Category Archives: Washington

Edith Bunker To Anti-Gay Voters: “I can’t believe you’d do anything that mean.”

Time for a history lesson and a strategy session all in one, everyone. This week marks 35 years since Norman Lear brought a lesbian to his legendary TV series All In The Family in an episode that most of you have probably never even heard of. The episode is still remarkably, depressingly relevant, and I think we can learn something about how to frame the argument for marriage equality and civil rights in general from the writers of this award-winning piece of television history.

First airing on October 9, 1977, episode Cousin Liz guest-starred future Superman’s Mom K Callan as Veronica, the long-time partner of Edith Bunker’s recently-deceased cousin. You can probably guess how Archie reacts to the news, but (spoiler alert) Edith stands up to him, at one point delivering his famous catch phrase “Case closed!”

The writers made a special point of mentioning that Liz and Veronica are schoolteachers, drawing on the then- (and unfortunately still-) contentious issue of lesbian and gay teachers being fired because, you know, they’re all child molesters out to “recruit” kids to be gay.

But the episode also remains relevant as four states prepare to vote on marriage equality next month. In the episode, Edith has all the legal rights as Cousin Liz’s next of kin, leaving Veronica to decide whether or not to fight in court for the modest inheritance that should be hers, a battle she would have undoubtedly lost, and a battle many lesbian and gay partners and spouses are still losing today.

Here’s the entire episode (sans theme song). If you’re impatient, the meat of the episode starts at 7:45. Two choice quotes below the video.

Veronica explains her and Liz’s relationship, leading to this bit at 14:46. Jean Stapleton’s delivery makes me cry every damn time:

Edith: Oh, Veronica, I wish you hadn’t told me about this.

Veronica: So do I.

Edith: Oh, no! I didn’t mean that! I mean, it’s so sad. It must have been terrible, lovin’ somebody and not bein’ able to talk about it. I– You can have the tea set; I mean, it belongs to you. You’re really her next of kin.

Remember, this was just a few years after Stonewall. Recognizing that lesbian and gay relationships were equal to straight ones was nothing short of revolutionary. Edith was decades ahead of her time.

Later, Archie threatens to take Veronica to court for Liz’s heirloom silver tea set, exposing her as a lesbian and threatening her job as a schoolteacher. Edith intervenes brilliantly, and in my view, the last sentence of her argument should be a major talking point in Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, and Washington ahead of marriage equality votes on November 6. (19:20)

Archie: Well who the hell wants people like that teaching our kids?! I’m sure God don’t! God’s sittin’ in judgment!

Edith: Well, sure he is, but he’s God; you ain’t!

Edith: Archie, listen, you wouldn’t want to be the cause of somebody losin’ their job! Archie, she’s all alone in the world now and she’s got nobody to take care of her like I have. And she can’t help how she feels. And she didn’t hurt you, so why should you wanna hurt her? Archie, I can’t believe you’d do anything that mean.

Writers Bob Schiller, Bob Weiskopf, Harve Brosten, and Barry Harman received an Emmy Award for Cousin Liz. Not only that, according to Harman, the episode was re-aired in 1978 on the night before California voters famously defeated the Briggs Initiative in a landslide that stunned both sides of the issue.

I doubt any network will rerun Cousin Liz this November, but hey, we have YouTube now. LGBTs, you know what to do. Straight allies, you can help too. Do all of us queer people a solid and send this video to friends and family in the “movable middle” of Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, and Washington before the vote next month. Ask them to watch it before they cast their ballots. Ask them to think about what their vote will do to their lesbian, gay, and bisexual neighbors. On our behalf, ask them if they’re really still meaner than Archie Bunker.

Could Charlene Strong’s Heartbreak Happen Again? In Wisconsin, It’s Closer Than You Think.

This is an important week in Wisconsin; not just for Wisconsinites, but for the rest of us in the United States as well. This Tuesday is the recall election for three of the Republican State Senators who voted to strip Union rights last winter through illegal votes under the false pretense of a budget crisis.

