Wednesday, 30 June 2010

In Vermont, 10 Years of Civil Unions

It is now 10 years since the start of legal recognition for same sex unions in Vermont, just 11 years after a comparable start in Denmark. For a time, both Vermont in the US and Denmark internationally were seen as remarkable exceptions: idiosyncracies in that were unlikely to be emulated in more mainstream states and nations. However, after some initial delay, and increasing number of others followed, and even upped the game. 

MONTPELIER, Vt.—When Lois Farnham and Holly Puterbaugh were joined in civil union 10 years ago Thursday, some of their friends didn't come for fear they'd lose their jobs, and the church asked that plainclothes police officers attend the ceremony in case there was trouble.
A decade later, Vermont and four other states—Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Iowa, as well as the District of Columbia—have instituted full marriage for same-sex couples, and the Burlington couple say many people view their relationship as "ho-hum."
Vermont was the first jurisdiction in the country to offer most of the legal rights and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples. Massachusetts instituted full same-sex marriage in 2004 in response to a state court's order. Last year, Vermont's Legislature became the first to approve full marriage for those couples without a court's prompting.
"At the time, civil unions were so radical," Farnham said this week. "Now it's the fallback, conservative issue."

What has been remarkable in recent years though, is how quickly, after the slow beginning, the idea has spread. In Europe, almost all countries have or are planning some form of provision for same sex partnerships, and seven have already upgraded to full marriage, with more on the way. In the US, early progress towards marriage equality was meet with a strong political backlash, but even here progress has been substantial and is accelerating.
Even with the heartbreaking ballot losses in California and Maine, five states now have full state level provision for marriage equality, and many more states and even cities have local provision for varying grades of partnership recognition, from simple registration of domestic partnerships, to strong unions which are "marriage in everything but name". On the other hand, the political push against equality appears to have run out of steam: in Iowa, the NOM made highly visible donations to promote the primary elections campaigns of marriage foes - and lost badly. In this year's mid-terms, there are no new states with anti-marriage ballot initiatives, while it's a fair bet that in 2010 California will be the first state to have a ballot question to remove restrictions on marriage - which is likely to be successful. Other states will follow.

It is also arguable that the fight for marriage equality, while i has been slow, has been a catalyst for many other, lower profile moves which have been finding it easier to gain public acceptance, and which are now bearing fruit in national, state and local government, and in private businesses. 

All big movements build gradually, with small incremental gains increasing over time. However, there are also major landmarks along the way to add impetus and momentum. Stonewall was one of the major landmarks on the route to LGBT equality. Vermont's civil union legislation was another. Let us all join in congratulations, and thanks, to the small state of Vermont for the giant contribution of their vision and foresight.

Marriage Equality & European "Human Rights"

When two Austrian men, Mr Schalk and Mr Kopf, took their pursuit of the right to marry to the European Court of Human Rights, there were some hopes that this could mark a turning point for marriage equality across Europe. When the court turned down their application, the obvious response was one of disappointment. However, that would be too simplistic. The verdict was narrow, and not even necessarily final. Although the court left decisions on marriage equality to national governments, they did emphasize the importance of recognizing al families, including queer families, on an equal basis. As the Guardian explains, this may not have been the final decision on marriage equality for Europe, but it is an important landmark along the way:

"The right to marry remains subject primarily to national and not European law, but an Austrian couple have nudged the Council of Europe's 47 states closer to a consensus"
         Last week, the European court of human rights ruled unanimously that there was no obligation on states to recognise same-sex marriage. At least, not yet. Because hidden within the ruling are two significant findings that make it almost certain that one day the court will rule in favour of a right to have same-sex relationships – including marriages – recognised in law. The case is also notable for a bizarre intervention by the UK government, arguing against a right – to recognition of civil partnerships – that it had itself introduced at home.

Two Austrians, a Mr Schalk and a Mr Kopf, argued that the right to marry, set out in the European convention on human rights, requires states to recognise same-sex marriage. The court rejected that argument unanimously, stating instead that the right of men and women to marry is subject to national laws. The court relied on the fact that only six of the 47 European states recognise same-sex marriage (in fact, seven countries now do, with Iceland the latest). In this approach the court showed once more that on issues it calls "morality" it normally follows states, rather than leads them, an approach which those who accuse the court of "interfering" too much would do well to consider.
However, the court did state clearly that the right to marry does not apply only to persons of the opposite sex. The EU charter of fundamental rights – accepted by all EU states — guarantees the right to marry, deliberately excluding any reference to gender. This should mean that in those countries that grant access to marriage for all couples, any distinction between same-sex and heterosexual marriage would be arguable discrimination under the convention.   

