Thursday, May 31, 2007

New New Hampshire Unions

The hardy plant of equality continues to grow in New England. Gov. John Lynch did in fact sign the civil unions bill.

Unions can start on January 1, 2008.

Before 100 supporters in the state house's Executive Council chambers, he iterated his approval and support. His signing remarks were:
Dating back to the Abolitionist movement, we in New Hampshire have a long, proud history of taking the lead in opposing discrimination. Today, that tradition continues. Today, we are taking an important step against discrimination. Today, we are acting to protect New Hampshire families.

Over the last several months, I have spoken with hundreds of people about this issue, and most of those people support civil unions. Some support civil unions, but feel it may be happening too fast, or too soon. Others oppose civil unions altogether and see it as a threat to marriage.

I've listened and heard all the arguments. I do not believe this bill threatens marriage. I believe this is a matter of conscience and fairness. And my view is that, it's never too soon to act to prevent discrimination.

People in committed relationships should not have to worry about visiting a loved one in a hospital, or whether their loved ones will inherit their estate, or the many other legal protections so many of us take for granted. How could any one of us look into the eyes of our neighbors, our friends, or our loved ones if we continued to deny them these basic legal protections?

That is why I am pleased to be here today as we further the interest of fairness, dignity and the strengthening of families.

That is truly the New Hampshire way

So, it's Massachusetts for marriage, Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey, and now New Hampshire for civil unions. New York is weighing marriage, as is Rhode Island. Maine has civil partnerships and passed and upheld its gay-rights bill. All in all, this is a good region for marriage equality, living and growing.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Itchy and Scratchy on Beacon Hill

Okay, sports fans, I must start by saying that I am uncomfortable flinging electrons for the Article 8/MassResistance folk. That's the Globe's job and they're very good it at over there.

However, there's an important follow-up to Ryan's peek under the freakish skirt of the opt-out folk in testimony yesterday. Tom Lang over at KnowThyNeighbor wallowed in the muck and the mire and the murk, as well as providing his own testimony on the education bills.

Just when you think these raised-by-wolverine fools can't be any more crazed, they surprise. Yesterday, half of the not-yet-institutionalized MR duo, Brian Camenker, testified in favor of S321. He repeatedly claimed historical revisionism that homosexuals were never targeted or murdered by Nazis before and during WWII. Holocaust denial from a Jew is only the latest lunacy from this pair.

The bill they're pushing attempts to legislate their private religious beliefs into public school. You'll recognize the intent if you followed the David Parker et alii case, particularly its U.S. District Court failure. There, Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf told them that if they wanted to control the curriculum and keep their kids from being exposed to facts and opinions, they could home school or go to some private religious version. Instead, the MR people are back with another try to force schools to teach only what parents approve of in advance.

Do read Tom Lang's reportage. Note that in its present form, if you want to see his testimony, left click on the link there, save the file as HTML and open it in a browser. To save a bit of work, I'll note that he says:
  • Kids could read Gertrude Stein's poetry, but not hear that she wrote love poems to a woman, unless parents provided permission in writing first.
  • They could see images of Michelangelo and da Vinci's work, but not hear about their sexual nature that influenced it.
  • They could read about Alan Turing's computer work and breaking of the German code system, but not how he was driven mad by forced drugs.
  • Holocaust teaching could include mentions of Jews, Catholics, the Romany people and others, but not homosexuals.
And so the theme is obvious. Parents afraid of information, thought, discussion and learning would set the curriculum for all. As Tom said:
Parents Rights Bill S321 does not just set to limit free discussion of past history but it also restricts discussion of current events such as the current Equal Rights struggle for LGBT in this state and throughout this nation and the world. And it would set apart children, LGBT or straight, being raised by same-sex couples.

But the true intent of Bill S321 is to take away the identity of LGBT children and to prevent them from reaching their full potential and achieving their greatest self-worth. LGBT—is not what someone does in the privacy of their bedroom but constitutes our very existence, past, present and future. LGBT youth need to have free access to their identity and to be allowed (without restrictions) to know that they share this identity with some of the world’s greatest leaders, inventors, athletes, poets, musicians, politicians, thinkers, parents, activists and fellow human beings.
We can feel some compassion for the befuddled and wrong-headed who would sacrifice the minds and spirits of future generations on the altar of their own insecurities and hatred of others. Yet, that cannot determine educational policy or legislation for the rest of us and our children.

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Can Rizzo Rise?

With damned slim turnout, State Rep. Anthony Petruccelli did a number on Revere City Councilor Dan Rizzo. The race to replace State Sen. Robert (don't call me Bobby) Travaglini went exactly as scripted. The guy with the established politicians behind him won handily (about 59%).

Technically, there's a June 26 general election, but the elephants aren't sacrificing one of their own. So, the winner of the Democratic primary yesterday is the de facto Senator.

The pity is that they were both pretty progressive and both on the right side of marriage equality. Ideally to an outsider, Petruccelli could have continued his good work in the House and we would have added another lefty vote to the Senate.

Yet in this one, it was may the best man win and it seems he did. The almost-as-good may now rot on the vine. Here's hoping he has the ambition for another struggle. I don't know if he can grab Petruccelli's spot in the House.

Petruccelli charmed both the power brokers (Mayor Menino and the don't-call-me-Bobby himself) and the papers and position pushers (Globe and even MassEquality) backing him. The Globe's tepid praise (he's in the legislature and by the way, likes charter schools more than the other guy) was not rousing. However, if nothing else, it shows he's wired into the power grid. Zzzzt.

Indeed, that was Rizzo's campaign. Do you want to play musical chairs...get more of exactly the same when the tune stops? The answer apparently was yes.

