C I V I L    M A R R I A G E    I S    A    C I V I L    R I G H T.

A N D N O W I T ' S T H E L A W O F T H E L A N D.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Afternoon Drive: Cowboys

Some nice views of cowboy scenery to take us into the weekend. Not my kind of music, but definitely my kind of men!

I'm heading out to early vote this afternoon. What about you?

The Battle of Light vs. Darkness

Joe.My.God. has posted this rightwing propaganda video, which is just in time for Halloween: sure spooks the shit outta me. Notice the strong resemblance to Hitler's fearmongering radio broadcasts, and the seig-heil Nuremburg rallies. All in the name of God: love = hate, right?

And all this just to ensure that two men and a little dog far out on the prairie in a remote province can NOT live out their lives together in peace and dignity, under the protection of the law like any other loving couple. Light versus darkness: oh yeah, it is that, but these dopes/dupes have got it exactly backwards.

Prop 8 is hotly contested out in California; and as one fundie Joe quotes over there put it, "if same-sex marriage stands in California, it will sweep all over the world." That's exactly right. And about damn time.

I forgot to post a donation link with my Write to Marry post the other day; deadline is midnight tonight, and the stakes are high. Give what you can, please.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Freedom Alert: Why Marriage Matters

A video essay from the ACLU on why the right to marry matters so very much: it's really not about romance or religion, it's about the equal protection of the laws.

And if that's not what this country is all about, I say the hell with it; for the glory of America is not its wealth, its size, its power and might. It's the enduringly radical idea that all men and women are created equal; and that ours is a government of, by, and for the people--all the people, not just the chosen few.

And just in my lifetime, gay people have gone from being scary, shadowy nonentities to visible, flesh-and-blood neighbors. We are people too; and our families are families too. We belong right here: we're not leaving, and we're certainly not going back in the hellhole closet that millions of us grew up in.

At the moment, the chances of defeating the anti-gay Proposition 8 in California are doubtful; I read on other blogs that the No on 8 ads they are running out there are pretty insipid and mealymouthed. They need to be running videos like this one.

Please share with any friends and family you have out there; this is the big turning point for us, and a setback in California would cripple the rights and happiness of millions of gay couples and families for years to come, all across the nation.

In the immortal words of the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

--That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Write to Marry Day: My Story

I've been overwhelmed with my real job lately, not to mention a bad cold, so I've not blogged here in several weeks. Which is no great loss to the world, as I can't keep up with the professional bloggers anyway, especially with all the election-campaign stories coming out so fast and furious these days. But today I found a good reason to take a little time to make another post here in the Blue Truck: Write to Marry Day.

All gay people should understand how absolutely vital it is that California’s Proposition 8 go down in defeat next Tuesday; this is the big, fat turning point in our struggle for equal rights and the equal protection of the laws. If the California Supreme Court’s beautifully well-reasoned ruling on the constitutional issue is allowed to stand, many other states will follow suit. If it is overturned by the hateful forces promoting Prop 8, our struggle may be set back for another generation. That must not happen; happiness, security, and dignity must not be denied to millions of gay people, as it has been for most of my life. The changing legal and social landscape for gays may not benefit me much at this late stage of my life, but it’s high time the old laws and old attitudes changed, forever; changed for good.

In support of Write to Marry Day, all I know to do is share my particular story to show why equal marriage is so important to me; it’s not just a pretty phrase, a nice idea. It’s a fundamental right that bears directly on not only matters of love, but also money, property, inheritance, taxes, pensions, rights and responsibilities – all the real-world practical matters that give love a place to root itself, bloom, and grow. It’s not an abstract idea: it’s concrete protection for everyone who loves another of the same gender.

Here’s my story, for what it’s worth to anyone; a very small and perhaps insignificant story in the scheme of the universe, but part of the bigger picture of equal rights for all queer people.

In 1998, my late partner Cody and I met online and from the first time we talked, we both recognized something very special in each other. Though we lived a thousand miles apart, we carried on a year-long courtship by computer and telephone, running up some truly huge long-distance bills with our daily talks. We visited back and forth in person several times, too.

Finally we felt ready to take the big leap and make the big commitment – for life. We spoke the marriage service to each other; at that time, gay marriage and civil unions were still not on the radar for us Southern boys. But we felt secure making our vows privately; we were both in our 40’s and we both had loved and lost before. We meant all that we promised.

