Defining moments

Leo-CusimanoIt was 1992 and I had just moved to Dallas from a small college town in Florida. HIV/AIDS was a growing issue in my experience, but it had already taken many people in Dallas, including leaders in our LGBT community. I was too young to understand the power of the Stonewall Riots in 1969, so my personal experience with HIV/AIDS was my first defining moment to get involved in the community.

The mind-set in our community was different then. We had lost so many, and ACT-UP was in the streets and angry. Our community was under attack.

I remember making signs for protests and joining the board of DGLA. Lesbians fought to help save the lives of their gay brothers and in the process galvanized our community. Drag queens and transgender people were at the heart of many community actions. The sense of LGBT community was very strong.

Today, HIV/AIDS is still a devastating diagnosis for anyone, but is viewed by some in our younger community to be a manageable illness. These millennials have not experienced the struggles and death at the same scale. Our sense of community has waned over the years.

But then ….

It’s 2 in the morning in Los Angeles, where I have traveled for work, and the phone rings. Fifty people lay dead in a Florida gay bar, and more than 50 others are injured.

This is the start of another heart-wrenching, defining moment that unfortunately will make history and play out as Pride celebrations prepare to march.

The morning stretches on and I find myself sitting in a hotel room in West Hollywood preparing for LA Pride. I feel sick as the stress rises in my body, watching the reports from Florida, then the vibration of my cell phone makes me jump. A text message about an arrest near L.A. that has foiled another attempted attack on our community illuminates the room. My heart drops.

What is next?

We have come so far as a community, and each positive or negative defining moment presents an opportunity for us to come together in a way that makes our community stronger.

My husband Tony and I had been living in Dallas for several years when the Supreme Court invalidated sodomy laws with the Lawrence vs. Texas ruling in 2003. This was a positive defining moment for us that provided hope for our community and empowered our movement.

We experienced a setback in 2008 when California passed Prop 8, but our commitment to stand up and fight just made us stronger. Last year, the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling legalized our marriages, and as a community we have seen growing acceptance as Love Wins.

But now, once again our community is under attack. We are devastated by this senseless act of violence. As we mourn the victims in Florida, we also march on in solidarity and in honor of those we lost.

This is another defining moment for me. I feel like our community has a renewed fight. Once again, arm-in-arm we march. We stick together and support each other. My hope is that we find renewed strength in this tragedy and we once again become galvanized and strengthened as the LGBT community.

Our life experiences and defining moments influence our choices and how we choose to show up in the world. What is your defining moment? How will you make a difference?

Leo Cusimano is co-owner and publisher of Dallas Voice and Voice Publishing Co

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2016.

—  Dallasvoice

Government finally recognizes 1975 marriage

Anthony Sullivan

Anthony Sullivan, in his home in Los Angeles (Photo for The Pride LA by Jon Viscott)

It was almost a year ago — 347 days, to be exact — that the United States Supreme Court made history with its ruling declaring marriage equality to be the law of the land. We spent a lot of time in the weeks after that ruling talking about the future, talking about how our lives were changing, about how the lives of our LGBT children would be so different, so much better.

We looked backwards, a little, too. We talked about all the hard work by so many people — our pioneers in LGBT equality — and how it was finally paying off. We talked about how their past work made our present and our future possible.

Now, Troy Masters with The Pride LAx, Los Angeles’ LGBT newspaper, brings us the story of Richard Adams and Anthony Sullivan, and how last year’s marriage equality ruling changed — in a way — their past.

Adams and Sullivan were married in Boulder, Colo., in April 1975. Thanks to a loophole in the law and a fair-minded country clerk, they were able to get a marriage license, and they got married. Then Adams applied for a green card for his husband, Sullivan, who was an Australian citizen. The application was, of course, denied by immigration authorities who declared that the men had “failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.”

But their marriage remained on the record and was never invalidated.

The two men fought for 10 years, becoming in the process the first same-sex couple to sue the U.S. government to have their marriage legally recognized. But they lost at every turn, finally being forced to leave the country in 1985. They came back to the U.S. the next year, but had to live under the radar, always in fear that Sullivan would be deported.

Finally in 2012, President Obama offered some relief in the form of a memo to protect low-risk family members of U.S. citizens from deportation, including same-sex partners of American citizens. Sadly, Adams died a year later. But this year, 41 years after they were married, the White House has instructed the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to issue a written apology directly to Adams and Sullivan, and the same L.A. immigration office that denied their application for a green card with such insulting language in 1975 has recognized their marriage as legal and determined that Sullivan deserves the same treatment as all other surviving spouses under immigration law.

