Food Insecurity In The LGBT Community And What You Can Do About It – David Stevens

     According to the Williams Institute LGBT people are disproportionately food insecure. Last surveyed 2.2 million or 25% of LGBT adults experienced a time in the past year where they did not have enough money to feed themselves or family. I am one of those people.
In fact the second half of virtually every month my family struggles just to eat. My husband and I live on minimal social security disability benefits but somehow make $50 too much to qualify for any food stamp assistance. We are not alone but it feels as though we are,  shame and stigma surrounds the food insecure.
The affluent grapples with food insecurity also. Just on different levels. To explain away why some people go hungry, some conclude there must be a reason such as laziness or stupidity to justify it. But my husband isn’t lazy or stupid and neither am I. We are both educated but disabled queer folks struggling just to survive like so many others.
     To survive and feed our family we are forced to food pantries with long lines every month. Sometimes the wait for a couple bags of non fresh groceries and canned goods is up to two and three hours. To qualify for the assistance there is always a degrading interview where you supply things like income verification, your lease and utility bills. With this process some, including the homeless are often left out of the loop. Often times I get a sense of judgment as the interviewer scans us and our documentation. Perhaps it is my imagination or perhaps the subject of hunger is so taboo and painful, people would rather place judgment to explain it. Never the less it’s judgment and long lines or go without, so we press on.
     I chose to write about our wrenching food insecurity not to seek pity but to help expose a deeply relevant topic too many in the queer community face.
On July 18th 2016 the headlines in the New York Times read: A Hunger Crises In The LGBT Community. And is true that LGBTQ adults are 1.6 times more likely to report food shortages.
     It’s mind-numbing to be so poor for there is never a break. No vacations, no entertainment, no movies, no dining out. There is no respite where one momentarily steps into wealth. You either have money or you don’t and right now many don’t.
     Until the day comes when and if poverty is systematically removed from society by corporate powerbrokers there are a few things people can do to help relieve those in need.
1) Organize food drives specifically targeting the LGBTQ community. Canned foods are good but fresh food, especially proteins are even better.
2)  Sponsor a LGBT family or seek out LGBT people in need. Call your local LGBT center or LGBT food panty and ask if you can sponsor a family at the holidays or different intervals throughout the year. You will literally make someone’s day and life much easier and better.
3) Remember poor people have pets. They provide us with love and warmth all year round. Don’t forget many food pantries take pet donations in the form of cat food, dog food and kitty litter.
4) Erase all pre conceived notions of what poverty looks like. Queer people are experts at hiding, this includes being able to mask poverty.
5) Don’t pass judgment. It will only impede your ability to be of service to mankind and it’s just not helpful.
6) Be creative. In tackling poverty the sky is the limit. If you have the will, resources and time, createyour own organization or 501c charity.
     And finally, to be sure to reach your target audience including the homeless, if at all possible shed unreasonable documentation requirements. After all if you want to be able to help the most people possible this is only reasonable. It creates unnecessary barriers to receiving help and really is a huge waste of valuable time and resources. When being of service a” no questions asked”  policy is the best way to approach and to help the maximum number of individuals. Good luck!
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An Atheist Evolves – Spirituality Under Construction

spiritualpinkpanther     I was raised; partially at least, by a verbally abusive adult. This person whom identified as a Southern Baptist
had me read the bible frequently as a child, although she had zero credibility to me. For every wrong turn I made I was told I was “going to hell and burn eternally.” Another Christian fundamentalist, family member I overheard speak of “worrying about David and faggotry” when I was nine years old. This was hurtful and devastating to my young ears.

I prayed to “God and Jesus” on a nightly basis in tears for years to remove my being gay. This is how I know that I was born gay. If God really wanted me to not be gay it would of been removed from me. God knows I tried, well actually begged. Perhaps if you are LGBT there are chances you have also experienced similar language and threats from “loved ones” whom claim to know the mind of God?

However instead of drawing me, and perhaps you: into an all loving energy, as I grew older I rejected and even mocked all forms of religion as “foolish” and “imagination run wild”. The few times I as a child I went to church all I could ever notice was the out stretched hands of a preacher asking for money. The particular church I went to in the 80s gave children large candy bars on a silver platter upon exit from Sunday School. This was reason enough for me to go.

Up until very recently though, I had become such a hardline atheist that my basic belief was that human beings were nothing more thank a walking, talking, thinking pile of organized meat and bones. I, like some other LGBT atheists in recent years adopted in your face confrontation and shaming of all religions, especially Christianity; both in person and online.If all your life, all you ever hear from “Christians” is about “homosexuality” and how this “All Knowing,””All Loving,” “God” was going to punish me with eternal “hellfire” one might understand the repelling of religious mindsets and institutions.

But something serious lacks from any religious movement that exudes a message of love on Sunday and then uses fear, threats, hate, intolerance, exclusion and violence the rest of the week. On the flip side of that same token? Shaming and embarrassing Christians or any other person of religion will never sell nor inspire free thinkers to emerge. As Hillary Clinton so eloquently stated in her famous “Gay Rights Are Human Rights” Speech. “Nobody ever changed their mind as a result of force.”

