#LoveWins – Reflections on Equality & How Far We Still Have to Go



I was lying in bed this morning, thinking about what I wanted to write about after the momentous events of June 26, and as all these thoughts bounced around in the metaphorical tumble dryer of my just-waking mind, I found myself coming back to that old Pete Seeger tune, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” (The better known version is by The Byrds, but this one with Pete and Judy Collins is magical. Skip ahead to about a minute in.)

I was struck how much of the nonsense already being spouted by the Internet blowhards could be taken down by the song’s first line: To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. Seeger, of course, did not write that line. That’s the Book of Ecclesiastes. The whole song, in fact, is taken verbatim from the Bible and what I love about it is that it’s essentially about change being the only constant in the human condition. There is a purpose to everything.

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.


We’ve accomplished equal marriage and that’s something to be celebrated, but we haven’t yet accomplished true equality. That part of the struggle begins today.

Less esoterically, it’s refreshing to see that the words carved above the doors to the Supreme Court, the central tenet of our nation — Equal Justice Under Law — has not, in fact, been lost or corrupted. We are all equal. We all, no matter what part of America you live in, woke up this morning in a more perfect Union.

You will hear today, tomorrow, next week, two weeks from Thursday, a year-and-a-half from now, and in 2025, how the “activist court” forced this decision on Americans and how it is such a violation of someone’s religious liberties. Well, friends and cousins, here’s the real truth: They are just flat wrong.

To tell me that my relationship is less than theirs is wrong. To tell me who I can and cannot love is wrong, To tell me I am not entitled to the same rights and responsibilities that are afforded to other citizens is wrong. To tell me that my ability to pledge myself to and join my life with someone of the same gender in some way violates their religious freedom is not only wrong, it’s just stupid.

And here’s why: no one says you have to like marriage equality. No one says you have to get married to someone of the same gender or witness a marriage of two people of the same gender or attend a church where they marry people of the same gender. If you don’t like it, don’t be involved. But …. don’t you dare tell me that I can’t have the exact same things that you can have. Don’t you dare tell me that I cannot have the same protections, the same tax status, the same medical and legal rights. Don’t you dare tell me that I am somehow less than. Don’t you dare tell me that my love does not matter in the same ways that yours does. And don’t you dare tell me that religion makes your prejudice acceptable. Not in 2015. Not in the United States of America.

But they will dare, campers. They will.

June 26 was not the culmination of the fight; June 26 was the beginning of the next phase. Those of you in states where there are no legal protections for same-sex couples may find yourselves blissfully married on Sunday only to find yourself summarily fired on Monday. Discrimination will come but it will be less overt. There will be a lot more of those “religious freedom acts” pushed through legislatures and more pulpit-pounding from the Right, reminding us (wrongly) that we are undermining the Christian values that America was founded on. [Note: there weren’t any.] And a mountain of blather about how laws are supposed to be made in the legislatures and not in the courts.


The Supreme Court building in Washington. Emblazoned on the façade are the words EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW.

This, in particular, galls me because it just proves how ignorant so many people are about our system. (Including, given his bizarre and completely unhinged opinion in Obergefell, Mr. Justice Scalia.) I am fairly confident that I am among the last generation who learned civics in school. If you don’t want to read up on Article III of the Constitution or learn a bit more about the importance of Marbury v. Madison in establishing judicial review and what that means, perhaps a cartoon describing checks and balances is in order. (This happens to get my vote for the worst Schoolhouse Rock song of the 70s!) You’re going to hear a lot about judicial overreach in the coming days; gird your loins.

Another thing that struck me today was one of my favorite lines from Dan Savage about America, the so-called land of the free and the home of the brave, always being last with the freedom and the bravery. It’s pithy; that’s why it gets quoted. It’s also pretty much on the mark. A great thing happened in the United States yesterday, but we did not lead the world. We are the 25th nation to allow equal marriage.

