Tag Archives: equality

A Matter of Love

I thought Tom might have hit this already, but since he hasn’t I’ll fill in the gap. This is too important to pass by. ~Ryan

Finally tonight as promised, a Special Comment on the passage, last week, of Proposition Eight in California, which rescinded the right of same-sex couples to marry, and tilted the balance on this issue, from coast to coast.

Some parameters, as preface. This isn’t about yelling, and this isn’t about politics, and this isn’t really just about Prop-8. And I don’t have a personal investment in this: I’m not gay, I had to strain to think of one member of even my very extended family who is, I have no personal stories of close friends or colleagues fighting the prejudice that still pervades their lives.

Because this isn’t about yelling, and this isn’t about politics. This is about the human heart, and if that sounds corny, so be it.

If you voted for this Proposition or support those who did or the sentiment they expressed, I have some questions, because, truly, I do not understand. Why does this matter to you? What is it to you? In a time of impermanence and fly-by-night relationships, these people over here want the same chance at permanence and happiness that is your option. They don’t want to deny you yours. They don’t want to take anything away from you. They want what you want—a chance to be a little less alone in the world.

Only now you are saying to them—no. You can’t have it on these terms. Maybe something similar. If they behave. If they don’t cause too much trouble. You’ll even give them all the same legal rights—even as you’re taking away the legal right, which they already had. A world around them, still anchored in love and marriage, and you are saying, no, you can’t marry.
What if somebody passed a law that said you couldn’t marry?

I keep hearing this term “re-defining” marriage. If this country hadn’t re-defined marriage, black people still couldn’t marry white people. Sixteen states had laws on the books which made that illegal in 1967. 1967.

The parents of the President-Elect of the United States couldn’t have married in nearly one third of the states of the country their son grew up to lead. But it’s worse than that. If this country had not “re-defined” marriage, some black people still couldn’t marry black people. It is one of the most overlooked and cruelest parts of our sad story of slavery. Marriages were not legally recognized, if the people were slaves. Since slaves were property, they could not legally be husband and wife, or mother and child. Their marriage vows were different: not “Until Death, Do You Part,” but “Until Death or Distance, Do You Part.” Marriages among slaves were not legally recognized.

You know, just like marriages today in California are not legally recognized, if the people are gay.

And uncountable in our history are the number of men and women, forced by society into marrying the opposite sex, in sham marriages, or marriages of convenience, or just marriages of not knowing, centuries of men and women who have lived their lives in shame and unhappiness, and who have, through a lie to themselves or others, broken countless other lives, of spouses and children, all because we said a man couldn’t marry another man, or a woman couldn’t marry another woman. The sanctity of marriage.

How many marriages like that have there been and how on earth do they increase the “sanctity” of marriage rather than render the term, meaningless?

What is this, to you? Nobody is asking you to embrace their expression of love. But don’t you, as human beings, have to embrace… that love? The world is barren enough.

It is stacked against love, and against hope, and against those very few and precious emotions that enable us to go forward. Your marriage only stands a 50-50 chance of lasting, no matter how much you feel and how hard you work. And here are people overjoyed at the prospect of just that chance, and that work, just for the hope of having that feeling.

With so much hate in the world, with so much meaningless division, and people pitted against people for no good reason, this is what your religion tells you to do? With your experience of life and this world and all its sadnesses, this is what your conscience tells you to do?

With your knowledge that life, with endless vigor, seems to tilt the playing field on which we all live, in favor of unhappiness and hate… this is what your heart tells you to do? You want to sanctify marriage? You want to honor your God and the universal love you believe he represents? Then Spread happiness—this tiny, symbolic, semantical grain of happiness—share it with all those who seek it. Quote me anything from your religious leader or book of choice telling you to stand against this. And then tell me how you can believe both that statement and another statement, another one which reads only “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

You are asked now, by your country, and perhaps by your creator, to stand on one side or another. You are asked now to stand, not on a question of politics, not on a question of religion, not on a question of gay or straight. You are asked now to stand, on a question of love. All you need do is stand, and let the tiny ember of love meet its own fate.

You don’t have to help it, you don’t have it applaud it, you don’t have to fight for it. Just don’t put it out. Just don’t extinguish it. Because while it may at first look like that love is between two people you don’t know and you don’t understand and maybe you don’t even want to know. It is, in fact, the ember of your love, for your fellow person just because this is the only world we have. And the other guy counts, too.

