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Marriage Equality and gay rights commentary


Why the Word “Marriage” Matters

Saturday, April 30th, 2016


“…I may yet live to see gay marriage
become a reality in the United States in my lifetime.
And wouldn’t that be something.”

This is the end, the last post on Marriage Equality Watch. For this occasion, we thought we would resurrect a column from the first week of MEW, back in January 2008, before Prop 8, before President Obama was elected, before Mark and I were married, when it was still GLBT instead of LGBT… and far before marriage equality became a reality in all 50 states.

How far we have come!

In the end, it wasn’t a President or a congress that brought us to the finish line. It was all of us together as a community that fought the hard battles, day in and day out, to get to the end. And Mark and I were lucky enough to witness it all.

It has been an honor to chronicle this struggle for you for the last eight years. It was a great run, and we love you one and all.

–Scott & Mark
Together 24 Years
Married for 7

January 3rd, 2008

So here we are, thousands of gay and lesbian couples standing by the altar, or in a field of daisies, or under a gazebo, waiting for our Democratic Prince (or Princess) to come and open the doors of marriage to let us in.

We lined up in San Francisco for the slightest promise of marital bliss. We lined up in Massachusetts for a glass half full – state marriage with no attached federal rights or responsibilities. And this week, we lined up again in New Hampshire for official recognition of our “civil unions”.

But somehow, the phrase, “Honey, remember the day we got civilly unified?” just doesn’t have the same feeling as “Honey, remember the day we got married?” – and it’s on that one word that the whole thorny issue spins.

Sometimes a single word or phrase can change the context of an argument, and which side controls those words often controls the spin. Look at the “war on terror”, for instance – who among us would be for terror? But flip it around as “an unjustified invasion of a sovereign nation”, and things look quite a bit different.

One of my favorite examples of this is the abortion argument. When I was younger, it was pro-abortion and anti-abortion, and the anti-abortion folks had the upper hand in the language war – after all, who really wants to be for something like abortion, a procedure that in the best of cases can be emotionally devastating. But somewhere along the way, those in favor of access to abortion for women re-framed the argument. Pro-abortion became pro-choice. Who would be against choice? That one change in the language had a huge effect on the ongoing debate, effectively deadlocking it by providing two symmetrically opposed arguments.

On the gay marriage front, “marriage” is the main verbal sticking point. Many folks who generally support GLBT rights simply can’t get around the phrase “gay marriage”, either because they have a religious affiliation with the word, or because it makes them confront their distaste for what GLBT couples for in the bedroom and clashes with their romantic views of marriage, or just because it’s such a new idea. Drop the word, and support for recognition of GLBT unions rises.

But here’s the rub. Civil unions and domestic partnerships are wonderful ideas that confer upon gay and lesbian couples some of the same basic rights as marriage, such as the right to visit your partner in the hospital. But these state-based laws do nothing for us on the Federal level – we still have to file taxes separately, don’t automatically inherit, and if we leave our home state, we may not even be able to visit our partners in the hospital.

But even if (and right now, it’s a big if) a Federal Civil Unions bill ever passed, granting us the same rights and responsibilities of marriage at the Federal level and at the State level, it still wouldn’t be marriage.

“Why do you have to call it marriage?” we’re often asked by straight friends. “Why not just settle for civil union?”

The answer is complicated.

Most of us grew up in a home where finding the right person and getting married was the ideal. We’re surrounded by the romantic iconography of marriage – I’ll date myself by saying I remember the hype around Luke and Laura’s wedding on General Hospital. Even gay boys and girls grow up wondering what it would be like to stand up there with that someone before all of your friends and families on what’s supposed to be our perfect day.

My partner Mark and I were there in San Francisco when they were offering gay and lesbian couples marriage licenses back in 2004. We got married in San Francisco on March 11th, the last day, maybe two hours before a judge shut the whole thing down. And yes, they called it marriage.

And you know what? Even though they told us later that the whole thing meant nothing, legally, the reality is that it did mean something.

We had been domestic partners for 7 years in the eyes of the State of California, but now, for the briefest of moments, we were Married. For a few minutes, under the dome of City Hall, we were just like everyone else. No better, no worse. And it was amazing.

So I’m sorry if I have a hard time giving up the word “marriage”, even if it might be politically expedient (and don’t kid yourself – even without the word, we’d still be attacked and opposed – witness the current attempt to repeal California’s Domestic Partner law, even though it specifically avoids the word marriage).

So what happens now? I look at the current crop of Democratic candidates, and I see a stronger field than I have in decades. Yet not one among the front leaders is for gay marriage – in the current political environment, it’s still considered a poison pill, and positions on the issue have to be carefully nuanced.

But if nothing else, I’ve learned patience these last seven years. I will hold on to my hope that positions will continue to evolve: that John Edwards, who is “not there yet”, will get there with the help of his wonderful wife. I will hope that Hillary will find her voice on this issue, and will remember her many gay and lesbian friends, including David Mixner, who helped get her husband into office. And I will hope that Barack Obama will continue to be “open to the possibility that my unwillingness to support gay marriage is misguided.”

