Equal Rights

I’m Usually Not the Marching Type, But…

Donald Trump is President of the United States today. Tomorrow I will join fellow citizens in marching on our National Mall in Washington DC. 

You may be joining me in DC. You may be rallying in a different city. You may be rooting along from your living room. OR…you may be saddened and confused that people would do something like this.women10

You could be thinking…

Get over it already! He won. Move on.

I can’t stand people who protest. You’re just lucky there are brave men and women who allow you the privilege.

We all need to come together and support the President. We are all Americans.

I respect that 63 million people voted for Donald Trump. He was certified as our next President by the electoral college. A rally will not change that.  But please don’t misunderstand what is going on. The marches are not an attack on our country; they are a validation of what makes it great.


women20(1)  The right to assemble was enshrined by the Founders–a tool for those who do not have official power. It’s a demonstration of solidarity…
We are still here and will not go away.

(2)  Exercising that right is especially critical now–at a time when a single party controls the Presidency, House of Representatives, and Senate. That same party controls 68% of state legislatures and 62% of Governor’s offices. This is the most power in the hands of a one group since the Civil War.

(3)  But there is a disconnect. Because, the current President lost the popular vote by 2.8 million votes. That is a 5x bigger defeat than when George W. Bush lost it in 2000.

(4) One side’s ability to enact dramatic alterations to society has never been higher. Yet that power is completely out of proportion to the public’s indicated desire for it.

 

The election…this year…is not normal.

I have been thrown on my heels since November 9th–growing further aghast at the conduct and temperament demonstrated by the man holding our most treasured office…

  • Defending a foreign despot over our own American intelligence officials
  • Threats to punish journalists who challenge him
  • Incoherent late night rants about TV shows and celebrities
  • Refusal to eliminate or even reveal personal business conflicts
  • Cabinet nominations that no reasonable person can claim represent the “best and brightest”

Millions disagree with me–you may be one of them. But I hope we can come together on at least one idea: We only sharpen our ideas when we are forced to defend them against those who disagree. 

Tomorrow, your Facebook feed may be filled with tired, one-liners. Please think before following along….

women14

No, if you see one picture of someone doing something stupid that does not represent everyone who is marching. Do KKK Trump supporters represent you?

No, we are not out of touch “liberal elites” from big cities. Some live in cities. Some don’t. Some are rich. Some are poor. Some aren’t even that liberal. We don’t agree on everything. But we do agree on many big things: like fairness, kindness, and competency. 

No, we are not snowflakes who need participation trophies. We’re folks who refuse to stay silent when we think we can make a difference. 

 

I am not joining this march in spite of being an American, but because I am. Democracy is not just the right to vote. It is an ongoing commitment to pay attention to your community, understand how issues align with your values, and put those values to action.

We are still here. We are paying attention. We will not go away.

The Morning After Pill

It happened. We are stunned. Little sleep. Mind wandering. Worry. Fear. Anger. Shock.

I did not know what to do this morning. Eventually I decided to write a short task list for myself. They are reminders for right now as well as the next four years. I want to share that list, in case it is helpful to anyone else…

Right Now:

  1. Take time to mourn, seethe, sigh, and worry. You don’t have to pretend not to feel those emotions. younghillaryfinal
  2. Lean on the friends and family who share in your disgust, dismay, and sadness. They will be with you no matter what the future holds.
  3. Remember that a majority of the country does not despise you or condone the awful rhetoric of the President-Elect. Hillary Clinton received more overall votes.
  4. Take a moment to honor the strength, resilience, and intelligence of Hillary Clinton. Her legacy must not be the nonsense that was spouted about her during this campaign.
  5. Remember that politics is not the purpose of your life. What you decide to do each morning to maximize your happiness is on you.
  6. Make a list of the things that make you smile. Do some of those today, tomorrow, and the day after that.
  7. Meditate on our place in the universe. We are evolved creatures on a tiny speck of dust in the middle of a galaxy of unimaginable size. How astonishing that we are even here to feel these emotions.

