Friday, August 31, 2007

My Friends' Gay Ceremony, Things I Know

Tonight, I am going to a committment ceremony for two women. I thought it appropriate, considering my posts of the last week or so to talk about a few things.

Here is what I know:

1. Yes, they are two women. Today, they are having a marriage-like committment ceremony that represents the loving, sexual, monogamous, familial relationship that they have together. Neither this ceremony nor their relationship will have any bearing on that of anyone else's relationship. And, any subsequent dilution of someone else's relationship is probably due to the failings of the two people in that relationship.

2. Because they are two women, they have the same sexual parts. Some people believe that because they have the same parts, they should not or cannot have the same type of marital relationship that a man and a woman can have together.

To that, I say this: While I applaud your knowledge of rudimentary anatomy and your reminders that, yes, boys have a penis and girls have a vagina, some people, gay and straight alike, believe that mere anatomy does not prevent people from having loving, sexual, monogamous, familial relationships with another human being. And, as God, whatever It is, has blessed us with the intellectual ability to transcend our pure animal instincts we find that humans are not limited by mere biology in how we relate to other human beings.

3. Because they will be two people in a marriage-like relationship, they will do laundry, go out on dates, go dancing, celebrate holidays together, lean on each other when they mourn the loss of loved ones, have pets, get groceries, have sex, and yes, raise children together. And yes, they are going to raise children for the same reasons other couples, gay and straight, choose to raise children. They are not going to go all Raising Arizona on us and steal babies from other people, they are not going to engage in baby trade any more than male-female couples are when they adopt children, and they do not want to collect children as mere relationship "accessories" the way Paris Hilton, say, collects tiny dogs as fashion accessories.

Some people may say "What about the children? What if they don't turn out okay?" And to that I say, the studies I have seen have said that "the children" turn out fine, and they often turn out more accepting of people different than them, and not as confined by restrictive gender roles that are harmful to both women and men as children not raised by same-gender parents. You may discredit those studies, just as I may discredit the studies you rely on saying children do not turn out okay.

So, if some people want to continue narrowly defining families on the basis of sexual identity or by the number of parents in it, or by the number of people in it of a certain gender, I say to them: get your own families in order before you come knocking other families down. Deal with sexual abuse of children, deal with domestic violence, deal with adultery, and deal with abandonment. Deal with those things within your relationships that are both more numerous and more harmful to children than two human beings of the same gender raising children.

And for those who say, "What about the children? They are the ones who will have endure ridicule about their two mommies," I say this: Stop ridiculing children about their two mommies. If you truly care about the children, you will help create an environment that is accepting of their two mommies. Because families with two mommies are not going to go away.

The purpose of my friends' ceremony today, while conferring no legal benefits on them, is to symbolize to their friends and family, all of whom support them, that they are a family, that they are making a family, and that their relationship is marital in nature.

4. Because they will be two human beings of the same gender in a marriage-like relationship, in order to protect their legal rights and the rights of their children they will have to take additional steps that human beings in opposite gender marriages do not have to take. They can secure some of these rights by paying for a lawyer. If they cannot afford a lawyer, they will probably not secure these rights.

For instance,

a. If one of them dies without a will, the other will inherit nothing. In Illinois, legally married couples automatically inherit from their spouses in the absence of a will.

b. They cannot file their taxes jointly, like married couples can.

c. They are not eligible for each other's Social Security benefits, like married couples are.

d. A surviving partner cannot receive wrongful death benefits for she or their children.

e. Depending on employer, they may or may not be able to be on each other's health insurance plans. If one of them is covered on the other's health insurance plan, the covered partner must pay taxes on the health benefits received. Legally married spouses do not have to.

f. If they do not have a health care power of attorney, the other partner isn't entitled to make decisions affecting the health care of the other partner in the event of incapacitation. Legally married couples are.

g. No entitlement to family or bereavement leave.

There are a host of other benefits and obligations that go along with the legal benefits of marriage. Some of them may apply to this couple, and some of them do not (benefits regarding welfare, immigration, veteran's benefits, and government employment benefits for instance).

In the eyes of our legal system, these two women who will live together for many years as a married couple will remain legal strangers.