And I thank both Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich for being man enough to stand up and say that gay marriage is a matter of basic equality. They give me hope that I may yet live to see gay marriage become a reality in the United States in my lifetime.

And wouldn’t that be something.


Original Post

On Going Home for Thanksgiving as the Trans Man I Am

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

Carl CharlesThanksgiving 2011 was the first time my mother met her eldest son. It was the first holiday I’d spent with my immediate family after coming out as transgender.

Earlier that year, I’d written my mom a letter explaining my transition, and my new name and pronouns, telling her how much I loved her and how grateful I would be for her support. With my siblings, I opted for more casual, in-person conversations. My sister nearly knocked over a whole wheel of cheese, flinging her arms in excitement when I called during her lunch break at the Oklahoma Whole Foods where she managed the cheese department.

Sitting across the table from my brother at my favorite Denver bar, the Thin Man, it was clear he didn’t really understand what I was telling him. But he told me about all the gay dudes he worked with and liked at the Apple Store in Denver. Close enough, I thought.

That Thanksgiving also marked the first time I was to meet my mom’s boyfriend, a guy she had been dating for more than a year, and the first serious relationship since her divorce from my father when I was 22.

Authored By Carl Charles – See the Full Story at The Advocate

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Kim Davis – Let me show you what persecution looks like

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

KimDavisABClargeON US TV today (Sept. 22), the clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to ANY couple because she didn’t believe in same sex marriage has said what hurts her most about how she has been treated since she defied the Supreme Court ruling on marriage in June – being called ‘a hypocrite’.

Kim Davis of Rowan County, Kentucky, has been jailed, received a ‘Religious Liberty’ award for fighting ‘legal tyranny’, been called ‘the bravest woman in America‘ and compared to Abraham Lincoln by her lawyer. She has also been called a martyr and a victim of anti-Christian persecutionShe even admitted denying marriage licences to friends, and receiving death threats.

All because she believes in her Christian duty to break the oath she took as a US Government official to uphold the law, in a country whose constitution explicitly forbids the primacy of any religion. The First Amendment clearly states that the US government cannot make any law ‘respecting an establishment of religion.’ In the words of the Supreme Court, this generally means that the government can’t “pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another,” or otherwise become entangled in religious affairs.

Click to continue »

Can Marriage Equality Activists Retire, Now?

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

Gay Wedding

Now that nationwide marriage equality is a thing, should activists just pack up their bullhorns and protest posters and head home for some R&R?

A month after the Supreme Court’s historic marriage equality decision Freedom To Marry, one of the biggest marriage equality advocacy groups, announced that it would shut down its operations, because MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. On Tuesday (August 4), another marriage equality group, The American Foundation for Equal Rights, announced that it was shutting down, too.

But since the ruling, some states and counties have continued to resist obeying the law, and anti-LGBT equality groups have continued to vocally call for a reversal of the Supreme Court’s decision. One such group, the National Organization for Marriage, has even laid out a “five point plan” for amending the Constitution to re-ban gay marriage. Number one in that list: Elect an anti-marriage equality president in 2016.

Authored By Kristina Marusic – See the Full Story at MTV

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If I Must Accept the Hobby Lobby Decision, You Must Accept Marriage Equality

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

US Supreme Court Color

June 2014: the Supreme Court hands down its opinion in a controversial case, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. In a 5-4 vote, the court allows corporations to claim religious exemptions from federal laws. Opponents are angered but accept the court’s decision as the final word on the subject.

June 2015, the Supreme Court hands down its opinion in a controversial case, Obergefell v. Hodges. In a 5-4 vote, the court grants same-sex couples the right to marry in all 50 states. Opponents are angered and do not accept the court’s decision as the final word on the subject. With excessive pouting, they demand an end to the Supreme Court as we know it.

Texas senator Ted Cruz, self-appointed leader of the outraged, convened a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting titled, ‘With Prejudice: Supreme Court Activism and Possible Solutions.’ He spoke gravely with lots of heavy sighs and theatrical turns of phrase: “Much to my great disappointment, this past term, the court crossed a line. Continued its long descent into lawlessness. To a level that I believe demands action. [dramatic pause] The court today is not a body of jurists. It is not a body of judges following the law, but rather it has declared itself, in effect, a super-legislature.” A musical stab would have worked wonderfully here to punctuate his point. He continued in a supremely serious tone: “Five unelected judges declared that the marriage laws of all 50 states were now, somehow, transformed into being unconstitutional … That’s not law. That’s not judging. That’s policy-making.”

By Domenick Scudera – Full Story at the Huffington Post

Comment: Not Having Surgery Doesn’t Make Trans People Less Trans

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

Transgender FlagSome trans people take hormones or have surgery as part of their transition. Some do not. Any of these options are valid and don’t make anyone more or less trans than anyone else. This might not seem like a radical notion, but it’s an amazingly contentious issue, even among trans people.

