Archive for the ‘LGBT rights’ Category
Posted February 12, 2012on:
Chad Griffin, Patrick Murphy and Todd Parr Honored
It was a glorious ending to a historic week. The timing of Family Equality Council’s Los Angeles Awards dinner on February 11, and the choice of star honoree Chad Griffin, could not have been more apropos, coinciding with a major victory on February 7 in the fight for marriage equality.
More than 375 guests at the event cheered with gusto as the leader of the American Foundation for Equal Rights took the stage at Universal Studios’ Globe Theatre to accept props for his momentous work to overturn California’s Proposition 8. Griffin and the crowd were galvanized by U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruling earlier in the week, which upheld that the 2008 amendment banning same-sex couples from marriage is unconstitutional.
Griffin, who attended the awards dinner last year, when Prop 8 plaintiffs Kris and Sandy Stier and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarillo were honored, accepted his award decreeing, “I will come back for a third time next year, and we will celebrate a Supreme Court decision that affirms that all Americans have equal rights under the law, and that includes the right to marry.”
Executive Director of Family Equality Council, Jennifer Chrisler, echoed Griffin’s sentiments as she declaring that a the 30-year-old organization, whose mission is to connect, support, and represent the one million lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) parents raising two million children in the U.S., will continue to fight for the rights of all families.
“Our honorees have given us renewed hope that future generations will look back on this time and know that this was the moment when we achieved real milestones in changing attitudes and laws so that our families were respected, protected, and celebrated.
As the group reveled in the past week’s victory and reflected on the successes and challenges of its past, kicking off a year-long celebration of its 30th anniversary, a resounding sentiment among the leadership, members and supporters present was that hiring Chrisler seven years ago was one of their chief accomplishments.
Chrisler, who along with her partner Cheryl Jacques , is mother of twin boys and expectant mom-to-be of a third child, proudly displayed her baby bump and took to the podium modestly waving off the cheers of her adoring constituents and a glowing introduction proclaiming her “Mother of the LGBT family movement.”
“We will not stop until all our families, our children, and their children, are treated equal,” avowed Chrisler.
Most of the evening was G-rated, excepting the remarks by writer/director and activist Rob Reiner, who presented the award to Griffin, asserting that Griffin’s court challenge took big balls. Reiner proceeded to ask Griffin’s partner in the audience to affirm that they were indeed, very big, prompting family size laughs from the crowd.
Other honorees were former Pennsylvania Representative Patrick Murphy, who helped lead opposition to the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and Todd Parr, the award-winning children’s book author. Special guests and awards presenters included “Modern Family” stars Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, the latter who performed a humorous tune about the joys of every day parenting.
The event raised more than $400,000, including $93,000 pledged during the night by attendees and a matching donation of $75,000 by a major donor.
As would be expected of an organization of parents, who needed to get back home to relieve babysitters, the well-produced program went along at a snappy pace, ending before 10 pm, with guests taking home a copy of honoree Parr’s delightful bedtime read, The Family Book.
This morning, Family Equality Council is releasing a groundbreaking report in Washington D.C. designed to focus the national spotlight on the 2 million children being raised by LGBT parents.
All Children Matter shows how our kids have become the victims of antiquated laws, discriminatory policies and hostile political decisions.
We know our kids live everyday in legal and social jeopardy because of these laws. Now everyone will know that our children matter.
The report shows how current laws can:
- Deny legal ties to both of their parents—which affects everything from custody to a parent being able to make emergency medical decisions for his or her child.
- Separate children from their parents in cases of divorce or death of a parent.
- Tie their access to critical federal and state safety net programs to family structure, rather than need.
- Deny our children access to quality child care and early childhood education.
- Deny our kids Social Security survivor benefits or inheritance when a parent dies.
- Put a child’s legal ties to his or her parents in jeopardy if the family crosses state lines.
- Deny forever homes to 115,000 children awaiting adoption.
The report wraps up with a set of practical policy recommendations that could fix the discrimination that exists today.
I will be in Washington D.C. later this morning talking to policymakers and the media about the report and I wanted to give you two opportunities to participate.
- You can watch a livestream of the D.C. event today from 10:00a.m. ET to 12:00 p.m. by
following this link: http://www.americanprogress.org/events/2011/10/LGBTfamilies.html
- You can read the report, share it and learn how to help us make the policy changes needed to ensure that our children matter, by logging onto: http://www.children-matter.org
Posted September 29, 2011on:
When I saw this story yesterday, I first read the headline, “L-Word Actress Booted Off Flight for Kissing Girlfriend,” I had a feeling before clicking on the story that the actress in question was our beloved “Alice,” Leisha Hailey.
