a lot and nothing

So we had an amazing, excruciating trial, an agonizing wait, an exhilarating victory, a crushing stagnation in the form of the hold on the ruling, and now we have another wait, this one more frightening in a number of ways.

I feel I should say something about how my opinion on the court case changed between first learning about it (when I feared the worst) to the first rough summary of a day in court (when I was pessimistic and wary) to actually reading the details of the day (when I began to hope) to suffering through the history lessons and the dehumanizing arguments and general ignorant questions while getting more and more optimistic as the other side failed to produce any legal argument. Because that's what happened, and it's not documented here, so it looks like quite a jump from thinking the court case was a terrible idea to loving the ruling. It wasn't -- it was a very painful, wonderful process.

The reason I'm posting, then, is partly to clear that up, but mostly because, though Prop. 8 is unlikely to be resolved before 2012, we do have an election coming up, and I have to say something about the biggest part of it -- the gubernatorial race. As an advocate of equality, I have to say I'm terrified now -- as terrified as I was by Prop. 8 -- by Meg Whitman. I'm terrified by her anti-gay stance, I'm terrified by her anti-immigrant stance, and I'm terrified by her anti-feminist stance. As a student, I'm also terrified of her threats to cut back on education more ("cut waste" was how she worded it, but I can promise you, my school's long since done that.) California is desperate and the worst possible thing we can do in this situation is let the education system get weaker. Lower-quality and less accessible education -> fewer people qualified to do high-paying jobs -> less tax revenue in the future -> less funding for education -> even lower-quality and less accessible education -> the economy goes down the toilet at about warp 9. Oh, and a less educated populace is also one more likely to commit violent crimes, petty theft, and other such crimes, so we're also talking about a less safe society here.

So I'm currently raising funds for Jerry Brown, because (besides not being Meg Whitman) Jerry Brown has a great track record on LGBT issues (he signed the law legalizing gay sex in California in his last stint as governor, among other things) as well as on women's issues, other equality and representation issues, the economy, and the environment. And he understands the importance of education. And he's behind in the polls, because Whitman's filthy rich and has been spending a ton of money on dishonest and sneaky ads (though given how much she's been outspending him by, he's holding his own very well). So I figure this is the right thing to do, for myself and for California, at present.


the first federal ruling: in plain English

So you've all probably seen the news about the current court case. You've quite probably also seen quotes from the ruling, and you may have read the entire thing. What I suspect, though, is that people who are less involved will look at that huge document full of legalese and their eyes will glaze over, and people who don't approve of the decision will definitely not read it. So I want to provide the Lazy American's Abridged Ruling here, which will attempt to cover the whole thing in plain English, as concisely as possible. (This will still be long, because the decision is 136 pages, but you can read it in a sitting or two.)


The first two pages are names of people involved in the case and information about the court, and the table of contents. The first page following (numbered page 1; I'm going to use the numbering scheme they use) has a description of what Prop. 8 is and why it's being challenged, namely that it "deprives [GLB people] of due process and of equal protection of the laws contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment." (Text of the Fourteenth Amendment: here.) Page 1 also describes the plaintiffs, two couples (one couple of men, one of women) who couldn't get marriage licenses due to Prop. 8. It notes that there was no other reason suggested that these couples could not marry. The next several pages cover the history of Prop. 8 and Prop. 22 before it, and the history of the court case itself (who moved what, when, etc.).

The meat of the thing begins on page 5, when the arguments against Prop. 8 are presented. In short, the argument is that Prop. 8 violates due process because it prevents people from marrying who they choose, while the Fourteenth Amendment says the state can't intervene in that choice without a good reason (huge paraphrase; this, I gather, is what courts have understood in the past, with regards to interracial marriage and similar) and domestic partnerships aren't an acceptable substitute for marriages, so their existence isn't enough to cancel this problem.

Then we get into the equal protection part, which boils down to GLB people being restricted from marrying the people they want to marry while straight people aren't (thus, unequal treatment) with a note that "gay men and lesbians" are a "suspect class" (laws discriminating against "suspect classes" are harder to legally justify, so it's important that this is the term used here). One last important point is that the argument is given that it's not just discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but also of sex -- remember that, that'll be important later.

