Thursday, May 7, 2009

Oh man, when mom gets home we're gonna get it!

5:30pm PDT, May 6: The assimilated no-longer-scary lesbians have officially broken through something.

Marriage equality bills pass in two statehouses (Maine and New Hampshire), buoyed by majorities who couldn't vote against the cute kids and their moms--who kept mobbing their offices to ask nicely for their rights, often carrying baked goods.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans warn that Obama better not nominate a qualified, experienced expert on constitutional issues who also happens to have a case of the gays. Or that other one neither, because good Gawd, she is also a liberal prevert.

Literally on the same day. I kid you not.

That cracking sound? We have broken the Overton Window, but don't worry--we'll pay for it.

Friday, February 27, 2009

New Mexico's DP Bill Dies, Part 3: An open letter

Dear pragmatic negotiators,

Some compromises are not savvy, bottom-line solutions that take the best part of opposing ideas and leave both sides somewhat dissatisfied. We've all been there. Sometimes when you've wanted something very badly for a long time, you can forget that your willingness to overlook what's being sacrificed may result in finally getting it done--very badly.

If you need a visual representation of how to know when you're being snookered, try to figure out which of these people you are emulating.

As shown in the Archdiocesan-sponsored reverse auction of Feb. 2009, you can't bargain with people whose goals are so far away from yours.

It's like sitting down for a settlement conference and finding that one party wants a million dollars and the other side is prepared to offer ten: Pack up your briefcase, you're going to court.

New Mexico's DP Bill Dies, Part 2: Losing Forward

The loss of a vote that we had been told was 'going to be close', by such a lopsided score, brings up some questions. Mainly, Tell me again why we're not running a marriage equality bill through a couple of committees only to get whomped on the floor?

Let's look at the tape:

At 2pm, the lobbyist representing herself as the lead on the DP bill described the substitute bill she was announcing: "We have changed the bill to try to accomodate the concerns of the religious organizations. So there are no references to spouse, to marriage, all that language is gone and we're just referencing statues now."

The substitute bill was dropped on the Senate floor at 3pm.

It was posted to a web site by a reporter who photographed a press copy, at roughly 4pm.

The citizens who had been sitting in the Senate gallery all day, to support the DP bill, didn't see the new improved bill until they got home.

Good thing it died, because the damn thing was a disaster.

It was designed to overcome every objection.

We need votes from Pinto, Lovejoy and Muñoz, whose Senate districts are mostly or all Navajo Nation land? Okay, tribes and pueblos can ignore the DP status. That'll be a nice surprise for lesbian couples who get end of life care from the Indian Health Service.

We need to prove this isn't just marriage by another name? Okay, it forces couples who are currently getting equal treatment, using marriages from elsewhere, to give up their marriage certificates to get that same equal treatment. Just swear you're not married and the health insurance keeps working.

Catholic Charities might have to start paying its gay employees the same as their straight peers once their relationships are legalized? Okay, 'religious entities' are exempt from 'recognizing' DPs.

Bonus points if you figured out that many of New Mexico's hospitals are Catholic and could claim to be exempt from recognizing domestic partnership certificates as anything. Gosh, I can't imagine a circumstance where I'd need my rights as next of kin recognized by a Catholic hospital, so that's no big deal.

The substitute bill was a fire sale, an attempt to give away whatever it took to get the votes. And there weren't enough buyers at the price.

This process, and product, are a great example of why legislative politics, the art of compromise, has been exhausted.

Now we have no DP law, just like yesterday and last week and last year.

We also have a chain of events that suggests our advocates are willing to give away anything, and anyone, in order to say they got something for us. Now that's painful.

We won't always win by pressing for what we deserve.

But clearly, compromising our goals is no guarantee of victory either.

And if we have to lose, why not lose asking for equality? Why not lose while making an open, aboveboard and straightforward argument for our full citizenship and our full human dignity?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

New Mexico's DP Bill Dies, Part 1: Basics of Selling

The DP bill lost today, in a 25-17 stunner.

Considering that the Lt Gov was running the show in the Senate because she wanted to break the tie and pass the bill, the vote count itself is probably an indicator that our side coughed up the ball.

Beyond that, the advocates for LGBT New Mexicans received this spanking after they had given away the store in desperation.

This was mishandled profoundly, at so many levels, that it's hard to name them all, but I'll try. First installment:

Selling against objections, state politics edition.

