July 20, 2013
June 30, 2013
Just over four decades ago, a group of courageous LGBT Americans in a bar called Stonewall decided to fight back against their oppressors. Their brave action set off a revolution that has sparked action around the world. Like the shot at hill at Lexington or Rosa Parks refusing to move, the world was changed by the Stonewall Insurrection.
Over the decades since those brave actions we have seen an AIDS epidemic that all but wiped out a generation of gay males. Countless ballot measures have been passed that systematically stripped away the rights of LGBT Americans. Religious leaders attempted to establish a system of Apartheid in American for LGBT citizens. Hideous hate crimes that was most dramatically symbolized by the death of Matthew Shepard on a fence in Wyoming. Our LGBT youth are killing themselves in record numbers out of hopelessness and bullying.
The times were often dark, deadly and devastating..
Despite these awful times, there emerged a community of courage, dignity and one that was determined to be free. Never once in those decades did this group of noble LGBT Americans falter in their battle for freedom. Even in the mist of the death and devastation of AIDS, those on the verge of dying still came to the marches and were arrested in their last days.
Generations to come will tell this story of a heroic movement, at times on their last legs, emerging triumphant with their soul and spirit free of hate and filled with love.
Who would have thought, even five years ago, that the movement for full equality for LGBT Americans would have moved so fast? None of us could have imaged a week like this past one with the Supreme Court of the United States issuing two rulings moving us dramatically forward to eventual victory. None of us could have imagine the overwhelming support that appeared in the media and from millions of straight allies. None of us could have imagined the state of California moving within days to married its LGBT citizens.
The speed and depth of the change this week has been breath-taking!
Much still remains to be one.
The Court did not give us nationwide marriage. ENDA has not been passed and people are still being fired from their jobs for their sexual orientation. Even in New York State, they failed to pass protections for our Transgender brothers and sisters. The situation in places like Africa and Russia is becoming deadly and a crisis.
The more we are successful the more the brutal hate crimes are increasing on our city streets and country roads.
LGBT Americans will face the new challenges as we faced the old challenges with bravery and dignity. Victory will come to our community and the end is in site. With the winds of the Supreme Court at our back, we are more determined and stronger than ever.
So take a few moments and relish this past week then roll up those sleeves and lets finish this job.Happy LGBT Pride to all my brothers and sisters.
June 29, 2013
June 27, 2013
As always, Frank Bruni has an unique and powerful prospective on events. In his column in the New York Times, he connects the decision by the United States Supreme Court on DOMA to the tragic death of Tyler Clementi.
With one of its rulings the Supreme Court mandated federal recognition of gay couples married in places that permit it; with another, it reopened the door to same-sex marriage in California, our most populous state. These practical consequences are huge.
But the two decisions together also have another kind of effect, deeply emotional, potently symbolic and impossible to measure — but arguably much more sweeping. Like all that happens at the highest levels of our government, like all the judgments rendered and statements made by the officials chosen to guide us, the court’s actions set a tone. They send a signal. They alter the climate of what’s considered just and what’s not, of what’s permissible and what’s intolerable, and that change ripples into every last corner of American life, shaping people’s very destinies.
This was hammered home to me by the time I spent recently with a mother, a father and a brother who have known terrible heartbreak and, in its aftermath, spent no shortage of time thinking about the messages that gay Americans receive from the laws and the leaders of our land.
Their surname, Clementi, is probably familiar to you. So is much of their story, though maybe not the current chapter.
In September 2010, Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman at Rutgers University in New Jersey, hurled himself from the George Washington Bridge.
And in the months following his suicide, the pain preceding it came into disturbing, shameful focus. He’d been harassed online by his college roommate, who had deemed his homosexuality worthy of taunts and titters. He’d worried about his mother’s comfort with his desires, his identity. He was a young man filled with dreams but also with a special set of concerns, with the knowledge that a fundamental part of who he was would cause some people to look down on him and others to reject him.
Is that why he jumped? There’s no way to know. “Suicide is an irrational action, so to try to rationalize it I don’t think can really be done,” his father, Joe Clementi, said to me.
Even so, Joe and his wife, Jane, along with one of their two surviving sons, James, have dedicated themselves to educating people about the problems that perhaps conspired in Tyler’s fate. Through public speaking, lobbying and other work with the Tyler Clementi Foundation, they’re trying to stop young people from hurting one another, and they’re trying to call out aspects of American life that pass judgment on LGBT people and make some of them, teenagers especially, feel fear and despair.
