The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

QueerlyKos – The Garden State Edition

I don't think I have to tell anyone what the big news was this week. Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that this week the New Jersey Supreme Court handed down a decision on same-sex marriage that actually stopped short of supporting same-sex marriage, while also finding that same-sex couples should have the same benefits and protections as married couples and kicking it back to the legislature to figure out the best way for that to happen. For my part, I pointed out that in many ways same-sex couples already assume the the court called the "burdens and obligations" of marriage without equal benefits and with the additional burden of subsidizing those benefits for "state sanctioned families."

What's bugged me most about the responses to the ruling, as you'll see from my comments at some of the posts below, is the apparently willingness to abandon the courts as a legitimate route for minorities to seek justice. The Jersey court ruling cited "unalienable rights," but our increasing willingness to put "unalienable rights" to a majority vote makes me wonder if we're not putting them on the endangered list. Because what the majority giveth, the majority can also take away.If the courts are no longer a means for minorities to get justice, then people will have to live with injustice for a longer time, while the majority makes up its mind. And if the majority makes up its mind in their favor, they'll have to hope it doesn't change its mind in the future

But enough of my rambling. Let's get to the week just passed.

  • To think that just last week all anyone was still talking about was the Foley scandal. I don't think I've heard anyone talk about it better than Barney Frank does in this clip. Where I come from, we call this "breaking it on down." And I haven't heard anyone effectively refute it yet.
  • And, by the way, does anyone care about the news that HRC fired a staffer who was allegedly responsible for the blog that first published Foley's emails and IMs? Does it matter? For some reason I can't bring myself to care much about it.
  • Somehow, I can't bring myself to feel badly about a closeted, publicly anti-gay politician getting outed. Like Poland's Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Polish Prime Minister, who rules alongside his twin brother, and who was once quoted as saying that "homosexuals should not be allowed to teach" and, "The affirmation of homosexuality will lead to the downfall of civilization. We can't agree to it." Sure, that's in a whole other country. But can someone tell me exactly why people like this who in government and influencing policy that the rest of us have to live with should be left alone?
  • Back stateside there's Florida gubernatorial candidate Charlie Cristendorsed by Christ, by the way — and who's on record as supporting Florida's Defense of Marriage Act, and signed the anti-gay marriage petition in Florida. (But he's ok with civil unions, and undecided on Florida's gay adoption ban. Don't know of Jesus is reconsidering his endorsement in light of that.) If reports are true, he's got a pretty hot young boyfriend — who's also a criminal, according to John Campanelli [DK] that he thinks he shouldn't be allowed to marry.
  • To bring up the Sullivan quote from last week's round-up, Crist may be one of those "- flawed, fallible, even pathetic gay people" Sullivan refers to. Fine. But does that mean we have to let ourselves be governed by them? At our own expense? For the sake of their privacy? On the victims of outing Sullivan goes on to say, "They deserve better." Well, don't we deserve better too?
  • After all, who has time to deal with people who project their self-hatred on to the rest of us when we've got some real serious wingnuts do deal with? And the Jersey decision has brought them out of the woodwork. Like the the one Michael notes over at Gay Orbit, the "Black Republican" commenter on another blog who suggested that "burden of proof" is on gays to prove we deserve the same rights as heterosexuals. Michael also notes that "Black Republican" probably wouldn't apply the same principle to himself had he lived under slavery, and probably wouldn't have advocated that blacks had to "prove their personhood" first.
  • But that's what we're being asked to do, through the political process. And we're actually buying it ourselves. Shrinkwrapped points to a gay man who makes a case against gay marriage, saying "We should live in homes next to theirs, mow our lawns next to them, raise our children next to theirs, and invite them to our bbqs. Then they might finally see us as people." In other words, equality isn't something we have a right to demand, and seek out via the courts as a more immediate means of rectifying inequality. It's something we have to prove we're worthy of. We have to prove were "as good as" the heterosexuals we live next door to, and whose kids we send ours to school with. We have to prove we're worthy of being treated like human beings, and continue to live with injustice and inequality while we're doing it.
  • "Black Republican" is as likely to apply that principle to himself as the students at Central State University are to apply to themselves those other verses from Leviticus that drifted over their head while they were heckling Keith Boykin during his speech on homophobia in black communities.
  • And part of me wonders if that's not at least part of the reason why not even a lot of Democrats are in support of same-sex marriage; holding on to a traditionally Democratic, but socially conservative black vote that's been leaning Republican in small percentages, at least partially due to this issue. I've seen it in my own family, and on the day before my (lifelong Democrat) dad's funeral found an autographed picture of Dubya and Laura, thanking him for his contribution to the 2004 campaign. I didn't have to guess which issue probably did the trick.