This was not a bad answer, but less than optimal. On the glass-half-full side, it's great to live somewhere with a choice between two good guys. Here's hoping Rizzo finds a slot where he can do his do well.

Note apropos of nothing: Someone needs to take Tony to a shirt tailor. Having once interviewed Custom Shirt Shop founder Mortimer Levitt, I learned what a big difference well fitting collars can make. Avoid the turtle look!

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Same Sex? That's Different!

In Minneapolis last week, I made a passing mention to a former Newton couple I was visiting about a woman I worked with and her wife. They were briefly amused and noted how odd it was that I could say that, being from Massachusetts instead of Minnesota.

My yellow Reebok's were plenty unusual for the heartland. One of their favorite, but gentle, derisions came out repeatedly. When the locals are shocked by the odd, in lieu of saying you're tasteless or creepy, they tend to say, "That's different."

Grunt. Different is bad there.

Down in the Ocean State, a different-thinking columnist, Bob Kerr, does a very funny take on the my-marriage-is-threatened ruse. In the Providence Journal, he writes that he has been watching carefully for the damage done to Rhode Island or Massachusetts different-sex marriages by three years of SSM here.

In fact, he solicits tales of woe, fear and harm from those whose fragile marriages have suffered. His criteria are simple:
  • Have long-standing marriages between men and women lost some of their vitality in the last three years?
  • Have husbands and wives found they talk to each other less than they did before gay marriage was made legal?
  • Have small pleasures in heterosexual marriage been lost because gays can talk openly in a family way?
  • ...a new snappishness perhaps or unsettling incidents of one spouse saying to another, “You were more fun before gay marriage.”
He notes that his Bay State neighbors seem to be as happy and huggy as ever. However:

Maybe it’s more subtle. Maybe the toll gay marriage has taken on Massachusetts is something difficult to point at and define. Maybe it’s just a nagging sense that once “they” got to exchange the vows, what “we” had wasn’t quite so special.

Or maybe it’s something that will forever be in the future, a cumulative cultural body blow that will take years, then more years, to completely understand.

By the bye, the odd thing about my coworker is not that she has a wife. Rather, both are named Jennifer.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

5th CD Wrestling Match June 2nd

Bem-vindo! Come grill and revel in the candidates to replace U.S. Rep. Marty Meehan. We'll gather them for you Saturday, June 2nd, from 10 a.m. to noon. We'll be in Hudson, MA, at the Portuguese Club, 13 Port Street.

The starting point is the red-hot and hard-to-navigate health care complex of issues. Questions will come from the audience. Blog readers can get a leg up by posting questions for the candidates here.

The event is in the spirit of our previous one with the lieutenant governor's in the last election. Our motley crew of BlogLeft bloggers will co-sponsor this one with M&W Dems.

There'll be free WiFi for sure with live blogging. We hope to get a video feed working, but make no promises. This is a chance to see the candidates strut and sweat. It's worth attending.

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Protecting Minorities Here and There

Progressives should feel free to guffaw when hearing "activist judges" in reference to same-sex marriage here. Our Supreme Judicial Courts and a couple layers of lower benches are pretty damned slow and timid.

In this case (Goodridge), the SJC only acted to our constitution and laws as Canada's high court did in relationship to its Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In both cases, an obvious and kind of milquetoast ruling held for same-sex marriage. The justices in both places made it plain that government can't say they are for equality and then cherry pick which minority groups get freedoms. Wackos whose activities are illegal don't get to share in rights, but for the rest of us, the catchphrase is live it or live with it.

The retiring chief justice of Ontario, Roy McMurtry leaves as a stalwart defender of the Charter. He is also proudest of his role in establishing SSM in Canada. As he put it in an interview with the Toronto Star:

"The same-sex marriage case. I was pleased to be part of it. It stressed the importance of individual rights and, particularly, individual dignity ...

"There's a segment in our society that believes that being gay or lesbian is immoral. Gays and lesbians have faced unfair discrimination over many years, but to me that's so obviously wrong.

"That's why it was important that the court judgment not only recognize the legitimacy of same-sex unions but describe it as a marriage.

"Massachusetts, the only state in the United States to have recognized same-sex union as marriage, did so referring to our case.

"The United Kingdom recognizes a civil union between same-sex couples with all the rights and obligations of regular marriage but doesn't use the term `marriage.'

"But the term `marriage' is important to send a message to society that the commitment of these couples should be just as respected as the commitment of a heterosexual couple, though any marriage can fall apart. That's why I stress the importance of individual dignity.

"I remember a young lawyer saying to me, `You know, the day after the decision, my partner and I were lining up to go to a movie, and we felt better about our relationship and, therefore, felt better about ourselves.'

"The court decision had obviously sent an important message."

What of the argument that such decisions go against the traditional and established views of a society?

"I don't think the traditional view or the majoritarian view is the correct view. The Charter is really a document to protect minority rights."

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Winning the Backyard Fight

Inspiration came in many sizes and styles at the Courting Equality release party/rally. Likely the awful, shameful effort to strip existing civil rights from homosexuals here will resolve for good or evil in June, perhaps as early as the 14th.

Speakers at the event on Wednesday at the Cambridge YMCA figuratively pointed across the street to the city hall. There three years ago to the day, the city of peace opened at one minute after midnight to issue the first several hundred marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the first in the nation.

Since then, the joy has turned to trepidation. On one hand, we have had three years of SSM, three years in which, as Sen. Byron Rushing puts it the sun continued to rise and the milk didn't curdle. The nothing-but-positive effects of SSM is a major factor in polls showing voter support for keeping it 60% and as high as 70%.