Love her! She was my favorite character on L Word, with the best lines, best delivery and best timing, ever. My favorite story line was when she pursued Dana after their break up, stalking her at high-speed in her mini-cooper, telling Bette on her cell, “Gotta go, I’m chasing Dana.”
Her heartbreak was palatable, felt in endearing and tragically funny lines to Dana like, “Can’t I just come over and talk and I can kiss your eyes.” (I’m paraphrasing, as I don’t recall the exact dialogue, but you get the idea).
Anyway, Alice was always the most outspoken, and so is the actress who player her. I remember when I was at a Q&A with Leisha when she was asked how she prepared for the sex scenes on the L Word. “I’m just going to say it,” she said. “Whiskey.”
Just a week ago I passed Ms. Hailey on the sidewalk in Beverly Hills outside my office as she was heading into El Torito Grill on Camden. I noticed the attractive blond in the short black dress and red flats and thought she looked familiar. As she got closer I realized who it was, and for lack of anything better to say at the moment, I said to her, “I love your work.” She turned and smiled, as if she was genuinely happily surprised to have been recognized. “Thank you!” she said back.
So, I can see her now. Creating a scene on the Southwest plane. Just like Alice when she spoke out against the hypocrite gay-bashing closeted basketball player in the show or when she argued over the merits fo the war in Iraq with her girlfriend in uniform.
Way to go Lesiha.
After reading the story though, another thought I had was, what was Leisha doing on Southwest. Maybe she was “keeping it real” flying the no-seat-reservations discount airline, or maybe she’s no snob and couldn’t care less about first class, or maybe (I doubt it) times are tough and she’s saving her pennies.
Personally, I avoid Southwest. All due to a bad experience back in 2006 when I was on the way home from Sundance, and SW was the only carrier with flights available. My travel partner and I got into it with this stupid 20-something wannabee filmmaker girl who thought we were trying to cut because we sat down in the only patch of floor without a body occupying it, which happened to be perpendicular to the start of the waiting line. For the record, we were not trying to cut and I didn’t give a flip about being first on the plane.
So, while I do like SW for their funny announcements (“Please look around for any belongings and small children you may have left onboard”), I think they have shot themselves in the foot on this one. I’m sure we’ll hear more about their side of the story — and the eye-witness accounts, but for now, I got a good chuckle imagining the exchange between Leisha and the hapless flight attendant whose job it was to tell her, “Southwest is a family airline.” Would have paid to be there. Okay, here’s the story from yesterday’s LA Now post … and the follow up from today.
‘L Word’ actress taken off plane for kissing girlfriend,
An actress on the “The L Word” TV series says she was kicked off a Southwest
Airlines flight for kissing her girlfriend.
In a Twitter post Monday, Leisha Hailey said a flight attendant told her
Southwest “was a ‘family’ airline and kissing was not ok.”
Hailey said she was escorted off the flight “for getting upset about the
issue.” She said the airline “endorses homophobic employees.”
“Since when is showing affection towards someone you love illegal? I want to
know what Southwest Airlines considers as ‘family,’ ” she wrote.
in Los Angeles, was on a flight from Baltimore to St. Louis.In a statement on its website, Southwest said Hailey’s behavior, not her sexual orientation, was the reason she was removed from the flight.
“Initial reports indicate that we received several passenger complaints characterizing the behavior as excessive,” the statement says.
“Our crew, responsible for the comfort of all customers on board, approached the passengers based solely on behavior and not gender,” the statement continues. “The conversation escalated to a level that was better resolved on the ground, as opposed to in flight.”
The airline added: “We regret any circumstance where a passenger does not have a positive experience on Southwest, and we are ready to work directly with the passengers involved to offer our heartfelt apologies for falling short of their expectations.”
Hailey is a member of the rock duo Uh Huh Her. She is also a spokeswoman for Olivia, a tourism and entertainment firm that markets to lesbians.
AND TODAY’S FOLLOW UP:
Earlier this week, TMZ reported that Leisha Hailey, an actress and musician most noted for her performance as Alice Pieszecki on The L Word, was kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight for kissing her girlfriend. Hailey says she and her partner were removed from the plane after being told by a flight attendant that it was a “family airline” and that “kissing was not OK.” She is currently calling for gays and lesbians to boycott Southwest, charging that the incident was an act of homophobia.
“They don’t like us,” Hailey wrote of Southwest in a tweet.
For its part, Southwest has apologized for the unpleasant experience, but defends its employees’ actions in light of passenger reports that the amorous behavior was “excessive.” The airline’s “Contract of Carriage (PDF)” gives plane crews the right to refuse transport to any passenger “whose conduct is or has been known to be disorderly.”
