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What Comes After DOMA?

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On June 26th, seventeen years of national legalized bigotry ended. The United Sates Supreme Court ruled the Defense Of Marriage Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, unconstitutional. This is a monumental development on both a political and personal level. Politically, we haven’t had a President (in any living person’s memory) who legalized discrimination. On a personal level, the repeal of DOMA means that it is no longer legal for only some people to have the full rights and privileges afforded to all Americans. Nationally, that is. It is still very legal for states to discriminate against an entire group of people.

Currently only 13 states* allow equal marriage. A couple who have married in these states and remain in these states for their entire lives have their marriages recognized on both a federal and state level. For anyone living or moving to any of the other states their rights are still greatly reduced. It is pretty clear by now that the SCOTUS and administration are happy to have the states figure this all out on their own. While there is no doubt that momentum is building across the country, and the numbers of states abolishing discrimination will continue to grow; this is no time to rest on our laurels. We know that there are many regions in this country that are not going to embrace this civil right. We know that there are states that have a very conservative and/or religious political agenda. We also know that money talks.

Boycotting states with legalized discrimination will fast track this movement. We can do this individually at varying levels of personal sacrifice. We can choose not to vacation in these states (perhaps the easiest form of boycott), we can choose not to move to or live in these states (perhaps the more challenging form of boycott) and we can do many things in between. We can refuse to do business with companies that choose to have their headquarters in these states. We can boycott corporations who donate money to politicians in these states. Companies can do more than issue press releases about their support of equality. They too can boycott these states; refusing to open offices, retail outlets or hold events. Once cleansing themselves of these affiliations, they can launch campaigns in which they brand themselves as ethical partners (it’s like being “green” but with many more colors of the rainbow.)

We know from experience that money is as powerful an influencer as public sentiment. When we shine the spotlight on these states, and (fairly) equate their stance to that of Jim Crow, we will make a difference. It’s Pride Week and there’s much to celebrate. It’s okay to bask in this victory for a bit. But when social media users switch back to their profile pics, relegating the red marriage equality symbol to a pop-art fixture, it’s time to put our money where are mouths (or avatars) are. It is a wonderful time to be living in these 13 states, but what of our brothers and sisters and our own sense of pride? Yes, many of us identify ourselves (geographically) by our state, but the world does not. The world sees us as Americans and rightly so. We are only as free as the next guy or gal. If there is anywhere in this country in which people are not treated equally under the law, we are all tainted. Think of this country as a meringue; one drop of egg yolk and we all fold.

*California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington (and the District of Columbia)

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2013 in Cultural Critique

 

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Progress=Death?

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A man was targeted and killed for being gay; in Greenwich Village this week. People are killed all the time of course. But targeting someone because of being gay in the geographical home of Northeast gay liberation is shocking. There will always be people who are threatened by others. But it does seem that anti-gay violence has increased in recent months. Yes, it could be that the stories make the mainstream airwaves now (versus barely a mention in years past.) But the past year’s crime statistics in New York City would suggest that is not the case. Hate crimes have gone up, and presumably some of that hatred is aimed at LGBT people. Why, 44 years (almost to the day) after Stonewall does this violence exist?

How others live their life is of little concern to most people. It is only when our lives (inner or outer) feel weakened or threatened that we pick our head up and look around. Our negative thoughts and feelings about strangers come from our sense of instability. If we are not happy with our lives or ourselves it is (briefly) satisfying to malign others. We can call it bullying or bashing; its genesis is the same, and there is nothing new about it. Bullying/bashing is almost always perpetuated on those who are perceived as weaker. There was a time that by virtue of their position in society and actual laws regarding their personal lives. LGBT people were frequently victimized. A person who may fear for his/her job, housing, family connections, makes an easy target. Bullies could lash out without much fear of repercussion. Who would press charges? Even if charged, would society care? No doubt there were people sitting at home thinking; ‘well if they knew he was gay he must have been doing something ‘gay’ at the time.’ And that, for many people in olden times, was upsetting.

But this is 2013. Studies (for the past decade or two) have consistently shown that younger people (college age) don’t view LGBT people as an anomaly. Many teens now publicly identify as LGBT, in numbers and manner that children of even the 1970s couldn’t have even dreamed. LGBT people are openly serving in politics and the military (both rather straight-laced professions.) With the exception of a religious institution (or the Boy Scouts) it’s difficult to conjure a profession that would (lawfully) oust an employee for identifying as LGBT. It happens, there’s no doubt, but it’s not routine and it’s certainly not legal. LGBT people are now represented in television and film as something other than the object of ridicule. This is no small thing, as there are many subgroups that are still considered an acceptable punch line by virtue of their appearance.

