Posted in crime, crime and punishment, current events, death, discrimination, EQUALITY, FAITH, gay, gun control, gun violence, hatred, homophobia, homosexual, homosexuality, lesbian, lgbt, LGBT RIGHTS, LGBTQ, LGBTQIA, love, marriage, marriage equality, mass shootings, media, murder, national rifle association, news, news and current events, nra, politics, pride, queer, religion, remembrance, Sexuality, terrorism, transgender, Uncategorized

Everybody Has a Pulse

Last year, I chose to return to undergrad for the upteenth time in order to pursue my Bachelors of Arts degree in Communication. I can now say with excitement that I am just four courses away from graduation. Last week, I turned in my final project for my Media Writing class. The project was a “feature story” that would be published in a magazine. I chose to write about the Pulse Nightclub and coming out. To memorialize the lives that were lost and directly impacted one month ago today, I have chosen to post my final project at the approximate time it all began with little editing (that’s why my citations are in APA style).

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On June 12, 2016, hundreds of people filled the Pulse Nightclub, a bar that catered to the LGBTQ community. The patrons checked their worries and stressors at the door. They were there to let loose, to be among friends, and to dance the night away. Most importantly, they were there to live. Pulse wasn’t any ordinary nightclub. It was a place of empowerment, solidarity, and it was a refuge for so many people that felt the world didn’t understand them. In the early hours of that Sunday, a gunman entered Pulse armed with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and opened fire inside. Pulse Nightclub was the latest location of the mass shooting epidemic that has plagued the United States for the last couple of decades. 49 people would ultimately perish, with 53 more injured, becoming the deadliest shooting in American history, and the worst attack against the LGBTQ community in the United States. As the names, ages, pictures and stories of the victims began to be released, many people were drawn to the heartbreaking story of Juan Guerrero and his partner Christopher Leinonen. They were planning their dream wedding together. Ultimately, their lives were cut short, but their families knew the undying love they had for one another. Instead of the dream wedding, their families were planning a joint funeral (Merchant, Johnson & Webber, 2016). As everyone was reeling in the pain and sadness of the massacre at Pulse Nightclub, those within the LGBTQ community were having a harder time coping with the tragedy. Juan’s story resonated with so many that identify as LGBTQ. He came out of the closet to his family in recent years. He feared they wouldn’t accept him; a fear many LGBTQ individuals face everyday.

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At 22 years old, Juan Guerrero had been with his partner, Christopher Leinonen, 32, for three years. Guerrero worked as a telemarketer, but had recently started taking college courses at Central Florida University. He had only recently come out to his family, fearing he wouldn’t be accepted. Not only did Juan’s family accept him, but they also revered Christopher Leinonen as a family member (Merchant, Johnson & Webber, 2016).

The fears of coming out that Juan Guerrero had were common. Sexual orientation encompasses a person’s sense of identity, which is referred to as being how an individual feels, what they call themselves, and whom they want to share their life with and have an intimate relationship (Perrin-Wallqvist & Lindblom, 2015, p 467-468). The Human Rights Campaign notes that 26 percent of LGBT youth state their biggest problems include the feeling of not being accepted by their families, trouble at school and bullying, and a fear to be out and open (HRC, 2016). Heatherington and Lavner (2008) state that when a gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual person chooses to come out to family members, it is an important psychological decision and is a major obstacle in the mind of people that identify as LGBTQ. They often fear the negative consequences that can come from coming out to family, including being kicked out, or losing financial or emotional support from their families, and take those issues into consideration prior to and during the coming out process (as cited in Perrin-Wallqvist & Lindblom, 2015, p 468). Many of the victims at Pulse on June 12 lived with those fears.

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There was a report about one victim that had not been claimed by his family. A father was so ashamed of his son’s homosexuality that he refused to claim his body. He lost his life in an unfathomable way, but his father was still too ashamed to say “He is mine,” (Keneally & Lantz, 2016). Another story that gripped national headlines was about Brenda McCool, a mother of 11 that loved to dance, especially with her gay son that she was so proud of. In an effort to save her son’s life, she shielded him from the gunfire. Brenda was a hero, and stood up to the gunmen to symbolically proclaim that “He is mine” (Summers, 2016, para 20).

