Windup Trump

Now that the Trumpenstein monster has been set loose, and he’s not steadily walking in a straight line. Oh, no; he’s wobbling all around like the windup toy he is—bumping into walls, suddenly reversing course, coming dangerously close to the edge of the living room table before he turns on a dime and wanders off in the opposite direction. And we’re all getting dragged along with him. Our headlines. Our emotions. And our country and its policy as a whole.

One minute, we get a tweet about how the U.S. should “expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” Major policy involving the possible nuclear annihilation of entire nations laid out in 140 characters!

A few hours later, his aides scramble to catch Trumpenstein and put him right again before he topples over. They put out a statement to clarify—or to muddy the waters, rather—with a statement that’s EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT TRUMP TWEETED IN THE FIRST PLACE.

Don’t worry, folks! He was actually talking about “the thread of nuclear proliferation and the need to prevent it” when he talked about expanding our nuclear capability. We know that’s not what he said, but…  Oh, shit. Where’s he going, now?!?

There’s no off button for Trumpenstein now that the GOP has wound him up. They can only hold their breath, following at a safe distance behind him and watching, horrified, as he spins around tweeting about Lockheed Martin, sending their stock price plummeting.

trump-windup

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Putting “Religious Protection” Bills in Context

Putting “Religious Protection” Bills in Context

In cities and states across the U.S., we’ve seen a recent flood of proposed (and passed) so-called “religious protection” bills. These bills allow business owners to avoid penalties for refusing to provide service that violates their “sincerely-held religious beliefs.” Some of these bills are also described as ways for churches to avoid being forced to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies.

All of these terms—“religious protection” and “sincerely-held religious beliefs”—are code words that sound nice (I talked about such code words in an earlier blog post), but refer to something rather nasty.

These bills sprang up as a direct reaction to same-sex marriage becoming the law of the land, as a way to keep various businesses from having to provide services to gay couples (or flowers for gay weddings).

Various people on all sides of the equation are worried. People who disapprove of homosexuality are worried that they might be forced to somehow take part in providing services for a same-sex wedding. I have friends who are very supportive of gay rights, but who wonder if such “religious” protection might buffer them against having to, for instance, tattoo a swastika on a neo-Nazi. Gay people are rightfully worried, as we are worried about being turned away from everything from restaurants and hotels to doctors’ offices and hospitals.

A Multi-Faceted Issue

This issue has so many aspects to examine and address; I thought I’d take them one at a time so we can come to a better understanding of what these laws do and don’t do, as well as what they resemble in a historical civil rights context.

Churches Are Already Protected

There’s not much more I can say. Churches don’t have to conduct same-sex weddings. They don’t have to conduct any wedding with which they feel uncomfortable. Skeptical? How about if a Christian couple wants to get married in a Jewish temple? The rabbi can turn them away. A Catholic church can choose not to marry a couple where one partner has not converted to Catholicism. A Baptist minister can require that a couple take pre-marital counseling for a specific amount of time before he will agree to marry them. Individual churches already have control over who they will and won’t marry; that already exists and has not changed.

Refusing to Make a Specific Product ≠ Refusing to Serve a Specific Group of People

“I’m a tattoo artist and I’m worried that a white supremacist might sue me for refusing to tattoo a swastika on his scalp.”

“Asking a Christian-owned bakery to sell a cake for a gay wedding is like asking a Jewish deli to sell someone a ham sandwich.”

No. The first is not a concern and the second is not the same. Why? Because no one is being asked to create or sell a product they don’t normally create, carry, or sell. If you’re a tattoo artist and you’re not in the business of creating images of Nazi imagery or burning crosses, you can refuse to do so. You’re not telling your client, “I won’t tattoo you because you’re white/gay/Hispanic/Muslim;” you’re telling them “I do not tattoo swastikas on ANYONE, period.”

As for the bakery/Jewish deli scenario, it’s the same. A kosher Jewish deli doesn’t sell pork products. At all. To anyone. But they’re happy to sell their pastrami and corned beef to everyone who walks through their doors. The same should hold true for all businesses. If you create a wedding cakes for heterosexual weddings and a gay couple comes in and says, “Wow! I love the cake you have in your photo book; this one right here! We’d like to buy this cake for our wedding,” and you refuse to sell them the product you normally carry for sale for everyone else—that’s discrimination.

“But It Violates My Religion!” Has a Nasty History

Let me progress to the next point in my imaginary discussion with the hypothetical Christian bakery owners.