 

Over the Next Four Years:

  1. Detox from politics for a time, but do not retreat from public engagement. The time to stand strong for your principles is when things seem darkest. It could be our finest hour.
  2. Challenge every policy that you disagree with, and fight for what is right in the next four years. But don’t wish the new President to fail out of spite.americafinal
  3. If the new President or Congress is proposing something that you honestly agree with, voice support. We can be the example of compromise, even if others cannot.
  4. Cultivate your values in the local political system. Your life may be far more affected by the mayor, city council, and school board. You can make immediate change there.
  5. Try to find shared humanity with those who support the new President. Dogs, flowers, scary movies, baseball, grandchildren. If you want less division in the country, lead by example.
  6. Never forget: Life is not about “Winning.” It is about Thriving in your own way, and helping others do the same.

Becoming the Guy Who Yells At the Small Town Newspaper

We won’t move to our new house in Winchester for another week—but I’ve already written my first grumpy message to the editor of the local flagship newspaper. Lord help me. I read my soon-to-be-hometown paper for the first time and, lo and behold, 4 of the 5 editorial pieces are slamming gay people. Are you kidding me?  If this isn’t a fluke, I predict I’ll be the offline version of “angry article comment writing guy” in no time.  Kyle will have to hide my quill and ink lest I send old-fashioned newspaper rants every day.get-off-my-lawn

Not until opening that editorial page did I realize how insulated I have been since high school (and coming out)–living in reliable, friendly places for social liberals–Champaign, Chicago, DC, Reston.  Winchester, VA is much more like my hometown of Bradley, IL…except with a slightly more conservative bite. I’m not complaining, local politics are much more fun when there is real disagreement. I’m looking forward to it.

I only write this post for two reasons: (1) To have a place to post this, because I’m sure the newspaper won’t touch it; (2) To remind those interested that we are nearing VERY important Supreme Court arguments that will decide the gay rights issue once and for all (April 28th). Fingers crossed.

Anyway, what I sent the honorable Adrian O’Connor, editorial chief of the venerable Winchester Star:

Is Winchester welcoming of all couples? On a recent editorial page (Friday, April 3rd), four of the five pieces directly or indirectly referenced same-sex couples as bullies, fanatical activists, or downright threats to society.

angryOne piece in particular (“For all the re-definition…) sought to warn the community of looming disaster if the United State Supreme Court upholds lower court rulings that would allow my fiance and I to marry. We are a gay couple and are exciting about moving to the area after buying a home in the Winchester Historic District. The editorial noted that our marriage would not be “normal” because our “chosen sexual behavior isn’t natural.” It went on to suggest that our marriage must be stopped for the sake of the children and grandchildren of Winchester. Really? I would assume, considering that the lives of children are apparently threatened if gay couples marry, that the author would much prefer if my fiance and I did not move into the area at all.  

The editorial argues that gay couples should not be given the right to marry because “the differences in motives, purposes, and practices that define homosexual and heterosexual unions are so great that the English language screams for definitive specificity.” By writing that sentence, I can only assume that the author does not actually know any gay couples.

To allay our future neighbors’ fears, we’d like to share the “motives, purposes, and practices that define our homosexual union.” We are getting married as a lifelong commitment…

  • To Provide one another with unerring emotional support during life’s inevitable challenges.
  • To Have a constant companion to share in life’s joys and triumphs.
  • To Build and care for a home, sprucing up our small corner of the world.
  • To Act as a strong unit to give back to our community in volunteer work, tax dollars, and participation in local organizations.
  • To Protect each of us individually from financial setbacks or career challenges.
  • To Blend our collective families, providing a larger net of trusted friends and confidants.  
  • To Challenge each other to grow beyond our own interests and explore new ideas, hobbies, and adventures.
  • To Push one another to pursue our real passions, regardless of our fears or worries
  • To Provide love, support, and care for a child who needs a safe and stable home.
  • To Ensure care, aid, and support to one another as we age, become disabled, and need to adapt in the twilight of life.
  • To Be a final smiling face one as we transition from this life to whatever lies beyond.

