Category Archives: New York

Professional Anti-Gays Return To Violent Rhetoric As New York Gays Marry

While lesbian and gay couples across New York married in near-record numbers Sunday, anti-gay activists ramped up messages of violence.

nom-logoAt a National Organization for Marriage rally of mostly bused-in marchers, christian Reverend and State Senator Ruben Diaz declared, “Today we start the war!”

Not to be outdone, NOM Chairwoman Maggie Gallagher later appeared on Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcast Network to tell their fake newscaster that “It’s going to be a bloody mess in New York,” followed glibly by “it’s kind of an exciting time.”

This is hardly the first time NOM and their allies have resorted to messages of violence when challenged (NOM organizers seemed to approve of this sign with two nooses seen at a rally in Indianapolis nearly a year before Sunday’s New York rally.), and it surely won’t be the last.

(Major ups to Good As You’s Jeremy Hooper for being on hand and doing such a thorough job reporting on the NOM rally.)

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See What Maggie Gallagher And Brian Brown Work Tirelessly To Stop

Today, marriage equality came to New York. Across the state, LGBT couples who have been waiting for years, some even decades, are finally receiving a portion of the civil rights guaranteed to all people by the US Constitution. In New York City, the 24-hour waiting period has been waived and over 800 couples will be married today alone.

An unknown couple at City Hall in Manhattan (Image by flickr user erin m. Click for link.)
An unknown couple at City Hall in Manhattan
(Image by flickr user erin m. Click for link.)

As images of this historic day make their way across the internet, I can’t help but think of Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown. These two National Organization for Marriage leaders have made it their life’s work to keep what’s happening today from happening anywhere in the United States.

Myron Levine and Philip Zinderman (Image by Reuters. Click for link.)
Myron Levine and Philip Zinderman, married after 51 years together
(Image by Reuters. Click for link.)

We’re often forced to argue abstract concepts, but today we have a chance to deal in concrete examples of what we’ve been fighting for, and what Maggie and Brian hate.

Marcos A. Chaljub and Freddy L. Sambrano (Image by Reuters. Click for link.)
Marcos A. Chaljub and Freddy L. Sambrano
(Image by Reuters. Click for link.)

Here, then, are just a few of the hundreds of couples married in New York today. Pictured below is the first LGB couple married in Manhattan, Phylis Siegel and Connie Kopelov, mothers and grandmothers who have been together for 23 years.

Phylis Siegel (76) and Connie Kopelov (84) (Image by Jason DeCrow for AP. Click for link.)
Phylis Siegel (76) and Connie Kopelov (84)
(Image by Jason DeCrow for AP. Click for link.)

I was surprised to find myself getting pretty emotional while going through these wedding pictures. I’m usually a robot around weddings, but these lovely people, and thousands more like them, are doing today what was considered an unattainable goal just a generation ago. And while federal rights are still withheld from these people thanks to DOMA, and we still have plenty of fights ahead of us, this is a major victory.

Unknown couple with NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn (Image by flickr user erin m. Click for link.)
Unknown couple with NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn
(Image by flickr user erin m. Click for link.)

Remember, these images of joy and celebrations of civil rights are the kind of thing that makes Brian Brown cry. He was at the New York State House during the Senate vote last month and started sobbing uncontrollably when the Senate voted to acknowledge the civil rights of a minority group.

Our happiness makes him cry.
Our happiness makes him cry.

For today, though, I’m not worrying too much about Maggie, Brian, NOM, or others like them. Today is for joy, fairness, and in the grander scheme of things, victory.

Today, equality came for lesbian and gay people. Today, equality came for bisexual and transgender people. Today, equality came for straight people.

Today, equality came for America.


[box type=”note”]If you know who the two unknown couples are, please drop me a note at matt@mattalgren.com. I’d like to identify them properly in the post. Thanks![/box]

No Masks At Disappointing Gay Best Friend’s Wedding!

It’s been four days since last Friday’s big victory in New York and I still haven’t said anything about it. While it’s a pretty damn big win and it’s been great to see how excited people got*, I find that I don’t really have a lot to say about it that everybody else hasn’t already said.

So here’s a heck of funny youtube clip from the always hilarious Disappointing Gay Best Friend video series by Mikala Bierma and Tyler Coates, directed by Mike Lacher.

She means well, y’all. She really does.

And I just can’t help but share my favorite installment so far:

Sadly, I am Tyler in both of these videos. Tragic, I know.


