Thursday, August 26, 2010


I'm selfish. Probably to a fault. I tend to figure that as long as I'm not hurting anyone, everything will be OK. As such, it has never occurred to me not to be affectionate with someone I'm in a relationship with for fear that it might make those around us uncomfortable. Ooops. Told 'ya I was selfish.

The interesting thing about marriage equality- at least based on my anecdotal evidence here in Iowa- is that it is giving all of us the legitimacy to be comfortable in our relationships. We are considered equal (at least in the eyes of the state), which means that we can behave the same as any other couple in public and around our family and friends. It is amazing to experience that kind of freedom, relief, legitimacy, and belonging.

I also think it's an amazing opportunity for both strangers and friends/family to see more love. One of my favorite things to observe is an older couple holding hands. How wonderful would it be to live in a world with even more couples holding hands?

Peace out.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Fact of the Matter Is...In my Humble Opinion

OK, so I'm a bit run down at the moment, which might be affecting my judgement. I have also read the news online: Never a good idea if one wants to prevent a rant from forming. Nonetheless, I may just pull a Linda Blair in "The Exorcist" if I hear any of the

1) "You should just be patient. Change takes time. Remember the Civil Rights movements?"

Uh huh. And, can we not learn from the past and hence reduce the amount of time that change takes?

P.S. Would you still be advocating patience if I were to revoke the rights that you have (and take for granted)? Didn't think so.

2) "We should totally vote on issues like marriage for same sex couples."

Hmmm. Should we do that before or after we vote on marriage for opposite sex couples? Should we do that even though we live in a representative democracy and a nation with a constitution (things that, respectively, are designed to represent the populace but still protect the civil rights of minority groups)?

Must the existence of online polls asking people "what they think" be carte blanche for folks to decide the fate of others even though what they "feel" or "believe" is not factual or informed?!

3) "Gay rights are just not important right now. We need economic bailouts, immigration reform, healthcare reform, and an end to the various wars we're fighting first."

My favorite. You are totally right.

I've never seen lesbian and gay folks negatively affected by immigration law (

I can't imagine that the lack of marriage equality could possibly harm the health or economic viability of lesbian and gay families (

And, absolutely, wars have nothing to do with gay people whatsoever (insert entirely too many "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" articles here).

I apologize in advance for the tone of this post. By virtue of my current profession, I'm usually tirelessly diplomatic and accepting of varied viewpoints. Not today. Today I'm just tired.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Am I a Bad Omen?

In keeping with societal preoccupation with the self, I am beginning to wonder if my presence is a bad omen for marriage equality. Here's why:

1) On a recent visit to California, Proposition 8 was passed and I was reduced to marching in protests. While gay folks typically have some good slogans (because, as Kate Clinton says, we're darn used to protesting), I was dismayed to have to say "chickens have more rights than me" while marching. Why did I have to say this? Because the humane slaughter proposition (which I support) on the ballot passed hence protecting the rights and treatment of chickens. Chickens=1, Gays=0 in the rights get the picture.

2) Just when I think that Hawaii (where I've been living for the past month) is about to allow civil unions [NOT the same as marriage...NOT even close to adequate because of legal references in state and federal law specific to marriage only...but, alas, better than nothing], *bam* Governor Linda Lingle decides that 'civil unions are too much like marriage' and that they 'should be put to a popular vote.'

WTF??? (As an aside, this is the ONLY text messaging language that I know and that I believe to have any utility.)

a) Civil unions are NOT the same as marriage- they are separate and inherently unequal. See the videos at for proof of the train wreck they have been for folks in New Jersey. To me, the only problem with the civil union bill is that it wasn't marriage!

b) The Constitution exists because the rights of the minority group cannot be put to a majority vote. Clearly, I need to research and compile a list of reasons and examples for why this is so, but, for instance, if we were to have voted at the time of the 1967 Supreme Court decision on interracial marriage, we would have found that only 33% of the public supported interracial marriage. 'Nuf said.

I could go on and on and on with more caveats here, but I would run out of letters in the alphabet.

I was stunned and angered by the Governor of Hawaii. I was angry that her statements were riddled with factual errors. I was angry that she waited to veto the bill until *after* it was too late for a special session of the legislature that would have allowed for an override session.

Mostly, however, I was sad.

So sad, in fact, that I spent LARGE amounts of time that night crying. I would sometimes sob and yell at the television, but it didn't talk back and, frankly, my outbursts scared the two kittens I was babysitting.

Because Hawaii is 5 hours behind Iowa, by the time the decision was reported near 5pm, I could no longer call my wife or my mother or my friends in the Midwest to complain. The only solace I found was petting the cat curled up next to me who was purring contentedly. Thank the spirits and souls for that.