Since then, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and the Republican Wisconsin Legislature have passed laws making it harder to vote in poor and minority areas that tend to vote Democratic and easier to vote in white and wealthier areas that tend to vote Republican.

In the build up to Tuesday’s important vote, I want to draw your attention westward to Seattle’s Charlene Strong. Like Janice Langbehn, Ms. Strong’s wife’s death was compounded by the unmitigated cruelty of hospital staff.

She told her story recently at a gathering of The Moth. (Don’t worry, the video isn’t pixelated like the image.)

What does this have to do with Wisconsin? In May, Governor Walker asked a Wisconsin court to allow him to stop defending a law that affords lesbian and gay couples similar rights to hospital visitation that straight people have always had.

Governor Walker is going out of his way to make sure that lesbians and gay men die alone in a hospital bed with their most significant others on the other side of the wall.

The good news is that this is mitigated to some degree by new Health and Human Services rules that require hospitals, if they receive federal funding (including Medicare and Medicaid), to let patients choose who they want to have access.

Unfortunately, those HHS rules are only guaranteed as long as President Obama is in office, and they don’t apply to hospitals that don’t receive federal funding.

Wisconsinites, vote to recall Republicans on Tuesday. There is little question that your state’s Republicans will line up behind Walker on a new anti-gay law. Our lesbian sisters and gay brothers deserve better than what Wisconsin Republicans have planned for them.

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.

2009 Election Wrap Up

So how about that election? Let’s throw the results up and see how it shook out.

  • Allison Downey and John Austin celebrateWIN! The trans-inclusive anti-discrimination ordinance in Kalamazoo, Michigan passed by a landslide 24 point margin. An exceptional cap to the campaign that saw our opposition predictably return to public bathroom fear-mongering. Kudos to Kalamazoo for seeing past the nonsense! (photo from mlive.com)
  • WIN! According to Chuck Wolfe, 50 of the 79 openly gay political candidates endorsed by the Victory Fund in 2009 have been elected. That’s 50 City Councilmembers, School Board members, Commissioners, and Mayors elected across America, in most cases with their gender preference used as a weapon.
  • WIN! (Well, probably.) Washington’s Referendum 71, which approves the Everything-But-Marriage Law passed in May. There are still a few hundred thousand absentee ballots to be counted, a process that may not be completed for several days. The current (Wednesday 3:00 pm PST) count is 51%-49% for passage. We have reason to be hopeful, as election officials have revealed that the majority of uncounted votes are from counties that generally supported the referendum. So tentatively, congratulations to Washington for letting lesbians and gay men get everything except get married.
  • LOSS! A major losses for the feminist and LGBT communities in the Virginia gubernatorial election. Liberty University graduate Bob McDonnell handily defeated his opponent, even after his amazingly anti-woman and anti-gay master’s thesis was uncovered. In 1989 he wrote that, “…when the exercise of liberty takes the shape of pornography, drug abuse, or homosexuality, the government must restrain, punish, and deter.” As others (even FOX, for goodness’ sake) have pointed out, McDonnell’s thesis is a blueprint for his record so far as an elected official. LGBT people (and women) in Virginia, be on your guard!
  • I'm sorry, guys.LOSS! In the greatest loss of the night, Maine voters stripped their lesbian and gay neighbors of their marriage rights. With 98% of votes counted, Maine’s Question One passed by 53% – 47%. Once again the majority has decided that the minority group doesn’t deserve the same rights they enjoy. The Yes on One campaign, funded and directed largely by the Catholic Church (probably with help from the Mormons), ran a campaign centered almost completely around lies, fear-mongering, and more lies. Their television ads focused almost exclusively on statements that state officials and legal experts directly disputed. More details (and photo at right) from Rex Wockner.

We had some good results, but when you ask people if lesbian and gay relationships should be treated like theirs, the answer is still a resounding NO. Even when the Washington legislature passed a law that complied with bigoted requirements, we can barely eek out a majority vote.