By my nature I am an agitator and aggravator. And this past year has brought me some of the greatest stress of my adult life. Few people understand my particular type of radical activism and shocking words on my bullhorn to be street theater and I have paid some real costs that I am not at liberty to discuss at this time but I can tell you that on a couple occasions I have been forced to stare death in the face and have been shaken to my core. When people say they find God in times of great distress, for me that has been at least somewhat true. Being shaken so deeply one starts to think about God, spirits, afterlife, spirit guides and spirituality.

So this is where I am. I cannot accept at this point that one man sits on a cloud judging billions of people for which path they have chosen to their God. No jealous Gods interested in popularity contests burning those different from Him interest me. No God that judges people for natural things such as erections and sex. Being Gay is natural and sex is natural. LGBT people come from the natural world so that makes it natural. This is important to say because it is true.

For me, if God if real, is most likely a female energy and is our global collective conscious. God is love and light and total unconditional love, flaws and all. God is in you and is in me. Each time we chose to act out of love and service instead of ego and selfish needs, that is God. Each time we show grace where grace & forgiveness is not due, that is God. Each time we stand up for the little guy, the underdogs, the marginalized; that is God.

My spiritual awakening started recently and is more about spirits and spirit guides and protection. Opening myself just to the possibility of a loving God has set off some of the most vivid imagery. I imagine being struck by lightening, beautiful, blue, green and golden lights encircle me, protect me, and gives me strength. Some may call it hocus pocus and that is okay because this is my struggle and not theirs. My relationship with God is not out of self importance but out of the desire for God to be real and working for us – not against us. To put it simply I am evolving on spirituality.

There is nothing wrong with activists using agitation and aggravation but to dismiss “educate and advocate” is to dismiss the other half of the formula for successful and real change. LGBTQI, Atheists only partaking in angry activism that involves throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks might fail and miss their goal. Belittling people and shaming any person will always fail. Angry activism while maybe great street theater isn’t changing hearts and minds.

What opened the door for my spiritual awakening was not threats of violence and hellfire. What opened the door for my newly sprung spirituality has been the work of friends, fellow activists, and from believers of all faiths offering me the space to grow and to be who I am, without pressure, without damnation but with grace people still wanted to be my friend. I try to remain open to the message and not the messenger always and my life and mental health has only gotten better for it. No church is ever needed to reach the spiritual realm. Mother Earth, God, Nature, whatever you choose to call Her.

As LGBTQI Activists we’ve been fighting for Rights and tolerance for decades. We demand the space to be ourselves, unapologetically and for good reason. We have even gone so far as to “come out” and politicize our lives for our cause. However, there has to be room for everyone. How does it look for me to demand tolerance If I’m not willing to offer you that same respect?

If you must stick a label on me I am a spiritual agnostic. Agnostic means I do not know if there are Gods and spirits or not. I just feel better when I choose to believe there is something bigger than me. I can choose to be the bigger man. I can choose to respect you and any non-violent religion that people find central to their lives. I can choose to not berate and shame people looking for something more out there.

It was intolerance and hate of gay people introduced to me as a young kid that propelled me away from all forms of God and it was intolerance, hate, and exclusion that allowed me to shame those that seek outside spiritual interventions. In such a painful world filled with violence, especially towards LGBT people, don’t make the same mistakes I have. As activists whether we like it or not, people are looking to you, looking for you to lead and possibly to even inspire them. It’s kind of difficult to inspire when we leave people out. When we create the space that allows for others to be more human; we are in-turn creating the space for ourselves to be more human.

When we allow all a seat at the table, unconditionally it is only then that we are walking the talk and getting down to the real hardcore business of changing hearts and minds, One person at a time.

A Canadian’s Open Letter to My American LGBT Family

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During this Canada Day, Independence Day week, I just wanted to take a few minutes to welcome my brothers and sisters in the United States to Marriage Equality. It’s been a week of turbulent emotions, from joyous elation, to tears, anger, and, unfortunately, some hatred. We’ve done it, and some are angry.

As a Canadian, who has had the right to marry a person I love, regardless of gender, for a decade now, let me tell you what’s going to happen in the U.S. People will get married. That’s it. (Bet you were hoping for some long winded diatribe on “us vs. Them.)

The nay-sayers, the doomsday prophets, the haters were wrong. It’s not the end of humanity. The universe will not implode on itself, lightning will not strike down happy couples on their wedding day, plagues will not strike your country, the sun will still rise and set, etc. Couples will get married. That’s it.

The fireworks this week, will take on a whole new feeling. One of equality, unity, a single spirit, two countries joined together, to quote President Obama: “A MORE perfect union.” In my opinion, this unites us, not just as neighbours, but as a North American family. And we, in Canada, share in your joy.

