Posted in Florida, gay, homosexual, justice, lesbian, lgbt, Uncategorized

LGBT Community Embraces Kaitlyn Hunt

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The LGBT community has worked tirelessly to reach the recognition we deserve. We debunked the idea that we were sick. We’ve taken long strides in getting stricter penalties for biased-based crimes on the basis of sexual orientation. We’ve successfully lobbied for the repeal of Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell. We’ve triumphed in some cases and continue to work diligently to bring marriage equality to all American citizens. We’e dismissed the ignorant when they’ve lumped us together with rapists, pedophiles, thieves and murderers. Yet, we are gambling our reputation and hard work by affiliating with and supporting a woman’s criminal case involving having sex with a minor.

18-year-old high school senior, Kaitlyn Hunt of Florida recently found herself on the wrong side of the law. She had been in an intimate relationship with a 14-year-old female who played along side her on their high school basketball team. The 14-year-old’s parents believe Kaitlyn coerced their daughter into becoming a “homosexual.” After discovering Hunt’s relationship with their daughter, the 14-year-old parents took the matter to the police department. The prosecutor’s office is now pursuing two counts of lewd and lascivious acts against a minor against Kaitlyn Hunt. She recently rejected a plea deal of a lesser charge of child abuse and will likely be taking her chances in a Florida courtroom.

In Florida, it is illegal for anyone to have sex with a minor under the age of 16. There is a close-in age proximity, commonly known as a “Romeo and Juliet” law that allows those up to the age of 23 to have sexual relations with someone 16 or 17. Since Hunt’s “victim” was below the age of 16, her actions were considered illegal. This story has soared to international notoriety, partly through garnering support from celebrities and athletes. The LGBT community has embraced Kaitlyn’s case and has paraded it around as matter of inequality. I won’t deny the fact that this case has roots in homosexuality, but it’s important to separate this criminal act from homosexuality. When a male has an intimate relationship with a female, we don’t see headlines proclaiming the man to be straight. The criminal case has nothing to do with Kaitlyn’s lesbianism. It’s a mistake for the gay community to be outspoken about this issue. Embracing Kaitlyn’s case has and will continue to hinder the fight for equality in America. The opposition is already using this case as ammunition against us. “The gay community is trying to legalize pedophilia, just like we predicted,” they say.

kaitlynhuntIf I said I didn’t feel sympathy towards Kaitlyn Hunt, I’d be lying. I do feel sorry for her. But first and foremost, it’s important to remember Kaitlyn Hunt broke the law. She committed a crime not because she’s a lesbian, but because her underage girlfriend cannot consent to physical intimacy.  People say the prosecutor is being heavy-handed because Hunt is a lesbian; they say the parents of the 14-year-old are homophobic. They say the 14-year-old’s parents should have solved the issue parent to parent instead of through the criminal justice system, but ultimately it is the choice of the minor’s parents to pursue criminal charges against Kaitlyn.

I’m disappointed in how so many people are using this as a platform for the gay community when we should really be steering clear of this case. Here is a sampling of the attention Kaitlyn’s case is getting in the LGBT and media circles.

– The online LGBT magazine, The Advocate used the following title for one of their news articles – “Florida Teen Facing Sex Offender Charge for Consensual Same-Sex Relationship” – This title is misleading and misinforming people. Florida states a minor can consent to sexual relationships once they turn 16 and their partner is 23 or younger. Children that are 15 and younger cannot consent to sexual contact, therefore Kaitlyn’s relationship cannot be consensual. Neal Broverman of The Advocate writes, “Florida Teen Arrested, Expelled for Same-Sex Relationship.” Andy Towle, a popular LGBT blogger wrote a blog post on Kaitlyn’s arrest using this misleading headline; “Girl Arrested and Expelled from High School Over Gay Relationship.” The liberal news outlet, Huffington Post announces, “Kaitlyn Hunt, Florida Teen, Faces Felony Charges Over Same-Sex Relationship.” Chris Hayes, liberal commentator on MSNBC said Kaitlyn Hunt’s case is an “LGBT injustice.” Radio host of the Michael Signorile Show on SiriusXM’s Out-Q channel, Michael Signorile also responded to an article stating this case is “outrageous” on Twitter.

