Pittsburgh Blog for Equality Day 2008 – a lesbian perspective

I've been wracking my brains all weekend for an approach to this day. You've read all the facts about the legislation attempting to amend the PA constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman.  It has the potential to hurt a lot of people, gay and straight alike. 

You've read all the arguments from those who want to impose their Christian-interpretation of marriage on the rest of us.  And those who believe gay rights are not a civil rights issue (check out today's Post-Gazette for more on that).  You've also heard from thoughtful Christian leaders who do affirm individuals who are LGBTQ.  There was also civil rights luminary Coretta Scott King's affirmation.  We can trump card each other until the end of the day.

What you may not know, particularly if you are heterosexual, is the impact that all of this has on day to day life.  All of what?  All of the constant negative discussion about the gay community — of course, there is a connection between the rhetoric that people hear in the pulpit and the way they treat gay people, or teach their children to treat gay people.  Love the sinner, hate the sin is not the American way.  Treat people poorly who get between you and what you believe is yours is a bit more accurate, particularly when there is a relentless drum beat about their being “one” way and “one” truth in a land of religious freedom. 

I live in Pittsburgh, a fairly gay-positive place considering how socially conservative most Catholics can be.  Still, there are probably three public places in the entire region where I would be comfortable holding the hand of my partner, Ledcat.  We spend entire weeks where we only touch each other inside our home or our vehicle.  I'm talking the most simple gestures — and believe me, I'm very aware of those right now.  We lost our beloved pet this week and I've been inconsolable. You know that feeling of grief that sweeps over you unexpectedly … imagine that the person you love is right next to you, but has to be careful about the things she says or the way she touches you when consoling you about a deep loss. 

It is horrible.  We have been fortunate to only have experienced a few frightening incidents — mostly kids and mostly being stupid.  But it is still frightening to have anyone try to menace you because they think you are gay.  They get that message from their parents, their preachers and their peers — gay people are fair game.  So they use whatever power they have — intimidation, verbal harassment, even constitutional amendments — to keep you down.  It happens at all levels — I once had a supervisor send me an email with an embedded photoshopped image that degraded lesbians.  He thought it was funny.  It might have been funny coming from my friend Bob, but not someone with power and authority over my career. 

We have to pick our battles.  I fought back against the supervisor because I had protections in place.  I walked away from the menacing kids and found a public space because I had no protection from their ignorance other than the brightness of public opinion.  I'm fighting back against this amendment because I think we have to draw a line in the sand on this one.  Let the bigots stew in their own hatred and fear if they so choose.  That's why they have their own churches.  But just as they are free to practice their religions, I am free *from* their religions. 

Change is on the horizon.  Children grow up surrounded by cultural gay images — television, music, movies, video games, etc.  They have gay friends in school and know gay neighbors.  This chips away at the mantra of fear emanating from those who seem to have the most to lose if we are granted our due equal rights.  OK, so I  still don't understand who that is, but I'm trying to allow bigots their due.

I want to hold Ledcat's hand.  Ultimately, I want to hold her hand in mine forever.  But I'm content to start with holding it at Target. 

Just this morning, I read my favorite comic strip, For Better or For Worse, and there is a reference to gay marriage (Michael's friend Lawrence is gay and has a partner, Nicholas). It is a casual reference, but I thought it an auspicious omen for this first ever Pgh Blogging for Equality Day. 

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  • Dear Friends.
    Feel free to read the amendments contained in the Bill of Rights in Honor of Blog For Equality Day. http://www.constitutionfacts.com/index.cfm
    Here are a few of my favorites.
    Amendment I: Freedom of religion, speech, and the press; rights of assembly and petition
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
    Amendment IX: Rights retained by the people
    The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people
    (That means States can't infringe upon your rights either – as the PA Senate is doing)
    Some jurists have asserted that the Ninth Amendment is relevant to interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Justice Arthur Goldberg (joined by Chief Justice Warren and Justice Brennan) expressed this view in a concurring opinion in the case of Griswold v. Connecticut (1965):
    [T]he Framers did not intend that the first eight amendments be construed to exhaust the basic and fundamental rights…. I do not mean to imply that the …. Ninth Amendment constitutes an independent source of rights protected from infringement by either the States or the Federal Government….While the Ninth Amendment – and indeed the entire Bill of Rights – originally concerned restrictions upon federal power, the subsequently enacted Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the States as well from abridging fundamental personal liberties. And, the Ninth Amendment, in indicating that not all such liberties are specifically mentioned in the first eight amendments, is surely relevant in showing the existence of other fundamental personal rights, now protected from state, as well as federal, infringement.
    Amendment XIV: Civil rights
    The Fourteenth Amendment
    was proposed on June 13, 1866 and ratified on July 9, 1868.
    Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.
    Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.
    Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.
    Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
    Amendment XIII: Abolition of slavery
    The Thirteenth Amendment
    was proposed on January 31, 1865, and ratified on December 6, 1865.
    Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
    Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
    Amendment XIX: Woman suffrage
    The Nineteenth Amendmen
    t was proposed on June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18,1920.
    The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
    Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
    Perhaps, someday, we can all enjoy their mighty benefit.
    Happy Blog for Equality Day!
    Douglas Shields
    President, Pittsburgh City Council

  • Marriage is a basic civil right that should be attainable by all Americans if they choose. For the truth about gay marriage check out our trailer. Produced to educate & defuse the controversy it has a way of opening closed minds & provides some sanity on the issue: http://www.OUTTAKEonline.com

  • I just wanted to say that I enjoy reading your blog, especially entries like this. I used to live in Pittsburgh, but now I'm living about an hour north so you're one of my only connections to the GLBT community in Pittsburgh. Thank you for all of the good work and letters that you write for our community.

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