January 19, 2008

The political landscape in 2008

Jim and I were talking about politics and the Presidential Elections coming up this year and it got me to thinking about our choices.

I have a hard time with voting anymore because I am somewhat of an outcast. I am a Christian, pro-Life, fiscal conservative, constitutional purist, lesbian. That's a hard row to hoe! I don't feel comfortable voting Republican anymore because the party, as a whole, seems to take great pains to bash glbt people at every turn. I don't feel good voting Democratic because that party, as a whole, is basically pro-choice and hasn't done alot to court the glbt vote. They have not taken a strong stand for our civil rights. Frankly, voting Independent seems silly since we all know that there is no way an Independent is going to get the Presidency. It's just not something that can happen nowadays, as much as I'd love it.

So, where does that leave me? I'm not willing to vote for any of the Republican candidates at all. None of them are glbt supporters. I have been looking closely at the Democrats and, while I'd love to see a woman become President, I'm not a Hillary fan. I like Obama so far. I'm not what you'd call excited about Obama, but I like him. I could vote for him. The others in the race probably won't get the nod, so I don't spend much time thinking about whether I'd vote for them or not.

Voting for me has become a lesser of two evils thing. Do I vote for someone who I think will be a champion for the unborn but will set glbt people back 100 years? Do I vote for someone with a great glbt record who is pro-choice? It's a hard choice. The bottom line for me has become this: I vote based on what will affect my life and those I love the most. I have resigned myself to the fact that no candidate is going to think like I do. It's just not going to happen unless I run, and that's not happening! I have too many skeletons in my closet. Pardon the pun. So, I will vote for the person that I think will do things in their presidency to further glbt rights, help the economy, and do the most to get us out of this war. Beyond that, I don't get bogged down in all the wrangling and chit-chat.

Hopefully, whoever ends up running the country for the next 4-8 years will be someone that will take us to better places than the last 8 years have taken us. That is my prayer.

January 18, 2008

Texas Dept. of Family and Protective Services gets it!

Okay, I know Texas isn't exactly a gay mecca, but they seem to have learned something about how to treat glbt youth. Equality Texas sent this information to me:

"Austin, Texas - (January 17, 2008) – The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), the state agency charged with protecting the physical safety and emotional well-being of Texas' most vulnerable citizens, has implemented a Bill of Rights of Children and Youth in Foster Care establishing a right to fair treatment regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Legislation was introduced in the 2007 session in both the Texas Senate and the House of Representatives to establish a foster care bill of rights, but the bills died in committee. The Department of Family and Protective Services began a process in October, 2007 to implement a bill of rights because ensuring children in foster care know their rights is important to the success of each placement and ease of transition for the child. As promulgated by DFPS, the "Rights of Children and Youth in Foster Care" includes thirty-two rights applicable to all children and youth in care, plus an additional sixteen rights applicable to youth age 16 and older. The rights applicable to all children and youth include, among others: The right to appropriate care and treatment in the least restrictive setting available that can meet the child's or youth's needs. This includes the right to live in a safe, healthy and comfortable placement receiving reasonable protection from harm, appropriate privacy for personal needs, and being treated with respect; andThe right to be free from unfair treatment because of gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, disability, medical status, or sexual orientation. The rights applicable to youth age 16 and older are designed to facilitate the transition out of care and into adulthood.

Statement of Paul Scott, Equality Texas Executive Director "Equality Texas applauds the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services for implementing measures to protect the physical safety and emotional well being all children and youth in state care, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. While the legislation proposed in the last session included sexual orientation, it did not include gender identity. Likewise, the original DFPS proposal included sexual orientation, but not gender identity. Equality Texas filed comments with DFPS supporting the inclusion of both sexual orientation and gender identity in the bill of rights, citing studies indicating 20-40% of homeless youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. We are gratified that DFPS accepted our comments, demonstrating once again that the agency is committed to ensuring that all children and youth in foster care know and understand their rights. This is a positive step toward ensuring that youth in state care are not subjected to further trauma because of their sexual orientation or gender identity." Equality Texas works toward the elimination of social, legal, and economic discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression through lobbying, education, and research directed toward the Texas Legislature and other state governmental agencies."

As someone who came out in her late 20's, I don't fully appreciate what it's like to be 14 or 15 and to understand your sexuality is different from most folks. I can't understand what it's like to come out to your parents and get kicked out of your home. It's isolating enough to be a glbt person in our society without having to go through it when you're a teenager and you have no home. Our foster care system leaves alot to be desired, but I think this bill of rights is a major step in the right direction in treating all kids with dignity and respect for who they are, not in spite of it. I'm glad that Texas took this important step.

January 17, 2008

The Will of the People In Maryland Favors Same-Sex Unions

This from a Baltimore Sun poll released today:

As the General Assembly gears up for a debate on the rights of gay couples, a solid majority of Maryland voters supports some form of legalized same-sex unions, according to a recent Sun poll.

