Category Archives: gender issues

EG Candidate Mark Co-Signed Father-Daughter Dance Letter To Cranston – East Greenwich, RI Patch

It seems that Cranston has once again become the epicenter for acting out a drama that is likely being repeated, on a much smaller scale, in communities all across the country. This time the hot now-in-the-national-news debate is about father-daughter dances and how we are now calling them family dances.

Sometimes I feel like we have a special talent here in Cranston for making an issue out of things that would make common sense for us all to agree on. I wish we all could have agreed to just take the “Heavenly Father” off the prayer banner and call it a school pledge. I wish we could agree to let this family dance be our clarion call of respect for our different ways of raising children in the community. Sometimes I wonder if we were having this conversation in the presence of the children whose fathers are not available for the dance, how many of us would make the right decision and say to the children, “This is a family dance, and all are welcome. You can bring anyone you want.” But as Bob Plain points out, we are still feeling the pain from out last go-around with the ACLU, which may be driving a certain amount of the posturing and outcry.

I can sympathize with people who want this name to go away. While the pictures could line our walls of my husband and our ever-growing daughters posed side by side for the father-daughter dance photos, it’s not right for children to feel excluded. I know from my practice of social work, these issues are particularly hard on children in other family constellations, such as being raised by grandparents, foster parents, single parents, or in families with two moms. Our school changed to from the Father-Daughter dance to the Family Dance last year, and reports from our parent-teacher organization were that it was a successful event and we raised money for the school.

Carolyn Mark, who is the president of the National Organization for Women in Rhode Island, and who is running for school committee in East Greenwich, co-authored the letter that prompted the change in nomenclature. Click through to read more about the issue, including the letter she wrote.

EG Candidate Mark Co-Signed Father-Daughter Dance Letter To Cranston – East Greenwich, RI Patch.

It All Comes Down to Religion

Last night, May 2, the House of the Rhode Island General Assembly held hearings on three bills related to same sex marriage. I was in the area and stopped by after 5:00, decided to stay, listen and testify. I was allowed into the hearing room at about 5:45.

Compared to last year, attendance was light– but the crowd overflowed in to the hall and the secondary room they use for watching on video. Hearings started at the rise (around 4:00) and went on till after 9:00.

I was struck by the consistency of the arguments against marriage equality. Without exception the speakers cited religion–specifically, conservative Christianity. A man in clerical dress blasted the sixties as the root of all our problems– oblivious to the fact that bringing back the fifties would place some of us in legal segregation and others in legal second class status. There was some name dropping of medical or psychiatric authorities that I doubt would stand a Google search. Two men testified that they gave up being gay since they found Jesus, and are now celibate. They called other gay men to convert. Many speakers claimed to be full of love for the people they were characterizing as sinful by nature and requiring an orientation change.

By contrast, pro-marriage speakers talked about their relationships, the legal and social advantages of legal marriage that they wanted to attain in this world, in their own home state. Tom Marlin,RN was one speaker who is in a long-term relationship he wants to have legally recognized. He sounded like he was reaching a point after years of this same scene playing out and said he hoped his testimony would act like Metamucil and promote peristalsis in the General Assembly so they would finally pass– actually a rather strained metaphor we might not want to take too far. Especially considering some of what the GA passes.

I was sitting next to a young woman named Kelly Reid, who testified that she is a military veteran, straight, and supports marriage equality as a matter of justice. Two young people spoke about growing up with two mothers, and how their families are no less ‘normal’ than any other families. Two clergy from the Old Catholic Church testified that they bless same sex marriage. Other religious people, a rabbi and ministers also testified in favor. It’s important to recognize that the loudest and most politically connected religious groups don’t represent all religious people.

Times like this I wish I was a reporter and not a tired blogger typing this out before work. I just have some general impressions–

The buzzword this year is ‘communist’. Chris Young accused the GA of being communists, but pushed it too far when he accused them of taking bribes. Rep.Costa objected, and Chris clarified that he meant to accuse Rep.Ajello. That made the usual impression. Kara seemed off her game, reading from a sheaf of papers. No police confrontation this time.

A man who described himself as just a regular guy, accused the GA of deliberately scheduling the hearing for a night when all right thinking conservatives would be in Woonsocket, protesting the cross challenge in the veteran’s park. He slammed education “these public school teachers couldn’t teach a snowball how to melt” and promised to mobilize voters in huge numbers. He sounded really angry– kind of like ‘Joe’ the ‘Plumber’. Seeing as I had walked there from a long day at work I was not terribly impressed with his prole creds.