Make no mistake, however. There are some that will continue to wish you harm. In their anger over “losing” this battle, they may feel emboldened to strike out more than before. Please be careful, and watchful.

To all the allies, who helped bring this about, Thank You. Two words are not enough to show appreciation for your care and help, but until the invitations start being mailed out, they’re all we have. Without your acceptance, and support, this may have been an even longer battle. You are truly a vital part of our family.

We’ve come a long way, but we still have a lot of work to do. There are still states in which you can lose your job simply because you’re LGBT. Discrimination is still rampant. States are coming up with creative ways to duck SCOTUS’s ruling, using “religious exemptions.” There are any number of ways that true equality is being kept from us. These are the things we still have to work for. And work we will. I’m realistic enough to know that we will never fully eradicate hatred and discrimination, but I still hang on to the hope that we can.

Enough about how much we have to do, this is a time of celebration. This year, Independence Day has a new meaning. The U.S. can celebrate Independence, as a nation where all men, and women, are created truly equal. Revel in this. It’s your right, and your due. Launch your rainbow coloured fireworks, fly your flag with joy, enjoy every minute.

And once again, Welcome to Equality! It’s a great place to live.

Oh, and send me a message for my address. I expect invitations!  LOL

Ken

Pretty Little Liars Goes Bad

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For the past six years, ABC Family has aired a show that seems to stand out more than the rest. The show is called Pretty Little Liars. It is based off of a young adult novel series (Pretty Little Liars). It is centered on four junior high school girls (Spencer Hastings, Hanna Marin, Aria Montgomery, and Emily Fields). The whole series is basically the four girls being black mailed and secrets they’ve kept buried deep are threatened to be revealed by an unknown person who goes by a code name (Alias A). The show is well known for pushing the limits very highly when it comes to family oriented material. There have been several, jaw dropping sex scenes that are over the top, and even go as far as to create student/teacher relationships, and even have very revealing, high powered sex scenes featuring a teacher and student.

To be honest, I had heard about the show from a few people who have watched it, and usually it was negative feedback. I don’t watch it, nor do I want to. However, just a few days ago the show was brought to my attention. I wasn’t too keen on exploring the topic a first, but a certain character (Emily Fields) was genuinely brought to my attention. In the show, Emily Fields is a lesbian. In fact, Emily Fields is honestly what drew a lot of people to watch the show. Fans of the novel series loved the fact they were at first acknowledging all of the characters and keeping them as they are in the books. Unfortunately, the small part of the show that was good, showing diverse characters from different walks of life was to be short lived. The show was soon to take dark turns none of the fans of the show expected, especially those who were major fans of Emily Fields.

After studying up on the different relationships between the girls according to the novels, Emily Field’s relationship actually proved to be the least dangerous and most healthy pairing out of all of them. The first relationship is right on key to the book. Emily is paired with Maya, and they have a very loving relationship, and each character is given equal romance. In the show, that quickly changes when suddenly Maya dies, and after that Emily is left with a lot of heart ache and a series of loveless relationships. The relationships Emily had rapidly began to become less attractive, unfeeling, and less important than anyone else’s relationship on the show, even a relationship between an 18 year old and a policeman that actress Sasha Pieter’s said was a “healthy relationship,” which in fact it wasn’t. Even the student/teacher relationship between Aria Montgomery and a teacher named Ezra was given more highlights than Emily. Emily’s romance scenes were cut short, or it was so difficult to tell whether it was Emily and her lover through the pore lighting in the room. Aria and the teacher’s love scenes were given plenty of time, and in my opinion, too revealing considering it is a teenage girl and a teacher. As time moved on for the show, the straight romances, along with the student/teacher relationships which were also portrayed as healthy relationships on the show, took to the spot light. There was no hesitation to leave Emily out in the dirt to rot in misery. According to my research on the novels, that should have never taken place. The television series has gotten ages away from the books in order to air what they want. The worst part in all of the mess was disgracing Emily as a lesbian, when she kisses a guy in an episode on her front porch. Their final act by forcing Emily to degrade herself by seeking comfort from the lips of a man totally destroyed the character in every way, shape, and form. From then on things only got worse, as Emily’s love interests faded away into darkness.

The final act sent fans of Emily into an uproar, who call themselves Emison fans, and the creators of the show acted confused, like they didn’t know why they were so upset. To make matters worse, two actresses who are regular’s on the show have been happy about the way things were turning out. One actress, Sasha Pieter’s, who portrayed one of Emily’s lovers, said in an interview that the lesbian relationship was toxic, and said that the relationship with the policeman was healthy. Even the actress herself who portrayed Emily (Shay Mitchell) said in an interview that the fans of her character disturbed her. In my opinion, there is nothing good about what this show is about. They took a very, amazing, complex character (Emily Fields), and destroyed her. The show could have been so much more than it is if they had stuck to the books. It would have drawn such a diverse set of television viewers. The reason the show Glee got so much success by people of all ages, was because of their diverse, complex characters and their relationships were all given equal lime light.

