anonymous call, a poison pen
I never forward emails - well, I forward all the ones that make fun of Duke University - but Tessa's best friend Jason just wrote a missive that I felt I needed to put on here. Jason happens to be a gay man who married his long-time partner Tim during that brief stretch of civility known as February 2004. In December, they adopted a baby they named Noah, and since then, the two of them have been juggling their jobs and the hair-losing craziness of raising an infant.
A few days ago, Jason sent out this email, and I wanted to share bits of it with you. Because of the fucked-up way the world works, a letter like this has intrinsic value coming from my blog, because, well, I'm not gay, I'm in a monogamous marriage with my wife, and I have absolutely nothing to gain from the defeat of any anti-gay legislation, other than the feeling this country may have a few good people left in it.
Here's his email:
I have spent a lot of time trying to express the situation we find ourselves in. Since Noah was born, this subject has become incredibly urgent for me.
I am writing to ask you to speak out against the so-called "Marriage Protection Amendment," which is again being considered in Congress. The "pro-family" people behind the amendment are doing all they can to ban recognition of my family, despite the fact that it can only serve to hurt my son. They know this is true; the sad fact is, they don't care. Tim and I are tax-paying patriots just like you. In addition, I give a great deal of time to my city and state in not one, but two, volunteer public service positions. Yet, these people are seeking to permanently make Tim and me second-class citizens by denying us the basic civil right of marriage.
Please understand that this amendment would ban recognition not only of same-sex marriages, but of domestic partnerships, civil unions, or any other relationship that included the "incidents of marriage." The Amendment would force California, Vermont and Massachusetts to strip their citizens of any rights and protections afforded to same-sex and other "unmarried" couples.
Are you aware that it is dangerous for Tim and me to travel to visit family in Kentucky or North Carolina together because, were either of us injured or in need of hospitalization, the other could not only not visit but could not make vital medical decisions — despite the fact that we have been in a committed, monogamous relationship for nearly six years, share property, and have a son together. There is even some question of whether we would both be allowed to make decisions for Noah, should one of us be injured. (Now you know why we are hesitant to visit.)
This sad fact is true in most states. Same sex couples can not receive Social Security death benefits for a deceased loved one. Often, the surviving partner is subject to reassessment and higher taxes on a home they have shared for years — and that's only when both names were on the title; otherwise, partners often lose their homes because the state doesn't recognize partners as next of kin. I could go on and on. There are over 1,000 federal and state benefits to being married which you receive and I help pay for, but which I am denied. And this group wants to see that I am permanently unable to receive them.
This idea of marriage "protection" is crazy — and dishonest. We are not attacking the institution of marriage by seeking to be included in it. How could your marriage be harmed by mine? Will you get divorced if Tim and I get married? Please know that this is not a question of religious freedom, either. No law in any state would in any way force an unwilling church to perform a same-sex marriage. This is only about the civil institution of marriage, a basic service provided by states for their citizens. If same-sex marriage were legalized in your state, willing churches, like mine (All Saints Episcopal in Pasadena), which perform marriages or commitment ceremonies, would continue to do so; those that do not would not be required to start.
And yet, the President and others on his side know that they can get a lot of support by making you think you and your values are under attack. The truth is, Tim and I, and millions of couples like us, share your values. Why else would we work so hard to get married? So we can protect our family and teach our son about the meaning of commitment.
I am reminded of a famous quote by the Nazi propagandist Hermann Goering, who said, "it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked."
This is exactly what we're seeing in our government today — the systematic vilification of a group of citizens by playing on stereotypes and unfounded fears, just as the Nazis vilified the Jews and others. Please speak out before this nonsense gets worse. How far are we, really, from some right-wing nut in Congress asking to have same-sex couples detained before we "attack" more marriages? Is this so crazy? I imagine it sounded crazy in Germany in the ‘30s, too.
This amendment is wrong. Please let your representatives know how appalling and un-American this is. Please stand up for basic human decency. Stand up for democracy. Stand up for "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."
Click here to find your representatives and your senators and call their offices to ask them to vote against the "Marriage Protection Amendment."
(You'll need to know your Zip-Plus 4. If you don't know it, check any business envelope to you, click here to find it first.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and consider. It's a very serious matter for me and my family. Please think about it. And feel free to forward this letter.
