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February 10, 2005

Work for Equality!

Hey now, it's Freedom to Marry Month! Given the Shrub's continuing quest to write discrimination into the US Constitution, there is much to do for those comitted to making every citizen equal under law in every respect -- including having the right to civil marriage.

Before we get to that, let's talk about some good news, because there is reason to celebrate.

On Feb. 4, a Manhattan trial-court judge ruled that a law banning same-sex marriage violates that New York's state constitution.

Judge Doris Ling-Cohan found in favor of five couples who had sued the city clerk for denying them marriage licenses. But she stayed the decision for 30 days to allow an appeal, which means that same-sex couples will not immediately be able to marry in New York City, the only jurisdiction directly affected by the ruling.

Noting that state laws against interracial marriage remained common into the 1960s, Ling-Cohan wrote that "the fundamental right to marry the person of one's choice may not be denied based on longstanding and deeply held traditional beliefs about appropriate marital partners."

Lambda Legal, the gay rights group that brought the lawsuit, hailed the decision as "historic, well-reasoned and fair." Opponents of same-sex marriage called it an example of judicial overreaching and predicted that it would add momentum to their efforts, in New York and nationally, to pass constitutional amendments defining marriage as only the union of a man and a woman.

So far, New York' Law Department issued a statement: "We are reviewing the decision thoroughly and considering our options." If the ruling withstands appeal, legal marriage would become available to GLBT people in New York City. Amazing, eh?

Meanwhile, in Baltimore, clergy are standing up for marriage equality. Following a recent anti-gay-marriage rally in the Maryland capital of Annapolis, more than 70 clergy members signed a document showing their support for same-sex civil marriages.

"The institution of marriage is not under attack," said Rev. Andrew Foster Connors, who leads Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church in Baltimore. "If anything needs defending in the state of Maryland, it is the gay and lesbian couples who ... deserve the protection of civil marriage."

Connors accused churches which oppose same-sex unions of "arrogantly" claiming to represent all Christians. ...

Connors said the pro-gay-marriage statement shows many church leaders "shall not be silent and allow such Christian ministers to subvert the language and symbols of the Christian faith for the purpose of inciting fear against gays and lesbians" in Maryland.

But he acknowledged that even his own congregation is divided over the issue.

That last sentence underscores the bravery demonstrated by these 71 clerics standing for justice and the truest Christian value of all: loving one's neighbor as oneself.

So, there you have the good news. Let's get down to business. Don't Amend.com, the organization dedicated to fighting Bushite and GOP efforts to pass the anti-GLBT Federal Marriage Amendment, is urging all freedom-loving activists to get involved in protests and actions during Freedom to Marry week.

Executive Director Robin Tyler is pumped up in her message to you:

DontAmend.com is NOT retreating, and neither are the grassroots activists in our movement!

Let's not see the glass as half -full or half-empty. Let's focus on our victories, and not be scared of our defeats, for in time, the defeats will be reversed.

First of all, congratulations New York! More "activist" judges have ruled that yes, denying us marriage is denying us equality under the law.

We are expecting the California Superior Court decision in a very short time.

And, didn't we all breath a sigh of relief when the media finally challenged the far-right's propaganda, and decided that "gay" marriage was not responsible for the Democrats defeat? (We knew we weren't, but had we been, we would have struggled for full civil rights anyway.)

OK, last week we sat through "The State of the Union," and yes, President Bush, once again called for a Federal Constitutional Amendment.

Well, he certainly is not going to be a "best man" at my same-sex wedding! Actually, the American Public is beginning to see that he is not the "best man" anywhere.

Now, what is all this about a possible "movement backslide" regarding marriage equality?

We know what frightened them.

In the wake of the 11 anti-gay constitutional amendments that passed on Nov. 2nd, some "leaders" in our community suggested that we downplay the issue, if not dump it entirely. Their apparent hope was that if the gay community managed to ignore the issue, it would miraculously go away.

Such wishful thinking conveniently ignores the fact that the anti-gay right has our community in its cross-hairs, and is salivating over the fact that it thinks it finally has an issue it can beat us up over. Without a serious civil rights campaign on our part, they may be right.

But there is no turning back. With an army of grassroots activists standing in the front and the back lines, we know that any organization that does not continue with this issue will be out of step with what is right now making history.

Although we congratulate everyone who has sued on behalf of equal marriage rights, including the attorneys who represent them, we know that we can't just depend on the courts in a few of the more liberal states. And by the way, speaking of "non-liberal states," congratulations to all of the Florida couples who sued. Yes, you did not win for now, but you had the guts to come out and put your families and your faces on television, in the press, in the streets, and in the courts. You did it in one of the most legally backward, yet "gayest" (with regards to population) states in the country. This took great courage.

For Valentine's Day, do we "kiss" our rights goodbye?

  • Using adoption law as their starting point, Florida courts and legislators have virtually declared us non-citizens. When the Federal Supreme Court refused to hear the case, why didn't the community take to the streets and protest? Why is the South Florida community so grateful for a weak "domestic partner" benefit in Palm Beach? Why do we settle for crumbs when we are starving? And yes, I lived in Florida many years ago, I know how hard it is. But, it will continue to be difficult until you resist. Remember Stonewall?

  • A Supreme Court already conservative to begin with, such as when it handed Bush the 2000 election, appears ready to get more conservative still, when Bush appoints more of its justices.

  • Several more states, starting with Kansas, look set to pass more anti-gay constitutional amendments in this fall's elections.

    We in DontAmend.com believe that civil rights have always been won by civil rights MOVEMENTS. Not well-dressed lobbyists nor clever attorneys (as important as those are), but mainly by regular folks themselves getting together with their neighbors and friends and protesting the injustices they experience. Yes, we want them to get to "know us" around the water-coolers at work. However, rights were not won in this country by those in charge "tolerating" or even liking us. Rights were won because we got out in the streets. Public demonstrations and rallies put a human face on the issue--stressing that it is real LGBT people's lives on the line.

    If civil rights are won by civil rights MOVEMENTS, we need, first and foremost, to build that movement. Rallies not only get our message out, using the mainstream media to communicate to far more people than we could if we paid for expensive ads, they also recruit new people to our movement.

    It is with this movement building strategy in mind that we invite you and your friends to please join us at the Freedom to Week activities in your area. Please click this Link -- www.dontamend.com -- to see what's been scheduled.

    If there are no such activities in your area, please consider organizing a PRO-equal marriage rights event in your area on the anniversary of the start of equal marriage rights in Massachusetts, May 17th. Please contact us if you would like help with publicity materials for your event and general suggestions on how to organize it.
  • You have your marching orders, do-gooders. Get busy. And celebrate -- equality is coming. Those of us dedicated to justice and equality for all won't stop or rest until equality is real and no longer an American lie.

    Posted by Natalie Davis at February 10, 2005 02:48 AM

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