 

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Whether you identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, have a family member, or a friend that identifies as such, know that there is nothing wrong with being gay, nor does anything change. The lives that were lost that night are no less a person’s child than before they were brutally murdered. The coming out process isn’t a cookie cutter. While the process isn’t unique, each situation and story is unique. Coming out experiences can fall into several different categories from planned discussions to spontaneity. Coming out stories aren’t limited to the list provided here, but in part, Manning (2015) classifies coming out as “the pre-planned conversations,” “emergent conversations,” and “confrontational conversations,” (p 127 & 131). The pre-planned conversation, which is likely the most common way of coming out of the closet for an LGBTQ individual, is the conversation in which the person has made a previous conscious decision to reveal their sexual orientation. Juan Guerrero likely used this method to come out to his family. Emergent conversations occur when the topic of homosexuality come up during the natural flow of conversation, and the closeted LGBTQ individual reveals their sexuality during the evolution of this discussion. It’s common for parents to sift through their child’s belongings. Parents may feel it’s necessary to do this in order to ensure their children are not endangering themselves through the people they hang around with, that they are involved in drugs, or engaging in other illegal activity. During this process, parents may discover their children may be gay. The parents discover this through reading notes and letters, or overhearing phone conversations. In these situations, parents describe themselves as being angry, while their children feel betrayed, scared and confused (Manning, 2015, p 127 & 131). Since there are a multitude of scenarios, LGBTQ people, their friends and family experience and deal with the process in many different ways. When dealing with the realities of being LGBTQ, or having someone in your life that is, love the person, embrace them, and dance the night away with them, just as Juan and Christopher did, and just like Brenda McCool did. It’s important that their deaths are not in vain, but instead are springboards to create dialogue, and better assessments of what love, commitment and compassion truly mean.

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In the end, people in the LGBTQ community only want to be accepted for who they are. Only then can lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders and those they deeply love begin to cope with the realities that nothing is different. In fact, the lives of Juan Guerrero, Christopher Leinonen, Brenda McCool and the countless lives that were directly impacted by this mass shooting encapsulate that notion. The sonnet that was passionately and eloquently drafted, and spoken by Lin-Manuel Miranda during the 2016 Tony Awards reminds people that “Love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside,” (Miranda, 2016). Love conquers hate, and no matter how hard people try, that is a constant that will never change. Love one another, embrace each other, and accept each other, because when the dust settles, that’s one of the only things that everyone truly wants.

HRC (2016). “Growing up LGBT in America,” Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved from:

http://www.hrc.org/youth-report/view-and-share-statistics#.V31BmZMrLeQ

 

Keneally, M. & Lantz, D. (2016, June 13). “Mother of Orlando Shooting Victim Makes

Emotional Plea,” ABC News Retrieved from: http://abcnews.go.com/US/mother-man-missing-orlando-club-shooting-breaks-awaits/story?id=39794076

 

Manning, J. (2015). “Communicating sexual identities: a typology of coming out,” Sexuality and

Culture 19(1). Retrieved from: http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.proxy-library.ashford.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=8b5e899c-a41e-4ee9-aeac-c5f0b5660941%40sessionmgr107&vid=4&hid=104

 

Merchant, N., Johnson, C.K., & Webber, T. (2016, June 15). “Victim Vignettes: All remembered

for joy, love they brought,” AP The Big Story. Retrieved from: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/5fb45f7bd2564c769ff6f3692c305c44/victim-vignettes-all-described-kind-loving-full-joy

 

Miranda, L. M.[Entertainment Tonight] (2016, June 12) “Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Emotional

Tonys Acceptance Speech: ‘Love is Love’.” [Video File] Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUffUHGqYco.

 

Perrin-Wallqvist, R. & Lindblom, J. (2015). “Coming out as gay: a phenomenological study

about adolescents disclosing their homosexuality to their parents,” Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal 43(3). Retrieved from: http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.proxy-library.ashford.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=ea33bbe5-b183-436c-a921-9107fa13a5c2%40sessionmgr102&vid=3&hid=104

 

Reynolds, D. (2016). “A Father Refused to Claim Body of Pulse Victim,” The Advocate.