Read Masters’ full story here.

—  Tammye Nash

Brian and David are getting hitched and we have the license to prove it

In 1991, activists celebrated National Coming Out Day by staging a “kiss-in” in the Dallas County Clerk’s office to protest for marriage equality.

1991 kiss-in

Gary Bellomy, left, and Bill Hunt were among the protesters. The accompanying article didn’t identify who else was there and I can’t make it our from the picture. Mary Franklin, John Thomas and others held a sit-in in the County Clerk’s office on Valentine’s Day sometime in the 1980s.

In 2012, it took four sheriff’s deputies to arrest Major when he and Beau applied for their marriage license and handcuffed themselves to the stanchion in the marriage bureau office when they were turned down.

Major arrested

And that was followed by protesters outside the county courthouse during their court appearances for trying to get a marriage license.

Protests

On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court declared marriage equality law and this happened in Dallas County:

June 26

And today, Brian and I did this. No sheriff’s deputies were called. No arrests were made. No one had to handcuff themselves to anything. No offices were taken over.

The clerk smiled, said congratulations and handed us our license. Someone who works in the building downstairs saw us trying to take a selfie and asked if she could take it for us. That idiot clerk up in Kentucky keeps making news, but thank you Dallas County for making marriage equality so, well, routine.

David and Brian

And thank you Gary and Bill, Beau and Major and everyone else who protested for years to make marriage equality a reality.

And if you’d like to see our wedding in person, everyone’s welcome.

We’re getting married on stage during the second act of Heartstrings, the Turtle Creek Chorale concert on Thursday, June 9 at 7:30 p.m. Beth El Binah’s Rabbi Steve Fisch is officiating. Brian’s mother will walk him across the stage to the chuppa and my Aunt Rhoda is flying in from New York to walk me. And our flower girl? Well, let’s just say she’s a big girl.

After the Chorale performance, we’ll have a reception in the lobby with the biggest damn cake for everyone to share. (The main cake is sour cream champagne with blueberry and key lime layers all covered in a chocolate icing).

OK, so for our bizarre wedding, you need tickets, because it is in the middle of a Turtle Creek Chorale concert. Tickets are available here. And if you’ve never seen a Chorale concert or haven’t been to one in awhile, here’s a good excuse to do it. Cake comes with your ticket. And the bar will be open til midnight.

—  David Taffet

PHOTOS: Patti and Erin get hitched

Longtime Dallas LGBT activists Patti Fink and Erin Moore were married on April 1 by Judge Teena Callahan in her courtroom. They held a politically-themed “wedding convention” at the Round-Up Saloon on Saturday afternoon, with the event chaired by former state Rep. Glen Maxey.

Resolutions were introduced and overwhelmingly approved to recognize the couple as married.

—  David Taffet

County Clerk Kim Davis obeying judge’s orders

Davis.Kim

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis

U.S. District Judge David Bunning ruled that since the five days she spent in jail, Rowan County, Ky., County Clerk Kim Davis has upheld his orders to issue marriage licenses.

The ACLU had filed suit to have Davis reissue licenses after Davis removed her name from the county’s marriage licenses. The ACLU wants the county clerk’s name added to those licenses issued since September.

NBC News reports that Bunning ruled the licenses, as issued by Davis, are probably valid under Kentucky law. In December, the state’s Republican governor signed an executive order removing county clerk names from marriage licenses.

 

—  David Taffet

Judge: Non-bio mom in lesbian divorce is child’s legal parent

Lauren Poole

Lauren Poole

Virginia Beach, Va. Circuit Judge Steven Frucci has ruled in a lesbian divorce case there involving custody of a child that even though she contributed no DNA, the non-biological mom is a legal parent of the child to whom her now-former wife gave birth.

To rule otherwise, Frucci said, would make “every child born in a same-sex marriage a bastard, and I’m not about to do that,” according to The Virginian-Pilot.

Lauren Poole, 29, and Karen Poole, 31, both of Virginia Beach, were married in Maryland in August 2013, before same-sex marriage was legally recognized in Virginia. They used sperm donated by a male friend to impregnate Karen, using the at-home “turkey baster” method. Lauren, Karen and the sperm donor signed an agreement before the baby — a boy — was born that released the sperm donor from any responsibility and named Lauren as the child’s second parent.

The baby was born in July 2014, but six months later — as their relationship began to fail — Laurent moved out of the family’s home. She visited the baby several times a week until she and Karen got into an altercation, after which Karen took out a protective order against Lauren that prevented her from seeing the baby.

Lauren Poole then filed for divorce, leading to the just-settled battle in Frucci’s court.