  • A commenter on my blog, after my screed on black homophobia, asked "[I]s the black church … a progressive institution?" Haven't seen any answers yet, but for me it's a pretty simple equation: Progressive = "justice" Non-Progressive = "just us". From where I sit, I'd say that most black churches are decidedly not progressive institutions.
  • I don't need Instapundit to tell me about Dems being somewhat less than stellar on marriage, when we have Democrats like Harold Ford, making it pretty damn clear. And like the students at Central State, Ford falls back on his faith to justify discriminating against families like mine. ('Sup with that, Brutha?) I know about 50 churches in Tennessee he should add to his campaign stops, not to speechify but to listen, because not all Christians in Tennessee agree with him on the marriage tip.
  • Ford. Could I do a diary round-up of this week and not mention Ford? Not given the number of diaries related to his statement on the New Jersey ruling. After all, Kos [DK] himself kicked things off with a post bout Ford's statement. I was a little shocked myself, given Kos' history of saying that we need to focus on winning elections rather than single issues like same-sex marriage.
  • And so it began. Drational [DK] was up next with a post about why Kos was wrong no Ford, bringing the aforementioned arguments into play, including how a Ford victory in Tennessee would make a big difference despite his position on same-sex marriage, and the possibility that his position might change in the future.
  • RenaRF [DK] tried to calm everybody down and explain the importance of winning supporters who in states like Virginia and Tennessee who don't support same-sex marriage, and that "If you criticize Webb or Ford or any other Dem challenger or incumbent on this stance or that one, you erode their support." Maybe I'm wrong, but I can't see see supporting a candidate who's likely to leave me and my family twisting in the wind. Believe me, I understand that there are lots of other important issues out there, even "more important" depending on who you ask. But I still think "the common good" includes me and my family, or at least it should, and it never will if we keep our mouths shut when even the folks on "our side" appear to leave us out of the equation.
  • Maybe the voters RenaRF mentioned are the same ones Josh Berthume [DK] was talking about when he asked "Who's afraid of the Republican base?" and pointed out that some of that base is splitting off from the Republicans on "bread and butter" issues that the Republicans have spurned in favor of attention-getting "moral issues." My guess is those voters are more progressive on issues like social security and other economic issues, but less so when it comes to gay issues. There are, by the way, more of them than there are of us. LGBT folks, that is.
  • On the other hand we have conservative bloggers like John Cole at Balloon Juice saying that "the war over gay marriage is over and gay marriage has won," while also bemoaning the Republican leadership's use of "gay-bashing as electoral strategy."
  • Somewhere next in the line-up were Diane95 [DK] with a post about why Democrats should support the New Jersey ruling because there's a fundamental flaw in saying "I support equal rights for gay people" and "I am against gay marriage," and Delaware Dem [DK] arguing that gay marriage is not a Democratic issue because government imposed same-sex marriage means "a government telling religion what to do." I'll only add that I've yet to hear any same-sex couple demanding to get married in churches that don't want them, especially since there are denominations (MCC and UCC) as well as individual churches that are happy to host same-sex nuptials.
  • I don't know, but maybe Delaware Dem is on the Family Research Council's mailing list, because even then somehow misread this line from the New Jersey decision, "However the Legislature may act, same-sex couples will be free to call their relationships by the name they choose and sanctify their relationships in religious ceremonies in houses of worship," as a threat to "foist [the] counterfeit" of same-sex marriage on the church. Maybe they envision the government someday sending in federal troops to force churches to host gay weddings. Again, it seems like an awful lot of trouble when there are churches that already welcome same-sex couples and happily host ceremonies for them.
  • Robertdfeinman [DK] started out sounding a lot like Delaware Dem with his post titled "Abolish Marriage," and ended up sounding pretty much the same with a "get the state out of the marriage business" proposal that even Delaware Dem admitted would probably "never see the light of day."
  • Jensequitur [DK] took things further with a proposal to ban heterosexual marriage.
  • Lost somewhere in all of this is the fact that the New Jersey ruling wasn't a ruling in favor of same-sex marriage as SteveG [DK] and Dana Rudolph of Mombian point out that is wasn't so much in favor of marriage as equal rights for same-sex couples, just under a different name. As both SeveG and Dana point out, though, it matters what we call things. And the chief justice of the New Jersey court, Deborah Portz, agrees with them. As I've pointed out before, constructing something besides marriage means it's more likely to be treated as something less than marriage, especially if its based on the will of a majority that may change its mind at some point in the future.
  • Thereisnospoon [DK] has a plan to Democrat so win the coming battle on gay marriage, on bedrock Democratic values too.
