Congratulations, Minnesota and Rhode Island

Equality is happening in two more states right now and no one is worse off for it. No one:

Dozens of Minnesota gay couples made last-minute preparations Wednesday for midnight marriages, determined to exchange vows at the earliest possible moment under a new state law legalizing same-sex marriage…

“It feels historic. It’s an honor to be a part of it,” said Tim Roberts, the Stearns County court administrator, who planned to perform a 12:01 a.m. wedding at the courthouse in St. Cloud.

Rhode Island was joining Minnesota on Thursday in becoming the 12th and 13th U.S. states to allow gay marriage, along with the District of Columbia. The national gay rights group Freedom to Marry estimates that about 30 percent of the U.S. population now lives in places where gay marriage is legal. The first gay weddings in Rhode Island were planned for later Thursday morning.

Don’t worry, bigots. You’ll be okay. Your parents and grandparents were fine when interracial marriage became legal. You can make it through this.

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Don’t be shy

People shy from frank and aggressive language in a lot of instances, but I think that’s sometimes inappropriate. For example, there’s this desire to engage in some sort of ‘respectful’ conversation with those who support ‘traditional’ marriage*, as if they deserve equal time and opportunity – despite overtly advocating to deny basic equalities and opportunities to gay people. I disagree with that desire. These people are blatant bigots and should be called as much.

Affording undue respect to scummy people like this is exactly the same as affording undue respect to a member of the KKK or some other racist organization. You lend validity to a view when you say it deserves a fair shake and a good listen. Don’t do that shit.

*I, of course, mean marriage as defined between one man and one woman in relatively recent times by, mostly, Western culture. I am not referring to marriage where dowries and goats are involved, as happened early on before our invention of particular gods.

Equality in New York

Equality has passed in New York:

New York lawmakers narrowly voted to legalize same-sex marriage Friday, handing activists a breakthrough victory in the state where the gay rights movement was born.

New York will become the sixth state where gay couples can wed and the biggest by far.

“We are leaders and we join other proud states that recognize our families and the battle will now go on in other states,” said Sen. Thomas Duane, a Democrat…

The New York bill cleared the Republican-controlled state Senate on a 33-29 vote. The Democrat-led Assembly, which passed a different version last week, is expected to pass the new version with stronger religious exemptions and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who campaigned on the issue last year, has promised to sign it. Same-sex couples can begin marrying begin 30 days after that.

Good.

The march of progress

Increased civil liberties are on the horizon:

Fifty-three percent of Americans support making gay marriage legal, a Gallup poll showed on Friday, a marked reversal from just a year ago when an equal majority opposed same-sex matrimony.

The latest Gallup findings are in line with two earlier national polls this spring that show support for legally recognized gay marriage has, in recent months, gained a newfound majority among Americans.

It’s hard to say exactly what it is that is causing this shift. I suspect it’s actually a number of factors. For instance, the five states that have given basic civil rights to gays have not fallen into ruin, so people might be recognizing that the fear mongering of conservative bigots was just a bunch of lies. It could also be that more and more people are coming out the closet. As Harvey Milk said, if people realize that they know gays and gay couples, they’re less likely to hate. Or it could be that people are actually recognizing the principles they claim to hold, thus applying them consistently. After all, “I won’t give my approval!” is a rather dishonest argument.

Of course, there is one thing that can’t be missed:

In a sign of a generation gap, Gallup found 70 percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 34 support gay marriage, compared to only 39 percent among those 55 and older.

The irrelevant generations do tend to hold back progress, but it really is so often that the energy and improved perspective of younger generations that brings about important, needed, and principled change.

Topless march in Farmington

After protesters marched topless in Portland for equal rights, Andrea Simoneau, a 22 year old student at the University of Maine at Farmington, decided to organize a similar march in her school’s town.

Hundreds of spectators poured into the street and lined the sidewalks to watch, while clusters of protesters held up signs in opposition to the march.

That’s roughly the desired outcome. Make something that shouldn’t be a big deal into a big deal. It’s too bad that there were so many non-news cameras all over the place, but it can’t be said that that wasn’t expected. Nor could it be said that it was unexpected that some people on the other end of the spectrum would go too far.

Resident Elaine Graham took on the most active role of protest, following topless women with a blue blanket and holding it up to cover them during and after the march.

That’s really not okay. Graham was being disruptive of what was a legal protest in Maine. She really needed to stay at an appropriate distance with a sign or some other form of non-interfering expression. Of course, this isn’t the first time Elaine Graham has gone too far.

Meet Elaine Graham of Farmington, Maine. This is Elaine Graham being expelled from a Judiciary Committee work session on the same sex marriage bill last April. I have no idea at all what she is screaming. However, Ms. Graham is holding three crudely crafted signs. The top one reads: “Mission Homosexual Movement CHANGE WORLD MORAL ORDER.”

(I added the link to the image.)

No stranger to silliness, Graham has again and again publicly expressed her sexual immaturity in ways more inappropriate than what’s par for the course. It’s sad and pathetic, really. Burdened with hatred based in Christianity, she cannot accept that other people have a more adult view than she when it comes to sex, the human body, and even love.

Finally, here’s one of the pictures from the march. Obviously I’m not going to upload bare breasts on WordPress (nor am I going to link to anything besides news images, should images be floating around out there), but I think it’s worthwhile to upload this particular picture because it captures the whole event so well. Graham is there, misbehaving out of sexual immaturity, while who knows how many men take video and pictures of the event.