Posted by Ian Williams at February 3, 2005 11:56 PM
(New York, February 4, 2005) — A New York State court ruled today that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry, in a decision that Lambda Legal called “a historic ruling that delivers the state Constitution’s promise of equality to all New Yorkers.” Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit last year, representing five same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses in New York City.
In a 62-page decision issued this morning in New York City, State Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan said that the New York State Constitution guarantees basic freedoms to lesbian and gay people – and that those rights are violated when same-sex couples are not allowed to marry. The ruling said the state Constitution requires same-sex couples to have equal access to marriage, and that the couples represented by Lambda Legal must be given marriage licenses.
“I was even more moved than I thought I’d be when I heard about this ruling. All of us cried – me, Mary Jo and our 15-year-old daughter. For the first time, our family is being treated with the respect and dignity that our friends, coworkers and neighbors automatically have,” said Jo-Ann Shain, a 51-year-old New York City resident who is a plaintiff in the case with her partner, Mary Jo Kennedy, 49. “Last week, Mary Jo and I celebrated our 23rd anniversary together, but we’ve never had all the protections and rights that come with marriage. We need these protections to take responsibility for each other and for our daughter, and we are enormously grateful that the court saw that and said our family should be treated equally.”
“This is a historic ruling that delivers the state Constitution’s promise of equality to all New Yorkers,” said Susan Sommer, Supervising Attorney at Lambda Legal and the lead attorney on the case. “The court recognized that unless gay people can marry, they are not being treated equally under the law. Same-sex couples need the protections and security marriage provides, and this ruling says they’re entitled to get them the same way straight couples do.”
In today’s ruling, Justice Ling-Cohan said, “Simply put, marriage is viewed by society as the utmost expression of a couple’s commitment and love. Plaintiffs may now seek this ultimate expression through a civil marriage.” The ruling (which is stayed for 30 days in case the city chooses to appeal) says the New York City clerk may no longer deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. If the city chooses to appeal the case, it has about a month to file a notice in state appeals court. Justice Ling-Cohan’s ruling also said, “Similar to opposite-sex couples, same-sex couples are entitled to the same fundamental right to follow their hearts and publicly commit to a lifetime partnership with the person of their choosing. The recognition that this fundamental right applies equally to same-sex couples cannot legitimately be said to harm anyone.”
Well. I'm glad Tessa mentioned that I should check the blog. I hadn't logged on for a while. Ian, I love you for posting my email.
I am almost inclined to stay out of the fray, but for the benefit of those people who are sitting on the fence on this issue and might be swayed because Nick’s argument has the ring of truth to it. I don't want to engage in an us-vs.-them debate, but it is a classic convention of right-wing rhetoric to reduces discussions of gay civil rights to talk about sexual behavior. Why are conservatives so obsessed with sex? The question of marriage equality in no way hinges on the protection of sexual conduct. If the fundamental legal question were about sexual conduct, presumably there would no legal impediment to, say, two gay men marrying if they both happened to be impotent.
Nick is entirely mistaken on all counts.
He first errs in describing the nature of the proposed Constitutional Amendment. It does not merely protect the right of one state to refuse to recognize the legal acts of another; in fact, it doesn’t do that at all. That is the nature of the Federal “Defense of Marriage Act,” passed in the 90s. Many legal scholars have held that the “DOMA” will not hold up to legal scrutiny when challenged, as it is at odds with the Full Faith & Credit clause of the Constitution. So in an effort to head off that Constitutional challenge, Allard & Musgrave, et al. have introduced the following proposed amendment: “`Marriage in the United States shall consist solely of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.”
The amendment would remove the right of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, for example, to interpret the Massachusetts Constitution. It would usurp their authority, even going so far as to deny the Court's jurisdiction to recognize a right to alternative remedies and entitlements for same-sex couples. Effectively, it forces states like Massachusetts and California to remove protections previously afforded to their citizens.
Nick was dead wrong again, in asserting that “the United States Supreme Court has failed to recognize any sexual conduct, heterosexual or homosexual, as a fundamental right. “ Indeed, in Lawrence v. Texas, decided in June of 2003, the Court held, “the Texas statute making it a crime for two persons of the same sex to engage in certain intimate sexual conduct violates the Due Process Clause” (syllabus, Lawrence v. Texas). Therefore, private, consensual, noncommercial sex is indeed protected. Quoting from the decision itself:
“Liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom
of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct.
