Monthly Archives: July 2009

Lesbian Pioneers Celebrate 70 Years Together

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported Monday that a local couple will be celebrating their 70th anniversary in August. It’s a charming story, one that would be a big deal if even if they were a straight couple.

Photo courtesy South Florida Sun Sentinel
Photo courtesy South Florida Sun Sentinel

This is how it went recently for Caroline Leto and Venera Magazzu as they sipped lemonade on their couch in Dania Beach: “We’re not going to have a party,” said Magazzu, 97, insisting they are too old for such things.

“Oh, yes we are,” responded Leto, 96, who noted the two can still polka. “This is a big one.”

Indeed. A party celebrating 70 years together is a big deal for any pair. But a celebration of this couple’s love takes on special meaning, considering they had to keep silent about it for decades.

“You just couldn’t tell everyone we were lovers,” said Leto. “You tell people we’re friends, and some thought we were sisters.”

Leto and Magazzu downplay their pioneering role in the gay and lesbian community. But many of their friends and relatives talk it up anyway, marveling at how their love was able to transcend a lifetime’s worth of obstacles.

To mark their Aug. 17 milestone, members of Etz Chaim, a gay and lesbian congregation in Wilton Manors, are planning a party. They hope Leto and Magazzu will attend and show everyone how to do the polka.

“Honestly, I think they are more in love with each other than they were back then,” said longtime close friend and congregation member Gayle Scott. “Look at straight couples. You are lucky if you are married after seven years. … That is an amazing love story.”

In 1939 Leto and Magazzu met at a party in New York. Leto thought Magazzu was stylish. Magazzu thought Leto was funny.

After a courtship of about a year, Magazzu, a teacher, and Leto, a telegraph operator, moved into a tiny house in New York. They spent most of their lives there, with only close family members and closer friends knowing about their relationship.

Magazzu, a former Army medic, said she often fought the urge to tell others, and feared what “outsiders” would think. She believes society back then was more receptive to two women living together than two men — or at least less inquisitive.

“I think most people had their suspicions, but they didn’t really make a big deal about it because it was just two women,” she said. “They didn’t ask, and we just didn’t talk about it.”

Leto’s niece, Patricia Dillion, said she grew up believing the two were sisters and referred to them as aunts. One day, at a family party, an apparently tipsy Leto let Dillion in on a secret.

“She mentioned they got married,” said Dillion. “I was so happy, but then I got sad thinking that all that time they really couldn’t be upfront about it.”

In 1996, the couple registered as domestic partners in New York City. They said they did it because they felt the need to tell everyone about their life together.

Happy anniversary, ladies. Thanks for living your lives fully and showing us how it’s done.


In the United Methodist Church, All Does Not Mean All

The Council of Bishops won’t make their final announcement until October, but I’ve seen enough results to call the winner on the United Methodist Church (UMC) All Means All Amendment (go here for more details on Amendment One). We lost.

A tally appeared online in mid-June, I don’t know from whom, and while the spreadsheet is now offline I do have a pdf of the page taken June 29. After Desert Southwest and Indiana voted in early July, the spread shrank 0.16%, with 50.08% against the amendment and 49.92% for it. The sheet went offline shortly thereafter.

If all we had to worry about were the remaining 11 conferences, I’d still be holding out hope. However, the international nature of the UMC puts us solidly in the loss category. This tally excluded non-US conferences where the UMC is a much more conservative body. It’s a foregone conclusion that votes from African and Asian countries where even speaking out in favor of gays is literally illegal will be nearly unanimous against Amendment One. To withstand the avalanche of international NO votes, we needed to have a buffer several times larger than the 1% that we seem to have had.

The sad part is that generally speaking, I think the people in the pews are much less rigid than this. My experience is that most people who are uncertain about the issue of homosexuality are solidly in the “Let’s put that aside” category. Unfortunately, AC representatives tend to be older and more conservative (they can afford to go to conference for a week) and they tend to hold the position for many years.

