Sovereignty of the people

Posted in Canadian life, Gay rights, Politics at 9:40 am by ducky

Recently, the California Supreme Court heard arguments in a case designed to overturn California’s Proposition 8, which overturned the judicial decision that gay and lesbian people had the right to marry.  While I didn’t watch the hearings myself, I understand that Ken Starr (the defending attorney) basically put forth the belief that a majority vote could strip rights of  minority.

People who are better than I at guessing what the outcome will be by examining the questions, tone, and body language of the justices think that they will rule against overturning Proposition 8, in part because they think that the California Domestic Partnership gives all of the same rights as marriage.  Essentially, they are fighting over a word, with Starr’s side saying that a bare majority of the citizens can take away gay and lesbian people’s right to use the word “marriage”.

There was a Canadian political figure, Stockwell Day, who seemed to have similar beliefs in the rights of the majority over the rights of a minority.  He pushed for a law that would have required a referendum on any proposal supported by a petition signed by 3% of Canadian voters.  He stopped talking about this when Rick Mercer (sort of Canada’s Jon Stewart) called for a national petition forcing Stockwell Day to change his first name to “Doris”.

Perhaps the correct response to Proposition 8 is to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot requiring Ken Starr to change his first name to “Brenda”.


Two miles of cheers

Posted in Gay rights, Politics at 4:56 pm by ducky

Watching the inauguration today, I couldn’t help but be reminded of gay pride parades.

There are very few mass events where everybody is really happy.  Most large gatherings are sporting events, and there is almost always an undercurrent of hostility somewhere.  If nothing else, the losing team’s fans are unhappy — usually.  (I went to the 1994 Men’s World Cup match between the US and Brazil.  Everybody knew that the Brazilians were way better than the USA, so in this case, the losers didn’t care that they were losing.  Furthermore, it was the Brazilians!  Their spirit of joy and fun was infectious.)

Maybe rock concerts are also places of fun sometimes, but I never had much fun at rock concerts.   The band was always too far away to see and yet too loud.

The C-SPAN feed of the inauguration didn’t have any commentary, but instead just broadcast the ambient noise of the crowd.  For two miles, almost all you could hear was people screaming their heads off as the motorcade (and microphone) moved down the route.

Ten years ago, when I marched in the SF Pride Parade with PFLAG, I experienced two miles of people cheering their hearts out.  The straight public was not as accepting of gay and lesbian people back then, and thus (I guess) it meant a lot to see straight people standing up for gay rights.  So they cheered.

In recent years, the cheers for PFLAG have been polite, but not overwhelming like before.  That’s a good thing — that means that public acceptance is greater, so PFLAG isn’t as needed.  The cheers for PFLAG were a reflection of how bad things were elsewhere, and how PFLAG represented a beacon of hope.  It is a very good sign that the cheers for PFLAG are tamer now.

Similarly, the cheers for Obama reflected how bad things were.  It would not have been so moving for African-Americans if African-Americans had not faced such brutal ill-treatment in the US.  It would not have been so moving for me, a white person, if I had thought that G. W. Bush had done a competent job.

I hope that at the inauguration of the next non-white president, the crowds are much smaller and tamer.

Postscript: Apparently there were exactly zero arrests at the inauguration.  I once asked a cop at the SF Pride Parade what it was like to work the parade.  His answer: “Four hundred thousand people, no arrests, no injuries, what’s not to like?”  (I had just gotten off of my shift as a Safety Monitor, and had first-hand knowledge that “no injuries” was a sligh exaggeration, but the injuries were all very mild — e.g. people skinning their knees, not e.g. getting beaten, hit by cars, falling 30 feet, etc.)


Marriage equality a threat to men's self-image?

Posted in Gay rights, Politics at 1:08 pm by ducky

Salon has an interesting interview with Richard Rodriguez, who says — as I do — that the fight over “protecting traditional marriage” is really about protecting traditional gender roles.  However, he spotted something that I missed: the role of male insecurity.

And the majority of American women are now living alone. We are raising children in America without fathers. I think of Michael Phelps at the Olympics with his mother in the stands. His father was completely absent. He was negligible; no one refers to him, no one noticed his absence.

The possibility that a whole new generation of American males is being raised by women without men is very challenging for the churches. I think they want to reassert some sort of male authority over the order of things. I think the pro-Proposition 8 movement was really galvanized by an insecurity that churches are feeling now with the rise of women.