Page 6 starts the counter-argument from the pro-Prop. 8 side, which includes campaign advertising. There's a bulleted list of the "key premises" of the campaign at the bottom of page 7, boiling down to "protect marriage and children" and "opposite-sex couples are better (for childrearing and just because) than same-sex ones". (I'm not making up that "just because" -- it's in legalese there but very clear.) Page 8 provides a list of reasons given in the legal case, which are different and boil down to "promote opposite-sex marriage because heterosexuals can have children without special effort and because children should have a father and a mother, and keep same-sex couples from marrying because the voters and the state have said they want to". (Again, not making it up; this is the judge's summary summarized.) Here is also where the ruling notes that the Prop. 8 side argued very narrowly.

Page 9 continues to describe how the Prop. 8 side argued, and it's not very favorable. Basically, it's denials of everything the No side said (of course) and incompetence. (The pro-8 lawyer admitting that he "didn't know" how same-sex marriage negatively impacts the state's interest in promoting "procreative" heterosexual relationships is simply quoted, as though it's so weak a description wouldn't do it justice, which is true.) The "expert witness" the Yes side presented, David Blankenhorn, gets mentioned, and is dismissed -- later more on that. The argument that procreation within marriage should be promoted, therefore no gay marriage, is outlined in detail on page 10.

Page 11 is background. Page 12 is the couples in the case's explanation of what marriage means to them, segueing into the experts on the case (Nancy Cott on the No side, Blankenhorn again on the Yes) defining marriage and talking about its history. Cott says it's a choice to commit to a certain kind of relationship, Blankenhorn says it's either a socially-accepted sexual thing between a man and a woman to have kids (barely paraphrasing the ruling there) or a "private relationship between two consenting adults" and then there's discussion of the history of the term and contract. (Pages 13-15 if you want to read the details.) Page 15 includes expert opinions on the benefits of marriage. Interesting note here: on page 14, Blankenhorn actually admits that SSM "would benefit same-sex couples and their children, would reduce discrimination against gays and lesbians and would be 'a victory for the worthy ideas of tolerance and inclusion'" but still opposes. Expert witness, eh? Conclusion on page 15 is that there's no evidence that California "has an interest" in banning SSM.

Page 16 begins a discussion of whether SS couples are "different" in any important way from opposite-sex ones (expert witness shows evidence that they aren't). Definition of sexual orientation comes up here, defined as a pattern of attraction to one or both sexes and/or the identity based on that, and "also sometimes used to describe an enduring pattern of behavior" and that "the vast majority of people" do not change their sexual orientation. Expert testimony on childrearing (is it bad for a kid to be raised by a SS couple? answer: no) and whether Prop. 8 increases stigma against GLB people (yes) follows. Dispute between Blankenhorn and No side expert over whether biological parents are better leads to Blankenhorn contradicting himself. (Adoptive parents average better in some areas, and he admits it after insisting that biology is way way important.) Then we look at the economic impact of Prop. 8 on the couples who can't get married, and veer back into the psychological -- both are negative. More on stigma. Finally, conclusion on page 20 that it's not in the state's interest to "differentiate" between SS and opposite-sex couples (can I say "OS" too, or is that too slangy?)

Doing all right there? Heh. Now (starting page 20) we talk about the "morality" issue. See, if this is a law meant to legislate some people's idea of morals, it's suspect, so the Yes side's been trying to deny that part. We get some interesting history here on the history of "protecting the children" (Anita Bryant is the name we don't get here, but did in the argument itself) as depending on the stereotype of gay people (really, men, but they don't say so) as child molesters despite the scientific evidence against this stereotype. More history and stereotype discussion follows. Then we get the Yes campaigner, Hak-Shing William Tam, who -- I can't describe him properly; if you don't read another page of the ruling, read page 22. More on the harm done by the campaign and the law, psychologically, and some more on financial problems for the state caused by Prop. 8. Conclusion notes that the voters' opinions hold great weight, but since this is a law that is potentially harmful to people it has to be based on more than some people's "disapprobation" of the people being hurt, and Prop. 8 "finds support only in such disapproval" so it fails that test and can't be resolved just by a majority vote.