Yet politicians can lag polls. Even so, our General Court is at 70% or more wanting to stop this amendment. That is not enough. Our peculiar ballot initiative law lets a 25% of the combined legislature in Constitutional Convention advance a citizen initiative to the ballot.

That made sense in its original purpose of trying to reverse a bad law that the legislature implemented, but not in a case where a group wants to overturn a court decision and take away another group's civil rights. For certain, we need to refine the existing procedure to return it to its intent, but we have an infinitely more pressing need.

As Sen. Jarrett Barrios told the crowd in Cambridge, "We have one final effort. We have a few more votes
We have to push across the finish line."

He and Rushing made it plain that the next four weeks are huge for Massachusetts and the nation. This will take personal lobbying as well as supporting the prime groups — including MassEquality, GLAD, and the local ACLU — starting with going to their websites and finding your tasks.

The promise is there and only a few voted out of reach, even with the low bar for the anti-marriage-equality people. As GLAD's attorney who successfully argued Goodridge, Mary Bonauto, told the crowd, "The rest of the country is going to catch up with Massachusetts, as long as there is the same sense of engagement," noting that here we have large elements of the majority in favor. In the past 10 years, 20% of the states have SS marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships.

Yet, as Barrios added, before going national, "we gotta start with Massachusetts. Until we kill this thing once and for all, we have to continue this fight in our backyard."

Rep. Alice Wolf started with an upbeat message too. She traced related issues in Cambridge and the state house since 1974. She said that by 2004, there were 70 house members and 30 senators voting for marriage equality. By this past January's ConCon, that had become 102 representative and 32 senators. "It was a very short time to have made enormous, enormous gains."

Yet the orator and plain speaker of the evening, as usual, was Rushing.

He was not above first flattering the audience, telling them, "You are some of the most radical people in the world. You and I are trying to make sure this experiment of democracy works."

He compared this fight to make SSM permanent here to such previous struggles as civil rights for African Americans and for women. It is important to speak the radical idea, and more important for those oppressed or threatened to hear it and identify with the possibilities. "The radical idea is that every person has human rights."

People need to realize that "We are in those words. We will be free."

He said none of us should be surprised by those who nevertheless oppose marriage equality. The reaction should be to do everything to make the final push to defeat the amendment.

"We do know what fantastic responsibility this places on us," said Rushing. "Our struggle now is to make this permanent, not for ourselves but for everyone."

He predicted a victory, if everyone acts now. "The only response we can have is to do more."

The goal is to have the supermajority the law requires. "When we win, we will have won with 75% of the vote plus one," he said of the June 14th ConCon.

I have no doubt that if that happens, the anti-SSM folk will not accept defeat. Rather they'll yell, turn to the courts yet another time, and maybe even mount another certainly doomed initiative. It will be too late. They can hate, they can discriminate, but in the privacy of their parlors, leaving the rest of the world alone.

The reward Rushing promises those who call, write, visit, lobby and donate time and energy would be sweet and a point of pride to last a lifetime. "We in Massachusetts will be able to say in this state we have 75% plus one."

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Ramblings and Snatches from Courting Equality Party

Dragging my sorry, tired butt around after a five-day professional-society conference in Minneapolis, I didn't want to go. I was tired. There was a sky that would have made Noah hammer faster. It was an hour or more by foot and subway. Whine. Moan. Sigh.

God bless my shiny head. I went.

Rally? Signing?

The promo on the Courting Equality site read that it was book release event that, by the way, had guests such as lead Goodridge attorney Mary Bonauto and some legislators. I envisioned a snaking line of other middle-aged types waiting for signatures.

I have bought several copies of the book (as you all should). The one I took to the event was particularly meaningful. I wanted the authors and photographer to inscribe it to Jasper and Jay, the men whose marriage I solemnized. Jasper and I have been buddies since college and have know each other over 40 years. Giving them the autographed book will be just another way of celebrating their love and marriage.

So, with the begrudging endorsement of my wife (tired of handling our kids, cooking and other domestic duties solo in my absence), off into the wetness and wind went I.

The wedding cakes never entered my mind. Nor did not having to wait for signatures. I figured that even in fatigue, I could stand in a line for an hour. I didn't know I'd end up at an inspiring rally instead, get my book signed before it started, and find myself swept into the vortex of leftist rhetoric, challenge and bonhomie.

Charming Principals

Surely I shouldn't write it, but Marilyn Humphries reminds me in demeanor and appearance of another photographer, Marnie Crawford Samuelson. It goes far beyond their being very slender with angular faces and cropped hair. There's an elegant political link, at least in my mind as well. Marnie is a lesbian mom and the former long-term partner of Arlington Street Church minister Kim Crawford Harvie. Kim, of course, is famous for among other traits as giving great marriage.

Marnie is a superb photographer and also one of the deepest thinkers I have ever met. I have a great respect for her intellect as well as for her art. So, meeting Marilyn, I had immediate positive associations beyond admiring her politics and work. I didn't ask if they knew each other. She and Marnie might be pals or might consider each other competitors.

Instead, I introduced myself to Marilyn, who eagerly signed, as did nearby author Patricia A. Gozemba, who even tracked down co-author Karen Kahn -- a labor in all that milling traffic of happy couples and families.

I had never met Pat, as everyone calls her. Yet, she offered an amusing moment that may say much of her candor and humor. She had just signed a book and while the woman she was with waited, Pat watched Marilyn 15 feet away speaking to a small group. Pat snorted and remarked, "She's so upperclass. She'll talk forever. She acts like she's working poor, but she's not."