This is the second time in ten days I find myself concluding by turning to, of all things, the closing plea for mercy by Clarence Darrow in a murder trial.

But what he said, fits what is really at the heart of this:

“I was reading last night of the aspiration of the old Persian poet, Omar-Khayyam,” he told the judge. It appealed to me as the highest that I can vision. I wish it was in my heart, and I wish it was in the hearts of all: So I be written in the Book of Love; I do not care about that Book above. Erase my name, or write it as you will, So I be written in the Book of Love.”

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Laramie, 10 Years Later

I’d love to take credit for this, but I stole it from Newsweek… nothing I could say could match those who lived through it. –Ryan

Has Anything Changed?
The creators of ‘The Laramie Project’, a play about Matthew Shepard, returned to Wyoming on the 10-year anniversary of his death.

By Moisés Kaufman, Leigh Fondakowski, Greg Pierotti, Stephen Belber and Andy Paris | Newsweek Web Exclusive

The fence where Matthew Shepard met his brutal demise now removed from towns history.

The fence where Matthew Shepard met his brutal demise now removed from town's history.

One month after the brutal murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard in 1998, 10 members of the Tectonic Theater Project , led by playwright and director Moisés Kaufman, went to Laramie, Wyo., to interview residents about the killing. Those interviews served as the basis for “The Laramie Project,” a play that chronicles how the community grappled with the slaying. On the 10th anniversary of Shepard’s death, which has become a rallying cry for gay rights and hate-crime laws, the theater company returned to Laramie. These are their observations:

In returning to Laramie, Wyo., 10 years after the murder of Matthew Shepard, the pressing question for all of us was: how has the town changed since 1998? But soon a different question arose: how do we measure that change?

On the state level no hate crime legislation has passed; the fence where Matthew Shepard was murdered has been dismantled; the Fireside Bar where Matthew met his killers has been renamed; and the University of Wyoming still has yet to grant domestic partner benefits to its gay and lesbian faculty and staff. And when you ask of the people of Laramie how has the town has changed, many say, “We’ve moved on.”

“Moved on to what?” asks Reggie Fluty, the policewoman who was the first to arrive at the fence where Matthew was tied. “If you don’t want to look back, fine. But what are we moving towards?”

Certainly the university has taken several concrete actions to promote inclusiveness: they’ve added gay and lesbian study classes to the curriculum, created a resource center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and permanently renamed the Social Justice Symposium after Matthew Shepard. They’ve also recently joined Matthew’s mom, Judy Shepard, in memorializing Matthew on campus. (Judy is the executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation.)

As for the rest of the town, Shepard’s former academic adviser Jon Peacock says, “I think when you’re so close to an event like this you become more sensitized. You start to pay more attention to those issues.” Detective Sergeant Rob Debree, the lead investigator in Shepard’s murder, adds, “I think overall, there’s just more acceptance.” Debree became a forceful national advocate for Federal Hate Crime legislation alongside Officer Dave O’Malley as a result of this murder.

“The fact that cops like DeBree and O’Malley, law officers in positions of real power, are committed to gay and lesbian people and their protection, that should be construed as concrete change,” says Beth Loffreda, author of the book, “Losing Matthew Shepard.” “You won’t find that in a statute or in a public monument to Matt, but that’s real and meaningful change.”

A real cause for concern, however, is the emergence in Laramie of a narrative that has gained many proponents in recent years: one that states that Shepard’s murder by two local residents, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, was only “a robbery gone bad” or “a drug-fueled murder” and not a hate crime. “That’s nonsense,” says Fluty. “All you have to do is look at the evidence.” O’Malley, lead investigator of the Laramie Police Department agrees, “I’m convinced that these guys killed Matt because he was gay.”

Debree of the Sheriff’s department adds: “We went in depth reviewing [the murderers’] blood for any kind of drugs or anything to that effect. There was nothing.” The fact that this was a hate crime was decisively proved at the trial when in excerpts of McKinney’s confession, the jury heard him tell DeBree: “[Shepard] put his hand on my leg. … I told him I’m not a f—ing faggot” before beginning to brutally beat Matthew Shepard.

Catherine Connolly, the first openly gay professor at the university, also takes issue with this willful ignoring of the facts: “This distortion of history, this is what kids 18, 19 years old think now. It’s devastating to us. This is our history.”