Until, that is, they are granted the rights and benefits of marriage. Until, that is, these human beings are no longer dehumanized and infantilized as part of a depraved group that is not deserving of such rights. Until, that is, people stop contriving reasons to deny people these these rights.

That's all. Here's to celebrating all families. Here's to celebrating love in this world.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Dogs v. Cats, Part I: The Spider

Act I.

Scene, woman sitting on her balcony, peacefully drinking a cup of chai tea and reading. She hears a stirring in the bushes below. Just a squirrel.

But, while looking through the railing, the woman notices a giant spider web with a big green spider sitting in the middle of it. The woman doesn't want to kill it or touch it herself, but she is also scared that it will crawl on her. In fact, is it on her already? She looks at her arms, her legs, her shirt. No. All clear. Okay. She wonders how she will get the spider to go away.

Act II.A.

Looking around the deck she sees a cooler, another chair, and a dog bathing in the sun.


She picks up the dog, who is happy for the attention. She carries the dog over to the railing where the spider is hanging out. She puts the dog's head right at eye level to the spider. The dog, panting and wagging his tail, looks everywhere but at the spider. The woman points at the spider, careful not to touch it, while saying "here boy!". The dog continues to not see the spider.

Frustrated, she picks up a toy and holds it next to the spider to focus the dog's attention in the general direction of the spider. The dog barks and, lunging for the toy, puts his head right into the spider web. The dog now unknowingly has a spider web and big spider on his head.

Sighing. The woman goes back to reading her book.

or, this could have happened:

Act II.B.

Looking around the deck she sees a cooler, another chair, and a cat bathing in the sun.


She picks up the cat, who is not happy about being stirred. She carries the cat over to the railing where the spider is hanging out. She puts the cat's head right at eye level to the spider. The cat, looking bored and lackadaisical, immediately spots the spider. The cat begins first pawing at the spider, and then patting it around on the ground when it falls to the floor of the deck. The cat continues alternately carrying the spider in its mouth and tapping it around on the floor when it falls through one of the deck railings and onto the ground.

Sighing. The woman goes back to reading her book.

Score: Dogs 0, Cats 1

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Embarassment to the Legal Profession Update

Can this guy be any more stubborn?

In case you don't remember, this is the case about judge Roy Pearson who sued a dry cleaner for $54 million for losing his pants.

He lost the case.

And now, instead of just dropping this frivolous issue, he is appealing the case.

Inhale, exhale.

Here are my thoughts:

A) Roy, get off your power trip.

B) We're talking about pants, right? Pieces of cloth with two legs, that you wear, and that are easily replaceable, right?

And, most importantly,

C) It is incredible to me that a judge, of all people, would waste the legal and financial resources the way he continues to do so. He should be stripped of his position as a judge and disbarred as an attorney.

As someone who has, in various legal aid settings, represented poor families being unjustly evicted from their homes, sick people going bankrupt from their HIV-related medical care, and disabled people desperately trying to get deserved disability payments, I am sickened by this judge. Mainly, because for each of these people that I and my colleagues represented, there were about 10 others who went without legal representation that they needed for serious and pressing legal issues.

And this judge, Roy Pearson, has no qualms about continuing to pursue his ridiculous case that speaks volumes not only of his financial and edcational privilege but of his audacity and self-centeredness.

Some may say, yeah, but he can afford to bring whatever case he wants. Yeah, true.

Some people believe that capitalism brings out the best in people. It is cases like this that continue to make me believe otherwise.

Let them represent themselves, I suppose.

D) It does make me feel a little better that The Commission on Selection and Tenure may not renew his term on the bench.

But what's with the "may" not? They better fucking not. Is there any doubt as to the quality of this man's judgment and "judicial temperament"

E) At some point, you have to stop caring about "winning" the fight. Because in the proces of winning, what are you proving? That you are able to pick on people smaller than you? That you can afford better lawyers than other people? That you are "smarter" than them? So what.

What are those things when you are a joke to the rest of the world, when you have no respect, and no more friends?

F) Anyway, the scary thing about this case is this: How many of you were at least a little scared that a judge would rule in Pearson's favor?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Good Luck With That Whole Funeral Thing, Girl!

