Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Breaking News: CA Supreme Court Upholds Ban on Marriage Equality

The California Supreme Court has announced its ruling on Proposition 8: As had been anticipated, the court upheld the amendment banning same-sex marriage, but the estimated 18,000 marriages that were created before the amendment passed will be allowed to stand.

I have no words to express my reaction to this injustice. California's highest court has upheld the tyranny of the majority.

St. Louisans, please join us at 5:30 p.m. downtown in the City Hall Rotunda to express your outrage at this ruling.

Cross-posted to St. Louis Activist Hub

Saturday, May 23, 2009

"Day of Decision" Rally

The California Supreme Court has announced that it will be ruling on the legal challenge to Proposition 8 this Tuesday, May 26. Supporters of marriage equality will rally across the nation regardless of the decision.

Ed Reggi of Show Me No Hate is organizing a rally in St. Louis to be held at City Hall on Tuesday evening from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. From the Show Me No Hate blog:

A pro-Equality court decision would help fortify our community against what could be difficult years of economic strain and scapegoating.

A[n] anti-Equality court decision would likely fuel the heightened level of violence already recorded against the LGBTQ community across our nation. It will embolden more bigotry and homophobia.

If the court overturns Prop 8, we will all be celebrating. If the court upholds the proposition, we will all unite in protest. "We must pack our City Hall to stand in solidarity with California and the world," Reggi said. Please join us downtown on Tuesday evening as we stand united for equality!

