Tag Archives: Proposition 8

The President’s Voice on Prop. 8

There are many people who have lived in the United States of America who have not had a voice.  Those voiceless people were expected by those in power to sit silently as others made decisions for them.

The Native Americans were expected to stand aside as Europeans settled their sacred land.

African natives and their descendants were expected to work as slaves as European descendants built their livelihoods on these slaves’ sweat and blood.

The Chinese railroad workers were expected to accept what they received as they built the Transcontinental Railroad.

Mexicans were expected to work as farm laborers without adequate pay or human services while farmers earned their living.

The one thing each of these oppressed groups had in common was that they all spoke up.  They fought back.  Those wise enough and strong enough stepped up to demand that their message be heard.   The voices of  John Smith and Pocahontas in Jamestown, Virginia; the Chinese striking railroad workers on Donner Pass, in 1867; Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War; and Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta during the founding of the National Farmworkers Association, all resounded throughout the country as their messages of equality, health, safety, and full citizenship were heralded.

We are facing a federal court case in San Francisco that will assess whether the vote on California’s Proposition 8 was legal.  Prop 8 passed in November 2008 and because it passed, the now enforceable California Marriage Protection Act added language to Section 7.5 of Article 1, of the California Constitution that stated, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid in California.”

As we look toward the future of equal marriage rights and citizenship rights for the gay community, we are fortunate to have many voices calling for full citizenship in the United States.  The tragic part is that the one voice that is more necessary than any others is falling eerily silent during this time of change.

Instead of standing tall for the freedom and voice of the gay community, President Barack Obama is peering from the sidelines.  Rather than stating emphatically that the rights of one citizen of our country shall be granted, without hesitation or fear, to all citizens of our country, regardless of race, creed, economic status, disability, or sexual orientation, he simply waits quietly.  Somehow, amazingly, President Obama appears to believe that we should allow this debate to continue as a people while hearing only a vacuum in the Oval Office. 

From Presidents Bush, Reagan, Nixon, Ford, and others of their ilk, this philosophy of inequality is strangely understandable.  Because they were reared in another social era, holding onto conservative beliefs, their frames of reference should be expected to be as they were.

With Presidents Carter and Clinton, the time had not yet arrived for this message of equality.

As for President Bush, Jr., our expectations of him had to be held very, very low because he was just not capable of anything more.

“And to whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required: and to whom they commit much, of him will they ask the more.”  Luke 12:48 (Holy Bible)

Not only has President Obama been given the mantle of President, he has also been given a place in American history that not one other human being can ever have.  He is the first African-American to hold this position.  With that place in history, Americans have incredibly high expectations of him.  We must remember, however, that he is not obligated to support all equal rights issues just because he holds this place in American history.  He is simply a human being making human decisions. 

Perhaps because of the powerful Black leaders of the past, including Frederick Douglas, Sojourner Truth, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and General Colin Powell, we’ve hoped that President Obama would join their ranks in fearless defense of all citizens of our country.  That simply may not be the case.  He may just wait for others to do the work before he steps up to say, “Well done.”

The hardest part for many people in this country is to imagine that President Obama will blandly meld into the lineage of so many other American presidents by turning what could have been a dynamic era in U.S. history into a watered down revisitation of other administrations.   Perhaps he will lean more toward his European heritage and become the politician that so many U.S. presidents have become instead of the noble statesman he has the capacity to become.

The truth is, Americans do expect more from President Obama.  At a certain level, he is the first of his culture to leap the White House in a single bound.  He is, I suppose, perceived as our Captain America.  He shouldn’t be.  He’s just a person like the rest of us.

After all his promises of change, the only real change we may see through him is his ethnic background.   He may prove to disbelievers that there really is no difference between the races or cultures in America.  Any person in the White House can be just as afraid of disapproval as any other person, and in that fear, remain silent when there are people who need vocal and active leadership.

Skype – The New Visitin’ Fence

When I was a boy in McCloud, there were these tiny fences over which I could almost reach.  I’m not really certain why they were there, but Dad used to say, “Fences make good neighbors.”   Ours were so small that we must have made mediocre neighbors, at best.

What I remember about those fences, though, were the times when Mom and Kitty Joyner would stand on the respective sides of their fence and visit.  It was funny that they didn’t go into their kitchens and have a cup of coffee, but I suppose they were hanging clothes on the line or raking the leaves at the time. 