So why has this distortion of the truth become so prevalent? One hypothesis is that because Laramie was portrayed in the media as a backward town where hatred and bigotry were rampant, forcing the citizens to question their identity as an idyllic community, a “good place to raise your children.” “And when we have a theory about who we are,” says Laramie resident Jeffrey Lockwood, “and the data goes against that theory, we throw out the data rather than adjust the theory. We are hardwired as human beings not to contemplate our own complicity in things.”

Yet there are many people who found in this murder an opportunity to reflect deeply about the role that the culture and values of Laramie played in the crime. “This whole thing forced us to look at our warts,” says Dr. Don Cantway, the physician who treated Matthew’s injuries. “To look at our bigotry, the hatreds, the intolerance that exist here.”

These two stances, denial and self-reflection, have divided the town. “This is where I choose to live,” insists Jonas Slonaker, a gay man who chose to come out after Shepard’s murder, “and this is a state that always votes Republican and is pretty conservative. So there’ll be a lot of resistance [to change]. It might be a situation where those rights will come from a federal level down before it comes to the state level.”

But nationally, the situation regarding gay rights legislation mirrors Wyoming’s. In 2007, the Matthew Shepard Act passed in both the House and the Senate but the legislation never made it out of Congress—because of a Bush veto threat and the bill’s attachment to a defense authorization measure.

Still, shifts are occurring: Wyoming’s Governor Dave Freudenthal, says, “If you really believe in that Western ‘live and let live’ [philosophy] then you wouldn’t have homophobic violence. So there’s a contradiction. We tolerate an awful lot of violence in this state and we have to look at that.” In 2005, the neighboring town of Casper elected a gay man as mayor and professor Connolly is running for a State House seat in the coming election. In addition, the faculty at the university continues to fight for same-sex partner benefits.

Measuring change is not an exact science: the markers can be elusive or blurry, yet no less meaningful. Peacock says, “I think it does a great disservice to the power of the story around Matthew’s death to measure it by whether there’s been definitive or quantifiable change like a law passed. We know that there has been so much qualitative and transformational change. So I think it does a real disservice to the story to measure it that way. I just think that’s too thin of a measure.”

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3 Down, 47 To Go

Well, the breeding grounds of those freedom and equality-loving treacherous “liberals” has expanded: Connecticut will overturn its ban on same-sex marriage.

Now, those heathens can profess their love openly and legally, and have the same full-fledged rights under the law.

Watch your white picket fence, Sammy and Sally Republican… for those Homer Sexuals can now commit such grizzly acts as:

  • File taxes as a married couple!
  • Visit their husband or wife in the hospital!
  • Command one’s estate after death!

Oh, the humanity!!

What’s next? Tolerance? Acceptance? When will this madness end?

Ok, ok, I’ll drop the act now. The one thing I don’t like about this, is that the Governor of Connecticut doesn’t support it, and is only backing the state Supreme Court because she thinks attempts to reverse the overturning will fail. Such was the idea in the South during the Jim Crow era. But I digress…

Well, the economy will grab a little jolt in Connecticut now, because if there’s one thing my people are willing to spend money on, it’s a party. Wedding planners, rejoice.

I’m currently planning my first dance at the reception should Nevada happen to get a clue.

Truly,

Ryan

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Happy Independence Day!

It’s always nice to celebrate a hard fought victory and today is no exception.  Though I have to admit, my mind has wandered today about what other history this day holds.  On this day in 1910 Jack Johnson knocked out Jim Jeffries to become the first black heavyweight champion of the world.  Race riots broke out throughout the United States.  This piece of history is odd to me.  First of all, Americans breaking out in a race riot is scary and bizarre.  Our parents and grandparents have done so much to bring the races together and never seem to get mentioned.  People think the civil rights movement began and ended in the 60’s.  It did neither.  Both whites and blacks were crossing the racial line to marry, develop friendships and learn to like, if not entirely love and accept, one another.  The 60’s civil rights movement would have never happened if there had not been a slow build up of people questioning the merits of having a racist society.  Movements require that.  It’s impossible to suddenly turn a society against itself.  And the movement certainly did not end in the 60’s, it continues on.  Not because minorities are trying to bitch their way into special rights, but because there are still sections of our country where black men, Mexican and Arabs are considered guilty until proven innocent. We’re heading in the right direction.  Our trend over the years is positive and we are moving toward a more open society.  I highly doubt we’ll ever completely be free of racism, sexism or other equally ignorant prejudices, but we can continue to get better.  We have and we will.

Cheers,

Tom

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