Wednesday, March 27, 2013

DOMA and Why I Support the Repeal (the extended version)

I posted a picture on Facebook yesterday, as I am prone to doing. Those who know me and/or have read the blog for a long time know that I'm an advocate for gay rights. Long before this week's news about the cases before the Supreme Court to repeal DOMA and challenge the California Proposition 8 repeal, this has been a topic here on my blog and on my Facebook wall.

The picture was of the Statue of Liberty kissing a dipped Justice in front of the red equal signs that are everywhere on FB right now. Many supporters, but one dissenter, who lamented that there are bigger issues that we should put our attention on right now. Well, sure, but none of those issues are being heard by the Supreme Court today, thanks.

I agreed with her opinion that our government is too big and spending is out of control. Sure, we need to figure out something about gun control-but they're not the issue in front of nine justices.

Knowledge is power, and by sharing some of this here, maybe it helps others to understand why so many, like me, are passionate about this civil rights case. What brought it before the justices in the first place, they're asking. Well, here are some facts, some opinions, and then a bonus at the end.

The statistics vary, but it has been stated that approximately ten percent of the US population identifies as gay, lesbian, gender query or transsexual, but we'll use LGBT for short. This figure sprung out of pioneering sexual researcher Alfred Kinsey's extensive work in the 1940's, in which one in ten men identified as homosexual.

More recently, the Williams Institute reported 11% of respondents identify LGBT. Another recent study states 4%, while a Gallup poll in 2002 brings that number into the high teens. The disparity is likely due to an unwillingness to publicly identify as LGBT, even in anonymous surveys. My a priori observation is that it may be over 20 percent, but for this post (rather than my FB post), we'll stick with one in ten as identifying LGBT.

One in ten. You have more than ten friends, right? For every ten, one is gay. These are people who do not cordon themselves off on Brokeback Mountain, they are here and among us. They're good people. They are my friends, your friends, relatives, teachers, doctors, wait staff, hairdressers, librarians, police officers, lawyers, baristas, neighbors, sales clerks, accountants, and mechanics. Those of you who are ticked off at those of us Allied with our friends 'in the life'-stop and think about that number. You KNOW at least one gay person, probably interact with him or her daily, but you just may not know they're gay.

And that is okay. That's exactly how it should be in the normal day to day world. You really don't want to know about my sex life, I definitely don't want to know about yours, right?

But that's not the reason you probably don't know exactly who is gay and who isn't. I wish it was, but the truth of the matter is, people still have to stay closeted for fear of losing jobs, being denied housing, being forced to go through therapy to get rid of the gay, being called 'faggot' or other slurs, being beaten up or killed because of who they love. Can you blame some for NOT sharing what they really feel? The person who called a friend that slur up above probably doesn't realize how many gay people are in close proximity daily...

Fifty years ago, more people were in than out. Then, Patient Zero, Gaetan Dugas, was a one man Typhoid Mary spreading the GRID, or Gay Related Immunodeficiency Disease, now known as AIDS. The spread of AIDS changed things. As I recently discussed with a friend, in the 80's, we knew people who were gay, but weren't out as gay. AIDS changed that. For years, it was a silent killer, many infected denied that they were. It took a beloved rock star and a British princess to turn the tide against the gay hatred back then, the belief that gay people 'deserved' this horrible disease. Now really, does anyone deserve a deadly illness?

Today, a lot more teens and young adults don't have the same degree of fear of being out, but it is still there, and I will get to that in a couple of paragraphs. All we need to hear is a story like Matthew Shepards to know that homophobia is still rampant, that there are many who fear something that is harmless to them.

Right now in my life, I know a handful of people who are not truly out, but to a few close friends and family. A classmate that was married in New York, but her wife can't talk about it at work. Yes, in today's society, where Kim Kardashian can make a mockery of marriage, these women have to hide the fact that after a few years of a committed relationship and a ceremony recognized as binding in the state of New York, they have to hide who they are.

So, you're wondering why this and why now? I'm glad you asked. The reason the Supreme Court is hearing about this issue and not any number of causes we the people consider important is this: For over FORTY years, Edith (Edie) Windsor and Thea Spryer were a betrothed couple (Thea proposed with a diamond pin). The women eventually married in Canada, a marriage recognized by the state of NY.

However, when Thea died, Edie found that unlike other couples, she was not afforded the same rights by the federal government with regards to estate taxes. She was socked with a huge tax bill, one she would not have had if Thea had been male. It is justifiable case law-the state recognizes the union, why not the federal government? State vs. federal recognition has been brought before the Supreme Court before. This time, it's about a basic civil right. Finally.

I'd mentioned that there is still fear of being out, that identifying oneself as LGBT can be a risky thing, especially when people still insult others with that 'f' word (and don't see how it is just as bad as the 'n' word or the 'r' word), when a teen is burned to death at a birthday party because he's gay. Repealing DOMA is a step in the right direction for our nation to show LGBT people that they are equal, that they should have the same rights as every other citizen in legally binding their love for one another.

My friend James produced this video last year for our Digital Video class. James is a talented young man, who just happens to be gay. If you want to understand why the repeal of DOMA is important, just spend twelve minutes hearing these stories. I've heard many similar stories over the years. This video to me is just a taste of WHY this case is important.

I hope that we can say that It Gets Better about gay rights...

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