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

Friday, April 16, 2010

Good news, but now an opportunity to do something bigger and better

I do appreciate President Obama's mandate today to allow same sex couples rights of hospital visitation.

I would add, however, that gay couples still have to pay (at least $500 per couple) for the durable/medical power of attorney paperwork. This can be tough given that recessions hit gay folk as well. I also have to agree with lots of folks who have already aptly pointed out that waiting for all 1,136 federal rights of marriage to come to us one-by-one is a wait that lesbian and gay families cannot afford.

I guess what bothers me is a lack of Presidential statements of support that make it clear that "marriage" as a civil (federal and state) institution is the domain of all. I feel that the absence of this statement is allowing the ignorance of the public to persist with respect to marriage rights.

What if we asked President Obama to continue to seize this opportunity to state his support for legal marriage? What if he used this as an opportunity to say in a public address that this is not a religious issue, and that while 0 rights of marriage come from the church 1,400+ come from the state and federal government?

In my experience teaching the past 5 years, people do understand the need for fairness and equality under the law when presented with these facts. We are failing the public if we do not provide facts and unapologetic leadership on these issues.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Interviews are Coming, but first, Kudos to "Dancing with the Stars"?!

Interviews with folks about marriage are coming to Every Day Gay. Soon!

In the meantime, kudos to Louis Van Amstel on "Dancing with the Stars." I have to admit that I'm not a follower of the show, but my mother (who is) informed me that Louis provided a moving commentary about what it feels like to be excluded from the rights and experience of legal marriage.

Hats off to him and to others who begin these brave conversations with their friends, family, or national audiences.

Friday, April 9, 2010

New Name, New Twists

My 'Sweetie' (see lizard picture in the "blog followers" listed) has suggested some new lives for the blog. In keeping with the theme of newness, there is also a new title for the blog. The new title has multiple meanings. If you schmush together the Every and the Day, you get Everyday, implying that we are far more common than we may seem. But, if you consider the Every and the Day separately, you realize that we are, without exception, each and every day: still gay.

Beyond the title, the blog will hopefully now have new voices from time to time. 'Sweetie' proposed that I "take this show on the road" of sorts and interview various people- both gay and straight- about the rights of marriage. I'm planning to start conducting interviews soon (watch out loved ones, here I come!) and posting them here.

More soon. Love to all, Karma

Thursday, April 8, 2010

DO try this at home (please)

We're always being told not to "try this at home." So let's do something we can try at home?!

Please join me in asking your friends, relatives, loved ones, etc. if they know what rights they get when they get married. Please feel free to post your responses here.

Also, please share the responses of these same friends, relatives, loved ones when you inform them that they receive approximately 1,100 rights from the federal government (including Social Security) and approximately 300-600 rights from each state at the time of their marriage. Are they surprised?

Perhaps ask them to spread the word by trying the same experiment with more friends and loved ones? I like the "Give a Damn" and other campaigns to extend full rights to LGBT folks, but I wish that these campaigns had more "meat" to them in terms of letting straight and gay folks know exactly what's at stake in the fight for marriage equality.

"Give a Damn" Campaign

The new, star-studded "Give a Damn" campaign has debuted. You can look here:

for a list of the campaigns issues related to the rights of LGBT folks.

Homophobia in Uganda and Jamaica

While the U.S. has a very long way to go to bring parity in rights for gay folks, there is an international perspective to consider.

If you have not already read about the bill in Uganda, you could do so here (the U.S. Congress has voted to condemn this anti-homosexuality legislation):

Also, consider watching the episode of Logo's "Coming Out Stories" (available on Netflix) entitled "Son of the Islands" about attitudes and practices towards homosexuals in Jamaica.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)

"The Crazy Marriage Lady" is taking a day off to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). In most (38 of them!) states, individuals can be terminated from their jobs simply because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered. ENDA would seek to eliminate- across all states- employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Please consider supporting this legislation by contacting your Representative at:

Thank you!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Not "For Now," but "For Always" and "For Everyone"

I was watching the KCRG TV-9 (Cedar Rapids, IA, ABC affiliate) news Wednesday morning. The newscaster announced noteworthy legislation from the 2009-2010 Iowa Assembly as well as "what did not happen" during this session. She stated that "no change was made to marriage for same sex couples." "For now." There was a significant pause in the sentence such that "for now" literally became its own sentence.