Page 25 starts a discussion of the witnesses and their credentials, including the couples bringing the case, the mayor of San Diego, Tam the pro-8 extremist, and some gay witnesses as well as the experts. Interesting part here is, on pages 35-37, the number of Yes witnesses who dropped out, even when they knew they wouldn't be recorded/broadcast.

When we get to the two who did show up, Blankenhorn gets skewered; his testimony is dubbed "inadmissible" and "should be given essentially no weight" because his work is not peer-reviewed and he has no degree in any relevant field. We get lines here like "[n]one of Blankenhorn’s opinions is reliable" and the accusation that his definition of marriage is "a dichotomy" and there is a snide line that translates as "he recited stuff he'd read somewhere and dude, I can read, I don't need you to do that, I need you to explain why it matters" at the start of page 43. This goes into great detail about why the guy failed to carry his side, and is recommended reading for anyone who thinks that there's solid science behind the idea that same-sex marriage will damage opposite-sex marriage, children, or society in general. After pages and pages shredding Blankenhorn, the other Yes witness gets off easily, being simply not qualified to talk about GLB issues specifically but being accepted as an expert on American and Californian politics. He got hammered for not having thoroughly researched his subject, though, and for having stated before the case that "gays and lesbians, like other minorities, are vulnerable and powerless in the initiative process", but saying the opposite in the courtroom. Oops. He's granted "little weight" overall.

Page 54 starts a listing of people involved, etc. again, and a history of the case. Mentions of religious groups involved are worth noting. Then we get to whether "any evidence" supports the law, noting that churches may choose to not marry people, only people legally capable of consent may marry (relevant to the people making bestiality/pederasty comparisons), and marriage does not legally require procreation/fertility. Further, we get a history of marriage in California and the US, which mentions slaves not being allowed to marry, interracial marriage bans, and the OS understanding California initially used, then noting the overturning of interracial marriages and removal of "coverture" (wife as property of husband), and finally the introduction of no-fault divorce. Leads into the change in age of consent laws from gendered to neutral, and then the history of same-sex marriage in California specifically.

On page 66, we get some interesting stuff about gender roles in marriage, namely, that the state does not treat a wife's obligation to her husband differently from a husband's to his wife. Also a note that getting rid of coverture and race restrictions hasn't hurt marriage as an institution. We then (pages 67-71) segue back into more about what marriage is (looks like Cott's definition about commitments and forming a household carries the day) and there are lots of reasons the state has for "licensing and fostering" it, and for people to want it. Page 71 starts a discussion of sexual orientation, rehashing what they covered earlier, with a key note that the state has no reason to want to change or drive out GLB people. Mentions children of SS couples, benefits to them, and how adoption/AI is not prohibited. Also notes that "[m]arrying a person of the opposite sex is an unrealistic option for gay and lesbian individuals" -- in other words, so much for that strawman. Rehashes problems with domestic partnerships and dismisses idea that SS marriage will reduce marriage rates in OS couples.

Things get interesting in a different way on page 85, when it specifically notes that gender is an issue here -- a man can marry a woman but a woman can't. We touch again on social stigma, the unequal status of SS and OS couples, and gender roles in marriages. This is important as heck, okay? Prop. 8, says this judge, "amends the California Constitution to codify distinct and unique roles for men and women in marriage" -- it's not just anti-gay, it's directly linked to sexism. After this we get a reiteration of the fact that it doesn't violate freedom of religion to allow SS marriage, and that Prop. 8's only effect on anyone's rights is preventing some people from marrying anyway. Restatement of the financial impact on the state and the couples involved follows. Then we're back to more about stereotypes and stigma, and more on the impact on children (pages 94-96 now, if you want to read that part) and a note that anti-gay discrimination happens (odd that they'd have to mention this, but the Yes side actually tried to dispute it!) and more on stereotypes. Also, religion-based ones. And what "protect the children" meant in the campaign (learning about gay people = becoming gay = bad) and what stereotyping was relied on to pass Prop. 8.