In some churches it’s nearly impossible to get people, even pastors, engaged in issues concerning the greater church. Consequently, change is slow in coming because of outdated ideas, outright lies from our opponents, and simple inertia. And so just like last April, the bigots win the day while more people are harmed by the United Methodist Church.

The UMC has made its decision against welcoming all people in our church. For at least the next three years, we will continue to allow pastors to make heterosexuality a requirement for discipleship.

Like it or not, this is the Church we are. Forgive me for not being a proud Methodist.

Documentary Shines Light on Invisible DADT Victims

This documentary from In Their Boots made the rounds a few weeks ago, but I didn’t get a chance to watch it until last night. It’s powerful footage, a reminder that it’s not just the soldiers who suffer because of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Their spouses suffer as well.

Gay Soldier’s Husband blogs regularly (and anonymously) at Servicemembers United. Ben Cartwright (his real name, I swear) is active in the San Diego LGBT community (possibly NSFW). I haven’t been able to find information on the anonymous lesbian couple, probably because both are in the service. If anyone runs across some information please leave a comment.

Also, keep your eye on In Their Boots. The series of documentaries is based around the military, not DADT issues specifically.

What’s it like in the closet?

This video should be required viewing. In fact, I order you —ORDER YOU— to sit down and watch it. It was made in 1993 (The fashions haven’t aged well, have they?), but it’s still relevant and it’s still powerful. Unfortunately, it’s still true. The speaker is author and educator Brian McNaught, from his video Growing Up Gay and Lesbian.

Straight people, it’s ten minutes long and you need to watch it uninterrupted. Make it happen. (Yes, I’m bossy today.)

LGBTs, I’ll advise you to watch it in a safe environment and alone if possible. I’m not going to lie, I started crying halfway through.

I’d like the straight people who watched this to do as McNaught said at the end. Don’t think on it for long, and don’t censor yourself. Leave it as a comment, if you would.

There’s another clip from the video at McNaught’s site, but I’ll let you go over there to see it. It’s vital that straight people know what we’ve gone through and the differences that have been built into society.

knowing is half the battle

h/t Towleroad

Episcopal Church Doors Open Wide for All People

episcopal-shieldLast week after I posted some news coming from the Episcopal Church General Convention, I found out that there would be a whole lot more to come. For the sake of I decided to hold off until it was over rather than posting it piecemeal. Well, it’s over now and the news is just about 100% positive. Here are a few snippets from An Inch at a Time, the blog of Rev. Susan Russell:

We saw those goals realized in the adoption of the following resolutions:

D025 — Ordination
It can – and has – been said that D025 does not “repeal” B033 – and that is, of course, true. There will still be bishops with jurisdiction and standing committees who will choose to “exercise restraint” when consenting the election of a bishop whose “manner of life” would cause concern to the wider Anglican Communion. (And we all know that is code for “partnered gay or lesbian bishop.”) Nevertheless, the inclusive and expansive language of D025 states “this is where we are in 2009” – and frees bishops and standing committees to focus on the theological orientation rather than the sexual orientation of qualified candidates to the episcopate if they choose to.

Furthermore, by stating unequivocally that “God has called and may call any individual in the church to any ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church, in accordance with the discernment process set forth in the Constitution and Canons of the church” – D025 actually states for the first time as an official resolution of the Episcopal Church that the extra-canonical requirement of celibacy of gay and lesbian candidates for ordination is not the mind of this church.

C056 — Blessings
What the Episcopal Church adopted in Resolution C056 is a broad local option for the blessings of the marriages, unions and partnerships of same sex couples and a call to the church to work together toward common liturgical expressions of those blessings.

The Rev. Sam Candler (Atlanta), chair of the committee that presented the resolution, called it “an elegant blend of theological care, ecclesiastical breadth and pastoral generosity.”

In other historic action, the General Convention adopted resolutions supporting the enactment of anti-discrimination [ENDA] and hate crimes legislation protecting transgender people at local, state and federal levels. Both houses also adopted resolutions adding “gender identity and expression” to its nondiscrimination policy for hiring lay employees and calling for the revision of church paper and electronic forms to allow a wider range of gender identifications.