Today, fences are over six feet tall and more accurately appear to be sections of the Great Wall of China.  When I want to visit my neighbors, the Clarks, I have to speak blindly to them through the slats of the dark brown redwood that has weathered between our homes.  Sometimes, someone will climb a ladder to peer over so that our voices aren’t so disembodied any more.

With the increased mobility of people today, our children, siblings and extended families are flung all over the globe.  We miss our loved ones terribly.  Of course, we’re grateful for the internet and the telephone to keep in touch.  Some of us still write letters, which is also nice.

Now, though, we have Skype.  Skype is an on-line telephone line, free without an actual phone number, with which you can make telephone calls over the internet.  The real blessing of this system is that not only is there audio, but there is video available on Skype.  We can actually see, face-to-face, those we love who are hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles away!  It’s the best thing!

I’ve seen Skype used on Oprah and other television programs.  I thought to myself, “Not great technology since the picture looks grainy and the sound is pretty low-level.”

When I spoke to my family for the first time on Skype, however, it suddenly became a precious gem that I wanted to celebrate in every way possible.  I was seeing faces with movement and expression that I had not seen in a very, very long time.  My heart soared.

I will admit, my hair is not always a happy thing, and sometimes, I am in my bathrobe, but I just figure it’s like a slumber party. 

Over the last one hundred years, our transportation system has gotten so good that we can go where our work is, where our heart is, or where our art is in a matter of hours.  We can live in foreign lands, distant states, or even nearby cities in a way that is so much easier than having to take a ship to Europe or Asia, or not going at all. 

So, here we are, a mere step away from teleporting to our family’s homes.  Our faces, voices, expressions, and aging all there for others’ consumption.  Who could ask for anything more?  Perhaps Skype will elevate the technology once again and we will have holograms of our loved ones with which we can have coffee in the morning.

Thanks, Skype, and welcome, beloved, yet distant family, to my home!

The Invisible Gay Dollar

What if on June 9, 2010, (6/9 for those who enjoy a naughty giggle), the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community stopped buying anything across the country?  What would happen to the American economy?

In very loose numbers, it is estimated that in 2006, $660 billion were spent by the LGBT community in 2006.  That number is expected to rise to $835 billion in 2011.  I’ve seen numbers that indicate as much as over two trillion dollars will be spent by the LGBT community in 2012.  Even if any of these numbers are off by a few billion, the numbers are truly staggering.

The LGBT community has the power to put a dent in our economy, and yet, we don’t know our own strength.  If we don’t know it, how can anyone else feel that power?

It makes sense to validate that most efficient force by damming up the economic river for just a moment in time. 

Here is the plan for June 9, 2010:

Every member of the LGBT and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) communities will commit to:

1.  not purchase one item of food, clothing, equipment, or anything else on this day, including eating out or buying a cup of coffee;

2.  not buy or trade one stock or bond in any stock market in the world;

3.  withdraw 0.1% of your money from every account you own (e.g. If you have $1,000.00, you would withdraw $1.00 and if you have $100, you would withdraw $0.10);

4.  not donate one item to charity;

5.  not go to work or school for at least half a day;

6.  not use a computer or cell phone for one day;

7.  not use any electricity or gas that is not life-preserving;

8.  not drive anywhere in your automobile;

9.  do whatever else you feel is appropriate, healthy, and safe to make an economic statement about the strength of the LGBT community;

10. Finally, to make June 9 a day of silence to reflect the silence our country is asking us to provide regarding our needs, including equal access to marriage, health care, law, education, and employment. 

Be sure to contact your legislator by June 8 to advise them of your intentions. 

We have seven-and-a-half months to prepare.  In that time, we can clearly create the environment that well over half of our country wishes from us.  This will certainly let them know, “Watch what you wish for!”

What happens if the LGBT and PFLAG community disappeared and we took our money and expertise with us?  We’d have a pretty good idea about the impact of that situation, wouldn’t we?

If you’re interested in participating, please contact me on my Facebook page, June 9, 2010 – Invisible Gay Day.

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!

My Speech

NEMThe National Equality March in Washington, D.C., scheduled for October 10-11, 2009, presented Americans an opportunity to offer their three-minute speeches for selection for this event.  They called it “March Equality Idol Auditions.”  They asked that the theme reflect the reasons why it was important for the speaker to attend the March in Washington.   The voting between the top five speeches will be on Facebook and YouTube.  I only found out about the competition yesterday afternoon and I had to write the speech and get it filmed and sumbitted by today, Thursday September 17, 2009 at 5:00 PST.  My video turned out very nicely, I think.  Because of the lack of sufficient technology, I couldn’t find a way to download it onto my computer from the camera I have, and therefore, I didn’t submit it.   I must admit I am deeply disappointed right now.  I will always wonder if my speech would have been selected, even for the top five finalists. 