Because he had a family, a business, and a house, and I had none of those things, I made the move to be with him in a little Texas town far out on the prairie, population 5,000. All of my family was dead and gone by this time, but one side was Texan, so it wasn’t a huge culture shock, and I’d lived in small towns before. Though I gave up a secure civil-service job, a decent paycheck, and significant seniority, I was happy to love and be loved, to have a home to come back to each night, not just an empty apartment. And the moment I arrived and walked through the door, the very first thing Cody did was hand me a key to the house, saying “This is your home.” And from that moment, it was, and I knew it was worth all I’d left behind to be here with the man I loved, the man who loved me.

Over the next five years, we had our ups and downs like any couple, but on balance the good outweighed the bad; and we were very happy together, living a quiet, respectable life like any of our neighbors, paying our bills, paying our taxes, volunteering in community projects, keeping the grass cut and the shades drawn at night. Because my husband was the organist at the local Methodist Church, we were even in church every Sunday. Just like all the straight couples in town, old and young. And after church each week, we ate a big dinner with his parents at a local restaurant, and for every single holiday we were front and center at his sister’s house, bringing our share of cookery and goodies to share with the whole family, and his sister's crowd of children and grandchildren.

It was a good life: quiet, predictable, far from the madding crowd. Secure—I thought. Though time and again over those five years, I warned him that we really, really needed to make wills and other legal documents. I’d already made him the beneficiary of all my life insurance and pension plans. But he was an artist, not an accountant; he would always reply, “I’m working on it, just give me a little time.” But he never did get around to changing his life insurance or doing any of the other legal necessities to protect me in case something happened to him. Not that we could imagine any such tragedy actually occurring; and as he repeatedly assured me, “Oh my family loves you; they would never be unkind to you.” And they themselves all said to my face, “Oh we love you, you’re part of our family.” Right.

I was deeply skeptical; I had already seen what happened in my own family when my father had died without a will, back when I was in high school. And Cody had been brusquely disregarded and overwhelmed by the cruelty of his first partner’s family when he had died, ten years before. But Cody kept assuring me nothing like that could ever happen with his own family; and of course we couldn’t bear to think fate would part us, not after having taken so long to find each other and create a loving life and home together.

Well. One day, between midnight and morning, the unthinkable suddenly happened and our happy little world disappeared: my darling man died of a completely unexpected heart attack, age 54. And just as suddenly, his sweet, loving, accepting family turned sour and menacing, just as I’d feared. I woke the next morning to find myself alone in a homophobic small town, without friends, without family, without help, without any recourse to the laws. As far as the laws of the great Lone Star State were concerned, I was no more than a stranger living in Cody’s house – for it was in his name only. And as a local attorney informed me, Texas law would allow the family to evict me in only three days’ time. The law was utterly indifferent to my protection, as if I were a wild beast.

So were the townspeople; a few were genuinely sympathetic and a couple of folks even brought me some platters of food, as the Southern custom is. But so many at the viewing, at the funeral, and even at the graveside service, ignored me as if I were not there – pretended not to notice my presence, did not shake my hand, look me in the eye, offer a single word of condolence. Walked between me and my husband’s open grave, passing by not 12 inches away from me, and didn’t even glance at me – all those good Christian people. What contempt. They knew who I was; for more than five years, Cody and I had done everything together in this tiny town, where he had lived his entire life. Of course we didn’t hold hands or kiss or do anything “shocking”; we wore jeans and flannel shirts and cowboy boots like everyone else, we fit in, we did the whole Uncle Tom routine, as I realize now. We were “good,” we “behaved,” we didn’t “flaunt” ourselves.

But everyone knew. And after all that, my reward was to be – despised, sneered at, ignored, cold-shouldered. Yet none of them would have behaved that way at the funeral of the lowest dope dealer or wife beater in town. It was a real Damascus Road experience for me, standing there by his casket, and at his grave. The scales fell from my eyes. I'd always thought that somehow if people knew me, knew us, up close, they would understand and accept. But this is the South, my beautiful, terrible, tragic native land: I should have known better.

And then suddenly, out of nowhere, his family started in on me with the accusations and the grievances and the demands. Had we been a straight couple, the laws of Texas would have given all of Cody’s assets, including the house, to me when he died without a will. But because I was a man, not a woman, I was entitled to nothing whatsoever, not a cup or a pencil or a shirt button, not even the little dog. And his family could walk in at any moment and cart off anything they pleased, claiming it was Cody’s, even my own furniture and clothes – if I called the police, who do you think they would believe: me, the queer outsider, or them, the good, Christian, long-time local residents? The handwriting on the wall was very plain.