Either we’re fully equal or we’re not. Either the 14th amendment protects us or it doesn’t. I say we are, and I say it does.

What say you?

American Hero Fought at Omaha Beach for Equality of ALL People

This video has been bouncing across the gay interwebs at lightning speed this morning, as goddamn well it should. It’s from a Maine Senate Committee hearing in April before the Maine legislature voted to recognize equality in marriage.

I dare you not to cry.

We have two weeks left to fight before the people of Maine and Washington vote. Donate to Maine’s No on One campaign here and Washington’s Approve Referendum 71 here.

(transcript for posterity and search engines. I’ve made a few minor adjustments where Mr. Spooner misread; I’m fairly certain they’re correct.)

PHILIP SPOONER, SR: Good morning, committee. My name is Philip Spooner and I live at [redacted] in Biddeford. I am 86 years old, a lifetime Republican, and an active VFW chaplain. I still serve three hospitals and two nursing homes, and I also served meals on wheels for twenty years. My wife of 54 years, Jenny, died in 1997. Together we had four children, including one gay son. All four of our boys were in the service.

I was born on a potato farm north of Caribou and Perham, where I was raised to believe that all men are created equal, and I’ve never forgotten that. I served in the US Army 1940-1945 in the First Army as a medic and an ambulance driver. I worked with every outfit over there including Patton’s Third Army. I saw action in all five major battles in Europe including the Battle of the Bulge. My unit was awarded Presidential Citations for transporting more patients with fewer accidents than any other ambulance unit in Europe, and I was in the liberation of Paris. After the war, I carried POWs back from Poland, Hungary, and Yugoslavia, and also hauled hundreds of injured Germans back to Germany.

I’m here today because of a conversation I had last year when I was voting. A woman at my polling place asked me, “Do you believe in equality for gay and lesbian people?” I was pretty surprised to be asked a question like that; it made no sense to me.

Finally I asked her, “What do you think our boys fought for at Omaha Beach?” I have seen so much blood and guts, so much suffering, so much sacrifice. For what? For freedom and equality. These are the values that make America a great nation, one worth dying for.

I give talks to eighth grade teachers about World War II, and I don’t tell them about the horror. Maybe I have to invite them to the ovens at Buchenwald and Dachau. I’ve seen with my own eyes the consequences of caste systems, and it makes some people less than others, or second class.

Never again. We must have equal rights for everyone; it’s what this country was started for. It takes all kinds of people to make a world. It doesn’t make sense that some people who love each other can marry and others can’t, just because of who they are. This is what we fought for in World War II, that idea that we can be different and still be equal.

My wife and I did not raise four sons with the idea that three of them would have a certain set of rights, but our gay child would be left out. We raised them all to be hard-working, proud, and loyal Americans, and they all did good.

I think if two adults who love each other want to get married, they should be able to. Everybody’s supposed to be equal in this country. Let gay people have the right to marry.

Thank you.

Maine and Washington LGBTs Need Our Help

I’ll have some closing thoughts on last weekend’s National Equality March in the next day or so, but I wanted to get this post up now before it’s too late.

This year we’ve celebrated an unprecedented advance of The Homosexual Agenda © (that is, equal rights under the Constitution). Five states now recognize our right to civil marriage, four more than just last year. But two of those states are still under attack by ever-funded, never-say-die anti-gay forces that want to end new laws that recognize our rights and equality.

In Maine, the vote on a “People’s Veto” is on November’s ballot. A vote to repeal the law, signed by Governor Balduacci in May, will be held on November 3rd. Here is the most recent campaign ad from Protect Maine Equality.

Meanwhile, Washington’s new “Everything But Marriage” law is under attack. Even though this law specifically excludes the word “marriage”, the anti-gay forces that demanded that exclusion still aren’t satisfied. Their vote will be taken, also November 3rd, to strike this new law from the books. Washington Families Standing Together (WFST) recently released this ad.