* Par exemple, this fabulous gay boy's video reaction to the news:

He’s a spunky kid and I’m not gonna lie, I’m kind of jealous of him right now.

NYC Jewish School Blasts Extremist Anti-Gay Email To Parents

The New York legislature is poised to vote in favor of equality in marriage by the end of the week, and you know what that means: Conservative nuts pushing bigotry in the name of religion!

A gay-positive Jewish friend forwarded this email to me this afternoon from his child’s private school in/around New York City. Here’s what a school staffer blasted to everyone on the school’s distribution list, including those who don’t even live in the state:

From: XXXXX
Date: Jun 15, 2011 4:38 PM
Subject: IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM AGUDATH ISRAEL – LEGISLATIVE ALERT ON SAME GENDER MARRIAGE
To: XXXXX

Please read the attached memo from Agudath Israel of America and take the recommended action. It is very important that we voice our strong opposition to the Senate as soon as possible!

Mind you, this particular school isn’t connected in any way to the ultra-conservative Agudath Israel of America. But why let that stop you when you have an awesome memo like this to share?

So let’s talk about Agudath Israel. The last time marriage was this close in New York, Agudath Israel sent a similar message to New York Senators, saying, in part:

Elevating same-sex unions to the status of “marriage” would convey an unmistakable message that homosexual unions occupy the same moral plane as heterosexual unions. Countless New Yorkers of all faiths reject the notion that same-sex relationships are merely reflections of an ‘alternative lifestyle,’ no more objectionable and no less acceptable than the traditional heterosexual lifestyle. These citizens strive hard to raise their children to recognize that not all expressions of sexuality are morally equivalent.

Extending the label of ‘marriage’ to same-sex unions is government’s way of telling those children that their parents are wrong, that their priests, ministers, and rabbis are wrong, that civilized societies throughout the millennia have been wrong.

Of course, this is a fear tactic that we in the LGBT community have come to expect from conservative bigots. And it’s a good strategy; they keep using it because it keeps working. I do wonder how they define “traditional heterosexual lifestyle,” though.

This is the part where I would usually link you to the group’s website, but Agudath Israel doesn’t have one, on account of their belief that nobody should use the internet.

I’m okay with that, by the way. About a third of my extended family is German Baptist, a Christian religion with an identical rule.

But one wonders, if Agudath Israel wins this one, will state enforcement of that religious belief be next? And if they do push for that, what reasonable argument is left against their agenda?

(Related: New York Catholic bishop George Orwell Timothy Dolan had some words about the marriage vote as well.)

Marriage Law Hypocrisy Proven Again. TWICE.

The ban on same-sex marriage, both by states and by the federal government, is plainly hypocritical. We in the LGBT community know that, as do our allies.

Sometimes, though, we need to re-teach the rest of America the inherent hypocrisy of civil marriage laws. This week saw two new educational attempts.

Our first stop in incredulity is the campaign from Brian Feldman. He promised to marry any woman who showed up at the Orange County, FL Courthouse Marriage License Office last Monday. Three strangers showed up, and he chose Hannah Miller for his bride with a simple game of Spin the (Water) Bottle, which you can see in the below video.

The wedding between two virtual strangers took place this afternoon. Neither Feldman nor Miller has any apparent romantic affection for the other. There is no expectation of sexual intercourse, let alone children. Lifetime commitment is out of the question.

I do wonder if Feldman will apply for coverage on Miller’s health insurance plan. That would be an interesting test.

Then there’s the wedding of Kitty Lambert and Ed [Unknown]. Two days ago, Kitty went to the Buffalo, NY City Hall and applied for a marriage license with her long-time partner Cheryl. The couple has five children and twelve grandchildren.

When the city worker refused their request for a marriage license, Kitty turned around and asked the group of supporters if any man would volunteer to marry her. Ed raised his hand, and about ten seconds after learning each other’s first name, a government worker granted their marriage license.

Lambert and [Unknown] don’t plan to go through with the marriage, saying that they’ll wait until they can marry the person they choose.

For two strangers with under $100 and no desire for real commitment, the government allows marriage as long as they have different genitals, even if the government knows the marriage is a lie. (That’s good, by the way.)

Lesbian or gay couples with decades-long relationships and complete families? That’s when the government cries foul.

