Federal Judge Sets February Trial Date for Michigan Marriage Ban Lawsuit
October 16th, 2013
Federal District Court Judge Bernard A. Friedman turned down requests to issue a summary judgment either for or against the constitutionality of Michigan’s ban on marriage and adoption by same-sex couples. A lesbian couple who, between them, have adopted three special needs children, had asked the court to declare the state’s constitutional ban, which was approved by Michigan voters in 2004, unconstitutional under the Federal constitution. There had been widespread expectation that Judge Friedman would rule on the ban’s constitutionality. A trial date has been set for February 25.
ACLU Announces Three Marriage Lawsuits
July 9th, 2013
Fresh off its victory in Windsor v. U.S. which struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, the ACLU’s is filing three more lawsuits, in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia. In Whitewood v. Corbett, the ACLU is challenging Pennsylvania’s statute which bans same-sex marriage. In Fisher-Borne v. Smith, the ACLU will amend its lawsuit seeking adoption rights to include the right to marriage. In the Virginia case, the ACLU and Lambda Legal are still in the planning stages, with plaintiffs and precise details of the case still being worked out. They expect to file that lawsuit later this summer.
Meanwhile, the ACLU and the National Center for Lesbian Rights have filed a motion with the New Mexico Supreme Court, asking it to order state officials to allow same-sex couples to marry. State law is currently silent on the question. Other lawsuits are working their way through Arkansas, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey and Michigan.
Michigan has its first same-sex marriage
March 15th, 2013
The head of an American Indian tribe in Michigan signed a law approving same-sex marriage on Friday, joining at least two other tribes nationwide in doing so, then immediately wed a gay couple who had been together for 30 years but never thought they would see this day come.
Dexter McNamara, chairman of the 4,600-member Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians in northern Michigan, wed Tim LaCroix, 53, and Gene Barfield, 60, of Boyne City. After McNamara read the couple’s vows and led the ceremony in English, a member of the tribe followed and conducted a traditional tribal ceremony in their language before dozens of wellwishers.
While the Little Traverse Bay Bands comes third in the list of Indian Nations, it is an important addition.
The impact of the Little Traverse Bay decision was unclear, though Fletcher said he thought it would carry weight with other tribes. Little Traverse Bay Bands was an influential, average-sized tribe that has been, along with some other Michigan tribes, “very much in the forefront of some good progressive tribal governance measures in the last couple decades.”
“We’ve been a role model, I think, for the federally recognized tribes of Michigan and it seems like we’re out in front — and not taking anything away from the other federally recognized tribes — but, you know, it seems like we kind of opened the door for other tribes and I think other tribes will follow,” he said.
Michigan judge delays marriage ruling
March 7th, 2013
Today U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman heard arguments from the couple who want to adopt each other’s children as to how the Michigan marriage laws unfairly discriminate against them. But while Judge Friedman noted that their argument was compelling, he’s delaying his decision.
Friedman said he would benefit from seeing how the U.S. Supreme Court handles cases involving a gay marriage ban in California as well as the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Arguments are scheduled later this month in Washington.
An immediate ruling in Michigan “would not be fair to either side,” Friedman said while holding court in front of students at Wayne State University law school.
“They’re going to give us something to hang our hat on,” he said of the Supreme Court.
Which, disappointing as it is, may be the most logical decision.
Same sex marriage passes vote in Michigan and could soon be legal
March 6th, 2013
… but only if you are Odawa. (Petoskynews)
The Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians inched closer to becoming the third tribe in the nation to legally recognize gay marriage Sunday.
A 5-4 tribal council vote Sunday passed an amended statute allowing same-sex couples to wed and be recognized by the tribal government, according to draft tribal minutes released Tuesday afternoon.
The statute now goes to the tribal chairman, who can either sign the statute into law, or veto the proposed changes.
Michigan enters the race for 10
March 6th, 2013
All year it’s been up in the air which state would be the tenth state to achieve marriage equality. The most likely have been Illinois and Minnesota, but Hawaii and Rhode Island have teased us. Even Wyoming briefly toyed with the idea. But now a dark horse is making strides.
You may recall back in August 2012 when two lesbians seeking to adopt each other’s children were told they had the wrong complaint. The judge in the case told them that their problem wasn’t adoption law, but marriage law. It is perfectly reasonable (from a legal perspective) for a state to decide to restrict joint adoption to those people who were sufficiently committed to each other to get married. The discrimination in this case wasn’t in adoption, it was in that they couldn’t marry.
So the ladies refiled their challenge as a marriage discrimination complaint. They had to; they have kids they need to look out for.
And now the judge is ready to rule. (ABC)
U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman will hear arguments in the case Thursday at a Detroit law school, although he hasn’t indicated when he’ll make a ruling. If he concludes the amendment violates the U.S. Constitution, gay-marriage supporters say same-sex couples would immediately be allowed to wed and adopt children.
Friedman was appointed by President Reagan.
“queers can…”, part 2
November 7th, 2012
Remember Janice Daniels, Mayor of Troy, Michigan? The one who was elected last year. And then was discovered to have posted “I think I am going to throw away my I Love New York carrying bag now that queers can get married there” on Facebook. Yeah, that Janice Daniels.
Remember her? Well you can forget her now.
It was a tight race throughout, but the effort to recall Troy Mayor Janice Daniels officially passed early Wednesday morning.
With all 31 precincts reporting, the yes vote won 20,763 to 18,993.
I hope she didn’t get around to throwing out her I Love New York bag cuz she may need it to pack up her mementos of her days of public service. And I’m sure there is still a spot for her in the world of real estate.
[Update: to get a real sense of the lovely Janice - and the moment in which her fate was probably sealed - check out this video]
Michigan marriage challenge update
September 7th, 2012
A lesbian couple, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, sued the state of Michigan over its adoption laws. Their lawyer explains: (Detroit Free Press)
One of their lawyers, Dana Nessel, pointed out that the state of Michigan certified DeBoer and Rowse to become foster parents together but won’t allow them to both adopt. Michigan law only allows singles or married couples to adopt.
“The state gave them children who had been abandoned and surrendered at birth to raise,” Nessel said. “And they are raising them with all the love, nurturing, care and affection that any parent would give to any child. But the state then rewards these women by telling them while they are good enough to foster as a couple, they aren’t good enough to adopt as a couple. We submit that this is pure and utter insanity.”