First, I am proud that my husband, David, figured out how to get the video onto our computer so that I can share it with you here.  Second, the text of the speech follows. 

Here is the text of my speech.  I hope you enjoy it. 

A Family Tradition of Hope

by James C. Glica-Hernandez

Written September 16, 2009


Three weeks before my tenth birthday in 1969, the Stonewall Riots erupted.  Being an avid reader of the newspaper even at that age, I knew what was happening in New York.  Men in dresses were fighting against the tyranny of bigotry and second-class citizenry in the greatest metropolis of the United States. The truth is, I didn’t know what to think about seeing gay people in the light of day because I had already been questioning my own sexuality in the haze of shame that every young, gay boy felt back then, and probably still does. 

A mere nine years later, then having a wife and child, and having come out to my family, I found myself marching under a drizzly Sacramento sky, in my first gay pride parade at the urging, and in the presence, of my beloved father, Floyd Glica.  When I protested about marching in the rain, Dad told me, “Jim, if we don’t stand up for who you are today, you will always be trampled upon by those who don’t like you just because you’re gay.  We have to march.” 

That day in 1978, I learned about gay pride from my fearless, remarkable Dad.  

I am now the patriarch of my family, including my husband, five children, and nine grandchildren.  I have seen someone in every generation of my family, as well as my students, wrestle with questions about their own sexuality.  Sadly, they’ve learned that they will have a lesser experience in the U.S. as a gay, lesbian, or bisexual person than a straight person would. 

My presence at the 2009 National Equality March is borne out of my love for my family, friends, and students.   Together, we demand the necessary leadership from President Obama and Congress that creates a voice, like my father’s, that mandates equality and freedom for all.    

The late Senator Edward Kennedy, arguably the most valiant warrior for equality ever to have graced the Senate floor, made a vital statement in 2007 regarding ENDA.  He said, “America stands for justice for all. Congress must make clear that when we say ‘all,’ we mean all. America will never be America until we do.”

The Chávez-Glica-Hernandez family thanks you for this opportunity to join with your families in a community of hope, power, and vibrant leadership to ensure that we all… Senator Kennedy’s all… my father’s all… are able to participate and contribute to our society as free men and women; free from the branding of sexuality, gender, color, religion, national origin, disability, or economic status, as it must be in these United States of America. 

Thank you.


Smudges of Life

E. Lynn Harris (6-20-1955 to 7-23-2009)

E. Lynn Harris (June 20, 1955 to July 23, 2007)

When I read my friend, Al’s post about the recent death of E. Lynn Harris, fifty-four-year-old author of insightful books about gay, African-American men in today’s society, I couldn’t help but ponder about the current state of our gay society.

Mr. Harris’  books included, Invisible Life, What Becomes of the Brokenhearted – A Memoir, and, most recently, Basketball Jones.  Mr. Harris used common language to describe the lives of his characters in a way that was accessible to the masses (ask any of the many black women in the hair salons who were his first customers), while describing, as some have said, for the first time lives that would be considered, if heterosexual and white, “normal” by most people’s standards.  His critics have said that his writing was mediocre; however, the fact is that he helped bring to light a specific subculture that many, particularly those in the black community, do not discuss or wish to discuss: the gay man in the African-American subculture.

It seems we are once again returning to the beige comfort of sameness in our culture.  There is a bowl of homogeneity into which we, as a people, are slowly dripping down the sides, one rich culture at a time.  The gay community is no less immune to this process than the asian, latino, european, or african communities have been.

"Invisible Life" by E. Lynn Harris

"Invisible Life" by E. Lynn Harris

There are two periods that can be observed when the largest steps toward our own invisibility have occured.  One was during the 1950’s and 1960’s when sexuality was solely a topic of discussion with regard to police blotters and social stigma.  Gay men were attempting to “pass,” if I may so rudely abscond with a term from the black community, as straight.  With the revolution that erupted during the Stonewall Riots in 1969, much of that changed.