I boiled for a bit before realizing that vigilance is called for on the state level at the same time action is called for at the national level.

I also realized, after my students so eloquently stated that "everyone should have to take an LGBT Studies class so that they understand what's at stake with marriage," that my true interest these days is stating what I feel is the truth about marriage. I am beginning to feel that becoming the "Crazy Marriage Lady" (it's really just a minor modification on my way to already becoming the "Crazy Cat Lady") is what's called for professionally and personally.

Here's the deal, I understand that research indicates that folks lead with the "heart" and not the "head" on this issue, but I cannot overlook the hundreds of times since I've been teaching that the "head" has prevailed as well. [And, as a professor at an open-door, community college in the middle of Iowa, you could argue that I teach to pretty much your "typicaly American."] Almost without exception as I discuss these issues, students are both incredulous and enraged when they are educated about the marriage rights denied same sex couples. Students feel that "people just aren't educated and that they should be if they're going to hold such strong opinions." I agree.

In class, we address the fact that 0 rights come from the church. In fact, marriage rights for same sex couples should NOT threaten or change anyone's beliefs. As is presently the case for heterosexual couples, religious bodies can always decide NOT to perform these ceremonies. No law would require religious participation.

However, we are fighting for EXACTLY THE SAME rights of marriage at the state and federal levels. Consistently, my students guess that they receive about 10 or so rights of marriage. They are shocked to learn that there are 1,100 rights from the federal government (including Social Security) and 300-600 rights from the state in which they live. Because all of these rights at the state and federal levels are written as rights of "marriage," it is important that same sex couples also be "married" as opposed to being given "civil unions" (they just do not carry the same weight across states and employers, etc.).

Right now, the "Respect for Marriage Act" would seek to extend federal rights to same sex couples as would possible Supreme Court decisions (for cases in Massachusetts and California). Please consider stating your support to as many folks and legislators as possible for these court cases and this legislation.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Please tell your legislators and President to support "The Respect for Marriage Act"

"The Respect for Marriage Act" is the legislation pending (in addition to two Federal Supreme Court challenges in Massachusetts and California) to allow same sex couples the same federal rights of marriage as heterosexual couples. Below is a very brief, but inclusive, explanation of the legislation that tells you exactly what it WILL and will NOT do (for instance, it does not require any religious body to perform ceremonies).

If you agree with this bill, PLEASE consider contacting your representatives in the House, Senate, and the White House to indicate your support and to suggest that this bill be advanced as quickly as possible. THANK YOU!!!

(A copy of the verbatim description of the bill follows.)

Respect for Marriage Act

The Problem
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) singles out lawfully married same-sex couples for unequal treatment under federal law. This law discriminates in two important ways. First, Section 2 of DOMA purports to allow states to refuse to recognize valid civil marriages of same-sex couples. Second, Section 3 of the law carves all same-sex couples, regardless of their marital status, out of all federal statutes, regulations, and rulings applicable to all other married people—thereby denying them over 1100 federal benefits and protections.

For example, legally married same-sex couples cannot:
• File their taxes jointly
• Take unpaid leave to care for a sick or injured spouse
• Receive spousal, mother’s and father’s, or surviving spouse
benefits under Social Security
• Receive equal family health and pension benefits as federal
civilian employees

Since DOMA’s passage in 1996, five states have provided equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, and two other jurisdictions recognize marriages of same-sex couples celebrated in other states and abroad. Thousands of couples have married since Massachusetts issued marriage licenses in 2004.* Because of DOMA, the federal government is not honoring their equal obligations under state law.

What is the Respect for Marriage Act?
The Respect for Marriage Act (RMA) repeals DOMA and restores the rights of all lawfully married couples—including same-sex couples—to receive the benefits of marriage under federal law. The bill also provides same-sex couples with certainty that federal benefits and protections would flow from a valid marriage celebrated in a state where such marriages are legal, even if a couple moves or travels to another state.