But the judge in the case surprised them by noting that they were fighting the wrong battle. Their issues would be over if they married and it’s really the marriage ban that is causing them to be subjected to discrimination.
Personally, I get that. I can see how a state could argue that if a couple was unwilling to make the legal commitments binding themselves together that they were not ideal to jointly adopt children. But it can’t then turn around and refuse to let the couple make such legal commitments.
So April and Jayne have updated their petition.
DeBoer and partner Jayne Rowse decided to take the battle they’re already fighting in U.S. District Court in Detroit one step further today. They amended their complaint in front of Judge Bernard A. Friedman that asks for the right to adopt as a same-sex couple, instead challenging Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Attorney General Bill Schuette and Oakland County Clerk Bill Bullard Jr. to declare Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage and partnerships unconstitutional.
“This is totally not what we expected by any means,” Rowse said today, away from the podium during an announcement in the Penobscot Building. “We wanted to keep the kids’ rights at the forefront, the rights that any other child has.”
Lesbian couple suing for adoption rights are told that they have the wrong issue
August 29th, 2012
April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, both nurses, have three children: (Detroit News)
DeBoer adopted a girl, born in February 2010 to a 19-year-old mother.
Rowse, meanwhile, adopted two boys, ages 3 and 2. One was surrendered by his biological mother and the other was abandoned by his mother, a drug-addicted prostitute
But Michigan state law will not allow them to adopt the children jointly, thus giving the children the extra rights and security that come from two-parent adoption (which are considerable). They asked U.S. District Court Judge Bernard A. Friedman, a 68 year-old Reagan appointee, to overturn the state’s law as unconstitutional.
He said, “no”. Or, at least, “not yet”. Because they really were focusing on the wrong issue:
Friedman said Wednesday he’d consider arguments from both sides before rendering his decision, but will first allow the plaintiffs ten days to consider amending their complaint to include a challenge to the state’s ban on same-sex marriages.
“That’s the underlying issue,” Friedman told attorneys, noting that he’s “not suggesting they do it.”
“Both arguments are about marriage and how broad or narrow it should be. That’s the bottom line.”
Oh. Well, come to think of it, that would be the real issue, wouldn’t it?
Of course, just because Judge Friedman correctly noted the real discrimination issue doesn’t mean that he will find the ban unconstitutional. But it does suggest that he correctly understands DeBoer and Rowse’s underlying problem. So I think it is at least likely that he’s sympathetic to giving the marriage issue a fair hearing. And we seldom need more than a fair hearing to point out the obvious.
How very fascinating it would be for DeBoer and Rowse to sue for adoption rights only to find that they’ve overturned the state’s marriage ban.
Shirvell’s unhappy day
August 16th, 2012
A federal court jury Thursday awarded $4.5 million to a gay former University of Michigan student body president who accused a former state attorney of stalking him, according to the lawyer.
Deborah Gordon said the jury came back with the verdict late Thursday afternoon. The civil case involved Andrew Shirvell, the former assistant attorney general fired in 2010 after he criticized Christopher Armstrong, an openly gay former University of Michigan student.
But I guess the upside is that unless Shirvell’s a trust fund baby, he has an excuse to keep in contact with Armstrong for the rest of his life. I have no idea as to Shirvell’s employment status, but I suspect that it would take him approximately 1,875 years to pay off that award.
Shirvell’s lawyer had a fool for a client
August 15th, 2012
Do you remember Andrew Shirvell? He was the Michigan assistant attorney general who became obsessed with Chris Armstrong, the University of Michigan’s student body president, and starting stalking him and ranting on a blog about him. Here’s a reminder from September 2010:
Of course eventually the Attorney General fired him and he was sued by Armstrong for inflicting intentional emotional harm.
Well finally Shirvell had his day in court.
And do you recall the old phrase about the lawyer who represents himself having a fool for a client? It turns out that it’s true.
Shirvell, who is representing himself, questioned himself on the witness stand for more than an hour this morning, trying to convince the jury he was upset by Armstrong’s push for gender-neutral housing at the school. Shirvell graduated from U-M in 2002.
“My blog was political speech,” Shirvell testified. “I viewed my blog as a movement to get Mr. Armstrong to resign. I personally felt Mr. Armstrong was too radical for the position.”
And though he rambled about Armstrong’s “radical homosexual agenda”, Mr. Armstrong’s attorney got Shirvell to admit that he hadn’t written about any of the others involved in pro-gay policies. Or lurked in their bushes. Or even complained to the school’s administration.
I think we all can surmise why it is that Shirvell focused his attentions on the rather handsome Armstrong. In fact, I think the only person who Shirvell has fooled is himself.
Big Centralized Government is a Michigan Republican Value
December 27th, 2011
The Michigan Republican Party claims the usual litany of principles that most state Republican Party organizations claim. Their listing of beliefs speak a great deal about equality and nearly every point uses the word “individual”. The two beliefs that stand out as defining characteristics of Republicans, those that really differentiate from Democrats, are probably the following:
I BELIEVE the proper role of government is to provide for the people only those critical functions that cannot be performed by individuals or private organizations, and that the best government is that which governs least.
I BELIEVE the most effective, responsible and responsive government is government closest to the people.
Reading the full eight statements of belief, one might believe that Michigan Republicans believe in small government, individual self-determination, and equality under the law. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In reality, Michigan Republicans believe in utilization of state power to coerce compliance by counties and local governments, dictated values, and a class system based on religious dogma. And nothing illustrates that truth more effectively than House Bills 4770 and 4771.
The synopsis of HB 4770 pretty much says everything that needs to be known about its intent or the mentality of those who passed it:
A bill to prohibit public employers from providing certain benefits to public employees.
This bill prohibits local governmental employers – county, state, fire departments, etc. – from providing local governmental employees – librarians, firemen, teachers, lifeguards, etc. – with benefits under certain conditions. It removes from the ‘government closest to the people’ the ability to make decisions that reflect the values and needs of the people and puts the state in the position of dictating the terms and conditions of local employment contracts.
