My Story

Growing up in conservative West Michigan, I watched lesbian and gay friends and family members struggle to be accepted and be treated equally. There are gains and losses in this fight every day, and it is vital for LGBT individuals and their straight allies to stand up and to pay attention.

30 November 2012

All Eyes on the Supreme Court

Later this afternoon, the Supreme Court is set to announce whether they will rule on same-sex marriage in the upcoming year (update at bottom of post!)

If they decide to take up the case, it would most likely be heard in March, with a decision in June. Ten petitions are in front of the court, and eight of them are about the federal Defense of Marriage Act (a more detailed legal description can be found here). The justices are behind closed doors right now (I'll post an update after their decision!).  

In places like New York or Iowa, marriage equality is recognized under state law, but not recognized by federal law because of the Defense of Marriage Act (which the Obama administration believes is unconstitutional). So, legally married same-sex couples do not have equal access to federal rights. California's Proposition 8 (a ban on same-sex marriage that was recently overturned and is now being appealed) is one of the issues before the Supreme Court. If the justices take on this case, the court could potentially only rule for the couples in California. Or, they could rule on the issue of marriage equality in all states. I cannot express how HUGE that decision would be.

This comes after a series of historic victories for equality on election day. After Maryland, Maine, and Washington approved same-sex marriage, a total of nine states have legal same-sex marriage. 

This is addition to re-electing the first president in American history to support marriage equality. 

However, a total of 31 states have banned same-sex marriage in their constitutions, and 7 states have banned it by state law.

(From Mother Jones. Not pictured: Alaska, banned by constitutional amendment, and Hawaii, banned by state law)


So, even though the tide is turning, we still have a long way to go. And that is why this Supreme Court needs to take up the issue. Fighting for marriage equality state by state has left a patchwork of unacceptable inequalities. 

As the Supreme Court said in 1967:

"Marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man, fundamental to our very existence and survival."

This was in the landmark Loving v. Virginia case, which finally declared race-based anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional. To continue:

"To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law...Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State."

Let's not forget what this is all about. This is about rights, this is about equality for all, this is about societal acceptance, and this is about love.


Richard and Mildred Loving, arrested to for violating the law against marriage between a white and a black person in Virginia. (1960s)


Phyllis Siegal, 76, and Connie Kopelov, 84, the first couple to be married under New York's marriage equality law (Watch part of their ceremony. Beware of the potential for an outpouring of tears.)

Mildred Loving (pictured above), was quoted on the fortieth anniversary of the 1967 ruling Loving v. Virginia, in a rare public statement only a year before her death:

"Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don't think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the "wrong kind of person" for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people's religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people's civil rights."

This Supreme Court case could be huge. It could have a federal impact, or it could just have an impact on California. But, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." So let's get to work!

Join with me today in calling for the Supreme Court to consider the constitutionality of same-sex marriage. From my family to your family, let equality, love, and acceptance be the ultimate goals

And let's get there sooner rather than later.

-JJC


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UPDATE 4:30 pm, 30 Nov. 2012
Supreme Court delays the decision on which case to hear another week. But it's likely that they will be hearing at least one of the cases. More from the LA Times here

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UPDATE around 3:00 pm 7 Dec. 2012

The Supreme Court has announced they will take two cases about marriage equality during this session! They will be deciding cases about the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8. This is good news! Read more from the New York Times here.

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PS--There's an interesting film in production about many issues I talk about on this blog. Check it out to see if it's something you'd like to support. 

03 November 2012

An Election About Life and Death and Love

This election is of vital importance. 

For the first time, the President of the United States came out in favor of same-sex marriage. I was beyond excited when Obama gave voice to an affirmation that resonated around the globe (see my blogpost about my enthusiasm and reservations about his statements here). This was huge, massive even. It was a giant leap toward equality. 

But in this election, the progress I've fought for--that we've fought for--could be taken away from us. And, astonishingly, there's been next to nothing from either presidential campaign about LGBTQ equality. The presidential candidates had a debate on domestic issues, and yet the millions of LGBTQ Americans without rights were not even mentioned. It's time to make the case for a President that believes in LGBTQ equality.