I would like to give some recognition now to one of the Emison fans; the one who brought this show and Emily Fields to my attention. I felt it would be wrong to not let her have a chance to express her feelings. She has written an open letter to the creators of (Pretty Little Liars).

To Marlene King and ABC Family:

I regret that I have to inform you that your portrayal of Emily Fields is disheartening and unfortunately disrespectful. I respect that you have given us a wonderful lesbian like Emily to respect and root for. You handled her coming out beautifully, from her angst and fear of not only admitting the truth to herself, but her family and friends. Unfortunately, you have managed to make a mockery of her love life. It started out promising with her first girlfriend, until you killed her off. Then you had her fall for a girl who physically bullied her. Then she got side tracked by a college girl. That was a complete waste of time. But wait, it gets worse. You then chose to put the “self-proclaimed lesbian” on her porch stoop kissing a man. That was not alright. Emily Fields is the most loyal, caring, protective character on this show, and she deserves better than to be generalized as a confused girl who had to deal with her personal tragedy by finding comfort in the lips of a man. That was disrespectful to not only her character, but her fans look up to her as their beacon of hope. It got worse from there, as her love life has become the laughing stock of the show. It has become such a joke, that we all expect every new girl who shows up in Rosewood, will eventually show up on Emily’s porch for a make-out session. You led us to believe she couldn’t settle on a girl to love, because she couldn’t get over her first love. Well, her first love came back from the dead, and instead of Emily finding a little happiness, you hooked her up with a married woman. Really! Can the woman with the purest heart please find someone who deserves her love? The LGBT fans of the show are starting to feel used and abused by you, for nothing more than ratings. Emily’s love life does not get equal representation on this show at all. Her intimate scenes are either in dark shadow, cut short, or both. The straight characters get intimate scenes that leave nothing to the imagination. We have to ask, you the writers, for confirmation if Emily had sex or not. It is left completely up to interpretation. Emily Fields is one of the most loved lesbian characters on television. We want to see her fall in love with the girl of her dreams. We don’t want to hear about it after the fact. We want to actually see it. She deserves better than you are giving her. She deserves equal representation, and so do her fans.

Sincerely yours,

Emison Fans

The Final Verdict: Pt. II, Winners and Whiners Emerge from the Supreme Court

The Final Verdict2

By Walter Beck

This article is dedicated to Brother Tom Morgan and Bryon Fear

I was at work; on my first smoke break of the day, a lit Marlboro hanging from my lip and a Stephen King novel open in my hands when I felt my phone buzz. I looked down at the text message. It was from my lawyer buddy Todd, he said “WE WON—MARRIAGE EQUALITY REQUIRED FOR ALL 50 STATES!” It was 10:02 AM on June 26th.

In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court found in Obergefell v. Hodges that all states must recognize the legitimacy of marriage equality. Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy said,

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embod­ies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people be­come something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be con­demned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civiliza­tion’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.

It is so ordered.

The majority opinion of the Court found that denying the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which reads, “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.” In terms of marriage and the Fourteenth Amendment, the majority wrote;

“Applying these established tenets, the Court has long held the right to marry is protected by the Constitution. In Loving v. Virginia, 388 U. S. 1, 12 (1967), which invali­dated bans on interracial unions, a unanimous Court held marriage is “one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.” The Court reaffirmed that holding in Zablocki v. Redhail, 434 U. S. 374, 384 (1978), which held the right to marry was bur­dened by a law prohibiting fathers who were behind on child support from marrying.”

But the most beautiful part of the majority opinion rested in its views of the concept of “traditional marriage”; the Court recognized that throughout history, the definition and meaning of marriage has changed, even in the United States. Justice Kennedy wrote in the opinion,

“The ancient origins of marriage confirm its centrality, but it has not stood in isolation from developments in law and society. The history of marriage is one of both conti­nuity and change. That institution—even as confined to opposite-sex relations—has evolved over time.”

Continuing, “These new insights have strengthened, not weakened, the institution of marriage. Indeed, changed understand­ings of marriage are characteristic of a Nation where new dimensions of freedom become apparent to new genera­tions, often through perspectives that begin in pleas or protests and then are considered in the political sphere and the judicial process.”

That is the biggest blow to our opponents; the undeniable fact that marriage has grown, changed, and ultimately evolved as society does the same. And as the majority opinion points out, those changes have not lead to the complete dissolution of marriage within a society; rather they have added the bonds of many new couples, strengthening the institution.

Of course, being that this was not a unanimous ruling by the Court, the Justices who dissented had their opportunity to present their views as well.

Chief Justice Roberts, along with Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas, writes that fundamentally there is no Constitutional question at stake here. The United States Constitution does not address the issue of marriage equality and the question of it is beyond the Court’s authority,

“If you are among the many Americans—of whatever sexual orientation—who favor expanding same-sex mar­riage, by all means celebrate today’s decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the oppor­tunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”

With all due respect to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, that is 100% bullshit. Now, does the Constitution specifically address the issue of marriage in and of itself? No, it does not. But, the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment was cited in the famous case Loving v. Virginia, which overturned the ban on interracial marriage in the US. And furthermore, writing for the majority in this case, Justice Kennedy cited the Loving case as precedent for where the Constitution has authority on questions of marriage.

