Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Politics Make Strange Bedfellows

On December 12th the fourth largest city in the United States, Houston, Texas, elected an openly gay mayor. Annise Parker ran against an African-American candidate, Gene Locke. To his credit, Mr. Locke did not raise the issue of Ms. Parker’s sexuality. The opponents ran on issues and not personal attacks or personalities. Mr. Locke was a former city attorney and ran on flushing out crime in the city. Ms. Parker, City Controller, ran on a platform of the ability to handle the city budgets and municipal affairs.

While the candidates stuck to their platforms and focused on what they felt would make them the next mayor of Houston the campaign got strange because a group of black pastors began to speak out against Ms. Parker making reference to her “gay” agenda an agenda that she was not running on. Ms. Parker did not reference her sexuality in the primary or the final election process. It appears that a contengent group of African American pastors of Houston had a real problem with Ms. Parker based on her sexuality and nothing more. They to aligned themselves with conservative right wing individuals. This alliance is odd and disturbing because we (African-Americans) seem to jump at the chance with aligning ourselves with those who would give less than a damned about us but find it convienent to use us because of our stance when it comes to gay issues. Let me say this infatically, the conservative right have never made any bones about the fact that they are not about to support the things that matter most to the African-American community. They have never been silent in who they are, yet we have pastors, men and women we consider as stallworth figures in our community, sit and strategize with them.  So are they betraying the community as a whole?  The idea that sitting down with someone that only wants to use you and your community to serve their own agenda and you do this repeatedly at this point and time in history actually turns my stomach. The conservative right comes calling everytime a city attempts to pass marriage equality legislation in cities around this country. We always seem to have selective amnesia about people who only want our support for their own political gain. Knowing this, we never fail to disappoint “the enemy” and we jump at the chance to join the sadistic party of strange bedfellows. This alliance just adds to the image that some pastors are hypocritical human beings. Let us not be fooled the “closet” is full of men and women that get up every Sunday morning put on their pastor attire and attack the LGBT community. Every African-American pastor sits in their pulpits every Sunday watching and listening to LGBT members of the church serve in the choir, deacon and trustee boards as well in the pulpits at their places of worship they are systematically fighting to keep them all in the closet to help perpetuate a climate of self destruction. We have yet to connect the dots and understand that this silence and lack of support is killing us in many ways for it give license to sick minds to abuse men and women in the LGBT community, makes men and women afraid to express who they truly are, etc.

I applaude both Mr. Locke and Ms. Parker for running a campaign that focused on the issues and not on personal attacks. I also congratulate the Houstonians for electing someone they chose based on qualifications.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ft. Hood

Let me start by saying I wrestled with this subject because it is sensitive on several levels (racial, military patriotism and sexuality).

As a man that has been Black all my life, I know how it feels to have my actions deemed circumspect just by my appearance by those that do not share my ethnicity. I have even been called the “N” word a few times. Now if we add my sexuality as another layer to that even those with whom I share the same race with may question my validity as a man. Let me state first and foremost I have never thought of serving in the military so I am not an authority on the subject at all, however, I do support and applaud those that voluntarily join to serve this country in that capacity.

When I first heard to the shooting at Fort Hood that occurred approximately two weeks ago and the identity of the officer was revealed I said to myself ‘okay here we go, they are going to make this about him being a Muslim’. I was a little bothered because I am sensitive to anyone being judged by his or her ethnicity for I know how that feels. Therefore, when it was reported that he was being called disparaging names by fellow officers I felt a little sorry for him but I also did not feel that any of that justified or excused him killing 13 innocent men and women. As the days rolled on and the more in-depth reports came across the news wires what unfolded was unbelievable. Here was a man that held the rank of Major in the armed forces that was being watched for sometime because of his communication with someone who is described as a religious extremist. It was noted that when he was serving at Walter Reed Hospital they were just happy to move him along because he would no longer be their problem.

