Tag Archives: Defense of Marriage Act

Equality as a Cigarette


Dear President Obama,

No on 8No on Question 1As we evaluate what happened in Maine as marriage equality, via Question 1, went down with a similar margin as is did in California with Proposition 8, a vivid memory from over thirty years ago comes to mind, in the way a locust comes to a field of corn.

When I was a young father, I used to smoke around my children and in the house.  I smoked in the car and at work.  I smoked everywhere. 

As my children grew, I would lecture them on the dangers of smoking, even as I went to the hospital for asthma and two strokes in my forties from smoking.  I did begin smoking in a different room than the one in which my children were playing.  I did all these “better” things, but I never quit.  I never took action to model a “best” behavior for them.

I believe that this is what you have done to the gay and lesbian community.  You’ve talked a lot about your support of the LGBTQ community.  You’ve signed ENDA and the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act  into law. You’ve done all this, but you have not repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and you have not repealed the Defense of Marriage Act.   I remember mentioning that we would see how you’d done by this time in my commentary of May 2009, “DOMA, DADT, and the President of the United States.”

You have given tacet approval to everyone in the United States to stand by their arrogant bigotry by not taking action.  Maine’s response to Question 1 raises our questions about your commitment to the tasks at hand, especially considering that on your White House contact website, there isn’t even a category for civil rights.  Our issues are relegated to the cruel word, “Other.”   It makes me believe that some of us American citizens are seen as “those people.”

42-17323271

It's tough to let go.

For the record, every single one of my children ended up smoking.   Although they are now in their 30’s and 40’s for the most part, and making their own choices, they initially learned from me that smoking was o.k.  I am saddened every day by that fact as they end up in the hospital with asthma and bronchitis.  I am saddened that they may develop emphysema or  lung cancer and die the way their great-grandparents did, and as I, it appears, shall do as well.  I am saddened that their children, of which there are nine between them, will learn the same lessons from my children as mine did from me.  The impact of my smoking has become generational. 

Are you going to allow the impact of your inaction toward the necessary civil rights issues before you to become generational,  as well? 

With my husband, David, we signed our Domestic Partnership documents in August 2005.  In August 2006, we were married in a religious ceremony, and in doing so, we became husbands to one another.  You, Mr. President, however, have no record of that marriage.  Neither does anyone else, except in the hearts of those in attendance.  Is that the life you would want with Mrs. Obama? 

gay-older-couple-250a0328

A gay, older couple

Next time you have a cigarette, (and because I, too, continue to struggle with my nicotine addiction, I know there will be another cigarette, Mr. President), each time you take a drag, think about the gay community.  Each cigarette represents another gay person who is being discriminated against.  Each puff represents one more day that American citizens are being kept from equality.  Every butt you throw away is the dream of a gay couple whose hope for their 50th wedding anniversary that has been dashed. 

So, I raise my filled ashtray to you, President Obama, in hopes that you will both stop smoking and make the changes to our laws that will provide equality to all people in America.

Sincerely,

James S. Ch. Glica-Hernandez

Sacramento, CA

Sent Wednesday, November 4, 2009  9:15 PM PST

Some Perspective on the DOJ and DADT and DOMA


If Nathan Lane was President of these here United States of America (with Harvey Fierstein as Vice President, and Hedda Lettuce as U.S. Attorney General), his administration would have been required to support the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) as it was for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in response to a court battle.  It is the law that the Department of Justice must always file friends of the court/amicus briefs that support current law.  We should not be getting upset about this amicus brief.  It’s a non-issue.

What should have gone along with this brief, however, is a statement from the President indicating his focus on getting a quick legislative repeal of DOMA.  His speech at the National Equality March did give us more hope; however,that’s how this should have been handled in the first place. 

It’s frustrating to realize that we are having issues regarding civil rights in our third century of existence as a country; we, whose ancestors left England, and many other countries for that matter, for freedom. 

hillbillyI remember thinking as a teacher about students who took a long, long time to get the concepts I was putting forth, “Bless their pointed little heads.” 

Sometimes, that’s the way I feel about us as a nation.

“Bless our pointed little heads.”

My point is, let’s stay focused on our next move and not get bogged down in those things we cannot change.

Stay focused, people!

Slowly… Slowly


TransgenderSometimes, change happens all at once.  Usually, however, it happens in tiny increments, especially when it comes to social change.

United States Senator Barbara Boxer (California) recently distributed an e-mail indicating that she is joining a bipartisan group of Senators in introducing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) prohibiting  job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

The passage of ENDA would prohibit all employers, employment agencies, labor organizations and other groups who hire and fire staff from firing, refusing to hire, or discriminating against anyone on the basis of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity.