  • If enough Dems listen, I might not have reason to wonder if Kip is on to something when he says that "being a gay Democrat is not much better than being a gay Republican"; if maybe that isn't a point we're approaching, at least on gay issues.
  • I suppose at least it can be said of the Democrats that at least the party isn't owned lock.stock and barrel by a constituency that would prefer that LGBT folk just didn't exist at all. Of course, I could go all Rosie O'Donnell and compare of of the Republican's religious base to the Manchester Imam who said the execution of "actively gay men" is justified.
  • Our own military even gave fag-killer Justin Fisher early release, after serving just 7 years of a 12 1/2 year sentence for bashing in Barry Winchell's skull with a baseball bat as the finale to a a months-long campaign of anti-gay harassment. Well, at least he served a little more time than Dan White. I suppose that's a kind of progress.
  • Speaking of gays in the military and death, Reichen Lemkhul (partner of newly out ex-boy band member Lance Bass) is getting death threats due to his book about being gay in the military. Something sternseiger [DK] said would probably happen. Fortunately, unlike Winchell, Lehmkhul has body guards and doesn't have to depend on the military to protect him against his fellow (former) soldiers.
  • OK. Most of them stop short of supporting execution of homosexuals. They just support making our lives as miserable as possible. The Catholic Church stops short calling for execution, but otherwise seems to share the Imam's derision for "active homosexuals." So long as we remember our place — no sex, no marriage or marriage-like relationship, no family — we're fine with them. Of course that means understanding that as queers we must accept less and expect less from life than our heterosexual brothers and sisters, because we are less than our heterosexual brothers and sisters. That, in a nutshell is "love the sin, hater the sinner," which is still pretty much a license to make our lives as close as possible to the hell they say we're going to, in an attempt to save us from it. Makes sense, no?
  • Along those lines, why not "show some love" to the "sinners" at Georgetown Pride, and help them fund a work-study spot to staff their office. C'mon. It's an easy way to piss off the church hierarchy, if nothing else.
  • And goddess knows we're going out of our way not to piss people off. It's an election year, after all, and nobody wants to scare off potential voters by getting too close to supporting same-sex marriage. Never mind that anti-gay incumbents are struggling this election season, even Senator Man-on-Dog himself.
  • Maybe it all comes down to the "yuk factor". It's like that old queen Quentin Crisp once said, and I paraphrase here: Heterosexuals can think about homosexuals without thinking about what homosexuals do with one another. And they can't think about what homosexuals do with one another without thinking of themselves doing it. And they hate thinking about themselves doing that. And that's why some heterosexuals hate homosexuals. We make them think about having gay sex. But most of them will never express that outside of the voting booth.
  • That's why they were so pissed off at Condi Rice for referring to Jeff Dybul's "mother-in-law" instead of "his partner's mother," "his good friend's mother," or "the mother of his satanic sodomitical partner in a crime against nature that's responsible for natural disasters, terrorist attacks and the current decline of civilization." Condi made them think about having gay sex. Not sure what they said about Tony Snow's defense of Condi's slip of the tongue. They hadn't quite wiped the froth from their lips yet.
  • Well, they wiped enough off to get out this rather astounding theory about why some gay people want same-sex marriage: We're in it for the money. That, of course, flies in the face of the myth that all gays are wealthy (and white, by the way), but folks who think we're responsible for hurricane Katrina and 9/11 aren't likely to let a little logic get in their way.
  • Leave it to a couple of DINKs to point out the number of ways gay couples take it in the pocketbook on everything form Social Security to medicaid benefits, to higher premiums on health car insurance, and higher legal fees to ensure inheritance by establishing a will as well as hospital visitation, etc.; all things that married heterosexuals get for the asking, without producing so much as a single offspring.
  • Like I said before gay couples usually pay more and get fewer benefits, often subsidizing benefits that are denied them but given to heterosexual couples. Think "marriage as a welfare system for heterosexuals," funded by the rest of us. Problem is, gay couples can't "opt-in" as heterosexual couples can with a simple jaunt down the aisle.
  • So, while I understand arguments like the on Chris Crain offers, about the "dangers of bypassing the Democratic process," I still find myself thinking of people like John Crisci and Michael Tartaglia , a gay couple with 33 years together, who thought they'd done everything right by getting wills drawn up and paperwork giving each the right to make medical decisions for the other. They even travelled with their papers when they went on long trips. But they didn't have them with Michael, 70 at the time, collapsed at the gym. The EMT suggested that John go back home and get the papers before going to the hospital. The EMT was right, to suggest that. A friend of mine was turned away at the emergency room, and sent home to get his papers. The EMT was right, but John was too late anyway, and a chaplain was waiting speak to him when he got to the hospital.