Conclusions begin on page 109. The basic gist is that both the equal protection and due process arguments are valid, and we get detail on why. Interesting note is that a major and recurring theme here is the fact that marriage is legally a relationship of equals, now, not defined by gender roles, and that historically a reason SS couples were not considered was that equality in a marriage was not the expected model. That is, when men owned their wives it made no sense to anyone to think that two men or two women would want to marry, because who would own whom then? Another interesting point is that we get a specific clarification that this isn't a "new right" or a "right to same-sex marriage" but just a right to have a recognized marriage -- specifically countering the idea that we're "inventing rights" here.

The conclusion goes on, having established that we're talking about a fundamental right here (and thus can use "strict scrutiny"), to say that not only does Prop. 8 fail that test, but it doesn't even have a "rational basis" -- it doesn't stand up under any scrutiny at all. We get a discussion of what equal protection means and under what circumstances it can be denied to people, which aren't these because the state has no interest that is being protected here, and so there's no justification for discrimination. (Touching back on the gender theme, this is specifically described as being "equivalent to" sex-based discrimination.) A note here is that, although sexual orientation is described as a suspect class, strict scrutiny is not used because it's not needed -- Prop. 8 fails less severe tests. There's some disagreement as whether this case can count as precedent for use of strict scrutiny on other anti-GLB laws or not; I think it can but IANAL.

We get a blow-by-blow of why stated reasons aren't good enough, starting on page 123. Tradition is dismissed, with a note that that argument boils down to "an artifact of a foregone notion that men and women fulfill different roles in civic life" and that OS-only marriage is the only place "legally-mandated gender roles" still exist in California. The potential effects on society are dismissed because there's no evidence of them. The procreation/childrearing argument is roasted. The freedom of religion argument is worse. The idea that SS couples are measurably different (worse) than OS ones, well, you can guess. All other arguments are grouped into a "catchall" category that contains... nothing but bigotry? Yeah. So there's no good reason for Prop. 8 to exist.

Then there's this section header on page 132: "A PRIVATE MORAL VIEW THAT SAME-SEX COUPLES ARE INFERIOR TO OPPOSITE-SEX COUPLES IS NOT A PROPER BASIS FOR LEGISLATION" and that section basically says that Prop. 8 -- I'm going to quote again, actually, from page 133 -- "enacts a moral view that there is something 'wrong' with same-sex couples" and is based on prejudice and the idea that GLB people are inferior.

So with all this laid out, the conclusion is that Prop. 8 is discriminatory and unconstitutional and cannot legally be enforced.



Any last doubts I may have had about the federal case have gone out the window today. First there's the stupid delay on being able to broadcast the trial, because gay people might pressure the anti-gay witnesses into changing their testimony -- bullshit. Fucking bullshit. Homophobes, you're the majority, with the power to define the debate and strip away our rights -- you're not fucking oppressed. The Gay Mafia will not terrorize your family for your bold stand, because there is no Gay Mafia. Christ. Yes, people will be angry with you, but you don't have a right to avoid that, not if you're going to do things that make people angry.

*clears throat* I got a little carried away there. Anyway, on top of that now, we have the judge:
Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker asked attorney Theodore Olson, who represents two same-sex couples suing to overturn Proposition 8, how the ban could be called discriminatory, since California already allows domestic partnerships.
Wow. Just -- wow.

"How is it discrimination to ban you from entering into a contract that is understood and recognized by many jurisdictions and the general population, when you've got one that has a different definition in every jurisdiction that might recognize it, is poorly understood by the general population and thus not granted the same respect?"

"Gee, I don't know! Sorry to have wasted your time, Mr. Judge!"

I thought I was done being depressed for a while, but apparently not.

EDIT: Should've looked for more complete coverage -- here's a liveblog showing more of the questions, and in context it's not so bad. Still an uphill fight, but not so hopeless.