As I continued to read these stories, I began to ponder; when did it become okay to keep service men and women that truly appeared to be a threat and discharge those that have served their country with honor and dedication because of their sexuality. Something is wrong with the system and it appears to be rather lopsided and in need of much repair.

Since DADT (don’t ask, don’t tell) was introduced, the military has discharged more than 13,000 lesbians, gays and bisexuals, according to the Service members Legal Defense Network. A 2005 government report found that about 800 of them had skills deemed "critical," such as engineering and linguistics, and that it cost the military about $200 million to recruit and train their replacements.

What makes this policy sad is that it ill serves this country because many of those that are discharged or in some cases choose to leave the because of DADT are the best and brightest of the armed services. Forcing someone to live in a closeted environment can lead to all kinds of mental disorders because of the fear of being outed, discharged or harrassed by fellow officers. Living in secret is not healthy and it is allowed to persist in an effort to present a false sense of security to which this does not apply.It is my hope that DADT makes it to President Obama’s desk within the next three years for repeal.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Love Trumps Hate...

On October 8, 2009, the House passed the first major piece of legislation to protect the rights of LGBT individuals in this country on a federal level. This was not an easy task for this legislation had failed to be passed on 13 other occasions in the past 12 years. However, the 14th try was a charm. The bill is headed to the desk of the President where it will be signed.

On November 13, 1997 105th Congress - The Hate Crimes Prevention Act was introduced in the House and the Senate. The bill would extend the protection of the current federal hate crimes law to include those who are victimized because of their sexual orientation, gender or disability. It would also strengthen current law regarding hate crimes based on race, religion and national origin.

On June 7, 1998, James Byrd Jr., 49, of Jasper, TX, was brutually kiilled after accepting a ride from three white men (members of white supremacy group Aryan Pride). He was stripped naked, chained by his ankles and dragged behind a pickup truck. It was noted after the autopsy that James was alive during much of the dragging. He died after his arm and head were severed duriing the dragging.

October 6-7, 1998, Matthew Shepard, 21, of Laramie, Wyo., meets two men, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, at a bar, and they drive him to a remote area east of Laramie, where they tie him to a split-rail fence, beat him and leave him to die in the cold of the night. Almost 18 hours later, he is found by a cyclist, who initially mistakes him for a scarecrow.
The late Senator Kennedy introduced to the 110th Congress a bill to expand the U.S. federal hate-crime law in March/April 2007 to encompass bodily crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. Through much political rangling, the bill died in committee and was later reintroduced as an admendment. However, this admendment was dropped due to opposition from antiwar Democrats, conservative groups and then President George W. Bush.

In April 2009, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crime Prevention Act is introduced to the Senate. It adopted the definition of a hate crime set by the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (i.e., a crime in which the defendant intentionally selects a victim or, in the case of a property crime, the property that is the object of the crime because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person). However, the Matthew Shepart and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crime Act Authorizes the Attorney General to:

(1) Provide state, local, or tribal law enforcement agencies with technical, forensic, prosecutorial, or other assistance in the investigation or prosecution of violent crimes and hate crimes; and

(2) award grants to assist such agencies with the extraordinary expenses associated with the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes. Authorizes the Office of Justice Programs to award grants to state, local, or tribal programs designed to combat hate crimes committed by juveniles. Authorizes appropriations to the Department of Justice (DOJ), including the Community Relations Service, for FY2010-FY2012 to prevent and respond to hate crime acts. Amends the federal criminal code to prohibit willfully causing bodily injury to any person because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of such person. Amends the Hate Crimes Statistics Act to expand data collection and reporting requirements under such Act to include:

(1) crimes manifesting prejudice based on gender and gender identity; and

(2) hate crimes committed by and against juveniles. Declares that nothing in this Act shall be construed to prohibit the exercise of constitutionally protected free speech.

When Matthew Shepard was murdered in 1998, the Laramie, Wyo., police department requested assistance from the U.S. Department of Justice. Because crimes motivated by anti-LGBT bias were not covered in federal law, the department could not assist, and the prosecution was so expensive that Laramie had to furlough law enforcement officers. The act ensures that local law enforcement will have the resources it needs to address hate crimes.