Specifically, the Public Employee Domestic Partner Benefit Restriction Act (yes, this really is it’s name), dictates that “a public employer shall not provide medical benefits or other fringe benefits for an individual currently
residing in the same residence as an employee of the public employer” unless they are an opposite-sex spouse or a dependent (or an intestate successor). Those gay employees of villages or towns who receive the same compensation package as their heterosexual office-mates will now be stripped of a portion of their pay.
The sole purpose is to impose the beliefs of the state legislators onto those municipalities that do not share their beliefs. Unable to convince local communities to engage in anti-gay discrimination, Republican legislators will now use the power of the state to force them to do so.
Companion bill HB 4771 adds the following language into the collective bargaining law: “(11) Health insurance or other fringe benefits for any coresident of an employee of a public employer on terms that conflict with the Public Employee Domestic Partner Benefit Restriction Act.”
I will give them this much: they are not pretending that this bill is anything other than what it is. As the bill puts it, “that group of employees” is it’s target. And while the bill would strip unmarried heterosexual couples eligible for domestic partner benefits (should any municipality provide such coverage), there’s no pretense that this is not a blatant attempt to strip gay people of equal pay.
Earlier this month, the Republican majorities in the House and Senate passed HB 4770 and 4771 on a party line vote (with the support of one Democrat) and on Thursday, Governor Rick Snyder (R) signed the bills into law.
[L]ead sponsor Rep. David Agema, R-Grandville, praised the governor’s decision, saying, “Time and again, Michigan residents have said ‘no’ to paying for the health benefits of the roommates and unmarried partners of public employees, and the governor’s signature today gives the people’s voice the rule of law.”
I don’t know of any municipalities that provide domestic partnership benefits to roommates and I don’t think Agema does either. Rather, I suspect that is just his way of demeaning gay people by pretending to think that long-term committed same-sex relationship are just “roommates”. Having imposed his religious views on those who do have different beliefs, he now is blaring his contempt for you.
And Agema is quite clear that it is truly his intention to impose his religion on the land, regardless of the beliefs or desires of others. Describing himself as a servant of “God, family, and country” (in that order) Agema runs Saboath House Ministries, a dominionist organization.
In today’s language, Sabaoth means “Taking Back God’s Property”. That is what Sabaoth Ministries is all about…going into the city and taking back God’s property.
Looking back over the past few years, it is clear that Michigan Republicans have become increasingly known for their anti-gay activism (and bizarre antics). Which is fine, I suppose. If the Michigan Republican Party truly wishes to be the political vehicle for extremist dominionists who seek to impose a talibanish form of theocracy, then they should have the right to present those views. If they want to be the party of strong centralized government and dictated social policy, that’s their right.
But I do object to them claiming to be the opposite. It’s time they give up the pretense of favoring the rights of the individual or the principle of smaller, local, less intrusive government.
Lewd or immoral acts in Michigan
December 14th, 2011
Laws are funny things. Generally created out of some panicky necessity (usually the necessity of a politician to appear to be statesmanlike), they linger on long after the need has passed and often to the point of absurdity.
But sometimes rather than amusing and fairly harmless laws that reflect a cultural reality that has long passed, they become tools for abuse by police or other authorities who seek to achieve their own personal goals based in their own prejudices or ill intent. And that appears to be happening in Kent County, Michigan. Sheriff Larry Stelma is using a law written to address prostitution to “clean up” county parks.
750.448 Soliciting, accosting, or inviting to commit prostitution or immoral act; crime.
A person 16 years of age or older who accosts, solicits, or invites another person in a public place or in or from a building or vehicle, by word, gesture, or any other means, to commit prostitution or to do any other lewd or immoral act, is guilty of a crime punishable as provided in section 451.
(1) Except as otherwise provided in this section, a person convicted of violating section 448, 449, 449a, 450, or 462 is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 93 days or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both.
Stelma has decided that this is his justification for ridding the parks of gay men. And he’s taking a very broad interpretation of the code to do so.
He has decided that “accosts, solicits, or invites another person” includes responding to solicitation by an undercover police officer. And “commit prostitution or to do any other lewd or immoral act” includes flirting, holding hands, or inviting another person home or to another private location to pursue sexual activities. Or rather, it does if the target is a gay man.
And Stelma acknowledges that his officers are not interested in following the letter of the law, and especially not the spirit of the law, but in harassing targets that he knows full well are not committing a crime: (Mlive.com)
“There is a range of discernment there, but whatever that act or suggestion was has to be considered by a judge or jury as being lewd or immoral,” Stelma said. “Our community has invested heavily in the parks and they expect us to keep them safe, family-friendly places and that’s what we’re going to continue to do.”
So Sheriff Stelma will arrest those whom he deems not to be “family-friendly” and parade them in front of the community for public shaming and condemnation. Oh, and if it was unwarranted, well then a judge can let them off the $500 penalty.
At Box Turtle Bulletin we do not endorse or defend sex in public or suggest that such acts should not be discouraged or punished when they occur. Half of the arrests reviewed by the ACLU were for activities that were criminal and that is appropriate.
But we also do not accept the assumption that being gay is a crime or that there is anything “family-friendly” about targeting gay people. And if an officer or police force is arresting gay people for things for which one would never arrest a heterosexual, they are engaging in criminal behavior themselves and are violating the civil rights of citizens.
Such tactics are not uncommon and the reason is clear. There is very little disincentive for police to engage in this form of selective and creative enforcement. Seldom are police chiefs reprimanded, much less fired. And there is little social cost resulting from their abuse of power.
Those who are hateful or fearful are happy that “that element” is remove from a “family park” and those who object are smirked at as being soft on crime and a seedy element themselves. And, of course, there is the internal reward of harming people whom the officer or leader considers inferior or less human. Truly, bigots love a good “round up the homos” police sting.
But the cost to their victims can be huge.
Often those who resort to meeting in a park are men who are closeted and afraid to go to a bar or look online. They will do anything, say anything, to avoid having their secrets become public. And it is on just such a fear that corrupt officers and police forces rely; the sheriff can hold the threat of being listed as a sex offender over their head to keep them from any public objection.
I’m really sick of this.
It has reached the point now that when I hear of any dispute between an officer and a civilian, I assume that the officer is simply engaging in police brutality. And sadly, I’m very seldom wrong.