By repealing Section 2, the Respect for Marriage Act returns to traditional principles of comity and Full Faith and Credit. Under RMA, same-sex couples and their families would be eligible for important federal benefits and protections such as family and medical leave or Social Security spousal and survivors’ benefits, but the federal government could not grant state-level rights. The bill does not require states that have not yet enacted legal protections for same-sex couples to recognize a marriage. Nor does it obligate any person, state, locality, or religious organization to celebrate or license a marriage between two persons of the same sex. This legislation only requires the federal government to equally apply its policy of looking to the states in determining what legal relationships are eligible for federal benefits.

Americans Support Extending Protection to Same-Sex Couples
The system of federal benefits has always been based upon marriage. Polling shows strong public support for extending federal benefits and protections to same-sex couples. According to a December 2008 Newsweek/Princeton Research survey, more than seven in 10 Americans believe that same-sex couples should have inheritance rights, Social Security benefits, insurance benefits, and hospital visitation rights. The Respect for Marriage Act, in repealing DOMA, would provide to same-sex couples the full range of federal benefits and responsibilities already associated with long-term, committed relationships.

What is the Current Status of the Bill? RMA was introduced in the 111th Congress by Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) in the House.

*Same-sex couples may marry in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont and New Hampshire. California recognizes (the over 18,000) same-sex marriages performed in California before the passage of Proposition 8. New York recognizes same-sex marriages celebrated in other states, but does not grant civil marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The District of Columbia also recognizes same-sex marriages celebrated in other states and has passed a marriage equality bill, which was signed by Mayor Adrian Fenty. Pending congressional review, the law is scheduled to go into effect in early March 2010.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Fecundity (i.e., in the sense of productive, fruitful conversations that could arise)

Caveat: I'm feeling snarkier than usual this morning, which is a rather frightening state. That said, not naming any names, but ever notice the plethora of "not-yet-all-the-way-out" but quietly confirmed to be lesbian and gay folks on all sorts of morning, noon, and night national television programming?

What if rather than focusing on morning programming about "secrets of your dishwasher" (no kidding- that was on this morning- although I did confirm that it's best to put silverware in 'facing up' if you want it to come out the cleanest), these folks were to do some programming about the truths in their lives and the rights and protections they wish they had under the law.

I do not believe they would be abandoned by their loyal followers. Rather, I believe the vast majority would be personally supported. Furthermore, imagine the progress we could make with that many more voices. As I learned at NGLTF's Creating Change Conference, if gay and lesbian folks do not have meaningful conversations with those around them (and, in these cases, the millions listening to them) about these issues, folks around them just figure that the issues aren't important and said gay and lesbian folks really just don't care that much.

Imagine the fecundity of subsequent conversations among millions of Americans were those who occupy prominent places in society (i.e., the folks that people listen to on a daily basis on hem) to officially and publicly come out.

Told you, snarkier than usual, but I'm just sayin'....

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A note to President Obama: PLEASE remember that all "moral issues of social justice" are EQUALLY important

Do not be angry, do not be angry, do not be angry. Huh. Still angry. Guess it's time to blog.

I was watching an interview with Ted Kennedy's widow this morning in response to the passing of health care reform legislation. I was fine...until the numerous excerpts of speeches by President Obama in which he refers to health care reform as the number one "moral issue...of social justice" in our time.

I would like to suggest an alternate framing inspired by the folks who talk about "multiple oppressions" like bell hooks and the late Audre Lorde. I think it is very dangerous to present any issue of moral and social justice as any more or less important or deserving of action. We face unprecedented segregation in schools by race and class (according to Gary Orfield, more so than at any time since the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968). We have a growing gap between the rich and the poor in our society both in terms of income and wealth. We still face challenges in providing quality and affordable health care insurance to all citizens. We still do not allow same sex couples the same rights of marriage at the state and federal levels as opposite sex couples, nor do we protect LGBT folks from being fired on the basis of their sexual orientation. We desperately need immigration reform. ALL of these issues (and then some) are of equal importance as "moral" issues of "social justice."