Cross-posted to St. Louis Activist Hub

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"Marriage Is Love" Revisited, or "We just saved a bundle on car insurance!"

~~~ See end of post for important update! ~~~

Yesterday, I attended the Marriage Equality Town Hall Talk at Central Reform Congregation. Two of my closest friends went with me. My friends enjoyed the talk and found it informative and thought-provoking.

Over dinner afterward, we chatted about marriage equality. One of my friends told me that the talk was really good. She said she learned some things that she hadn't known before. She even said that if she were to attend a marriage equality rally, the sign she'd make would say something like, "I can get married; why can't they?" That was thrilling, because back in November, she hadn't seemed interested enough in the issue to want to attend a rally in protest of Proposition 8.

At the talk, we heard from some of the couples who traveled to Iowa on May 1st how life has or hasn't changed since they got legally married there.

Many said the day was bittersweet. It wasn't how they had imagined getting married. They had wanted a normal wedding with all of their family and friends present. Some had hesitated before deciding that boarding the bus was the right thing to do.

But most were surprised by how meaningful the day turned out to be. They didn't encounter any protesters, and the people of Iowa City were welcoming. The bus and the church in which they tied the knot were full of love and support that day.

And they returned home to some unexpected benefits of marriage. For one thing, getting married in Iowa entitled the couples to a legal name change for the $35 cost of the marriage license -- and the name changes cannot be contested in the state of Missouri. Other same-sex couples have spent thousands of dollars getting their names changed without a marriage license.

Ed Reggi spoke of how the businesses with which he holds accounts wanted to change his account status to "married." Because of their new married status, Ed and his husband Scott Emanuel were able to save hundreds of dollars a year on their car insurance. I now think that the newlywed couple ought to star in a GEICO commercial:
"The state of Missouri won't recognize our out-of-state marriage license. But there's good news!"

"What's that?"

"We just saved a bunch of money on car insurance!"
During a question-and-answer session, I asked if it's true that it's a misdemeanor to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony in Missouri. Rabbi Susan Talve confirmed that it's a misdemeanor in this state "to solemnize a marriage without a marriage license." Religious leaders are representatives of the state when they conduct wedding ceremonies. The government grants them the right to officiate, to create a legal marriage along with the spiritual union. By default, all same-sex weddings in Missouri are performed without a marriage license. In 2004, Missourians passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Rabbi Talve has never actually been cited for officiating a same-sex wedding, and she has done so numerous times. "Let them try!" she quipped. But technically, she doesn't have the legal right to marry same-sex couples, even though her religion fully supports such couples' right to marry. She spoke of the sadness that accompanies her joy when conducting same-sex wedding ceremonies. She wants to be able to make the marriages legal, and she can't. This is the heart of why legalizing same-sex marriage is a matter of religious freedom.

Another person asked how a separate-but-equal right to civil unions for same-sex couples would be different than the right to civil marriage. Reggi summarized what he has heard from lawyer friends: The word "marriage" is written into law on so many different levels that creating an entirely new institution would pose no end of legal challenges. Even if civil unions were legally equivalent to civil marriages, problems might arise when, for example, couples with a civil union license crossed state lines.

This argument also applies to the idea of the government getting out of the marriage business: If civil marriages were replaced by civil unions, then opposite-sex couples wishing to form a civil union would most likely run into the same legal hassles. And all because certain people don't want to share the sacred word "marriage" with committed, loving same-sex couples whose unions are just as sacred as theirs.

One member of one of the couples compared the opposition to same-sex marriage with the opposition to interracial marriage by a previous generation. "It's the same discrimination all over again," she said. Her parents are an interracial couple.

Next up in the fight for marriage equality is the Prop 8 Day of Decision. The California Supreme Court has only until June 3rd to rule on the challenge to Proposition 8. The ruling will be on either a Monday or a Thursday. Supporters of marriage equality need to be ready to rally, regardless of the decision!

IMPORTANT UPDATE 5/22/09: Today the California Supreme Court announced that it will rule on Prop 8 this Tuesday, May 26, at 10 a.m. Pacific time (12 noon Central). Ed Reggi is planning a rally in St. Louis for Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. Please add him as a friend on Facebook and be ready to protest or celebrate!

Cross-posted to St. Louis Activist Hub

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Daring to Live Authentically

Until now, I haven't discussed my own sexual orientation in this blog, for a couple of reasons: 1) because it shouldn't be an issue, and 2) because it is an issue.

In my opinion, my own sexual orientation shouldn't have any relevance to the issues I discuss here. What's right is right, what's wrong is wrong, and love is love, no matter how or whom the author happens to love personally. My sexual orientation ought to be a non-issue.

However, prevalent homophobia has made sexual orientation an issue. Whether due to religious beliefs or simply personal discomfort, there are many who find only heterosexuality acceptable. While I'm not terribly concerned about strangers who think or feel that way, I have been worried in the back of my mind that someone in my family who assumes I'm hetero might eventually stumble across this blog, figure out that it's mine, and reject or disassociate from me.

This morning, I came out to my father.

I told him that I'm bi, because I know he's familiar with that term. Pansexual would be more accurate, although still imperfect. Panamorous might be better, but it's a relatively unknown term. Labels are kind of a pain in the a--. The point is, I'm not hetero, and saying that I'm "bi" was the best way I could think of to get that point across to my dad, without emphasizing the "sexual," which I'd rather not discuss with him.

Awhile ago, I came out to my mother. It was more of a process, really, than a one-time discussion. She's supportive, but I get the feeling that the concept is rather foreign to her. She asks questions in an odd tone of voice -- a mixture of concern, curiosity, and something else I can't identify. I try to answer her questions as best I can. When she acknowledges my answers, she sounds as though she's taking notes.

My dad said that he isn't concerned about it either way. He said that it's my choice. I said, "Actually, it's not a choice." He said okay, and immediately changed the subject: "So, what else is new?" Then we had a brief conversation about other things. I had been planning to offer him the link to this blog, but decided not to, because he sounded uncomfortable. He sounded as though he had a forced smile on his face. (I came out to him by phone. It was my compromise between seeing him to do it, and taking the easy way out by e-mailing him.) I guess I need to give him time to let it sink in, even though he acted as though it doesn't matter (and, of course, it shouldn't).

I still haven't come out to anyone in my extended family. Most of them are pretty conservative, so it's not something I'm looking forward to. Besides, I am already a black sheep. Telling them I'm bi would be another strike against me.

But they might not all be as closed-minded as I'd previously thought. At a recent family event, someone brought up homosexuality. Someone else said, "There's nothing wrong with that." I don't know how many people were paying attention, but no one raised any objections to that statement.

I learned from the women's movement that the personal is political. Coming out provides human faces for the alphabet soup of LGBTQIA. When queers come out of the closet, prejudiced people see whom they are talking about. It is harder to discriminate against people that one knows and loves.

I have been working on having the courage to be honest about who I really am. It's a process, with many fits and starts, but well worth the effort of perseverance. I want to thank Ed Reggi and Scott Emanuel; the other 16 newlywed couples; Bill Donius; and numerous friends, lovers, and teachers for inspiring me to be me.

Marriage Equality Advocacy Celebration Photos

The other day, I had the privilege of attending the Marriage Equality Advocacy Celebration in honor of the 17 Missouri same-sex couples who got legally married in Iowa on May 1st. Listening to their stories, tears of joy and inspiration filled my eyes. If you weren't able to attend, I wish you could've been there.

I didn't take many photos, because I wanted to be fully present in the moment. But I thought I would share a few of the photos I did take.

Congratulations to the newlyweds! May you all have long and happy marriages. :-)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Show Me Marriage Equality

Today, Ed Reggi and Scott Emanuel, as well as 16 other same-sex couples from Missouri, traveled by bus to Iowa City, Iowa to get legally married in that state. While their marriages won't be recognized by the state of Missouri when they return home tonight, their trip makes a powerful statement that there are same-sex couples who would get legally married in this state if they could, and that marriage equality is an important goal for Missouri and the rest of the nation.

Tomorrow, from 3-5 p.m., there will be a Marriage Equality Advocacy Celebration at Washington University's George Warren Brown School of Social Work. Drinks and cake will be provided; however, attendees are encouraged to bring a dish to share. The event is free and open to all, but the organizers will be collecting donations for PROMO, Sage Metro St. Louis, Growing American Youth, the LGBT Community Center, and the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, in honor of the 17 newly-married couples.

Congratulations to Ed, Scott, and the other newlyweds. May this day be the beginning of a long, happy wedded life for each of you; and may your marriages be legally recognized by this state and by the federal government, as they ought to be, sooner rather than later.

Mazel tov!