Retrieved from: http://www.advocate.com/families/2016/6/24/father-refused-claim-body-pulse-victim

 

Summers, C. (2016, June 21). “’She was the mom everybody wanted’: Orlando massacre survivor

breaks down in tears at funeral for his hero mother who shielded him with her body and saved his life,” Daily Mail. Retrieved from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3652052/Orlando-massacre-survivor-breaks-tears-funeral-hero-mother-shielded-body-saved-life.html

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Posted in gay, lesbian, lgbt, love, marriage, marriage equality, pennsylvania, Uncategorized, wedding

Marriage Equality Comes to Pennsylvania

First same-sex couple to get a license in Pennsylvania - courtesy of the Human Rights Campaign
First same-sex couple to get a license in Pennsylvania – courtesy of Why Marriage Matters

Yet another example of Governor Corbett of Pennsylvania’s failed policies was at the forefront today, primary election day, 2014. Last year, 11 couples, a widow and the adult child of a same-sex couple filed a lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s version of the Defense of Marriage Act. In response to the lawsuit, Governor Corbett decided to spend an exorbitant amount of money defending the state’s position by hiring private attorneys when PA Attorney General Kathleen Kane refused to defend the unconstitutional law. Today, Judge John Jones, a President George W. Bush appointee deemed the Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional. In part, Judge Jones wrote,

“Some of our citizens are made deeply uncomfortable by the notion of same-sex marriage. However, that same-sex marriage causes discomfort in some does not make its prohibition constitutional. Nor can past tradition trump the bedrock constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection…

“Were that not so, ours would still be a racially segregated nation according to the now rightfully discarded doctrine of ‘separate but equal’…

In future generations the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage.”

Judge John Jones - George W. Bush appointee
Judge John Jones – George W. Bush appointee

It’s almost as though Judge Jones stole the words right out of my mouth. I yearn for the day when marriage is known as just marriage and not “traditional marriage,” or “gay marriage.” Marriage is such a hot button issue, because so many people have a difficult time separating a religious marriage from a civil marriage. We’re not trying to rewrite what others think their religion stands for, we are fighting tirelessly for  the recognition of civil marriage. I couldn’t be more proud of the decision Judge John Jones announced today, and quite frankly, it came as no surprise. While it’s inevitable that Governor Corbett will appeal this decision, and the decision about marriage equality will ultimately rest in the hands of the nine Supreme Court justices, we can rest assured that one day marriage equality will be a realization for all Americans and celebrate today’s major victory for the citizens of Pennsylvania.

Through my previous work with the Human Rights Campaign and Americans for Workplace Opportunity and my current work with Marriage Equality for Pennsylvania (ME4PA), I have had the distinct honor of meeting two of the plaintiffs on this case. Frita and Lynn are two average working-class people that have children of their own and are foster parents. They are the epitome of an American family. I admire these two and the many other plaintiffs in the Whitewood v. Corbett case as they are the ones spearheading the movement and paving the way for those of us unwilling or unable to fight this fight in the courtroom so that we all can have the same right to marry the person we love.

Gay married couple enjoying wedding reception

Today marks yet another day when I am proud to be a Pennsylvanian and an American. Each day we take one step closer to equality, and I cannot wait for the day when something such as marriage equality is a normal part of this country. People say our founding fathers would be rolling in their graves if they saw the decisions our courts have been making over the years, but I disagree. The genius behind the Constitution is that is a living document that evolves with society. Our own attitudes towards certain laws have changed over time and our country has to be able to make those adjustments. The Constitution makes that possible. In the words of Macklemore, no freedom until we’re all equal.

Posted in current events, discrimination, lgbt, LGBT RIGHTS, marriage, marriage equality, news, politics, Uncategorized

Words of Wisdom for the Anti-Gay Republican Party

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If there has ever been a time to enshrine discrimination into our Constitution, the time is now. As the United States Supreme Court has now ruled that Article 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and the defendants in the Proposition 8 case didn’t have standing to bring their case to the federal level, marriage equality sweeping across the United States is all but inevitable. Republicans are now in a frenzy to drum up support for a Constitutional amendment to the United States Constitution defining marriage as between a man and a woman. They’re already coming out in droves announcing a slippery slope into legalized polygamy, bestiality and pedophilia.