I would also strongly suggest that President Obama begin to properly frame issues of equality for LGBT folks as "moral issues of social justice." To date, he has only offered that he is not quite comfortable supporting the idea of marriage for same sex couples. His discomfort seems to be rooted in issues of religion. PLEASE remember, President Obama, that WE ARE FACING A MORAL ISSUE OF SOCIAL JUSTICE every day as people who are excluded from the 1,100 Federal and approximately 300-600 State rights of marriage. WE ARE NOT EQUAL IN THE EYES OF THE LAW. Just as laws banning interracial marriage were struck down by the Federal Supreme Court as unconstitutional, we must strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional. We should not allow the tyranny of the majority to decide the rules of the minority (e.g., only 30% of the population supported the Supreme Court decision to allow interracial marriage and yet we know it to be the fair and equal decision according to the Constitution). Nor should we WAIT (as Rea Carey said, and I paraphrase, waiting is the luxury of those who already *have* rights) for YOU to be comfortable with the religious implications. Marriage rights are civil in nature and not religious. State and Federal rights should be granted to ALL or to NONE.

Our full and equal rights are not an issue of the comfort of those in power or those in the majority. Our rights are not to be considered only during times of political convenience (e.g., the current year-long "time out" on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to try to ensure positive mid-term elections for Democrats and the abject silence on issues of marriage rights or employment protection). Our rights should be enacted and protected as a matter of law. As we have done to protect other minority groups in society (e.g., folks of color, women, differently-abled folks, religious minorities and nationalities), we must act to protect and enable full and equal rights under the law for LGBT peoples as well.

I'm sorry if this still sounds angry. I am not sorry if this sounds irreverent. I hold no reverence for people in positions of power or authority simply because they are in power or authority. I only hold reverence for those who have earned it by standing up for what is right and fair and equal in the eyes of the law even when that action is not (politically) popular. PLEASE, President Obama, stand up for what is right.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Recognizing (and Changing) the Absurd

This afternoon's Introduction to LGBT Studies class was fantastic. I asked everyone to brainstorm about how our cultural, interpersonal, and institutional experiences would be different if homosexuality was the norm in our society.

This exercise is my adaptation of the 1997 "Ellen" episode in which Ellen's cousin has a dream that heterosexuals are the minority group. In this dream world, Normal Rockwell is pornography (ewww..."little boys kissing little girls") and heterosexuals find freedom from discrimination living together in "Straight Town." Programs on television with heterosexual content ("Mad About You" or "Friends") warrant a "Parental Advisory for adult content" and the program "Nightline" features a panel discussion of "Heterosexuals in the military: yea or nay."

In class, we decided to add the following to the "Ellen" episode:

1) We would have 'straight bars' and 'straight pride.'
2) We would be debating whether or not it was appropriate for heterosexuals to teach in our schools. They could "teach" our children to be heterosexual. Likewise, we would be reluctant to include representation of famous heterosexuals in our history curriculum.
4) We would be awaiting the first heterosexual President of the United States. We think we would be waiting a long time.
5) We would be debating whether employment non-discrimination laws should protect heterosexuals from being fired on the basis of their sexual orientation. In most states, you could not be openly heterosexual without fear of being fired.
6) We would be very concerned about heterosexual parents. We would limit heterosexual adoptions in some states and give custody to the homosexual parent in cases where a heterosexual parent "comes out."
7) Rather than having Homosexuals Anonymous (HA) (I'm NOT really does exist...Google it), we would have Heterosexuals Anonymous or maybe even Straight-A. We're pretty sure heterosexuals "can change" and be perfectly "normal" like homosexuals.
8) We would not extend federal or state (in most cases) rights of marriage to heterosexual couples. We're pretty sure that would destroy the fabric of society.

Get the picture?

I could keep going, but the list is nearly endless.

We collectively laughed in class at the absurdity of most of these assertions. It seemed like "they could never happen" because they are so ridiculous and absurd when applied to heterosexuals.

Can we use this exercise to see that current inequities in rights and protections for gay folks are absurd and ridiculous? Can we then decide that this will both change and never happen again? I hope so.