Though it wasn't really about the money, the house, the car, all that: the little house was all paid for, but it was a small house in a tiny town. Cody's estate was not large, we were at the lower range of the middle class. What it was about was protection for me, left all alone suddenly in the middle of nowhere, in a place where I didn't belong anymore. Protection; dignity; respect. That's what it was and is all about, and that's what was completely lacking. His family were already coming in the house while I was at work, though they promised with straight faces they would never do that, and combing through our things, and indeed took some things without asking. One morning his car was suddenly gone from the driveway, taken off to be sold. How long would it be till I came home from work one day to find a padlock on the door?

The spite, the malice, the contempt grew from day to day. By force of will, I had held myself together through all the making of funeral arrangements, that long, stunned first day of grief. When we finally got to see Cody lying in his casket in a private viewing, I suddenly broke down, couldn't control myself for a couple of minutes, crying and sobbing. His parents, his sister and brother in law, their adult children and spouses, eight close relatives were all right there around me. And not one of them moved to comfort me, embrace me, lay a hand on my shoulder, or say a single kind word. Not one of them.

I asked very politely if I could put my husband's wedding ring on his finger, after the funeral, at the very last moment before the casket was closed so no one else would see. They refused me, point blank.

We had never worn our rings, being "good boys" and not wanting to "embarrass" the family. I started wearing mine, now that he was dead; what could it matter now? But I was ordered not to wear that ring. Of course, I kept on wearing it.

I was ordered not to cry at his funeral. Of course, I behaved with all the dignity I could muster--but because it was the right thing to do, not because of them. When I couldn't help weeping, I covered my face with my hand; but not because of them.

The Sunday after he was buried, I asked the preacher at our church to let me thank the congregation from the pulpit for their kindness to me and "my wonderful Cody." The family weren't there that day, but before the day was out I got a blistering phone call, reprimanding me for making a public statement of affection like that, and ordering me never to do such a thing again in "their town." Which apparently they thought they owned.

You can see that this situation could not last. Cody had been treated the same way after his first partner died; and so have many other gay Texans. This, and much worse than this, is typical, not unusual, for Texas families--the very same ones who are so proud to be Christians and Americans, as their church signs all say.

Fortunately, it just so happened that by the time Cody died, I had somehow managed to accumulate a little money in a savings account. After the funeral, when the ugly, ugly confrontations and conversations with his family began, it didn’t take long for me to get the drift of where that situation was going. So I thought, better to make a clean break and leave before they got the sheriff to set me on the curb with only the clothes on my back.

So I packed up the truck with my clothes and computer and other necessary things, and with only our little dog for company – and technically, he was not my property, they could have taken him away from me too – we left in the middle of the night, in the freezing cold, driving miles and miles through the darkness to another town, another county. Just a few days before, I’d gone to sleep in our bed, in our home, thinking all was right with the world; suddenly, my little dog and I had no home – we belonged nowhere now. There was no one anywhere to take us in.

Before dawn broke, we holed up in a motel, nowhere to go, and I felt just like a homeless man with all his belongings balled up in cardboard boxes and garbage bags. I’ll never forget that feeling of being all alone, save my faithful little dog, without friends, without resources, without protection. Invisible in the eyes of the law, and at the mercy of an irrational, self-righteous bunch of Christianists.

Twenty-four hours later, I returned with a moving van and a crew of hired movers--thank God I had a little cash on hand--who in just four hours packed, stacked, and loaded all my possessions and got them out of town. I followed shortly with my own truck loaded again with the very last pieces of our life together. On the way out of town, I passed a church with a big sign out front: “A Christian Family Is A Treasure.” The irony was not lost on me.

Well to wrap up what is not, after all, a terribly dramatic story to anyone but me, I was lucky enough to find a nice little house to rent, with a big fenced yard for the little dog to play safely in; and within 10 days, we were settling in to a new home and a new life without Cody. It’s a shorter drive to my job from here, and it pays me well enough to live a quiet, modest life with a few bucks left over at the end of the month: so I have all I really need, and a few of life’s small luxuries too. For all that, I’m grateful.

Though it was a horrifying, deeply upsetting experience for me, fortunately, nothing truly terrible happened – except the realization that there is no American Dream for a gay couple in Texas; there is no life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, no equal justice under law if you are queer in the Lone Star State. They can’t lock us up anymore, thanks to the momentous ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, 2003; but as far as 3 out of 4 Texans are concerned (the number who voted for a state constitutional amendment banning all forms of gay unions in 2006; and actually 9 out of 10 in these rural counties), our relationships are no more important than a dog’s or a cow’s. They simply don’t exist, legally or socially. We gay people are lower, in their estimation, than blacks, Indians, or Mexicans – and that’s saying a lot. Trust me.