Hailey’s experience is the most recent in a slew of publicized kick-offs that Southwest has had to deal with in the past few years. Other celebrities and normal folks alike have experienced the arguably questionable judgments of Southwest crew regarding their dress, language and general behavior. In February 2010, actor/director Kevin Smith was even asked to leave a plane due to his size, sparking a larger discussion in the media about the ethics of dealing with obesity in public spaces.
Other eyebrow-raising dismissals include Green Day frontman Billie Joe (pants too saggy) and the case of Ricci Wheatley, a grieving woman considered to be a risk because she was “quietly sobbing” while requesting a glass of wine, in addition to more general incidents ranging from having loud children to being “suspicious” and, oh yes, conspicuously Muslim.
While there’s no doubt that airlines should have the right to refuse service in cases where the safety and basic comforts of passengers and crew are demonstrably at risk, Southwest’s policing of boxer exposure and even a passionate kiss seems over the top. But are these cases an example of individual employees acting out of line, or of a general corporate nanny culture?
Reading through Southwest’s guidelines, the problem seems not to lie with the intent but the vagueness of some of the terms employed. For example, there’s a rule that states that one can be removed for having an “offensive odor.” What does that mean, exactly? Channel No. 5 might be just as offensive as a baby’s dirty diaper, depending on who’s doing the smelling. Similarly, “disorderly conduct” is so abstract as to be meaningless—anything from a minor disagreement between passenger and crew to a major temper tantrum to, apparently, a kiss between ladies could qualify.
Clearly, Southwest needs to better define these terms, as well as maintain a common understanding among its employees. Doing so would prevent all this outsized bad press—for the record, I doubt they’re really homophobic as a company—and save them a lot of free apology vouchers going forward.
Still, SWA notes, “We are ready to work directly with the passengers involved to offer our heartfelt apologies for falling short of their expectation.”
Michele Bachman on Meet the Press refuses to respond to a clip of her speaking at an education conference in 2004 in which she says “Gay is part of Satan.” She says she doesn’t judge, despite the fact that she has been clear about her views that the “gay lifestyle is very sad,” and on the question of if a gay couple with children is a family, she will not answer.
Indeed, as she insists, her views are clear and her words speak for themselves.
From my guilty pleasure, the Levine Breaking News alert:
LBN-COMMENTARY By JACOB BERNSTEIN : In October of 2009, tens of thousands of LGBT people marched on Washington, lambasting President Obama for what they saw to be a totally underwhelming agenda on gay rights. What a difference a year and a half can make. Since that time, when Andrew Sullivan loudly declared that Obama’s speech at a gay rights event was little more than “bullshit…campaign boilerplate,” the president has signed a major hate crimes prevention act, repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, refused to support the Defense of Marriage Act, and now the latest: appointed Jeremy Bernard as the first man and the first openly gay person to be the White House social secretary, replacing Julianna Smoot, who’s leaving to go work on the president’s re-election campaign.
Posted October 13, 2010on:
Fun, games and activism were the order of the weekend at the annual Families in the Desert event, as sponsored by Family Equality Council on October 8-10 in Palm Desert, Calif.,
Held at the Embassy Suites Palm Desert in Palm Desert, Calif., the event, now in its fifth year, resembled a summer camp for LGBT families, where family meals, pool games, movie night, BBQ and s’mores, an African animals safari and other activities brought together 60 families from San Diego, Los Angeles, and across the West Coast to meet other families like theirs, enjoy fun family activities and learn how to get involved in their community and make a difference in the lives of LGBT families.
At the annual State of the Movement address, Family Equality Council executive director Jennifer Chrisler updated families on current laws and policies affecting LGBT families and the efforts by FEC to lobby for fairness for our families. Christer urged parents to become activists, even though she understands why many parents are hesitant.
“There’s a tendency of LGBT parents to want to normalize our lives for our children. We don’t want them to experience thier childhood differently from other children who do not have LGBT parents. But then we are forgetting our jobs as parents, which is to make the world a better place for our kids,” she said.
Family Equality Council is living proof that charity begins in the home, as the group continues to grow in size and stature as the number of LGBT families continues to grow. Currently FEC boasts a staff of 14 and an annual budget of $2 million, earning Chrisler and LGBT families a place at the table with the heavy hitters of the LGBT movement as issues of LGBT parents and their children become part of the mainstream of the LGBT movement.
From Jennifer Chrisler of Family Equality Council as published on CNN.com last week.
This month we celebrate Gay Pride. But I’d like to suggest that we take this opportunity to celebrate gay parent pride.
We should acknowledge that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people do what every other American tries to do. They want to pursue life, liberty, happiness, love and marry the person of their choice, go to work without fear of being fired, have access to health benefits and hospital visitation rights. And, like their straight friends, they also want to create families.
There are 1 million lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parents raising about 2 million children in the U.S., according to figures analyzed by UCLA’s Williams Institute. Good parents are good parents, no matter their sexual orientation.