What We Can Gain From NJ Senate’s Vote Against Civil Rights

The civil rights movement has seen some remarkable losses in the last few months. In early November, voters overturned a marriage law in Maine. A month later, the New York Senate voted against civil rights in marriage. Then yesterday, after a brief period of debate, the New Jersey Senate voted against a similar civil rights bill. David Badash of The New Civil Rights Movement was good enough to put some of the speeches online. Below are four of them.

[wpaudio url=”http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/baroni.mp3″ text=”NJ Sen. Bill Baroni:"Unequal treatment by government is always wrong."”]

[wpaudio url=”http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/Gill.mp3″ text=”NJ Sen. Nia Gill: "I believe in the constitution."”]

[wpaudio url=”http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/cardinale.mp3″ text=”NJ Sen. Gerald Cardinale: Straight people are "disenfranchised."”]

[wpaudio url=”http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/kean.mp3″ text=”NJ Sen. Bill Kean: The Worst Kind Of Hypocrite”]

And so to the question: What can we gain from this experience? I think we can use this failure (theirs, not ours) as an opportunity to reconsider our strategy.

We need to remember that we never chose this war. Remember, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) came about 14 years ago because the Hawaii Supreme Court ordered that the state must show compelling reasons to exclude lesbians and gays from marriage. Anti-gay forces recognized the repercussions if that battle didn’t go their way, so they got DOMA passed to preempt a potential loss.

Then they got busy on individual states. In every single case (someone correct me if I’m wrong), the Religious Right pushed us into a marriage battle, most notably in 2004 under the direction of twice-divorced Karl Rove. Now Maggie Gallagher uses lies to continue their assault on civil rights.

Understand, even if civil rights were to win at the ballot box, you can bet they would be ready to drop another load of lies that we would waste another couple million dollars defending against, and then we’d lose. Again, that’s not because we’re doing something wrong, but because bigotry and fear are easy sells, especially when the opponent has no relationship with the truth.

My point is that we’ve been on the defense from the start. That’s a losing plan. After 31 popular votes and I-don’t-know-how-many state legislature votes, it’s time to start playing offense.

And that’s not the only reason.

The biggest problem is that when the votes from the legislature or the people are counted up we’ve still encouraged either the legislature or the people to vote on someone’s rights, regardless of who wins. That’s not just unethical, it’s downright Unamerican.

You know what I’d really like to see? The next time the question goes to the public, we make one ad, not telling people to vote for us, but telling them not to vote on the issue at all. We should acknowledge up front that we anticipate a loss but have made that sacrifice in favor of the greater constitutional principle. Then we take the millions we would have spent on a losing campaign and give it to the homeless or some other worthy cause.

In other words, stop playing the game. Opt out.

I think we win something if we opt out of their battle and lose. We’re 0-31 in the popular vote, and the last one in Maine was lost by a nearly perfectly run campaign. We will continue to lose that battle regardless of what we do, so why not turn that energy toward a different battle, one of our choosing?

We should pour some money and effort into finding the best attorneys to fight the best court cases, like the upcoming challenge to Prop 8 (more on that later) and the case being brought by Lambda Legal and Garden State Equality against yesterday’s decision in the New Jersey Senate.

In the end, that’s where we’ll win.

The New York Marriage Vote

After nearly six months of stalling, the New York Senate voted yesterday on marriage equality. They voted against it 38-24.

Please read Paul Schindler’s article in the Gay City News for details on the vote and what happened. Most notable in the response to the vote is the revelation from at least three sources that eight senators who had privately pledged to vote for equality went back on their word. The mass betrayal was apparently led by freshman Senator Joe Addabbo of Queens, who was elected with major help from the local LGBT community.

“We should be incredibly angry,” [bill sponsor Tom Duane] told Gay City News. “I’m incredibly angry. I think the community should be very, very, very, very, very angry.”

Stating emphatically, “I’m not the one who ever lied throughout this entire process,” Duane charged that at least eight of his colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, had broken promises made to him, and said that he felt “betrayed.”

After initially declining to respond about what the consequences of such a betrayal are, Duane stated, “I believe in redemption and rehabilitation. No matter what people did today, we need to quickly provide them an opportunity to redeem themselves. That will get us the votes we had, that we have, and that we rightly deserve.”

Duane is not the only one who is alleging duplicitous behavior on the part of state senators. Paterson, who made the extraordinary gesture of going to the Senate floor after the vote, told Gay City News, “It’s very disappointing. It’s very disheartening. Certainly the promises that were made would have made it a much closer vote, if not a successful vote.” […]

Senator Kevin Parker, a Brooklyn Democrat, was less charitable toward those he believed had walked on their commitments.