At the time of James Byrd, Jr's murder, there were no hate-crime laws in the state of Texas.

Forty-five (45) states have hate crimes statutes, and the bill would not change current practices where hate crimes are generally investigated and prosecuted by state and local officials. However, it does broaden the narrow range of actions - such as attending school or voting - that can trigger federal involvement and allows the federal government to step in if the Justice Department certifies that a state is unwilling or unable to follow through on an alleged hate crime.

It was interesting to read the comments from some in the LGBT community. One person noted in response to the passage that this will not do anything to stop people in the LGBT community from being targets of attack and we should use our second amendment right and become armed and ready. I have no idea where his anger is coming from but I was a little bothered by that since of desperation. To think that ANY law passed will automatically stop people from committing the crime is short sighted at best. If that was the case, we could end crime simply by passing laws and the felons would stop in their tracks for fear of being charged and convicted. Laws are not a deterent in most cases, however, it is allows for resiprocity.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Youthful Motivation

Today the President of the United States addressed the students returning to school. As soon as it was announced, there was this deafening dissatisfation from the conservative right. There were comments made indicating that President Obama was attempting to indoctrinate the children or this is what communist leaders do in communist countries all before anyone knew what was going to be stated.

After all the reports and comments that were being made I chose to read the speech once it was made available on the whitehouse website prior to it being delivered. As I read it, I thought it was very positive and not one of indoctrination. I thought of how many kids need to hear this message. There are those in communities and households that never get words of encouragement and support regarding their education and goals for the future. What bothers me about those that do not think that the President should say anything to “their” children are the same people that say that every citizen should pull himself or herself up by their bootstraps and not be a drain on society. Isn’t this speech what these very same people are asking us all to do…take responsibility for self? I also remember that not so long ago were upset because there were flag burnings taking place in the United States by some of its citizens. They would talk about the lack of respect for the flag and what it stands for yet these same people displays a lack of respect for the President and the office that he holds. I would never say that everyone in this country should be on the President Obama bandwagon. However, what bothers me is we have become a country of selfish, single minded, central thinking and unconcerned individuals. I have wondered, where is the American spirit that we seem to tout and stick out chest out about? If his address touches one student to move beyond the limits that his/her community, friends, family or society has placed on them then it was a rousing success. Not everyone has supportive forces in their lives to tell them that regardless of the odds they can do it. What happened when we were a nation that thought about those that were less fortunate than we were, or as the Bible say “the least of these”? If we look at the other issue that seems to be embracing the headlines lately (Healthcare Reform), you will notice that those voices that have been screaming at the town hall meetings were from those that have insurance and talking about their insurance. However, there are approximately 40 million in this country that do not have healthcare and not ONCE have we heard these disrupters speaking about those that are not fortunate enough to have healthcare coverage. Why is that?

The overtones are disappointing because it appear that the attacks on the President seem to have little to do with his policies but a lot to do with his skin color and willingness to spread a since of hope. Many of these same people would never admit that this is a race issue because they do not want to admit the stigma that racism or any “ism” carries. However, there are those that are not happy that a Black man is sitting in the oval office and nothing he can say or do would change their thoughts about anything he does or says. That is a sad state of affairs.

Aren’t we a nation of people that are bigger than that?

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Slice of My Life....


I wanted to share a piece of my life. Almost two years ago now I was asked to participate in what I consider a worthy and worthwhile project. The owner Windy City Times (LGBT newspaper in Chicago) was compiling documentary information about Chicago gay history. She wanted to be all inclusive of every spectrum of the LGBT community. I was honored to have been included. The finished project (http://www.chicagogayhistory.com/biography.html?id=751) is one of my proudest moments. The videotaped interview consist of various topics.

I hope you take the time to view as well as enjoy them. Please feel free to post your comments.
Thank you.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Marriage Equality in Black & White...or just White!