Please feel free to try this brainstorming exercise yourself or share it with others. Peace, Sarah

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Here's the TH Editorial :)

Printed in the Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, IA) on Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"Letter: Iowa ruling on same-sex marriage a source of pride"

I was raised in Dubuque, but only recently felt I might belong in Iowa. As a young, educated professional, I represent the demographic most likely to leave the state for expanded opportunities.

Last spring when the Iowa Supreme Court ruled it only fair that same sex couples be granted the same rights of marriage as heterosexual couples, my heart opened toward Iowa. I was proud to be an Iowan. I felt visible and legitimate both as an individual and as part of a same sex couple.

My partner and I will soon be married in Iowa. A magistrate will perform the nuptials. We will not have any religious involvement nor are we trying to change anyone’s religious beliefs. We will spend all of the money for the wedding through Iowa owned/operated businesses. We will receive the nearly 400 rights and responsibilities of marriage in the State of Iowa.

Since neighboring states will not recognize our marriage, we are paying an attorney to help us prepare the paperwork that will (hopefully) preserve our power to make decisions for each other in emergency situations. Until the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is overturned, we cannot receive any of the nearly 1,100 rights of marriage at the federal level, including Social Security Survivor Benefits.

In the end, I stay in Iowa because of a fabulous Dean and co-workers at Kirkwood; because my family (including my new family-in-law) lives in Iowa; and, foremost, because Iowa grants me the right to marry my soul mate.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Yay for the TH!

A couple of weeks ago, I'd finally had enough "signs" from the cosmos that it was time to finish my Letter to the Editor weighing in about marriage equality for same sex couples in Iowa. So I did.

Unfortunately, The Des Moines Register (largest newspaper in the state) tersely informed me that "space did not permit" it to publish my teeny, tiny, miniscule little 250 word letter. Space *did* permit it, however, to publish a rather large (with color picture of two rings intertwined) editorial condemning marriage equality just two weeks earlier. Huh.

Anywho, yay for Dubuque's Telegraph Herald (TH)! The TH has agreed to publish the letter, and it should appear at some point during the next 2-3 weeks. You can find TH letters by going to, dragging the mouse over the "news" tab, and then clicking on "opinion."

Monday, February 22, 2010

Words that Start with the Letter "i" like "impatient" and "inalienable"

In her State of the Union Plenary Address for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Rea Carey said: "I suggest, to those who say don't push so hard, just wait — that sounds like advice from someone already enjoying the benefits of equality. Someone who can marry who they want; someone who can serve their country freely; someone who can enter a nursing home without having to go back into the closet; someone who doesn't have to face the indignities of filling out form after form, deciding if they will cross off "mother" or "father" and write in a new word just to reflect the reality of our families."

I was reminded of her address when my ipod Shuffle (it's as technologically advanced as I get...) rolled to Melissa Etheridge's "Tuesday Morning" while I was skiing this weekend. For those of you who aren't familiar with the song, the lyrics are here:

and a live performance of the song is here:

The song is dedicated to Mark Bingham, one of the passengers who tried to stop the terrorists on board his flight on September 11, 2001. As a gay man, Bingham could not freely and safely teach in our schools, serve in the military, or be legally married; but he was every bit an "American" when he tried to save the lives of his fellow passengers.

To me, both Melissa Etheridge and Rea Carey are saying that "inalienable" rights are too easy for Americans to take for granted. And yet these rights are not inalienable for many Americans. The American Heritage Dictionary defines inalienable as "incapable of being taken away." But since lesbians and gays do not have, for instance, the right to legally marry at the state (in all but a few cases) and federal levels, it's impossible to take away what we do not yet have.

I do not enjoy being labeled "impatient" when I argue that the time for full fairness and equality under the law is NOW. I do not believe that we should wait until our issues are "politically viable" and I am not satisfied by looking at "how far we've come." I do believe that patience is a luxury I do not have. keeping with the title of the blog, how can I turn this frustration into positive change? Faith. Faith in my work and the work of others to produce change. I can have faith in the work that has been done in California and Massachusetts to challenge marriage equality at the Federal level. I can have faith in the power of the music of Melissa Etheridge to change hearts and minds. I can have faith in the power of my own conversations with folks. And I can have faith in the legions of allies who are straight friends, family, and students (!) who support full equality for LGBT citizens.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Personal IS Political: Or, Why Visibility is Important (Even When It's Difficult)

The first 4,000 or so times that I had to "come out," I would shake and my voice would quiver. Sometimes that still happens. However, I was reminded at the NGLTF conference of the importance of visibility, even when it's difficult or uncomfortable. Research indicates that attitudes towards gay folks are not really impacted by the number of gay people you know, but rather the types of connections or relationships you have with those people. So, it becomes very important for LGBT folks to actually HAVE conversations with people so that others can understand what issues of fairness and equality we face (in the absence of these conversations, people often assume that issues like marriage or employment non-discrimination are not that important to us!).