Surely the Chief Justice knows that the Supreme Court looks to how they’ve ruled on previous cases for directives on how to apply the Constitution to a case in question.

The most damning dissent came from the Court’s most conservative member when it comes to the concept of LGBT rights, Justice Scalia. Like his fellow dissenters, Scalia sees the ruling as a dangerous overstep of judicial power. But rather than at least extending a bit of a congratulations to the happy couples, as his fellow dissenters did, Scalia goes straight for old school paranoia, intoning with doom;

“It is of overwhelming importance, however, who it is that rules me. Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court. The opinion in these cases is the furthest extension in fact—and the furthest extension one can even imagine—of the Court’s claimed power to create ‘liberties’ that the Consti­tution and its Amendments neglect to mention. This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected commit­tee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extrav­agant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most im­portant liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves.”

Furthermore, Scalia insults the integrity of the majority of the Court, accusing them of arrogance, closing his dissent with, “Hubris is sometimes defined as o’erweening pride; and pride, we know, goeth before a fall. The Judiciary is the ‘least dangerous’ of the federal branches because it has ‘neither Force nor Will, but merely judgment; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm’ and the States, ‘even for the efficacy of its judgments.’ With each decision of ours that takes from the People a question properly left to them—with each decision that is unabash­edly based not on law, but on the ‘reasoned judgment’ of a bare majority of this Court—we move one step closer to being reminded of our impotence.”

Scalia has moved from the realm of simple conservative crankiness and straight on to the highway of pure tin-foil hat Alex Jones-style paranoia, echoing the worst of the crazy right with intonations of “judicial tyranny!” To me, that smells like a big fat case of “sore loser” on Scalia’s end. He is no fan of queer folks and when he cries and whines about the “voice of the people”, he’s only crying and whining because his side lost.

Regarding that whole “voice of the people” argument that the dissenting Justices made (they all made at least a courtesy note of it), what is the line? For example, the Supreme Court in the 1950’s struck down this country’s segregation laws, yet many of those laws were enacted by the “voice of the people”, either through popular vote or a state legislature. Would Scalia dare say that the “voice of the people” was ignored by an unelected court in that case? What about Roberts? Would he point to the lack of the Constitution’s mention of segregation laws as a reason to thumb his nose at those who wanted equal treatment?

I would like to say no, but since they’re trying to appease a conservative crowd, who the hell knows?

It boils down like this; yes, we have a democratically-based government where the votes of the people or the votes of their duly elected legislature matters, but you cannot put the rights of a minority to the votes of the people or the legislature. That is the very point of our Constitution, to guarantee rights for all citizens of this nation, be they in the majority or not.

Outside of the realm of the Supreme Court with both the majority striking down laws barring marriage equality and the dissenters tearing their legal hairs out over questions of judicial restraint, the views of the people were just as divided.

Of course the most important view is that of Jim Obergefell, the named plaintiff in this case. Jim’s husband Arthur died of ALS in 2013 and Jim was not recognized as his legal spouse on the death certificate in their home state of Ohio. Speaking to Katie Couric about his feelings when the majority of the Court ruled on marriage equality, Jim said, “It was an incredible experience to hear a Supreme Court justice talk about how my marriage, my relationship, how John and I matter. How we deserve respect and dignity and I started to feel a lot more like a full, equal American at that moment.”

Not everybody out there felt such love and dignity over the opinion. In the Deep South, there is rumors of side-stepping the Court’s ruling, with officials in Mississippi debating on whether or not they should stop issuing marriage licenses all together rather than having to issue them to gay and lesbian couples. In Louisiana, Governor Bobby Jindal said that until the Fifth Circuit Court issues their decision regarding marriage equality, he is not bound by the Supreme Court to recognize it in his state.

In both Mississippi and Louisiana, the officials cited “religious liberty” as their main reason to tell the Supreme Court to go fuck themselves, as did former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who earlier this week said, “I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.”

The angry, desperate voices of these southern lawmakers reminds me of the same desperate anger that southerners had during the Civil Rights Movement of the 50’s and 60’s where governors and state legislatures insisted that their Bible-based views of segregation were beyond the reach of even the highest court in the land.

Note to Huckabee, Jindal, and Mississippi governor Phil Bryant, the southerners lost that argument too and you will ultimately lose this one.

Well brothers and sisters, this ultimately marks the end of one long and often ugly battle. We’ve gone from one state having marriage equality (Massachusetts, 2004) to now by the gavel of the Supreme Court having it all across America. Sure, some of our opponents are gonna stomp their feet and cry and whine to their constituents and sponsors, but they will lose. June 26th, 2015 was our day; two years to the date after Winsdor v. United States struck down part of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), we have done it, we have won this fight.