It’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of these decisions. The House of Deputies and House of Bishops gave the Episcopal Church access to powerful new tools that will allow the Church to reach so many people who have been outcast for so long.

And it’s already yielding results. In a later post, Rev. Russell talks about the highlights of her experience at the convention.

The woman who stopped me in the worship hall to thank Integrity for our work and then to share that she had attended the Integrity Eucharist with her 14 year old son — and that afterwards in their hotel room he had come out to her.

“I’ve known he was gay since he was about 4,” she said, her eyes welling up. “And have been waiting for him to figure it out. The fact that he came to himself in the context of a celebration of the Eucharist — that he’s never going to have to wonder if his church or his family will love and accept him as he is — I just can’t thank you enough.”

“He’s a really great kid,” she said, wiping her eyes. “And he’s going to be FABULOUS gay man! “

This is how coming out should be. No anger, no estrangement, no hatred. No fear. Only joy, love, and acceptance. What a gift.

I join this mother in thanking Rev. Russell and IntegrityUSA for their tireless efforts for the Church Universal and the LGBT community.

Recalibrating the Asterisk

The dust from last November and this year’s marriage victories is settling, and the place of blogs in the discussion is undeniable. I’ve been wondering, though, what I bring to the table through this blog. Is there anything at Asterisk that readers can’t (and don’t) get elsewhere or am I just talking because I have to post something?

As I was struggling to put my thoughts together for this post, another blogger (Chris Geidner, who you should be reading) pointed out something that I’ve noticed: There’s a lot of repetition coming from the LGBT blogs. Today’s win on the Matthew Shepard Act was reported by no less than five important blogs within a few minutes of the vote. As Geidner pointed out, this duplication of efforts seems like a waste of resources.

I’m thankful that I don’t have to worry about mentioning every news bulletin because of blogs like Joe.My.God and Towleroad (Sorry, Queerty, no pr0n at work). I’m relieved that I don’t have to take on the hate mongers every day now that Jeremy at Good-As-You, Alvin at Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters, and the gang at Box Turtle Bulletin have agreed to take on that part of the battle. And I’m grateful that other bloggers like Thomas Waters and David Mailloux talk about their individual efforts, giving me the urge to keep going.

So I’m recalibrating. Instead of trying to grab every news item, I’ll be more selective in my posting. You may see a little less of me in your RSS reader (you do have a subscription, right? RIGHT?), but hopefully it’ll mean more when I’m there.

We don’t want to lose the energy that our community found last November, but my hope is that we’ll all find ways to be better coordinated. I’m hopeful that Asterisk will become a more substantive space in the coming weeks and months. I hope you’ll stick around and join in the conversation!

I feel bad for Pat Buchanan

I really do. I feel bad for Pat Buchanan because so many others in his generation have died and left him to defend bigotry on his own. That must be frustrating.

Buchanan appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show last night to talk about the confirmation hearings of Judge Sonia Sotomayor. It’s one of the most uncomfortable and revealing thirteen minutes of television I’ve seen in a long time. Others have chopped it into bits for easier consumption, but here’s the entire segment:

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Buchanan appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews the previous night. The last couple minutes have been making the rounds, but I find the preceding ten minutes far more edifying. Throughout the segment, Buchanan actively ignores facts and points of law brought to the show by John Payton, President of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

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Some time ago I read a quote from Martin Luther King about a conversation he had with an older segregationist who said that he knew segregation was coming to an end, but that he hoped it happened after he died. Pat Buchanan is in the same place, stuck in a time when calling an African American “boy” was not just commonplace, but expected, when a Latina woman was good for washing clothes and not much else.

He’s honestly thunderstruck, with no purposeful malice intended. The thought that a recalibration of the scales of opportunity positively benefits society is beyond him, proof and reason be damned. He seriously believes that Sotomayor’s studying and improving her second-language English in college means that she was illiterate.