I am one half of a lesbian parenting team, and my twin 8-year-old boys are excelling both in school and Little League. They just finished reading the “Harry Potter” series and are obsessed with Legos. They set and clear the dinner table and are beginning to remember their manners (finally)! They’re happy and productive boys.
But don’t believe me, a doting, biased mother. The Child Welfare League of America, in the business of protecting children since 1920, has been unequivocal: “Any attempt to preclude or prevent gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals or couples from parenting, based solely on their sexual orientation, is not in the best interest of children.”
The National Adoption Center, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association agree. Thirty years of research says the same, including a new 17-year study published this month in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, concluding that children raised by lesbian parents do better academically, are more confident than their peers and have fewer behavioral problems.
Yet critics still dismiss what child welfare experts say. The state of Florida, which bans adoptions by gay people, believes Martin Gill is an unfit parent. The state is refusing to allow Gill, who is gay, to adopt the two brothers he has been loving as a foster parent for more than five years.
(Florida’s ban has been kept in place since 1977 with the help of testimony from now discredited and disgraced George Rekers, an anti-gay rights activist who recently toured Europe with a male escort and who has been the star witness for the small but vocal group of anti-gay adoption activists. Florida testimony also invoked the writings of Dr. Paul Cameron, another anti-gay adoption “expert” whose credibility has been recently decimated: He was dropped from the American Psychological Association for failing to cooperate with an ethics investigation and censured by the American Sociological Association, which condemned him for misrepresention of sociological research.)
Foster children need loving parents and stable homes. Many of the 120,000 kids that the Department of Health and Human Services says are in the foster care system, up for adoption, could have permanent homes if gay people could adopt them. For every child available and waiting for adoption, there are 16 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people wanting to adopt, according to the Williams Institute analysis. The supply of parents dwarfs demand — not a bad problem to have.
It’s wrong to let all those prospective parents sit on the sidelines while kids are bouncing from one temporary foster home to another. Many states apparently think it’s healthier and more productive if foster children remain wards of the states, without parents, than to let them be raised in so-called nontraditional families.
President Obama said recently that loving families come in many forms.
He told the Family Equality Council in 2008 that more needs to be done “to support and strengthen LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] families. Because equality in relationship, family, and adoption rights is not some abstract principle; it’s about whether millions of LGBT Americans can finally live lives marked by dignity and freedom.”
That’s why we call on the president publicly to endorse the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, legislation in Congress that would open the doors for LGBT people to adopt. The bill takes into consideration the best interests of each individual child, rather than excluding potential parents based on personal bias or bigotry.
It’s up to LGBT parents to define the perception of parenting and not let those opposed do it for us. We speak a common language with other parents from bedtime to bath time. And over time, more people will realize that LGBT families have a lot in common with traditional families.
Until then, however, the foster kids are waiting.
Posted June 30, 2010on:
Overturns Ruling That Barred Partner Of Over 10 Years From Overnight Visits
NASHVILLE – A three-judge panel of the Tennessee Court of Appeals has unanimously ruled today that a trial court judge was wrong to impose a “paramour provision” barring a mother’s lesbian partner of more than 10 years from being in the home during the mother’s overnight visits with her children.
This is the second time the appeals court has rebuked the trial court for imposing the “paramour provision” against American Civil Liberties Union client Angel Chandler. In September 2009, the appeals court ordered the trial court to reconsider the provision. After a hearing in March 2010, the trial court decided to impose the restriction even though, as the appeal courts found, “the record is devoid of any evidence whatsoever to support the finding that a paramour provision is in the best interest of the children.”
“We are relieved that the appeals court has recognized that restrictions like the one imposed on Angel Chandler can unfairly harm families raised by same-sex couples,” said James Esseks, Director of the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project. “Hopefully such a stern rebuke from the appeals court will send a loud and clear message to judges across the state that these kinds of restrictions are unduly burdensome on lesbian and gay parents who are just as capable of being good parents but don’t have the option of marrying.”
The appeals court also noted today that there was evidence showing that the paramour clause was contrary to the best interests of the children, including evidence showing that the partner interacted with the children in a “positive and supportive manner” and that the partner “appears to be emotionally stable and capable of providing appropriate support and nurturing to the children and to [the Mother].”
The “paramour provision” barring Chandler’s partner from her home during visitation with her children was first imposed in May 2008 after Chandler and her former husband appeared before the Gibson County Chancery Court to modify their parenting plan for custody and visitation of their two teenaged children. Despite a court-ordered psychological evaluation of all the parties finding Chandler’s partner was a positive influence on the teenagers, the trial judge imposed the restriction, claiming that he was required to do so under state law. After the appeals court made it clear that there was no such requirement under state law, the trial judge imposed the restriction again in March 2010.
