Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Meaning of Today, with the SCOTUS on My Mind

When I sat down to write this post, I wasn't really sure of what I wanted to say.  My head is in so many mental places right now, and I feel like a swirl of emotions.  As most breathing Americans know, today and tomorrow the SCOTUS will have oral arguments regarding California's Proposition 8, which took away marriage rights from gay and lesbian Californians, after those rights had been granted by the state government, and the (so called) Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which precludes the federal government from recognizing same-sex married couples, even if the couples are married legally in their home states.

This morning, I spoke with my mother, and I said to her that I think I finally understand what it must have been like for her and my grandparents, when she was growing up.  I can now imagine what it must have been like on the day of oral arguments for Brown v. Board of Education.  It is surreal to put one's hope in 9 (well, in the case of these current arguments, 5) people who have no clue as to who you are, or what you're experiencing.  I don't know if I could handle that level of pressure.  But here I am, and feeling a little helpless.  I am hoping with all that I can that at least five justices will understand what it must be like to have your government relegate you to second class citizenship, to have your government imply that you aren't worthy of equal rights under the law, simply because of who you love.

I feel like I am in that place where my grandparents must have been in 1954.  I can also imagine what it must have felt like when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were made into law.  That sigh of relief must have been beautiful to feel.  That sense of better days coming must have been very sweet.  I know that's how I felt each time a state or court (or in the case of Washington, DC, the City Council) moved to grant civil marriage equality to same sex couples.  But I also vividly remember the sting of all of those state constitutional amendments passing throughout much of the nation, and wondered how it must feel to be happy about denying someone a right that would have no discernible effect on you, as though simply knowing that a gay couple down the street is married will cause you personal harm.

Right now, I am thinking about actual friends of mine, gay and lesbian couples, who are legally married.  I am trying to understand the reasoning behind their marriages harming the marriages of my straight friends.  It simply doesn't make sense to me.  However, I do understand that my gay and lesbian married friends are directly harmed by the Defense of Marriage Act.  I think of my Marylander friend who recently married the man of his dreams, who happens to be from South Africa.  I think of them, because their marriage reminds me of a grad school friend who married the woman of his dreams, and she happened to be from Colombia.  Because of DOMA, these two bi-national marriages are treated differently.  The heterosexual married couple will go through the usual processes to ensure that she will not have difficulty remaining in the U.S; the gay married couple cannot go through those usual processes.  Neither marriage affects the other, but the federal government is required, by law, to ensure that the gay couple is treated differently, and to their cost.

I have no idea if I will ever find the man of my dreams and marry.  It's not always in the cards for everyone.  However, I don't want my government telling me that I cannot marry, nor do I want my government to treat me differently (and to deny me and my potential husband federal benefits) from any of my straight friends.  Why is that concept so difficult to understand?

I have no idea how this will end, and I apologize for any repetition of argument.  I just hope that my side wins.  Crass, I know, but it's the honest truth.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The "Undeserving" Women of the Violence Against Women Act

I am glad that the Congress finally passed, and the POTUS has signed, an extension of the Violence Against Women Act.  It was long overdue, and it should have been a "no-brainer" for everyone involved.  But I cannot get over the fact that the people who voted against the bill, particularly on the final vote, essentially gave a big "fuck you" to lesbians, undocumented immigrant women and Native American women.  I think that Rep. Marsha Blackburn came closest to telling the truth, when she explained her decision to vote against it.  She didn't like the groups that the latest iteration of the law included.  I take that to mean that she has no problem with violence against lesbians, undocumented immigrant women and/or Native American women.  That is an incredible admission, and it's one that I think can be attributed to every single member of Congress who voted against the bill.  Some women, apparently, are more deserving of federal protection than others, at least in the minds of scores of Republicans.  It's probably too much to hope that her constituents who know people in any of those "undeserving" categories will remember that, when she is up for re-election in '14.  Then again, I have a sneaking suspicion that the vast majority of her constituency feels exactly the same way.  And that's the real shame here.