As an egalitarian sort myself I had to laugh. I now wonder whether I say such things myself. I may. From their long-term association and friendship, they likely have had that exchange a few times and have already gotten over it.

The 250 or so gathering for the event were pretty much a bigot's nightmare. Many had devoted their passions and lives to each other for decades. The brought their kids. Their own parents and siblings came too. Those who like to think of gay people in general and married ones in particular as sad or demented would have been out of luck. They'd have to sit with others who think the same way and delude each other.

There were a few other bloggers, like John Hosty. There were also several people I knew in Courting Equality. I work with Jennifer Hess, who is there (page 131, I think) with her wife and son, and of course, my long-term association with Arlington Street means that Kim and I have known each other for a lot of years. She was in it performing SS marriages, not for her own marriage to Kem.

I had Jenn sign her page, but didn't think about it when Kim and I brushed and bussed. Later Jenn said I should carry it around like a yearbook, picking up more signatures for Jasper and Jay. She considers it like her own yearbook.

Cake Attack

I successfully avoided the two gigantic sheets of wedding cake. Those are all fat and sugar and for some inexplicable reason, I love white iced wedding cake. I'm a bittersweet chocolate guy. I want spice, heat and intense flavors. I despise vanilla ice cream and anything marshmallow. Yet, wedding cake is that every-few-years treat. Whether it's because it accompanies a fun party or just because of leave to eat sweet, buttery treats, who knows.

As soon as the last remarks ended, the event photog turned hostess and greeted me with a white paper plate of white cake with white icing, one in each hand. My heart said take both slices. Instead I thanked her and strode to the door before I indulged.

So, walking in the wet nastiness to the Red Line and then from Forest Hills home at the other end, I had my autographed treasure inside a plastic bag inside my waterproof New Grounds messenger bag.

I'll try to read my notes and cover some of the remarks in the next post. There were comments relevant to the ConCon and a little voyeurism and eavesdropping.

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Before ConCon, Do More

If Therese Murray ever twisted an arm or not, this is the time to start. Hell, twist a nose or pull an ear, whatever. Four weeks remain to the ConCon that will allow the demon child that is the anti-marriage-equality amendment to live until the 2008 election or will send it back to the netherworld of hate where it came from and belongs.

Today's Boston Globe lead reports that the margin supporting advancing the amendment has gone from insurmountable to wee -- perhaps three or four legislators. The ground rules have not changed; only 25% of the 200 member combined General Court need approve a voter ballot initiative to put it on the ballot. That's 50 lawmakers.

Last night in Cambridge at the Courting Equality 3-years-of-SSM/book signing/celebration thingummy, three legislators gave the call to continue the fight with the June 14th ConCon looming. Rep. Alice Wolf, Sen. Jarrett Barrios, and Sen. Byron Rushing — friends all to civil rights in general and to GLBT rights in particular — exhorted the audience to finish this fight.

The three seemed to have been arranged in order of intensity. Wolf is very sincere and hopeful. She focused on the advances in the past two decades, from hard fought debates on basic gay rights to full marriage. Barrios, as always, was raw emotion. He said, "I wish this were a code, but this is just an intermission." Finally, Rushing was the orator and elegant in his rallying cry that "you and I are trying to make this experiment of democracy work."

He added that the bitter opposition to SSM is not surprising. Also, "we do know what fantastic responsibility this places on us."

He and Barrios called for active support for the major pro-SSM lobbying organizations as well as personal contact with legislators. Rushing said, "The only response we can have is to do more."

More on the Courting Equality function later.

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Fighting Words from the AG on Amendment

Imagine, a Massachusetts Attorney General with courage and a respect for civil rights! Our last one certainly failed those tests, but Martha Coakley is loud and righteous.

I'm about to be out of touch for four or five days. I can't even eat Saturday breakfast without interruption. Well, bless the Globe for being the first to cover her speech to the Massachusetts Lesbian & Gay Bar Association. Key in her remarks was the promise to fight the anti-marriage-equality amendment.

Do-nothing, stand-for-nothing AG Tom Reilly could have stopped this flagrant effort to overturn a Supreme Judicial Court decision early on, but did nothing and stood for nothing. In contrast, Coakley says she's ready if this year's ConCon advances the amendment. As she put it:
"I think we can easily anticipate that if the proposed amendment was successful, there would be protracted, hard-fought litigation about the constitutionality of such a provision. If that battle is necessary, you have my support."
On the good side, that makes four top leaders with the governor, speaker of the house and senate president saying they do not want to strip existing civil rights from any minority. In another contrast to the anti-gay forces, she added that since over 17,000 homosexuals have joined in over 8,500 marriages:
"The institution of marriage is alive and well in the Commonwealth. It has been made more inclusive. I think a seamless integration of an ancient institution with the modern but welcome recognition of the reality of the diversity of sexual orientation has made our state stronger."
Coakley said that her office's civil-rights division is preparing responses, if necessary.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Bay Windows Little Red Wagons

Awww, that's kinda cute. Bay Windows is blogging -- double.

They aren't really a bandwagon, more of a caboose, but we expect good things from the news blog and arts blog over at what the MSM and wingnuts like to call our homosexual newspaper. (We try to imagine what kind of sexual preference an anthropomorphized newspaper would have and what sort of sex acts it might engage in.)

They're new at it and haven't populated all their side bars. Off the main page though, you can see both blogs on the upper left. We suggest that you bookmark one or both. We'll put the GLBT news-blog link here.

From the get-go, there's breezier, tighter writing in the arts version. The news one has stuff you won't see in the right column of hoary news briefs from the previous week. We'll keep watching.

Blog on, humanoids!

