Thursday, May 24, 2012

Last rant! Well, for the time being...

This is the last in a series of rants that began here:
Rant #1: Change!


In reply to someone who suggested civil unions are adequate because all gay people want is the rights that go with marriage, I wrote again about respect:


When you rush to the hospital because your beloved has been injured or taken ill, if you say, That person is my partner, or That person is my civil union person, or Drat! I left my power of attorney at home, the nurses may well invite you to take a seat in the waiting room, or tell you that they will only admit "family" to the patient's room.


When you say, That person is my wife, you get shown in right away. You get treated with respect.


Further, when our government and our institutions treat gay people with dignity, they teach the people by example to treat gay people with dignity.


The rights are the practical side--a way to ensure that ALL families are protected and supported. The respect gay people are demanding is what will prevent much of the very real harm done to gay people every day.


It is still OK to bully gay kids. Why? Because people don't respect gay people, and therefore young people believe they don't have to respect them. Many people think it's OK to hate gay people because God hates them. Kids are killing themselves because it is not OK to be gay in this country.


Are you aware that several state legislatures now considering anti-bullying legislation are excluding gay kids (or kids perceived to be gay) from protection because that would infringe on the free-speech rights of religious people. I don't know of any religion that says it's OK to bully people.


This battle was just fought in Michigan, and while the legislators were dithering over the issue, ten gay kids in Michigan who were victims of bullying killed themselves. They finally passed a watered-down law that opponents say is a "bullying is OK in Michigan" law.


The suicides (and they are more than you would ever believe) of gay kids are an extreme example of what happens when you set a group apart as different. The corrosive effect of anti-gay rhetoric on gay people (married or not, wanting to get married or not) undermines our sense of self-worth and reminds us every day that we are second rate, not quite good enough, and by some actively hated.


When I was young, it was OK to make racist and ethnic jokes. It was OK to say the n-word. There are plenty of people alive today who believe that people who are different from themselves, racially or culturally, are inferior. There are plenty of people alive today who are racist, but it's not OK anymore to say racist things in public.


My point is that as a society we have decided that certain things (racist hate speech) are NOT OK, and we criticize people who do and say those things. Someday I would like hate speech against people like me to be included in the list of things that are NOT OK.



And finally, when someone once again brought up the old testament, I said:


Note that the old testament says not one word about same-sex relationships between women.


Here's an illustration of just what people are so afraid of. Warning! It's really scary!!!


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

god on our side

This is Rant #5, my response to a post from someone who gave his/her Catholic religion as a reason for his/her position on marriage equality, although s/he did also affirm that s/he is more "accepting" than his/her religion would allow.



Most Catholics, including the Catholic hierarchy, aren't asking our government to outlaw remarriage after divorce, because they have the sense to realize that freedom of religion as guaranteed in our Constitution protects the Catholic church (a minority) equally with other churches that have no problem with divorce. They also have the sense to realize that a large majority of Americans would take it amiss if the Catholic church were to meddle in our civil marriage laws. Yet when marriage equality for gay people is the issue, freedom of (and freedom from) religion go by the wayside.


I also assume that most Catholics do not disrespect or disparage the marriages of their friends or co-workers, Catholic or not, even though those people may have been previously divorced, because another fundamental value of both religious and non-religious people is freedom of conscience.



[The poster suggested having two words with the same meaning, to appease both sides.]


There's that separate but equal thing again. Shall we have two institutions called, say, Marriage A and Marriage B and thereby duplicate every section dealing with civil marriage in every law book, in every statute book, in every legal document, state and federal, in order to appease those who want to keep marriage all for themselves?


And of course Marriage B would only be for the people we exclude from Marriage A. Who's that? Why, gay people, of course. So once again we're offered a seat in the back of the bus. Thanks, I'd rather walk.


The solution is not to "appease" anyone. The solution is to understand one of the basic principles on which this country was founded: the separation of religious doctrine from the workings of government. Our courts, both state and federal, have declared that the majority's dislike or disapproval of a minority group is not a legitimate basis for excluding that group from equal protection of the laws.



[The poster stated that the religious side will never give up.]