I have been struck in the past at how when The Loyal Opposition talks about gay and lesbian people adopting, they usually emphasize, “a child needs a mother and a father”.  It’s usually men I see saying this; Rodriguez’ interview makes me think that what they are really saying is, “Men are important!  We are!  We are!  We are!”, trying to convince both us and themselves that it is true.

(By the way, children do just fine with same-gender parents.)

The myth of mixed-gender parent superiority

Posted in Gay rights, Politics at 12:56 pm by ducky

Our Loyal Opposition in the marriage equality fight likes to yammer about how research shows that children do better when they are raised by both of their biological parents.  This is utter hogwash.

The Loyal Opposition uses studies that show that children raised by both of their biological parents do better than those raised by a single parent.  Studies comparing kids raised by a mixed-gender couple compared to those raised by a same-gender couple shows absolutely no difference on many many measures of success and well-being — delinquency, dropout rate, alcoholism, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, etc.  By contrast, the difference between kids of two-parent families was absolutely huge compared to kids from single-parent families on all of the measures of success and well-being.

My source for the research on family structure effect on children’s well-being is an extensive longitudinal literature review that the Santa Clara County Social Services Agency did in 1996, a time when you would think society just might have made life even more difficult for gay and lesbian parents.

The only measure where there was any difference was a very very slight (but statistically significant) difference in sexual experimentation: children of gay/lesbian parents were no more likely to be gay/lesbian themselves, but they were very slightly more likely to experiment with homosexuality a few times.

While I am not familiar with any research on biological vs. non-biological two-parent families, it isn’t relevant.  If there is a kid who needs adoption, their adoptive family won’t be their biological family, regardless of whether they get placed with a straight or homosexual couple.

I don’t know of any research that suggests that children of parents who used donated eggs or sperm are less happy than biological children.  I suppose it could be true, but if it is, The Loyal Opposition should oppose infertility treatments of all kinds.  Somehow I expect they wouldn’t take on that fight.

I know some people who think that gay and lesbian couples shouldn’t adopt because their children would face discrimination.  By that logic, we shouldn’t allow black people to have children in the US; we shouldn’t allow Christians to have children in China.

Even if there were some difference between parenting by gay and lesbian couples and straight couples, that still isn’t an adequate reason to try and block their child-rearing.  That’s a false comparison.  The real comparison that you need to make is between children in foster care and those that get adopted.  I suspect that adopted kids do far better than those that remain in foster care, and there is a surplus of kids to adopt.

While it is true that it is difficult to find healthy white babies to adopt, sadly, there are lots of non-white, non-healthy babies available.  When my husband and I were going through foster parent training, Santa Clara County had seven times as many foster children as they had foster homes.  SEVEN TIMES.  (And you can be sure not every foster home took seven children!)

We should celebrate and encourage gay and lesbian adoption, not hinder it!


Anti-marriage-equality piece reflects values

Posted in Gay rights, Married life, Politics at 11:26 am by ducky

I found an anti-marriage-equality piece (via Andrew Sullivan) that was very interesting to me because of how it reflected its values.

I saw a striking example of what Jonathan Haight has found about differences in morality between liberals and conservatives. Haight found that conservatives are more likely to value “moral purity”, which basically says “if it feels icky to me, then it must be morally wrong”.

In his essay, Rod Dreher quotes University of Virginia sociologist James Davison Hunter:

“The momentum is toward experience and emotions and feelings. People are saying, ‘I feel, therefore I am.’ This is how more and more people are deciding what is real and right and true.”

Dreher complains that liberals don’t value that:

You can see this in the remarkable unwillingness of many gay-marriage defenders to grant their opponents any moral standing. To disagree with them is to reveal yourself to be a “bigot” (I heard a married, straight young Republican in Texas use that word to describe those who voted for Prop 8; he was far from the only one). Bigots are by definition people whose prejudices are irrational. Bigots are moral cretins who can’t be talked to, only coerced. One is under no obligation to compromise with a bigot, only to smash him.

I think he’s absolutely right.  Liberals cannot understand the value that “if it feels icky, it must be wrong” (especially if “it” doesn’t feel icky to the liberals).  Furthermore, there is no arguing with such a “moral purity” value.  Joe Liberal cannot reason their way to making Joe Conservative feel less icky; Joe Liberal sees it as non-rational irrational because it is not rational by definition.  It is emotional.