Recently I was enroute to my office. While riding the train into the city I pulled my recent copy (August 2009) of The Advocate from my brief case and began reading an article on page 50 entitled “What Gives in Washington?” The article was basically noting the frustration the LGBT community has with the Obama administrations slow movement of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law the defines marriage as being between and a man and woman. The article notes the there is rage in the community when it refers to the president’s progress. To be specific the article says “our rage”. When I read this I wondered what “our” they were refering to. For individuals that are not LGBT it is thought that we are one large group. However, there are several subgroups within the LGBT community. There is the community of color and the white community. When I read articles such as the one noted above the communities of color are not even a consideration.

If we look back to the initial Proposition 8 battle ground it has been successfully documented that while it was initially convenient to blame LGBT people of color, expressly the African American community, for the failure of successfully voting NO to Proposition 8. Based on the initial statistics many white LGBT men and women began blaming black and brown men and women for the passing of Proposition 8. When research was done beyond the statistics it was discovered that the “community” failed to look closely at the all of the communities of color (LGBT and heterosexual) and attempt to educate them on the need to vote NO. Once again, the white LGBT community had taken communities of color for granted. To any LGBT person of color in any city this is nothing new at all. We have always been made to feel unwanted from north Halsted Street (Boystown) in Chicago with the new Center on Halsted to the Castro District in San Francisco.

In the overall landscape of the marriage equality struggle, the communities of color have been all but absent. When I see an LGBT man or woman getting married their partner does not look like me and therefore, there is a since of extreme disconnect because it does not affirm my relationship with my partner who happens to be African American. The white community does not understand that dynamic to the debate of marriage equality nor have many of them tried to ascertain why the issue of marriage equality does not seem to be anywhere on our radar screen.

It would benefit those that in the marriage equality fight to review 2000 census, which states that more than half of the populations of Black same-sex couples in the U.S., are raising children.
· Black female same sex couples are as likely as Black married opposite sex couples to live with a nonbiological (foster or adopted) child (14%) while Black male same-sex couples are slightly less likely than Black married opposite-sex couples to live with a nonbiological child (10% v 13%).
· Black women in same-sex households parent at almost the same rate as Black married opposite-sex couples (61% v 69%), while Black men in same-sex relationships parent at about two-thirds the rate of married opposite-sex couples (46% v 69%)

Black women are discharged from the military under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell at rates far exceeding their representation among service members; although they make up less than one percent of the military, they represent three percent of those discharged.

When it comes to the progress or what is defined as the slow movement of the president’s progress we as African Americans look at it very differently. The LGBT communities of color see the steps that Obama has taken in his short 6 month term in a manner that is less about his progress on LGBT matters but his progress a the President of the United States. It most clearly be understood that the agenda of the LGBT community of color and that of the white LGBT community is different. It has been stated to me that if DADT and DOMA were repealed tomorrow the white community would not be on the battlefield for issues that matter in our community (i.e. HIV/AIDS prevention, joblessness, homeless teens, etc). We have not even tackled the issue of racism within the LGBT community.

It is my hope that the DODT and DOMA are repealed and I will do what I can to see that it happens, however, the advocates that are in the forefront must reach out to people of color for it is important for us all to cross the finish line together.

Monday, July 13, 2009

NAACP 100 Yrs of Equality...or... Is It?

This weekend the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) celebrated its 100th anniversary. This is a very proud distinction for the NAACP has stood on the right side of equality for many years and has been a voice for many who had no one to speak up for them, in doing so they remain a recognizable and stallwarth organization. With the highlight of the 100th anniversary and the climate of the current day the issue of gay rights of which marriage equality is at the forefront. The NAACP’s current president, Ben Jealous has stated in a recent CNN interview that the NAACP does not take an official policy on gay marriage. The organization refuses to take a national stance because as Mr. Jealous noted, it has polarized and broken apart other organizations when that has been done. Or in other words this is such a hot bed issue that it is not worth risking the future of the organization. However, they do plan to continue to fight for the other broader rights that same gender loving (SGL) men and women have to contend with (i.e. hate crimes, discrimination, etc.)