I am a bit surprised by how viscerally I am beginning to feel these defeats. It's as if the universe sends a loud message. In this case, just as I'm settling into life here with the boogie board and snorkel mask, the message is:'you are not welcome here.' Those who know me well can appreciate (or mourn) the irony (or tragedy) that the welcome mat has been rolled out in Iowa but not in California or Hawaii. Sigh.

So, Governor Lingle- if you care- you have succeeded in perpetuating ignorance and in hurting those who are only asking for the same rights and protections under the law as anyone else.

Time to keep educating. Peace, B

Sunday, May 2, 2010

And the funny thing about being mad is

that it really just masks the sadness and the fear in all things personal and political.

It seems that my life has gotten really dark as the anger has grown to accommodate the sadness about 'what could be but isn't yet' and the fear of 'what could be but isn't yet.' Seems that the only place I have been living is the realm of 'what could be but isn't yet.' Ooops.

Not that I know Melissa Etheridge or Tammy Lynn Michaels, but folks who know me know that, as I prepare to get married, their 'divorce' has been unnerving. I am very sad for their family and for both of them regardless of the details of their split. I wish them both nothing but the best.

In listening to Melissa's new CD, "Fearless Love," I am- as usual with Melissa music- blown away by the lyrics. In thinking about sadness and fear and anger, the song "Only Love" on the new album has really struck a chord. A portion of the lyrics are below:

Everything you feel
That's what your world is made of

And when I take a good look around I see
My thoughts are coming back to me

So look around
We are in charge of our own dreams
We have more power than it seems

So look around
Come on now show me who you're loving
Then show me just who you hate
Then I can show you all your angels
That guard your heaven's gate


Have I been feeling angry and hence thinking that there are only things to "hate" in the world? Check.

Have I been sending out 'angry vibes' and noticing that's what I've been attracting in return? Check.

Could I stop being angry for my present circumstances and, if I really feel that they need to be changed, change them? Check.

Have I been making the world smaller by condemning all the things I'm pretty sure I 'hate'? Check.

Could I make peace with some of these people and things? Check.

Could changing what I can and making peace with what I cannot change possibly improve my life and the lives of others? Check. (Sorry for sounding a bit like 'The Serenity Prayer,' but I have always found it to be somewhat relevant.)

Note to Self: Live peacefully in the land of what is and pursue your dreams.

Love to all (especially those who have been enduring the bouts of anger that have been masking the sadness and the fear), B

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Now I'm Mad (see text below)

OK, so I was mad when I hit "send." Really mad. Mad because I got a form letter that was NOT addressing my actual concern. [To be fair, however, it's better than the last time I wrote to the Governor about these issues and got a reply about my comments on farm machinery...go figure.] Mad because of all of the apologetic double-speak in this letter. [Again, to be fair, I THINK Harkin might actually be on my side, just wrong in his suppositions about marriage rights.] And especially mad that we are not making progress in gaining federal rights of marriage in large part because even our elected officials do not understand the law and are not educated on matters of the rights of marriage. Marriage is not a state-level issue because it carries federal-level rights.

At any rate, below is my reply to Senator Harkin followed by his letter to me when I asked if he supported the "Respect for Marriage Act" that would repeal DOMA.


Thank you for your reply. I was NOT, however, contacting you regarding the DC decision. I WAS contacting you to consider support for the "Respect for Marriage Act" that would repeal DOMA.

You are wrong. Marriage is not an issue of state determination because there are 1,138 rights of marriage (including social security survivorship, etc.) that come from the federal government and will only be granted with federal recognition of marriage for same sex couples.

PLEASE consider: 1) not sending out form letters that insult the intelligence of folks, and 2) supporting the federal repeal of DOMA. Marriage is fundamentally an assemblage of state and federal rights.

Thank you, Me.


April 29, 2010

Dear Friend:

Thank you for contacting me. I am always glad to hear from you.

I appreciate your comments concerning the District of Columbia Council's passage of a bill regarding same-sex marriage.

Marriage licensing and regulation currently is left to the states, and I believe that is proper. It is the right of each state to interpret its own laws as it wishes. Although the Constitution gives Congress the authority to have the final say on this law, I believe the same deference we show states in establishing marriage laws should also be shown to the District of Columbia.

In 1996, I supported the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which established the federal definition of marriage as only the legal union between one man and one woman. Since that time, however, I have given the issue a great deal of thought and my views have evolved. While I've always believed that committed same-sex couples should have all the basic legal protections and benefits of marriage through civil unions, I have come to believe that the best way to guarantee these rights is through marriage equality. At the same time, I believe that questions regarding marriage as a religious sacrament are best left to individual religious denominations.