I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on all this since Cody died; and I am quite certain that nothing less than equal marriage will ever change this state of affairs; because people here, and anywhere else you care to mention, simply Will.Not.Respect. anything else. There is just no substitute for equal dignity and respect, and nothing less than equal marriage will bring that to pass. I remember vividly the rigidly segregated South of my childhood, the separate drinking fountains, the separate bathrooms and entrances and schools and libraries and neighborhoods, all of it. None of that would have ever changed, if the laws had not been changed first.

As it was with African-Americans, so it is with gays. Change must come; and though it may come too late to make a difference in my life, it will make a huge, huge difference in the lives of many millions of gay men and women in the generations to come. I hope I live to see the day when Texas sheds its hateful past and truly embraces the real American Dream: liberty and justice for all.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Warning labels are so gay

Queer playwright Christopher Marlowe, a contemporary of Shakespeare's, said it best four hundred years ago: "All them that love not Tobacco and Boys be fooles."

But alas, some in the Church of England are still way, way, way behind the times, and dangerously so, as the Daily Telegraph reports:

The Rev Dr Peter Mullen, who is rector of St Michael’s Cornhill and St Sepulchre without Newgate in the City, said in an internet blog that homosexuality was "clearly unnatural, a perversion and corruption of natural instincts and affections, and because it is a cause of fatal disease".

He wrote: "Let us make it obligatory for homosexuals to have their backsides tattooed with the slogan SODOMY CAN SERIOUSLY DAMAGE YOUR HEALTH and their chins with FELLATIO KILLS".

The Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, said the posting, which has since been taken down, was "highly offensive". The Rev Mullen, 66, was told on Friday that he could face disciplinary action.

Peter Tatchell of gay rights group OutRage! said he should resign.

The rector, who has written for The Daily Telegraph, insisted that he meant no harm: "I wrote some satirical things on my blog and anybody with an ounce of sense of humour or any understanding of the tradition of English satire would immediately assume that they’re light-hearted jokes."

Yeah right, you hateful old creep. Go bugger yourself, as our Brit friends would say.

Me, I'm with Marlowe all the way. Cigarettes and sodomy, amen to all that!

They Stoop to Conquer

McCain is pulling out all the stops to paint Obama as a terrorist:

Which is inciting to hatred, and maybe violence, as witness the following McCain-Palin supporters at a rally in Pennsylvania:

All these people need are white sheets or black shirts to make the picture complete:

McCain and Palin are deliberately inciting hatred; they will have a lot to answer for if anything happens to Obama.

They're pigs.

Even conservative columnist Kathleen Parker says in the Washington Post that McCain's vicious tactic has gotten totally out of hand:

The McCain campaign knows that Obama isn't a Muslim or a terrorist, but they're willing to help a certain kind of voter think he is. Just the way certain South Carolinians in 2000 were allowed to think that McCain's adopted daughter from Bangladesh was his illegitimate black child.

But words can have more serious consequences than lost votes and we've already had a glimpse of the Palin effect.

The Post's Dana Milbank reported that media representatives in Clearwater were greeted with taunts, thunder sticks and profanity. One Palin supporter shouted an epithet at an African-American soundman and said, "Sit down, boy."

McCain may want to call off his pit bull before this war escalates.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sunday Drive: The Greatest of These Is Love

Today's text is I Corinthians 13. Share with your friends and family.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Afternoon Drive: Suspicious Minds

Well, I reckon the country can breathe a little easier this weekend:

* Palin didn't make a complete fool of herself in the debate last night; well, nobody's perfect. For her family's sake, I'm glad she was able to make a respectable-enough performance. Though of course she amply showed once again that her party is unfit to govern.

* Obama's lead over McCain in all the national polls continues to grow.

* And the House passed the bailout bill by a good margin; so the next Depression hasn't started. Yet.

It's a gorgeous fall afternoon here in Texas, 75 and sunny. Guess we can all kick back now, enjoy a cold one, and rock on into the weekend with Dwight Yoakam's guitar-string-busting live rendition of "Suspicious Minds," offered here in the spirit of bipartisan unity that's been talked about so much this week.

Crank it up and have a good one, y'all.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

What's your problem, John?

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday:

Last night's bipartisan harmony capped a day of public unity. At an Obama rally in La Crosse, Wis., and a McCain event in Independence, Mo., the two candidates struck remarkably similar tones, speaking of the crisis as a time for unity and national purpose -- and a call for far more fiscal discipline in the future.