While there are those — on some days I am among them — who will revel in the quickness that we have arrived at marriage equality, we have been attempting to cast off the shackles of our terrible history of inequality since before the dawn of the republic. This particular issue has come to the fore quickly, but it’s been a Sisyphean struggle over centuries to mete out rights to all of our citizens. I can draw a direct line through the centuries to show how all of our civil rights struggles have been the same struggle. The list of people involved looks something like this:

John Locke
Samuel Adams
Thomas Jefferson
Dred Scott
Homer Plessy
Margaret Sanger
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Oliver Brown
Rosa Parks
A. Philip Randolph
Medgar Evers
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Bayard Rustin
Frank Kameny
Del Martin & Phyllis Lyon
Mildred & Richard Loving
the Stonewall Rioters
Richard Baker & Michael McConnell
Harvey Milk
Harry Blackmun
Barack Obama
Edith Windsor & Thea Spyer
Jim Obergefell & John Arthur
Anthony Kennedy

This is an imperfect list, but it shows, I think, how fundamentally important it is to stand up and have your voice heard and counted. I am also struck by how few women are on this list; that’s bothersome. We need to do better. And we will.

It does, after all, get better, but dear God, what a hard slog it is sometimes to get to that better place. We’ve been trying since John Winthrop said to the Massachusetts Bay colonists in 1630, “We must always consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill—the eyes of all people are upon us.”

Thinking about Pete Seeger, made me also think of the penultimate verse of the song that became and remains the anthem of the Civil Rights movement, “We Shall Overcome:”

The truth shall make us free, the truth shall make us free,
The truth shall make us free someday;
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
The truth shall make us free someday.

Truth, justice and the American way, the hackneyed old saw goes. Maybe it’s not just a catchphrase for superheroes anymore. Maybe that’s why, out of all of the intensely beautiful images I saw and speeches and cheering I heard Friday, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington singing the National Anthem on the steps of the Supreme Court is the one that made me weep. It made me proud to be an American in a way that has been strangely foreign to me. Until now.

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The concluding paragraph of Mr. Justice Kennedy’s opinion. This needs to go on a wall somewhere.

One Step Closer to Marriage Equality

One Step Closer to Marriage Equality – NYTimes.com.

Excellent editorial in today’s Times, wherein the editorial board muses broadly on the importance of broadening marriage equality throughout the country.

In a surprise announcement on the first Monday in October, the day the new term for the Supreme Court begins, the justices, without comment, refused to hear any of the cases striking down same-sex marriage bans thus allowing the appellate decisions to stand. As such, LGBT people in Virginia, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Utah — yes, Utah! — and Indiana can now be legally married.


YouTubers Vinny and Luke Vaillancourt are among those whose rights have been protected through marriage. The couple, who live in England, were married in the U.K. and in the U.S.

The Times also challenged the court. In a speech last month, Justice Ginsburg said that the court is keeping an eye on lower courts but that, at the moment, there is “no need for us to rush.” The Times asks why not? Certainly the moral argument is why not, as well.

But, the Supreme Court weighs in on moral grounds at its own peril, oftentimes. I despise the old “justice is blind” argument — because blind justice cannot see the subtle shades of grey inherent in the language — but, the thinking goes, there has not been enough of a division in the appellate courts to warrant a SCOTUS incursion. If the other circuits weigh in as the previous ones have, the court will likely have to merely rubber stamp the decisions in a year or so, when only Alabama, Mississippi and Alaska are the last defiant anti-gay states.

It has the makings of a societal schism, this does. I never, ever thought — even a few short years ago — that my own ability to get married — and to stay married as I travel across the country (think about that, straight people) — would ever be the next front in the culture wars. Politically, I see the need for the court to continue to exercise caution. As a gay man and as what I consider a rational, moral human being, I agree with the Times‘ editorial board: stop waiting, it hurts people.

Morning in America: Justice and Strange Bedfellows

I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. This was discrimination enshrined in law. It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people. The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it. We are a people who declared that we are all created equal – and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.

That’s from the President.  I’m not sure if anyone could say it better or more succinctly.

BNsV6NYCAAU_-na.jpg-largeThis is, in fact, a great day for America. It is a day that opens up hope to those of us for too long have had none. It is a day that means that we are on a course to make good a promise more than 200 years old that everyone — no matter their religion, the color of their skin, their sexuality — is equal under the law in the United States of America.

It means that for the first time, bi-national couples will not have to choose to give up their country for the person that they love. It means that for the first time, I can have the same 1,100 Federal benefits of marriage that straight couples have always had and taken for granted. It means that the Federal government — my Federal government — will recognize my partnership in the same way that it has always recognized straight couples in a marriage contract. And it means, for the very first time in my 49 years of life, that my government does not look upon this taxpayer as a second class citizen unworthy of the same benefits and privileges of that citizenship as my fellow straight citizens.