Dreher also laments the loss of the “meaning of marriage”:

Though no consensus on gay marriage now exists, the trend lines are not in traditionalists’ favor, in large part because our culture has lost its understanding of what marriage is for. That is, marriage no longer has a settled meaning beyond a nominalist one: it is a contract formalizing the positive emotions two people (for now) have for one another, and binding them in a legal and social framework.

I, a liberal, read that, and go, “yes, that is exactly what civil marriage is”.  (I even have an old blog posting titled “Civil marriage is a contract“!)

Dreher doesn’t explain what the “meaning of marraige” is, but Andrew Sullivan (who perhaps is more familiar with Dreher’s corpus) says:

Rod longs, as many do, for a return to the days when civil marriage brought with it a whole bundle of collectively-shared, unchallenged, teleological, and largely Judeo-Christian, attributes. Civil marriage once reflected a great deal of cultural and religious assumptions: that women’s role was in the household, deferring to men; that marriage was about procreation, which could not be contracepted; that marriage was always and everywhere for life; that marriage was a central way of celebrating the primacy of male heterosexuality, in which women were deferent, non-heterosexuals rendered invisible and unmentionable, and thus the vexing questions of sexual identity and orientation banished to the catch-all category of sin and otherness, rather than universal human nature.

This is exactly what I was getting at in this post and in the first paragraph of this post.  Marriage equality is not a threat to traditional marriage.  It is a threat to traditional gender roles.


Move to Canada?

Posted in Canadian life, Gay rights, Politics at 11:39 am by ducky

To all my GLBT friends in California who want to live somewhere that respects them, there’s always Canada.

Canada wants immigrants.  Here’s the funny version; here’s the serious version.

Do think carefully, however.  Canada is not the US.  There are some
subtle but important differences in the culture, outlook, and
priorities.   They are not better or worse in one country or the other,
they are different.  Exceptions: it is easier to shop in the US and the
Canadian governments have better customer service.

If you are thinking about emigrating to British Columbia, I’d be happy to talk to you about it.

Update: Here’s a blog post by an American lesbian talking about what it’s like to live in a country where she and her partner are fully completely legally married.

Prop 8 looks like it will pass

Posted in Gay rights, Politics at 11:20 am by ducky

It’s looking like California’s Prop 8 is going to pass, and that’s a very sad thing.

However, I think it was far, FAR more important that Obama get elected than that Prop 8 fail.  If McCain/Palin had won, we would have seen a significant shift in the Supreme Court to the right. We could have kissed goodbye to any hopes of getting marriage equality through the Supreme Court for twenty-five or thirty years.

With Obama in office, it will probably stay roughly the same in liberal/conservative makeup, but get younger.  I expect that we will now see a federal Supreme Court case in five to ten years about marriage equality.  And we will win that one — not just for California, but for everybody.

There is no good legal argument against marriage equality.  Let me repeat that: there is no good legal argument against marriage equality.  The arguments are emotional or religious, not rational.  The rational arguments — the one on which our legal system is founded — say that citizens get equal protection under the law.  It’s in the Constitution.  It’s fundamental to the constitution.  So unless the SCOTUS has people whose judgement is influenced by religion or emotion, we will win that fight.  (This will be especially true after five or ten more years of seeing same-sex marriages function in Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut, Canada, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Israel, and South Africa without destroying the fabric of society.)

So yes, it is disappointing.  It would have been nice to put this issue to rest in California forever.  However, it is not dead.  We will overcome.

(Update:  Andrew Sullivan has a similar post, written with eloquence.)


Californians: please vote NO on Prop 8

Posted in Gay rights, Married life, Politics at 9:37 am by ducky


Please vote NO on Proposition 8 on Tuesday.  It is a bad law that would hurt people.  People I care about.

The backers of Prop 8 like to say that they are trying to “protect traditional marriage”.  That’s a dogwhistle.  What the Prop 8 supporters are really saying is that marriage equality is a threat to traditional gender roles, as I discussed before.