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GLAD Before the Supremes 5/14

The eight Connecticut same-sex couples denied marriage licenses two and one half years ago argue their case of discrimination before the state's Supreme Court Monday. Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) represents them.

As the GLAD release puts it:
On Monday, May 14, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) will argue before Connecticut’s Supreme Court, seeking an end to same-sex couples’ exclusion from marriage rights. Kerrigan & Mock v. Department of Public Health was filed in August 2004 on behalf of eight Connecticut couples who were denied marriage licenses. GLAD Senior Attorney Bennett Klein will argue on behalf of the plaintiffs. The oral argument will be broadcast and webcast live by Connecticut Television Network. GLAD’s blog during the proceedings can be viewed at Immediately following the argument, plaintiffs and GLAD attorneys will speak to the media on the courthouse steps. Oral Arguments in Kerrigan & Mock v. Dept. of Public Health Monday, May 14, 10:00 a.m. Connecticut Supreme Court 231 Capitol Avenue, Hartford, CT Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders is New England’s leading legal rights organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and HIV status. GLAD won marriage for Massachusetts couples with a November 2003 ruling in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health.
Check the home page of the GLAD site for case documents and cross all your body parts for good luck.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Pre-ConCon Analysis

With the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention pushed out until at least June 14th, follow-up posting ranges from BS to brilliant. Here are a few pointers:
Note too that we kicked this can up and down the hall with Bay Windows Editor-in-Chief Susan Ryan-Vollmar in our Left Ahead! weekly podcast. I hope she's wrong that a vote is likely to advance the amendment, despite Patrick's efforts, if the ConCon gets a quorum and votes.

I also see no proof that either self-proclaimed marriage-equality leaders House Speaker Sal DiMasi and Senate President Therese Murray has used their power for good here. With the three of them, this should be an easy victory to quash this hateful amendment.

I note too that the SJC decision last year has passed into myth. The side mention that the court majority thought the legislature should feel obliged to vote on ballot initiatives has morphed comically. Of course, ConCon-ers evoked that citation when voting on the amendment in January, but in the same session, suddenly did not feel obliged to vote on the health-care one.

Surely, anti-gay sentiments did not influence action there...

On top of the hypocrisy of the last ConCon choosing its compunctions, note that the high-court decision said that there was no penalty for not voting and that the SJC could do nothing about it. Also, the mention of having to vote was a side opinion and decidedly not a ruling. Legally, it was a throw-away line. That's where the current myth, repeated both in the legislature and MSM, reappears.

Legislators have a choice on whether to help try to strip existing civil rights from a minority. There is no hiding behind an SJC decision. This January too, they decided which initiatives they would advance by voting and which to kill. We know one that needs killing.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

ConCon May May in June

The AP report confirms that the ConCon will recess until June 14th. That would be the earliest date that the vote to advance the amendment to stop same-sex marriage here could happen.

The anti-gay forces would love to have the vote today or as soon as possible. The pro-equality ones would like as much lobbying time as possible. As the article puts it:
“We feel that our votes are very solid,” said Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, which collected signatures for the proposed amendment. “Let’s have a vote on June 14.”
Gay marriage advocates said they were pulling out all the stops to try to change votes to block the amendment from reaching the ballot, arguing the civil rights of minority groups should not be put to a public vote.
“We’ve made up some ground, but we need to make up more,” said Arline Isaacson, co-chair of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus. “We’ve been working very hard.”

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Some Things Get Better

Cross-posted from Left Ahead!

Yesterday's podcast with Susan Ryan-Vollmar found me babbling briefly about the old days -- the mid-1960s in Greenwich Village. Maybe nothing's more boring than hearing about how it used to be, but maybe that can be a useful perspective.

As a married lesbian mother, Susan certainly has her own investment in the pending drive to put an amendment in our commonwealth constitution stopping same-sex marriage. Among her concerns is that her kids not get subjected to a year and a half of screaming about how they are inferior because of their home life, their two moms.

In his early 20s and openly gay, Ryan is impatient with social progress. He also expects his generation and the next to drive the anti-gay old farts out of the state house, as well as crushing any anti-equality legislation that lawmakers or citizens might promote. As a long-term Democratic and progressive activist in her early 30s, Lynne is neither as pessimistic as Susan, who considers that the amendment might advance and might even pass nor as optimistic as Ryan about Massachusetts' gay friendliness of the near future.

Feeling Hoary

In the midst of all this, as an early boomer, I recalled my own experiences as well as those of my gay friends from the sand box onward. One was my summer and vacation buddy from pre-school. He lived in a small town in farming country in West Virginia. He was quite literally a boy in the band. He was bright and funny and nice. Most people figured he was a homosexual early on, but nobody beat him up. Many boys avoided him. He didn't speak about his sexual identity and any feelings of isolation, even with me, until our early 20s. That's a little sad. We did share everything else. He was likely 99.44% sure it would not be a problem, but in the spirit of the times, he kept quiet.

Back to the 1960s, the old stereotype of the mincing, lisping queen lived in Greenwich Village. I had grown up in Virginia and elsewhere knowing women in Boston marriages. They did not affect identifying mannerisms. Again, in the spirit of the times, the behaviors that produced such films as Boys in the Band had some basis. In that period at home in New Jersey, I was aware that homosexuals or suspected ones, male or female, might get assaulted. There was certainly no overt gay-rights movement to provide protection and equality.

As Ryan and Susan note, things are better here and in many urban areas, but in many parts of the country, it's still not safe to be out. I lament our social retardation, as the rest of the First World seems to pass us in equality and egalitarianism.