"The constant partisan rancor that stops us from solving these problems in Washington isn't a cause, it's a symptom. It's what happens when people go to Washington to work for themselves and not you," McCain said at the Truman Library. . . .

McCain even released an advertisement that decries partisanship in both parties, never mentions Obama and lifts one of his opponent's signature lines: "We're the United States of America."

"What a week," McCain says, speaking into the camera. "Democrats blamed Republicans. Republicans blamed Democrats. We're the United States of America. It shouldn't take a crisis to pull us together."

Yet later that same day, while both candidates were in the Senate during the vote on the economic rescue plan:

On the Senate floor, Obama crossed the well to the Republican side to reach his hand out to McCain and mouth, "Good to see you." McCain looked up briefly from his conversation with Sens. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) to give his rival a curt handshake.
The San Francisco Chronicle also reported on the incident:

McCain did not arrive in time for the debate and, when he entered the chamber, walked past Obama without acknowledging him. Several minutes later, Obama strode to where McCain was talking with his friend Joe Lieberman, independent-Conn., and held out his hand in greeting. McCain gave a curt, frigid shake back and instantly looked away. In the clubby world of the Senate, it was an unmistakable rebuff.
What gives with the pissy, prissy attitude, huh John? Where is that coming from? After all that fine, howdy-doody talk in front of the crowds and cameras about bipartisan harmony . . . .

Right. I get the picture.

Oh and McCain is not the only one peeing in the soup; the same WSJ article also noted:

The Republican National Committee came the closest to actually blaming Obama for the crisis, with an ad intoning: "Wall Street squanders our money, and Washington is forced to bail them out with, you guessed it, our money. Can it get any worse? Under Barack Obama's plan, the government would spend a trillion dollars more, even after the bailout."

That partisan ill will was evident in the Senate chamber. Obama entered at the tail end of a speech by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), who then left the chamber. Democratic senators filed in, to listen, then mob the candidate with handshakes, hugs and good wishes. Only one Republican, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, sat on the other side of the aisle.
Guess teh gayz are off the hook for the financial crisis after all: pretty soon the Republican choir will be singing a full-throated SATB chorus of It's all Obama's fault!

Just wait and see, kids. And don't believe all the happy talk you hear about bipartisan unity: just BS for the masses. The Republicans know their party is about to lose big time at the polls, and they are going to be very, very sore losers, you betcha.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Hero of Freedom: Frank Kameny

As we look forward to the equal protection of the laws for all queer Americans, gaining ground in state after state, it's important to stop and remember how far we have come in the space of one lifetime. And work and vote to ensure that we keep progressing forward, not backward, as a nation.

Gays under 40 have no collective memory of how utterly terrifying it was in the days before Stonewall--and for a long time thereafter--to let other people even think you might be queer. You would quickly be shunned, fired from your job, maybe sent off to a mental hospital or even prison, and all sorts of other very nasty things; and there was absolutely no recourse at law, no defense, no protection whatsoever.

Your day-to-day survival depended on presenting an absolutely straight face to the world, to all but your gay friends. If you had any.

Yeah, in a very few places like NY and SF, you could be around other queers . . . but out here in redstateland, millions of us baby boomers were well into our 20's or 30's before we ever met an openly gay man. We had to hide our sexuality from everyone, from our classmates, teachers, employers, from our closest friends and family, from sisters and brothers, from Mom and Dad -even from our own selves sometimes.

No one had ever heard that "gay is good"; all we ever heard was the exact opposite: sick, sinful, crazy, criminal. Homo, faggot, fairy, pansy, sissy, pervert. Queer.

Gays were never talked about in movies, TV shows, or newspapers when I was growing up. There was no gay pride; no gay rights; the word gay as we mean it now did not exist in our vocabularies; the only words we had to describe ourselves were the cruel, cutting ones. Think about that, and the effect on a young man's spirit when he first realizes what he is: not a person but a thing - a despised, dreaded, hateful thing.

There were no gays in Mayberry. It simply wasn't allowed.

So it's important to remember and honor the great courage of people like Frank Kameny, speaking here in a short clip from the Human Rights Campaign, who in a time of enormous social repression had the guts to take a stand in public for freedom and civil rights.

Kameny took his case all the way to the Supreme Court in 1961; the court ruled against him, but it's fair to say Kameny is the Rosa Parks of the gay rights movement. He and others who came before us made possible the relative freedom we have today just to be ourselves.

It's a big change. Be glad, be very glad.

LGBT Alaskans on Sarah Palin

A video just released by the Human Rights Campaign, interviews with people who know Palin back home in the 49th:

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