My heterosexual marriage is stronger because of exposure to a particular loving, committed gay couple, Rich and Chris.  They were my housemates and landlords for four years total.  I first lived with them  immediately after they bought their house together — which for gay couples at the time was the event that was about as close to marriage as you could get.  They had some rocky spots, would have arguments and stomp around the house mad for a few days, but they would work through it.  They would negotiate in good faith and strive for win-win resolutions.  They grew to understandings, made adjustments, and released preconceived notions. This was not always smooth, especially in the first year, but they ended up with a truly harmonious relationship, in a house full of laughter and love.

Their good example not only gave me courage to get married, it showed me how to get through my own transition.  When my husband and I fought, I remembered both their example of “fighting fair” and that there was a huge eventual reward for working through the arguments.

It was grossly unfair that this couple, my role models, were unable to get married when we did, despite being together for 11 years already.  It was a wondrous thing when they finally were able to get married this summer.  It would be a grotesque miscarriage of justice if their marriage were rent asunder by Proposition 8.

If you can, please give money to the campaign — NOW.  Our opponents have raised a huge amount of money, it’s been a scramble to try to match them, and the last possible media buy is happening tomorrow (31 October 2008) at noon.

And please please please remember to go to the polls and remember to vote NO.  Leave the law the way it is, leave equality in place, leave Rich and Chris’ marriage intact.


Marriage equality: is the opposition stupid?

Posted in Gay rights at 11:26 am by ducky

The people opposing marriage equality have asked the courts to delay allowing same-sex marriages, on the grounds that there will be a proposition on the ballot in November to write marriage discrimination into the state constitution.

Um, is our loyal opposition stupid?

If there is no delay, then yes, thousands of same-sex couples will get married between June 16 and Nov 4. I can see how my loyal opposition might not like that. It is my interpretation that even if the amendment passes, they will still be married — that the amendment doesn’t have the right magic wording to retroactively dissolve the marriages.

But if marriages are suspended, my loyal opposition will anger off thousands of same-sex couples who were planning on getting married. Their only shot at getting married, then, would be to make sure that the amendment goes down to a screaming defeat. They would donate money and time and talk to all their friends.

You, dear reader, might reflect on Proposition 22, and how it (with very similar language to the proposed amendment) passed with 61% of the vote. However, I will tell you, dear reader, that I worked on the fight against Proposition 22, and the support from the gay and lesbian community was tepid at best. They didn’t see why they should donate money to a lost cause where the worst that would happen is that they would lose the possibility of getting a right that they don’t currently have. There was also a significant undercurrent of sour grapes: “we don’t want your heterosexist institutions anyway!”

The sentiment in the gay and lesbian community is completely different now. They totally understand the importance of civil marriage now. And, if the delay comes through, they will be upset. REALLY upset. They will fight the amendment tooth and nail. If there is no delay, they might get somewhat complacent: “well, too bad for everyone else if the amendment passes, but we managed to get married on 17 June, so we are okay.”

So while a delay would be a short-term defeat for my side, I think it would lead to a huge, enormous victory long-term.


Advice for same-sex couples getting married in California

Posted in Gay rights, Married life at 3:35 pm by ducky

To my gay and lesbian friends, I am absolutely thrilled that you are going to be able to get married starting on June 16th!

I wrote some wedding advice for (straight) couples a few years back, and I’d like to give some specific advice to gay and lesbian couples who want to get married in the next few months.