In fifty years, I wonder who will carry on for Maggie Gallagher. I wonder who will take to the airwaves and spew long-discarded nonsense when Sally Kern is gone. I wonder whose abject bigotry our children’s children will be surprised by when James Dobson has long since passed away.

Whoever it is, I don’t envy them.

Gay Panic: It’s Not Going to Stop

The Washington Blade just published this report:

A grand jury has indicted a man who allegedly killed a gay man last year in D.C. with misdemeanor assault.

D.C. Superior Court Judge Frederick Weisberg on Thursday informed Robert Lee Hanna, a D.C. resident, that a grand jury indicted him with the charge of misdemeanor assault for the crime. Hanna’s lawyers entered a plea of not guilty. The case was placed on the calendar of Judge Rafael Diaz for a subsequent court appearance Aug. 17.

On Sept. 7, Tony Randolph Hunter, a gay Maryland man, was allegedly attacked near the bar then known as BeBar, which is now EFN Lounge.

Police found Hunter lying unconscious on the street minutes after noticing an altercation a few blocks from where they were on patrol. Hunter remained unconscious for 10 days at Howard University Hospital before he died Sept. 17.

Police arrested Hanna Oct. 15 for voluntary manslaughter in connection with Hunter’s death. Hanna told police he punched Hunter only after Hunter grabbed his buttocks and crotch, according to an Oct. 16 police affidavit filed in D.C. Superior Court.

The Gay Panic Defense is a powerful weapon that straight defendants and defense attorneys are going to continue to wield. They use it because, as we’ve seen in the last few weeks, it works stunningly well.

Homophobia on Display from Joe Scarborough

Mika Brzezinski, Joe Scarborough’s co-host on Morning Joe (sponsored by Starbucks) cut him short (she’s the smart one), but yeah.


SCARBOROUGH: It’s a bit dainty, I’m just going to say it.

This probably wouldn’t be that big a deal if it weren’t for Scarborough’s history on this kind of thing. From March 31, 2008, after then-Candidate Obama went bowling at a campaign stop:

(I decided not to catalog all the times Scarborough said “Wheee!”)


SCARBOROUGH: You know, Willie, the thing is, Americans want their president, if it’s a man, to be a real man.


SCARBOROUGH: You get 150, you’re a man —


SCARBOROUGH: — or a good woman.


SCARBOROUGH: Baby, if you go to Altoona, Pennsylvania, on a Saturday night and you’re going to try to bowl — Oh, that’s so dainty. Ugh.


FORD: He probably shouldn’t do that again, but I tell you, it showed a human side to him. I mean, it showed a very humble side to him.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, yeah, yeah, yeah.

BRZEZINSKI: He is a politician.

SCARBOROUGH: A very human side? A prissy side.

Why is it homophobic? Because “dainty”, “prissy”, and “not a real man” are just standards-approved versions of “fuckin’ faggot.”

(Thanks to Media Matters for the heads up.)

Update: Rush Limbaugh had the same reaction to the pitch, saying “he throws like a girl”. Seriously, what’s up with these guys worrying about how well the president can throw?

Episcopal Church Overwhelmingly Approves Pro-LGBT Measure

episcopal-shieldAt the General Convention of the Episcopal Church yesterday, the House of Deputies overwhelmingly approved a resolution overriding a three-year hold on election of LGBT bishops. The 2006 resolution was a response to the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson, who I’ve talked about before.

Instead of trying failing to explain what this is all about, how about if offer words from two sources that are intimately familiar with the particulars? First up is a press release from IntegrityUSA, the LGBT advocacy group for the Episcopal Church.

In a special session today, the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church approved a resolution, 151 to 66, which effectively overrides the three-year ban on gay bishops within the church. The gently-worded resolution, DO25, affirms Episcopal membership in the Anglican Communion while declaring that all orders of ministry, including the episcopate, are open to the LGBT baptized of the church. The resolution now goes to the House of Bishops where it is not expected to receive an overly warm reception.

“We were reminded today of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent words to us that ‘there is no unity without truth.’ Today the clergy and laity of The Episcopal Church voted for both truth and unity by a wide margin,” said The Rev. Susan Russell, President of IntegrityUSA.