This contrasts so much with a show I saw in Portland last night. The bulk of the show had three bands/musicians (one of which was Theodore Treehouse), but in between sets there was a belly dancer. Any person would have fallen over him- or herself if this woman merely made eye contact, but notably, everyone refrained from recording. There were a couple of photographers for the show itself, but no one in the audience pulled out a camera or cell phone and started snapping away. It wouldn’t have been appropriate by and large, but it also would have really distracted from what was actually a very skilled and talented performance. Of course, the reason for this difference in reaction is the certainly higher sexual maturity present in the audience at that show versus the sexual maturity of those who showed up to gawk in Farmington. People were able to recognize that the belly dancing was not a sexual act; many (though certainly not all!) in Farmington saw the topless march as a sexual display. It wasn’t.

Reporter fired for responding to pro-gay press release

Of course the Bible Brigade is going to jump on this as Christian martyrdom, but the evidence doesn’t bear that out.

Grard was fired by Bill Thompson, editor of the Sentinel and its sister paper the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, shortly after the Nov. 3 election in which Maine voters repealed a same-sex marriage law approved by the Legislature. Grard said he arrived at work the morning after the vote to find an e-mailed press release from the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C., that blamed the outcome of the balloting on hatred of gays.

Grard, who said he’d gotten no sleep the night before, used his own e-mail to send a response.

This is an obviously weak reason to fire anyone, much less an employee of 18 years (note: I heard 17 in an interview on the radio with Grard). The guy has no prior reprimands or anything else on his record. It would seem a massive over reaction by Bill Thompson.

I suspect the failings of the piss-poor newspapers in Maine is the big factor in all this: they need to cut expenses, so firing a long time employee with one of the surely higher salaries is one way to do it. But that isn’t to say the specifics of the incident are irrelevant. Grard shouldn’t have been responding to a press release from work, so he should get slapped around a little for that, but fired? Sure, he represented his employer unprofessionally, but so does the construction worker who doesn’t wear a belt. There needs to be some perspective here.

“They said the Yes-on-1 people were haters. I’m a Christian. I take offense at that,” he said. “I e-mailed them back and said basically, ‘We’re not the ones doing the hating. You’re the ones doing the hating.’”

Offense? That’s it? Grard should feel shame over his prideful bigotry. He’s an ignorant mook who doesn’t want a group to have rights, and he has no interest (or ability) to show how that group having rights would infringe upon his own rights. That’s the definition of a bigot. Reality is a bitch like that. But I would be more amenable to an argument that directly said he should be fired over his bigotry. That isn’t to say I would buy into it – I wouldn’t advocate firing a racist who was able to avoid adversely affecting his job (or the jobs of his coworkers) – but it would be more convincing than the one Bill Thompson is giving.

And of course the Yes on 1 bigots are the ones doing the hating – they aren’t even hiding it! The argument that wretched side put forth all summer and fall long was that homosexuality was a bad thing. (Oh, but not homosexuals! It’s just the key defining attribute of certain people they hate, not the people themselves! Scoff.) Their sole/soul (hardy-har!) motivation was that a harmless action between two consenting adults is evil, personal liberties be god damned. I would love to see the paltry response Grard had to offer up in defense. Perhaps someone can enlighten me – who, exactly, was trying to take away Grard’s or anyone else’s rights? Anyone? Bueller? …Bueller?

More victory

The conservatives get knocked down – hard – and all of a sudden, bigotry starts to peel away.

Vermont on Tuesday became the fourth state to legalize gay marriage — and the first to do so with a legislature’s vote.

The House recorded a dramatic 100-49 vote, the minimum needed, to override Gov. Jim Douglas’ veto. Its vote followed a much easier override vote in the Senate, which rebuffed the Republican governor with a vote of 23-5.

Douglas called override “not unexpected.” He had called the issue of gay marriage a distraction during a time when economic and budget issues were more important.

If this is a distraction, that means it must be taking valuable time away from other, pressing issues. So why did Gov. Douglas veto the legislation? That means that all the work done to get it to him in the first place was wasted. Of course, one could argue that a bill coming to him is largely beyond his control. But he claims he expected an override. In other words, he knew what he was doing was going to take up more time while 123 total non-bigots fixed his error in moral judgement.

“What really disappoints me is that we have spent some time on an issue during which another thousand Vermonters have lost their jobs,” the governor said Tuesday. “We need to turn out attention to balancing a budget without raising taxes, growing the economy, putting more people to work.”

More stable couples help to grow the economy. Idiot.

Among the celebrants in the lobby were former Rep. Robert Dostis, D-Waterbury, and his longtime partner, Chuck Kletecka. Dostis recalled efforts to expand gay rights dating to an anti-discrimination law passed in 1992.

“It’s been a very long battle. It’s been almost 20 years to get to this point,” Dostis said. “I think finally, most people in Vermont understand that we’re a couple like any other couple. We’re as good and as bad as any other group of people. And now I think we have a chance to prove ourselves here on forward that we’re good members of our community.”

I have to disagree with the notion that any married couple needs to prove themselves to anyone. This is about principles of equality. If they are contigent upon being good members of a community, they are not principles.