(Read the full report at the Guardian)

Iceland's Gay Wedding for PM Sigurdardottir

In Iceland, legall recognition for same sex marriage has taken effect. I wonderful symbolism,
Johanna Sigurdardottir,the country's PM, was one of the first to tie the knot. She is now not only the world's first lesbian or gay PM, but also the first to have experienced for herself a gay wedding.

From the BBC:

Johanna Sigurdardottir, named as Iceland's prime minister on Sunday, is the first openly lesbian head of government in Europe, if not the world - at least in modern times.
The 66-year-old's appointment as an interim leader, until elections in May, is seen by many as a milestone for the gay and lesbian movement.
Up until now, if a gay man or woman has been prime minister, they have done their best to conceal the fact.
Iceland, however, has different standards for equality. When Sigurdardottir became PM, her sexuality passed almost unnoticed. When the gay marriage legislations was passed by parliament, it was accepted unanimously. 
What is really historic about this new cabinet, says Skuli Helgeson, the general secretary of Ms Sigurardottir's Social Democratic Alliance, is not the fact that its leader is a lesbian, but that for the first time in Icelandic history it boasts an equal number of men and women.

The Social Value of Gay Marriage

The standard pseudo-religious argument against same-sex marriage is that "conventional" marriage between a man and a woman offers value to society that same sex marriage does not. Quite the most impressive counter to that argument, written by a straight woman, is "Why Gay Marriage is Good For Everyone" which I found at "Casaubon's Book "on Science Blogs.

In Wisconsin last week, a court ruled that a lesbian mother who had been a stay-at-home mom to raise two adopted children with her partner, had no status as parent because only the other mother could be recognised in law as an adoptive parent. ("In Wisconsin, Not All Parents Are Equal"). It is to find ways around complicated legal difficulties such as these that so many queer families are forced into complex, sometimes imaginative, legal solutions of their own.


Introducing her piece, Casaubon writes about two Washington men who fell in love during WWII, and finally wed after a "62 -year engagement". ("Wow, What A Long Engagement That Was") But this is not just a cosy, feel-good romantic tale - although it is that, too. Along the way, as these two men aged after decades sharing their lives, they realized that in the absence of  the legal protections offered by marriage, they would need a plan of their own - so they settled on adoption!

When Henry was 69, he legally adopted Bob, who was 70. It gave them legal protections, offered an advantageous inheritance tax rate and made the pair into a family.

She also tells of another legal device used by her own mother. Casaubon and her younger sister were themselves raised by two Moms after her biological parents divorced. Her (biological) Mom realised that if anything should happen to her, her partner would have no standing in law to continue in a parental relationship over the children. To get around this, she too used a legal ploy.

My youngest sister, Vicky, is 7 years younger than I am, and because my parents divorced when she was an infant, she remembers no time in her life when Sue, my step-mother didn't stand in a parental relationship to her. Within a day or two of my turning 18, my mother sat me down to tell me that she was changing legal documents to leave her share of Vicky's guardianship to me if my mother died.
Realistically, this is bizarre: the law was able to accept a girl of just eighteen as Vicky's legal guardian, but not the mature woman who had already offered care and co-parenting for the child's whole life to that point.

