Sunday, November 30, 2008

Fight the Hate

There have been many posts this week of personal lists of things to be thankful for.

Many people wrote about their thankfulness for their family, and sometimes for their spouses in particular.

I'd like to remind us all that those who are thankful for their spouses should be thankful that they're given the right to have those spouses.

Those who are thankful for their children, also need to be thankful for the fact that they are allowed to raise their children unencumbered and legally.

And in this day and age in the U.S., at a time when an African American has finally made it into the White House, we still have a large percentage of our population who do not share those basic human rights.

Our Declaration of Independence, the document on which our country was founded, puts things this way: 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.

Shouldn't a loving relationship, a legally-sanctioned, I-love-you-forever kind of relationship count as part of that pursuit of happiness? Since when did the 14th Amendment guarantee rights to only part of our population?

In case you forgot about the 14th Amendment, let me just refresh your memory:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

There has been a great deal written about Proposition 8. The California dream that allowed couples to legally wed, was snatched away quickly in November. And no, don't even think that it was "the voice of the people" speaking - as with most major political campaigns, this was all about who had the most money and the most power. There was a concerted effort to remove this basic right from our LGBT citizens.

Along with Proposal 8, there was Florida Proposition 2, developed to amend that state's constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. There is already a state law on the books to this effect, but this wasn't enough for straight Floridians who apparently feel that the right to marriage should only be given to certain parts of the population, that apparently the "everyone is created equal" business doesn't apply to LGBT citizens.

Then there's Arizona's Proposition 102, similar to Florida's Proposition 2, which also passed. This was seen to have passed because it didn't forbid Civil Unions - I mean, that's fair, right? You can still have a "legal partnership".

What is fair about some of our citizens having certain rights and those rights being denied to other segments of our population?


It is NOT fair - but more about that later.

In some ways, to me personally, the most insidious of the laws passed in November was Arkansas's Act 1, which forbids foster parenting or adoptions by any unmarried couple. And, of course, if you're a LGBT couple in Arkansas, it's illegal for you to be married. So here, we're not only affecting the rights of our citizens to be married or to be parents, we're also affecting the rights of children to be placed in loving homes.

You've heard it before, but it bears repeating: our country has a large deficit of children, especially older children, who need loving homes. Who need stable families. We have parents waiting to adopt them. We have stable couples who have committed to each other for longer than the child's parents ever did, but um, hey - they're not allowed to be parents because they love someone who is the same sex?

Having been a teacher for 25+ years, I've seen parental rights terminated. Those few terminations have been for good reasons. We're talking crack or meth addicts who've failed every attempt at rehabilitation, six-year-olds living cold and hungry because Mama drank up every last penny of income, children coming into school with burn marks all over their bodies.

I've also sat across the table from Gay and Lesbian couples who are parents of children I've taught.

And they're the same as my other strong, loving parents. They may not be perfect, but are any of us as parents?

I've only seen one situation where children suffered due to having Lesbians as parents, and that was only due to the fact that this couple did not have equal rights under the law. When the couple split up, one woman left the other for a man and decided to rescind the rights of her partner. Despite the fact that her partner had shared in parenting these children up through age nine (when the split took place), this woman decided that she was now "straight" and didn't want the partner hanging around in any way. And she was able to do this because her name was the one on the adoption papers. Because she lives in a state where adoptions by Gay or Lesbian couples is illegal. Now before you argue that this wouldn't have happened if they hadn't been Lesbians because Lesbian couples are unstable, shame. on. you.

How many heterosexual couples do you know who have split up?

We're closing in on a 50% divorce rate in this country. Some couples make it; some don't, and whether you're straight or gay has no bearing on that. And shouldn't the children of gay couples receive the same rights as those of straight couples? It's about the children, people.

Now all of you who are fathers out there, how would it be if your wife left you and took the kids, and was allowed to do so because "the mother is the only one with legal rights".

You've been with those children every second of their lives, changed their diapers, gazed lovingly in their eyes, kissed their booboos, took them swimming, tucked them in at night, were role models in right and wrong.

But hey, your womb didn't carry them, so why should you have rights?

Okay, I've gone on way too long here. In fact, I waited way too long to write this post. I've actually started this post way too many times.

There's nothing that I can write here that will be good enough.