“We could not be more pleased with today’s ruling from the Court of Appeals,” said Brian S. Faughnan, cooperating attorney for the ACLU of Tennessee. “For the second time now this court has made it clear that custody and visitation decisions should be based on what’s best for the children, and that can mean having the love and support of a lesbian or gay step-parent.”
The restriction caused a huge strain on Chandler’s relationship and finances. Chandler and her partner relocated to North Carolina, where they lived in a duplex that allowed them to abide by the order. Eventually this arrangement became too costly, and Chandler had to stay with a relative when she visited with her children.
“Working and raising a family is hard enough under the best of circumstances, but this restriction really put a strain on all of us,” said Chandler. “Hopefully, we can now put this nightmare behind us.”
From the Family Equality Blog and Executive Director Jennifer Chrisler, a tireless leader in the movement for rights of LGBT families.
Posted by Jennifer Chrisler, Executive Director in June 1st 2010
Gay parenting is taking off in America. Thirty-one percent of same-sex couples are raising children compared with 43 percent of straight couples, according to 2008 census data. More than half of gay men and 41 percent of lesbians say they want to have a child.
While LGBT parenting is nothing new, there is no doubt that it is making its way into pop culture like never before. A CNN documentary set to air this month, “Gary and Tony Have a Baby,” follows a married couple throughout the surrogacy process. Modern Family and Glee are two hit shows this TV season highlighting gay families, and the soon-to-be-released the film, The Kids Are All Right, is the tale of two lesbian moms played by Julianne Moore and Annette Benning.
The mainstream inclusion of the LGBT family has begun. And that’s a good thing.
But we have a ways to go to show that LGBT parents are like straight parents. The optics of two dads or two moms remains startling to many, but is slowly becoming a non-event to others. It is up to us as LGBT parents to define the images and perception of parenting (and not let those opposed, or those who are not experts, do it for us). We speak a common language with other parents about hugs and homework, about bedtime and bath time. This is my call to all LGBT parents: become visible, tell your story. This is the only sure-fire way of shaping people’s attitudes.
We also must pay attention to the perception of parenting within the LGBT community. Many LGBT people in their 20s and 30s—and older—either think parenting is too difficult—or they don’t even think about it. Parenting has not been part of the community’s social fabric. We need to change this. As the one million LGBT people raising two millions children can attest, it is doable—and is absolutely worth it.
And needed. There are half a million kids currently in the U.S. foster care system, 120,000 of whom are available for adoption. Dr. Gary Gates of the Williams Institute projects that the number of LGBT people wanting to adopt far exceeds the number of kids waiting to be adopted. (Family Equality Council has made significant progress on drafting and gaining support for federal legislation aimed at loosening restrictions on LGBT adoption).
My work fortunately allows me—encourages me, really—to shout from the rooftops about how proud I am of my two amazing boys and my entire family. Family Equality’s family programming reaches thousands of families, and, this summer, we will celebrate the 15th Anniversary of Family Week in Provincetown, the annual gathering place for LGBT families. Because of this event, we have taught more than 1,000 thousand families how to be ambassadors of our movement.
Despite our hectic schedules, I think we as LGBT parents have a responsibility to be involved in the making of our own history—the history of the parents’ (and prospective parents’) movement. There’s no question in my mind we’re crossing, or may have just crossed, the first serious threshold toward greater acceptance of the LGBT family. So, this is the time to get engaged. Let’s keep this newly-minted momentum going.
US Department of Labor clarifies FMLA definition of ‘son and daughter’
Interpretation is a win for all families no matter what they look like
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor today clarified the definition of “son and daughter” under the Family and Medical Leave Act to ensure that an employee who assumes the role of caring for a child receives parental rights to family leave regardless of the legal or biological relationship.
The FMLA allows workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period to care for loved ones or themselves. The 1993 law also allows employees to take time off for the adoption or the birth of a child. The administrator interpretation issued by Nancy J. Leppink, deputy administrator of the department’s Wage and Hour Division, clarifies that these rights, which provide work-family balance, extend to the various parenting relationships that exist in today’s world. This action is a victory for many non-traditional families, including families in the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community, who often in the past have been denied leave to care for their loved ones.
“No one who loves and nurtures a child day-in and day-out should be unable to care for that child when he or she falls ill,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “No one who steps in to parent a child when that child’s biological parents are absent or incapacitated should be denied leave by an employer because he or she is not the legal guardian. No one who intends to raise a child should be denied the opportunity to be present when that child is born simply because the state or an employer fails to recognize his or her relationship with the biological parent. These are just a few of many possible scenarios. The Labor Department’s action today sends a clear message to workers and employers alike: All families, including LGBT families, are protected by the FMLA.”