These examples illustrate what Casaubon describes as the very real social value that the arrival of same-sex marriage has brought:  recognition that marriage is  not only about romantic love, mushy feelings and living happily ever after. (If it is only about the first two, with no consideration of the mundane practical matters, the chances are there will be no happy ever after.) Gay or lesbian couples, she notes, really do not need marriage only for the symbolism or social approval it supposedly brings, but also, very consciously, for the practical and legal protections it offers. With or without marriage, same sex couples are forced to think hard about the financial and legal foundations of their relationships, in a way that opposite sex couples should do, and used to do, but no longer do. She quotes John Boswell on the changes in "traditional" marriage:
In premodern Europe, marriage usually began as a property arrangement, was in its middle mostly about raising children, and ended about love. Few couples in fact married 'for love,' but many grew to love each other in time as they jointly managed their household, reared their offspring, and shared life's experiences. Nearly all surviving epitaphs to spouses evince profound affection. By contrast, in most of the modern West, marriage begins about love, in its middle is still mostly about raising children (if there are children), and ends - often - about property, by which point love is absent or a distant memory. (Boswell, Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe xxi-xxii)
Far too often, the modern idea of  "traditional" has placed so much emphasis on the romantic fantasy, the movie or fictional version of what it is, and the "perfect wedding", that there is insufficient emphasis on building secure foundations for the marriage - and with it has come high rates of marital breakdown and divorce. This leads her to a discussion of the record of marital success and failure in her own family. Her own parents, and their parents before them, had seen their "traditional" marriages end in divorce. However, her mother's lesbian relationship has endured 31 years, and provided a strong example for the children:
There are two generations of divorce in our family to model on - two generations of failed marriages and steps and sundered relationships. And yet my sisters and I are all stably and happily married after some early romantic errors. Eric and I have been married for almost 12 years, my sisters for six and five years respectively, and they look good to last. The single best and most lasting partnership in our immediate family is my mother and step-mother's, 31 years and counting. It is on this all three of us base our (heterosexual) partnerships, and the model is sturdy and set to last a lifetime (technically Eric and I have the deal that after 75 years of marriage, we can discuss dating other people - he'll be 103 and I'll be 101 and we figured by then we might need a change ;-)). In our case, at least, these three traditional, heterosexual, nuclear family models rest firmly on a foundation created by gay marriage. It is a sturdy place to rest.
This is the irony of "traditional" marriage in her family: the theory that opposite-sex marriage alone can provide a suitable context for raising children. Instead, she and her sisters were raised by two moms in a stable, sound relationship - and are now modelling sound relationships for their own offspring. Sound and healthy "traditional" families have been successfully nurtured by an untraditional one. Children are not necessarily better off, or better prepared for their own marriages, when raised by opposite sex parents, or by same sex parents: the test is that they are raised by parents who have understood and successfully negotiated the challenges of  living lives in committed partnership. Some of these will be opposite sex couples in conventional marriage (as my own parents were), some will be same sex couples in unrecognised, but equally committed partnerships - as Casaubon's were before the law changed.

It is for this reason, she says, that the "happiest day of her life" was not her own wedding, good hough that was, but the day when the law changed in Massachusetts, and her two Moms were finally able to marry.
It was the first legal day of weddings in the state of Massachusetts, and the day before, as the news was filled of stories of weddings, my phone rang off the hook. Friends, neighbors, exes - everyone who knew me or had known me wanted to know one thing "were they going to do it?" Everyone I knew was delighted in absentia that my mothers would get to marry. Even people I knew who were ambivalent about gay marriage, or even personally opposed to it in general called me to congratulate me and ask me to extend my congratulations to them.
And so, she says, the day that gay marriage becomes legal across the US will likewise be a day of celebration for all.

In drawing attention to the practical arrangements that should lie behind marriage, she is not in any way decrying the religious or sacramental elements. Instead, she points out quite correctly that   the sacramental value derives in part precisely from the value that religion places on the material protection that marriage gives to wives and children.  Marriage is by no means only about these material protections, but it is equally not only about warm feelings, romance, and perfect June weddings. The great social value of gay marriage, she says, is that it reminds us all to think again about a proper balance of motivations in preparation for marriage:
Here, I think, the salutary example of gay marriage may actually be helpful - by forcing the conversation to focus on the rights and legal protections of marriage, on the ways that marriage is fundamentally an economic and family institution - not to the exclusion of love, as we sometimes postulate it, but as part of love - as the expression in mutual support and dependence of the material realities of what love actually is when lived - they begin to present marriage as an attainable and achievable accomplishment. If love is not just a feeling, but a state in which you preserve and protect one another, merging strengths and assets for the benefit of partners and any children, and for the support of one another and extended family, this is something that might be achievable, rather than a diffuse idea of unending bliss and constant happiness.
Read the full post. It is much longer, and and far more thoughtful, than I could possible do justice to here - but definitely worth reading and thinking about - and then re-reading.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Scottish Adoption Agency WANTS Gay Parents

The Scottish Adoption Association has told gay couples not to be put off by the "very negative publicity" surrounding the issue of same-sex couples adopting children. The publicity in question is believed to relate to the complaints of the grandparents of two Edinburgh-based children who were adopted by a gay couple.