There's nothing that I can write here that can truly express how wrong this is to live in the United States of America, this supposed bastion of Democracy and equal rights, and not have full rights extend to ALL our citizens.

Those who believe they have moral arguments, against these marriages, fine - that's your belief system. But honestly, can you believe that it's right to deny rights to only one segment of our population?

As long as this situation exists, we've got a long, long way to go. As Obama said in his victory speech: "It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.".

But you know what? It's still not here.


Michelle | Bleeding Espresso said...

Very well-written, Jen. Brava!

Flower Child said...

Agreed! and let me just give a shout out to Nutmeggers (CT) for allowing gay marriage with apparently little fanfare or backlash. perhaps everyone from CA should move there. then we'd have a great economy and loving society and all CA (and AK and others) is warmer weather.

Sister Sassy said...

Hell Yeah!

I'm SO with you. Especially with the adoption issue-so many children need homes.

April said...

Very well said, Jen! And thank you for writing it. You said things that I hadn't thought of before (your experience with that couple, for instance). We can't write enough about it until something gives.

Anonymous said...

I just don't understand why people get so crazy about this issue. It's just so simple...who cares who gets married? It doesn't hurt me, so why would I care? Personally, I think that some totally anti-gay people maybe--just!maybe!--might be super afraid that they themselves are gay. I just don't get it....

When I was teaching government, we'd always talk about Loving v. Virginia, which allowed blacks and whites to marriage. The kids would often extrapolate the gay issue and be like, "Can't we just get a Supreme Court case to let gays marry?" They'd also sometimes figure out how the Full Faith and Credit Clause affected the states that allowed gay marriage and it often led to great discussions.

Anonymous said...

N!!! Such a great piece. This is something that no one can convince me is a bad thing. i just don't understand how people think that taking away human rights to people is ok. how are we making this ok? i'll never get it, but i hope that we'll figure out that it's fear of the unknown that's holding most back from thinking that LGbT community should have rights. just let it go!

Karen Olson said...

As a Connecticut resident, I'm thrilled that our little state now allows gay marriage. It was a shame that at the same time, California was rescinding its law. But I am optimistic. It may not happen overnight, but it will happen. Slowly. Surely.

As an adoptive parent, I was horrified about the Arkansas ruling. We know several gay couples who have adopted, and those children are just as well rounded and happy as the rest. There are so many children who need good, loving homes, and why, just because the couple happens to be same sex, is it right to take away that child's right to a family?

We finally elected an African American as our president. I can't help but think gay rights in all senses of the word is not too far behind.

(And just an FYI: a friend went to Portugal the day after the election and said that everyone there was thrilled with Obama)

anno said...

A brave post, and well done, too.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for writing this! I don't think enough can be said; on the other hand, it bothers me that right now, it's ALL talk. At least, in California. Just as an addendum, what Flower Child is saying is something we, Californians, should be concerned about. The UC Berkeley Chancellor, Robert Birgeneau, wrote to our campus about equality and human rights, but then pointed out something much more pragmatic. If our workforce (read: professors) chooses to go where all humans are respected...well, where does that leave us? It's an odd day when we're lumped in with Florida (and it's not something to do with Disney/good weather), Arizona (and it's not something to do with Pac-10 sports), and Arkansas (period).

Becca said...

A resounding Yes to this post, Jen. How ironic, that this election brought the end of one age old barrier, yet we allowed more to be erected on the same night.

We still have much to learn about tolerance and justice, I'm afraid.

Jen said...

FC and Karen - I will write an addendum to the Nutmeg state tomorrow. I was completely aware of that ground-breaking legislation, but still unhappy with the results of the elections around the country. This shouldn't be a right state-by-state - it should apply to ALL citizens, IMHO.

Michelle - thanks.

Sassy - as you well know, this is SUCH a great need in MI right now. It makes me crazy.

April - I think fear is a major factor in all of this - and it's the fact that we don't know enough couples who have been given those "normal" opportunities, so then we think their choices aren't the "norm" and we get in a catch 22, if that makes any sense?

Patti, I don't understand it, either. It seems so basic to me.

We Are Never Full - I couldn't agree more. I do think it's fear-based.

Greg and Anno, thanks so much.

Cindy - this is definitely a case where it has to be much more than writing. Californians against hate has a boycott site, and they're waging a door-to-door campaign, there are investigations going on about election funding in California, Arizona and Arkansas, but now New York has become a conundrum. There really has to be a concentrated NATIONAL effort. This shouldn't have to be won state-by-state, as I said above.