Outrageous! —> Kaitlyn Hunt, Florida Teen, Faces Felony Charges Over Same-Sex Relationship huff.to/19QKZCI via @huffpostgay

— Mike Signorile (@MSignorile) May 19, 2013

Model and self-proclaimed LGBT activist, Colby Melvin tweeted a link to the above Huffington Post with this added commentary:

This is ABSURD! Kaitlyn Hunt, Florida Teen, Faces Felony Charges Over Same-Sex Relationship huff.to/19QKZCI @huffpostgay #equality

— Colby Melvin (@colbymelvin) May 21, 2013

This is a case of an adult having sex with a minor that cannot consent to a physically intimate relationship. This story is tarnishing the gay rights movement and setting it back. I am disappointed in the gay community and how they have reacted to this story and continue to do so.

If people believe the age of consent laws need to change, then I say more power to them. Don’t drag homosexuality into the mix where it doesn’t belong. Irrational anti-gay groups and individuals will continue to run away with the gay community’s unofficial public relations response to Kaitlyn Hunt’s case. They will plaster it all over the media in close battleground states proclaiming what they’ve argued about  is finally coming true. Conservative groups will proclaim gay people want undefined access to underage children and the only way we can combat this is by defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Take a step aside folks. If we continue to adopt Kaitlyn Hunt’s case as a gay rights issue and a matter of equality, then we had better man our battle stations, because the hurdles standing in our way towards true equality just got higher.

Posted in crime, discrimination, gay, Harvey Milk, lesbian, lgbt, Milk, murder, San Francisco

Dedication to Harvey Milk: Happy 83rd Birthday

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I wasn’t familiar with the man, Supervisor Harvey Milk until Sean Penn portrayed him in the 2008 blockbuster, Milk. When the movie first came out, I didn’t quite understand what it was about and had no interest in seeing it. As a guy that had been recently diagnosed with lactose intolerance, I thought the movie was about the dairy industry. Some friends of mine convinced me otherwise and a group of us went to see it in the theaters. At the time the movie came out, I had just finally accepted myself and had just recently come out to most of my friends.

For those unfamiliar with Harvey Milk, he was a city supervisor for the city of San Francisco. He is believed to have been the first openly gay elected official in a major city. Milk worked tirelessly for the gay rights movement, cosponsoring a bill that banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the city of San Francisco. He became the face of the opposition to Prop 6 (The Briggs Initiative), a movement to ban gay teachers, suspected gay teachers and any faculty member protecting those gay teachers from holding a position as an educator in the state of California. When he took on the role of the voice for anti-Prop 6 supporters, the bill was favored to pass by a 2-1 margin in the upcoming elections. Harvey Milk traveled the state garnering support for his cause by having public debates with the sponsor of Prop 6, State Senator John Briggs. The initiative failed in 1978 in a relatively close race.

Harvey Milk along with Mayor George Moscone of San Francisco were brutally assassinated by the former city supervisor Dan White after Moscone refused to give Mr. White his job back after he had resigned from that position.

This past Wednesday would have been Harvey Milk’s 83rd birthday. As I trek along on my own path into the political field, Harvey Milk has become an inspiration and hero for me. He stood for what he believed in and never backed down. He educated Californians on homosexuality and how we are not sick. He encouraged young gay people and advocated for people to come out of the closet. He said if people around us realized they knew someone that was gay, it could help open their hearts to the LGBT community and vote no on the Briggs Initiative. His strategy must’ve worked as Prop 6 failed by a margin of 58.4% to 41.6%.