Wanting children, they enlisted a male friend to act as a sperm donor, impregnating Karen Poole with an at-home artificial insemination technique commonly known as the “turkey baster” method, according to written arguments filed by both sides.

After the pregnancy was confirmed, the three signed an agreement to release the donor from parental responsibility and name Lauren Poole as the child’s second parent.

The baby – a boy – was born in July 2014 at Sentara Princess Anne Hospital.

Six months later, the couple’s marriage was unraveling and Lauren Poole moved out of the family’s home. For the next few months, she visited the baby several times a week until an altercation led Karen Poole to take out a protective order that stopped all contact.

Lauren Poole filed for divorce and a fight for custody began. As the battle over custody continues, Frucci says one question is definitely settled: From here on out, Lauren Pool will be treated as the legal parent of a legitimate child.

—  Tammye Nash

Obergefell to be seated in the First Lady’s box seats at the State of the Union

Obergefell.Jim

Jim Obergefell

When President Barack Obama delivers his final State of the Union speech tomorrow night (Tuesday, June 12), the man whose name has become synonymous with marriage equality in the U.S. will be watching from the First Lady’s box seats.

Jim Obergefell was the lead plaintiff in the historic U.S. Supreme Court case that the court decided last June 26 in favor of equality. Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley — lead Senate sponsor of the Equality Act — invited Obergefell to attend the State of the Union address as his guest. And this morning (Monday, Jan. 15), the White House announced that Obergefel will sit in the First Lady’s box for the event.

The Equality Act is comprehensive LGBT non-discrimination legislation that would extend federal non-discriminaion protections to LGBT people in key areas, including employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, credit and education.

Merkley said his is “honored” to have Obergefell attend the State of Union address as his guest, adding that “Jim’s love and commitment to his husband and his pursuit of justice should serve as an inspiration to us all. Now, we must finish the work that we have started and ensure that LGBT Americans have full equality in all aspects of their lives.

“It’s incomprehensibly wrong that in many states, a couple could marry in the morning and legally be evicted from their apartment or kicked out of a restaurant in the afternoon,” Merkley continued. “No one knows better than Jim that we have come a long way, but as we have seen with the recent attack on marriage equality in Alabama, it’s more important than ever to keep pushing for full equality. I’m pleased to have Jim with me this week to highlight both the tremendous progress we’ve made and the important work that’s left to be done.”

The Equality Act is cosponsored by more than 200 members of Congress, and was recently endorsed by President Obama.

—  Tammye Nash

WATCH: With the help of advertising, gays are (finally) the new normal

Screen shot 2015-11-18 at 10.19.48 AMI had an ex-mother-in-law with whom I often sowed family discord by challenging on her ideas about relationships. She claimed to be gay-friendly and supportive of her son (my ex), but I knew it wasn’t in her heart. One time, when the ex and I met her and her husband for lunch in Orlando, Fla., she noted that they had been at Disney World earlier, on what happened to be Gay Day. (That was the reason my ex and I were there; you’d think she’d have known that.) She clucked her tongue that, while “I have no problem with gay people,” she thought it was “inappropriate” how gays at the park “throw their sexuality in your face. I don’t like public displays of affection in any context!” she whined.

“Oh?” I said. “You’re holding your husband’s hand as we speak. And when we saw you in the parking lot, you gave your son a big hug and kiss. Clearly, you don’t mind public displays of affection; you just don’t like seeing the kinds that offend you. That makes you a hypocrite.”

It was a pretty quiet lunch after that.

What infuriates me about that kind of casual bigotry is how it presumes gay people should stay in the closet; that heterosexuality can be public, but not homosexuality; that it is something to be embarrassed by. “Do you believe his son brought his boyfriend to the funeral and they held hands during the service!?” I heard a woman say once after a funeral. It never occurred to this bigot that the son needed his boyfriend’s support, that he had lost his father and needed comfort; it also never occurred to the person that the entire family might actually be supportive of the gay son and like the boyfriend. The speaker was offended on behalf of the family, never thinking that — perhaps — not everyone was as virulent a homophobe as she was.

This is what the right is really contending with now: Not that openness will lead to recruitment, but that it will make it more difficult to demonize people who are different. If your kids know gay people who are cool, and seem well adjusted, it makes teaching them bigotry all that more difficult.

And finally the mainstream media is catching on.

Of course, locally, our own Todd and Cooper Smith-Koch became celebs when their print ad with their children for JCPenney went viral, causing claims of “pandering” to gays. There have been many ads in recent years that include gays, though sometimes comically.