The instant case involves liberty of the person both in its
spatial and more transcendent dimensions.
…It suffices for us to acknowledge that adults may choose to
enter upon this relationship in the confines of their homes
and their own private lives and still retain their dignity as
free persons. When sexuality finds overt expression in
intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be
but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring.
The liberty protected by the Constitution allows homosexual
persons the right to make this choice.
…Their right to liberty under the Due Process Clause gives
them the full right to engage in their conduct without
intervention of the government.”
But all this talk about sex is not really germane to the marriage question. That revolves around the issue of equal protection. Nick acknowledges a fundamental right to marry, and would have you believe that this right is fully protected for me because I can ask any woman to be my wife, notwithstanding the fact that I have no (romantic) affectional orientation toward women. This is absurd. As the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts noted, "the right to marry means little if it does not include the right to marry the person of one's choice.” The US Supreme Court – and society – will no doubt come to the same decision soon enough.
Finally, Nick uses that most tired of defenses for maintaining the status quo: “tradition.” Alas, there are so many traditions we have had to set aside because they were unjust, even when a majority supported them: slavery, anti-miscegenation laws, etc. Fortunately, the courts are charged with defending the rights of the few even in the face of the tyranny of the majority.
I’ll end with this final excerpt of the Lawrence decision, which addresses the need for the interpretation of law to evolve with the humanity it seeks to serve.
“Had those who drew and ratified the Due Process Clauses of
the Fifth Amendment or the Fourteenth Amendment known
the components of liberty in its manifold possibilities, they
might have been more specific. They did not presume to have
this insight. They knew times can blind us to certain truths
and later generations can see that laws once thought
necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress. As the
Constitution endures, persons in every generation can invoke
its principles in their own search for greater freedom.”
I promised myself I wasn't going to weigh in again, but damn it, i just thought Lee's post was so funny I had to. How is it you could sum up in 4 short setnences what it took me two incredibly long posts to say??
And for old Nick...wrong again, Champy. Looks like you might be getting a bum deal on that pricy education there.
Doing that old GWB "if I say it, it'll be so" thing again, huh? Didn't work for the WMDs and it ain't working now.
I'll ignore the amusing argument that the NC law is Constitutional by virtue of the fact that it is unenforceable and jump right to the big potatoes:
There is simply not massive support for a Constitutional amendment. There is, in fact, considerable opposition. (Again, not that majority opinion always rules; as a young law student, you should know that one of the most noble roles of the judiciary is protecting the rights of minorities in spite of the contempt of the masses. See Brown v. Board of Ed., Loving vs. Va., etc.)
But here are the numbers on public support for a Constitutional amendment, you democracy-loving, power-to-the-people freedom fighter, you...
Quinnipiac University Poll. Dec. 7-12, 2004. MoE ± 2.5.
53% oppose amendment, 43% support
CBS News/New York Times Poll. Nov. 18-21, 2004. MoE ± 3
40% say same-sex marriage is important enough to amend the Constitution, a whopping 56% say it's "not that kind of issue"
University of Pennsylvania National Annenberg Election Survey. June 16-30, 2004. MoE ± 2.
48% oppose amendment, 43% support.
Shall I go on?
(Let me help you out here: what you meant to say is that there is broad, if not massive, public opposition to recognizing marriages between same-sex couples. That is true. Polls are running at about 60/40.)
I can't help but feeling a little responsible for all this...