“I’m profoundly disappointed and sad about the outcome, partly because many of us were given assurances that we had support from colleagues on both sides of the aisle who said they would vote for this today and did not,” he said. “I think this is the worst case of political cowardice that I’ve ever seen.”

Amidst the disappointment, there is reason to hope. Many senators spoke about their YES votes during debate (for some reason the NO voters were represented by only one speaker, the horrendously anti-gay Sen. Ruben Diaz, may God forgive his hate). None were more eloquent and touching than Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson of Suffolk, who was previously undecided on the issue.

This is important. Sen. Hassell-Thompson and others yesterday acknowledged religion and acknowledged their responsibility to lead in government regardless of strictly religious objection. We’ll get there, just not today.

Don’t lose hope.

Bloviating Morons Treated as Experts

I just hate politics so much. So. Much. Seriously.

I hate that we have to ignore the fact (yes, fact) that NOM is funding the anti-equality campaign in Maine through less-than-ethical, less-than-legal means.

I hate that in Washington, we have to ignore the fact (yes, fact) that the anti-equality measure got on the ballot by falsifying signatures. (Special thanks to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy for putting a lock on this one till after the election.)

I hate the fact that we participate in putting civil rights laws up for a popular vote in the first place.

And today, I hate that we all have to act like stupid arguments from blustering fools are worth our time.

On October 14th, a marriage equality debate was held in Maine where the “expert” from the anti-gay side was retired community college instructor and failed 2008 candidate for Congress John Frary. He’s the one in the dopey hat who thinks he’s Garrison Keillor.

Chino Blanco had the video on Friday, but I didn’t get a chance to watch it until today. This is part three of seven, so please go over to Chino’s to see the rest. God bless MCLU Executive Director Sheena Bellows and host Paul Mills for attempting to have a reasoned debate around Frary’s community theater grade theatrics.

What bothers me most is that this incident is far from isolated. There’s also new video of a debate at Hofstra University in New York with NOM President Maggie Gallagher changing the subject and making false statements lying about the horrible effect of civil rights while MENY Board President Cathy Marino-Thomas does her best to inject reason into the discourse.

Why does our society continue to lend respectability to these idiots? Their arguments are gibberish. I don’t mean that I think their arguments are silly, I mean that they’re silly on their face.

Is it because they give comfort to people afraid to face the world as it is? I suppose it’s easier to be a bigot when you have other bigots around teaching you what to say.

I suspect the reason is that people just don’t care. They’d rather we disappear from the face of the earth and stop interrupting their dinners, so why should we expect them to complain about people who agree with their ultimate solution?

I just… I just hate it so much.

Worship Service Canceled Because of Gay Marriage

For 24 years, the churches in Oakfield, New York came together for a Sunday morning ecumenical worship service during the annual “Labor Daze” festival.

That all came to an end this year. In May 2009, Rev. Larry Eastlack of Oakfield United Methodist Church wrote a letter to the editor in favor of civil marriage equality. In early August, the pastors in charge of the service demanded that Rev. Eastlack recant his views or be excluded from the service. A month after Rev. Eastlack removed himself from the committee, they scrapped the worship service for fear of protesters.

From The Batavian:

The brigade against his views is led by fundamentalist pastors at Oakfield Community Bible Church, led by Bill Smith, and Mark Perkins, who leads the Oakfield Alabama Baptist Church. They’ve been coordinating the Community Worship Service for the past several years and wanted to exclude [Rev. Larry] Eastlack from the Community Worship Service this year specifically because of his now publically (sic) known views on gay marriage.

They asked to sit down with the reverend and Perkins said they, including Eastlack’s associate Dave Phelps, discussed their views cordially and the meeting ended with Eastlack’s decision not to participate if that meant creating more strife.

A letter prepared Aug. 10 by Perkins and Smith — which amounts to an ultimatum to disavow gay marriage or else be shunned — was given to Eastlack afterward “almost as an afterthought,” said Perkins to emphasize the amiable tone at the meeting’s conclusion.

The letter rejects the notion of gay marriage as a civil rights issue and the idea that homosexuality is determined genetically. It cites Scripture on the issue and urges Eastlack to change his stance, with this caveat:

“…our Elders have stated that having you take part (in the Sept. 6 service) would send a message to our community and respective congregations that 1. We are in agreement with your stance or 2. We are willing to pretend that unity exists.”