Another friend from college grew up as the oldest of 12 children in South Carolina. He and a brother are gay. They are Black. It wasn't always easy for them growing up and they were cautious. Both moved far from Columbia to be adults. My chum lives in Somerville, where it seems OK to be out. He makes a great and active godfather to one of my boys. I solemnized his marriage. That is all life as it should be.

Not There Yet

Last night, we podcasters kicked around the dueling ideas of how far we have come in gay rights and how far we have to go for real equality. I confess that I held the idea in college and shortly after that my generation would continue its progressive behavior. A funny thing happened on the way to equality. Not only have the boomers aged predictably toward conservative political leanings, but many were never involved in the early struggles. They never marched for civil rights or to end war or for women's rights or for gay rights. They were bystanders, voyeurs who had many of their parents' ideals.

Perhaps I'm foolish again with Ryan's generation. Yet, poll after poll of those in their teens and 20s are promising. Not only are those groups not anti-gay, they are indifferent. They don't feel any threat from two homosexuals marrying and getting the benefits thereof. They may be impossible to manipulate with fear or hate.

Now, if we can quash this amendment thing one way or another, we can get onto real issues that need addressing.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Separate But Sucky

Our ConCon including the anti-marriage-equality amendment will likely not start tomorrow on its first possible day. The anti-gay rants disguised as calls for democracy have never been louder.

For those looking for the clearest answer to wing nuts, you can stop with Sara Whitman. Her A Separate Fountain entry on Huffington Post is the righteous reply. Without stretching at all, she puts the lie to those who contend that marriage equality is not a civil rights issue.

She's from Massachusetts and married to her wife for three years. She had spoken recently to a man who "told me that civil unions were an equal institution but that marriage is about marriage was wrong. It was an argument of separate but equal, made by an African-American man. I wondered if the colored-only water fountains ever felt equal. Still a water fountain, after all. Just a separate one, so the purity of the white fountain would not be sullied...He was asking me to drink from another fountain. If marriage had no legal relevance and was only a religious symbol, I could go with it. But it doesn't. It is woven into the legal system, government benefits, and tax codes. It is a civil right. The laws and understanding of it comes about from years and years of legal precedents. It can't be replicated in a meaningful way...Civil unions, in other words, are still a separate fountain. "

She hits it spot on in her call to defeat the anti-marriage-equality amendment here. Her personal blog is Suburban Lesbian Housewife.

The fountain post is well worth reading, saving and being prepared to regurgitate as useful.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

The Gifts of Reason

Well, let me pause to praise lightly the Reason magazine readers. While many took issue with a post here, they were largely civil and, let's call it, reasonable.

That's not exactly how it was on their own blog. That section where it appeared is well named Hit & Run. Some were less kind that one might suppose and quite a few had not bothered to read what they criticized, here or there.

[Over the years, I have turned to moderating comments and rejecting the threatening and obscene. None of those from the Reason crew required moderation. As so many of them note, they are largely pro-marriage equality, and most of the nasty comments I have gotten have been from anti-gay readers who came looking for trouble.]


Overall, this post's follow-up was been an amusing experience. I do regret, however, that it was the rock accidentally kicked that caused the minor landslide.

I thought I had written one of my rare personal and family posts. I was attempting to poke fun at myself. I thought I had been pretty clever in manipulating my mother into visiting and then in giving her one of my favorite lefty publications, when she would never have brought on into her house on her own. Then when a friend turned the tables without knowing what I had done, I thought it was funny and I was the goat.

You can read the comments on my post and the Reason blog to see that some sloppiness on my part did not suit many, many readers. Even those who conflated comments from others with my original post had one main point -- Reason is a libertarian pub, not a neocon or conservative one.

Many did not read far enough or closely enough to see that I was reading Reason. They told me I shouldn't be so narrow and should read it. I can identify; I've been known to skim long posts. Even when others here and on Hit & Run corrected such comments, the skimming continued and muddled comments followed. A few here and there also got emotional or smug claiming I or some other commenter was emotional or smug. That too is understandable and human, even if not in the spirit of the magazine.

Losing Count

What was most remarkable to me was the traffic. I noticed spikes with the influx of comments. My stat counter showed a huge bump in hits, far outweighing the number of comments. Moreover, they were worldwide. The industrialized, computerized centers in both hemispheres were coming in by the hundreds, then thousands. Nearly all showed links from Reason, with a few emailed ones. I didn't notice an appreciable number of hits from Africa, but the rest of the world had representatives. I had never given it much thought, but there's a magazine and website with impressive coverage.

I do read Reason as it arrives. I hope some of my visitors read and enjoyed my post otherwise. It actually was supposed to be a personal one and was an apparently failed attempt at self-depreciating humor. I have no doubt the Hit & Run citation gave me much higher readership for that post than all but a few on same-sex marriage over the past three years.

There is another irony here that I might as well reveal. Quite a few libertarians I know say they are Objectivists. Before she had her personality change and became so conservative that we couldn't talk politics, my mother was a reader and follower of Rand and considered herself an Objectivist. She never called herself a libertarian, but I suspect that were she still living she'd be quite happy with a subscription to Reason.

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Pending Podcast with Susan Ryan-Vollmar

Cross-posted at Left Ahead!

Our Tuesday podcast features guest Susan Ryan-Vollmar, Bay Windows' editor in chief. She's bright and witty, as well as very knowledgeable about Massachusetts politics in general and marriage equality in particular.

You can listen to the live stream at the podcast site Tuesday, May 8th, starting at 7:30 p.m. Get there by clicking Listen Live! at the top of the Left Ahead! home page or going to our podcast show. Less than an hour after the show, you can stream or download this show at either site.

