Monthly Archives: February 2011

More and more, this period in the struggle for marriage equality begins to resemble the historical period in the 1830s-1850s when the nation became deeply divided over slavery.

This past week Hawaii’s legislature approved civil unions for same-gender couples–and the Governor has said he will sign the bill. At the same time, the Indiana House of Representatives passed legislation for the voters to approve a constitutional amendment to ban same-gender marriage. Other states–New York, Rhode Island, and others–are engaged in public debate. And everywhere advocates on both sides vie for public favor.

The trend lines in public opinion clearly favor the advocates of same-gender marriage. But opponents are digging in, using every tactic they can to stall what is inevitable.

For a student of American history, this period feels a lot like the heated, even deadly, struggle over Kansas and Nebraska–will slavery be extended into new states or not, that was the most burning national issue in the 1850s. People actually moved to those states to fight it out (even resorting to murder).

Ultimately, it took a bloody internal war to settle the matter, and to amend the federal constitution to bar slavery forever. I do not foresee that happening now, but it is clear the rupture in the body politic is already severe.

I continue to pursue the cause of marriage equality with vigor and determination, and with profound confidence in the ultimate outcome. However, I ask God to help us, as we persevere, to do so in ways that help those against equality to maintain their dignity and ultimately make their own internal peace with justice.

We must never relent in the cause of justice, but we must pursue it with love and mercy in our hearts. And that’s not always easy!

Already, tt has been a topsy-turvy week–some real highs and then several lows.

But I have noticed that even within low moments in life there often are wondrous moments. Here’s an example.

On Tuesday, several MCC Richmond members joined me and about 1oo others at a meeting of a Virginia General Assembly submcommittee. Our purpose: to urge the subcommittee to recommend passage of SB 747, offered by State Senator Donald McEachin. If passed, discrimination against state employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity would no longer be legal. Not surprisingly, the subcommittee killed the bill again this year.

But as part of our effort to change their minds, I was privileged to listen to John Poarch, Darlene McDaniels, and Arthur Dewey speak about their experiences as former and current state employees. What a blessing!

I was so proud of each of them–and proud of others who also offered support. It takes courage to go into a pressure-cooker environment like the General Assembly and speak your truth, especially when you are pretty sure those who are paid to listen will not do as you wish.

I was sorely disappointed with the outcome, and irritated at one of subcommittee members who always seems dismissive of those of us who advocate for LGBT equality. For a while, I got caught up in that negativity.

Then, I remembered the courage and grace of John, Darlene, and Arthur. What a blessing! What a privilege to call them friends.

Jonathan and I–and Cocoa–are going for a longer walk than usual today.

Our intent is to begin today with a new standard: walk an hour  a day, either alone or together (but almost always with Cocoa!).

Ouch!

We are both seeking to lose weight–Jonathan a little, me considerably more–so we are coupling this greater exercise with modifying  eating habits. The truth is I have fallen off my pledge to not eat sweets. I am not sure I can go back to eating none, but I surely know I can, and must eat, fewer. I have been praying for help with this, and Jonathan’s determination to change things for himself feels like God’s answer.

The other, perhaps main, thing about the longer walk is that I get to spend more time with others–often Jonathan, usually Cocoa, and more to the point, always with God.

I used to think of walking by myself as a solo act, but over the past few years I have come to accept that I am never alone, and certainly not when I am walking. I nearly always have Cocoa, and often Jonathan. But with or without them, God is always with me.

In walking, I build my relationship with God. I become stronger spiritually–and physically. Lose weight; get closer to my husband, my dog, and my God–that’s all good.

I almost had a bad day yesterday.

While there were many good things happening–lunch with a friend and co-worker in the cause of justice, for example–my plans kept getting upended. Some people were in crisis . . . and pretty soon I was, too.

The low point happened when I carried my personal journal into Kroger with me and then left it in my shopping cart. When I got to my car and realized I did not have it, I panicked. I ran back inside, questioned the check-out clerk and began to search every cart I could find. I noticed some people looking at me with concern: I imagine I had a crazed look on my face (that’s how I felt inside). I visited customer service several times, too.

Eventually, after what felt like three hours but was more like 20 minutes, a supervisor came to me with my journal. A shopper had found it when emptying her cart and gave it to the cashier who turned it in to her supervisor who then gave it to me.