And even more frustrating is the mindset that is universally shared by the police community: protection of their own before protection of the community. Even in the most extreme of cases. (OC Register)
Earlier this month, six Fullerton cops surrounded and savagely attacked an unarmed, 37-year-old Kelly Thomas until he was dead. By the time the cops were done, Thomas’ face looked like it had been put through a meat grinder.
Multiple witness say the cops repeatedly beat the 135-pound homeless man with their weapons, fired multiple Taser shots into his body, kicked his face and head with their boots and then, long after the man was subdued and on the ground, slammed their knees into his throat, apparently crushing it.
Thomas had committed no crime and it appears that the murder was for sport. Not one officer in the police force objected. The six were not put on suspension or reprimanded or even frowned at as a consequence of their action. In fact, it was not until the man’s father went to the internet and got the support of local radio hosts John and Ken that anyone knew about it or the department took up an investigation. And when John and Ken began reporting, the families of other police officers actually called up and tried to make excuses.
This was a murder committed on police time, in uniform, with police recorders running, and people watching. The victim was threatened and taunted and then beaten to death. And they didn’t care that they would be turning in “reports” or that their department would have access to the recordings. They already knew that they were protected from any consequence to any action – even murder – because they were police officers.
And when the Fullerton community erupted in anger and a few officers were finally arrested, guess who bailed out the primary murderer? Yep, his fellow officers.
This infuriates me.
The thing is that my instinct runs to ‘law and order’. I like having a police force to protect me. I like knowing that if someone breaks into my home or threatens me on the street or otherwise harms or endangers me, that there is someone to look out for me. And when people like Kent County Sheriff Larry Stelma abuse their office and bring shame to the process, it hurts those honest officers who try to do their job and protect the citizens.
But honest officers seem to be in short supply. And their honesty seems to come secondary to their loyalty to power and corruption. The “thin blue line” appears to have become an impenetrable boundary that breaks the world into two classes: “good guys” who murder citizens, and “perps” like you and me and homeless schizophrenics and closeted men in Michigan.
And I know that I’ll be told that “there are a lot of good officers”. Bull. Being a good officer means not only avoiding abuse yourself, but stopping it when others do it. And that simply doesn’t occur.
But this only happens because we allow it. We are afraid that if we stop police abuse that it will empower criminals and crooks. Unfortunately, we now are seeing that our fear has already empowered criminals and crooks – the ones wearing the uniform.
It needs to stop. We need to make it stop.
Perhaps it is time to implement a tool that police bullies use against the citizens. Perhaps it’s time to create a Police Brutality Offenders Registry and when an officer has been accused of abusing his power he goes on the registry. If you are surly or arrogant or dismissive of a citizen, it goes into the Registry. If someone dies at your hands, it goes into the Registry. If you are on a police board that excuses an officer or finds “justifiable” something that would result in jail time for anyone else, then your name goes into the Registry.
And people seeking to move into a new city or precinct can look up the Police Brutality Offenders Registry, just like they can the Sex Offenders Registry, to see just how safe their new community might be. “Great schools and few sex offenders, but the police are corrupt so we’ll not buy here.”
And perhaps it is time for society to withhold the respect afforded police until they have proven themselves worthy. They need to decide if they are peace officers or a police force, if they answer to the community first or to their loyalty to the uniform first. It isn’t enough, any more, to be honest officers themselves, it’s now time for them to insist that others in their ranks be honest or get out. And if their sergeant doesn’t like it, go the newspapers.
Until officers and police forces identify themselves as protectors of the citizenry, we must assume that they are not good people. If they cannot condemn the horrific acts in Fullerton in clear and unequivocal terms, if they cannot demonstrate that your civil rights are more important than ‘rousting the objectionables’, if they think that they are an exception and exempt from laws that prohibit murder, then we must assume that they are the enemies of law and order no different from a street gang.
I hate to assume guilt and corruption… but it seems that few police are willing or able to show otherwise.
December 6th, 2011
Janice Daniels is the newly elected mayor of Troy, Michigan. She’s also not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed. Even if the only other tool is a mallet. In fact, Janice is so dense that she thinks she’s “a good person.”
Daniels – who ran with a motto that surely sent her sixth grade grammar teacher into tears – sought to bring her private industry experience as an associate realtor to Troy so as to protect its limited, constitutional government and the interests of its leaders, We The People. And lest you doubt her “high standard of achievement in communications”, she has had her “Guest Opinions” published in the local paper. So there.
And the good people of Troy elected her with 52% of the vote. (I dunno, I don’t live there. But was the other smiley white female Republican realtor really a worse choice?)
But Janice has discovered that politicians are held to a higher standard than realtors. Higher, even, than guest opinionizeres. And comments made on Facebook are fair game.
Back in June, before Janice’s rise to power, she made a little comment in response to New York’s vote for marriage equality.
“I think I am going to throw away my I Love New York carrying bag now that queers can get married there.”
And when it was made public this week, the wheels fell off her wagon.
Folks are up in arms that Mayor Janice referred to gay people as “queers”. And Janice herself was quick to apologize.
“I may have said something like that,” she said. “I probably shouldn’t have used that kind of language, but I do believe marriage should be between one man and one woman.”
And when local students protested she demanded they “forgive” her.
“I’m a good person, I really am. I said one word that you don’t like. One word.”
But that particular word selection isn’t the issue. Yes it is undoubtedly true that Janice meant the word to be a slur. But calling gay people “queers” isn’t the problem.
Had Janice said “Oh my cousin is going to New York to marry her girlfriend. I can’t wait to go to my first queer wedding.” we’d all be so pleased. And her statement wouldn’t have been much better with any other word choice.
And it isn’t that Mayor Janice doesn’t support equality. She is entitled to “believe marriage should be between one man and one woman.” That, in and of itself, is not any indication of hatred or bigotry. Many good people with caring hearts and compassionate spirits have not yet evolved to the point where they see marriage laws in terms of equality.
But words are telling, and this sentence tells us a lot. Janice Daniels didn’t post on Facebook that she disagreed with New York’s law. Or that she was disappointed. Or that marriage should be defined on her terms. Janice didn’t mention the legislature or the law at all.