Susan seems to suffer the editor's dysfunction — she runs lots of pictures of others, but not of herself. I couldn't find a good image. So, I include one of Martinique's Mount Pelée. May 8th is the 105th anniversary of its last major eruption.

There is a small, fuzzy, but cute one of her here.

I can't promise a volcanic display Tuesday, but we do have tension and excitement. The next day is the first possible meeting of this year's Constitutional Convention (ConCon). The amendment to halt same-sex marriage here is one of the orders of business. It it passes with a one-fourth approval of the 200 legislators, it would move to the general election in 2008.

This blog covers this ballot-initiative drive in detail, as does Bay Windows. You can search either site for as much background and opinion as you can handle. I'll save any ranting for Tuesday.

Expect the usual suspects, plus guest Susan Ryan-Vollmar.

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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Stringy Personal Political Gifts

My transient cleverness has its limits, particularly in its gifting form. On a transportation level and on a political one, I discovered the boundaries of graciousness with my mother. Now, some of the same gifts with strings are coming to me from elsewhere.

For years, I played on my mother's frugality and her "omni-lectoral " nature. The first got her from Santa Fe to Boston, and the second exposed her to lefty ideas and ideals.

Detour: There's a bit on her personality change in which she ended up turning conservative here. She raised my sister and me in an open-minded, progressive, non-discriminatory house. She changed. Her reading went from everything to newspapers and conservative magazines and books.

Gaming the Mom

When my wife was seven-months pregnant with our first, we drove from Pittsburgh to Santa Fe in a U-Haul truck with furniture, dishes, clothing and perhaps 1,000 books. We delivered a very angry Wanda to her new home. Forced to move by economic and health circumstances, she became suddenly easily riled.

When I pulled the truck off the road in Oklahoma after miles and miles of seeing the signs, she was nearly purple over the waste of time. But hey, how often can you see a white buffalo? In retrospect, I admit that seeing a scruffy albino bison behind a wooden fence was memorable only because of her reaction.

By the time we had three kids, trips to Santa Fe were less frequent. The money and scheduling costs of transporting five 2,359 miles were considerable.

She was retired and it made much more sense in almost every way to bring her to see us. The almost was that we could see other relatives there. However, they were also willing to swap trips to see us and this city.

Well, I knew that woman and that she hated waste. My solution that worked several times was to send her non-refundable tickets and arrange airport transit on both ends of the trip. Sure enough, Wanda could not let the tickets go to waste. She arrived complaining about her sinuses, but then had a good time as mom, mother in law and granny. We'd take her New England places and all was well until next time.

After 9/11 though, it stopped working. She dug in and said she just wasn't going. Even if it meant seeing us less frequently, we'd come to see her and that was that.

She gave the ticket to my sister. As it turns out, that same sister made her company's ID badges. She created one with her picture and my mother's name. For this one time, my mother's frugality was observed, the ticket not wasted. Sigh.

Reds in the Mail

A milder version of the same aggressive gift arrived by mail. My mother turned from apolitical but very accepting of differences to right-wing. We got to the point at which many subjects were off-limits or she forbade. Finally, she said we just should avoid politics. Arts, science, people, food and many other topics were okay.

So, I sent her a subscription to The Nation. We have gotten it for many years. Of course, I knew that it contradicted many things her conservative magazines and talk radio hosts said. It also did that with facts and solid reasoning. She was always a sucker for those.

Sure enough, 48 times a year, she would read the slim pinko publication. I even let dance thoughts that it might return her to less emotional and more rational discourse.


She did wait two years and then said, "I appreciate the subscription, but please don't renew it again."


Now, I face the same conflict, trebled. A long-term friend and godmother to one of our boys started subscriptions for us to City Journal, Reason, and Commentary. I don't know which of these annoys and angers me more -- probably the most recent one to hit the mailbox.

There is an elegance and symmetry to this and I have to chuckle. Plus, I had a physical yesterday and my blood pressure is great. So those neocon rags are not yet killing me.

Like my mother, I feel compelled to read them. I may even post soon on Reason's piece on Disneyworld and gay wedding packages.

Our friend is an artist -- painter and sculptor. When she moved from the South to Manhattan and we all lived there, she seemed liberal enough. However, she kept company for years with a wealthy lawyer and businessman, who held very different views and got such publications as she has now visited upon us. He has died, but the damage was done.

These journals are like having a crazy uncle who visits regularly. He's not irritating enough that you'd throw him out or refuse to answer the door, but close. Being pleasant is a strain.

I remind myself that I do read conservative op-ed pieces and blogs. Having my positions challenged may be good for me and keep my aging intellect toned. I do find 1) occasional areas of agreement that are pleasant surprises, 2) insight into the often selective reasoning of the neocons, and 3) frequent proof of the unattractive and barely clothed right-wing body politic.

Can I gut it out? Will she tire of this before I do?

Meanwhile, I can revel in the Wanda-esque nature of this. I can't waste the publications any more than my mother could not read The Nation. There is no equivalent of an answering machine for the unanswered call at dinner. They arrive and I read.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Heavy Reading in Beantown

Just some pointers to thought-provoking political stories:
  • BayWindows 1: Petulant anti-gay forces try to divert bullying bills hearing on Beacon Hill. See Wing nuts turn out for anti-bullying hearing. The MassResistence Guy spouts more paranoia and conspiracy theory.
  • BayWindows 2: The push-protester-to-the-pavement (ahem, allegedly) guy, Larry Cirignano, was back in Worcester courts to push out his trial on assault and battery, and civil rights violation. See Cirignano back in court, rally videos on the web.
  • Boston Globe: A bit overblown treatment of marriage-equality forces here asking the national Dems for help in flipping Massachusetts legislators who are waffling on the marriage amendment due in this year's ConCon. See Marriage battle could broaden. The gist is "no stone unturned."