As the interpretation makes clear, an uncle who is caring for his young niece and nephew when their single parent has been called to active military duty may exercise his right to family leave. Likewise, a grandmother who assumes responsibility for her sick grandchild when her own child is debilitated will be able to seek family and medical leave from her employer. And an employee who intends to share in the parenting of a child with his or her same sex partner will be able to exercise the right to FMLA leave to bond with that child.
“This is a critical step in ensuring that children have the support and care they need from the persons who have assumed that responsibility,” said Leppink. “Nothing in the statute or regulations suggests that we should restrict the rights of various individuals who take on that very important role.”
The administrator interpretation provides guidance to employers in applying the FMLA’s provisions in the workplace and ensures that employees are aware of their rights. Under the act, covered employers must grant eligible employees up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for the birth and care of a newborn child; to adopt or assume care for a foster child; to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child or parent) with a serious health condition; or to take medical leave due to a serious health condition.
For more information on the FMLA and the administrative interpretation, visit the Wage and Hour Division’s website, http://www.dol.gov/whd, or call the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243).
Last weekend my family joined a couple friends of ours and their twin boys to enjoy Christopher Street West Pride celebration in Los Angeles. In previous years the festival included a children’s area, but evidentially due to budget cuts and poor attendance, the kids corner was cut. We went anyway, as our friends assured us they go each year and their kids LOVE it, as they get all kinds of free SWAG, eat fun food and see great entertainment.
I had forgotten what Pride was like, because I not been to Pride in a few years, though we marched in the parade last year, which ended up being a four-hour-waiting-in-the-heat ordeal that we’ll not repeat. We entered the fair grounds at West Hollywood Park to see our beloved park transformed into a colorful, noisy and wild celebration. We came early, around 2 pm, so things were not yet hopping. In fact we were the only women at the Real L Word exhibit, our first stop, which featured a fancy press line that festival goers could walk on and take pictures to pretend they are big shot celebs (kinda a microcosm of the show, in a way — can you tell I am not a fan of reality TV?) .
At the booth, a rep from Showtime offered my two-and-a-half-year-old son a tatoo. He loves tattoos, so we consented and the woman applied a tat with magenta letters, “The Real L Word.” Cute. Then the FBI, yes the FBI, was there, and a recruiter came up and offered my son another tatoo. So soon he was sporting an FBI seal on the other arm. He looked like quite the sailor.
Then a man from a nearby booth offered my son a neon-light yo-yo. How fab! Our friends’ kids were also snapping up toys, candy and all sorts of premiums from the booths. So like trick or treat, we began winding our way through the fair grounds, picking up prizes. We got mugs and healthy snacks from Whole Foods, recyclable totes from Cedars Sinai, a burgundy and gold pom-pom from USC, and even a souvenir pic of me and my son at a booth for Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.
But along the way, I found myself dodging some of booths and sites that were G rated, as in Gay rated. Even though my son cannot read yet, I skirted around a big banner that spelled out “Penis Envy,” then we took a quick turn to avoid a large poster of a man in a skimpy skivvies, and we had to sidewind to avoid a topless woman with two pieces of electrical tape on her nipples.
As the crowds began streaming in, with men wearing buttless chaps and thongs and a variety of freaks and sordid-looking people surrounding us, we decided to leave.
While I am proud of who I am as an out gay woman, I sometimes do not feel so proud of the way our community represents itself. While I support everyone’s right to express themselves however they wish, why is it that “pride” for some people means that sexuality should be worn on the outside, as if it is the defining thing about being gay?
Of course heterosexuals have their festivals of debauchery, like Marti Gras, or even spring break, where public displays of sexuality are the main event, but it seems we hardly have any major gatherings of gay people where sex is not the thing. It is a shame. Not that I am a prude, but I get frustrated that sex becomes so much of the focus of these events, when there is so much more to our lives, just like in the hetero population.
I left the Pride festival feeling a little depressed.
Thank goodness the Family Services program of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center hosted a Family Pride picnic the following day, where my family could go and not worry about any bare buttocks, besides those getting a diaper change, being on display.
There was face painting, arts & crafts, balloon animals, games, food and of course, juice boxes. Ah, wholesome gay moms and dads and kids of all ages. What a relief.
GLAAD hosted a special advance screening of the CNN documentary Gary + Tony Have a Baby at the Paley Museum of TV in Beverly Hills a couple of nights ago. It was a very nice affair with a rooftop reception with new GLAAD president Jarrett Barrios along with celebrity guests including gay mom Meredith Baxter and Wilson Cruz.
The doc, which for two years follows two gay men who use a surrogate to have a baby, had its emotional moments, such as when the couple finds out the surrogate has conceived, using the sperm of one of the men, and an egg donated by another woman. The story also highlighted the hoops that gay men must jump through to have a child, including the expense, which can exceed $160,000, to pay for the legal agreements, egg donor, surrogate, medical expenses and other related costs.