Several of the religious speakers talked about God’s love right before vividly invoking the flames of hell that awaited most of us in the room. There being no harm in this world if the two ladies next door get married, they took refuge in their faith that most of us are toast when we all die.

I got an insight into how conservative Catholics view this, as some took slams at the Affordable Care Act and claimed that Catholics were forced to shut down charities. Charity is a wonderful thing, but if it is used as a down payment on political favors expected in the future we would be better off with less faith-based services. It is our tax money being invested– charity should not exclude some people for religious reasons if all taxpayers are supporting it.

Almost the last to speak was a man who showed the GA an actual rock from Sodom and Gomorrah (both cities I guess) that he said he paid a lot of money to send away for. He said it was 99% pure, nothing on earth was that pure, only God could make such a rock. They found melted teeth and bones in Sodom.

For me, the terrors of this world are more than sufficient. We have not really defused the nuclear threat.

The priest from the Old Catholic Church said that the sin of Sodom was the attempted rape of strangers, violence against those who were different, who were in need.

It occurred to me later that if Christianity defined the sin of Sodom as rape, Western culture would have been less brutal and kinder to women and children.

At this point, it’s past time to join the rest of New England and recognize committed partnerships and let them make it legal. It takes nothing away from the rest of us. My marriage is surviving the sink full of dishes, the ladies next door are minding their own business and we will mind ours.

The Silent Passing of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

The following is from Kmareka’s West Coast correspondent, Elaine Hirsch.

Elaine Hirsch is kind of a jack-of-all-interests, from education and history to medicine and videogames. This makes it difficult to choose just one life path, so she is currently working as a writer for various education-related sites and writing about all these things instead. Currently, she writes for onlinephd.org.

The Silent Passing of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Ten days after the solemn ceremony commemorating the tenth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, a momentous piece of legislation was enacted in the United States. Any student of history should remember September 20th, 2011 as the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and as the beginning of a new era for gay rights in America, but instead the moment was eclipsed in the national news.

The history of DADT and its eventual repeal is an important chapter for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights community. In the all-male American military service of yore, sodomy was considered a grave violation which merited discharge, but homosexual preferences or tendencies were not specifically addressed until around World War II. Military psychiatrists deemed homosexuality a deviant behavior, and thus not suitable among servicemen. This rather extreme and disparaging view was soon eschewed and replaced by a more tacit “no sex between servicemen” regulation, although gay members of the military continued to be unfairly discharged. The issue of homosexuality in the military was mostly an afterthought during the Vietnam War era, when simply maintaining troop levels was the main concern.

The notorious cases against Fannie Mae Clackum and Leonard Matlovich of the United States Air Force led to the adoption of a policy by the Department of Defense which essentially outlawed homosexuality in the military. By the 1990s, the LGBT rights community raised awareness of this unfair policy and public opinion began to sway against the narrow-minded stance it represented.

It took the brutal murder of a gay sailor serving in Japan to bring the issue to a level of national interest. Radioman Petty Officer Third Class Allen R. Schindler, Jr. was only 22 years old when he was stomped to death by a shipmate because of his sexual orientation in 1992. The young sailor’s murder prompted presidential candidate Bill Clinton to announce his intention to repeal anti-gay military policy, but Congress quickly moved to make it federal law instead. This was a shrewd political move that forced the Clinton White House to attempt a repeal. The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy is the compromise reached in lieu of overturning the gay ban in the military.

Originally the policy was called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue.” This was the phrase chosen by sociologist Charles Moskos, who was instrumental in drafting a policy that didn’t explicitly permit homosexuals to serve in the military, but neither allowed them to be discharged as long as they “served in silence.” The original name of the policy was shortened almost as soon as the policy was adopted, but it was also known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Harass.”

As an official policy, DADT was challenged numerous times. The inadequacy of the policy was depicted in at least two films: Serving in Silence (1997) and Soldier’s Girl (2003). Serving in Silence is based on the life of Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer, an Army nurse who served in the Washington National Guard. Colonel Cammermeyer was honorably discharged in 1992 against her will when she came out as a lesbian. She appealed the discharge in federal district court and was reinstated and allowed to retire.

Soldier’s Girl portrays the tragic murder of Private First Class Barry Winchell, an infantryman in the 101st Airborne Division who was brutally murdered by a fellow soldier who believed PFC Winchell was involved in a relationship with transgendered showgirl Calpernia Addams. PFC Winchell’s murder infuriated President Clinton, who immediately ordered a review of the DADT policy. Lieutenant General Timothy Maude, a top Army officer who sympathized with the LGBT military community, personally met with PFC Winchell’s grieving parents.