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Marriage Down the Rabbi(t) Hole

Ministers are unnecessary. That is, all clerics are superfluous to marriages, as far as legal reality.

The deafening hoo-ha from anti-gay and anti-marriage-equality folk truly clouds the obvious. Some obscure intentionally, also known as lying. Others simply do not understand the issues or even the process.

Who Can Sign the Paper?

Let us repeat ourselves — marriage in the United States is a civil contract.

You can make it into more, in your mind, in the eyes of your family, in your prayers. That does not change the legal nature of marriage.

In that context, wailing about same-sex marriage maiming, contorting or harming religious perceptions and rituals is asinine. Homosexual couples want and deserve the civil-contract protections and benefits. Keep your religion to yourself and in your house of worship, if you please.

The offensive and well doomed efforts to create a theocratic national marriage law is perhaps the most extreme example of this emotion. We have had numerous small rebellions, and in no small part the Civil War, related to states' rights versus overweening federal power. No one should be surprised that neither Congressional house wants to try to federalize states' authority.

Aligning with the Dark Side

Recently, clerics have insinuated themselves into this conflict, many as ignorantly as politicians and lobbyists and just plain old anti-gay types. Their intentions in many cases are honorable, but they align themselves with the worst elements of discrimination by equating civil contracts with religious ceremonies.

Inspired by state laws and amendments, as well as the federal DoMA, some clerics call for a separation of church and state, saying that government should not regulate or legislate marriage at all. Some say they won't perform marriages as long as there are anti-same-sex-marriage laws on their states' books.

A bitter irony here is that they are actually calling for an entirely new, theocratic set of institutions. That might be understandable coming from the First Estate. However, they should consider what they are asking and back off.

Legislating Religion

From colonial times, marriage has been a civil contract and remains so. We don't need to establish a separation of church and state on marriage, merely maintain what we have.

The anti-gay/anti-SSM folk are calling for legislating religious ritual and beliefs into civil law. We should all scream to prevent that. The corollary of the state and federal government legislating theology and religious practices should be equally unamerican.

Most of us are at fault on this too. We generally refer to a church wedding as the marriage. We confuse the civil and religious here, as they can happen in the same room at the same ceremony.

Many clerics understandably suffer from the same emotional hobble as many physicians. They hear constantly of their power and come to believe it. They inflate their importance, which must be tempting if your parishioners and others tell you regularly that you are connected to their god.

The problem here comes with conflating the popular misunderstanding of religious ritual with civil contracts and related law.

Proud and temporarily impoverished parents certainly would hesitate to pay many thousands for the big day if it were seen as a simple legal act, like say, a car purchase. However, joined together in the sight of God and so forth has a justifiable ring to it, as well as a valid social purpose.

Let us recall that despite what a priest insisted to me, our laws followed the long-standing traditions of English and European ones. We approve and record marriages as legal protections and property considerations. That is precisely why the government issues marriage licenses and records completed ones. That is precisely why the government approves separations, divorces, child custody, and property divisions.

These are not enforceable by any church or cleric. This is contract law, as cold as that may seem.

Solemnizers by the Score

Note that in Massachusetts, clerics were not allowed to solemnize marriages during colonial times. They might speak a few words, but marriage was a matter of government. Our constitution reflects this, with a long list of government agents, from the governor through judges and justices of the peace who can authenticate and solemnize a fulfilled marriage contract, a.k.a. license.

Then by statute, other solemnizers include ministers, priests, rabbis and such clerics. Of course, we have that wonderful colonial and constitutional vestige of the one-day solemnization certification. Any adult of good character can get a permit to solemnize a marriage — one day, one couple, one locality, one per year.

I have done two, one for a straight couple and one for two men (coincidentally through Mitt Romney's office). Technically, once I petitioned the governor, the secretary of state's office took over, but it was amusing that Romney was the start.

Ministers and other clerics came to officiate at weddings for practical considerations that have nothing to do with their religious links or credentials. As Uncle over at Scratches has noted, clerics got the right to sign marriage licenses for simple, common-sense reasons. They were ubiquitous and they were literate. In Massachusetts, and in all states, there is no requirement for religious marriage and no legal provision for it. Again, marriage is a civil contract, legislated, enabled and controlled by the states.

Various states authorize sundry officiators to marriages. The man who performed my marriage in South Carolina, Arthur Horn, had a nice résumé, but only one qualification for the solemnization. He was chairman of the Beaufort County Council, president of a bank, and on and on. However, it was his role as notary public that gave him the power to sign the marriage license.

God and Caesar

When you hear a rabbi or other cleric hold forth about religion and marriages, you can nod and grunt or perhaps correct the palaver. They are not at all necessary for a legal marriage. Moreover, the vast majority of marriages take place in totally civil settings — a town clerk's office, a justice of the peace's place or the like. Whatever blessings or service the solemnizer speaks can make for a wonderful memory, but no more or less legal than the simple signature following, "By the power invested in me by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I pronounce you married."

There are also practical considerations for clerics here. Like cops on off-duty detail at road construction or funerals, performing marriages is a key perk and necessary salary augmentation for most clerics. Sure, congregations could pay them more and require them to bless members' wedding for free, but that is not the way the system works.

More than one minister got defensive and accused me of poaching when they heard I had performed weddings. Many consider the combo wedding/license signing as a right as well as a rite.

That doesn't have to change. Anyway, far too many of us are too emotionally involved in this. However, the key issue is avoiding translating our feelings and our religious beliefs into laws for all. It's never been that way in this country and there's no compelling reason to start now.

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