  • Read Lorem Ipsum and/or the EQCA FAQ about the topic. Those are good, but there are a few things they leave out and a few points that I think are incorrect.
  • Consider carefully if you want to get married. I’m a big fan of marriage, but you need to be sure it is right for you. In addition to getting to throw a big party, you become (among other things) responsible for your spouse’s maintenance and their debts.
  • Get married between June 16 and November 4, 2008. There is going to be an initiative in November that will shut down same-sex marriages if it passes, but I hear from reputable sources that even if it passes, your June 16-November 4 marriage will be valid. I am not a lawyer, but I believe it is hard to pass retroactive laws, and the way that the amendment is worded doesn’t do the right magic to make it retroactive. Of course, Our Opposition could always file suit saying that it was retroactive, and they would lose, but that would be a big pain so let’s just defeat the amendment, okay?
  • Ask your wedding guests to give money to the anti-amendment campaign in lieu of gifts. (Or to NCLR, or to Lambda, or to the ACLU.) Remind people that there is a real risk that the next generation won’t be able to celebrate their love and comittment in the same way if the amendment passes.
  • Give money yourself to the campaign, NCLR, Lambda, or the ACLU.
  • Book your venue early. I expect that there will be an enormous demand for venues from June 16-Nov 4! (If you are straight, consider waiting until November 8 to avoid the crowds!)
  • Make plans for your officiant early. Clergy and Commissioners of Marriage might be heavily booked.
    • You can have a friend officiate via the Deputy-Commissioner-of-Marriage-for-a-Day program. Different counties have different rules, fees, and lead times for that program. (Some counties do not participate.) The EQCA FAQ says that there is a 60 day lead time, but I question whether that is true for all counties (or even for San Francisco — the San Francisco site says “You should come no sooner than 60 days from the date of the ceremony” which I interpret to mean as “Your deputization is only valid for sixty days”). When my uncle-in-law got deputized by the County of Santa Clara, he didn’t have to appear in person, he didn’t have to do a training class, but he did have to swear to uphold the U.S. Constitution. Check with the county that will issue the deputization. NOTE: it is not clear if yYou can get your marriage license in one county and the deputization in another. The wedding does not have to be in the same county that issued the Deputization or marriage license.
    • Note that you do not have to be married or straight to become a Deputy Commissioner of Marriage, so you can officiate at your friends’ weddings. Bonus!
    • You and your friends can get ordinated as clergy very quickly over the Internet. It took me less than fifteen minutes through the Universal Life Church. I am not a lawyer, but it sure looked rock-solid legal to me. However, weddings also are about social validation, and using quickie-clergy does sound kind of shady to some people. (Note: I didn’t feel so bad once I looked at what roles were traditionally allowed to officiate, and figuring out what they all had in common. I decided that the common feature was that they had proved that they were able to fill in paperwork correctly, and responsible enough to mail it in.) I would thus encourage you to do Deputy-for-a-Day instead of Internet ordination.
  • You might consider getting married at a County Building and/or doing a joint wedding with some good friends who also will (finally) be getting married. While you are free to do that, as a married person, I would recommend against that unless you’ve already done the big ceremony and party thing. There are (at least) two important functions of weddings above and beyond informing the state that they now have to recognize your relationship:
    • You make it clear to the people who are important to you that this person is special and that they have to treat your spouse as special.
    • The families and friends get to meet each other. While that might not be so important if you’ve been together for a zillion years already, it might be. I was really surprised at how much getting married connected our two families together. (Bad news: you now have to go visit your in-laws at Christmas. You can’t just send your spouse any more.)
  • If you get married at a county building (e.g. with one of their marriage commissioners), then (I think) you can get a marriage certificate right away. Otherwise, you have to ask for it. While my husband and I didn’t get asked for one until we moved to Canada (with different last names), it might be more important for you than for a straight couple.
  • There are lots of traditions associated with weddings. Some don’t really make sense in a same-sex wedding; some don’t even make sense in today’s hetero weddings. Remember, however, that it’s those strange traditions that make no logical sense that bind you most to your community. Why do you do X at a Foo wedding? Because you are Fooian. Doing X tells your guests (and your spouse) that you value being (or being married to) a Fooian, and that you honour the Fooian traditions.
  • There is a huge enormous wedding industry that is designed to extract dollars from your wallets. Remember that it is your wedding and you don’t “have” to do anything. If you don’t want flowers, party favors for the guests, a videographer, or a professional photographer, you don’t have to.
    • Everybody has a camera nowadays, and the cameras take good pictures. We asked our guests to take pictures and send them to us, and it worked extraordinarily well. Hubby and I also sat for a professional photographer in our wedding clothes the day before, and we were really happy with that as well.
    • We didn’t have a gorgeous six-tier wedding cake, and you know what? We were still married at the end of the day. Also, the (flat) carrot cake and the cupcakes tasted wonderful.
    • Unsolicited recommendation: at our wedding ten years ago, Continental Catering in Menlo Park did a fantastic job. A bit on the spendy side, but well worth it. (It was so good that most people didn’t notice that it was all vegetarian.) That was ten years ago, but hopefully their quality would still be good.

Note that there are lots of references to county buildings, county this, county that, but you remember people getting married at San Francisco City Hall. Marriage stuff is administered through counties in California. San Francisco is the only jurisdiction that is both a city and a county. (I think that means it is the only jurisdiction where a mayor could have decided to issue marriage licenses. Thank you, Gavin Newsom!)

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