The mayor finds the whole thing ugly.

“My personal feeling is that it just saddens me down to my soul,” Pastecki said.

That mayor’s a smart man.

I haven’t been able to find the text of the August 10th ultimatum yet, but I did find Rev. Eastlack’s letter to the editor. Prepare to clutch your pearls, girls:

When Miss California, of the Miss USA Pageant, said she believed that marriage should be reserved for one man and one woman, she ignited strong opposition and support. Later she said, “As a Christian, I’d rather be biblically correct than politically correct,” as if Christians have no other option.

So far, same-sex marriage has been legalized in six states, with New York considering similar legislation. Most evangelical leaders are encouraging their congregations to oppose the Marriage Equality Act because they believe it is incompatible with biblical teachings.

Well, I believe it is possible to stay true to your religious convictions and still support legislation that would allow homosexuals to enjoy all the rights and responsibilities that come with matrimony. It is possible to spiritually oppose same-sex marriage without using the law to impose those views on others who believe differently. If evangelical Christians want all Americans to respect and protect their rights, it is imperative that they also respect and defend the legitimate rights of those with differing beliefs. As a pastor, I am encouraged when any couple in a loving and committed relationship desires to exchange vows that would publicly and contractually bind two loves as one.

This should not be a controversial viewpoint! It’s a positively middle-of-the-road, rational, constitutional understanding of the issue. It seems to me that Smith and Perkins need to re-read the third sentence in the last paragraph. Here, I’ll repost it:

If evangelical Christians want all Americans to respect and protect their rights, it is imperative that they also respect and defend the legitimate rights of those with differing beliefs.

My thanks to Rev. Larry Eastlack, for making his view public and for sticking to his convictions under pressure. We need more like him.

NY Assembly Approves Marriage Equality

We’ve been waiting for the New York legislature to vote on the issue of marriage equality since Governor Paterson introduced the bill in April. Well, it jumped the first hurdle yesterday as the state Assembly passed the bill by a count of 89-52. From the New York Times:

Supporters of the bill aggressively sought new votes, particularly from Assembly members whose districts lie within Senate districts where a senator’s vote is believed to be in play. As a matter of strategy, same-sex marriage advocates said that they hoped to use those votes as a way to leverage support from senators who are worried that supporting the measure could cost them politically.

“The margin of victory and the balance of where the people come from who voted for this is broadening,” said Daniel J. O’Donnell, a Democratic assemblyman from the Upper West Side who led the effort in the Assembly to gain support for the bill. “The state is demanding that we provide equality, and that’s the message here.”

Pressure was coming from both sides of the debate, with an additional and …interesting push from New York’s Conservative Party.

The Conservative Party is also applying pressure: it has threatened to strip its party affiliation and its ballot line from any politician who votes for same-sex marriage.

“We can’t look the other way,” said Michael R. Long, the party’s chairman, who added that he had informed the Republican leaders of the Senate and the Assembly of his threat to take away the Conservative ballot line — which in some elections can mean the difference of thousands of votes — from anyone who votes yes on the bill.

Some assembly members talked to New York’s Capital News about why they changed their votes.

“It’s important to be able to change your vote. When you get more information you understand something better,” said Assemblywoman Sandra Galef.

Galef is one of five members that changed their votes from no to yes this year. She says she was in support of civil unions, but now believes everyone should have the same rights she and her own children have.

“They really haven’t brought equity to partnerships and my goal from the very beginning was to have equity,” said Galef.

North Country Republican Janet Duprey also opposed gay marriage, favoring civil unions instead, but says her constituents convinced her otherwise.

“They’re not asking or religious ceremonies, they’re not asking to affect anybody’s religion. It’s certainly not going to affect my marriage of almost 42 years. They just want to have equality,” said Duprey.

There were also seven assembly members that did not vote, several of which voted no in 2007. Bill sponsor Danny O’Donnell says they’re on the fence now, but won’t be next time around, if there is a next time around.

“Since the vote took place, four or five republicans have already come to me to tell me that next time they’ll vote yes. So there’s movement on this issue. I can feel it and I’m very pleased with that movement,” said O’Donnell.

Now the bill moves to the Senate, where it has an uphill battle. The Senate vote is expected to come in the next few weeks.