So tonight, break out a bottle of your favorite champagne and celebrate with a drink or two or three or another bottle. I have a magnum of my favorite, Barefoot Bubby Pink Moscato, chilling on ice next to my desk and as soon as this gibberish is finished, I’m gonna pop the cork and drink very deeply. We have more battles ahead of us, no doubt, but this is a time to celebrate, we have all earned it.

Speaking of champagne, I have one last thing to do before I close out this business, I need to go down to Walgreen’s and get a bottle of Cook’s Extra Dry California Champagne and send it to Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) with a note attached that reads “Well you lost. Good luck on finding a new job, you bastard.”

The Final Verdict (?): Part I, Court in Session

The Final Verdict I

Two years ago, I was standing outside the capitol building in Indianapolis as part of a nationwide solidarity demonstration as the Supreme Court heard the oral arguments in Windsor v. United States. We were having our day in court and seemed that before the summer was over, we would finally be finished with the question of marriage equality.

But it wasn’t to be; the Court ruled more narrowly in Windsor than anticipated and while they struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on Fifth Amendment grounds, under the Due Process Clause, they did not strike down state laws barring marriage equality, only holding that the Federal government must recognize marriage equality in those states that had it.

In his dissent, Justice Anthony Scalia spoke prophetically “As far as this Court is concerned, no one should be fooled; it is just a matter of listening and waiting for the other shoe.”

Fast forward two years to April 28th, 2015, the Supreme Court is once again taking up the issue of marriage equality in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges. The question for the Court is whether or not a state may refuse to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple or whether or not a state can refuse to recognize such a marriage if it is performed in a state where such a marriage is recognized.

The legal strategy for this case is different than it was for Windsor, as Windsor argued on a strictly Federal level the primary Constitutional question was based around the Fifth Amendment and whether or not the Federal government denying recognition to a same-sex couple violated the Due Process Clause. Since Obergefell is based around states’ recognition or lack of recognition, the primary legal argument is based around the Fourteenth Amendment, specifically the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause.

Mary Bonauto, speaking on behalf of the Petitioners, didn’t waste any time in her opening argument before the Court in addressing the question of the Fourteenth Amendment;

“The intimate and committed relationships of same-sex couples, just like those of heterosexual couples, provide mutual support and are the foundation of family life in our society. If a legal commitment, responsibility and protection that is marriage is off limits to gay people as a class, the stain of unworthiness that follows on individuals and families contravenes the basic constitutional commitment to equal dignity.

Indeed, the abiding purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment is to preclude relegating classes of persons to second-tier status.”

The questioning by the Justices was divided about where it was expected; Chief Justice Roberts tried the old claim that what the Petitioners were seeking to do was “redefine” marriage. I suppose it never occurred to him that words grow and change as time passes, just like any other part of human society. Justice Scalia tried desperately to prove that gay marriage never existed in previous societies and of course, tried to raise old fears about “religious liberty”. Ms. Bonauto stood her ground on that point and assured the Justice that the First Amendment was still in effect in this country.

The more liberal side of the Court tried to show some sympathy with Ms. Bonauto’s arguments, Justice Sotomayer particularly asking as it related to the question of protected class status, how LGBT people were treated not only in this country, but around the world.

Justice Kennedy, a long time legal defender of LGBT rights, seemed a bit unsure in his line of questioning, realizing that approximately ten years had passed since Massachusetts had become the first state with marriage equality, roughly the same time frame between Brown v. Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia, but still saying “it’s very difficult for the Court to say ‘Oh well, we know better’.”

John J. Bursch spoke for the Respondents in the case, his opening remarks to the Court seemed to be focused on who exactly gets to make the decision regarding marriage equality, speaking;

“This case isn’t about how to define marriage. It’s about who gets to decide that question. Is it the people acting through the democratic process or is it the Federal courts? And we’re asking you to affirm every individual’s fundamental liberty interest in deciding the meaning of marriage.”

Mr. Bursch’s argument shows a shift in tactics from what our opposition used to proclaim. Their arguments against us in terms of marriage usually revolved around some deep personal loathing they had for us, a deep loathing that was obvious to everyone, even if they tried to sugar coat in that stale old “love the sinner, hate the sin” bullshit.

But with the decline in the sway of the Religious Right, maybe they’re realizing that that tactic no longer pays the dividends that it once did, so they have to try another approach. In this case, they are trying to appeal to the value of democracy, stating “Hey, this is the way the people voted, you have to respect it!”

However, it seems some of the Justices didn’t fall for that, particularly Justice Breyer who lacerated Mr. Bursch’s arguments in matter of minutes, pointing out that many of the Jim Crow-era laws were passed by popular vote, that didn’t make them right or just.