As you could probably have guessed, anti-gay forces have used ridiculously unethical tactics to get out the anti-gay vote. They’ve hidden donor names, laundered funds, lied to the general public about the effect of the laws. Maine’s Catholic churches have passed the plate multiple times for a “special offering” during Mass, intimidating parishioners into giving to the anti-gay campaigns. The state of Maine has even agreed to pursue ethics violation claims made against Stand For Marriage Maine/National Organization for Marriage.

So Maine and Washington LGBTs need our help.

I’m asking you to help keep Protect Maine Equality and WFST ads on the air. Donate to Maine’s No on One campaign here and Washington’s Approve Referendum 71 here. Ten bucks each. That’s all I ask.

We have three weeks left in these battles. Let’s make them count.

WA Governor Chris Gregoire Signs Everything-But-Marriage into Law

Note 7/26/09: I noticed that this post got linked to at a message board as proof that the battle for equality is finished in Washington. I want to stress that this blogger disagrees completely with that opinion. As I said in a previous post re: the Washington law, according to the US Supreme Court, ‘Separate but Equal’ is inherently unequal. This law is a step, not the final destination. Thanks for stopping by, and please check out the rest of my awesome better-than-anybody-else blog!

Encouraging news today from the Seattle Times:

Surrounded by about 300 people — most of them gay and lesbians couples and their children — Gov. Chris Gregoire on Monday signed legislation giving registered same-sex domestic partners all the rights and benefits that Washington now offers married couples.

The law will take effect on July 26 unless opponents seeking to repeal it can successfully collect enough signatures to get a referendum on the November ballot. A network of conservative and religious organizations, led by the Faith and Freedom Foundation, plans to begin immediately collecting signatures to repeal the measure under Referendum 71.

They have until July 25 to collect 120,577. If they are successful, the law would be suspended until voters decide the referendum. Several gay-rights advocates have established a campaign called Decline 2 Sign, to raised money in an attempt to defeat the measure.

The Monday morning bill signing by Gregoire at the Montlake Community Center was a festive event, marking a significant milestone for the state’s same-sex couples. It expands on previous domestic partnership laws by adding such partnerships to all remaining areas of state law that now only address married couples.

Governor Gregoire approves the domestic partner law
Governor Gregoire approves the domestic partner law

The measure also extends coverage to unmarried heterosexual couples over the age of 62.

As of Monday, there were 5,395 registered domestic partners, representing every county in the state.

The signing came almost three years after the state Supreme Court ruled against 11 gay and lesbian couples seeking the right to marry in Washington and upheld the state’s Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that limits marriage to one man and one woman.

Charlene Strong, a Seattle woman who was instrumental in the initial push for changes in the law after her partner drowned in the flooded basement of their Madison Valley home, said while she is thrilled with the advancements, she’s eager for the next step: reversal of DOMA.

“It is important for us to sit and talk to those who oppose us,” Strong said. “We need them to hear us, to meet our families… .”They speak from a place of fear. We need them to speak from a place of understanding.”

I agree with Ms. Strong. This is a big step, but it isn’t the last step. For today, congratulations to the folks in Washington. Their hard work will pay off for all of us.

(Incidentally, check out the comments in the article. They hit all the talking points in the first 20 minutes on this one.)

Everything-But-Marriage Bill Sails Through Washington Legislature

Breaking news tonight from the Seattle Times:

The Washington Legislature has passed an “everything but marriage” bill that grants same-sex couples all the rights and benefits the state offers married couples.

After nearly two hours of debate, the House passed the measure on a 62-35 vote Wednesday. It now goes to Gov. Chris Gregoire, who is expected to sign it into law.

The bill expands on previous domestic partnership laws by adding partnerships to all remaining areas of state law where currently only married couples are mentioned. The statutes range from labor and employment rights, to pensions and other public employee benefits.

As of Wednesday, more than 5,000 domestic partnership registrations had been filed since July 2007.

(The Washington Senate passed the bill March 10th.)

Inch by inch, folks! But remember what the Supreme Court says: Separate but equal is inherently unequal.