Thought of the day

It makes me happy that reports of equal rights and equal treatment being rightfully expanded to gays are practically non-stories at this point.

Why gay marriage is becoming accepted

It isn’t that difficult:

“The numbers are inexorably moving in one direction,” said [pollster Mark] DeCamillo. “Older folks, who are more in opposition, are dying out and younger folks are more inclined to support it. It’s not rocket science.”

At least, I believe that is the major reason why things are turning around. Of course, there is also the Harvey Milk strategy of making sure people realize that they do, in fact, know gay people. That and coming-out movements have worked fantastically. However, it cannot be denied that the overwhelming opposition to equal rights for gays is among older generations. As they die out, younger, more enlightened, more well-educated people are taking their place. Even conservatives aren’t surprised:

Gay marriage to appear on Maine ballot once again

After the Maine legislature and governor passed equal rights measures for gays in terms of marriage in 2009, our religiously-motivated bigots got organized and turned the clock back quite quickly. They won that battle, but the war continues:

Gay-marriage advocates turned in more than enough signatures to move ahead with a citizen initiative that would allow gay and lesbian couples to marry in Maine, the secretary of state’s office ruled Thursday.

More than 85,000 signatures were declared valid. The groups needed only 57,277 signatures for their bill to get to the Legislature.

The decision means lawmakers will now be presented with a citizen initiative to allow gay marriage in Maine.

I’m proud to say my signature was among those turned into the secretary of state.

I’m cautiously optimistic about this. It’s great that this is back on the ballot, and early poll numbers are positive, but equal rights were defeated by a hefty margin in 2009, 53-47. It’s going to be an uphill battle for sure, but I suspect it will help that it is a Presidential election year.

At any rate, even if we continue to treat some people in Maine as second-class citizens after this November, it’s only a matter of time before the state gets on the right side of history and continues to make New England proud.

Judge orders military to reinstate gay soldier

There are a number of nations whose military allows gay soldiers to serve openly with straight soldiers. The obvious reason is that being gay does not make someone a sex-crazed rapist whose only interest is to cause irreparable moral harm to other people by giving them gay. Recent polls show an overwhelming majority of Americans realize this. In fact, the U.S. military largely realizes this, dismissing fewer gay soldiers per year than they did prior to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars; they may as well be saying, ‘Okay, there’s a lot of hatred for gays out there and, really, that’s our motivation, but when it comes down to it, we need good service members.’

Fortunately, in addition to the other recent positive rulings, a judge has declared the military must reinstate a lesbian soldier it dismissed under ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’. He cites the lack of constitutionality of the law due to its uselessness.

“The application of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ to Major Margaret Witt does not significantly further the government’s interest in promoting military readiness, unit morale and cohesion,” he wrote.

If it did any of these things, ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ would have some validity within its scope. Unfortunately for all the bigots out there, judges are increasingly recognizing that sexual orientation is irrelevant to the effectiveness of military members.

But I think it’s worth pointing out that calling ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ a failure would be a mistake. The law was a compromise that marked a major step in terms of equal rights for gays. This is in a similar vein to when Jefferson put an end to the slave trade in 1808. That point was pivotal in the effort to end slavery, but it was also virtually all that could be done politically. Learning from his earlier days in Virginia politics, he knew any effort to end slavery was premature in his lifetime, lest he lose all political capital and ability to govern in any other area. A similar tale can be told of Clinton. Outright ending the unjustified discrimination against gays in the military was virtually impossible at the time (and it’s still proving to be difficult). But by getting the best deal he could for gay service members, Clinton made the first big step in ending the discrimination they face in the military. The fortunate difference here is that it won’t take us 57 years to reach Clinton’s goal.

Obama expands rights for all

I’m not sure how I managed to miss this story, but Obama has expanded visitation rights in hospitals that will primarily benefit gay couples.

The president directed the Department of Health and Human Services to prohibit discrimination in hospital visitation in a memo that was e-mailed to reporters Thursday night.