The first thing you learn in selling any complex intangible is how to listen for the objection. The first three things that come after 'Can't do it because...' are excuses. Keep your prospect talking and you'll learn what the real barrier is, and if it's a negotiable item you may be able to overcome the objection.

Rookies confuse the first thing the prospect says ('That's too much car for my 17 year old', 'I'm not sure this isn't just marriage for the gays') with the real objection. Then they reveal their inexperience by fixing the product to overcome the objection ('This model is a 4 cylinder', 'It says right here they're not married').

But since the real barrier was deeper and more fundamental, sometimes changing the price or the product or the terms just can't make the sale. Sometimes they just don't want what you're selling.

Giving away married couples, Indians and anyone who is taken to a Catholic exchange for promised votes that weren't the kind of mistake I made in my first year on the job. Wet-behind-the-ears bullshit.

And the proof is in the pudding here--the next Governor of the state moved her schedule around, so she could break the tie on this close vote.

25-17. Learn to whip count, kids.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bad Ideas in Today's NY Times

I can't really conceive of these intellectually compromised men being taken seriously as having the right they're claiming here, to waive civil equality for my kid. But their work product is published in today's Times.

So I'm replying with an open letter to Jonathan Raush, whom I once respected:


You apparently think that because you're gay and a conservative philosopher, you can understand both sides of a debate that doesn't exist.

You've imagined up a compromise between real families, like mine, and imaginary people of good will who fear something that can't happen.

These imaginary opponents of marriage equality are so scared of being forced to treat my family as equal to one that their churches endorse, they are willing to let me exchange my child's right to her inheritance for their bad dreams to stop.

What a deal! Where do I sign?

Seriously, Jonathan, you owe me an apology.

I have quite a bit of experience engaging politically with the extremists who wish to limit my rights to conform with their religion. You either know less about them than I do, or you're deeply irresponsible.

First, you failed to lead your editorial with the fact that you get paid to spin ideas by a center-right think tank, as their token homosexual. This itself speaks of bad faith, but I won't speculate further on what personal circumstance might have led you to think that publishing this piece was wise or even ethical.

Your motive to keep your job is obvious, in a time when national organizations fighting for gay rights are desperately gutting their budgets to stay afloat. I'm not opposed to anyone selling his services to a willing customer. However, it's indicative of your influence among gay people that no group organizing for our families was interested in paying you to promote this strange idea of compromise, even back when they had plenty of money.

Regardless, it is evident that you need to be publicly criticized, so that future attempts to give away the store on behalf of our movement will be understood as the empty gesture that they are.

So let us begin with the common ground: I understand that it's tempting to propose compromise with people who are impervious to legal, logical and humanitarian claims for our equality. I too want my friends living in Florida to have basic rights to hospital visitation and Social Security benefits.

But I'm not naive enough to expect the other side, which is imposing the 'nothing' my friends have now, to hold up their end of a compromise enforcing those basic rights throughout this country.

You've failed to understand the extremism of those who claim that marriage is their sticking point with the gay-rights movement. You cite a couple of so-called 'problems' that civil marriage equality creates for religious organizations, but they're cherry-picked to make this silly compromise a solution.

Yes, Jonathan, some religions want the right to waive equal-employment laws for gay couples, just as they already do with gay individuals. But churches have that right, today.

Yet they fight tooth and nail against any protections for our families whatever. (See the NM, HI, NH, ME, or NY state legislatures for more data on this point.)

That tells me your contacts in the religious right, including your co-author, have identified you as a convenient sucker who is so ignorant of what's happening in our fight for equal citizenship that you'll buy anything.

We are fighting for a right that has been recognized as so basic, convicted murderers are entitled to exercise it; our opponents are a tax-exempt movement of anti-American extremists. They will not accept that their dogma is merely one set of beliefs that deserves respect from a pluralistic society.

Listen to them. Read Rick Warren's sermons. Read the Alliance for Marriage's brief on the Iowa marriage case. I'm not alleging a conspiracy; they will happily, openly tell you that they want to live in a Christian nation. I don't. Do you?

I have been fighting these retrograde fantasists for 15 years, and I know them. Some of them are nice enough people, who want every child to be born healthy to two married, church-going parents. That's a fine thing to want, and they're not wrong to want it. But it's not going to happen, regardless of what laws we pass about marriage as they conceive it being special and holy.

And anyone who is asking for the state to single out my family to be mistreated, because their God doesn't recognize my marriage, is engaging in discrimination of the foulest kind. They've identified our families as acceptable to stigmatize, unlike single parents, divorced parents, adoptive families or infertile couples--all of which are equally debased by extreme interpretations of Christianity.