According to Margaret Moyes, Chief Executive of SAA, many disillusioned couples have withdrawn from the process because of the negative messages abounding in the Scots media. One couple, Ms Moyes claimed, actually withdrew for that very reason. She said, "I am really keen to make sure we get the message out that there are lots of children waiting for adoption, and we need to find parents from as wide a group of people as possible."
(Full Report At Pink News)

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Adoption Vote in New South Wales

Marriage and adoption equality have not yet become big political issues in Australia as they have in the US, but that is beginning to change, with increasing public pressure and clear support from the small Green party. On adoption however, their could soon be progress in the state of New South Wales.Independent MP Clover Moore has introduced a bill approving adoption, and Premier Kristina Keneally has specified that she will permit legislators a vote on"conscience", removing the issue from control by party whips. Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell is also allowing a conscience vote for the same reason.

The prospects for success look good:
In a parliamentary inquiry conducted last year, a majority found that the Adoption Act should be amended to allow gay couples to adopt. Faith-based adoption agencies would still have the right to exclude prospective parents who are gay, so long as they refer them to an agency which will assist.
This follows the lead of Western Australia and the ACT which already give gay couples equal access to the adoption process. Even in Tasmania gay couples can adopt a child related to one of them. In every state gay couples can foster.
The bill will be debated in late August. Watch this space.

What is interesting to me in this is that in addition to support from the two party leaders, children's charity Barnardo's is also supporting the move, and for the same reason, "the interests of the child". (In this, they are following numerous other children's charities in the US and UK, who have also argued that children's interests are best served by opening adoption to applications from gay men and lesbians.

In their commentary on the move, the Sydney Morning Herald has the headline, "Thinking men and women need clear conscience on gay adoption". More than clear consciences are required - clear thinking is also wanted.

In all the struggles for adoption rights, nobody has ever argued for the "right" of all gay men and lesbians to adopt: only for a right to be considered as eligible. In every adoption, prospective parents are carefully vetted for their personal suitability, both in general, and each particular child. To argue that all gay men and lesbians are unsuitable purely on the grounds of orientation is as ludicrous as it is to argue that all heterosexual couples are suitable merely because they include both a Mom and a Dad. It is self-evident that at least some heterosexual couples are not suitable - which is why many of the children are up for adoption in the first case. It is reasonable to assume that at least some same sex couples are eminently suitable, on the basis of the quality of the love and he care that they are able to provide. Research based evidence, in study after study, has shown much more: that as a group, same sex couples are able to provide care at least as good as opposite sex couples. In some respects, some studies have even suggested that they do better. This is why Barnardo's, and several other agencies, are clear that they support applications from gay and lesbian families.

The "interests of the child" demand that to provide the best possible parents, the pool of eligible applicants should be selected as widely as possible. Then let the personal characteristics of the applicants be the deciding factor, not an arbitrary demographic.

In arguing that the interests of the child demands two opposite sex parents, the Catholic church, and church adoption agencies, are ignoring the evidence of research, of the demands of reason, and even of their own practice - many church agencies will approve single parents. They are not in fact arguing for the interests of the child, but only the interest of defending their own misguided doctrines.

Robin Hood: Gay in the Greenwood?