Becca, I'm afraid so, and even though there is a gain for the racial barrier, that's an area where we're sorely lacking in "justice for all" as well.

Momisodes said...

Thank you for posting this. So much of what you've said here reflects what I've been thinking all month long. Change is certainly not here yet. But it is my hope that we will get there.

Núria said...

Kids only need: Loving and caring fathers/mothers, no matter they have two moms or two dads!!!! Is that so hard to understand?

Bravo for you Jen! So well-written :D

Jen said...

Momisodes - it's a funny time - so encouraging and so discouraging at the same time.

Nuria - you and I see it the exact same way!

glamah16 said...

I agree with Nuria, kids just need loving parents.And that can come in all shapes , colors,and sizes. Great post.

Anonymous said...

Yea what she said! And Don'tforget about my 12 Days of Christmas Give Aways

Mom~E~Centric (

Mom is Teaching (

Education Uncensored (

Virtualsprite said...

Hear hear!

Goofball said...

that's very powerfully written!

Brittany | the Home Ground said...

Thank you for this post, Jen! It can't be said enough. I think that Obama is the first step toward solving this problem. Well, the first governmental step. With a more promising leader, a few people tend to change their ways. Little by little.

Brillig said...

Standing up and cheering here, babe. Great post.

And I suspect that you understand how much this whole thing has torn me apart...

Anonymous said...

A well-written and passionate post. I couldn't agree more with you.

Grimm said...

Not yet, but hopefully someday. Because that is something they can never pass laws on - Hope.

Anonymous said...

You've said it all. I find it difficult to counter the arguments people make for banning gay marriage because, honestly, I just can't get my mind around their reasoning. Dos not compute. I can talk about Constitutional rights; that promoting the sanctify of marriage means letting committed, consenting adults of any sex get married if they want to; or any one of the numerous reasons why banning gay and lesbian marriages is wrong but my reasons are just as nonsensical to them as theirs are to me.

I think the best way to approach this is to take it out of a moral issue -- I think that's where it gets hung up. You and I can talk about people loving each other, that non-traditional families are still families, etc. but that's not going to sway people. I think we need to stick with the legal aspects. I think the Supreme Court needs to step in and uphold the laws that declare everyone equal.

Meg said...

Yes, I agree. It's a legal issue, not a moral one. Nice post.

Jen said...

Glamah, as I said, it's all about loving parents - whatever flavor.

Thanks for the reminder Jerri Ann!

Virtual and Goofball - thanks!

Brittany - I'm with you - hoping so.

Brillig - yes, I do, and thanks for the kind words!

Thanks, Leslie.

Grimm... I agree - I just wish there were more hopeful laws out there.

Dingo - those are all great points! And I agree - the focus should be on the legality (ie. ILLEGALITY) of allowing rights to some of our citizens and not all.

See above, Meg - I so agree!

Luisa Perkins said...

Amen and amen. I could not agree more. Thanks, my friend.

Jen said...

Thank you, Luisa!

soccer mom in denial said...

Did you know that Massachusetts - which has had marriage equality for several years now - continues to have the lowest rate of divorce in the country?

Hmmmmmm..... kinda blows that whole threat to the institution of marriage argument.

The story about the mom who couldn't see her son anymore because the other mom "became" straight just broke my heart.

murat11 said...

Amen. I love my new Obama-prez, but even he isn't there yet on this issue. Maybe (maybe) in his heart of hearts, but not out of the closet in open support of full and equal rights. How any denied minority group can deny to others is beyond me: it should be a point of unity, not parsing syllables. May he come to lead, and not follow, on this issue.

Well done.

Jen said...

SMID - it completely broke my heart, too, on so many different levels. And that's a great statistic from MA! And now the Nutmegers have joined sanity.

Murat - I don't know how anyone of ANY group can deny rights to other groups - period. Even if you get away from the morality issue (which for me is a non-issue) there's the constitutional issue that we're ALL guaranteed equal rights under the law. This just doesn't compute for me. Thanks so much for dropping by! I've seen you over at Anno's place. ;-)

Jeanie said...

Excellent, thoughtful post. I couldn't agree more.

painted maypole said...

i'm late to the game here... but I'm applauding