“But doing anything that supports homosexuality or same-sex weddings violates my religious beliefs! *insert appropriate scripture from Leviticus…Deuteronomy, etc.*”

That may be the case. And you might, really, sincerely feel that way. Having been raised as a fundamentalist Christian, I can 100% understand how distressing this must be for you (really, I do).

That doesn’t make it right.

More so, history will prove how wrong you are. You see, arguments just like that were used not too long ago to argue for things like segregation. Actually, after a quick Google, I see that white supremacists are STILL using scriptural arguments against, for instance, interracial marriage. While this is abhorrent if someone believes it privately, it becomes problematic if someone conducts their business with these kinds of beliefs, because now they are affecting, disrespecting—and even possibly harming—other people. Someone who believes that interracial marriage is wrong because of the way they interpret the Bible is a nasty person, but it gets ramped up to a new level when that person owns a flower shop and won’t sell flowers for an interracial couple’s wedding.

Why the Free Market Isn’t the Answer

But we can just leave things alone and let the free market sort things out, right? I mean, if a florist, bakery, or wedding planner states that they won’t serve gay people or same-sex weddings, then gay people won’t patronize them and the community can vote, with their dollars, whether or not they think this is ok.

That seems like a good idea until we put it into another context. Imagine if—in the 50s and 60s—the free market had been allowed to reign to decide whether or not segregation or refusal of service to black people would be tolerated? There would have been entire areas of the country where black people would have been hard-pressed to find a restaurant that would serve them, to find places to shop, to be rented a room at a hotel, or to get an education. I can imagine that there are areas of the country today where similar problems might arise for gay individuals or couples…and not everyone has the choice to simply move somewhere else (nor should they have to).

And what about industries beyond just the wedding/restaurant industry? What about hotels? Doctors offices? Hospitals and ambulance personnel? If a florist can legally tell a lesbian woman, “It violates my religious beliefs to sell you flowers for your wedding,” then should a restaurant be able to turn that woman and her wife away if the owner suspects they are a couple? If the two women drive cross-country late into the night and pull into the first hotel they’ve seen in over an hour, can the hotel owner turn them out because renting a room to a gay couple violates their religious beliefs? What if there is an emergency and one of the women calls an ambulance for her wife? Do we want legal protections for medical personnel who feel that rendering aid to a gay person might violate their religious beliefs?

I know I’m going into a long line of “what ifs,” here, but as a gay person who listens to these “religious protection” debates play out, these are very real concerns. Being turned away from your wedding venue or bakery of choice would be heartbreaking, infuriating and embarrassing, but being turned away from a doctor’s office, denied care or denied entrance to your spouse’s hospital room because any of these things happened to violate someone’s religious beliefs are all terrifying possibilities.

Religious beliefs are subjective. There are no boundaries to what kinds of people or beliefs we are legally protecting with the passage of these laws. In promoting this sort of legislation, we’re not really protecting freedom for all; we’re protecting a mean-spirited (in the least) and dangerous (at worst) mentality that has been used for decades to deny freedom to certain groups.

(Photo by Giovanni Dall’Orto.)

Minus Scalia, SCOTUS unanimously steers into progressive waters

The United States Supreme Court just reversed an Alabama Supreme Court decision that had stripped adoptive rights away from a lesbian mom. 

“The decision was unanimous.”
*jaw drop* Wow.

Long story short (and I’m not 100% sure of all the specifics, but here’s your TLDR version):

Lesbian couple lives in Georgia. They have kids and the second mother is granted adoptive rights over the kids, so now you have Birth Mother and Adoptive Mother.

The couple breaks up. Things get nasty and Birth Mother sues in the state of Alabama (where she was living? Where both of them were living at that point? I’m not sure) to strip custody/parental rights from Adoptive Mom.

Alabama is more than happy to agree with her, and their state Supreme Court rules that the state of Georgia had no power to grand adoptive rights to an icky, godless gay parent in the first place. Adoptive mom loses all rights, custody, visitation, etc for the kids she’s helped raise since birth.

Enter the U.S. Supreme Court. They say this is bullshit–UNANIMOUSLY–and restore parental rights to Adoptive Mom.

Unanimously. Holy shit. Do you now how huge that is that the conservative justices voted in favor of this woman’s parental rights? I’ll bet Scalia wouldn’t have. He must be rolling right now…and I don’t mean with laughter. 

 

Pride In Our President

Obama, gay marriage, and the law: what his support means. – Slate Magazine.

The above link is a brief summary of the various legal cases going on around the country that will decide issues such as same-sex spousal benefits.

 The ball is rolling. Faster and faster. And no amount of scare tactics, Bible-thumping, name-calling and red-faced screaming is going to stop it.