"When Robin Hood was about 20 years old;
he happen'd to meet Little John; 
A jolly brisk blade right fit for the trade,
for he was a lusty young man."
The Times of 11 July 1999 reported on research suggesting that Robin Hood, who livd with his band of merrie men in their forest ghetto, may have been gay.  Maid Marion, the hetero love interest was a fiction added later to the earlier accounts. Robin’s genuine true love was Little John.  Surprised?
New studies of the medieval texts that first recorded his deeds suggest that the robber with a heart of gold was actually a gay outlaw who had been exiled from "straight" society. Little John, not Maid Marian, was his true love.
The revelation flies in the face of Kevin Costner's portrayal of the outlaw in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves", and suggests that the title of Mel Brooks's film "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" may have been closer to the mark.
The reassessment is based on studies of the 14th-century ballads of Robin Hood, the earliest known accounts of his deeds, which detail his relationships with his "merrie men", especially Little John and Will Scarlet.
Stephen Knight, professor of English literature at Cardiff University, said the ballads, the first and most authoritative accounts of Hood's deeds, had clear homoerotic overtones.
He said: "Robin Hood and his men are all very male and live exclusively without women. The ballads could not say outright that he was gay because of the prevailing moral climate, but they do contain a great deal of erotic imagery. The green wood itself is a symbol of virility and the references to arrows, quivers and swords make it clear, too."
The ballads were written in Chaucerian English, made more complex by a strong dialect. One translation includes the verse: "When Robin Hood was about 20 years old; he happen'd to meet Little John; A jolly brisk blade right fit for the trade, for he was a lusty young man."
The ballads also show that Maid Marian - usually depicted as Hood's true love - never existed.
Knight believes she was added by 16th-century authors who wanted to make their works more respectable to heterosexual readers. He will present his research to fellow academics in a paper called "The Forest Queen" at a three-day conference in Nottingham organised by the University of Glamorgan this week.
The conference will include trips to places where Robin Hood and Little John are said to have lived together.
In modern times Hood has been depicted as a minor aristocrat who becomes an outlaw after his lands were confiscated in the 1190s by King John. He fights against the unjust king and his lackeys, famously stealing from the rich to give to the poor.
He is finally rehabilitated when Richard Lionheart, the rightful king, returns from the Crusades and makes Hood the first Earl of Huntingdon, a title that still exists.
The ballads, however, suggest a different story. They indicate that the real Hood almost certainly came from yeoman or peasant stock, that he roamed Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire in the late 13th or 14th century and that his popularity came not from giving away money but from his ability to flout authority.
One of the earliest works, "Robin Hood and the Monk", written anonymously in about 1450, describes the intimate friendship between the outlaw and Little John. It depicts them having a row over money that Knight describes as "almost domestic".
It is resolved only when Little John rescues his leader from their enemies. Similar themes are explored in "Robin Hood and Guy of Gisbourne" - again Hood and Little John fall out but are reunited.
Some historians believe that Hood was a genuine character,but that ballads have been embellished with the exploits of other outlaw gangs, among many of which homosexuality would also have been common.
Barry Dobson, professor of medieval history at the University of Cambridge, agrees with Knight that the relationship between Hood and John in the ballads is "ambiguous".
He said the 13th century had seen increasing oppression of gays: "In the 12th century homosexuality was accepted, but in the 13th the church became much less tolerant and such people were driven underground."
Peter Tatchell, spokesman for the gay rights group Outrage!, which became notorious for exposing prominent people who had not declared their homosexuality, said the outing of Hood was long overdue.
"His lifestyle alone was enough to provoke speculation," he said. "It's about time school history lessons acknowledged the contribution of famous homosexuals."
But the idea that the tales of Robin Hood should be given a gay twist horrifies those used to seeing him as being "straight as an arrow".
Mary Chamberlain, secretary of the Robin Hood Society, accused the academics of trying to make their name at the expense of England's best-loved folk hero. She said: "Robin remains a highly regarded figure the world over and children like to play at being Robin Hood. These claims could do a lot of damage."
Hood's alleged descendants may also be dismayed. The Huntingdons' pride in their ancestry led to the current earl and hisfather both being given "Robin Hood" as their middle names.
This weekend, however, the current earl, William Edward Robin Hood Hastings Bass, swiftly distanced himself from the "gay" outlaw, claiming that they were not related after all.
He said: "It's a nice myth that Robin Hood was the first Earl of Huntingdon, but there is no historical evidence that he really was linked to my family."