Sexual orientation has zero bearing on the motives, purposes, and practices of two individuals spending their lives together. Allowing my fiance and I to share in the benefits and obligations of marriage will not only benefit us personally, it will also make our new Winchester community stronger.

Let’s Do This Already; I’m Getting Exhausted

 Have you seen Abraham Lincoln/Illinois Outline/Marriage Equality pictures on Facebook recently? That’s because the Illinois General Assembly holds its first “veto session” next week: Tuesday, Wednesday, & Thursday (Oct. 22-24).

That means we have yet another chance to finally allow same-sex couples to marry. You’ll likely be hearing a lot about this in the next few days. Here is a quick primer:

1) To pass in its current form, the bill needs 71 votes in the House. That is a high hurdle, because we could not even get 60 votes last May. However, the bill can be amended to change the start date (for next June) at which point it would only need 60 votes. We are VERY close to having those 60 votes.

Rep. Kate Cloonen is about to cast a vote on behalf of Kankakee County against equal rights.

Rep. Kate Cloonen is about to cast a vote on behalf of Kankakee County against equal rights.

2) A few representatives are still undecided. The single most important thing you can do right now is send a personalized email/message/call to your representative. GO HERE to send a message or LOOK AT THIS POST for contact information.

*A special note for those in Kankakee, Bradley, and Bourbonnais. Democrat Kate Cloonen met with the local equal rights organization this Wednesday at Family House Restaurant (my favorite breakfast spot on the planet, so I took this personal). At the meeting she said that she does not believe gay people in Illinois should be able to marry. Please take a moment now to kindly ask her to re-consider. Voting to keep people unequal (in the Land of Lincoln, of all places) should be embarrassing.

FB: https://www.facebook.com/staterepresentativekate.cloonen
Email: staterepcloonen79@att.net

3) If you end up in polite discussion with opponents of equality this week (I hope so), here’s a quick Argument Cheat Sheet

  • Claim A: I do not support this, because I believe it attacks religious liberty. Christians should not be sued because they do not want to participate in these ceremonies.

–Religious liberty is important. That is why the bill does not force any church to perform services against their wishes. Also, the bill makes ZERO changes to discrimination laws in the state. A completely separate law governs non-discrimination rules in Illinois. In other words, passing this bill will not in any way impact the rights or obligations of any religious person or entity.

  • Claim B: I do not support this, because I believe all children deserve a mother and a father. 

–Great. But permitting a loving couple to get married in no way impacts the parentage of children.  Please do not use children as an excuse to perpetuate inequality.

  • Claim C: I do not support this, because gay couples already have civil unions; they just care about the word marriage. 

–Actually, gay couples in Illinois who have a civil union DO NOT receive federal marriage benefits (i.e. Social Security rights, estate tax breaks, +1,000 others). That is because the federal government does not recognize civil unions, but they do recognize marriage.

I Want Grandma to Be There

Six thousand Americans will die today.  Many will be seniors who suffer a stroke, end their battle with cancer, or drift away peacefully after a long decline.  Others are younger and will go suddenly–in a car accident or after slipping on a banana peel on the top of a subway stairwell.

My Grandma getting ready to destroy a pig pinata at her 70th Birthday.

My Grandma getting ready to destroy a pig pinata at her 70th Birthday.

Life is unpredictable.  Live Each Day As If It Were Your Last is a motto drilled into us–though we do a poor job absorbing it.

I thought about that this weekend while reading the graceful tributes to Mothers & Grandmothers everywhere.  Many expressed gratitude for those still around; others lit candles while remembering those gone.

All that outpouring of love made me think–as I do often–about marriage.

With three states passing marriage equality laws in two weeks, most assume that nationwide marriage equality is “just a matter of time.”  I agree.  But time matters.

Why?

Because six thousand people die every day.  Mothers, fathers, grandmas, grandpas, wives, husbands…fiances…”partners.”