Mr. Bursch tried another angle; this one almost as equally ridiculous, he tried to make the claim that the reason the state has an interest in restricting marriage to heterosexual couples was because the state has a compelling interest to protect the welfare of children. A weak argument and Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayer were quick on the attack, asking Mr. Bursch if he would ask couples seeking to marry if they intended to have children and asking him about elderly couples who get married well past the age of fertility.

In his closing arguments, Mr. Bursch tried desperately to maintain his original argument of democracy, claiming that the state has no hard feelings towards LGBT folks, it’s just that this is a question that the people should decide and to hell with the courts.

The case certainly ran hot and not just during the actual Court proceedings, in a rare instance, a protester interrupted the Court by shouting out “If you support gay marriage, you will burn in hell! It’s an abomination!” The protester was forcibly removed from the Courtroom.

But what will the final decision of the Justices be? Even with the transcript and audio of the proceedings, it’s very difficult to tell. Justices Sotomayer, Kagan, Ginsburg, and Breyer certainly seem to be on our side, Scalia stands in firm opposition as expected, Justice Thomas and Alito remained relatively silent during proceedings. Chief Justice Roberts could be a swing vote, but it’s doubtful, given his conservative leanings. The swing vote may come down to Justice Kennedy, who throughout the history of his time on the Court and as it relates to LGBT issues, has generally been on our side.

Perhaps the more important question shouldn’t be whether or not we win, but how narrowly we will win. Windsor was decided in our favor, but on pretty narrow grounds, granted, it opened the floodgates to states to recognize marriage equality, prior to Windsor only ten states had marriage equality, now thirty-seven states have it, many due to Federal circuit judges citing Windsor as precedent, but Windsor wasn’t the final decision. If the stars align and the gods are smiling, the fight over marriage ends here.

But what if it doesn’t end here? While many are looking to the Windsor case, we would be wise to also remember Hollingsworth v. Perry, the California Prop 8 Case. The Court ultimately decided that the parties didn’t have proper standing to warrant a decision by the Court and the case was remanded back to the Ninth Circuit with instructions to dismiss the appeal for lack of standing.

Granted, in that case, it worked out in our favor, but what if the Court reaches a similar decision here? Not granting a final ruling and simply punting back to the lower courts; it may put many gay and lesbian couples’ marriages at risk because the majority of states have attained marriage equality due to Federal Circuit Courts citing Windsor as precedent. If the Court rules to punt this case, we may be fighting this one fight for another few years.

The bottom line is the time for legal theory has come and gone, if the Court merely wanted to “uphold the will of the people” as Mr. Bursch asked them to do, they could have done that months ago by denying certiorari to the Petitioners. It would have taken only four justices to do that. Instead, the fate of hundreds of thousands of families now hangs in the balance, real flesh and blood families. Not only that, but in light of the Windsor ruling and subsequent lower Federal rulings, states around the country have adjusted their tax codes and paperwork to meet the courts’ decisions. To throw all that away and reverse the course would be disastrous, not only would the tax codes and paperwork have to be completely reset, but it would be the first time in recorded history that an entire class of people would have their families torn apart by a Supreme Court ruling. Such a disaster would be a giant shit stain on the Roberts Court and all the bleach of press releases and explanations couldn’t lift that stain a lick.

So what’s it gonna be your Honors? Are you gonna rule on the right side of history or are you going to piss all over the front of your robes in front of the whole damn country?

To be continued…

Transgender (In)Visibility: Ohio on the March

Transgender Invisibility

What if there was a party and nobody showed up? It certainly seemed like the mics, cameras, and headlines across the country were silent on March 31st; just another day passing, nothing special going on, no reason to unfurl the banners and dust off the song books.

For those of you who missed the memo, March 31st is International Transgender Day of Visibility, a time where our trans siblings around the world take the day and take the streets to hold their heads up high and kick out the jams.

Well it seems like every LGBT media outlet missed the memo, the event was held worldwide with marches reportedly taking place as far away as Ireland and Scotland, and there wasn’t single mention of the International Transgender Day of Visibility in any of the major American LGBT news outlets, there wasn’t a piece from the Huffington Post or LGBT Nation, not a word from the Advocate either.

That’s bullshit. There’s no nice way to put it, that’s bullshit. We’re supposed to be a community, united and strong, and here on an occasion where our trans siblings were putting on their marching boots, out on the streets, showing their neighborhoods, states, nations, and the world that they were here, they demanded to be heard, seen, and recognized, our major news outlets were silent. They turned their backs on their own siblings.

As far as myself goes, I was lighting a smoke when I got a message from H. Klote, the media person for GetEQUAL. She told me she had a story for me, but it wasn’t a local Indiana story. I told her that was fine, I covered whatever sounded interesting. She put me in contact with Zoë Lapin, an independent organizer who organized the march with strictly local sources, and told me that across the river in Cleveland, Ohio, the trans siblings were marching loud and proud.

Since I was unable to travel to Cleveland to witness this local march first hand, I got in contact with Zoë, who agreed to give me the ins and outs on this rally taking place in the heart of the Midwest.

