Return to Writing

I have not been writing because I would be inclined to write about the vile I read about in the world (thanks to the deluge of news to which we are all subject) and ask, what is the point of giving this misery any more airtime. For, example, last week a young man in Georgia came out to his family and was promptly vilified, physically assaulted and thrown out of his home of 19 years by his Catholic parents and grandmother.[i] Last week a mega-church Baptist preacher in Tennessee quoted the bible to advocate and justify putting all gay people to death.[ii] Where is the part in all of this reporting that would not drag down the vast majority of us. And if it would not and does not drag down the vast majority of us, I fear for the minority of us who are left to fend for ourselves against this mean-spiritedness and hatred.

Okay, in all fairness, when news of the young man did go viral, benevolent individuals did start to send him money to help him out. Unsolicited, he received over $95,000, and what’s more, this young man donated the vast majority of this money to a shelter for homeless LGBT youth in Atlanta, to help out kids in the same situation as himself.[iii] As it turns out, and as reported in the most recent edition of Rolling Stone,[iv] of the LGBT kids living on the streets, 40% are homeless because they were disowned by religious families once their families learned they were gay. Just think about it, close to half of all LGBT youth who are homeless find themselves on the streets because they have been thrown out like trash. And by people who claim to be following the example of Christ. Where is the abomination in this story!

Why is it not a hate crime for the Baptist preacher to be advocating mass murder against American citizens? Must local and federal law enforcement officials wait until lynchings are carried out before they take any measures? Would they wait to take action if he were egging on his congregation to execute Jews. Why is this call for a jihad against the LGBT community not treated as a threat of domestic terrorism!

So, I have not been writing because I am sickened by the topics that capture my attention, and want to get as far away from their reality as I can. But then again, perhaps if I don’t shy away or hide but instead do express my own thoughts, more other people of good conscience will become aware of these injustices and threats, and perhaps more of us will be better incented to act and shape a world where these stories won’t repeat themselves.

 

[i] http://www.queerty.com/watch-two-god-fearing-parents-assault-and-kick-their-disgraceful-gay-son-to-the-curb-20140828

[ii] http://www.towleroad.com/2014/09/southern-baptist-pastor-gays-should-be-put-to-death-god-can-cure-homosexuality-video.html

[iii] http://www.queerty.com/georgia-teen-assaulted-by-parents-raises-over-90000-in-three-days-20140830

[iv] http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/the-forsaken-a-rising-number-of-homeless-gay-teens-are-being-cast-out-by-religious-families-20140903#ixzz3ClIcLHSZ

The Boy Scouts of America Fail

One week ago today, the Senate confirmed Eric Fanning as Undersecretary of the Air Force — the second-highest civilian position in that branch of the United States Armed Services. On that same day last week, the executive committee of the Boy Scouts of America announced that it would propose changing its position on whether gay boys and men would be welcomed to participate as scouts and troop leaders. Under the proposed changes, Undersecretary Fanning would be unfit and unwelcomed to step into the role of a Boy Scout troop leader. Why? Because he is a gay man.

Fanning has been deputy undersecretary and deputy chief management officer for the Department of the Navy since July 2009. When Bill Clinton was president, Fanning was a research assistant with the House Armed Services Committee, a special assistant in the Immediate Office of the Secretary of Defense, and an associate director of political affairs at the White House. But because he is gay, the Boy Scouts of America consider him to be unfit as an adult leader for its young members.

Under the new guidelines being proposed by the executive committee, the Boy Scouts will no longer ban or discriminate against gay boys who have the courage to come out to their peers and their troop leaders. That is, until they reach the age of 18. The day they turn 18 years old, according to the new guidelines, these young men become unfit and unwelcomed to participate in Scouting in any capacity. Why, because at 18, they are gay men — no longer gay boys, but gay men. And that, according to the thinking behind the new guidelines, changes everything and renders these former scouts a danger, a menace, a threat to the teenagers who were their peers the day before. And it renders them unfit for the rest of their lives.