They are political extremists who want this country to waive the 14th Amendment any time it conflicts with one of their beliefs. They will speak any lie, in violation of their own Commandments, to accomplish this goal. (Again, see the state legislatures and court cases where they expound truthfully on their beliefs and falsely about the scientific support for those beliefs.)

That is who we're dealing with, and that's why I don't have to reject your compromise--they will.

Once they get a federal law that indicates Congress's intent to legislate the dissent in Lawrence, we've given up all of our leverage in the federal courts for a generation or more.

By proposing compromise with the extremists, you've conceded that Scalia's opinion in both Bowers and Lawrence was correct--that indeed there is a gay exception to Constitutional protections, because some people find gay sex icky. As long as they deeply believe that God agrees with them, they have a point, according to the logic you've adopted.

Where do our efforts to enforce existing employment protections at the state level go from that point--let alone the movement for ENDA? Housing protections? Where does this slippery slope end?

Because political history indicates that we're close to a win--we can reverse the federal DOMA and within a decade will get our Loving--this compromise would be outdated even if the claims against civil marriage equality were being made in good faith, which they aren't.

Today it's not necessary to cede our fundamental equality in order to win. It is simply necessary to continue with what we're doing and stop giving away ground by suggesting that we haven't already met our opposition in the middle. Every time I pay my Social Security tax, Jonathan, I'm making a real compromise. My family can't currently benefit from that social safety net, yet I'm funding it out of my pocket--that IS the middle ground and it's wrong, unacceptable and unconstitutional.

In closing, Jonathan, the right thing to do is clear: Donate the three pieces of silver that you were paid for this excreble mess to the Freedom to Marry Foundation.

Then sit quietly and let the responsible adults address this issue in the future.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Where to wave a sign?

Let's start with What Not to Wear: anything that expresses hostility to Mormons.

Yeah, they're underwear-worshipping god-botherers who are a danger to our civil society. It's a matter for IRS investigation that the donation records appear to show a national network gathering funds for a political goal--and that's called a PAC, not a church.

But why would we fool around with the Mormons at the street level? Yes, they interfered in politics illegally. But it's not up to them to restore our rights. I don't get picketing them--it validates and dignifies Mormon interference in the state's activities. While I understand their wish to control state law, I don't understand why we would behave as if our rights exist at their pleasure.

Their most effective lie is, These unreasonable queers are going to force us to marry them in our own CHURCH! Since that isn't true--churches run church weddings under their own rules--and isn't what we're demanding, it plays into their hands to protest their existence.

The greatest threat to organized religion isn't being victimized--that's its greatest marketing technique, you know--it's being ignored. So let's get started on that!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

No more Mr. Nice Gay.

I'm a terrible advocate for marriage equality. Because I am too angry to be effective.

It is unacceptable that we are being asked to beg for our basic human rights. I am an adult. I pay my taxes, run a business that supports four families, volunteer at my kid’s school, and drive sober. I can change a cloth diaper without waking the baby wearing it, tune a carburetor, design a database and clean a fish.

I am a citizen of this country, and I have an unconditional right to choose my next of kin. That right wasn't discovered by the Supreme Court of CA and it can't be voted down by my neighbors. It was imbued upon me by my Creator, as the man once wrote.

The point of marriage equality is not to gain approval from strangers for our choice of life partners. It is to allow all of us to gain the dignity of choosing who will share our debts and successes.

It is to bring our lives inside the shelter of the state and the protections only the state can offer us, which is a choice many if not most couples want to make for themselves and their children.

The self-appointed moralists who want to fence my family outside of marriage will not stop there. What we’ve seen is that they will not stop until they have walled us out of every form of protection that exists.

In cooperating with religious nutters to send us the message that our families are less moral, California voters are complicit in disinheriting my child and burdening my mother with the responsibility of being my closest relative for the rest of her life.

The notion that I am expected to politely supplicate my fellow citizens to prevent them from permanently reducing me, and everyone who shares my minority orientation, to a conditional status that is not quite full adulthood, is just repellent.

I don’t want another chance to plead for fairness from voters—I want to set something on fire.

How dare they suggest that we are less entitled to the only available system to protect our children’s inheritances and fundamental rights? How dare they imply that I chose to go without the protections of community-property law, by being born this way?

It’s outrageous that they assault our families and expect us to be polite in our dissent. My marriage is not a political question on which reasonable people can differ. Only an unreasonable bigot could think otherwise.