After making funeral arrangements with a family, the High Point Church in Houston cancelled the service when they found out that the deceased was gay and that a video that would be played during the service would include some "gay" pictures. Apparently, holding such a service would have been a "celebration" of the "homosexual lifestyle," something that this Church does not agree with.

(Deep breath)

My thoughts....

1) Okay, I get it. A church can hold a service for whomever it wants. Fine. This is a free country, after all (as this gay Gulf War vet knew, of course).

2) I do, however, take issue with this:

"The Reverend told the cheering High Point congregation, "This decision was not based on hate, or discrimination, but upon principle and policy.''"

Hmmm, discriminate. Dis-crim-i-nate, v: To make distinctions on the basis of class or category without regard to individual merit; show preference or prejudice.

Am I missing something or did the Church not allow this funeral on the basis of a category (namely, this man's homosexuality)? And, all other characteristics being the same, the Church would have allowed the funeral if the man was heterosexual?

It's true that a Church does have the right to discriminate. But let's at least call a spade a spade and not let a congregation off the hook just because their reverend "says" they're not discriminating.

3) So, a memorial service for a gay person is a "celebration" of gay life. Are funerals for straight people likewise seen as in-your-face celebrations of straight life?

Think back to the last funeral you attended. Were people more concerned with the deceased's sexuality or were they focused on grieving and, perhaps, celebrating the life of the deceased?

I wish these conservatives would broaden their narrow focus on one aspect of a human being and recognize that what we all have in common is greater than what is different about us.

4) What is most distressing to me is an "Action Alert" that the American Family Association (AFA) is circulating. It has created a petition for people to sign saying they supported the High Point Church's decision, describing the situation as a homosexual "attack" on a church.

The AFA also said, "If those pushing the homosexual agenda get their "hate crimes" bill passed into law, this is only a sample of what churches, pastors and Christians can expect."

By "this" I'm assuming the AFA is implying that "this situation" will lead to hate crimes bills that will force churches to hold funerals for gay people. When, in reality, hate crimes legislation has nothing to do with forcing churches to hold funerals for gay people.

It is irresponsible and ethically questionable for an organization to make patently false statements.

Not to mention that it just seems like an unnecessary, and un-Christian, slap in the face to a deceased man and his family. Especially during a difficult time when they could use a bit of compassion from their fellow human beings. Shame on the AFA for turning this man into a political football and using the unfortunate circumstances surrounding his funeral to exaggerate and turn his death into a false threat to "the family."

Friday, August 10, 2007

Last Night's Gay "Debate"

Blah Blah Blah. Blah Blah Blah.

The only two Democratic candidates who unequivocally believe in full equality are the ones with no real shot of winning, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel.

It is ironic that candidate after candidate got up there and said that he or she supported equality, yet when pressed on the issue was unwilling to support gay marriage using lame excuses such as "the country's not there yet." As if guaranteed civil rights of a minority group should be decided by a bigoted majority. And as if in our post-1984 world "equality" doesn't really mean "equality" after all!

I give Obama props for making the "marriage" versus "all the rights that go along with marriage distinction." Everyone needs to recognize that gay people don't want churches to be forced to marry gays, we just want the 1,000 legal and financial benefits that married people get.

Well that's how I feel anyway. I sure as hell won't be running to the Catholic Church anytime soon to make my wedding plans.

Blah Blah Blah. Marriage equality is an easy moral issue. It's cut and dry. It's a simple question of equality. And, frankly, I'm tired of "the debate," mainly because the other side doesn't have much in the way of arguments against gay marriage. You can't reason with bigoted people, especially bigoted people who use religious beliefs as the basis for their arguments. And, it's unfortunate that our politicians are so scared of being labeled anti-Christian or atheist or anti-family values that they continue to let these bigots have a voice that denies equality for all Americans.

Some day........

I read this article on CNN this morning about the debates. This text from the article is sure to rile up the masses:

"While just 3 percent of voters in the 2006 election identified themselves as gay or lesbian, the community has outsized influence, particularly among Democrats, because it is politically active and a source of campaign contributions."