In that moment, I stopped, thanked God and the supervisor, and remembered something I read recently: Serenity isn’t a matter of chance, it’s a matter of choice.

I took a deep breath, thanked the store personnel again, and went to my car. I took a few moments to pray and thank God for providing the peace I need.

Things kept happening the rest of the day, but the peace did not leave me–because I chose to accept and trust it. Thank you, God, for helping me remember–and thank you, self, for remembering–what really counts.

Sometimes it is hard to remain optimistic. I am by nature hopeful–believing that in all things and at all times, as Dr. King said of the arc of the moral universe, that God nudges us to bend toward justice and love–but optimism can leave me. That’s because optimism deals with the shorter range of things.

Last evening, I lost just about all my optimism. For the second day in a row, a subcommittee of the Virginia House of Delegates acted with impunity toward the pleas of the LGBT community, and our allies, for some measure of justice.

Del. C. Todd Gilbert, Chair of the Subcommittee

This time it was the Professions/Occupations and Administrative Process Subcommittee of the General Laws Committee. They took three rather different bills–each providing a different scope of protection against employment discrimination–and one bill that added “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the State Human Rights Act, and “rolled” them together into the terms of the bill they most disliked (because it had wider protections, and was offered by the one openly LGBT person in the General Assembly, Del. Adam Ebbin).

The member who offered the motion to roll them all together did so, he said, because all the bills deal with “this . . . ah, homosexuality” so we can take them up as one bill. It felt to me he was saying, “If you’ve seen one of them, you’ve seen them all.”

And “rolled” is the right word. We were rolled, like folks mugged in a dark alley for our wallets.

Good folks–Scott Johnson, Dorothy Fillmore, Rev. Jeanne Pupke, Claire Guthrie-Gastanaga, and some high school and college students and a UVA professor whose names I do not know–spoke, eloquently. The subcommittee seemed to listen.

Del. Adam Ebbin

But it took them no time to decide. NO, they said.

No, you are not discriminated against. Sure, maybe there is some “soft” discrimination (I can only imagine what they, white males, would do if they experienced even that)–but nothing we need trouble ourselves about. No, we need not even so much as use the word “gay”–heaven help us if we utter the word “lesbian”–and certainly not “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” in any law of the Commonwealth. It feels like they think that if they do not use the words, we will go away. Disappear.

Of course, we will not accommodate them that far. But if we do not rise up soon and demand our rights, we might as well disappear. They will bow down to the Virginia Family Foundation, and the Catholic Conference and the Associated Baptists, and repeat the mistruths they spread UNTIL we decide to gather together a mass movement to demand some respect.

We have to respect ourselves enough to demand it.

I am ready. Are you?

Yesterday was not a great day for those of us engaging the Virginia General Assembly in pursuit of dignity and equality.

Cameron Hunt, Program Director of People of Faith for Equality in Virginia; Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, chief lobbyist for Equality Virginia; and I sat through more than two hours of a meeting of the Constitutional Amendment Subcommittee of the Privileges and Elections Committee, listening to a fascinating discussion on whether Virginia should continue to make it difficult for ex-felons to vote. In legal parlance, this is called “retoration of civil rights.”  The subcommittee decided to leave the obstacles in place.

Then, with no real debate, they killed a bill by Delegate David Englin to put repeal of the Marshall-Newman Anti-Marriage Amendment on the ballot in 2012.

That made it 0 for 2 for human dignity on that day. I did not stay to find out if they put the Equal Rights Amendment on the ballot. Somehow, I figured they wouldn’t do that either. Also discouraging was the fact that several of the members seemed more interested in making sure the ex-felons had the right to own a gun than to vote!

But we persevere. As we left the hearing, we, and others, agreed that marriage equality will happen.

Barbara Bush, the Younger

And here’s proof that it’s coming. Barbara Bush, daughter of George and Laura Bush has taped a video for the Human Rights Campaign, in which she says, “I am Barbara Bush, and I am a New Yorker for marriage equality. . . everyone should have the right to marry the person that they love.”

That’s going to happen in Virginia, too. And the former felons–who have done the prison time for what they did (and in some cases did not do)–will get to vote, too.

Dignity for all God’s children. We’ll get it right yet.