During the midterm elections next year, and in the 2016 United States Presidential election we are going to see a wedge between the two main political parties that will be polar opposites. The top tier Democrat candidates will support full marriage equality while the top tier Republicans will support a federal marriage amendment defining “traditional marriage.” If the Republican Party wants to remain a viable party at the federal level, they are going to have to redefine the way they handle the issue of marriage equality.

Anti-Gay Kansas Republican Senator Tim Huelskamp
Anti-Gay Kansas Republican Representative Tim Huelskamp (District 1)

The latest attempt at enshrining discrimination into the United States Constitution comes from United States Representative Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), who recently introduced the dead on arrival Marriage Protection Amendment. The bill seeks to amend the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. While there is no chance of this bill gaining much steam, it shows Republicans are still determined  to deny LGBT couples the same rights given to straight people under the law.

The problem with neo-conservative politicians continuing to adopt the stance of a federal amendment banning same-sex marriage is that it’s becoming an out-of-touch view. It’s no secret by now that people are changing their attitude towards marriage equality. While several years ago a majority of Americans supported amendments banning same-sex marriage, that view is quickly changing. Today, polls show a majority of Americans support marriage equality. In order for Republicans to continue to be viable political candidates, they must adopt a different attitude towards marriage equality.

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Former Senator Rick Santorum

In 2012, there were varying platforms represented on the stage of Republican presidential debates. The majority of the candidates supported a marriage amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann ran almost exclusively on the anti-gay platform. Mitt Romney and Rick Perry both supported an anti-gay marriage amendment, but were less outspoken about the issue when compared to the other two candidates. Jon Huntsman, who is likely the most balanced candidate to run for president in recent history supported civil unions and domestic partnerships. Ron Paul didn’t believe the federal government should be in the business of marriage at all. Gary Johnson, who ended up dropping out of the Republican primary race to secure the Libertarian presidential nomination (and my vote for president) as well as little known candidate who was the first openly gay Republican candidate for president, Fred Karger both supported full marriage equality.

We’re likely to see a reemergence of Rick Santorum in 2016 along with several other candidates that, while not as outspoken on the issue of gay rights as Santorum will share the same sentiment. Democrats will bring candidates to their stage proclaiming their absolute support for marriage equality.

Prop 8 Plaintiffs Paul Katami's and Jeff Zarrillo's wedding - June 28, 2013
Prop 8 Plaintiffs Paul Katami’s and Jeff Zarrillo’s wedding – June 28, 2013

The clearest examples to illustrate the need for the Republican party to reexamine their stance on gay rights comes from four major ballot initiatives from 2012. Four states – Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington all had some sort of gay marriage initiative on the ballot, such as the legalization of marriage equality, upholding marriage equality or a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. In each state the people voted on the side of marriage equality – an unprecedented pattern breaking the long line of people voting to ban same-sex marriage. People are slowly warming up to equality, and if the Republican party continues to be on the side of discrimination, the Republican party will be on the losing end of the race for the White House and many House, Senate and Governorships throughout the United States over the next few years.

The answer to the Republican’s gay marriage problem is quite simple. We’re never going to get 100% Republican support for marriage equality. Some Republican senators such as Mark Kirk of Illinois, Alaskan senator Lisa Murkowski and the senator from Ohio, Rob Portman have come out in support of marriage equality, but there will always only be a small minority of Republicans supporting gay marriage. In order for the Republican party to remain a powerful source, they must distance themselves from dealing with marriage equality at all by the federal government. I have advocated this for many years. While I believe gay rights must be dealt with by the federal government, the Republican party ought to adopt one of the pillars of the Republican party; leave it up to the states. In order for the Republican party to continue to be a relevant political party in America, they must adopt a federal laissez-faire attitude towards marriage equality. They must believe in leaving the issue of marriage equality up to each individual state. In this manner, they can stick to their ignorant principles while not looking too extreme to the more moderate voters.

I don’t expect to see my advice for the Republican Party to go anywhere beyond this blog, but my advice is one of the most important ideas the Republican party can adopt to increase their chances of maintaining or gaining seats in the House and Senate in 2014 and 2016 as well as reclaiming the White House in 2016.

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.