Maine fallout and thinking of the children

So, to recap: We lost Maine by an even larger percentage than we lost California. The question of who's to blame has come up all over, of course, and the usual voices are saying we need to give up on marriage and work on other people's pet issues (see this post for my thoughts on that.) Discussion of whether the Democratic leadership is failing to lead on this (yes, it is, says Phoenix the Green, but our problems go a lot deeper than that) and whether the campaign was badly run (it was much better than No on 8, from what I saw) abound. I stopped in to talk to an ally the other day, one of the teachers at my community college who supported me when Prop. 8 hit, and he was angrier than I've seen him before. He pointed to the Yes (on 1 in Maine and 8 here) campaign's tactic of saying "gay marriage will be taught in schools if we don't have a ban on it" and the standard response of simply calling them out as liars as wrong. I think he had good points, so I'm going to paraphrase what he said:

Yes, we do want children to learn about same-sex marriage in the contexts they learn about opposite-sex marriage. We want children to learn that in our society, your life and family are valued regardless of who you are and/or who you love. We want children to learn that queer people and our families are normal because we are. So what? Why should we try to pretend that we're okay with being invisible to "protect the children" from our existence? The children don't need to be protected in this way.

This ties in with something I, as a lifelong homeschooler, have always found confusing: people who want to keep the public schools from teaching about things their personal beliefs say are wrong. It's the job of the public schools, it seems to me, to provide education for everyone, i. e., for the public. Education means factual information and skills likely to be beneficial in later life, so that they can be productive members of society. Public education is supposed to benefit the public, in short, by giving its members the tools they need to do well in it. It's therefore best if it is inclusive, so as to decrease the hostilities between societal subgroups and the destructive behavior that arises from people feeling excluded or threatened by the Other. A society in which different groups coexist is a more functional one.

So what's a parent to do if the schools are teaching their kids things they don't approve of? Parent! Yes, folks, you can raise your own kids, you don't have to let the schools do it. You can emphasize that you believe the schoolteachers are teaching them wrong in x area, and explain why, or take your kids out of the school system altogether and guarantee that they learn what you personally believe. See, parenting is actually your job, not the government's (oh, yeah, that's who provides public education -- I've seen some people who seem to be unaware of that recently, so I thought I should mention.) Passing on your specific values is your job. (And your kids may end up believing things you don't, anyway, because they're individuals. Such is life.)

Arguing against inclusivity in the schools that serve GLBT children, and the children of LGBT parents, is stupid, and it's high time we said so. Which gets to the main point that keeps coming up, in all this: we keep losing because our opponents define the subjects, and we're the "second idiot" responding to their well-formulated attacks. It's high time we stopped letting them have control of the discourse.


well, so much for that hope

We're on our own.

I actually screamed "no" several times when I got the word. I suspect later I'll cry. Our options are getting too limited here.


time travel and a worrying development

Two unrelated news items led me to this post. I will address each, in turn, and then we'll see where we are. First up, a blast from the distant past:

"Two civil and constitutional rights organizations called on a Louisiana justice of the peace to resign Friday after he refused to marry an interracial couple, saying any children the couple might have would suffer."

When I was investigating the possible reasons the California Supreme Court might overturn the late lamented ban on same-sex marriage that Prop. 8 has now replaced, I read the entire majority opinion on Perez v. Sharp, the case that in 1948 made California the first state to overturn a ban on interracial marriage. So for me, this guy's logic is like going back in time more than 61 years, to when people seriously thought they had a right to deny marriage licenses to interracial couples to "protect" their potential children from being outcasts. But even without the history, this should be scarily familiar to advocates for same-sex marriage. And there's a reason this is significant.

We've established that personal political views are reason enough to deny others equal protection under the law. It's okay to deny someone a fundamental right -- in this case the right to join in marriage with the person of one's choice (thank you, Justice Traynor) -- if you personally don't believe they are exercising it appropriately. That's what the gay marriage bans implicitly say. Now this fellow in Louisiana is trying to extend that logic to race issues again. I am well convinced that this is a symptom of the increasingly open racism in American public discourse since the President was elected, but I think it's also a result of the successful weaseling of open bigotry into the law in the form of anti-LGBT legislation.