This election is of vital importance. 

I could talk about how I disagree with Mitt Romney's views on women's rights, the environment, healthcare, and education for hours. I could explain how I agree with major components of Obama's platform for a few more hours. But right here, I'm only going to delve into an extremely personal issue for me: marriage equality. 

This election is of vital importance.  I have friends tell me it's all a bunch of political "BS," that real change won't ever happen, that it's not worth voting, that it won't make a real difference for people who is president.


But they're so wrong. This election is about whether my sister will have access to equal marriage rights within the next four years. This is tangible, this is real, but it's also not just about my sister.

It's about millions of people. It's about the kids with lesbian or gay parents, it's about hospital visitation, it's about tax benefits, it's about bullying to the point of suicide, it's about partner healthcare benefits, it's about access to first-time home buyer programs, it's about veterans' partner benefits, it's about societal acceptance. It's about the 1,138 benefits or rights of marriage (as calculated in 2003 by the US General Accountability Office) that gay and lesbian couples have unequal access to. 

This election is of vital importance. It's about what these candidates stand for, and how they're going to serve all of the citizens of this country.

Gov. Mitt Romney

Insensitive:

  • "I didn't know you had families."
  • Thinks Don't Ask Don't Tell was effective. Although, he has disagreed with himself on this issue. 

Ignorant:

  • "Some gays are actually having children born to them... It's not right on paper. It's not right in fact. Every child has a right to a mother and a father."

Dangerous:

  • Blocked a Massachusetts bullying guide for public schools because it contained the words "transgender" and "bisexual."
  • Vetoed hate crime prevention in Massachusetts, doesn't see any need for additional anti-discrimination laws, and his running mate voted against the Matthew Shepherd Hate Crimes Prevention Act. 

Don't forget how dangerous and prevalent LGBTQ bullying is. This is an extremely significant issue, and to be against hate crime and bullying prevention can have incredibly dire results.

Unconstitutional:

Backward:

video

Keep in mind that Gov. Romney is trying to sound much more moderate than his actions have shown he is. Please explore the bullet points above to fully understand his views. Also, unlike what he implies in the above video, he does not support further nondiscrimination policies, national equal rights initiatives, bullying prevention if it includes transgender individuals, and holds contempt for same-sex parents. I don't know what "gay rights" he is in favor of, but supporting a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage makes it pretty clear where he stands. 

President Barack Obama

In terms of what Obama has done, I outlined a more detailed report on this blog post, but to sum it up:
  • Supports and has enacted bullying prevention programs that includes LGBTQ people.
  • Made hate crimes against LGBTQ people a federal offense. 
  • Supports same-sex marriage (with some reservations).
  • Supports LGBTQ human rights initiatives around the globe.
  • Declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional
Forward:




The next President will continue to make important decisions about marriage rights, LGBTQ people in the military, bullying and hate crime prevention, and perhaps most importantly, will have the opportunity to nominate justices to the Supreme Court who will continue to impact these kinds of decisions long into the future. If Obama is reelected, I truly believe that in four years we will either have marriage equality or will be a lot closer to it. After the first four years, we sure are closer to marriage equality than ever before. 

This election is of vital importance. Get to the polls, and get everyone you know to the polls. This is an extremely personal issue for me. I've seen the beginnings of real change, and I do not want to go backwards.

I mean, come on America. This is about life and death and love. It's unacceptable to be on the sidelines. Vote for equality.

Your vote will matter for millions of school children with two moms or two dads who don't understand why the world says their mommies or daddies can't get married, why their family is wrong. It will matter for the teen contemplating suicide because their society rejects their identity. It will matter for the same-sex couple who has been together for thirty years, and cannot understand why they are labeled as a sinful "other" undeserving of equal rights.

This election is about life and death and love.

So. Let's go forward. 

-JJC