I also believe it's important to explain why the issues facing LGBT folks are not just "personal" or "private" matters. That is, to explain why "the personal is political."

First, I would argue that it's exceptionally rare that relationship issues or statuses are actually "private" for any of us. For instance, how many of us knew (or know, if we're still taking classes) each year when we started school whether our teachers were married or single or divorced or had children? I knew this information for all of my teachers growing up (and in college for that matter) from the stories teachers would tell in class and from family pictures displayed on their desks at school.

Second, being in a same sex relationship IS inherently political (and not just personal) for members of the LGBT community because we live in a society that is inherently unequal. Not only do we not have the same rights as heterosexual folks (e.g., marriage at the state and federal levels), but we do not have the same protections as heterosexual folks. For example, what happens if a gay or lesbian teacher tells a story about their family or has a picture of a partner and/or children on their desk at school? Rather than being illustrative of a point, or cute, or reassuring, or anecdotal, as it would be for the aforementioned heterosexual teachers, it becomes threatening. AND, in the majority of states in the US, this teacher could be fired without legal recourse or protection just because they are lesbian or gay. [This will continue until we pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to protect sexual orientation and gender identity in employment at the federal level.]

Third, while visibility is difficult and can be uncomfortable, invisibility is equally so. Not being able to tell the same stories anyone else (who is heterosexual, for instance) would about your family takes a toll on physical and psychological health.

I will continue to do my best to be visible and to not be afraid. And I will take courage from my friends who are straight allies. [Many thanks to my former neighbors (and current friends) who participated with their whole family (!) in a recent peaceful protest against homophobia in Cedar Rapids. LOVE your Facebook pictures from the event and love you!]

Friday, February 12, 2010

Letter to the Editor

I'm working on a Letter to the Editor regarding marriage for same sex couples. It was back-burnered a bit by other things in life, and then I happened to pick up Iowa's LGBT newspaper with a headline about the importance of editorials (especially in light of the large, anti-marriage for same sex couples editorial that recently appeared in the Des Moines Register). Guess that was my sign to get back to work. I'm hoping to finish the final revisions this weekend and submit, probably to the Register, next week.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Separation of State and Federal Rights from Religious Ceremony

Iowa has a fabulous resource organization (The Interfaith Alliance of Iowa) that makes it clear that same sex couples want the state and federal rights of marriage, but that providing equal civil rights does NOT involve requiring any religious organization to condone, sanction, or perform any ceremonies. In my opinion, that's the beauty of the separation of church and state: No one in a religious community needs to change their beliefs about homosexuality (everyone has a right to their beliefs), but they must recognize that the state and federal government (and not any religious organization) governs the actual rights and responsibilities of marriage.

If you'd like more information, check out the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa website at:

Peace, B

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

2 Billion Lost

Just received the link to this video (again, sorry to ask you to cut and paste, but blogging from home with the snow):

2 BILLION in social security benefits lost because same sex couples cannot be married in the eyes of the federal government. Of the almost 1,400 rights of marriage, approximately 1,100 rights come from the federal government, including laws pertaining to immigration, social security, inheritance tax, etc. Because same sex couples are not able to marry at the federal level (with the Defense of Marriage Act still in place), we are not eligible for any of these rights, benefits, or responsibilities. For more information on the specifics of the rights at the state and federal level that come with marriage, see:

Kind People

Wow. I am so, so, so, so NOT a wedding planner. It's not pretty when an obsessive compulsive, anal retentive person no longer retains control of life or limb. (OK, slight exaggeration, but you get the drift.) Please send out a cosmic prayer, chant, mantra, or all of the above to Melanie now :)

Needless to say, in the midst of all of this, I am so thankful for all of the kind people out there. We thank all of you for the supportive and congratulatory phone calls and e-mails we have received. Believe me, this means more to us than you will ever know.