While Julian Bond, NAACP Chair, has come out publically in support of marriage equality he has also stated that this is not an issue that the NAACP would support from a platform basis. I find all of this very interesting and do not discount or shun any advances or hard work that I have benefited from by that of the NAACP as an African American man. However, I feel a little disconnected and disappointed that while the NAACP has publicly stated that marriage equality is a civil right, however, it appears that this is one civil right that is not important enough to stand in public defense of. I say this because while I was born an African American I was also born same gender loving. I do not, like most separate my ethnicity from my emotional orientation.

Mr. Jealous noted that there is a young man that grew up with that he considers his brother that happens is a transgender man. Also noting his difficulty with having to keep who he really is private in various settings and how that should not be the case. It always interests me when someone brings up a reference point of someone that is close to then to make their point of empathy. His statement reminded me of that made by some whites accused of racist attitudes who state “my best friend is black”. While that may be the case it does not cushion you from racist or in this case unequal judgment. My question to Mr. Jealous would be this “How do you explain with conviction and clarity to your “brother” that you can’t advocate for his equality at this time for it is just not politically expedient? Are my rights so much less important than those of my brothers and sisters who are in heterosexual unions?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Harass

Currently President Obama is attempting to address various issues that have concerned the LGBT community for quite some time. The climate of this country is going in the direction that most have fought long and hard for in regard to LGBT issues and concerns. Presently we see states slowly addressing and passing legislation to include marriage equality for all its citizens and not just those of opposite sex. One of quite a few issues that is on the table is the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Harass armed forces regulation. In 1993, what was deemed as a compromise was instituted in the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Harass regulation.

The armed forces will no longer ask recruits about their sexual activity and/or orientation, will not investigate any serviceman or servicewoman's sexual activity and/or orientation without solid evidence (thus preventing witch-hunts), and self-identified homosexual servicemen and women agree that they will not engage in homosexual sex acts, or do anything that announces that they are a homosexual, i.e. public statements or participate in a same-sex marriage openly.

Various forms of this regulation have been a part of the armed forces regulations since 1778. The armed forces has never had an appetite for gay and lesbian individuals serving next to them. However, as we all know, there have always been gay and lesbian individuals in the armed forces who served honorably in defending this country. Just recently we have seen a lot of movement in support of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Seventy-Seven members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama asking him to repeal this military regulation as soon as possible. It should be noted that since January 20, 2009 there have been more than 250 gay and lesbian service members discharged and more than 12,500 since this regulation was implemented in 1993. Clearly some of the best and brightest soldiers who identified as gay or lesbian have been discharged because of this regulation.

Many in society have inherently thought that to be gay or lesbian was to be deficient and to have someone of such a deficiency go to war to defend this country is in opposition to what we feel military individuals should be about. This policy is not in the best interest of this country at all for it espouses that “the closet” is a good thing. We are asking people to deny who they are and hide their lives from everyone around them or pretend to be someone they are not. When a gay or lesbian person goes to enlist, he or she is not looking at the recruiter ringing their hands saying how wonderful it will be to be with all these members of the same sex in closed quarters. They are enlisting for the same reason that most other citizens are and that is to defend and serve this country. It is about service not sex. Our lives as human beings consist of more than just our sexual acts with others. It does us all a disservice to refer to my attraction to another man as a sexual orientation when in fact it is an emotional orientation.

With Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell we are feeding into the stereotypes and uneducated fears that some service men and women have about a portion of the population they know nothing about. President Truman was dealing with a similar issue (desegregation) when it came to the armed forces. He stated that he was going to repeal the regulation that separated the armed forces because of ethnicity. Several high ranking military men stated that if he went ahead with his promise they would resign. He called their bluff and not one resignation was presented.