But a new TV spot from Kohl’s department store — it’s below — does exactly what my ex-mother-in-law, and the woman at the funeral, couldn’t do: Imagine gay people (of different races, even!) as part of a happy, comfortable family dynamic.

The imagery is subtle. A matriarch is beginning to prepare Thanksgiving dinner as the family members start to arrive — daughter and son-in-law with the grandkids; maybe a divorced daughter; then a strapping young man in the company of an African-America man; eventually, an older black couple shows up. Everyone’s helping out — cooking, cleaning, setting the table. There’s laughter and hugs … including an apparently affectionate toast with the gay couple, both sets of parents looking on, smiling.

Just a typical American family.

And that’s what the right, and bigots, can’t stand. The idea that real America families are diverse is anathema to them. They operate in a universe where everyone conforms to a fake ideal. And that fake ideal was largely spread to them through the osmosis of advertising, which seeks to recreate a world that consumers can see themselves as a part of. That used to be a segregated world; I remember how McDonald’s commercials would often have black people, or white people … but almost always in separate spots. The black ads even had a more “urban” version of the jingle. Everyone likes McDonald’s!” the message was … just so long as they stick to their own. Now, though, advertisers want more eyes, more dollars, more inclusiveness. Hence the Kohl’s ad.

This is becoming the new normal. It’s especially heartening that it arrives around the holidays, when family, togetherness and love are at the top of people’s minds. (The spot is even called “Celebrate Togetherness.”) Of course, it’s something the gay media has tried (successfully, I think) to illustrate for decades. We appreciate everyone catching up. Now go out and buy shit.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Carson says Constitution protects ‘everybody regardless of their sexual orientation’

Current GOP frontrunner says in debate that even though he opposes marriage equality he is not a homophobe

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service

lisakeen@mac.com

bencarson

Dr. Ben Carson

The Republican presidential field’s current frontrunner Ben Carson said Wednesday night, Oct. 28, he is not a homophobe and believes “our Constitution protects everybody regardless of their sexual orientation.”

Carson made the remark in response to a question from a CNBC debate questioner Wednesday night, during the third Republican presidential debate.

CNBC moderator Carl Quintanilla noted that the national warehouse chain Costco has been identified as one of the most gay friendly employers in the country. Carson had served on the Costco board of directors for more than 16 years when he stepped down in May of this year, when he announced his campaign for president.

Quintanilla asked Carson whether his being on the Costco board ran counter to his views on homosexuality.

“Well, obviously, you don’t understand my views on homosexuality,” said Carson. “I believe our Constitution protects everybody, regardless of their sexual orientation or any other aspect. I also believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. And there is no reason you can’t be perfectly fair to the gay community.

“They shouldn’t automatically assume that because you believe marriage is one man and one woman that that you are a homophobe,” he continued. “This is one of the myths that the left perpetuates on our society. This is how they frighten people and get people to shut up. That’s what the PC culture is all about. And it’s destroying this nation. The fact of the matter is we the American people are not each other’s enemies. It’s those people who are trying to divide us that are the enemies.”

Rich Tafel, a longtime Republican gay activist and former head of the national Log Cabin Republican group, said he thinks Carson’s response “might mark the end of the culture war against gays in politics.”

“Given the opportunity to distance himself from Costco or corporations that have been champions for gay rights, he mumbled that he believed that marriage is between a man and women, but then went onto an impassioned defense of gay people deserving freedom and that he’s not a homophobe,” said Tafel. “When you consider he’s probably the most far right candidate on social issues who early in the campaign made a comment about gay being a choice (prison as proof) he’s come a long way.

Essentially,” Tafel said, “it marks the moment where in a race for everyone to get to the far right, gay issues aren’t the ones you grab onto (unlike the 1990s). Also, the fact that he shares the lead with Trump who has gone out of his way to be gay supportive despite running a populist campaign. Bottom line, we win!”

The question to Carson was the only question of the evening that touched on any LGBT-specific issue. The rest of the prime-time debate and an earlier debate with low-polling candidates were focused on a wide range of issues and on exploring the viability of certain candidates and their comments against each other.

Carson has in recent days begun polling in first place in at least some polls asking how Republican primary votes nationwide are leaning. A CBS/New York Times poll taken Oct. 21-25 found 26 percent of 575 Republican primary voters support Carson, 22 percent support Donald Trump, and single-digits support the other 13 GOP candidates still hoping to win the nomination.

At the beginning of October, Trump was in the lead with 27 percent, followed by Carson with 21.

