19 September 2009

Queer-Who Dares to State That This Is a Choice?

I am so tired of right-winged Christian fundamentalists decrying that being queer is a “lifestyle choice.” Watching this video should only further convince an intelligent person that this simply is not so. I have to ask…Why in the world would people CHOOSE to live their life knowing that its very being would pit themselves up against the potential for attacks in any form. Everything was different pre-Stonewall. It was all behind closed doors, yet as the times changed and more lesbians and gays ventured into their underworld to meet together among themselves, they only faced dire retribution from local police departments that had nothing better than to raid these establishments where the sole intent was to beat and humiliate the patronage. These weren’t merely situations where the cops raided only to “rough up” or scare the queer patrons. The focus was to cause pure physical torture. The cops took delight in trying to catch anyone in drag (there was a stupid rule on the books about the minimum number of “female” clothing pieces a woman had to be wearing at all times). If she was dare caught dressed in drag, she was violently yanked from the assembled, pulled into the house and stripped by the cops, often ridiculed, but more often raped by their batons to “teach” her a lesson. Males dressed in drag were treated with equal torture. This was allowed to go on with the complicit knowledge of the police administration in an effort to “clean up the streets.” Queers were beaten and tortured within inches of their lives to the sick pleasure of the police. I’ve place the link from Wikipedia that clearly captures the culture change leading up to the Stonewall Riots and its aftermath http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonewall_riots.

I encourage you to read this to glean a true understanding of what we have all gone through and where we have arrived.  Such as it is, we are all still fighting for the very simple right to peacefully co-exist and have access to the same rights and privileges of straight couples—rights and privileges often mandated by protected legal rulings (health benefits, pensions, tax credits, recognition of family status, death benefits, the list is endless). We are not asking for special rights, merely equal rights currently being denied under the guise of the Christian right-winged fundamentalist’s push to decry that queer couples openly defy the word of God, and by that very statement, must be denied any rights conferred upon what is automatically given by virtue of a marriage license. I won’t exhaust all of the arguments that have been far more eloquently argued elsewhere, but suffice it to say that this country’s categorical stance on Family Values (thanks in part to the horrific diatribes by James Dobson of Focus on the Family with his queer-bashing campaigns over the many years), is tearing at the very fabric of what makes up more than 10% of our population. You can’t read that link or the video above and still come away with the idea that to be queer is a choice.

While a few states have enacted their own rulings that would confer upon same-sex couples certain rights and privileges as straight couples, there are still only a few (see those listed below). Almost as soon as some individual states began seeking same-sex partnership status of some fashion (civil unions, marriage, etc), other states quickly jumped on the bandwagon to place laws into effect acknowledging marriage as existing only between one man and one woman, thus disavowing the ability of one state to accept with full faith and credit any rulings and legal decisions made by other states. Moreover, you still have the Federal DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) hanging over our heads. No matter what a state may decide, it is not accepted at the federal level. Therefore, while I might qualify to file a joint state return with my spouse in Massachusetts, I cannot file a joint federal return (or reap any federal benefits).

1. 10/10/08: In a 4 to 3 decision, the Connecticut Supreme Court overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriage, making it the third state to allow legal gay marriage.

2. 6/15/09: The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics rejected an effort to hold a referendum on whether Washington should recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. The move is a victory for gay rights advocates. If Congress, which has final say over laws approved in Washington D.C., doesn't weigh in on the city council vote in favor of same-sex marriages granted outside of the District by July of 2009 the measure will become law.

3. 6/3/09: New Hampshire became the sixth U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage. The legislation includes a provision that allows churches, their employees and religious groups to decline to officiate at same-sex marriages. The law takes effect January 1, 2010.
4. 10/25/06: New Jersey lawmakers were given 180 days to draft a bill that would give same-sex couples equal rights of marriage. The mandate from the State Supreme Court was clear, but lawmakers were challenged with what to actually call the new gay unions- marriage or an equivalent term with the same rights. Less than 60 days after the landmark ruling, the New Jersey legislature approved a bill that will create civil unions for same-sex couples. Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine singed the bill, making New Jersey the third state to offer civil unions behind Vermont and Connecticut. The law took effect February 19, 2007.