As I stated above, however, I believe the issue of marriage is best handled at the state level. Recently, as you know, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Iowa's 1998 Defense of Marriage Act violated the state constitution. In order to extend the basic legal protections and benefits of marriage to all Iowans, the Court granted same-sex couples the ability to marry. Significantly, the Court made clear that the ruling only effects civil marriages and will not impede religious groups from defining the marriages it performs as only between a man and a woman. I respect and support this decision, and I hope other Iowans will do the same.

Moreover, with few exceptions, we have changed the United States Constitution only to expand participation in our democracy or to make structural change in our system of representative government. That is why I do not support amending the United States Constitution in this area.

Again, thanks for sharing your views with me. Please don't hesitate to let me know how you feel on any issue that concerns you.


Tom Harkin
United States Senator


What am I missing?

Apparently I am just way off base because I cannot understand why pro-equality forces are not taking the offensive. Why are we allowing anti-fairness factions to dictate the terms of engagement? Why are we not making a case for our rights?

Fact: At least $600,000 in anti-fairness campaign money has come into the State of Iowa for the 2010 elections. Fact: All 3 of the Republican candidates for Governor in the State of Iowa are anti-fairness. Fact: There will be paid advertising that promotes discrimination and seeks to revoke the rights of same sex couples to marry in the State of Iowa.

Suggestion: Seek outside funding to secure advertising time for pro-equality messaging. Suggestion: Create pro-equality advertisements. In these advertisements, explain that Iowa is leading the nation in bringing equality under the law to same sex couples. Suggestion: In pro-equality advertisements, go another step further to explain that what is really needed is federal action to bring parity under the law concerning the 1,138 federal rights of marriage. Suggestion: Include the stories of couples who have been discriminated against because they did not have the right to marry (e.g., not allowed to see a partner as he/she undergoes medical treatment).

In short, can we PLEASE stop capitulating to the negative forces and allowing rhetoric about "conversion" and "immorality" to dominate the conversation? Can we please lead the conversation by giving people the facts behind the importance of marriage equality? Please?!

Me (trying not to move to a deserted island out of frustration)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dear Mr. President

Dear President Obama,

I appreciate your decision to extend hospital visitation and decision-making rights to same sex couples with the appropriate legal paperwork.

I am concerned that even this provision, however, is fundamentally separate and not equal to its "marriage" equivalent. It relies on lesbian and gay couples having the money (approximately $500 per couple) to obtain the appropriate durable/medical power of attorney documents. Gay and lesbian families are adversely affected by the recession, too. Likewise, I believe that handing out the 1,138 federal rights of marriage one-by-one is not realistic for lesbian and gay couples or families.

I have been teaching about the issues facing lesbian and gay folks at a community college in Iowa for the past 5 years. In the process, I have learned that the "average" American is very receptive to marriage for same sex couples when presented with the facts. Unfortunately, we have not- through advertisements or political addresses- given the public the information necessary to understand why marriage equality is so important. Here's my suggestion for speaking to the public based both on my experiences in the classroom and my understanding of your (and many others') reservations about marriage for same sex couples:

Use this mandate you just issued as an opportunity to address the public. In the address, tell the public that you understand that many of them, because of their religious beliefs, are not comfortable with the idea of marriage for same sex couples. Tell them that you, yourself, are not comfortable with the idea of marriage given your religious beliefs.

Then inform them that, despite this discomfort, the reality of marriage is that it is, first (the first marriages in what became the United States were performed by colonial magistrates) and foremost a civil matter. Tell them that zero of the rights of marriage come from the church. Tell them that 1,138 rights of marriage (including social security benefits, rights of inheritance without taxation, hospital visitation, etc.) come from the federal government and approximately 300-600 rights come from the state in which you are married.

Explain to the public that extending the state and federal rights of marriage to same sex couples does not require that they change their religious beliefs and does not require any religious group to perform a ceremony. Extending marriage benefits to same sex couples only brings parity and equality with opposite sex couples in the eyes of the law: It does not take away rights from opposite sex couples nor does it extend "special" rights to same sex couples. Also explain that, in order to receive any of the 1,400+ rights of marriage, the word marriage must be used both because all state and federal documents reference "marriage" and because there is well documented evidence that anything else (e.g., civil unions in New Jersey) creates a system of "separate and unequal" in the eyes of the law.

End the address by informing the public that you will do all that you can to eliminate the last pieces of institutionalized discrimination against a minority group that remain in the United States (feel free to insert any other ideas you have for doing so here). Ask the public to please join you by showing support for the Supreme Court hearing the case in California and, in the meantime, by contacting their Senators and Representatives to support the "Respect for Marriage Act."

Thank you for doing what is right. Sincerely, Me