So how could there be violence towards a people who have made such significant strides? Could it be that it is because of those strides that we are seeing this abhorrent behavior? Can it be that individuals who feel dissatisfied with themselves and their lives are as antagonized by the belief that someone is ‘getting what’s mine’ as they were/are by those who are seemingly weaker? Are attacks on people who are finally getting what’s rightfully theirs (civil rights) inevitable? Is it an inherent part of the battle, these innocent casualties that occur as we get closer to victory? Must Freedom Riders always be sacrificed for freedom?

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2013 in Cultural Critique

 

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But You Say It’s Time We Moved In Together

The institution of marriage, in America, is becoming less popular.  This shift is occurring as wedding hype is escalating and equal marriage is gaining ground.  Interesting, eh?

Several European cultures have long eschewed legal marriage for cohabitation (presumably, an arrangement which more Americans are embracing.)  Cohabitation is so popular in the United Kingdom that I have heard Brits often substitute the word “partner” for “spouse” when discussing their legally wed better half.  Of course, Europeans cohabitate differently than we do.  While American are serial monogamists, moving from committed relationship to committed relationship, Europeans (by and large) treat their cohabitation as it were marriage and are in it for the long haul.  Of course, they have laws and policies which support this paradigm.  I’m not certain which came first; habit or attitude.

The American change in marital statistics is intriguing, as it seems to have happened in somewhat of a cultural vacuum.  “The number of unmarried Americans has reached a historic high, as the census also found that 30 percent of Americans have never been married, the largest percentage in the past 60 years.”  Sixty years.  In other words, since 1951.  Think of all the phenomenal cultural shifts that have occurred since 1950 (kinda mind blowing.)  Yet, the decline in marriage is happening now.  Why?  Some might point to a celebrity culture which embraces “all the benefits of marriage without the pesky commitment of marriage” lifestyle.  But I would debate that one; perhaps with the ghosts of Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy or Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett.  Yes, there were many many more examples, but can you think of any couples more romantic and brimming with glamor?

I am going to go out on a (trembling precarious) limb here and posit that there is a direct link to the decline in American marriages and to the development delay of our most recent crop of young adults.

Since the dawn of time, children have been looking longingly towards the cave door.  Thousands of generations ago, adolescents were grumbling; “when I have my own fire, I’m gonna do it totally different man.”  Children have embraced their primal genetically preordained imperative to flee, until very very recently.  The result of the last twenty (plus) years of children ruled households, has resulted in (surprise!) childhood seeming far more attractive than adulthood.  Hence, the 28 year old in your basement.

Most of us grew up in a time before children’s: clothing stores, hair salons, furniture stores, and restaurants.  Seriously, where DO these kids get the cash?  There was a bold thick line between the adult world and the world in which we (as children) inhabited.  Parents’ lives ruled the household, and the schedule of the children was integrated into the household (versus setting the entire tone of the household.)  Besides the risk of raising a generation of Veruca Salts, the inherent danger in a child-centric upbringing is that it makes the adult world look pretty shabby in comparison.  If you have all the benefits of adulthood as a child (dinner, theatre, vacations, authority, power) why venture into the demanding world of adulthood?  Is it any wonder that college students are calling/texting their parents everyday?  Who the hell wants to dive into a world in which you will be ruled by children?  Am I the only one who found Lord of the Flies to be the scariest book ever?!

Which bring us to foregoing marriage, while living together, perhaps buying property and even having children.  It’s all the benefits of marriage without the scary grown-up commitment (cue Veruca Salt.)  My objection to these arrangements is purely based on legal (lack of) protection for all parties involved.  And to be perfectly honest, I always find it abhorrent to see people sleepwalking though life.  I find it hard to believe that most adults involved in non-legal relationships involving children are really being their best selves.

No one is offering predictions on where these marriage trends are going.  If the decline is in fact the start of a major cultural shift, it will be interesting to watch what occurs when the children of the cohabitants come of age.  Will they be the generation who, presumably raised in a child-centric household by adults not fully buying into the notion of adulthood, become the Eisenhower generation?  Or will marriage become as quaint and anachronistic as “coming out parties?”   Will it be left to the LGBT community to redefine marriage and make it relevant for the mid-twenty-first century?  Whatever the future of marriage, my hope is that our laws and policies catch up to those of our friends across the pond.  Children should have all the protections of the institution of marriage regardless of current cultural fashion.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2011 in Marriage/Wedding

 

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