Nineteen percent of likely voters said they support gay marriage, and 39 percent said they back civil unions, meaning that nearly three out of five believe the state should formally recognize same-sex relationships. Maryland law bans same-sex marriage.

Thirty-one percent of those polled said they disagree with granting either form of same-sex unions, but only half of those opponents said a constitutional amendment is needed to ban them. Eleven percent said they were not sure or declined to answer the question.

But consensus on same-sex unions in Annapolis might be out of reach this year. Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat who courted gay voters during his campaign, has said he prefers civil unions, while gay-rights activists are pushing for a marriage bill with an exception to make it clear that no religious institutions or clergy would be compelled to perform or recognize those marriages.

Leaders in the Democratic-controlled State House are also split, with House Speaker Michael E. Busch endorsing civil unions and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller opposing both civil unions and same-sex marriage.

Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers advocate a constitutional ban, arguing that such a measure is needed to protect the institution of marriage.

Supporters of constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex marriage like to claim that they are following the will of the people. That is clearly not the case in Maryland, however.

Momentum continues to move toward equality, first among the people, then eventually in the halls of legislatures across the United States.

January 16, 2008

A Small Vermont Community Steps Out to Support Same-Sex Marriage

One thing that I have learned about the political battles regarding GLBT equality is that they are best taken on not in national forums, but in local areas like Bennington, Vermont. The state of Vermont is considering legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage, and people are gathering across the state to support this effort.

Members of the community — both gay and straight — including doctors, teachers, lawyers, reverends and a rabbi, supported gay marriage at a public hearing Saturday before a commission charged with reporting its findings to the Legislature.

Dozens of people, many wearing stickers supporting the Vermont Freedom to Marry task force, urged the committee to support same-sex marriage on Saturday.

A coalition of groups recently formed the Vermont Marriage Advisory Council. The council plans to hold hearings and public forums across the state on the benefits of traditional marriage.

Dwight Schmuck, of Wilmington, said same-sex couples that want to make a commitment to each other should be allowed to legally do so.

"Any two people who want to make a commitment, who love each other, who are we to say no?" Schmuck said.

Alice Spencer told the committee that every generation in her family, from her great-grandparents to her grandchildren, has had gay or lesbian members. Spencer, herself a lesbian, said it did not make sense that she has been allowed to serve as a foster parent but not allowed to marry her partner.

"I can adopt but I am in violation of marriage laws? That's silly," she said. "Families are families. You can't make a family out of a law."

Click here to read the rest of the story from the Bennington Banner.

January 14, 2008

"American Family Outing" Wants to Dialogue With Mega-Churches

I'm always in favor of people trying to communicate, especially when they try to find common ground and work through their differences. That appears to be the goal of this upcoming effort, as reported on PageOneQ.

This winter, as the Rev. Joel Osteen graces the pages of People Magazine, the familiar image of the old-school, anti-gay televangelist is rapidly being replaced by a new iconography: a younger generation of mega-church leaders with upbeat and inviting messages.

Unfortunately, while this generation's tone may seem less harsh, many of their mega-churches still enforce policies of exclusion and teach theologies that label Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people as sick, sinful, and in need of change.

An "American Family Outing" is taking shape in the spring of 2008 so LGBT families can talk with mega-church leaders and congregation members to share the message that justice for LGBT people is compatible with Christian teaching. Pot lucks, picnics and soulful talk are the order of the day as Soulforce, the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC), the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), and COLAGE invite churches to talk-the-talk so everyone is free to walk-the-walk.

On behalf of the four partner organizations, Soulforce Executive Director Jeff Lutes has written letters to:

o Rev. Joel Osteen and Lakewood Church in Houston, TX
o Bishop T.D. Jakes and The Potter's House in Dallas, TX
o Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr. and Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD
o Bishop Eddie Long and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, GA
0 Rev. Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL
0 Dr. Rick Warren and Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA

"These pastors are part of a new generation of evangelical leaders in America," says Lutes. "We are calling on them and their congregations to demonstrate a new kind of leadership, one that models compassion and justice for all families, including families with two moms and two dads."

I am very optimistic about this approach. I think they picked out an excellent group of churches. I have personally been moved by the writings of Dr. Warren and Rev. Hybels and would be thrilled to see them openly promote equality. Especially for Warren, that woudln't seem like a huge leap with his activism to promote AIDS care, but he is a Southern Baptist after all.

When people communicate, there is hope. I pray these pastors step up to the plate and engage is this critically important dialogue.

January 13, 2008

New Edition of the International Carnival of Pozitivities Posted

ICP 2.7 has just been posted on The Spin Cycle. While the host's language is rougher than I usually link to, the stories he posted (included one from Straight, Not Narrow) are always worth reading and I encourage you to check out the latest edition.