To Janice the issue isn’t over the state’s definitions. It’s about a certain group of people being allowed to do something. And, let’s be real, it’s not the “get married” part that has her in a tizzy. It’s hard to invest much emotion into weddings which we find objectionable, be it a drunken Vegas stunt, an octogenarian-golddigger match, or a reality show finale.
No, Janice’s real objection was that “queers can…”
In fact, Janice so objects to the fact that “queers can..” that she threatened to throw away her carry bag. She so objects to “queers can…” that, for a moment anyway, she no longer loved New York. The state had betrayed her. Not because it now allowed yet another class of marriages of which she didn’t approve, but because they voted and now “queers can…”
Janice can declare that she “loves everyone” all day long. But when it comes to discerning poor word selection from heart-felt animus, queers can.
The Daily Agenda for Friday, 11/11/11
November 11th, 2011
TODAY’S AGENDA (OURS):
Veterans Day: Nationwide. This will be the first Veterans Day commemoration since the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which means that this will be the first Veterans Day commemoration in which gay and lesbian servicemembers will be able to participate fully. I know of two cities in which LGBT veterans will be celebrated as part of the mainstream events:
- San Diego, CA: San Diego LGBT Pride extends its welcome to all LGBT veterans, active duty servicemembers, and their families and supporters to walk with us in the San Diego Veterans Day Parade. The contingent will meet at 10am on the west side of the north Parking lot of the Country Administration Building, 1600 Pacific Hwy, San Diego CA 92101. The Parade will kick off at 11am.
- San Francisco, CA: Today’s 92nd annual Veterans Day Parade will be led by San Francisco Freedom Day Marching Band. “It’s just the right thing to do,” said Wallace Levin, the parade coordinator. “Future generations of Americans will look back on this issue and wonder what all the fuss was about.” The parade begins at 11:00 a.m. at the corner of Market and Montgomery streets, and will go down Market Street to McAllister Street and then continue up McAllister to the reviewing stand across from City Hall.
I’m sure there are others. If you know of any, please let us know in the comments.
TODAY’S AGENDA (THEIRS):
Lou Engle’s TheCall Rally: Detroit, MI. Engle is apparently transfixed by certain numbers when they repeat themselves on the calendar. When July 7, 2007 rolled around, Engle held a TheCall rally in Nashville which he believed would mark the end of a forty year period of rebellion since the “Summer of Love” in 1967. Apparently believe that God conforms himself to the man-made western Gregorian calendar, Engle has managed to read some sort of significance into the date 11/11/11, although what that would be is anybody’s guess. Targeting the substantial Arab-American community of Dearborn, Engle’s goal for TheCall Detroit is the conversion of “millions of Muslims” to Christianity and what he calls the transformation of “urban communities.” And gays. Don’t forget the gays, although it looks like he really has his sights set on Muslims this time. He took care of the gays in 2010 at a rally in Kampala, Uganda, where he lent tactical support for the proposed “Kill the Gays” Bill.
Today’s rally begins tonight at 6:00 p.m. and continues for twenty-four hours until tomorrow night at 6:00 p.m. And Engle has issued some pretty crazy warnings if he doesn’t get a massive turnout in Detroit: “ If we actually have The Call and you don’t sustain prayer ongoing you open a vacuum for demons seven times worse to come in. If black and white can’t move together in prayer and sustain it, forget it let’s not even go there, you get demons seven times worse.” So yeah, there’s that to chew on.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Woman Who Posed As Man 60 Years, Dead: 1907. That was the headline in The Trinidad (Colorado) Advertiser above this news item:
Katherine Vosbaugh, who for sixty years posed as a man, wearing male garb, living the rough life of the pioneers in the Southwest and who even “married” another woman, died yesterday morning at the San Raphael Hospital in this city, where she had been a county charge since he secret of her life was discovered by Dr. T.J. Forham, of this city two years ago.
Born nearly four-score years ago in France of a good family, this remarkable woman donned male garb when but a slip of a girl, came to America and worked as a back clerk, bookkeeper, restauranteur, cook, and sheep herder for over half a century without her sex being known.
In July, two years ago, “Frenchy,” a cook and sheep herder on the Sam Brown ranch, near this city, was taken with pneumonia and brought to the hospital where her secret was revealed. Even then, this strange woman refused to wear skirts. Clad in regulation man’s attire, she has since worked about the hospital and was known by the nickname of “Grandpa.”
Katherine Vosbaugh was left an orphan at the age of twenty years. Her father, a well educated man of considerable means, gave her an excellent business education. At hi death she was an expert accountant and spoke her native tongue, English, German, and Hungarian. Her only motive in assuming the disguise at first seems to have been to enable her more easily to secure employment.
She worked in several cities all over the country before settling at Joplin, Mo., where she worked for fifteen years as a bank clerk, and it was in this city where she married. The name of her “wife” was never learned, but the ceremony seems to have taken place for the purpose of saving the woman’s good name. A few months after the marriage a child was born to the wife, which died after a few months.
Shortly after the death of the child the two women came to this city and opened a restaurant on Commercial street. Here she was known as “Frenchy” and the establishment was one of the most popular restaurants in the Southwest.
Wheat became of “Frenchy’s” wife is not known. She drifted away and her “husband” refused until the time of her death to reveal the woman’s name.
After leaving here the woman secured a position as cook on a big sheep ranch near Trinche ranch. The eccentricities of youth became more pronounced as she grew older and more and more she came to look like a man. For years she lived with men on the ranch, cooking for them, assisting them in the ranch work, and sleeping in the same rooms, but her secret was never suspected.
Two years and four months ago she was stricken with pneumonia, and it was then that her secret was discovered. Since then she failed rapidly in body and mind and her death was due to a general breakdown.
From Jonathan Ned Katz’s Gay/Lesbian Almanac (New York: Harper & Row, 1983), pages 323-324.
If you know of something that belongs on the Agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).
As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.
Gay, Pro-Gay Candidates Win Big
November 9th, 2011
Yesterday was a very good day for gay and -pro-gay candidates throughout the country. Here is a wrap-up. Please let me know what else is out there in the comments.