Actually I believe they will. I'm seeing books published now from a Christian perspective urging religious people to change their minds. Almost all of them disavow the "clobber passages" in the light of recent scholarship, while others simply ignore those passages, along with passages that command parents to kill their disobedient children (Deuteronomy 21:18-21) or passages that declare it an abomination to eat shrimp or lobster (Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you. Leviticus 11:12).


What these books affirm is the duty of Christians to love, and to live according to Christ's example.


It would be interesting to research the progress of American Christian churches after the Civil War as they began to realize that they had been wrong about subjecting so-called "inferior" (please note the double disclaimer) races to slavery. Few of us today would argue that by choosing to accept the full humanity of black people they became less Christian. In fact, most Americans would affirm that they became more Christian, i.e. more in tune with the life Jesus lived and the principles he preached.


I don't know how many religious people have actually read the bible, but I have, the whole thing, more than once, and in my opinion, the bible is on our side.


Catherine M Wilson

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Here's Rant #4. You can find Rant #1, along with info about what prompted it, here:
Rant #1: Change!


One of the posters to the Yahoo! group thread I was ranting on mentioned that my speaking up on that group took courage. Here is my response:



I must disagree that what I wrote took courage. I have been speaking up for people like me for a very long time. What takes courage is living as an out lesbian for over 40 years.


I do find it interesting that a few of the folks who spoke up expressed some trepidation about doing so, even though none of them are gay themselves. That tells me that speaking up for equal rights is still a scary thing to do, even here.


When I was young in the 1960s I spoke up for black people when I joined the Civil Rights Movement. Then I discovered that, as a women, I was lacking many of the rights I was trying to help others obtain, so I joined the Women's Movement. When NOW tried to purge the "lavender menace" from their ranks, I finally realized that I belonged in an even tinier ghetto of people who would be the last (if ever) to obtain equal civil rights.


My family has been in this country for 400 years and members of my family have fought in almost every war this country has waged, from the Revolution, through the War of 1812, the Civil War, and World War II. (Somehow we missed the Great War of 1914-18.) Given the principles on which this country was founded, I find it astonishing that equal rights for everyone is still such a contentious issue.


I would like to mention that I no longer speak up for myself. I am 68 years old, and it's too late for me. I'm speaking up for the young, some of whom are your own children. I don't know how many children the members of this group have altogether, but I guarantee you that some of them will turn out to be gay or bisexual. Some may even be transgender. I speak up to remind you that every time you say something that indicates your disapproval of gay and lesbian people, you may be telling your own child that he or she is not OK.


Tyler Clementi came out to his parents moments before he left home to attend Rutgers. By his own account, his mother didn't take it well. I can't imagine how she must feel now if she considers that a few accepting words from her might have been enough to prevent his feeling so utterly abandoned that his life was no longer worth living.


I'm sorry to bring up such a heavy subject on this mostly lighthearted list, but this is a serious issue, and I think most heterosexual people believe it has nothing to do with them. Where do you think gay people come from?


Catherine M Wilson

Monday, May 21, 2012


This is the third in a series of rants I introduced in my blog post of May 19th (Change!). You might want to check out my introduction to the first rant to see where this one came from.


This rant is in response to one of the previous posters to the Yahoo! group stating that by "different" s/he didn't mean inferior. S/he provided a number of examples of "different" but not superior or inferior kinds of marriage. (See Rant#1: Change!)



What I think you may be saying here is that by "different" you don't mean "less than." If your idea of marriage includes all those other ways of being "different," then why exclude only the same-sex "difference" from marriage?


Gay and lesbian people have been free to engage in sexual relationships without fear of government intrusion since the Supreme Court decision of Lawrence v Texas in 2003, overturning the 1986 decision in Bowers v Hardwick, which affirmed the government's right to criminalize same-sex sexual behavior. The freedom to have (consensual) sex with the partner of one's choice has been ours for almost ten years now. What we don't have is the right to form a family that will be recognized by our government and respected by society.


I believe that "society" doesn't care about what rights our government grants us, hence the popularity of the civil-union alternative. I believe the real issue behind the opposition to marriage equality is the issue of respect. Phyllis Schlafly went right to the heart of the matter when she said, "Nobody's stopping them from shacking up. The problem is they are trying to make us respect them."