One of the most common excuses that wavering lawmakers squeak in opposition to equality is: Why are we talking about this now?  There are more important things to deal with.  We need to “create jobs;” gay marriage can wait.  There are a dozen issues that come first.

We are hearing this in Illinois right now, as certain members wiggle to convince themselves that there are logical reasons to oppose equality besides “some religious people in my district don’t like it.”  Obviously, this argument is a dodge.  Legislators always consider dozens of issues at once.

Much more importantly, however, the argument completely misses the reason why gay couples and the growing number of passionate allies are fighting for equality now: We don’t know how much time we have.

Every day people lose the chance to have their mother walk them down the aisle, be kissed on the cheek by their father, or have their grandmother sit in the front row, watch her grandchild say his vows, and consider how large her legacy has grown over the last fifty years.

In 1975, Richard Adams &  Tony Sullivan became the first gay coupe to seek a marriage license.  Richard died in December with Tony by his side after 43 years together.  They were never able to marry.

In 1975, Richard Adams & Tony Sullivan became the first gay coupe to seek a marriage license. Richard died in December with Tony by his side after 43 years together. They were never able to marry.

Shane, Tom

Shane & Tom were together for six years. They bought a house, started a business, and took care of their dog. Tom died in a freak accident two years ago. They were never able to marry.

Ed & Derence spent 40 year together.  They fought desperately to have the Prop 8 decision enforced immediately so that they could marry before Ed's Alzheimer's advanced.  Ed died last December.  They were never able to marry.

Ed & Derence spent 40 year together. They fought desperately to have the Prop 8 decision enforced immediately so that they could marry before Ed’s Alzheimer’s advanced. Ed died last December. They were never able to marry.

This Issue Is Different

Many other political issues are “more important” — Pension costs, tax rates, education reform, the healthcare system…

But make no mistake: They are different.

It wasn't about seating arrangements.

It wasn’t about seating arrangements.

We all have the same goal in mind with those issues: a better healthcare system, a better education system, more secure financial footing.  Even those who are political opposites have the same big-picture end-game–they just have vastly different ideas about how to get there.

Marriage equality is different.  The two sides do not have the same goal.  One side believes that gay couples should be treated the same as their straight counterparts.  The other side does not.

When Rosa Parks stood firm in 1955, the only issue at stake was a seat on a bus.  Seating arrangements in Montgomery were of little importance when we had communism to fight, tax rates to set, and education to fund, right?

Wrong.

The importance of political issues are dictated by the principles that underlie them.  The Civil Rights movement was important, but not because bus seating in Montgomery affected people more than avoiding nuclear holocaust with the Soviets.  Marriage equality is important, but not because allowing gay couples to marry affects more people than pension reform..or healthcare…or taxes.

This is how they made bacon "in the old days."  Hopefully we can re-create this at a family wedding soon.

This is how they made bacon “in the old days.” Hopefully we can re-create this at a family wedding soon.

In the United States, Equality is always important.  Very important.  Critical.

When citizens do not have equal protection under the law, we fix it. We don’t wait until everything else is perfect.  We don’t say that we will get to it after we pass an education bill or pension reform measure. We do it now.  Right now.  Because now is all we have for sure.

But also because everyone wants Grandma at their wedding.  Or the chance to have a wedding at all.

When I am finally able to get married…in five years…in a decade…in fifteen years…who won’t be there?  Will I even make it? I’m quite clumsy.

Nothing is more important than Now.

The vote may happen in the next week or two in Illinois. We may be only a single vote short.  Please take one moment to send a final message to your Illinois representative and remind them that delay is unacceptable.  Today is all we are guaranteed.  Equality cannot wait:  CONTACT INFORMATION HERE

History Will Remember

The Minnesota legislature is having the same debate as Illinois regarding gay marriage.  One former Republican state representative in the state gave a powerful testimony on the issue.  She was emotional while explaining how her 2002 vote against equality was something she has regretting ever since.  Take two minutes to listen (and maybe send along to your own wavering legislator in Illinois)…