NOM Loses Big: Same-sex marriage remains secure in Iowa as Liz Mathis won big, 56-44%, over her NOM-backed opponent, Cindy Golding, in a special election for the Iowa state Senate. The National Organization for Marriage threw about $40,000 toward their failed attempt to elect Golding by making same-sex marriage an issue in the race. But soon after it was clear Golding lost, NOM’s cultural director Thomas Peters tweeted: “That’s what happens when a state GOP nominates a weak candidate.” Wow. Talk about your fair weather friends.
Virginia’s First: Adam Ebbin became the first openly gay state senator in Virginia after defeating his Republican challenger by a margin of 64-35%. His district, which is solidly Democratic, includes parts of Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax counties.
First Openly Gay, African-American Republican Mayor: At least that’s what we think happened when Bruce Harris was elected mayor of Chatham Borough, New Jersey.
Charlotte’s First: LaWana Mayfield became the first openly gay city council member as part of a Democratic landslide in North Carolina’s largest city. North Carolina, which will see a marriage amendment on the ballot next year, saw a number of other LGBT victories:
- Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt won re-election with 78% of the vote.
- Lee Storrow, a gay 22-year-old UNC grad won his race for a seat on the Chapel Hill city council.
- Carrboro incumbent Alderwoman Lydia Lavelle was re-elected to another term for city council.
Cincinnati’s First: Chis Seelbach became the first openly gay city council member. He worked in 2004 to help defeat Article XII in the city charter which banned anti-discrimination ordinances for gay people.
Indianapolis’s First: Zach Adamson became the first openly gay city council member. S
Missoula’s First: Caitlin Copple became the first openly gay city council member. She defeated one of only two city council members who voted against the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance in 2010, which made Missoula the first city in Montana to provide discrimination protections in housing and employment regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Youngest Mayor: Alex Morse, 22, beat incumbent mayor Mary Pluta in Holyoke, Massachusetts, to become the nation’s youngest mayor.
Houston Re-elects: Mayor Annise Parker was re-elected with more than 50% of the vote, a margin which allows her to avoid a run-off. Mike Laster also became the first openly gay member of Houston’s city council.
Traverse City Supports Anti-Discrimination Ordinance: Voters in Traverse City, Michigan voted by a 2-to-1 margin to keep an anti-discrimination ordinance. The vote came more than a year after Traverse City adopted the ordinance to prevent discrimination against gays in employment, housing and other areas. Opponents of the measure collected signatures to place a referendum for repeal on the ballot.
And on a final note, there were a number of gains in school board elections around the country which I didn’t cover, but I would like to point one out anyway: Daniel Hernandez, Jr., Rep. Gabrielle Gifford’s openly gay intern, was elected to as seat on the board of the Sunnyside Unified School District in Tuscon’s south side. Hernandez was one of the recognized heros during the January shooting at a Northwest side Safeway which killed six and critically injured Rep. Giffords. And on a more personal note, I couldn’t be happier about the stunning news that Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, architect of infamous anti-immigrant S.B. 1070 which was later found unconstitutional, was ousted by voters in favor of a political newcomer in Mesa.
Lou Engle’s TheCall Announced for Wasilla, Detroit
April 20th, 2011
Lou Engle is taking his dominionist craziness of TheCall Crisis to the capital of crazy, Wasilla, Alaska. Why? “We believe that Alaska is key to the future of this nation,” he explains. Citing Oil, earthquakes, and apparently Johnny Cash, all signs point to Alaska as “a place of refuge for our nation.” Engle’s TheCall is part of a larger 2-day conference set for June 3-4.
Engle, who is transfixed by key numbers when they repeat themselves on the calendar, has also announced a gathering slated for Detroit on “11.11.11.” He is also a stealth supporter of Uganda’s “Kill-the-gays” bill.
Jackson County, MI, turns human resources over to Crystal Dixon
March 30th, 2011
On April 4, 2008, Michael Miller, the editor of the Toledo Free Press, wrote an editorial in which he declared his affiliation with and affection for the community of gay people in his life. He expressed his difficulty in understanding anti-gay prejudice and the motivations behind those who advocate for discrimination.
Because I have such intense love and respect for the people in my life who are gay, it never makes sense to me when I hear someone preaching anti-gay rights propaganda. I can never understand why they care.
It’s basic Golden Rule territory: don’t judge people for the color of their skin or their physical challenges, and don’t judge them for their sexuality. I know that is a simplified and naïve statement, but for me, the issue really is that simple.
Miller lamented that his home state of Ohio was behind the curve in recognizing the equality of its gay residents. As an illustration on how gay Ohioans can be subjected to casual and careless inequality and indignity, he discussed a local situation.
The frequent denial of health care benefits leads to horror stories. According to the panelists, UT has offered domestic partner benefits since then-president Dan Johnson signed them into effect. The Medical University of Ohio did not offer those benefits. When the institutions merged, UT employees retained the domestic-partner benefits, but MUO employees were not offered them. So, people working for the same employer do not have access to the same benefits. According to the panel, it may be 18 months before the situation is addressed. Eighteen months is a very long time to live (and work at a medical facility) without health benefits.
Miller’s criticism did not sit well with Crystal Dixon, associate vice president for Human Resources at the University of Toledo. So on April 18, the Free Press printed Dixon’s rebuttal and allowed her to set the record straight.
But the Free Press’ implied criticism of the administration was not her concern. No, Dixon was furious that Miller dared to suggest that the struggle for equality for gay people had anything in common with the struggle for equality endured by African-Americans. How dare he compare her to one of them.
As a Black woman who happens to be an alumnus of the University of Toledo’s Graduate School, an employee and business owner, I take great umbrage at the notion that those choosing the homosexual lifestyle are “civil rights victims.” Here’s why. I cannot wake up tomorrow and not be a Black woman. I am genetically and biologically a Black woman and very pleased to be so as my Creator intended. Daily, thousands of homosexuals make a life decision to leave the gay lifestyle evidenced by the growing population of PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex Gays) and Exodus International just to name a few.
Her letter went on to express her belief that Jesus Christ hates homosexuality, to accuse gay people of violating God’s divine order, to complain that “economic data” proved that gay men who have degrees make more money than a non-college educated black male, and to declare that it was “misleading” to note that gay employees were categorically denied benefits when ALL employees of the two schools have “different benefit plans.”