In other news, the federal case against Prop. 8 is going forward, and I am very worried. I don't trust the lawyers who are bringing it, nor do I believe that the current US Supreme Court will rule fairly; I expect a nationwide setback for equality if it does get there, and suspect that this was the true intention of the suit. I know that ultimately, we need national protections, but I don't think this method of getting them stands a snowball's chance in hell until we depolarize the Supreme Court (or get a more liberal one, but depolarization is generally preferable.)

One possible alternative is that Prop. 8 becomes a thing of the past, eliminating the primary basis for the lawsuit, before it gets that high. I'll be honest, I'm not optimistic about this, but knowing how slowly court cases go I wouldn't rule it out. If, for instance, we vote to overturn Prop. 8 in 2010, I wouldn't be surprised if that led to dismissal of the case purely on the grounds that the law being challenged no longer exists. Even if that doesn't work, we'll have a new Governor, and I'm optimistic about Gavin Newsom's chances of being that person, and if he is it frees up the Legislature to do a lot more and makes the most prominent voice in the state government a decidedly pro-equality one.

Wild speculation at this point, but I have to hope.


family values

Q: "What are 'family values'?"

A: "When one family is more valuable than another family."
-approximate quote from The Cartoon History of the Universe Volume II by Larry Gonick

I was thinking about the future I dream about today, not the gloomy one where my entire waking life is spent working away in a little cubicle and sneakily playing Nethack for entertainment, but the one where I have a wonderful wife and about five zillion adopted and foster children. I'm the eldest of four kids, and I love my family situation, so passing on what I see as my good luck seems right to me, and my religious beliefs lead me to want to pass it on to existing children who don't have a good home or high odds of getting one rather than using AI and bringing new beings into the world. (The process of finding a sperm donor seems uncomfortably reminiscent of eugenics programs to me, but YMMV and I don't presume to apply this belief to anyone's life but my own. Anyway, that's not what I came to tell you about.)

Adoption is a complicated issue. International adoption agencies may be engaging in human trafficking, buying babies from their biological parents and adopting them out for profit. Nor are in-country adoptions guaranteed ethical; the demand for healthy white and Asian babies leads young single mothers to be pressured to give their infants up. Meanwhile, the foster care system is overflowing with older children, black and Latin children disproportionately represented, as are disabled ones, because these aren't the children anyone wants. Where the need is greatest, the people willing to help are fewest.

I want to help those kids. I know it's hard and sometimes very painfully difficult to deal with the problems children who've been taken from their families can have -- I remember two little kids a family friend fostered for a while, who called everyone "mommy" in the hope that someday they would be right and "daddy" when they were angry and who had been locked in a little room most of their short lives and it hurts my heart -- but the thing is, it's not the kids' fault and they shouldn't have to deal with a lack of support on top of it all. And I owe a debt to my parents for the wonderful childhood they gave me, which I can best pay off by spreading it around. The long and short of it is, I fully intend to be a foster parent and hopefully an adoptive one for the kids whose odds of having someone else take them in are low. It's what I want and what I feel called to do in the future.

I want to be the kind of parent every child deserves, the kind who tries their best and learns from their mistakes and never stops loving their kids and showing it. The kind of parent who takes time, no matter what else is going on, to comfort the child who's fallen down and scraped her knee or try to help explain some mathematical concept to the one struggling with his homework. I want to raise my kids to be honest and strong and proud of who they are, dedicated to doing right by others and making the world a better place, hardworking and successful. I want my kids to be able to go to whatever schools they want and work whatever jobs they want, and however hard I have to work to make that happen I'll do my best to do it. I don't care if I never get thanked or if I don't magically produce perfect citizens by sheer power of desire; I just hope I do the best possible job and leave the rest up to my kids and the world. I'll be a good mom, if not a great one.

So I get really twitchy when I hear "family values" politicians talking about banning same-sex couples from marrying or adopting or fostering to protect "families" and "children" from the horrible gays. Because, apparently, it's better to live in a group home than have two moms, or one mom who dates women. Never mind the data showing that children with gay parents aren't negatively impacted by it in any way (nor are they more likely to be queer than children of straight parents.) Never mind that kids who simply "age out" of the foster care system are likely to face severe challenges as adults that strong support from just a few loving adults could radically reduce. Nope. I still shouldn't be allowed to have the family I pray for.