Over the years, Carson has made a number of statements that question his commitment to fairness for the gay community. He has equated marriage for same-sex couples with bestiality, said prison proves sexual orientation is a choice, and said he believes allowing same-sex couples to marry is equivalent to tossing the “word of God … into the garbage.”

In his closing remarks, Carson reiterated this theme of rejecting “political correctness,” a buzzword Carson uses to refer to criticisms of candidates who oppose equal protection for LGBT people and other minorities.

© 2015 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  Tammye Nash

Today from San Francisco: What happens next in LGBT civil rights?

Shafer

Scott Shader

Hi there. It’s me again, checking in from the National Gay and Lesbian Journalist Association conference in San Francisco. I just wanted to share a little bit of what was talked about in today’s morning plenary session, titled: Life After Marriage: What’s Next.

Scott Shafer, host of “The California Report” on KQED Public Radio, moderated the discussion that included as panelists National Center for Lesbian Rights ExecutiveDirector Kate Kendall, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrrera and Isa Noyola, program manager with the Transgender Law Center.

Unfortunately, the plenary — scheduled to be an hour and 15 minutes long — got off to a late start and so lasted less than an hour. That meant that a lot of relevant topics were left undiscussed. The fact that the first several minutes were taken up talking about a marriage equality issue — Kim Davis in Rowen County, Ky. — also cut short the time spent on what comes next.

But the discussion that did take place on where we, as an LGBT rights movement, go from here was informative, to say the least.

Noyola

Isa Noyola

The most important discussion, I think, centered on the T in our LGBT community: The LGB parts of our community cannot get so flush with excitement and satisfaction over winning the marriage equality battle — not counting, of course, holdouts like Kim Davis and the inevitable rash of “religious freedom” bills we are likely to see in state legislatures and probably Congress, too — cannot just walk away and leave our transgender brothers and sisters in the dust of our success.

Noyola began her remarks by reading the names of the 18 trans women murdered so far this year in the U.S., helping drive home her point that while society may be changing when it comes to sexual orientation, the inequalities and injustices are still strong, violent and deadly when it comes to issues of gender identity.

Reading those names, Noyola said, :helps me ground myself and brings us to the heart of the situation our trans communities are facing. … The trans communities have had to swallow a bitter pill for years around our rights and our place in [LGBT] communities.”

Noyola, Kendall andHerrera all warned that trans people remain the most marginalized and endangered segment of our LGBT communities as a whole. And something I read in the “Street Sheet” newspaper, a publication of the Coalition on Homelessness, served to underscore even more strongly that transgender people are lagging far behind the rest of the community in terms of rights and protections.

Kendall

Kate Kendall

According to the newspaper, which based some of its article on results of a recent National Transgender Discrimination Survey, trans people are homeless at a higher right, especially trans women of color, and trans people are about 4 times more likely to have a household income below $10,000 annually. And a separte study showed that one in five California transgender people experienced homelessness after identifying as transgender.

Trans people have a harder time finding jobs because of anti-trans bias. They are targeted more often for violence. And they are an easy target for politicians pandering to right-wing conservatives who want somebody to blame for whatever is bothering them at the moment.

As a result, so called “bathroom bills” have become all the rage. We saw more than a few of them in Texas during the last legislative session, and now opponents of Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance are breaking out the “men in the women’s restrooms” boogey-man to try and defeat HERO at the polls in November.

Even here in oh-so-liberal California, the threat of a bathroom bill is raising its ugly head.

The key to victory, Kendall said, is education, and, all three panelists agreed, not leaving our transgender brothers and sisters behind. We as LGB people have got to fight as hard for the rights of transgender people as we fought for marriage equality.

Herrera

Dennis Herrera

The other main “what’s next” topic was the revamped version of the old “Employment Non-Discrimination Act.” Now known as The Equality Act, this piece of legislation would ban anti-LGBT discrimination not just in employment, but also in public accommodations, housing, credit and other areas.

Kendall said that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who represents California’s 12th District in Congress, recently told supports of the Equality Act that the bill’s chances in the Republican-dominated Congress, as it stands now, are slim. But just introducing and pushing the measure now will help build the framework necessary to get protections enacted at the state level in the more than 30 states where anti-LGBT discrimination is still legal (including Texas).

Kendall stressed that the Equality Act definitely does include protections based on gender identity and gender expression, unlike ENDA, which at times in its history has been notorious for excluding transgender protections.

There are other issues that will be moving to the frontburner now that marriage equality is the law of the land. Things like LGBT families, adoption, immigration, LGBT prisoners, and more. But perhaps the best place to start is with the Equality Act and definitely by remembering to never leave the T behind.

—  Tammye Nash