To say that this was an embarrassment for the University of Toledo would be an understatement. Not only did her actions threaten her department’s employment negotiation possibilities, but it put the entire university in a disadvantage. When considering their options, few prospective college students consider anti-gay advocacy to be a selling point.
So on May 2, Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, the president of the University of Toledo, wrote an op-ed to assure the public that the school does not engage in anti-gay hiring practices, that Dixon’s comments “do not accord with the values of the University of Toledo”, and that he had personally lobbied the legislature in favor of domestic-partner recognition. He also corrected the impression that Dixon gave about the university’s position on the denial of benefits.
As regards the continued asymmetry of benefits packages across the campuses of this university, do understand that we are fully aware that asymmetry that Michael S. Miller spoke of does exist and are working as rapidly as we can to correct this asymmetry. When this asymmetry is corrected, the solution will be reflective of the university value statements above.
And with a cryptic reference to taking action to “more fully align our utterances and actions” with the values he expressed, Dr. Jacobs hinted that Dixon might best update her resume. And, indeed, on the 8th, noting that “personnel actions or decisions taken in your capacity as associate vice president for human resources could be challenged or placed at risk”, the University notified her that she had been terminated.
Naturally, letters flooded in to the editor. Those offended by Dixon’s views tended towards relatively polite exclamations of consternation and little lectures on equality and civil rights. Those angry at Dixon’s discontinued employment included accusations of fascism combined with a healthy dose of religious entitlement and no small amount of homophobia.
Dixon retained the Catholic advocacy law firm, Thomas Moore Law Center, and announced her intention to sue the university for violating her First Amendment rights. And World Net Daily, never one to let a loon go unchampioned, took up her causeRush Limbaugh and Focus on the Family presented Dixon as a martyr, a victim of liberal godlessness
and soon Crystal Dixon was the darling of the anti-gay industry.
Even wackadoodlery’s favorite theologian, Dr. Robert Gagnon, rushed to get a little attention from the controversy. In an open letter to the university full of axiomatic declarations about the obviousness of heterosexuality and amusing assumptions about gay relationships (lesbians have “markedly shorter durations of sexual unions on average, even relative to homosexual males”), he declared that “the closest parallels to adult-committed homosexual relations is not ethnicity or gender but rather adult-committed incestuous unions and adult-committed polysexual unions”.
Gagnon decried the school’s “full affirmation of homosexual activity” and bemoaned the “environment that provides increased opportunities for and fewer negative sanctions against same-gender sexuality”. To not sing Dixon’s praises for her honesty and her courage of conviction was, Gagnon declared, a sign of their intolerance. (One thing you have to say about Robert Gagnon, he never lets logic or consistency dissuade him from the certainty of his presumptions.)
In December 2008, Dixon made good on her threat to sue. But after that her trail goes a bit cold. Thomas Moore Law Center waved her flag a bit in their rundraising efforts, but I’m not sure whether her case was heard or if the school settled.
But, meanwhile, Crystal made good use of her down time. She wrote a book, Destiny’s Time, which is either “A New Novel!” or a guide to turning your “God-given talents and passions” into “viable businesses as well as enhancing job readiness skills!” Or perhaps both.
And she also started a company to sell shoe laces (with the catchy slogan “keeps shoes tied”) and a consulting frim which offers not only business advice but opportunities such as
$$ THREE GREAT WAYS FOR YOU TO EARN EXTRA INCOME! $$
1.You pre-buy paper-back books directly from the author at a discounted rate of $7.50 each and then you sell each book for $11 (includes tax) to your customers. And/or you can pre-buy audio books on CD at the discounted rate of $12.50 each and then you sell each audio book for $20. YOU KEEP all monies from books you sell and you have books to sell on the spot! (Minimum of 5 books for consultant purchases).
2. With your sales, you automatically recoup your $7.50 investment and also earn a 47% ($3.50) profit on each paper-back book you sell! For audio books, you earn at 66% ($7.50) profit on each book you sell. Share the books at your convenience!
(The third great way to earn extra income appears to be a secret.)
However, it looks like Ms. Dixon may now be returning from private enterprise to the governmental sector work force. The county and city of Jackson, Michigan, have decided to consolidate their human relations departments and place them under one director’s control. And they have decided that Crystal Dixon, at a salary of $87,030, is the right person for this role.
Noting that Dixon has spent the past three years “working as a human resources and business consultant”, the Interim County Administrator praised her ability to “wear many hats and switch her leadership style based on where she is.” (Mlive.com)
Interim county Administrator Adam Brown said Dixon’s level of experience and professionalism put her “head and shoulders” above other candidates.
It’s tempting to think that if the County representatives are that stupid then they deserve what they get. But there is a bigger issue at stake; Crystal Dixon has been given authority over the livelihood of any gay people that work for the county and city of Jackson.
And while Dixon is certainly entitled to her views about matters of faith, homosexuality, choice, and civil rights, if she is incapable or unwilling to set aside those views, this will undoubtedly result in a culture – and perhaps even policy – of anti-gay discrimination.
And, even before three years of receiving accolades for her anti-gay advocacy, Dixon left little doubt as to whether she considers employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation to be objectionable. She does not. She considers it a divine mandate.
Looking back to where it started, before Dixon was the champion of God, family, and decency, she was a woman responding to a newspaper editor’s call for equal compensation for gay employees. And it was in the context of this right that Dixon countered:
There is a divine order. God created human kind male and female (Genesis 1:27). God created humans with an inalienable right to choose. There are consequences for each of our choices, including those who violate God’s divine order. It is base human nature to revolt and become indignant when the world or even God Himself, disagrees with our choice that violates His divine order. Jesus Christ loves the sinner but hates the sin (John 8:1-11.) Daily, Jesus Christ is radically transforming the lives of both straight and gay folks and bringing them into a life of wholeness: spiritually, psychologically, physically and even economically. That is the ultimate right.
In April 2008, Crystal Dixon endorsed anti-gay discrimination, saying, “one’s personal choices lead to outcomes either positive or negative.” Having now been confirmed in her beliefs by the city and county of Jackson, there is little doubt that she will see this as God anointing her to mete out those outcomes.
My existence is not a violation of your rights
November 3rd, 2010
I am becoming increasingly frustrated by the notion of “balance” that some in the anti-gay industry are espousing.