Why don't "family values" politicians spend more time encouraging people to adopt or foster children in need, and less time encouraging young women to put their unwanted or unaffordable offspring into the system while trying to keep prospective parents from taking kids out of it? It's not just gay couples who get restricted, either; single gay people are kept from adopting in Florida and all unmarried couples or individual members of said couples are banned from adopting in Arkansas. This is to "protect the children," as though said children have a huge supply of qualified adoptive parents in heterosexual marriages who want them and gay and unmarried straight people are competing for them. Except they don't, and I don't see a lot of "family values" politicians or religious leaders helping to ameliorate the situation in word or deed. It smacks of hypocrisy, which I don't think Jesus would've approved of:
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to."
-Matthew 23:13


divide and be conquered

Recently I read the book Stonewall by Martin Duberman. It is, as you might be able to deduce, an account of the famous riot that changed the American movement for GLBT rights forever, but it's also a fairly in-depth historical look at the GLBT rights movement in the '60s and '70s. And a fascinating aspect of that movement, for me, is how splintered it has always been.

I'll enumerate the worst divides, not in order:
  • Gay men vs. everyone else -- the emphasis on issues particular to gay men, and the high probability that both insiders and outsiders will talk about those men first even in discussing general issues, breeds resentment and infighting.
  • Gay vs. bi -- bisexuals are subject to a lot of stereotyping and rejection within the queer community, leading them to be less willing to participate in the movement and culture, leading to increased invisibility and vulnerability for the bisexuals, leading to more stereotyping....
  • Gay and bi vs. trans -- the mainstream gay movement (e. g. the HRC) often ignores trans-specific issues and overlooks trans people when they are affected by GLB issues (in other words, most of the time); this pisses trans people off. Plus, stereotyping leads to nastiness from cisgendered GLB people, leads to fighting.
  • Conformists vs. non -- this takes multiple forms: there's the butch/femme vs. gender-role-rejecting split common in the lesbian community, the people who want to raise families and have "normal" relationships vs. the ones who reject these things as unimportant or trappings of the heterosexual world.
  • White vs. ethnic minority -- much as cisgendered men are the focus of the movement, so are white people, and indeed open racism may be more prevalent in the queer community than in the general one. I've addressed some of this here before.
  • Religious vs. non -- touchy subject, as many religions accept or actively promote homophobia, tempting people who've faced a little too much "God says I should treat you badly and say it's loving" to be hostile to all religion, while those who have found affirming belief systems or just reject the homophobia and embrace what they see as the important part of their church's dogma tend to object to this.
And now, in the Prop. 8 battle, we have the 2010 vs. 2012 debate, and we see the costs. We'll never know if 2010 is the right choice, because the "big guys" aren't willing to put money or time into it -- understandable, as they're convinced it would be wasted -- and so if the petition circulating to get it on the 2010 ballot gets enough signatures, that campaign will be woefully underfunded. This means that the 2012 campaign will be better-equipped, but of course more time changes attitudes in ways we can't necessarily predict, so that might not be enough, and the 2010 supporters/campaigners are likely to be discouraged and reluctant to invest as much. Both the 2010 and the 2012 campaigns, in other words, suffer because of the split in the movement. Meanwhile, Prop. 8's status is boosted. The anti-gay campaigners couldn't ask for better luck.

That's not the only big split around this specific issue, of course. The conformist vs. non-conformist fight raises its ugly head here, because marriage is a trapping of the heterosexual world and there are those who don't think we ought to want it at all. Now, I understand that the conformists are the face of the movement right now, and that this is doing nothing for the rest, who are still stigmatized; I strongly object to any "straight-acting" queer who tries to say that everyone should be like them if they want to be treated fairly. On the other hand, I think the aggressive non-conformists who think everyone should be like them are just as bad, and I'm tired of them telling me what I should and shouldn't want. I want a family; it's not the heterosexual brainwashing, it's just that I'm that sort of person. The inability to recognize that people may not conform (ha) to one particular idea of what queer people should be like because it's not their nature is hugely crippling the movement on all levels.