What idiocy is this?

It is the kind of idiocy that continues to allow employers in 29 states to fire an employee simply because he or she is gay.

It is the kind of idiocy that is rearing its ugly head in legislative efforts designed to permit anyone to refuse to extend any and all services to gay men and women simply by invoking a First Amendment right to freedom of religious expression.

It is the kind of idiocy that carries with it the moniker homophobia.

And the new guidelines proposed by the Boy Scouts of America, camouflaged as progressive policy, do little more than reinforce their entrenched homophobia. For all intents and purposes, the executive committee is just passing the buck to the next generation of Boy Scouts of America leaders.

For my part, I have every confidence that the next generation of leaders will have more courage than the current timid group to stand up, to speak up and to act to assure the equal treatment and the equal respect of all American citizens — our Undersecretary of the Air Force included.

Related Reading:

Eagle Scout Zach Wahls Speaks Out Against Boy Scout Gay Ban: VIDEO

Boy Scouts of America Proposes Dropping Ban on Gay Members

Gay Man Confirmed as Air Force Undersecretary

Boy Scouts of America Proposes Dropping Ban on Gay Members

Boy Scouts propose allowing gay scouts but banning gay leaders

Mormon church endorses Scout plan: let gay boys join, keep out gay leaders

On Terror, Tyranny and Cowardice

On Monday in Boston, we were assaulted by two bombings carried out by unknown assailants for unknown reasons. This stealth act of terrorism, perpetrated on unsuspecting, peaceful and innocent civilians needs to be called out for what it is: cowardice.

On Wednesday in the United States Senate, we were assaulted by the tyranny of the National Rifle Association when forty-five sycophant Senators voted against background checks for gun purchases and transfers for reasons that they can neither articulate nor defend without deceit or deflection.

Today, Thursday April 18, 2013, is the anniversary of the day when two hundred and thirty-eight years ago men of courage stood up against tyranny at the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Two hundred and thirty-eight years ago today, a handful of determined farmers standing in for hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens fought against a tyrant who neither represented nor honored the interests of the people.

Yesterday, forty-five senators grossly dishonored the spirit of that first Patriot’s Day. Yesterday, forty-five senators buckled to the tyranny of the National Rifle Association, and refused to fight for the interests of the 90% of the American people who support background checks as a measure to guard against guns falling into the hands of criminals and terrorists. Yesterday, forty-five senators betrayed their duty to represent their constituents and chose instead to succumb to the tyranny of the NRA representing not the American people but gun manufacturers and arms dealers.

The “no” vote by these forty-five senators needs to be called out for what it is: cowardice.

As yet, we have no names or motive to attach to the cowards responsible for the carnage in Boston. But we do have the names of each and every one of the senators whose shameful votes yesterday will contribute to the continued carnage made possible by the unfettered sale and distribution of guns and assault weapons to individuals with no precautions legislated for background checks.

Should you chose to voice your outrage at their betrayal of the values of representative government for which American patriots have fought and sacrificed for two hundred and thirty-eight years, here are the twitter handles of those cowardly senators:

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) — @SenAlexander

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) — @KellyAyotte

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) — @SenJohnBarrasso

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) — @MaxBaucus

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) — @SenatorBegich

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) — @RoyBlunt

Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) — @JohnBoozeman

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) — @SenatorBurr

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) — @SaxbyChambliss

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) — @SenDanCoats

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) — @TomCoburn

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) — @SenThadCochran

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) — @SenBobCorker

Sen. Jon Cornyn (R-Texas) — @JohnCornyn

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) — @MikeCrapo

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) — @SenTedCruz

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) — @SenatorEnzi

Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) — @SenatorFischer

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) — @JeffFlake

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) — @GrahamBlog

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) — @ChuckGrassley

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) — @SenOrrinHatch

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) — @SenatorHeitkamp

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) — @SenDeanHeller

Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) — @SenJohnHoeven

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) — @jiminhofe

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) — @SenatorIsakson

Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) — @Mike_Johanns

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) — @SenRonJohnson

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) — @SenMikeLee

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — @McConnellPress

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) — @JerryMoran

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) — @lisamurkowski

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — @SenRandPaul

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) — @robportman

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) — @SenMarkPryor

Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) — @SenatorRisch

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) — @SenPatRoberts

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — @marcorubio

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) — @SenatorTimScott

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) — @SenatorSessions

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) — @SenShelbyPress

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) — @SenJohnThune

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) — @DavidVitter

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) — @SenatorWicker

Related Readings:

“Shame On You!”: Senate Rejects Gun Background Check Compromise

WATCH: Obama Slams ‘Shameful Day For Washington’ After Senate Kills Gun Bill

Catholic bishops: Background check vote shows a ‘failure in moral leadership’

How the NRA Impeded the Boston Bomber Investigation

No More: A Letter to Chief Justice John Roberts

Chief Justice John Roberts

Supreme Court of the United States

Dear Mr. Chief Justice:

How much more violation must gay men and women suffer before you decide No More?

This past week, Roger Gorley was beaten by police while being forced to leave the bedside of his domestic partner at the Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri, despite a standing Presidential directive granting full visitation rights to gay and lesbian partners, despite having the necessary medical power of attorney, and despite the insistence of his partner, “I want him here.” None of this was to any avail. The hospital deferred instead to an estranged brother and sister of the patient because they claimed they were next of kin.

What will it take for you to rule that same-gender partners are next of kin. How much data — how much more human suffering — will it take to satisfy you that same-gender couples deserve the full privileges and equal protections of the law that you enjoy with your spouse, and that you would want your kids and their spouses to enjoy, whomever they marry.

This past week, New Mexico’s Governor Susana Martinez chose to veto legislation that would have helped same-gender spouses and domestic partners of gay military personnel obtain professional work licenses in New Mexico, while moments later she signed an identical bill that made the same help available to spouses in heterosexual military couples.

Your Honor, in your comments from the bench two weeks ago during the Court’s oral arguments on California’s Prop 8, you wondered out loud whether at the heart of the move for marriage equality, the real issue was just one of a “label” – whether the real issue was just one of wanting to use marriage to qualify the relationship between two men or two women, where civil union already carried the same legal weight (at least in California).

No Your Honor, we can use all that other language until we are blue in the face — civil union, domestic partner, even husband, wife and spouse if we come from a state that has legalized same-gender marriage — but there are 29 states where none of that carries any recognition much less any force of law.  There are 29 states that, either by statute or by constitutional amendment, ban any legal recognition of same-gender relationships and bar any familial rights to partners of a same-gender couple. Missouri is one of those states. As a result, we witness the self-righteous actions of the Kansas City medical center staff and the police. But, New Mexico is not one of those states. In fact in New Mexico, neither the constitution nor the marriage statute explicitly forbid same-gender marriage and neither explicitly define marriage as between a man and a woman. But the Governor, when given the choice, decided that same-gender military spouses should not enjoy the same legal benefits as do their heterosexual armed forces’ neighbors.

No Your Honor, the movement for marriage equality is not labor for a label. The movement for marriage equality is a struggle to be treated with equanimity. Same-gender couples are grossly discriminated against throughout the United States because states laws allow for it. The dignity of same-gender couples is violated every day by politicians and citizens alike living in 29 states because they can. And they do. And it is legal.

And it is unseemly.

Your Honor, I suspect that not often does a case appear before the Supreme Court that carries with it the capacity to clarify our character as an American people — all deserving of equal dignity before the law. So, again I ask: How much more indignation must same-gender spouses and domestic partners suffer before you can bring yourself to rule No More?