I often wonder how different this country would be if Harvey Milk’s life hasn’t been cut short. He had successfully lobbied for equality and change on the city level in San Francisco and accomplished a significant amount during his 11 months in office. With Prop 8 now before the United States Supreme Court, I wonder if the outcome for the ballot initiative would have been the same if Harvey Milk had still been around, or even if he had more time in the political arena.

Those are always going to be questions I ponder but will never know the answer. The legacy of Harvey Milk should be required knowledge for anyone who happens to be gay, and even for those who are not. His legacy should be a reminder to all of us that change can happen. Equality can happen and that we’ve got to have hope. Harvey Milk is an inspiration to all.

As I think about my own career path and my own life, I often find myself pausing and asking, what would Harvey Milk do? I don’t want to be a politician. I want to work on campaigns whether they be for politicians or initiatives I believe in. I want to lobby for equality, tolerance and acceptance. I want to work tirelessly and be as passionate as Harvey Milk was to pass sweeping reform in San Francisco and to bring down a bigoted and misguided proposition. I want people to know whether you’re gay or straight, bisexual or asexual, no matter what you are, you are no less than any other person in this world. On that same token, you’re no better than anyone else either.

Whether you’ve been out for 50 years, just came out, thinking of coming out or you’re deep in the closet, know that you are not alone. You are unique and bring a special quality to this universe. You have a large family of LGBT and allies that support you and love you for who you are.

If you are still in the closet, I encourage you to come out, but only do it when you’re ready. I’m only about 95% of the way out of the closet. The other 5% will come in time. I cherish the relationships I have with the 5% that don’t know too much to possibly destroy those relationships. It’s primarily to keep my grandparents out of the loop. Once they are gone, I will come out to the remaining family members, unless something happens that forces me out, such as a ballot initiative in Pennsylvania about gay rights.

Harvey Milk is an inspiration to us all and we will continue to carry on his legacy of equality as we fight to be treated the same as our straight counterparts.

Posted in Defense of Marriage Act, democrat, DOMA, gay, gop, government, homosexuality, lgbt, libertarian, marriage, marriage equality, news, politics, prop 8, republican, same-sex marriage, supreme court, Uncategorized

[UPDATED: June 23, 2013] Supreme Court Watch: Prop 8 and Defense of Marriage Act

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When I first started brainstorming ideas on a new blog I could start with a specific but broad enough theme to it, I assumed I would eventually broach the subject of marriage equality. I didn’t originally plan to talk about this topic so soon, or even as my first political entry. I think with marriage equality being at the forefront of the gay rights movement and with the fight reaching the Supreme Court that its important to discuss the topic now.

In March, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments about two major marriage equality questions. They first heard arguments about the voter-approved Constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman only in California. The case is officially known has Hollingsworth v. Perry. It is unofficially called and more widely known as Proposition 8 or Prop 8. The following day, the justices heard oral arguments about the Defense of Marriage Act. Rulings on both cases are expected to be handed down sometime next month.

Opponents of marriage equality cite religion as the reason why same-sex couples should not be afforded the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts. They also argue that the definition of marriage cannot be changed. A problem is that many religious people believe they have full ownership over marriage. Marriage actually predates many organized religions and same-sex marriage was not uncommon. Not until around 342 AD did rules start getting placed on marriage. The point here is that until religion came along, same-sex marriage was a common practice.

The problem with people claiming the definition of marriage cannot be changed is that the definition has changed throughout time. Marriage was once seen more of a transaction between a man and the bride’s father than about being in a loving and committed relationship. For a price, the man could trade something to the bride’s father for the right to marry her. The woman was seen more as property than an equal counterpart to the marriage. A woman was to be a baby-making machine that catered to the household needs. She would cook, clean, do laundry, etc. The man provided a house, money and protection for the woman. Today, in western culture, marriage is about one man and one woman having a loving, committed and equal footing on the relationship. The roles the man and woman have changed over time, therefore the definition of marriage has changed through time.