Although I guess Jason did write the email. And I guess Ian did post it, so there were two wheels spinning in motion before I got mine going. And in the least, I'm definitely in good wheel spinning company :-)
So, after reading your email Jason, I decided to become pro-active the only way I know how.(by putting a note in my AIM profile) I think it went something like...”FUCK THE MARRIAGE PROTECTION AMENDMENT”. I thought it was direct, clear, concise, to the point, all that good stuff :-) Attached to each word were different links with articles about the marriage amendment. The very last word was linked to getting in contact with your local representatives and the link for the word “MARRIAGE” was to your letter on XTCIAN.(You can check out the AIM profile if you wish, dontIMpauly)
After that I went on with my day. Some people wrote to me about it. For it. Against it. Nuetral, what have you. But then. Then, I got an IM from one of my best friends in the world, Nick. Now, Nick and I have been friends for going on about 6 years now. We have staggeringly different views of the world and religion and the President, and in many a parallel universe I imagine we are not even acquaintances, let alone friends, but somehow we ran into each other partying in the greatest place in the world, Chapel Hill and we were bound together by the things that really matter in life: girls, playing, drinking, and a little something called UNC Basketball. On any given day, Nick and I can joke about how silly we are making our opponents look this year in basketball and then suddenly b/c of one ill-timed comment, can vaunt into a serious discussion about the rights of Gays in our society or any number of other Liberal/Conservative arguments that exist. Anyways, on this day he messaged me to check the XTCIAN Comments. And the rest of this story is how you say, history.
As I write this I am not sure if I should be asking for forgiveness or thanking myself. I did not mean to unleash a conservative onto the kind shores of Coastopia, but as I read the ‘back and forth’ very intelligent posts(from both sides) I am proud of all the knowledge and opinions I am being showered with. Just from these comments alone, I feel I am now one of the most informed Americans on the Marriage Protection Amendment and the many legal marriage issues through the history of our country.
This is one of those arguments that will simmer, reheat, rage, be served chilled, be served hot, and then simmer again for years to come. No matter what though, no one forget who the real enemy is. We play them Wednesday night and everybody better get on the right side of the lines by then. We all can say, Screw DU, right?
Nice hearing all of your thoughts on this. And by the way Jason, I am out here in LA as well. Living with 3 other guys in a nice little house in Burbank. Unemployed at the moment, but I am a potential juror in waiting for this whole week(and if I get picked, I think I get like 25 dollars a day!) and I just know things will be picking up soon :-)
Lee, really quick. I know where you are coming from. I never meant to belittle how urgent and important this is for you and Suzanne. I just kind of wanted to put some human perspective on it. Gay and Lesbian rights and issues hit very close to me, my twin sister is a lesbian and we are really just starting to delve into all the issues surrounding it. IMMEDIATE EXAMPLE: My profile with the link to this site is available for a few of my Aunts to see and some nieces and nephews. But b/c of how things are in America, they do not know about my sister's sexuality. I have to evaluate if they will check my profile and if they would ever read XTCIAN, click on comments and read this far down b/c if they did and saw this, it would erupt into a family-changing ordeal. I hate that so much.
I am at the point where I feel if my grandparents can't accept how culture has evolved and would truly disown my only sister for being gay, then they can go fuck themselves. It sounds funny to say and even disrespectful probably, but that's just how it goes. My sister is everything and I want her to have everything she wants in this world and in this life.
So please believe me, though I am able to stand back and breathe about this and still loving being around my friend Nick, I do hold my beliefs and convictions close to my heart. And I will fight with all my heart and soul to defend the beliefs I believe in.
And one other point about it. It has been hard for me ever since John Kerry lost in November. I don't know what it really means for the world. I hate accepting how differently my thoughts are from the majority of the country. And thinking about the idea that the good guys don't always win. It's really quite disturbing. I see christianity taking over the U.S. government due to fear tactics about what Muslims want to do to us and all our freedoms. It's bullshit. America turning into a theocracy is such a scary thought, it makes me not want to leave my house sometimes.
After I thought about all this for a very long time though, I just kinda decided that it all was going to be okay. It has to be. I think it is a feeling similar to ones slaves must have had, and women after that, and blacks after that. Although, I have been ready since I was born to accept all people, regardless of gender, color, sexual orientation some people aren't there yet in their human journey. Everyone has a chance for enlightenment and I do believe everyone will be enlightened. To a slave in the 1800's, things must have always looked bleak and sad and terrible, but at the same time that same slave must have seen a glimmer of hope that things would one day change for her and her family and sometimes it is just better to think about that one glimmer of hope and let that keep you going for a while.
Away from this, I am taking the glimmers of how cool all the people posting comments to this site are. And that comforts me and energizes me to fight another day.
P.S. Get duplicate "Health Care Power of Attorney" cards!