****

Walter: Tell me a bit about this march and how it all came about. How you organized it strictly within your local community?

Zoë: The event came about primarily out of a lack of activity and awareness around the day of visibility, locally. The transgender community in Cleveland has been working tremendously to promote visibility, education, and outreach in the entire city but there was no focus on anything surrounding the day of visibility. Much like the original intention of the holiday, I felt it was extremely necessary to share the spirit of the day and join in solidarity within Cleveland and with the global trans community. I organized the event exclusively within the community because it has been the community putting in the work and reshaping the culture here. I reached out to Jacob Nash and Sue Doerfer, two community leaders whom I regularly work with in promotig efforts of trans equality and liberation. I asked them if anything was being done for visibility day and after learning there wasn’t, I simply decided to try to make it happen. Unfortunately, this was about 3 weeks ago (a valuable lesson for organizing next years event) but I took the task on with high ambition and a determination to make this event an example of solidarity, community, healing, and liberation.

Walter: You organized it in three weeks? That takes a lot of dedication, will power, and black coffee.

Zoë: Hahahaha yes.

Walter: How was the turnout? Do you have rough estimates?

Zoë: The turnout was pretty great, I felt! There were about 50 attendees, a diverse representation of identities, expressions, and all walks of life.

Walter: Fuckin’ A, I dig it! What were the events that happened during the march? Did you have any speakers or maybe a big group sing-along?

Zoë: The event consisted of speakers from members of the trans community and allies. Cleveland City Councilman Jeff Johnson was one of the first speakers giving a powerful testimony about his own path towards understanding trans people and becoming an (unexpected) ally. The speakers were of all perspectives-students, leaders, veterans, immigrants, parents, actors, organizational directors. We had 10 speakers altogether, along with ASL and Spanish interpreters. Speeches were all of promoting awareness, education, solidarity, and community-every narrative was just powerful. Hahaha about sing-alongs, the location of the event is actually in front of the justice center, at one point in the evening I wanted to “shake the walls” of the justice center by getting the audience to repeat “TRANS LIVES MATTER” as loud as possible. We also showed a message of healing by giving a joined “we love you” to the memories of the trans and gender non-conforming people whom have lost their lives-rather by another hand or their own. It was necessary to do I felt, especially when we had 3 trans women murdered in Cleveland in 1 year (2 actually in the same week), back in 2013.

Walter: You had a local city councilman speak at the event? That’s pretty major. I don’t know how things swing in Ohio, but here in Indiana, it would usually be pretty rare to get an elected official to speak at an LGBT related event.

Zoë: I’m honestly still in shock by it, there are a number of advocates for the community on the council and more and more are becoming public about their advocacy and support for trans rights.

Walter: It sounds like your event was a smash, especially given such a short organizing time frame. How was the local media coverage? I mean I’m a freelancer working for a national rag; did any of the local TV stations or newspapers pick up on your event?

Zoë: I reached out to the local media about the event but none of the media outlets were in attendance. I was able to utilize social networking, however, and that was essential in getting awareness out about the event.

Walter: Social media is a necessary item in the tool box of any activist, be they working grassroots independent or with a state or national organization.

Zoë: I completely agree.

Walter: Given the wide array of voices present in this event, especially in such a Midwestern spot as Cleveland, Ohio, does it give you hope in the future of the trans community and the movement? To bounce off that a bit, where do you see the future of the movement? It seems that nationwide, much is still needed to be done to lift up our trans siblings.

Zoë: Absolutely! Much needs to be done, on all levels. I hope that more and more grassroots organizing efforts happen at the local level and that they are getting adequate support from national organizations. I think that national organizations are going to reach out more and more into the community and diversifying their leadership. I think the movement as a whole, will be one of complete solidarity, in which the issues are addressed with intersectionality, accountability, and full representation.

Walter: Well I don’t think I could put it any more succinctly. Any final words of wisdom for the readers?

Zoë: Yes, if you want to promote inclusion, you have to internalize inclusion. When you are speaking out for liberation, equality, and visibility-you need to represent those things. Intersectionality isn’t just another word; it’s a direction-a direction that we always need to be aware of, in any effort. You have to be willing and ready to reach out, you have to not only hold others accountable, but hold yourself accountable-and be willing to be held accountable.

****

Despite the fact that Zoë was organizing a rally of visibility, the rest of the queer press didn’t give a damn, they were apparently too occupied with toasting to the marriage victories across the country; meanwhile our trans siblings are still taking way more shit than any human being should. Brother Gavin out in Arizona said it best in a rant posted earlier;

“I know folks who still can’t take a piss without freaking out, myself included, because the education isn’t out there. I know people who live in states where they can be canned for being who they are.”

Step up your game, LGBT news media, don’t ignore our trans brothers and sisters. They deserve better than that and if you call yourselves queer journalists, you will do better.

I would like to applaud Zoë, lack of press coverage be damned, she organized her locals, went out there and was heard by all willing to listen, even a grungy looking unshaved underground journalist.