For someone who has always been fascinated by the workings of government, who read our founding documents and studied the writings of our founding fathers and who loved political debates in civics, I’ve often been gobsmacked by the infiltration of the radical right into the political process in recent decades and their righteous indignation when something does not go their way. The continual attempts by the radical right and the “Christian right” to undermine our system with the perverse rewriting of history in which the United States was built on some sketchy moralistic Christian platform is to pervert the very form of government that they claim to uphold.

The decisions in Perry (Prop 8) and  Windsor  (DOMA) come 10 years to the day after the Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas, perhaps the first significant Libertarian victory of the 21st century, and means that June 26th will be a day celebrated by lovers of equality for many years to come.

The curious thing about history is that good and bad, correct and incorrect, important and inane all come about from such curious places. DOMA and “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” were, for gay and lesbian Americans, two of the most unjust and inhumane pieces of legislation created in our lifetime. And they were signed by President Clinton. The Lawrence case was decided by the G.W. Bush-era Rehnquist Court, while today’s two decisions in an Obama-era Roberts Court, showed the conservative Chief Justice writing the opinion in Perry and dissenting in Windsor.


“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others,the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment. ” from the opinion in United States v. Windsor

Meanwhile, the Court’s longest-serving justice, that unrepentant lion of the right, 77-year-old Antonin Scalia, who dissented in Lawrence, joined Roberts in affirming the Perry had no standing while delivering a resounding (some may say deranged) 26-page dissent in Windsor.

What does all that mean? It means that in all ways and in all cases, justice served makes for strange bedfellows.

I’ll leave you with Dan Savage’s brilliant — and utterly and completely true — admonition that in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, you can always count on the freedom and the bravery coming last. And while I fervently believe that, I am also unfailingly glad that in America we do usually get there in the end.

Fight on. I have a wedding to plan.

Supreme Court Rulings Loom On Affirmative Action, Gay Marriage, Voting Rights

Supreme Court Rulings Loom On Affirmative Action, Gay Marriage, Voting Rights.


SCOTUS – Image: Wikimedia Commons

The gay media world is all a-twitter over when the DOMA and Prop. 8 rulings are going to be handed down. There’s not a lot of time left, either. One suspects that the Supremes are going to issue these opinions on the very last day of the term — which will be June 27 — and run for the door until the first Monday until October because, I don’t know, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has a timeshare in the Berkshires?

Equality Starts Tuesday — We Hope


HRC is encouraging everyone to wear red on Tuesday and Wednesday to show their support for marriage equality while the issue is being heard by the Supreme Court.

I’m on the road beginning Tuesday, so limited blogging for about a week and a half, unless I find something truly amazing to yack about. (Those desperate to hear from me, follow me on Twitter [look to the left] as I’m so much better at tweeting when I’m away than I am otherwise.)

Until then, please take a moment and send those anti-discrimination vibes to the Supreme Court on Tuesday and Wednesday when the justices will hear arguments in the Proposition 8 case (Tuesday) and the Defense of Marriage Act case (Wednesday).

We’re on the precipice of real and permanent change in this country. In spite of the fact that, to mangle a quote from Dan Savage, the land of the free and the home of the brave is usually the place where freedom and bravery come last, often we do get there.

Let’s make it happen.

DOMA Hurts Gay Military Couples [VIDEO]

DOMA Hurts Gay Military Couples After DADT Repeal, Says U.S. Marine Corps Captain Matthew Phelps.

On the heels of the one-year anniversary of the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” U.S Marine Corps Captain Matthew Phelps made history when he became the first gay man to propose marriage to his boyfriend Ben Schock at the White House.

Now the newly engaged couple are featured in a new video that demonstrates how the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, counteracts many of the benefits same-sex military spouses should be receiving in the wake of the DADT repeal.

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration has urged the Supreme Court to strike down DOMA when it hears arguments next month.

The Obama administration on Friday urged the Supreme Court to strike down the Defense Of Marriage Act in a brief that calls the law unconstitutional because it violates “the fundamental guarantee of equal protection.”  HuffPo