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.