I disapprove of many things that my fellow Americans are free to do. I believe, to take an incendiary example, that raising a child to follow the religion of his or her parents is an infringement on that child's freedom of thought, but I acknowledge AND I RESPECT the right of parents to raise their children as they see fit (with proper disclaimers re: child abuse, etc.) I have opinions, but other people have rights, and I respect those rights. It is fundamentally unfair that my rights are curtailed by other people's opinions.



Catherine M Wilson

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Religious Argument

This is the second in a series of rants I introduced in my blog post of May 19th (Change!). You might want to check out my introduction to that rant, as well as its content.


Inevitably in our little neighborhood discussion the religious argument came up. The "proper" response to the religious argument is to point out that we are talking about CIVIL rights, not religious rites. But there is an excellent case to be made to sincerely religious people. I tried to make it here:


For anyone whose religious beliefs give them pause when considering marriage equality, I highly recommend the book "God vs Gay? The Religious Case for Equality." The author's thesis is, essentially, that the bible does not condemn loving, committed same-sex relationships, but it does condemn quite clearly the oppression of people who are "different" and it clearly states that the one law we should abide by above all others is the law of love.


Another excellent book is "Unfair: Why the Christian View of Gays Doesn't Work."


Many people who take their religion seriously are beginning to realize that the so-called "clobber passages" in the bible that have been used to oppress gay people do not stand up to close scrutiny. Biblical scholars seeking to truly understand those passages by studying the ancient languages of the original texts are coming to the conclusion that the "clobber" interpretations are based more on outdated cultural biases than on the true meaning of those passages.


Anyone who is seriously considering taking an anti-gay position re: marriage equality has a duty, in my opinion, to inform themselves fully about current thinking in religious scholarship before they add to the oppression that future generations will be apologizing for, just as we now apologize for slavery, which was once defended by another set of biblical clobber passages.


(The fact that a majority gets to vote on the rights of a minority baffles me. As Rachel Maddow said, "Here's the thing about rights. They're not supposed to be voted on. That's why they're called rights.")


At the start of this discussion, [name redacted] said:
I assumed I was totally for gay marriage, but then I thought, marriage to me is pretty sacred.


I would remind you that it is love itself that is sacred. Marriage is sacred because love is. If the love between any two people, gay or straight, is sacred, then the marriage between any two people, gay or straight, is sacred.


However, we certainly don't hold all marriages up to this ideal yardstick. If the "winners" of reality shows can get married for a few weeks, why can't a gay or lesbian couple who have loved each other and remained together for decades despite all the efforts of others to tear them apart?


As a non-religious person, I really don't care if we all have marriages or civil unions, as long as we use the same term and apply the same rules to everyone. For those of you who think civil unions (separate but equal) are enough for gay people, please educate yourselves about the over a thousand rights that marriage confers that civil unions do not and cannot. Over a lifetime gay and lesbian couples will spend tens of thousands of dollars more than their heterosexual counterparts to try to approximate all the rights that marriage confers. And even then, they will come up short.


If your spouse dies, do you doubt that you will continue to live in the home that you and your spouse lived in together? Or will you be presented with such a huge tax bill that you will have to sell your home and move?


Do you assume that, if you are the widowed spouse of your family's primary or only wage-earner, you will receive your spouse's Social Security benefits so that you can enjoy the secure retirement that your spouse earned for you?


Do you take for granted that your spouse and children are covered by your employer's health insurance?


Do you fear that your spouse's biological child whom you have known and cared for from birth will be taken away from you if your spouse dies or divorces you? Or do you rely on family law to protect your right to a role in that child's life?


These are the very real obstacles that are placed in the path of every same-sex couple, even in states that have marriage equality, because many of them are federal benefits, and the federal government does not recognize any same-sex marriage.


Granting marriage equality to gay and lesbian couples requires heterosexual couples to give up absolutely nothing! No one is asking straight people to take a little less so that others can have a little more.


Finally, if I were a religious person and concerned with what I would be hearing from my Creator when I meet him (or her) face to face, I would rather hear that I had erred on the side of love than that I had failed to remove the plank from my own eye before trying to remove the speck from my brother's eye.


