Sunday, January 25, 2009

My Turn

My op-ed on marriage equality appeared in today's Burlington Free Press. In addition to airing my perspective on the matter, I've learned that pro-gay letters and op-ed's are a great way to keep homophobic wingnuts warm and busy on these cold winter days. (We wouldn't want them to catch a chill, after all.) The online response to my pieces, here and here, has been, um, illuminating. (Anti-gay people also seem to be anti-spelling, anti-grammar, and anti-coherence.) Fortunately, the anti-gay people who have nothing better to do than hang around forums spouting nonsense don't have much power in Vermont these days. I sent pro-marriage-equality letters to my four local VT representatives this past week and in less than 24 hours all had written back expressing their support for passing a marriage bill this year. Their open-mindedness makes me proud to be a Vermonter. (Our current governor, however, does not.) I wish some of that open-mindedness would spread to the whole US. For that to happen, we may need to have a more open-minded Supreme Court, something that seems more possible now that it's President Obama instead of President Bush. 

My Turn: Time is right for marriage equality

Recently, while visiting California, my partner and I were seated beside four young people in a crowded bakery. In the midst of enjoying our pastries, we overheard two of the young people announce to the other two that they were planning to get married.

Congratulations ensued, along with carefree discussions of wedding and honeymoon plans. This was a straight couple. A gay couple couldn't make such a carefree announcement. In the aftermath of the passage of California's Proposition 8, which eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry, the status of legally married gay couples in California is now uncertain, while gay couples who wish to wed will be forbidden from doing so.

Though I restrained myself from butting into this young couple's happiness, I wanted to ask them if they realized that what they were taking for granted, the simple right to express their love through marriage, was something that had been taken away from equally committed gay couples, even couples who had been loving and caring for one another longer than this young couple had been alive.

This incident has stayed with me since my partner and I returned to Vermont. Like gay couples in California, we don't have the right to marry. Why is that? We pay the same taxes as straight people do. We've supported each other through the deaths of family members, just as straight people do. We're good Vermont neighbors. We love each other. Two straight people could meet one another today and get married next week. But if my partner of 18 years and I were to try to get married, we'd be refused.

People put forth various reasons why gay people shouldn't have marriage equality. Some of these reasons stem from the belief that homosexuality is wrong and that allowing same-sex couples to marry will infringe on religious freedoms. Even when same-sex couples are allowed to marry, individuals will remain free to hold whatever personal beliefs they choose. Churches will not be forced to marry same-sex couples, since civil marriage laws have no bearing on religious marriage ceremonies. Furthermore, it was already established in the 1999 Vermont Supreme Court Baker decision that same-sex couples are entitled to the same benefits and protections as opposite-sex couples.

Debates about homosexuality are beside the point. Other people argue that since civil unions were designed to provide the same benefits and protections as marriage, they are equal enough. This argument defies logic. If civil unions and marriage are truly equal, there's no need for separate categories.

Classifying couples solely on the basis of their sexual orientation is inherently discriminatory. The only justification for it is to imply that one type of love is superior to another, one type of human being superior to another. If the difference between civil unions and civil marriage is trivial, as some suggest, why make the distinction? If civil unions are sufficient, as Gov. Douglas has stated, why not leave "marriage" to the churches and have the state provide civil unions to opposite and same-sex couples alike? If this were put before the Legislature, I suspect civil unions would no longer be "sufficient."

In the past eight years, Vermonters have come to understand that the fear surrounding civil unions was unfounded. Discrimination threatens people, equality shouldn't. The 2009 legislative session is an opportunity for Vermont to once again demonstrate our fair-minded spirit and set a positive example for the rest of the country. Gay couples in Vermont, and everywhere else, should be able to announce their intentions to marry as freely and joyfully as a young straight couple in California.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A New Era, At Last

Every reason to be: excited, optimistic, relieved, wary, scared, ready, alive, open, renewed, happy, overwhelmed, thankful, cautious, bold, patient, demanding, understanding, truthful, aware, wishful, realistic, proud. Now the real work begins. Good luck, Barack. Good luck, all of us.

Monday, January 19, 2009

To the Editor

Vermont was the first state in the US to have Civil Unions for gay couples. Now, some eight years later, we're hoping to put a full marriage bill before the governor this legislative session. Whether he signs it, vetoes it, or lets it pass into law without his signature remains his choice (Governor Douglas has said that CUs are adequate), but we're hoping he will choose to be on the right side of history. Many of us have been writing letters to the editor, opinion pieces, and making other grassroots efforts to make sure that our push for equality is felt by as many people as possible. Vermont Freedom to Marry is a great place to learn more. One of my letters to the editor appeared in today's Rutland Herald:

Gay marriage good for Vermont

Some people believe that homosexuality is wrong. That is their right. Some religious institutions do not allow marriage ceremonies for gay couples. That is their right. People also have the right to hold racist and sexist views. It is widely understood, however, that these views should not be the basis for laws.

In 1999, the Vermont Supreme Court unanimously concluded that gay and straight couples are entitled to the same benefits and protections under the law. In Vermont, it is no longer a question of whether gay people deserve equality: we do. The question is whether civil unions, a compromise legislation, provide it: they don't. Dividing couples into separate categories is inherently discriminatory. The only justification for it is to imply that one type of love is superior to another, one type of human being superior to another.

Gov. Douglas believes that revisiting the marriage issue is divisive. What's divisive is the current law, one which divides people into first- and second-class citizens. Civil unions were a first positive step towards full marriage equality. In the past eight years, the majority of Vermonters have come to understand that the fear surrounding civil unions was unfounded. Equality threatens no one. It doesn't hurt the economy. (Marriage equality will likely benefit Vermont's economy.) The groundwork has been laid for marriage. It's neither complicated nor a distraction. Rather, it's an opportunity for Vermont, and its legislators, to further demonstrate our belief that all citizens are created equal.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

One Foggy Morning

A foggy morning stroll along the Embarcadero in San Francisco. The fog has an almost human presence there. Or, rather, a superhuman presence. It wanders the streets and neighborhoods at will, wraps itself around the city's architecture and inhabitants, obscures and reveals as it sees fit, disappears without a trace and lies in wait for the next visit.

The Principal's Office ~ Dirty Dancing

"Is this too close?" Ah, how times have changed since I was in high school. From truTV's "reality" show, The Principal’s Office.

Friday, January 9, 2009

What About Gay Marriage?

"It's this woodworking project. It keeps falling apart." That explains it all.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

First Blizzard 2009

The first blizzard of 2009 in my Montréal neighborhood, the evening of January 7th.