Administration officials and gay activists, who have been quietly working together on the issue, said the new rule, once in place, will affect any hospital that receives Medicare or Medicaid funding, a move that covers the vast majority of the nation’s health care institutions.

While those who irrationally hate gays because they think homosexuality is all about sex (and that’s just icky!) are going to paint this as special rights for gays, it is an expansion of rights for all.

Obama’s memo to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius orders the development of new rules to ensure that hospitals “respect the rights of patients to designate visitors” and to choose the people who will make medical decisions on their behalf.

This is common sense. Even with legal documents in place, gays and some unmarried straight couples still face horrific discrimination in hospitals. Specifically, this recent memo is in response to the case of Lisa Pond and Janice Langbehn.

Ms. Pond had filed a living will, a binding legal document, that appointed Ms. Langbehn to make medical decisions for her should she become too ill to speak for herself.

But even after copies of that document were faxed to the Florida hospital where Ms. Pond was dying, nurses refused to allow Ms. Langbehn and the couple’s three children into the room.

It is difficult to imagine that a heterosexual couple — even an unmarried heterosexual couple with a similarly long-standing relationship — would be treated the same way.

In another case (from the same link), a couple had designated each other as the person in charge of medical decisions should the other become ill.

Like Ms. Pond, Ms. Ritchie had a living will that designated her partner to make medical decisions for her. But hospital officials wouldn’t provide Ms. Reed with any information on her partner’s condition. Without that information, she couldn’t possibly make informed medical decisions, as Ms. Ritchie had intended.

Things like this are the successes of bigoted voters who go to the ballot box thinking they’re protecting some institution. This isn’t about abstract social constructs. It is about human beings. This goes beyond the petty narrow-mindedness that pervades so many; the happiness of others is what matters. Equal rights for all will increase happiness while not affecting the currently privileged one bit.

What is so damned hard about this? Institutions matter only insofar as they protect people.

Federal same-sex marriage case to begin soon

A federal case is set to start in the coming days. At issue is the federal constitutionality of California’s Prop 8 bill that passed, damaging the lives of thousands of Californians and ignoring the rights of every last one of them. I’m sure it will be some time until this reaches the Supreme Court (where Scalia will not consider any legal issue), but it will certainly get there.

Interestingly, one of the opponents of equal rights has asked to be dropped from the lawsuit. Since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown correctly refused to mount a defense for California, others had to step in. One was Hak-Shing William Tam, an official bigot and proponent of Prop 8.

On Friday, Tam told the court that he was harassed and his property vandalized during the campaign, and feared similar retribution if he continued to represent gay marriage foes’ interest in the lawsuit and trial, which is scheduled to start Monday in San Francisco.

“In the past I have received threats on my life, had my property vandalized and am recognized on the streets due to my association with Proposition 8,” Tam said in a court filing. “Now that the subject lawsuit is going to trial, I fear I will get more publicity, be more recognizable and that the risk of harm to me and my family will increase.”

While the guy is a scumbag, he doesn’t deserve that. Dare I say, the actions toward him represent, gasp!, bigotry! No one has to accept Tam’s beliefs, but tolerance is required.

Good call, Jerry

California Attorney General Jerry Brown has joined the good fight.

Brown, a former California Democratic governor, said the California court’s summer ruling allowing gay marriage led the way to his argument.

“The right of same-sex couples to marry is protected by the liberty interests of the constitution,” Brown said by telephone, referring to the ruling. “If a fundamental right can be take away without any particular justification, then what kind of a right is it?”

The fact that California has a simple majority of bigots is not reason enough to take away the right of a minority. The reason it takes 38 states to ratify an amendment to the U.S. constitution is that it’s quite possible that 26 states could impose highly disagreeable rule over the other 24 – imagine if 25 southern states could have banded together and banned interracial marriage. (Unsurprisingly, it would likely be mostly southern states, again, voting in favor of bigotry if an amendment banning gay marriage ever came to a vote at the state level.)

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