This bill has already been supported by high profile national civil rights  and labor organizations and more than fifty Fortune 500 companies.

One must wonder if the significance of this era is being missed by those who feel they are not directly involved in the movement toward the eradication of discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender citizens? 

Is it even possible to realize how important a particular shift in public perception is until after the transition is complete?  The movements to ensure a woman’s right to vote and the acknowledgement of and action against racial discrimination began in small ways, but it wasn’t until the lion’s share of the legislation was passed that we could begin to fathom just how pervasive the blight of hatred and disrespect had been and how far we were stepping ahead.

Senator Boxer’s note to all of us was particularly welcome given that President Obama has shown so little dynamic leadership in relation to repealing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue (DADT) policies currently on the books in our country. 

The best news about ENDA is that it is a bipartisan effort by our Federal legislators.  Nothing gives us greater hope for our future than when, on both sides of the aisle, our elected officials choose to correct a horrible injustice in our laws and societal patterns in such a dynamic way.

Slowly, the awakening is beginning that each person, no matter how they are identified in the little boxes on most forms, has the right to all the freedoms promised in our United States Constitution.  This new effort is one more important step.

Congratulations to everyone involved in the passage of this bill!

A Speech for Some of Us


National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

On July 16, 2009, President Barack Obama delivered a dynamic speech on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the National Assocation for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  The NAACP has been the seminal and pivotal organization for the phenomenal growth toward civil rights in these United States of America.  A celebration of this organization and its creative and powerful membership is well-deserved and should be celebrated by every group.

There was a cognitive dissonance in hearing the presidents’ words, however, as a gay person in the U.S, particularly considering the NAACP has been a vibrant supporter of gay rights.  His message of hope and personal and social responsbility resonated as so much more shallow than it might have as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue (DADT) policies remain in full force. 

This letter was written and sent today to President Obama in hope that my voice, added to the millions of others supporting full civil rights for all people in the United States, would make a difference. 

Wherever you stand on these topics, I hope this continues to be an on-going discussion and that the gay community, like the African-American community, will find positive movement forward as time passes.

July 16, 2009

Dear President Obama,

Thank you for your dynamic and moving speech on the joyful anniversary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People today.  Your words of hope and movement forward, personal responsibility and support of the national government were both powerful and intimate.

Without taking anything away from your message to the African-American community, it’s just sad that your words do not apply to the gay children in our country.  It truly is a shame.  Your silence is injuring our gay youth every day it continues.  Your daily inaction is another pound of weight of intolerance and neglect on their necks.

Because I believe in your innate goodness and wisdom, I must only conclude that you do not clearly understand that you alone, Mr. President, can change the direction of our national intolerance and neglect toward all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in our country, particularly with regard to the Defense of Marriage Act and the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue policies.  It is your voice that will ring the clarion call for change, change that you promised all Americans during your campaign.

I will continue to remind you of your promise, Mr. President.  Each time you speak, I am listening, along with millions of others like me.  We are waiting. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this correspondence, if you have.  I suspect it will simply end up in a stack of mail that your aides will review, at which time they will mail out a boilerplate response, and feel complete in their task.   Your eyes will be ignorant of my words and your hands will be clean of responsibility for a genuine, personal response to me.
That is not accessibility to you.  That is accessibility to the infrastructure of the White House and no more.

In prayers of gratitude and hope,

James C. Glica-Hernandez
Sacramento, CA

What’s Good for the Goose…


There is a dichotomy in these United States of America that is so vividly being presented in the State of Connecticut regarding our freedoms.  In the second of five states in the country to allow gay marriage, there comes a video from the  Manifested Glory Ministries that shows a sixteen-year-old young man having a “homosexual demon” exorcised from his body.

Calvin and Patricia McKinney

Calvin and Patricia McKinney

Prophet Patricia McKinney, and the church overseer and McKinney’s husband, Calvin McKinney, have apparently performed several exorcisms on young people who are attempting to release themselves from the perceived grip of their homosexuality.  The video, as one can imagine, is dynamic in that the young fellow, whose name was withheld, was seen thrashing on the floor, eventually vomitting during the twenty minute, vociferous event.

As revolting as the concept of a “gay exorcism” is to my mind and heart, one question is raised,  “Is the family’s freedom of religion alive enough  to practice their faith as they see fit?” 