Had it not been for the violent uprising at the Stonewall Inn back in 1969, New York would be a completely different place. Gay culture would be completely underground. Homosexuals would be arrested as criminals. Chelsea would have a lot fewer gyms.
But everything changed that June 28 when cops raided the Christopher Street bar and the fed-up patrons fought back, launching the modern gay-rights movement. The riots are chronicled in the new documentary “Stonewall Uprising,” opening Wednesday.
For those raised on Culture Club videos and “Will & Grace,” it’s hard to imagine how underground the gay scene was back in the ’60s — even in freewheelin’ New York.
The new documentary “Stonewall Uprising
The new documentary “Stonewall Uprising" opens Wednesday.
“A bar could be closed for serving a known homosexual,” says Danny Garvin, who participated in the riots and appears in the film. “I was in a bar called Julius’ one night having a beer, and I was standing, resting my elbows on the bar and just looking. The bartender tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Could you please turn around and face the bar. Otherwise, we could be closed for soliciting.’ You had to be cautious.”
Because serving homosexuals was illegal, almost all gay bars were run by the Mafia, including the Stonewall, which was controlled by the Genovese crime family.
Speaking of criminal, at the time, dressing in drag was also forbidden. The law stated that men were required to wear at least three articles of masculine clothing.
“You could get away with [male] underwear and an undershirt, but after that, it was a problem,” says Martin Boyce, who used to dress in drag and also participated in the riots. He also appears in “Stonewall Uprising.”
Back in the ’60s, the city didn’t offer many places for gay men to congregate, and one of the centers of the underground gay scene was a group of tractor-trailers parked at the end of Christopher Street. They were empty and left unlocked at night, and dozens of men would pack into them to have sex.
“I was across the street one time, and the police came by and banged on the truck with their sticks,” Boyce says. “And I hate to say it, but it looked like roaches were coming out.”
The police would also frequently raid gay bars, often confiscating the liquor and forcing revelers to line up and show ID. Anyone who didn’t have it could be arrested.
It was during one of these routine raids on the Stonewall that violence erupted. Shortly after busting the bar, cops were forced to barricade themselves inside as hundreds of angry protesters gathered on outside Christopher Street, throwing pennies, bricks and trash. One angry drag queen uprooted a parking meter and began bashing in the door, while another doused the door with lighter fluid and set it on fire.
“You could see the eyes of the police through a hole in the door, and there was a heightened sense of alarm,” Boyce says. “At first they were smiling, but they weren’t smiling when the door caught on fire.”
Police eventually called in reinforcements. As cops tried to clear the streets, Boyce and a group of other drag queens locked arms and formed an impromptu kick line, singing, “We are the Stonewall girls/ We wear our hair in curls/ We wear our dungarees/ Above our nelly knees!”
“We had to do something to them,” Boyce says of the police. “Finally, it was our turn to just do something.”
The unrest continued for four more nights. No one involved knew it at the time, but the incident had changed things in the gay community forever.
“That week in the street, there were a number of people who cheered me,” Boyce recalls. “I remember one day a sanitation worker said, ‘All right! ’Bout time you guys did something!’ I was shocked.”
A year later, in 1970, a pride parade was organized to commemorate Stonewall. It’s now an annual event, with this year’s march scheduled for June 27.
As for the Stonewall bar, it’s still there — only it occupies half of its former space. According to Boyce, it’s not all that popular anymore.
“It’s like going to see the Paris that you read about in the ’30s. It’s kind of dull,” he says. “It doesn’t have a reason anymore. It just has a memory.”

Personal View Of History: 'Stonewall Did That For Me'

In 1969, Michael Levine was at a popular gay bar in New York City when the police raided it. But instead of running away, the patrons stood up for themselves, in what became known as the Stonewall riots. For Levine, it changed his life — and the world.

Levine, 67, recently told the story of that night to his friend Matt Merlin, 34, at a StoryCorps booth.
It was a Friday night, and Levine was out on a date. "And I was at the bar getting drinks for both of us. We had just finished dancing," he says. "The music was blaring. It was a combination of beer and cigarettes and cologne.
"Suddenly, as I'm handing money to the bartender, a deafening silence occurred," says Levine. "The lights went up, the music went off, and you could hear a pin drop, literally."
His boyfriend rushed over to him and said it was time to go — the vice squad had come to raid the club. In those days, the vice squad routinely raided and emptied gay bars. Patrons usually left quietly, frightened at being identified publicly.
"We walked out onto Christopher Street," Levine says, "and there are what look like 100 police cars facing the entrance and crowds of people looking at us."
Levine recalls police officers telling all the patrons to go home. But, he says, "the drag queens, they're the ones who said to the police, 'We're not leaving.' And they formed a chorus line outside, in front of the bar. And they stood there, dancing in the street. They were all Puerto Rican drag queens and Irish cops. It was a funny, funny confrontation."
Every time the police succeeded in dispersing the group, the drag queens would regroup, and starting dancing their way back toward the Stonewall.
"When we came back on Saturday night, we stood there on the street and held hands and kissed — something we would never have done three days earlier," says Levine. "I stood there with chills. I got a chill seeing guys on the street holding hands and kissing."
And then Levine started getting calls from relatives — his brother, cousins, an aunt. All of them wanted to be sure he was OK. "We're just calling to find out if you're OK," he recalls them saying. "We know you go to places like this. We want to make sure you're all right."
The calls came, says Levine, despite the fact that he'd never told any of them that he was gay. "It was like I was wearing a sign on my back," he says. "They knew. We never discussed it. I never once had to say to anyone in my family, 'I'm gay.' "
"How did you feel about yourself between the beginning of Stonewall and after Stonewall?" Merlin asks. "Did you feel that you were a different person?"
"No, I didn't feel that I was a different person," Levine answers. "I was the same me: I was a homosexual person, coming from an old-fashioned Jewish neighborhood, living in Greenwich Village on my own.
"I felt the same. I felt comfortable. But I felt the world, now, is more comfortable with me. And Stonewall did that for me."
(From NPR)