The White House under President George W. Bush didn’t do much to advance the repeal of DADT, but presidential candidate Barack Obama made it a campaign promise. In 2010, efforts to repeal DADT and grant homosexuals the right to serve in the US military began in earnest. The efforts were silent but swift, and ultimately successful. The lack of news media attention shouldn’t detract from the sheer significance of the change represented by the repeal. The end of DADT marks a major achievement in the progress of civil rights in America. It may’ve passed in relative silence, but it should be remembered with fanfare.

Purple Priestly Prose in the ProJo

I usually keep it clean on Kmareka, the standard being to write nothing that Kiersten would be embarrassed to have her kids read. I take it as a challenge to try to convey my dislike of some people by neither suggesting they do things to themselves that are physically impossible, or to accuse them of acts that I don’t seriously think they committed. When I want to be exposed to that kind of language I read Jesus General.

I’ve written many times that the claim of same-sex couples to legally marry is just, and comparable to the case for interracial marriage that was made by the Supreme Court decision, Loving v. Virginia in 1967. Having been in a long-term interracial marriage I have some sense of the fragility of our civil rights and the tyranny of the majority. I don’t appreciate Rev. John A. Kiley demanding in his letter in today’s ProJo that we be ‘outraged’ that same-sex marriage rights are compared to the rights of interracial couples.

Says Rev. Kiley:

“There is nothing disturbed, disordered or unnatural about a person from one race marrying a person of another race.”

Thanks, Rev. That’s real liberal of you. I feel really safe.

He continues,

“In an interracial marriage the male can certainly place his life-giving fluids into the female’s fruitful organs. The female can certainly accept the male’s fertilizing donation into her productive anatomy.”

Whew. I need to get a glass of water and pour it on my head.

“Same-sex unions frustrate, thwart and obstruct the procreative purpose of marriage.”

This brings up a few questions in my mind, such as what happens as the decades pass and the anatomy is no longer productive but you are still very fond of one another. Is placing the fluids a sin? Mortal or venial?

Some in my family have adopted children. Is this cheating?

This explicit description suggests that birth control is sinful. I heard that said at the State House, from the opponents of same-sex marriage. I wrote about it here in Marriage and Procreation.

Birth control being so unnatural, you’d think the Rev. would cast an eye on his own congregation, because I’ll bet there’s more than a few who stand in the way of nature, with some wimpy excuse about having all the children they can support, or whining about their health. Where’s their faith? And who better to advise them than a priest?

A priest who invokes nature, yet is committed to a life that requires him to deny nature and refrain from procreating. That’s his right. It’s a valid choice, because there is more to human relationships than coupling up. A celibate person can have profound love in their life, why not? There’s more than one way of loving. And more than one way of hating. ‘Unnatural’ is a slur, or meant to be, but it’s pretty meaningless. All of us are an uneasy mix of nature and socialization. Our nature doesn’t change, but society does.

Society has come to generally accept interracial marriage. This victory over prejudice was not achieved by moral leadership of a church, but by what would now be called ‘activist judges’ on a liberal Supreme Court. So it’s not okay for Rev. Kiley to demand outrage from those of us who are in an interracial marriage. His church has no special creds in that area.

One woman who does have moral authority spoke on behalf of same-sex couples.

Mildred Loving was widowed a few years after she and Richard won the right to have their marriage respected in all fifty states. Mildred had this to say in an interview.

My generation was bitterly divided over something that should have been so clear and right. The majority believed that what the judge said, that it was God’s plan to keep people apart, and that government should discriminate against people in love. But I have lived long enough now to see big changes. The older generation’s fears and prejudices have given way, and today’s young people realize that if someone loves someone they have a right to marry.

Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the “wrong kind of person” for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people civil rights.

I’m grateful for the courageous stand that she and Richard took for their right to marry. Standing by your life partner in the face of opposition is something that she, and I, and all who face and fight prejudice understand.

Standing on the Side of Love

Fortunately we don’t have a state religion, or religion by majority rule. Our Governor seems to misread his role and duty. The Catholic Church has his ear, and gives him its support, but the Bishop does not speak for all Catholics, let alone all Rhode Islanders, and there are other churches and religious bodies that do not endorse denying a bereaved person the right to make arrangements for a decent funeral for their loved one.

My minister has this to say.

My church blesses same-sex unions and I am tired of having my religious feelings disrespected by politicians who have forgotten the lesson of Roger Williams.

Because It Happens to a lot of Us

Rhode Island poet Cathleen Calbert has an essay in The New York Times that discusses the complicated lines we draw between “men” and “boys” and “guys.” The writing turns from comedy to tragedy as the essay unfolds into a memory of childhood molestation. Read the essay here.

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