If the child’s parents gave the McKinneys permission to perform this rite, the McKinney’s were willing to perform the rite, and if the child himself agreed to experience it, does the family of the parishoner have the right to practice their religion in whatever way they choose, so long as the boy wasn’t injured physically? 

Some might say that the boy should feel free to be gay if that’s what he is.  If that is true, which I believe it is, as well, then shouldn’t he also be allowed to participate in the rites of his church just as freely? 

Concern is correctly expressed that the exorcism will damage his psyche and sense of self because he is not being supported by his community for being who he genuinely is.   We must invite the question as to whether there are other religions who, perhaps not so vehemently, do the same thing to their beloved children.  Families often criticize and shame their offspring because of their sexuality.  Doesn’t that also do horrific damage to the child to have people he or she loves dispense separation, vitriol, and, perhaps, violence against that individual because of the child’s sexuality?

How obscene should it be to us as  a people to wag our fingers at the McKinneys for doing what we do to our own children in other ways? 

“God, I wish my son wasn’t a freakin’ fairy.”

“Jeez, why can’t my daughter just find a nice man with whom to settle down and have a family, instead of that horrible dyke?”

The high horse on which many are riding right now is growing more and more lame.  The pedestal on which many of our fellow Americans would like to believe they sit is cracking under the pressure of our own hypocrisy. 

In this video, there appeared to be a belief that this child harbored a demon named, “homosexuality.”    Isn’t that what many in our country believe?  Those who fight against the equal rights for marriage certainly are making that statement to their children.  Those who sit idly by and watch our junior high students commit suicide because they are being perceived as gay are saying the same thing.

Let’s see things as they are for a change.  We are culturally a bigotted and judgmental people on the whole.   We see ourselves in distinct and separate groups and we like it that way.  The good news is that we are slowly recognizing it and the damage it is causing.  We are changing.  We may even arrive at a place where, for example, in this country, we are all Americans first, instead of insisting on being hyphenates, such as Jewish-Americans, African-Americans, or Straight-Americans.

Change is hard.  Cultural therapy is phenomenally painful and difficult.  We will, however, survive and flourish once we get to the other side.  At that point, we will be able to better see our brothers and sisters as equals in every way. 

What a great day that will be.

What we must not do, though, is lose sight of the fact that for each of our rights, there are those who will show us the extremes of what having them means.  The McKinneys are just those people.  For some, Rosie O’Donnell and Ellen Degeneres would be just those people, as well.  

There must be room for everyone if we want our equality and rights to live in the broadest possible way.

The only exorcism I’d like to see is the banishment of hatred and ignorance.  I’d go to that ritual today!

Dear Mr. and Mrs. America


Would this letter be acceptable to anyone?

June 16, 2009

Mr. Aaron America and Miss Cierra Ciudadana

1234 Main Street

Here, ST 12345-6789

Dear Mr. America and Miss Ciudadana,

As a representative of the State, I am sorry to inform you that in accordance with and expansion to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), your marriage license has been deemed invalid by the Vital Statistics Bureau because you did not meet the criteria for marriage in this state.

___  1.  You and your betrothed are of the same gender;

___  2.  You and your betrothed are not of the same race;

___  3.  You and your betrothed are not of the same faith;

___  4.  You and/or your betrothed were not born in this country;

___  5.  The faith you and your betrothed espouse is not one of the accepted traditions (i.e., Muslim (Sunni), Jewish (conservative), Roman Catholic, Sikh, Episcopalian, Quakers) in this state (e.g., Eastern Orthodox, Mormon, Jewish (reformed), Muslim (Shiite), Hindu, Seventh Day Adventist, Buddhist, Lutheran, Sufi);

___  6.  You and/or your betrothed did not score at an adequately high level on your Intelligence Quotiant (IQ) examination to be considered ready for marriage.

___  7.  You and your betrothed committed fornication before you were married.

___  8.  You and/or your betrothed were previously married.

___  9.  You and your betrothed are not earning an adequate annual income to be outstanding members of the community together.

We are sorry for this inconvenience, but we are attempting to preserve traditional marriage in this state; therefore, we are certain you understand the necessity for this decision.  You have no appeal rights and you should simply accept this situation as permanent.

We can certainly provide you an alternative with the Civil Union (CU) contracts.  The CU contracts provide many, but not all, of the rights of marriage, and is recognized only in this state.  We are certain you will be satisfied with this level of acknowledgement. 