DO25 is the first resolution the House of Deputies has considered regarding the consecration of LGBT bishops within the Episcopal Church since the last general convention in 2006. At that gathering in Columbus, OH, in the waning hours of the 10-day event, then-Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold pressured both governing bodies of the church to pass resolution BO33 which placed a moratorium on the consecration of additional gay bishops and on same-gender blessings. The action was in response to the election in 2003 of The Right Rev. Gene Robinson, Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church.

Anglican bishops, primarily in Africa and South America, were outraged over Bishop Robinson’s consecration and threatened the Episcopal Church’s continued membership in the Anglican Communion. BO33 was an attempt to mollify that outrage, but caused problems at home with the LGBT faithful and their supporters. At this year’s convention, numerous resolutions have been proposed to rectify or revoke BO33 and LGBT issues have garnered more attention than any other matter before the legislative body.

“We call on our bishops to affirm that we are a church ready to move forward in mission and ministry by joining the deputies and concurring with this vote,” Russell said.

Next and finally, Rev. Richard Helmer gives a bit of commentary on what this means to the Episcopal Church (excerpted from Episcopal Café)

D025 re-anchors our orders at every level in the centrality of our baptism in Christ Jesus; our reliance on the Spirit in the midst of community to draw out the best gifts of all our members, gay or straight, celibate or living in covenanted relationship. Without rancor, it also affirms our love for the Anglican Communion – a reflection of our heart for Anglican ministry around the world and our commitment to upholding it in every way we can. But this support and participation is no longer offered by our trying to be something we’re not. Rather D025 offers commitment of our authentic selves, with all our differences, as a Church – as a diverse Body of Christians on mission both locally and globally.

While D025 still faces an uncertain future in the House of Bishops, I believe that the House of Deputies has taken a major step forward for the life of The Episcopal Church and honest relationship in the Anglican Communion. In doing so, we have sent a clear message about both our identity and calling – one that will not be easily dismissed or undermined.

As I was departing the House, which adjourned about fifteen minutes late this evening, I happened by God’s grace upon The Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson at the back of the hall. He had stepped into the guest section shortly after the House of Bishops had adjourned. Smiling, we embraced, and I said, “I think this house is on solid ground again.”

He agreed.

Update 7/14/2009: IntegrityUSA reported last night that the House of Bishops has approved an amended version of D025.

By a nearly 2-1 margin, the bishops of the Episcopal Church passed an amended version of resolution D025, which effectively ends the “BO33 Era” and returns the church to relying on its canons and discernment processes for the election of bishops. “While concurrence on the amended resolution by the House of Deputies is necessary before it is officially adopted by the church as a whole,” said Integrity President Susan Russell, “there is no question that today’s vote in the House of Bishops was an historic move forward and a great day for all who support the full inclusion of all the baptized in the Body of Christ.”

“It was a tremendous privilege to be a witness to the courage and candor of the bishops who spoke truth to each other and to us–and who called the Episcopal Church to speak our truth to our Anglican Communion brothers and sisters and to the world.

“The truth is we are a church committed to mission–we are a church committed to the full inclusion of all the baptized in that mission–and we are a church committed to creating as broad a place to stand as possible for ALL who wish to be part of this great adventure of being disciples of Jesus.

“In this carefully constructed and prayerfully considered resolution, our Presiding Bishop got what she both asked for and voted for: a positive statement about where we are as a church in 2009–a church striving to actually become the church former Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning called us to be nearly 20 years ago now…a church where there are no outcasts.”

“The debate on the floor of the House of Bishops made it VERY clear that our bishops knew exactly what they were doing when they passed this by a nearly 2-1 margin. The resolution passed today by the House of Bishops was another step in the Episcopal Church’s ‘coming out’ process–and it sends a strong ‘come and see’ message to anyone looking for a faith community where God’s inclusive love is not just proclaimed but practiced.”

Thanks and congratulations to the people of the Episcopal Church. Your leadership in the area of LGBT acceptance is so important to those of us working in other denominations.