Wonderful folks have even suggested hosting gatherings to celebrate the wedding. This is miraculous to me because I have only once had anyone (thank you, Melanie) convene a party specifically in my honor. So, the fact that people are taking the time and showing the interest in us and our upcoming nuptials is beyond heartwarming.

As the pace of life seemingly continues to accelerate and the demands on our time ever increase, I don't want to miss the chance to thank folks for what really matters, which is your love and support. So...nothing academic for today's blog, just lots of gratitude.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Speech that Spawned the Blog

Cool. All of the video footage from the Creating Change Conference Plenary is now up (in 4 parts, but up nonetheless) at:

Or, you can find the full text of the speech at:

I really appreciate that the argument presented in this speech was that the right to marry (or to be protected from employment discrimination, etc.) is not a lesser issue (than the economy, for instance) nor is it an issue to be considered only in a politically viable way (i.e., it's only brought up when a candidate doesn't fear losing an election because of it). Rather, she presents this as an immediate civil and human rights issue that requires an immediate and equitable solution.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Importance of Awesome Allies (i.e., most of you reading this blog)

We need the support of straight allies (folks who identify as heterosexual but support full civil rights and equality for gay folks). You are the people we turn to for support when the world seems too cruel. You are the people we celebrate with when we are valued (for instance, thanks to all the people at work that I hugged after the Iowa Supreme Court granted marriage rights on April 3, 2009!). are absolutely vital to creating change. You are the ones who often have the greatest power to help explain why this issue is important to those who are less supportive (i.e., you are not seen as "having an agenda" when you argue for full human rights and protections). You are also the statistical majority of folks, which means that we need your support every time these issues are put to a popular or legislative vote.

For all of you who are willing to help (in addition to the great emotional support you already provide for many of us), here are some possible outlets:

1) Have discussions with friends, family, and co-workers about the issues facing the LGBT community. One of the biggest goals of this blog is to help provide information to facilitate these conversations through links to organizations, videos, etc.

2) Or...don't...and just have discussions from the heart. While I'm partial to the facts (hence the teaching gig, I suppose), what I also learned at the conference is the importance of the heart. People are more likely to listen and to ask questions when they understand that "gay people want to get married for the same reason as heterosexual people do." Likewise, people are more likely to listen and ask questions when they are given examples of how the absence of marriage can devastatingly affect things like hospital visitation in times of crisis (e.g., the video "For My Wife" and the videos at Garden State Equality- both of which are linked on my "Cool Folks to Follow" list of links to the right). So, the more stories you can share of the struggles your gay friends have experienced without full protection or rights, the better.

3) Contact your state and federal legislators when LGBT issues are coming up for a vote. In almost every state there are organizations working for marriage equality. If you join the e-mail list of these organizations (like One Iowa whose link is to the ancient home computer will not allow me to insert it here- sorry!), you automatically receive updates and even sample letters that you can send to your representatives. If you have a hard time finding an organization in your state, just leave me a comment here and I promise I will help you find the right organization.

4) Write a letter to the editor. (I'm fixin' to do another one myself in the next few weeks.) If you have moved away from your hometown, send the letter to the newspaper both in your current city and in your hometown. Don't worry about getting all of the facts straight (pardon the pun), just feel free to share your story (or journey) from the heart.

WE LOVE YOU and thank you for ALL that you do to support us personally and politically. Love, B

Saturday, February 6, 2010


So many friendly folks at the NGLTF conference and so many serendipitous meetings. I was feeling a bit weepy this morning and regretful that it was time to leave the energy of the conference when I met a fellow attendee at the elevator. We agreed that we enjoyed our time here and he stated that he felt good about going home because he "accomplished what he came here to do."

What an apt statement. I honestly wasn't sure what I came here to do except to get a sense for this conference and to hopefully learn more about how the issues facing the LGBT community are experienced across the country. (So much for my other goal of finding warmer weather...Dallas was barely warmer than Iowa.) I feel like I accomplished this goal, but that I also gained a sense of inspiration.