Several religions have also defined marriage in more than one way. The Bible defines marriage in many different ways, eight to be exact. Judaism also had multiple definitions of marriage, including polygyny. Islam also allows for polygyny. Hinduism used to allow for polygyny until 1955 and Buddhism believed in marriage to be more of a civil ritual compared to a religious rite.

People tend to forget that in American history, marriage is not only a religious institution. Marriage represents a civil contract and a religious union. The problem lies in the fact that marriage and religion have become so intertwined through history that it’s hard for most people to separate the two types of marriage from each other. The fight for marriage equality in the United States isn’t a fight for religious marriages, but a fight for civil marriage equality.  We don’t live in a theocracy, or have a government that prefers one religion over another, or we’re not supposed to. Religion holds no bearing on the argument for or against marriage equality.

Since the defendants in Hollingsworth v Perry can’t argue that same-sex marriage would impede on religious principles, what have they decided to argue? They are arguing that same-sex couples can be discriminated against and treated differently than opposite-sex couples, because gay people can’t procreate. Yes, you read that right. Before the Supreme Court Justices, the defendants argued that same-sex marriage can be banned because a requirement for marriage must be about two people’s abilities to have biological children. The defendants were asked about infertile couples and older couples, but tried to sidestep those logical arguments. Marriage isn’t about procreation. Marriage is about two loving and consenting adults entering into a bond together.

The plaintiffs in the Prop 8 case are arguing that the defendants do not hold bearing to represent the state of California and do not have direct consequences as a result of Prop 8 being overturned. They also argued that banning same sex marriage is a violation of the 14th amendment of the United States Constitution.

While it’s a no-brainer where I stand on the issue, I don’t think this case is going to legalize marriage equality for the entire United States. The United States Supreme Court has a couple of rulings they can make at their disposal. The first, unlikely ruling is that banning same-sex marriage anywhere in the United States is unconstitutional and marriage equality must be provided to everyone. The second possible ruling is that states that have created a “separate but equal” type of state, in which gay people are provided with domestic partnerships or civil unions are unconstitutional and marriage equality must be given in those particular states only. These states would include California, Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan and New Jersey. The third and more likely ruling will sort of be like a non-ruling in a sense. The Supreme Court Justices in a split 5-4 decision will uphold the ruling of the Ninth Circuit of Appeals. In essence, same-sex marriage will be legalized in California and California only. They will agree with the lower court of appeal’s decision that the defendants do not have grounds to represent the state of California in the Prop 8 debate. I believe we will have to have another couple or group of couples appeal their denial of a marriage license in order to get the landmark decision we are all hoping for.

The Defense of Marriage Act is a law that was passed by the United States Congress in the 90s and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, a democrat. The law defined marriage as between a man and a woman and gave states permission to not recognize marriage equality when two same-sex people are married in a state that recognizes marriage equality. I expect this court case to be a huge victory for equality in the United States. I’m a little less knowledgeable on what the specific vote will come down to, but I do believe the Defense of Marriage Act will be ruled unconstitutional. During the oral arguments in March, most of the Supreme Court justices seemed to question the constitutionality of DOMA. A ruling on this case is also expected sometime next month. It will likely be around the same time, if not at the same time when the justices rule on the constitutionality of Proposition 8. If DOMA is struck down as unconstitutional, this will put into place the federal government having to provide federal benefits to couples that are married in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage. We will start seeing states that do not already have a Defense of Marriage Act of their own passing these laws in order to make it so gay couples’ marriages in other states are not recognized in the state they are going to or may currently live in. I think gay couples that are not able to be married and get federal benefits simply based upon their state’s recognition of a “traditional” marriage will have better chances of getting a case to the Supreme Court and getting a more sweeping ruling in the future.

I hope to be able to write about these victories next month and I plan to eventually write a bit more extensively about same-sex marriage.