To me, Crisci and Tartaglia are an example of what same-sex couples and our families will have to live with while we wait for the political process and for the majority to make up its mind that we've proven ourselves worthy of equality; of being treated like everyone else; of being treated as human beings. If John had be Jane or Michael had be Michelle, no one would have had to stop to retrieve their "papers" from home on the way to the hospital. I suppose its our own fault for moving ahead with forging our relationships, making commitments to each other and building our families instead of waiting for everyone else to catch up.

After hearing my friend's story, I insisted that we start carrying copies of our wills, medical powers of attorney, and Parker's adoption decree with us when we traveled, as well as each of us keeping a set copies at work, and a set in the car. I know that being without them can mean, as John Crisci said, "[losing] that extra 30 or 40 minutes which may be the last time you can hold on to each other."

So, we carry our "papers" with us in case we need them, and in hopes that they'll be recognized if we do. But as an African American who grew up knowing black history, that has an echo of history in it for me. After all, there was a time when most African Americans didn't leave home without their "papers" giving them the right to be out and about. Citizens, real ones anyway, don't need "papers" and can move freely, without fear of their rights — particularly regarding their families — ever being in question.

The problem is that even though we live next door to heterosexuals, mow our lawns next to theirs, send out kids to their schools, etc., at first glance our families don't appear to be lacking anything. We appear to have assumed the "burdens and obligations" of marriage and family, while not lacking any obvious benefits. Indeed those benefits and protections don't get much thought because they usually come into effect in times of crises, like the illness or death of partner. That's also when the lack of them is most fully felt. But like most family dramas, those scenes play out before small audiences, in hospital lobbies and hallways, in law offices, emergency rooms, and behind the closed doors of our own homes. And they'll continue to play out while we wait for our neighbors to decide that we are human beings worthy of being treated as such, and make us citizens.

Because we aren't yet. The last line of Tony Kushner's Angels in America asserts "We will be citizens." And perhaps we will. Just not yet. Apparently it's not up to us to decide.

4 Comments

  1. it’s all so beautiful and so damn bleak–terrance thank you for your persistance

  2. Pingback: Unpartisan.com Political News and Blog Aggregator

  3. The courts are corrupt, as are all of the politicians. It’s Rome in decline, T. Soon their will be empire and no senate.

  4. Clearly you didn’t read my entire post on my blog. While did say that we should withdraw our focus on winning the right to marry in the courts, my argument was for our community to focus on real progress in Gay rights.

    Specifically, I live in California where Gay people are legislatively equal to straight people (with the exception of the word marriage, alone). But there are too many places in our nation where that is not the case. In many states we can not adopt children, we have no form of domestic partnerships, and have no legal protections against hate crimes. These are real issues that need real progress.

    The focus on forcing the courts to grant same-sex marriage is very much hurting our push for other, more important, equal rights. We should focus on true equality first!

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