Respectfully,

Peter Alduino

 

Sources:

Gay Man Separated from Husband in Hospital was Beaten and Harassed

New Details Emerge About Roger Gorley’s Arrest for Refusing to Leave Sick, Gay Partner

Updates:

Hospitalized Missouri Man’s Arrested Husband, Straight Brother Speak Out

What Ugly Looks Like

 

Earlier this week, in an ugly display of bigotry, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez vetoed legislation that would have helped same-gender spouses and domestic partners of gay military personnel obtain professional licenses in New Mexico, while moments later she signed an identical bill that made the same help available to spouses of heterosexual military couples.

The legislation expedites the licensing process for spouses of military personnel or recent veterans who relocate to New Mexico and who need to become licensed in order to work — such as teachers or counselors.  The expedited licensing process will allow them to quickly begin to work. State agencies will be required to issue a license to professionals related to military personnel “as soon as practicable,” if the applicant is already licensed in another state.

But related to military personnel does not include same-gender spouses or domestic partners in the legislation that is now law — a deliberate and exclusionary choice made by this governor. Salon reports, “red tape will still delay same-sex spouses of active duty and veteran service members looking for work in the state, creating a two-tiered system for gay and straight spouses.”

Let’s be clear. Gay service members extend themselves on behalf of the United States and the American people, including New Mexicans, every bit as much as straight members of the military. If, God forbid, they are injured or maimed, they too have to wait every minute of the over 270 days that it now takes on average to start a regular flow of benefits from the Veterans Administration. Yet Governor Martinez, given the choice, decided that she would saddle gay service members and their families with an additional burden as they struggle to provide for one another, just because she could. That is called animus — an usually prejudiced and often spiteful or malevolent ill will.

And then she had the brass to claim:

When military families and recent veterans move to New Mexico, we have to make it easier for them to support themselves and get to work. This legislation will end the burdensome process of requiring these already-licensed nurses, teachers, counselors, and other professionals to start over from the beginning when they are transferred to our state. I’m pleased that we are now removing this red tape and making it easier for our troops, veterans, and military spouses to get to work right away.

What she neglected to add was, unless you’re gay.

New Mexico’s constitution and marriage statute do not explicitly forbid same-gender marriage and do not explicitly define marriage as between a man and a woman.

Two years ago, the state’s attorney general issued an opinion that same-gender marriages performed in other states could be recognized in New Mexico, and while an opinion does not carry the force of law, there is no statute to the contrary.

Martinez’s choice to veto legislation that specifically included honorable gay members of the United States military and instead sign legislation that excludes them from the benefits enjoyed by their straight counterparts needs to be called out for what it is. It is bigotry. It is animus. It’s what ugly looks like.

Sources:

New Mexico governor vetoes bill to help families of gay soldiers (Salon)

N.M. Governor Vetoes Bill to Help Gay Military Families (Advocate)

Santa Fe Mayor Urges Allowing Same-Sex Marriage in New Mexico

NY Vets See Increase in Wait Time for Benefits

Disability-Compensation Claims for Veterans Lag as ‘VA Backlog’ Worsens

To Form a More Perfect Union

Earlier this week, in the hearing before the United Sates Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the 1996 Act of Congress that defined marriage solely as the union of a man and a woman, Associate Justice Elena Kagan read the Congressional rational for the law directly from the Report issued by the House of Representative. She stated, “What happened in 1996 is that ‘Congress decided to reflect an honor of collective moral judgment and to express moral disapproval of homosexuality.’”

The so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA) was predicated on animus – that is, on an usually prejudiced and often spiteful or malevolent ill will toward one particular group of individuals – toward homosexuals.

It was with animus in 1996 that the members of Congress wrote and overwhelmingly approved DoMA. It would be with animus now in 2013 if the Supreme Court were to allow the Federal Government to continue to treat gay men and women as less than equal citizens – as less than entitled to enjoy the same rights to marriage as every other citizen in the United States of America. I cannot fathom how any one of the Justices on the Court could or would allow such inequity to persist. We shall have to wait to read their rationales in their opinions.

But there’s more, much more.