I'm not sure what's next for me in this world in almost all respects, and I'm beginning to make a radical peace with that. Before certain people panic (Sweetie), I do know that: I want to marry Melanie and create a life together. (And I've NEVER known that I wanted to do that before.) I know that I love my mom and my boys (the 2 four-leggers she grandma-sits for me). I know that I love my friends so dearly and that I want to make sure that they all know that. I know that I love the rest of my family and Melanie's family.

But, beyond that I'm pretty clueless (as many of you can attest when observing me making AND then remaking the same simple decision for hours on end...really...I wish this were hyperbole...truly "choice" is a luxury and a curse [just read Elizabeth Gilbert's "Committed" for a good diatribe about that]). I do know that the marriage equality (and employment non-discrimination, etc.) movement is of tremendous importance to me. I know that I need to pursue greater involvement in these movements because doing so energizes me and allows me to channel my frustrations about the lack of equal rights and protections for the LGBT community. And I know that, as much as I often feel greatly misplaced in Iowa, I do feel grateful for the space that "marriage" has carved out for us there. I feel badly for my fellow conference attendees who movingly express that "all they want is a space for their families" and "a sense that they are not second class citizens." I want that for all of you, too. Love to you all, B

Friday, February 5, 2010

Other cool resources

The Human Rights Campaign at for information on the latest in state and federal laws regarding marriage, non-discrimination, etc.


The Trevor Project ( providing resources and help for LGBT youth who have considered suicide

and about the story of Charlene and Kate. As Kate was dying, Charlene was denied visitation and also denied the rights of funeral preparation. Video soon to be released on Amazon (in 2 weeks or so).

For all the mothers and fathers of gay folks out there

At the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Conference, I was fortunate to see a video clip of a very cool parent from New Jersey. This mother wasn't afraid to talk about her gay daughter with coworkers for fear of their rejection of her. Rather, she was upset that she hadn't yet had the chance to participate in the conversations her coworkers regularly had about their own children's marriages simply because her daughter didn't have the right to legally marry. How cool is that? Pride and joy trump shame.

Tidbits from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Conference

Wow. Just as Melanie and I begin to make legal arrangements that would protect our right to visit and make decisions for each other in the hospital when we are in states other than Iowa, I end up attending a conference that underscores the importance of full marriage equality at the state and federal levels.

So many (too many) examples of couples who were denied the right to visit dying partners (even with durable/medical power of attorney AND civil unions or domestic partnerships) in the hospital because they were not legally married. I can't do the stories justice, but I do recommend that you visit Garden State Equality at to hear/see the couples for yourself. On the main webpage are commercials and compilations of video footage from families denied insurance coverage and access to medical decision making without "marriage" recognition. I wish I could say that New Jersey's examples are isolated ones, but I've heard similar stories from couples in Washington State and Oregon as well.

Blog birth

I was inspired this afternoon by Rea Carey, Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (, to turn my anger at the lack of LGBT human rights into dedication to creating change and to increasing visibility for the LGBT community. Carey encouraged LGBT folks and our straight allies not to give in to anger at the lack of change, but rather to redouble our efforts to engage in conversations, letter writing campaigns, blogging (and any other means at our disposal) in order to create meaningful change in the areas that are most important to us such as marriage equality and employment non-discrimination. She also advocated for LGBT folks to stand united on issues that affect all of us such as federal immigration reform and healthcare reform. Carey's address gave me two important things: 1) a space for my anger, and 2) a place to go with my anger that was productive. I feel fortunate that I was able to thank her in person for these gifts after the address in a rather fortuitous elevator ride!

So...I will dedicate this blog to fulfilling the request of Rea Carey to educate and advocate for change. I will do my best to make blog posts informative and educational. That said, I am not a gifted blogger (as are many of my friends). Rather, I am much more prone to formality and dryness and tangents and excessive use of parentheses, etc., in both written and verbal communication. (See above if you need evidence of this :) I'll do my best not to be too anal-retentive in my tone from here on out.

Thanks for reading. Sarah