Thank you for your patience and helping to make our state a wonderful place in which to live for everybody.Jefferson_state_seal

Sincerely,

 

Zebediah Thorncaster

Governor

President to President Regarding DOMA


The 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court identified the crime of apartheid as inhumane acts of a character similar to other crimes against humanity “committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”

Discrimination is defined as treatment or consideration based toward or against a person of a certain group based on that person’s class or category rather than individual merit. It can be behavior promoting a certain group, or it can be negative behavior directed against a certain group.

Two of the explanations for the word opression include the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner, and  the feeling of being heavily burdened, mentally or physically, by troubles, adverse conditions, anxiety, etc.

Ask any gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person what these words mean to them and they will likely tell you that their lives in the many of these United States of America feel similar to the descriptions listed above.  Of course, with apartheid, the description is of one group over another based on ethnicity or race; however, if one substitutes the word sexuality for racial, then the term fits magnificently for those who identify themselves as attempting to defend traditional marriage.  This is especially true when you think of the gay families who are denied medical care because they cannot be on their spouse’s health plan, and those who must choose between their country and their mate because of archaic immigration laws.  While people are not being slaughtered, they are dying at the hands of a government who will not permit them pursue their happiness.  While people are not being denied citizenship, they are not having citizen granted simply because they are married, as with heterosexual couples.  The gravity of these situations is no less intense for the families having to face these cruelties.

In his role as President of the Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solmonese’s letter to President Barack Obama, eloquently addresses the impact of inaction, as well as action, by President Obama and his administration with regard to the Department of Justice’s Letter of Support for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). 

Please take a moment to read this document, no matter which side you find yourself on this question.  It truly is good and compelling reading.

Thanks.

June 15, 2009

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I have had the privilege of meeting you on several occasions, when visiting the White House in my capacity as president of the Human Rights Campaign, a civil rights organization representing millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people across this country.  You have welcomed me to the White House to express my community’s views on health care, employment discrimination, hate violence, the need for diversity on the bench, and other pressing issues.  Last week, when your administration filed a brief defending the constitutionality of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act,”[1] I realized that although I and other LGBT leaders have introduced ourselves to you as policy makers, we clearly have not been heard, and seen, as what we also are: human beings whose lives, loves, and families are equal to yours.  I know this because this brief would not have seen the light of day if someone in your administration who truly recognized our humanity and equality had weighed in with you.

So on behalf of my organization and millions of LGBT people who are smarting in the aftermath of reading that brief, allow me to reintroduce us.   You might have heard of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. They waited 55 years for the state of California to recognize their legal right to marry.  When the California Supreme Court at last recognized that right, the octogenarians became the first couple to marry.  Del died after the couple had been legally married for only two months.  And about two months later, their fellow Californians voted for Proposition 8.

Across this country, same-sex couples are living the same lives that Phyllis and Del so powerfully represent, and the same lives as you and your wife and daughters.  In over 99% of  U.S.[2] counties, we are raising children and trying to save for their educations; we are committing to each other emotionally and financially.  We are paying taxes, serving on the PTA, struggling to balance work and family, struggling to pass our values on to our children—through church, extended family, and community.   Knowing us for who we are—people and families whose needs and contributions are no different from anyone else’s—destroys the arguments set forth in the government’s brief in Smelt.   As you read the rest of what I have to say, please judge the brief’s arguments with this standard: would this argument hold water if you acknowledge that Del and Phyllis have contributed as much to their community as their straight neighbors, and that their family is as worthy of respect as your own?

Reading the brief, one is told again and again that same-sex couples are so unlike different-sex couples that unequal treatment makes sense.  But the government doesn’t say what makes us different, or unequal, only that our marriages are “new.”  The fact that same-sex couples were denied equal rights until recently does not justify denying them now.

For example, the brief seems to adopt the well-worn argument that excluding same-sex couples from basic protections is somehow good for other married people:

Because all 50 States recognize hetero-sexual marriage, it was reasonable and rational for Congress to maintain its longstanding policy of fostering this traditional and universally-recognized form of marriage.

The government does not state why denying us basic protections promotes anyone else’s marriage, nor why, while our heterosexual neighbors’ marriages should be promoted, our own must be discouraged.  In other words, the brief does not even attempt to explain how DOMA is related to any interest, but rather accepts that it is constitutional to attempt to legislate our families out of existence.

The brief characterizes DOMA as “neutral:”

[DOMA amounts to] a cautious policy of federal neutrality towards a new form of marriage.