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Rally For Equality Law in Argentina

The Argentinian Lower House has already voted in favour of an equality law, which will allow for both the legal recognition of same sex marriage, and also gay adoption. The measure must still pass the Senate, where passage is not guaranteed. Senators are currently touring the country to try and take a sounding of the national mood, arguing that pressure in favour of equality is coming only from the metropolitan elites of Buenos Aires. To counter this activists are now taking to the streets in rural cities as well.

From On Top Magazine:

Thousands Rally For Gay Marriage In Argentina

More than 4,000 people rallied Thursday in Cordoba to urge the Argentine Senate to approve a gay marriage bill, various media outlets reported.
Demonstrators marched on the Plaza de la Intendencia, where they held banners, chanted slogans and listened to speeches in favor of making Argentina the first Latin American country to legalize marriage between two members of the same sex.
The bill was approved in May by Argentina's lower house, the Chamber of Deputies (la Camara de Diputados). The Senate General Law Committee reviewing the bill has taken its gay marriage debate on the road, with stops planned for the cities of Salta, Tucuman, San Juan and Mendoza. The four-city tour runs from June 14-28. The full Senate is scheduled to take up the bill on July 14, a Wednesday, where the measure faces an uncertain future.
Argentine President Christina Fernandez de Kirchner has said she would not block the measure from becoming law, if approved by senators.
Lawmakers in favor of gay marriage also spoke at the rally.
“Today nobody can say the existence of same-sex couples is abnormal,” Cordoba National Deputy Paula Cecilia Merchan told the crowd. “We are fighting, and I think we will ensure that the law is approved, so that these couples are recognized in the same way heterosexual couples are. In that sense, I think this fight has more to do with reality and cultural and social conditions.”

Friday, 25 June 2010

In Wisconsin, Not All Parents Are Equal

In Wisconsin, adoption by same sex couples is not recognised. Gay men and lesbians may adopt, but only as individuals. So when lesbian couple "Liz" and "Wendy" adopted two Guatemalan children, only one of them could be legally recognised. The couple decided that Liz, who went out to work as the breadwinner, would be named as legal parent, while Wendy stayed at home to provide child care. Years later, when the couple split up, Wendy wanted to have her status as parent legally recognised.

Now, she is the one who stayed at home, and provided the bulk of day to day care. In most divorces, judges are more likely to grant child custody to the mother, on the reasonable grounds that she is the one (usually) who has provided greater day to day care, and is likely to have a stronger emotional bond with the kids. Other things being equal, similar reasoning in this case would have led to a preference for custody going to Wendy. Other things though. are not equal in queer families, and an appeals court in Wisconsin has rejected Wendy's claim. Not only does she not get legal custody, in Wisconsin, she has no legal status as parent at all.

The high profile political battles for equality are over marriage equality (and in the US,  DADT, and ENDA). It is important that state by state in the US, and country by country elsewhere, we continue to push also for legal recognition of adoption rights, as single people or as couples.

A Wisconsin appeals court has ruled that despite being a stay at home mom for years a wisconsin woman is not considered a parent to the two adopted children she has been raising for years.
The court ruled that only the woman's former partner is their parent since the adoption was done in her name. Court records only refer to the women as Wendy and Liz. Wendy and Liz had been together for 7 years when they decided to adopt their first child. They adopted a second in 2004. Wendy quit her job to stay at home with the children. Liz was named as their legal parent so the children would be covered under her health care plan. Under Wisconsin law same-sex couple cannot adopt children together.
The couple ended their relationship in 2008 and agreed  to an informal co-parenting agreement. Wendy petitioned for legal guardianship to protect her rights to make legal and medical decisions for the children. After originally agreeing to the guardianship, Liz changed her mind and objected.