5. 5/13/09: The New York State Assembly passed a bill on Tuesday with a vote of 82 to 52 in favor of same-sex marriage. The vote is one of two needed to legalize gay marriage in the state. The bill must pass the Senate, which has a slim Democratic majority.

6. 5/6/09: Gov. John Baldacci signed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in Maine, making the state the fifth in the U.S. to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. The bill authorizes marriage between any two people rather than between one man and one woman. Gov. Bladdacci previously opposed gay marriage, but switched his position citing fairness and equal protection for all citizens in Maine. However, this November, there is a question o the ballot that in part will read, “Do you want to reject the new law that lets same-sex couples marry?” Maine faces a potential problem with their new bill being voted out.

7. 7/15/08: With the repeal of Bill 1913, which prohibited out of state residents from marrying in Massachusetts, both same-sex couples that reside in Massachusetts and out-of-state couples can legally marry in the State of Massachusetts.

8. 9/1/09: A new statewide same-sex marriage law took effect at 12am, making Vermont the fourth state in America where gay marriage is legally recognized.

9. 4/3/09: The Iowa Supreme Court made history on April 3, 2009 with a unanimous ruling, making Iowa the 3rd state to allow same-sex marriages. The state county attorney has stated that he will not seek a rehearing. In the case, Varnum v. Brien, the court says, "state laws prohibiting marriage on the basis of the partners' gender are unconstitutional." Tom Head over at About: Civil Liberties gives the top questions and answers about the same-sex marriage ruling in Iowa.

10. 8/3/09: Gay and lesbian couples began registering for domestic partnership in Wisconsin, granting them 43 rights associated with marriage including hospital visitation and estate planning. The measure was included in Governor Jim Doyle's biannual state budget that was approved by lawmakers. Voters banned same-sex marriage in Wisconsin in 2006. August 21, 2009: Wisconsin Attorney General John Byron “J.B.” Van Hollen said he would not defend the state's gay-inclusive domestic partnership registry, calling it unconstitutional. Wisconsin Family Action (WFA) and the Christian-based Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) have asked the state Supreme Court to strike down the law.

11. 5/9/07: Under Oregon's domestic partnership law, signed by Governor Ted Kulongoski, gay and lesbian couples are eligible for all the state-wide rights and benefits of marriage. The law went into effect on February 4, 2008, after a court delay. Oregon also outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation.

12. 4/15/09: The Washington State Legislature expanded domestic partnership laws to cover "everything but marriage." 4/21/07: Washington's domestic partnership bill, State Registered Domestic Partnerships (SRDP), was signed into law. The measure succeeded by a vote of 65-35 only a year after the state Supreme Court upheld Washington's Defense of Marriage Act banning same-sex marriage.

13. 5/26/09: The California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, reinforcing the ban on same-sex marriage, but ordered that the marriages of the 18,000 couples married prior to the gay marriage ban be recognized.

14. 8/24/09: Same-sex couples began pre-registration for domestic partnerships in Nevada for a period of one month, as announced Secretary of State Ross Miller. Registered domestic partnered same-sex couples are granted limited rights such as hospital visitation rights, estate planning and shared responsibility for debt. However, employers are not required to offer health care benefits to same-sex partners.

15. 9/17/09: A group of Congress members introduced a bill this week in the U.S. House that seeks to repeal the federal ban on same-sex marriage. U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) introduced the Respect for Marriage Act in the U.S. House Sept. 15 along with 91 cosponsors, including openly gay lead sponsors Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.), making this the first time legislation has been introduced to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act since its 1996 passage.

So, help me understand that word “choice” again?©2009

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