What this quote implies is that LGBT persons are an elite, rich, and powerful minority group who through their connections to Democratic politicians are seeking special rights and privileges. You know, "special" rights like hate crimes laws that dissuade people from stringing you up like a scarecrow and leaving you for dead on the side of the road because you're gay. Or "special" visitation rights like being able to visit your partner in the hospital who is dying of cancer.

But I get what the author is getting at. Only 3% of voters are gay and lesbian, yet they have more influence on politicians than do other groups, like say, Middle America. But, since only 3% of voters are LGBT, their concerns aren't as important as they would lead you to believe. You know, like how Blacks are only 12% of the population and Latinos/as are only 14% of the population so their rights don't matter either.

And I strongly question that "3%" figure's accuracy.

Moving on... all candidates strongly supported the right of gay people to be cannon fodder. We're making real headway now!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

How To Be a Female Employee, A Tutorial

(Yes, I'm on a tutorial kick. Bear with me.)

Studies on gender and the workplace are all over the place- both in theory and in conclusion.

Are you a female employee who is confused by the seemingly-daily reports and headlines claiming that a new study has arrived at some conclusion on women in the workforce?

How can you possibly keep track of all of these Very Important and Often Contradictory Studies?

You can't. But listen up ladies here's a brief tutorial on How To Be a Female Employee in today's modern world!

1. Women still make 71 cents for every dollar a man makes. That's old news. What's also old news is that it's your fault. For, to remedy the wage gap, all you had to do this whole time was to simply ask for raise. In addition, within 180 days of starting any new job, you should also ask for a comprehensive report of every employee's salary at your company. (Don't worry, HR and all of your male supervisors and co-workers will understand. ) For, if you aren't paid comparably to the men at your company, you must file your discrimination suit within 180 days of your pay being set. It is your fault if you don't know everyone else's salary, after all.

2. People perceive women who negotiate for more money as being "less nice" than those who do not. People are also less likely to want to work with women who negotiate for higher salaries. Wanting to make more money is understandable, since you are doing the same work as men for less pay. We've already learned that the only way to make more money is to simply ask for a raise. But, by doing so, people will think you're mean and won't want to work with you anymore.

Face it, wanting to make the same amount of money for the same work that men do is bitchy. It's even bitchier to bring the wage gap into people's awarenesses by asking for a raise.

One way to remedy this is by bringing your boss and co-workers gifts. Typically, when you give people gifts, they think you are nice. Continue to give them small gifts periodically so they keep on liking you. Of course, such gifts may negate the raise you just asked for, but really, it's more important that people like you. You are a lady, after all.

3. A lady should never show anger in the workplace. If you must show anger in the workplace, do so while giving everyone an explanation. Your co-workers will still perceive you as being "out of control" and "incompetent" because of your anger, but an explanation will lessen these effects. You should also learn how to show anger the way men do- for, when men show anger in the workplace, they are perceived as more competent and ambitious.

4. In these modern times, women really can have it all. If you are married and working outside the home, it can be difficult to divide household chores and to find enough time to do them all. Even among modern heterosexual couples, women still end up doing most of the household chores, even when both couples work outside the home. I roning clothes and doi n g laundry- tasks that men mostly grew up watching their mothers perform- are threatening to your man's masculinity. If you don't want to do these chores, you should simply hire someone to do them for you.

You could also consider forming a lesbian relationship, as lesbian couples tend to have more equitable distributions of household labor than do heterosexual couples. Think about it... another woman in the house means less housework for you!

5. If you are a single mother and poor, you are probably working. As we all know, you are lazy if you're not working. Even though it seems as though your paycheck only pays for childcare for while you are at work, work will make you feel less lazy.

6. If you are a single, or married, mother and not poor you probably still need your paycheck and, therefore, you are working. If you aren't working, you are lazy. If you are working, you are selfish and a bad mother . Stay-at-home parents judge you for missing school plays and baseball games. And, male and childless female co-workers will judge you for having children.

You can compromise by asking your boss if you can work fewer hours . Doing so will hurt your chances for advancement and higher pay. But that's your fault for choosing motherhood over career.

Good luck, ladies!

Oh...and with all of these things to keep in mind, don't forget to do your job.