all these clear  statements of support are invariably followed up with the caveat , of how  not everyone "is going to get everything they want .."  type language.   It's hard not to become cynical when hearing  that.     It usually means that when  the President later fails to put the weight of the  executive branch behind those wonderful words, he can take cover  behind  the banner of  "bi-partisanship".  When in fact,  the truth is,  both the President and  Congressional Democrats  simply gave in to  GOP demands.    

Which is exactly what happened  in the US Senate when faced with the choice to live up to their wonderful words.


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The President  could have  used the weight of the  White House to  pressure  the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee to  hold their ground  on  the Leahy Amendments.   Now, I understand the  process that led  up to the massively disappointing  decision by Democrats to abandon  the provisions of  Same Sex couples that Senator Leahy has sough to include in the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill.   Yet  the facts are  it was an abandonment,   done  in the hopes of appeasing  Republicans who had threatened  to kill the bill  in the name of their own bigotry.









The Facts are,  the Democrats caved.  What's more, they caved  when they  had no good reason to do so.   The Republican Party is  a national  non-starter for  Latino voters.  The GOP desperately needs  CIR  to pass,  so they can  try to  convince  this crucial electoral demographic  that they really don't  hate them.    

Senators  Feinstein, Durbin, Schumer and Franken should have held their ground and called the Republican's  bluff.   It would have forced the GOP to vote on their own homophobia,  essentially forcing  the Republicans in the Senate,  (and  eventually the  House of Representatives as well,)  to  make a very public choice.   The choice between their long term electoral viability as a National Party, and their obsession with  hating  Gays and Lesbians.  

If the  GOP really is so stupid as to kill the bill  on this issue,  it  would have set the racism and homophobic bigotry of  the Republicans as the central issue for  for the  2014 midterms, a debate Democrats would have easily won.   Instead,  the Democrats, with the tacit approval of the White House, have  turned the clock back to  2009  and sent a very clear message to GOP that  all they have to do to effectively block  the President's legislative agenda is simply threaten to say No.

Like many,  I am always happy to hear wonderful words,    Yet there comes a point when words are not enough.   I am deeply disappointed with the Democrats choice to capitulate  to Republican fear-mongering  as quickly and as easily as they  did.