During the campaign of President Clinton’s first term he was a breath of fresh air for the LGBT community and made various promises as politicians do when seeking election. One of the key issues to the LGBT community was the ability to discharge a man or woman from the armed services for being labeled or thought to be homosexual. In my research I found that this goes back as far as the American Revolution. The first person to receive a “blue discharge” happened in 1778. You could be discharged or brought up on criminal charges if you it was discovered that you were homosexual. As the times changed so did the rules about military discharge due to homosexuality. The discharge while still enforced was changed in 1947 to be either a general discharge or an undesirable discharge.

As the years progressed the degree of official and unofficial attempts to separate gay people from the armed forces appeared to be directly related to the personnel needs of the armed forces. Therefore, in times of active war gays men and women were basically allowed to serve because we were “needed”. It has become the policy of the military to simply look the other way in an effort to retain anyone suspected or accused of being a homosexual if the person could successfully claim that their behavior was only a singular occurrence. They called this the "queen for a day" rule. How insulting is that???

In 1981, the military issued a new regulation:

Homosexuality is incompatible with military service. The presence in the military environment of persons who engage in homosexual conduct or who, by their statements, demonstrate a propensity to engage in homosexual conduct, seriously impairs the accomplishment of the military mission. The presence of such members adversely affects the ability of the armed forces to maintain discipline, good order, and morale; to foster mutual trust and confidence among service members; to ensure the integrity of the system of rank and command; to facilitate assignment and worldwide deployment of service members who frequently must live and work in close conditions affording minimal privacy; to recruit and retain members of the armed forces; to maintain the public acceptability of military service; and to prevent breaches of security.

The LGBT community wanted this regulation repealed/removed from the books allowing gay and bisexual men and women to serve without the threat of discharge. A promise was made by then candidate Clinton to repeal this regulation. However, he came upon staunch opposition from high ranking military officers as well as those in Congress when he attempted to live up to his promise. Therefore, in 1993 what some would consider as a compromise (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Harass) was established and is still enforced today.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

There is Pride in Pride Parade

Recently Mr. Cord Jefferson wrote an article on TheRoot.com entitled "Where's the Pride in Pride Parades" (http://www.theroot.com/views/where-s-pride-pride-parades). While I agree with everyone's right to have an informed opinion I totally disagree with that of Mr. Jefferson. Below is my response forwarded to him personally.

Mr. Jefferson:

I am a little perplexed by your comparison with the civil rights movement and the gay pride parades that take place in numerous cities in this country. I think that there in lies the problem because you are comparing the march for freedom, dignity and equality that took place more than 50 years ago with an outward celebration of self expression. Much has happened in our culture where men and women do not dress as they did when my parents were in their early adult years. Yes, Dr. King did dress in a suit and tie; however, that was the dress of the time. You would be very hard pressed to see anyone in 2009 dressed in business attire if they were not attending work or Sunday morning church service. Actually, these days finding men in suits attending church on Sunday is quite rare. Therefore, your comparison is unfair and uneven. I would ask you to take a look at the footage from a recent demonstration that took place in the south regarding the Jena 6. How many of those individuals did you see in suits and ties in the blazing heat? Because they were not dressed as such was their demonstration any less effective? I would tend to think not. If you want to compare apples to apples I would ask you to look at footage from the Proposition 8 demonstrations that took place around the country. Were any of these men or women dressed in what would be defined as inappropriate?

The pride parades are celebrations of who we are as LGBT individuals…all of who we are. We do not all dress in costumes and parade around in our every day lives as such, however, it is a part of our community and we make no apologies for that. However, we are also everyday citizens as well and for you to simply focus on the outlandish dress that appears in the parade is narrowly focused. If you took the time to attend a pride parade you would see that it encompasses many aspects of the LGBT community. I have marched with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for the past five years here in Chicago. There are a multitude of participants that are not as you described. However, you and various news agencies seem to only focus on those individuals that are deemed out of the norm. Let us be perfectly clear when we discuss the LGBT community and the reporting of it. There is some titillation that takes place when our stories are carried by the mainstream press. It allows the public to confirm what they have always thought about the LGBT community (weird, abnormal, highly sexual, etc.) by those that do not know us or want to get to know us as human beings. If you have never attended a pride parade and only watched and/or read about the coverage by the press you would think that it was just a parade in drag. However, that is far from what takes place. It encompasses community activism, political awareness, culture, etc. In every community there are those that are defined as extremes and to only focus on that is unfair and lacks of integrity journalism.