And I can promise you this: now that we have a president in office who is willing to stand up for me and my family, I will do everything in my power to get him re-elected to do more good. And I know lots of other gay people and their allies feel the same way.

I’ve heard people say, “Oh, he’s pandering for votes.” I totally disagree. Announcing support for something as controversial as gay marriage in an election year is potential political suicide. This is why Mitt Romney (who, in the past, supported marriage equality) is parroting back his party’s status quo response: “Marriage is between one man and one woman.” That is the safe response, and I was always frustrated and disappointed that it was President Obama’s go-to response…until today.

Our president did not act to win votes; he acted on behalf of what is just. And whether he wins or loses this election, I respect him and feel thankful for that. Our first African American president is also the first sitting U.S. president—ever—to support marriage equality. Anyone who can’t appreciate that will end up—years from now—on the wrong side of civil rights history.

The question is, ladies: Which party respects and cares about you?

*Republican men covering their eyes*
"Endometria of the right ovary! What's an ovary?!? We don't want to hear about all your medicine and science, y'all! What happens is that God puts a baby in a married woman and it's up to us to make sure that that baby gets out alive, galldangit! Apart from that, we don't want to talk about what goes on up in her hoo-ha!"

Click here to see an explanation of the painful, bleeding infertility “fungus” known as endometriosis!  Oh, what fun to have the inner lining of your uterus growing like wildfire all over the inside of your abdominal cavity!

To the men of the Republican party: You know those birth control pills that only…how do you fellas refer to us ladies…oh, yeah…that only “sluts” take? This condition is why I must take them. (I’m not even going to discuss a woman’s undeniable right to take them for contraceptive purposes; that is a whole other rant against blatant ignorance and disrespect towards women.)

 
Also, this is why I fully support Obama’s Affordable Care act (a.k.a. “Obamacare”). The surgery mentioned in the article linked to above…the surgery to remove the endometriosis if the pills stop controlling it? Yes…I know you Republican men don’t want to think about disgusting things like ovaries and uteruses and how it all works, but take a second and skim the article. At best, it’s an uncomfortable condition; at worst, it’s excruciating, fertility-killing and debilitating. Even though I (thankfully) have had no major problems caused by this condition for several years, my insurance company has pre-announced that they will deny coverage should I ever need this surgery. You know, “pre-existing condition” and all.

No matter how much I pay out in premiums every month, every year, should I need more extensive treatment, I will have to pay for it out of pocket. Obama cared enough to address this issue and for this he gets my support. Obama is on the side of women—and for that, he should get ALL of our support.

A call for a change of tone…

I just read a disturbing news article about a bomb that was set off on Sunday at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Grand Chute, Wisconsin.

“Better to blow up both the mother AND the unwanted baby to protect the sanctity of life.  And if she was heading in for prenatal care or if she wasn’t pregnant and was coming in for a health screening, well…  Collateral damage.  This will send a message to them all.”

Is this what someone who sets a bomb outside of an abortion clinic is thinking?  I have a feeling that there are a lot of people who—even if they wouldn’t go so far as to set a bomb themselves—would agree with this spiel wholeheartedly.

Thank goodness no one was hurt this time, but this is very serious and scary.  We’ve got to work to lessen the dehumanizing and hostile tone that this discussion has taken towards women in general—and especially women who use services from providers such as Planned Parenthood.

Increasingly hostile political discourse creates a class of “evil others” who must be stopped at all costs.  I truly believe that this sort of discourse can push certain people to act out in violent ways.  We need only to remember how a man murdered a crowd of people in front of a grocery store while targeting Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords to see how escalating rhetoric can have horrifying results.

I’m very worried that in the weeks and months to come, we are going to see more incidents like the one in Wisconsin.  I fear for the lives of the women who seek care at these clinics, as well as the doctors, nurses and other staff members who are caught with potential targets on their backs while simply trying to provide healthcare to women with little or no income.  And I wonder what it will take for the right to change the tone of this discussion.  I fear for where this is all heading.

How do you like being used as a pawn?

Documents revealing the National Organization for Marriage’s documents have finally been released in Maine.

This is huge and it exposes exactly how right wing groups like the National Organization for Marriage function.  I’ve been saying it forever—and here is hard proof—groups like this (and the candidates they support) are using gay marriage as a political crowbar to divide the Democratic party, as well as drive moderate voters away.

 

The items in this link are from NOM’s own documents, which they were forced to release as part of a campaign finance investigation.  This one, in particular, discusses their strategy for turning African Americans against gay rights:

 

“The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks—two key Democratic constituencies. Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage, develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots…”