Overall I think the documentary was evenhanded in its presentation of the ups and downs of the process, though as was brought up in the panel disuccsion following the presentation, Gary and Tony were lucky — other men told how they went through several donors and surrogates and many attempts before a successful pregnancy.
The panel was well represented with articulate gay men who were all fathers. One thing that stood out to me was that all of the men were in their 40s and older, which seems to be the age that most men have achieved the financial ability and relationship stability to begin a family. As I did not have a baby until I was 43, I know there are challenges to being an older parent, but this subject was not brought up in the discussion.
The speaker who impressed me the most was GLAAD’s Jarrett Barrios, who is the father of two teenage boys. He adopted his boys through the foster system, and he was honest and realistic about the occassional negative consequences his sons have endured because of having two dads – such as teasing on the baseball team, which ended in his son quitting the team. But as Barrios and other panelists emphasized, times are changing, and these types of situations happen less frequently today as more gay parents come out. Also, as Barrios stressed, images in the media of gay parents are reaching middle America through media, which is why docs like Gary + Tony are so important.
The show airs on June 24 on CNN. I am eager to see how the rest of America receives it.
Gay couple sues over birth certificate
By GRANT SCHULTE , Des Moines Register, May 14, 2010
A same-sex couple married in Des Moines last year has filed a lawsuit against two state health department officials, after the department refused to name both women on their daughter’s birth certificate.
Heather Lynn Martin Gartner, 38, and Melissa McCoy Gartner, 39, filed the Polk County lawsuit last week on behalf of their second child, who was born in September.
The couple argues that the birth certificate – which lists only Heather Gartner, the biological mother – incorrectly labels their daughter Mackenzie as a child born out of wedlock.
The Iowa Department of Public Health in March rejected the couple’s request on grounds that Melissa Gartner had not legally adopted Mackenzie and was not biologically related.
Iowa Department of Public Health Director Tom Newton, who is named in the lawsuit, said in a statement Thursday that his office will fight the claim. Newton said current state law only allows the name of a “husband” to appear on birth certificates when the mother is married, unless a judge grants parental rights to someone else.
Newton said naming a lesbian couple as parents without a legal adoption could jeopardize the rights of a biological father.
Iowa birth certificate laws “expressly recognize the biological reality that women and men each play a distinct but equally necessary role in human reproduction and have corresponding rights, duties and obligations to their child,” according to a Department of Health letter sent to the Gartners’ attorneys.
The lawsuit was filed little more than a year after the Iowa Supreme Court overturned a state law that defined marriage as a union between man and woman. The decision, Varnum vs. Brien, legalized same-sex marriage in Iowa and ignited a political debate.
About a dozen married same-sex Iowa couples have encountered similar problems with birth certificates, said Camilla Taylor, a Chicago attorney for the gay-rights group Lambda Legal, which helped file the lawsuit. Taylor, who helped argue the Varnum case, said the department’s denial “invites discrimination against those children” who are born to married gay and lesbian couples.
The lawsuit claims, for example, that Melissa Gartner could have trouble enrolling Mackenzie in child care, authorizing medical treatment or filing a missing person report with police.
The Gartners conceived their first child, son Zachary, through an anonymous sperm donor before the Varnum decision, according to the lawsuit.
Heather Gartner gave birth to Zachary in February 2007, and Melissa Gartner was added as a parent through an “expensive, intrusive, and laborious” adoption, the suit states.
The couple married in June 2009, after gay marriage became legal, according to the lawsuit. Heather Gartner gave birth to Mackenzie in September, and the Gartners filed for a birth certificate.
In November, the health department allegedly sent the couple a certificate that omitted Melissa Gartner as a parent.
The couple’s lawyer requested a birth certificate with both names, according to the lawsuit, but was rejected on grounds that the department would not place the name of a “non-birthing lesbian spouse” on the certificate unless Melissa Gartner adopted the child.
The lawsuit also names Jill France, chief of the state bureau of vital statistics, as a defendant. France has a job within the health department under Newton.
The Gartners asked a judge to declare the department’s refusal a violation of their equal-protection and due process rights, and to order a corrected birth certificate. They also seek an order to have the state pay their legal costs.
“This disparate treatment denies Mackenzie the dignity, legitimacy, security, support and protections available to children of married different-sex parents,” the lawsuit states.
The Iowa attorney general’s office will represent Newton and France in court, spokesman Bob Brammer said.
Through their attorneys, the Gartners declined several interview requests.
Staff writer Jason Clayworth contributed to this report.
Unbelieveable this was still on the books!