You site a comment that you had with a Mr. Fowlkes in which he noted that many blacks in the LGBT community intentionally avoid pride parades because of the infamous reputation they’ve gotten over the years. I find that comment interesting and while somewhat true what he failed to also state is that many avoid it because they are dealing with very personal closeted issues. “How would I be perceived if someone from my neighborhood or job saw me out here?” However, this is not isolated to the communities of color. Many are dealing with the possibility of being judged as guilty by association. Just like the mainstream society many of us as black men and women in the LGBT community feel no connection with our white counterparts because racism is alive and well in the LGBT community. Many of us feel no connection to the white community at all whether we are LGBT or not.

In closing, I would have to say that there will always be people that will only view LGBT men and women as you describe for bigots do not try to become informed. There are many that go live by a term my pastor would fondly say about narrowly focused individuals “My mind is made up do not confuse me with the facts.” I only ask you to know the facts.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Marriage Equality

Marriage equality is a debate that we continue to have in this country. However as of last week I have had the pleasure to witness the sixth state legalize marriage between two people of the same sex. Currently, in the United States same-sex couples can legally marry in Massachusetts, Maine (beginning mid-September 2009) Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont (beginning September 1, 2009), and New Hampshire. On May 6th the NH legislature passed legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry. However, it had to be ratified with the signature of the governor which took place on June 4th. The fight for marriage state by state is not one of symbolism it is about true equality. Many have tried to make this matter about religion and while I respect everyone's right to believe what they choose those beliefs should not be used to defend unequal governmental policies.

As this debate has continued many politicians, even President Obama, have noted that they believe that the rights of same-sex couples should be equal to that of opposite-sex couples. However, our unions should not be called marriage. They should be defined as civil unions. That statement disturbs me for it is truly a case of lack of knowledge and fear. I have wondered what is the fear or apprehension with defining same-sex unions as marriage also. To say that it devalues, as some have stated, the marriage of opposite sex couples is simply saying that what you have with your spouse is of more value than what two men or two women could ever have together. That statements reeks of all kinds of biases and bigotry for you can't make a blanket statement to determine the worth of the commitment between two people. To say that same-sex unions that have the same rights as married couple should be legally called civil unions we are espousing a separate but equal policy.

Marriage is done for reasons of love and commitment. But marriage is also a legal status, which comes with rights and responsibilities. Marriage establishes a legal kinship between you and your spouse. It is a relationship that is recognized across cultures, countries and religions. Civil unions do not afford the kinship and the same rights that marriage does for the opposite sex couples in that same state. Also, civil unions only afford certain rights to same-sex couples depending on that particular state. Currently there are approximately 1,138 rights (i.e. federal taxes --estate, social security benefits, veteran/military benefits, pensions, etc) that married couples get that those in civil unions and domestic partnerships are not.

In 1996, President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in an effort to stipulate that for all federal purposes "marriage" is a union between one man and one woman. Because of that legislation, all laws pertaining to married couples apply exclusively to opposite sex couples. Therefore, in the six states mentioned above they are only afforded state rights/benefits. It should also be noted that no other states has to acknowledge the marriage of same-sex couples in their state. Currently, only one state, New York, and one recognizes marriages by same-sex couples legally entered into in another jurisdiction. While it is great that the six states have legalized same-sex marriages they do not have the ability to grant its citizens the federal rights and benefits because of the DOMA law on the federal level.

This debate will go on and it is my hope that we continue to debate it and legalize marriage for all in every state of the union. Marriage is truly about commitment to each other to love and honor your partner regardless of the fact that they same-sex or opposite-sex the goal and reasoning is the same.