Catherine M Wilson


For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:2

Saturday, May 19, 2012


It has been almost two years to the day since I last posted to this blog. A lot has happened in those two years. Publishing is changing, and this country is changing.


Change scares a lot of people. I've been around for awhile and I don't scare as easily as I used to, but I feel this country is poised on a knife edge, and the election in November will tip us one way or the other.


I hope we will tip on the side of progressive thinking, but my worst nightmares feature a Republican president who has so little empathy for others that he sees nothing wrong with strapping a dog (in its crate) to the roof of his car or bullying an "effeminate" young man at his prep school. The young man later admitted to being terrified. I don't doubt the dog was too.


These two incidents speak to the character of the man who wants to lead this country. Whatever else he stands for (let me consult my etch-a-sketch) I doubt that a wealthy, privileged person with no empathy can possibly understand the plight of so many Americans whose wealth, in the form of their homes, has been stripped from them, along with their jobs and much of their sense of self-worth.


I shudder to think what he would do to gay people.


Our current, and hopefully future, president just came out in favor of marriage equality, and I've been surprised by a lot of the reactions to his announcement. The one that surprised me the most came from my own back yard.


I live in a very liberal part of the country, so I was surprised when I read on a Yahoo! group composed of people from my very small community that some of them are still struggling with the idea of granting gays and lesbians full equality.


Well, folks, I just had to speak up! And once you get me started, it's hard to make me stop, as my neighbors soon discovered.


Then I started seeing people commenting on Huffington Post that they are struggling with the idea of gay marriage, so I decided to post some of my rant from that Yahoo! group to this blog, so that I could refer these struggling folks to something that might help them sort out their thoughts.


My rants are long, so I will post them one at a time over the next few days. Or maybe sooner. Cuz, y'know, once I get started...


One poster said:
maybe it should be called something other than marriage, just syntactically, because it is different.


So I responded with:


Why is gay marriage different from straight marriage? When two people fall in love, no matter if they are same sex or not, the love they feel for each other is the same. When two people love each other enough to want to spend the rest of their lives together, they want what almost every person on the planet wants--to find a true partner with whom they can share their life, and often they wish to express and increase their love by creating a family that includes children.


To say that gay marriage is different is to say that it is less than heterosexual marriage. It says that gay and lesbian people are less than heterosexual people. It says that the children of gay and lesbian people are less than the children of heterosexual people.


Separate but equal was wrong in the segregated South, and it is just as wrong when applied to the very real lives of gay and lesbian people.


We now consider it obvious that people of different races should be able to marry. A generation ago that wasn't obvious to a great many people. It took a Supreme Court decision to begin to change people's minds.


The reluctance of so many people now to be willing to change their minds is causing great harm, great suffering, to gay and lesbian people. I am one of them.


I have been rubbed raw by the recent rhetoric of the Republican Party, by the vote in North Carolina, and by some people who just can't seem to understand the PAIN they are inflicting on gay and lesbian people, many of whom are your neighbors.


When Proposition 8 was on the ballot, I saw signs in my neighborhood that said Yes on 8! and I realized that even here, in this relatively liberal and tolerant place, there are people who hate me. Yes! That's what those signs told me. Because they told me that there are people here who would actively interfere in my pursuit of happiness, who would take steps to ensure that my life would be more difficult than it needs to be, and to let me know that in their eyes I am not OK, that I am not worthy of love because I love the "wrong" person. If that isn't hate, I don't know what else to call it.


This is the [location redacted] Family Network, yet some of you who are here to share resources and knowledge, to help and support each others' families, feel that the families of gay and lesbian people should be excluded from help and support. You take for granted the rights that marriage gives you. You never think about the many ways that marriage protects you and your children, but if you lost those protections, you would be outraged! Why do you not see the outrage of the people to whom you would deny those protections that you rely on?


This weekend I attended a college graduation. The speaker, quoting Jeff Bezos, told the graduates that cleverness is a gift, but kindness is a choice. I hope that some day the people of this country will learn to choose kindness.


Catherine M Wilson
(You may see me around town. I'll be the one wearing the t-shirt that says, Second Class Citizen.)