Assembly Oks Change to Gay ‘Cure’ law
STATE: Legislation from 1950 had labeled homosexuals as sexual deviants, sought study.
By Cathy Bussewitz, The Associated Press
Posted: 04/26/2010 09:07:21 PM PDT
SACRAMENTO – A vote in the California Assembly on Monday to modify a 60-year-old law that classified gays as sexual deviants reopened a little-known chapter of social history in a state long known as a leader for gay rights.
In 1950, the state Legislature directed the Department of Mental Health (then known as the Department of Mental Hygiene) to conduct research into the causes and potential cures of homosexuality. The law was part of a larger investigation into sexual deviance.
It classified gays as sexual deviants and required the state to conduct research to find the causes of sex crimes against children. One research paper from the era completed as a result of the law noted that gays might “engage in criminal aggressive behavior” as they strive to “overcome strong homosexual drives.”
The 80-member Assembly voted 62-0 to modify the law, removing all references to homosexuals in the provision that calls for research. It now goes to the state Senate.
“It’s time to get this phony cure off the books,” said Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, who is gay.
Supporters say change was long overdue. The law was written in 1950 in reaction to a series of sex crimes, including the molestation and murder of a 6-year-old girl in Los Angeles.
Its author, Democratic Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal of Long Beach, originally proposed an outright repeal, but some lawmakers wanted to retain language that encourages research into the causes of sex crimes against children.
“The result will be the law as it should have been written 60 years ago, but now we’re setting it right,” Lowenthal said.
The law was brought to her attention by Equality California, one of the leading gay rights groups in the state.
“Sexual orientation is not a matter of choice any more than one’s height, and neither can be changed,” said Geoff Kors, the group’s executive director.
California has not conducted research on the cause of homosexuality for decades, but it released reports on the topic in the 1950s. At the time, the state directed the Langley Porter Clinic at UC San Francisco to begin the investigation.
According to a progress report from 1951 titled “Sexual Deviation Research,” the state Legislature appropriated $100,000 for two years of research into the causes and cures of sex crimes. Curing homosexuality was meant to be part of that research.
While the reports released in the early 1950s did not determine a cause or cure for homosexuality, they included passages that revealed the prevailing scientific attitudes at the time.
“Passive, effeminate youths in attempting to assert themselves and to overcome strong homosexual drives may engage in criminal aggressive behavior,” wrote Karl M. Bowman, former medical superintendent of the Langley Porter Clinic at UCSF. “There is also the danger that overt homosexuals, ordinarily harmless and friendly, may in their hunt for partners be attracted to latent homosexuals who both desire and fear homosexual expressions. Relations of this kind may end in atrocities and homicide …”
Bowman wrote that he arranged for scientists at the steroid laboratory of the UCLA School of Medicine to study hormone levels in the urine and blood of homosexuals. It’s unclear whether the study was completed.
“A great many studies have indicated some endocrine imbalance in homosexuals,” Bowman wrote in the 1951 report. “The object of one study is to determine whether an imbalance between male and female hormonal substances exist.”
The Langley Porter Clinic continued to release reports over the next few years. Their research also aimed to determine the disposition of convicted sex offenders, the characteristics of victims of sex crimes and whether sex offenders were more likely to be married, single, widowed or divorced.
A review of those reports, which are housed in the California State Library, revealed few findings about homosexuality.
Today’s order by President Obama to give greater medical rights to same-sex partners, so that they may visit and make medical decisions for their partners in the hospital, made me think of my two dear and recently departed friends Richard Maloy and Tucker Bobst. They were supporters of the gay TV show I produced in the mid 1990s, One in 10 People. when I lived in Washington, DC, and I featured them in a segment on the show about Tucker’s work as an artist and Richard’s career as an actor.
In that interview they told me an astonishing story about how Tucker fell ill and was hospitalized and Richard was prevented from visiting him because he was not an immediate family member. After this horrid experience, they found a solution so that this would never happen again: Richard adopted Tucker.
The judge of the court in Pennsylvania, where they lived at the time, questioned why a grown man would want to adopt another man who was just a year his junior, but the judge had to allow the adoption under the law. From that point on, Richard was Tucker’s adopted “father” and entitled to all the rights of a family member.
Ironically, and a point of contention I always had with Richard and Tucker, they opposed gay marriage. As Richard, the more vocal and opinionated of the two, put it, “The straights have already mucked up marriage.” While of course he supported equal rights, such as visitation rights, they didn’t favor the institution of marriage.
Nevertheless, they found a solution that worked for them, though Richard told me that the loophole that permitted his adoption of Tucker no longer existed, so that option is not available to others now.
They were two wonderful human beings and ahead of their time, and I miss them every time I think about them. Richard died in 2006, and Tucker died in 2008. They were together 60 years. Rest in peace my friends. www.tuckerbobst.com.