Animus toward gays and lesbians is alive and well in marriage laws throughout the individual states of the United States, not just at the Federal level. In 41 states, gay men and women are expressly excluded from the rights to marriage. In 41 states, gay men and women are legally robbed of the right to marry the person they love – exclusively because they are gay. The laws reserve the right to marriage to straight couples only. And by-and-large, the states are perfectly within their rights to do so. The laws governing marriage have always been the prevue of the individual states…BUT then there was that one monumental exception!

In 1967, the Supreme Court stepped in to strike down the last vestige of animus towards mixed-raced couples and declared that they, like any other American citizens, had the right to marry – that regardless of the laws in 16 individual states prohibiting mixed-race marriages at the time, their right to marry was protected under the Constitution of the United States. On that day in 1967, the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to deny mixed-race couple a marriage license.

In 2013, in over three-quarters of our states, gay men and women are still denied a marriage license. They are still legally prohibited from marrying the person they love simply because they are gay. Why is it not time for the Supreme Court to step in and strike down this vestige of animus towards gay American citizens, even if it is unpalatable to the individual states?

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A National Embarrassment: Kentucky Legislature Legalizes Gay Discrimination

Yesterday, Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked the lawyer representing the opponents of same-sex marriage, “Outside of the marriage context, can you think of any other rational basis, reason, for a state using sexual orientation as a factor in denying homosexuals benefits or imposing a burden on them…denying them a job, not granting them benefits of some sort?” The lawyer responded, “Your honor, I cannot.”

Not more than four hours later, both houses of the Kentucky Legislature overwhelmingly[i] answered the question for themselves and the people of Kentucky by claiming the right of individuals and religious institutions to do just that – to deny any person benefits or access – if those individuals and institutions simply hold that they are acting in accordance with their religious beliefs. Today, faith-based discrimination is legal in Kentucky.

The target of the legislation, of course, is gay men and women.

As of today in Kentucky, no gay man or lesbian will enjoy any protections from discriminatory action if someone claims, “I don’t serve your kind based on my religious beliefs.” As of today in Kentucky, an individual’s or a religious organization’s religious beliefs will be grounds enough to refuse access to products, services, accommodations, jobs, facilities, benefits, health care, etc. Now mind you, under current Kentucky law, it is illegal to discriminate based on a person’s disability, sex, age, religion, race or national origin. But as of today, in Kentucky, it’s okay for an individual to use religion to justify discrimination.

Under Kentucky law, no one could get away with acting as if their policy were: “Wheel-chair bound people not welcome,” “Women not welcome,” “Over 55 not welcome,” “Jews and Muslims not welcome,” “Blacks and Latinos not welcome,” “Irish, Italians and Chinese not welcome.” They would have their asses hauled into court. But hey, act, post a sign or even advertise, “we don’t serve gays,” and you’ve got no problem.

It is legislation that, unfortunately, is not even one step shy of legitimizing marginalization, not even one step shy of the practice the Germans exercised on their Jewish neighbors in the 1930s. That discrimination based on someone else’s religious beliefs has morphed into Kentucky’s version of discrimination based on someone’s own religious beliefs. In both cases, good citizens were and are affronted by state sanctioned discrimination (if not demonization). And we all know where that can lead.

This Kentucky law[ii] excuses behavior that in every other circumstance (disability, sex, age, religion, race, national origin) is considered criminal. It excuses behavior that history has demonstrated to be criminal. But it’s behavior that is now legal in Kentucky.

Justice Sotomayor: “Can you think of any rational basis, reason, for a state using sexual orientation as a factor in denying homosexuals benefits or imposing a burden on them?”

“Your honor, I cannot.”


[i] The House’s 79-15 vote sent House Bill 279 to the Senate, which voted 32-6.

[ii] Government shall not burden a person’s or religious organization’s freedom of religion. The right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief may not be burdened unless the government proves by clear and convincing evidence that it has a compelling governmental interest in infringing the specific act or refusal to act and has used the least restrictive means to further that interest. A “burden” shall include indirect burdens such as withholding benefits, assessing penalties, or an exclusion from programs or access to facilities.