DOMA is not “neutral” to a federal employee serving in your administration who is denied equal compensation because she cannot cover her same-sex spouse in her health plan.  When a woman must choose between her job and caring for her spouse because they are not covered by the FMLA, DOMA is not “neutral.”  DOMA is not a “neutral” policy to the thousands of bi-national same-sex couples who have to choose between family and country because they are considered strangers under our immigration laws.  It is not a “neutral” policy toward the minor child of a same-sex couple, who is denied thousands of dollars of surviving mother’s or father’s benefits because his parents are not “spouses” under Social Security law. 

Exclusion is not neutrality.

Next, the brief indicates that denying gay people our equal rights saves money:

It is therefore permitted to maintain the unique privileges [the government] has afforded to [different-sex marriages] without immediately extending the same privileges, and scarce government resources, to new forms of marriage that States have only recently begun to recognize.

The government goes on to say that DOMA reasonably protects other taxpayers from having to subsidize families like ours.  The following excerpt explains:

DOMA maintains federal policies that have long sought to promote the traditional and uniformly-recognized form of marriage, recognizes the right of each State to expand the traditional definition if it so chooses, but declines to obligate federal taxpayers in other States to subsidize a form of marriage that their own states do not recognize.

These arguments completely disregard the fact that LGBT citizens pay taxes ourselves.  We contribute into Social Security equally and receive the same statement in the mail every year.  But for us, several of the benefits listed in the statement are irrelevant—our spouses and children will never benefit from them.  The parent who asserts that her payments into Social Security should ensure her child’s financial future should she die is not seeking a subsidy.  The gay White House employee who works as hard as the person in the next office is not seeking a “subsidy” for his partner’s federal health benefits.  He is earning the same compensation without receiving it.  And the person who cannot even afford to insure her family because the federal government would treat her partner’s benefits as taxable income—she is not seeking a subsidy. 

The government again ignores our experiences when it argues that DOMA § 2 does not impair same-sex couples’ right to move freely about our country as other families can:

DOMA does not affect “the right of a citizen of one State to enter and to leave another state, the right to be treated as a welcome visitor rather than an unfriendly alien when temporarily present in the second State.”

This example shows the fallacy of that argument: a same-sex couple and their child drives cross-country for a vacation.  On the way, they are in a terrible car accident.  One partner is rushed into the ICU while the other, and their child, begs to be let in to see her, presenting the signed power of attorney that they carry wherever they go.  They are told that only “family” may enter, and the woman dies alone while her spouse waits outside.  This family was not “welcome.”

As a matter of constitutional law, some of this brief does not even make sense:

DOMA does not discriminate against homosexuals in the provision of federal benefits…. Section 3 of DOMA does not distinguish among persons of different sexual orientations, but rather it limits federal benefits to those who have entered into the traditional form of marriage.

In other words, DOMA does not discriminate against gay people, but rather only provides federal benefits to heterosexuals. 

I cannot overstate the pain that we feel as human beings and as families when we read an argument, presented in federal court, implying that our own marriages have no more constitutional standing than incestuous ones:

And the courts have widely held that certain marriages, performed elsewhere need not be given effect, because they conflicted with the public policy of the forum.  See e.g., Catalano v. Catalano, 170 A.2d 726, 728-29 (Conn. 1961) (marriage of uncle to niece, though valid in Italy under its laws, was not valid in Connecticut because it contravened public policy of th[at] state.” [3]

As an American, a civil rights advocate, and a human being, I hold this administration to a higher standard than this brief.  In the course of your campaign, I became convinced—and I still want to believe—that you do, too.  I have seen your administration aspire and achieve.  Protecting women from employment discrimination.  Insuring millions of children.  Enabling stem cell research to go forward.  These are powerful achievements.  And they serve as evidence to me that this brief should not be good enough for you.  The question is, Mr. President—do you believe that it’s good enough for us?

If we are your equals, if you recognize that our families live the same, love the same, and contribute as much as yours, then the answer must be no.

We call on you to put your principles into action and send legislation repealing DOMA to Congress.

Sincerely,

Joe Solmonese

[1] Smelt v. United States of America, Case No. SACV09-00286, Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss and Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support Thereof (June 11, 2009).

[2] Gates, Gary G. and Jason Ost. The Gay & Lesbian Atlas. District of Columbia: Urban Institute Press, 2004.

[3] In fact, in the majority of relevant cases, courts have recognized the out-of-state marriage. See e.g. Pearson, 51 Cal. 120 (1875) (recognizing the marriage of a white man and black woman entered into in Utah that would have been invalid under California’s anti-miscegenation statute), see also McDonald v. McDonald, 58 P.2d 163 (Cal. 1936) (recognizing in Nevada marriage between a husband and his wife although the husband was only eighteen, a violation of California marriage laws).