I support the right of those who believe that homosexual acts are sinful and wish to encourage abstinence to have their voices heard. And those who think that the social acceptance of same-sex couples in society reduces public morality and will lead to social ills should be given the space to present their case.
But the false equivalencies that have been presented lately do not speak to an exchange of ideas, but rather to the assumptions of entitlement to which anti-gay activists think they are due.
The counterbalance to “I wish to advocate for gay rights” is not “you must be kept silent.” And there is no moral equivalency between “I wish to live unharmed” and “I wish to beat you to submission.” Yet these are not greatly exaggerated from that which we see presented.
Take, for example, Russian gay rights protesters who sued their country in the European Court after being denied the right to assemble. The court found last month that their rights had been violated and ordered that Russia allow for future gay rights demonstrations and assigned compensation.
The response to this decision by the Russian Orthodox Church is astonishing. (Interfax Religion)
“The decision made in Strasbourg essentially constitutes violence against the feelings and morals of the majority of [Russian] society. That will hardly help achieve the stated purpose to cultivate tolerance and achieve accord, mutual understanding and peaceful co-existence,” Father Filaret said in an interview with Interfax-Religion.
Peaceful assembly is depicted by the church as “violence against the morals and feelings of society.” The real violence enacted against the physical bodies of gay people in Russia was given less concern by the church than the “violence” against anti-gays feelings.
Or take note of the equivalencies assigned by the school board in Howell, Michigan. (Livingston Daily)
- On October 20, Jay McDowell wore a purple shirt to class to express solidarity with students who are bullied for being (or being perceived as) gay or lesbian. This led to a discussion about bullying and why it should be opposed.
- One student, who had come to class with a Confederate Flag belt buckle was asked by McDowell to remove the item (she did).
- In response, a male student declared that he opposes rainbow flags because, “I don’t accept Gays. It is against my religion. I am Catholic.”
- McDowell attempted to explain how “I don’t accept” followed by any group was disruptive and when the student refused to back down, suspended him and another student from the class for the day.
As the Michigan Messenger describes it:
That student … and another student, were kicked out of McDowell’s Economic class after debating with the teacher about a third student’s Confederate flag belt buckle. The student questioned why it was OK for students to wear clothing to support LGBT issues, but not for a student to wear a Confederate flag.
In other words, why isn’t “I support” equivalent to “I don’t accept”? Shouldn’t both positions be given the same prominence and legal and moral weight?
No. Perhaps in some settings, but not this one.
Because the context of the debate was over the bullying of children. And in that context, “I don’t accept gays” is an implicit endorsement of bullying of school children. When speaking of bullying, “I don’t accept” is a justification for bullying.
Yet the school board found that McDowell violated the rights of these two boys to their free expression and reprimanded him. And in doing so, they made the following comparison:
You also state you routinely do not allow [the Confederate Flag] in your classroom because it offends you, and you personally connect this symbol to a list of oppressions and atrocities. You do, however, allow the display of the rainbow flag, to which some of your students have voiced opposition.
McDowell actually does not display the rainbow flag. (And, indeed, if McDowell did use his class space to advocate for specific (or even general) political positions to the exclusion of other positions, I would agree that this was unfair.) But irrespective of that inaccuracy, consider what it means that the school board administration compared the two:
On one hand the Confederate Flag has a traceable history and an identifiable connection with acts of violence and advocacy of discrimination and intolerance towards people based on their racial and religious identity. In fact, in this particular high school it was linked to a Facebook Hate Group which, in 2009, used the flag as its profile picture and students have been required to remove the symbol from their cars. The Confederate Flag at Howell High was directly connected to a threat against some students.
On the other hand, the rainbow flag is linked with a set of social positions with which some students disagree. At most, it exists as a challenge to the beliefs of some students. But in the minds of this school board administration, a challenge to their beliefs is equivalent to – or worse than – a physical threat against others.
And so they accused McDowell of bullying the students, of denying their right to “not accept” their fellow students. In response to his defense of gay students from being bullied (or “not accepted”), they order him to “cease from engaging in the promotion of your personal social issues.”
For refusing to accept statements of intolerance in his classroom, the board accused McDowell of being intolerant.
Nonsense. Contrary to what anti-gay activists claim, tolerance is not defined by the extent to which it allows intolerance to prevail.
But perhaps most troubling is this instruction to McDowell: “Where controversial issues arise, be sure all sides of the controversial issue be explored without emotion and bias.” Think back to the originating situation, the reason for McDowell’s decision to wear purple: the suicide deaths of a number of gay and presumed-gay children.
What, I wonder, are “all sides” of the “controversial issue” that gay students should not be bullied to death?
Michigan Assistant AG Takes Leave Of Absence Amid Cyber-Stalking Controversy
October 1st, 2010
Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell has taken an indefinite personal leave of absence from his job amid national controversy over his cyber-stalking blog dedicated to attacking a University of Michigan student. A spokesman for Attorney General Mike Cox, who has defended Shirvell’s continued employment with the AG’s office, said that Shirvell will be subject to a disciplinary hearing after he returns to work.
Meanwhile, Shirvell’s blog, Chris Armstrong Watch, which cyber-stalks the openly gay president of University of Michigan’s student government, is now locked and is available by invitation only. Past posts however are still available on Google’s cache.
Several of Shirvell’s posts appear to indicate that his stalking activities go beyond cyber-stalking, and appear to take on aspects of actual physical stalking. Shirvell has been spotted “protesting” in front of Armstrong’s home, crashing a house party that Armstrong hosted, and following Armstrong’s friends around campus. UM’s campus police confirm that Shirvell has been banned from campus beginning Sept 14, and is being investigated for “harassing or stalking” Armstrong.
Armstrong is seeking a restraining order against Shirvell. That hearing will be held on October 4. In Armstrong’s application for a restraining order, he makes clear that he is now in fear for his safety: (PDF: 5 pages 3.3MB)
“The actions that Mr. Shirvell has taken against me over the past 4 months have been incredibly distressing. If it were University of Michigan students or administrators who were taking these actions it would be a very different conversation since my position is to serve the currently enrolled University of Michigan students. However, since he isn’t a student his actions are concerning and make me feel unsure about my own safety.”