There is a divide between those who go through or want to have a medical transition, and those who do not. The former can accuse the latter of not being “trans enough”, and then the latter accuse the former of upholding cis normative body standards.

This can then lead to cis people believing that the only way to be “properly trans” is to undergo medical transition, or you’ll never quite be real.

Authored By Naith Payton – See the Full Story at Pink News

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‘Rainbow Profile Pictures for Sex Offenders’ – Homophobia NOT Satire

Sunday, July 12th, 2015
Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was one of 26 million people who used the rainbow filter on his profile picture. SOURCE: Facebook

IT’S LATE – my phone rings. It’s someone I haven’t heard from in a while. I answer.

His greeting is warm, but it sounds like he’s been drinking.

He chats about Facebook – he says he doesn’t use it much but he’s logged in and noticed the rainbow filter on my profile picture, the only one among his list of friends on the site.

He says he is concerned because he has just read an article claiming that sex offenders have been ordered to use rainbow profile pictures on social media so others can easily identify them as potential predators. Click to continue »

Our Weddings, Our Worth

Friday, July 10th, 2015
Ben Wiseman

Ben Wiseman

HOW will the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage alter the way Americans feel about the country, and how we feel about ourselves?

I can’t speak for everyone. But I can speak for this one 12-year-old boy.

He stands out among his siblings because he lacks their optimism about things, even their quickness to smile. He has a darkness that they don’t. He’s a worrier, a brooder. He’s also more self-conscious. He can’t get comfortable with himself.

And while this may be his wiring, it may also be something else. He has noticed that his heart beats faster not for girls but for other boys, and the sensation is as lonely and terrifying as it is intense.

He doesn’t know what to do about it. He’s sure he’ll be reviled for it, because he hears all of the bigoted jokes that people aren’t necessarily aware that they’re telling, all of the cruel asides that they don’t always realize that they’re muttering. He craves some assurance that he’ll be spared their disdain and disgust. But the world hasn’t given him any.

Authored By Frank Bruni – See the Full Story at the New York Times

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I’m Applying to Be a Game Warden

Saturday, July 4th, 2015

David TaffetI’ve decided to apply to Texas Parks and Wildlife to become a game warden.

Unfortunately, hunting is against my religion, so, once appointed, I won’t be issuing any legally sanctioned government licenses. I do expect to be paid my full salary and I expect everyone who likes to hunt to understand because otherwise they’ll be interfering with my deeply held religious beliefs.

That’s because our attorney general, Ken Paxton, believes people who work for the government should have the right to follow their religious beliefs — and I’m sure he wasn’t just talking about same-sex marriage.

By David Taffet – Full Story at The Dallas Voice | Texas Gay Travel Resources

Today We March

Sunday, June 28th, 2015

gay wedding

Twenty three years ago, I walked into the Pacific Center, an LGBT center in Berkeley, California, for a gay men’s night, having no idea that I would meet the love of my life, my husband Mark.

That I can call him my husband, legally, under the laws of both the Federal Government and all fifty states, would have seemed an impossibility to me back then.

The first gay wedding I ever attended was in the late 80’s, when a high school friend of mine “married” his partner in Southern California. I put the word “married” in quotes because, back then, it was such an impossible concept – this idea that two men could marry – and it was at once an act of defiance and an act of love.

The ceremony, such as it was, involved five of us – the two grooms and three friends. We went to the Huntington Museum – a gorgeous place in Arcadia, California – and together we entered the bamboo garden. There, amidst the tall stands of bamboo, with the three of us huddled protectively around the couple so no one else could see, they exchanged hurried vows and rings.

I was all of 22 years old.

What a different world the young adults of today are entering into. When Mark and I met in 1992, we didn’t believe this day would come in our lifetimes. When we started our LGBT wedding directory,, the name itself implied that we were lucky to get the recognition of civil unions. I still kick myself for not also having bought LOL…

In 2008, we jumped into advocacy with both feet, starting the Gay Marriage Watch blog, which later became Marriage Equality Watch. In that year, anti gay laws were still gaining ground, and our bright, beautiful victory in California at the state Supreme Court was quickly eclipsed by the lies and hatred of Prop 8. Even then, just seven years ago, we didn’t know if we would get here.

The fall of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell put the foot on the accelerator, as the country saw out and proud military veterans for the first time, and all that activist energy flowed from the military into marriage equality and other LGBT movements.

The US Supreme Court rulings in 2014 only threw more fuel on the fire. I had hoped for marriage equality nationwide by 2020. I didn’t dare dream it would arrive so soon.

Mark and I have married twice – once in 2004 in San Francisco, only to see it snatched away from us, and again in 2008, also in The City. Many other same sex couples have now done the same around the country and around the world.

There are still other battles to be fought. In many states in the US, you can be fired or kicked out of your home for being LGBT. Transgender rights deserve much more of our attention. And there are many places around the world where it’s still a criminal act to be gay.

But those are fights to start tomorrow.

Today Mark and I will celebrate what has come before, and where we are now.

Today, in San Francisco, we march.