During the 1970’s, free love from the 1960’s became permissable for the gay community, as well,  in a whole new way.  We were out and we were proud… kind of.  That was also the period when I married my now-ex-wife.  The irony, of course, was that I fell in love with her and truly wanted to be married.  We had children and a good life for awhile.  I was only seventeen years old when I married my bride, too young to know what healthy, adult love was.   It was this ignorance that landed me in the discos night after night, trying to find male companionship along the way.

When acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) took hold in the early 1980’s, it became quite clear to all of us that we, the gay folk, were now the pariahs of society.  Those not-so-in-the-know believed the gay community was the filthy underbelly of society that was trasmitting vile diseases and recruiting children for the sole pleasure of the evil, flaming society.

Of course, this description sounds ridiculous to thinking people today; however, this philosophy did reflect the larger culture at the time.   With my impeccable timing, this was exactly the time I chose to enter into the gay community at full bore.  I separated from my wife in 1985.  I continued frolicking with various masculine satyrs of the time, many of whom are now dead, sadly.

Back into the closet many of us went, attempting to avoid our fearful brothers and sisters from crossing the street when we approached or giving us Hollywood kisses and hugs, afraid they would become contaminated by our very presence.  I, too, began actually dating instead of playing.  I worked hard, wore a tie to work, and reared my five children the best I could as a single father.  At certain points, my sexuality simply went on hiatus.

As our education about AIDS and homosexuality broadened, we once again gained a brief foothold into society as a valuable cultural entity, when Ellen Degeneres and Rosie O’Donnell, Lance Bass and Neil Patrick Harris came out of the closet.

In celebration, Mayor Gavin Newsom, (D- San Francisco) decided it was time for gay folk to get married.  He ordered his staff to begin handing out marriage licenses and performing marriages for lesbians and gays.  Yee haw!  The Wild West is wild once again.

As one might expect, these marriages were overturned in the courts and Proposition 8 came to the forefront of our gay consciousness.   Proposition 8, the definition of marriage as being only between a man and a woman, passed.  The LGBT community was once again relegated to the back of the bus.

This time, however, we didn’t go into hiding.   The tack now was to let people know that we are your average Joe’s and Jane’s amongst the many.  We are living perfectly productive, joyful lives in general society.  We have effectively blended in.

E. Lynn Harris was talking about all of us in the gay community, in some ways.  We are all just trying to live our lives plainly and simply within our community.  Some are able to live openly, but for those who cannot do so, we make it work for ourselves and our immediate family.

Perhaps beige is the color to which we must aspire, because it is only in beige that no one says, “Look, he is different.”  The question we, in the gay community, must ask ourselves, is, “Are we different?”

We pay bills, we drive to work and hate the commute, we argue with our mates, we go to PTA meetings with our children, and we shop for food that costs too much.  Isn’t that what everyone does?  Like Italian-Americans, or Egyptian-Americans, or Chinese-Americans, Gay-Americans have an historical context from which our population stems, if not a regional location.  We can maintain our cultural identity without marginalizing ourselves in general society.

Androgynous biracial actor, Jaye Davison

Androgynous biracial actor, Jaye Davison

It is surmised that eventually skin color will return to the original color of medium brown with all the interracial marrying we are doing.  With the acknowledgement of the fluidity in our sexuality, I wonder if we are, in that same way, finding a middle ground where one’s gender and sexuality will not matter as much to the people of our society?

We are increasingly smudging the lines of sexuality, culture and ethnicity more and more all the time.   This could be a good thing.   Perhaps beige is the new white.

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



Zebediah Thorncaster


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.


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.


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).

Still Talking

n89649032590_4516Thank God we are still talking about gay marriage in California.  Equality California’s (EQCA) “Win Marriage Back-Make it Real” Campaign,  Equality Action NOW, PFLAG, Marriage Equality USA, CA Faith for Equality, Courage Campaign, Sacramento Region LGBTQI Leadership Coalition, Stonewall Democrats, Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry, Yes! On Equality, and many other organizations like them have really created a force for civil rights and justice for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community across the country. 

As a vocal music teacher, I know the empowerment a person feels when they finally find their voice and it is strong and clear.  That is what you are giving an entire nation of LGBT community members.  

Thank you to everyone who is marching, lobbying, writing, and living  genuine lives in public because you are the ones who are making change happen.  We see you, we hear you, and we are grateful for your work, love and dynamic spirit. 

God bless you all.

David and James Glica-Hernandez

David and James Glica-Hernandez