The Defense of Marriage Act, a central provision of which the Supreme Court struck down on Wednesday, was one of those aspects. Jane said that she didn’t see this clearly before Tyler’s suicide but that she did after, when she left her evangelical church over its opposition to gay marriage and its other anti-gay stances.
“It’s not only people who can intimidate and harass,” she told me during a conversation at the Clementis’ home in Ridgewood, N.J. “It’s institutions. It’s legislation. With laws the way they are, we’re teaching that there’s a group of individuals who are ‘less than’ others.”
The haters are thus given license, and the hated are further isolated. “And you never know,” said Joe, “where a person is at their particular point in life and what could drive them to a bad decision or to taking a wrong step.”
He’s right, and that’s why it mattered when President Obama mentioned Stonewall in his second Inaugural Address, putting heroes of the gay-rights movement on a par with heroes of any other.
That’s why it matters that he hasn’t yet signed an executive order demanding that federal contractors not discriminate against gays and lesbians in hiring. He’s indulging, and thus excusing, possible bigotry.
As for the Supreme Court, it didn’t go as far on Wednesday as it theoretically could have, nor did it speak in a unanimous voice. The journey toward full equality for LGBT Americans is a long way from over.
But what happened was progress. It was hope.
James Clementi, Tyler’s brother, is himself gay, and he told me on the phone on Wednesday afternoon that he felt different than he had a day earlier. He felt more included.
Jane said that while the court’s rulings in the DOMA and Prop 8 cases were “just a start,” they affirmed her belief in “the trajectory of where we’re going.” They might even save lives, she said.
From what she’s lost and from what she’s learned, she knows that there are many wounded and fretful young gay people out there, along with many straight peers who may or may not decide that it’s O.K. to ridicule them. And there’s a chance, a crucial and wonderful chance, that the ripples from Wednesday will reach and teach all of them.
June 26, 2013
In what is one of the most historic days in the history of the LGBT community, the United States Supreme Court killed both DOMA and Proposition 8. While we had hoped for more with Proposition 8, the victory for LGBT Americans is a HUGE VICTORY. The ramifications for a broad and powerful DOMA decision is a HUGE VICTORY. The fact that LGBT Californians will now be able to legally get married is a HUGE VICTORY. The fact that now one third of Americans live in states where marriage equality is legal is a HUGE VICTORY.
Much work remains ahead of us on so many levels but today is a day to celebrate. Cheer, hold parties, have sex, make love, hug each other and feel that special feeling of pride of being a LGBT American. This is not the day to nip-pick. We are family.
Tomorrow, roll up your sleeves because we have work to do. Bring on Illinois, Arizona, Oregon, New Jersey and others. The LGBT Freedom Train is heading your way. There is no way LGBT Americans are stopping until they have total and complete equality at every level.
Never have I been prouder to be an LGBT American then today. Thank you all for giving me this moment. We all are family I love you.
Some people will point to the progress America has made on civil rights or the fact that there is an African-American President as a reason that the Voting Rights Bill is no longer needed in this day and age. They will urge us to celebrate the progress and put away instruments of the past.
Those people could not be more wrong.
While, indeed, America has made great progress in the area of civil rights and the election of President Barack Obama is breath-taking, the fact of the matter is that the Voting Rights Act is needed more now than it has been needed over the last years.
There is a systematic effort by the Republican Party to disenfranchise African-Americans, young students and other minorities in an attempt to forge a victory for the GOP. In state after state in the last two elections, laws have been passed to make voting more difficult, purging the rolls of minority voters, instituting new types of poll taxes and outright intimidation at the polling places.
Even uniformed law enforcement officials have been placed at polling stations to discourage minority voters. Polls have had shorter voting times and fewer voting locations in minority neighborhoods to make it difficult to vote. Often it is only minorities who are required to show ID's or proof of residence while Anglo voters vote without a care in the world.
The overturning of the Voting Rights Act could not have come at a worst time. This decision will allow those who want to disenfranchise minority voters to proceed unchecked. Minority voters will lose an important protection at the polls and those who have already shown they are willing to throw democracy to the wind will only feel more empowered.
A democracy is only as good as its voting laws and the ability for its citizens to vote unimpeded and without fear.
The Supreme Court struck a blow against this nation's democratic institutions yesterday. This decision will allow those who wear those business suits while suppressing minority voters to once again openly wear those white sheets.