To get tangential for a moment, I'm tired of the idea that you either have to completely try to blend in with the mainstream or completely reject anything that came from it to be a good [insert group here]. My mother isn't a bad feminist for choosing the job -- unpaid and without resume value -- of main childrearer, nor would she be rejecting her womanhood if she had continued in a "real job" and left Dad home with us kids instead. What's antifeminist is the fact that childrearing (a job done mostly by women still) is an unpaid job without resume value, less societally respected than far less important tasks. Likewise, the most damaging thing to the queer community is neither the people who prefer to marry and have kids nor the ones who prefer to live wild sexy lives outside of societal norms, but rather the fact that society's treatment of us changes depending on which path we choose. (And, in both cases, the fact that there realistically isn't an accepted middle path is a problem.)

Anyway, back on topic. I remember when Prop. 8 passed there was a surge of racist reactionism based on what turned out to be inaccurate statistics; it was the black community, not the general public (or churchgoers, or seniors) that was scapegoated. Stephen Colbert, I believe, described it as "the gays versus the blacks, the blacks versus the gays, and the black gays versus themselves" or something similar. Despite the later statistics showing that it wasn't so, the divide persists in too many people's minds. It's a classic: let's you and him fight, divide and conquer. The sad bit is that it's happening completely inside of the community -- pure "gays vs. gays," no outside casualties -- and it has been for as long as there has been a community.

My challenge to my readers today, therefore, is to take a moment and evaluate where you stand on the divides I listed above. Seriously think about it, I mean. Then do as your conscience dictates.


California: what a mess!

Due to the power of the initiative process, California's people have the ability to directly fuck things up without any interference from our elected officials, but that doesn't mean the latter don't do an excellent job of fucking up things the general population can't or won't handle. Today, I'd like to take a moment to talk about some of those things, as off-topic as it may be here.

I've been a community college student since the fall of 2005, when I started taking classes part-time as a not-quite-seventeen-year-old high school student. As soon as I was eighteen, I started full-time. I've got an excellent record, though my performance has been impacted by my depression ever since Prop. 8 got through, and this summer was the first since I started that I haven't opted for class rather than relaxation. So it breaks my heart to see the troubles my school's facing.

I initially registered for three classes -- 13 units, slightly over a full-time load -- this semester. All three were full, and the waitlists for them were full too, something I had never seen happen before. I managed to add a class and drop one of the ones I had initially been in, and I think that I was able to do that mostly because it was a night class outside of general education requirements; the worst-hit classes seemed to be math and English. (There's a sign outside the English department's main building notifying students that all English classes are full with full waitlists and advising them to register as early as possible next semester if they need to take one.) I know quite a few other students weren't as fortunate as I; during the second week of classes, I saw a number of them sheepishly go up to my German teacher and ask if they could add the class, apparently desperate. The teachers are having to be tough and drop people they would normally try to keep, and are using various strategies to do so. Whole departments have been cut down to the bare minimum; at least one disappeared outright last semester when the budget problems started to hit. My department, computer science, got it pretty bad; the head of department says she's advising prospective CS majors that to get the core classes they need for transfer will take at least four years, when it's officially supposed to take two. This is all in spite of the fact that they raised the cost per unit this semester, which should have reduced enrolment considerably.

The problem's not just in terms of how many classes are offered, of course. Other services are also reduced. My sister has dyslexia and requires accommodations to do well: this semester, she's getting them, but only because her teacher is very understanding; the people who are supposed to process her paperwork so that she can get the necessary support and equipment to do well have been unavailable and not returning calls since the semester started, and she still hasn't been able to get a notetaker as a consequence (there's official paper provided by these people that she can't get, and which is prohibitively expensive to buy.)

Nor are the problems limited to the lower-class schools. One of my classmates is still with us, he told me, because the local UC told him they couldn't accept him because they had as many students as they could afford. I don't know so much about UC's situation, because I don't go there, but I do know that typically junior transfers are fairly popular with them and less likely to be turned away than, say, freshmen. I also believe that the classmate in question has fairly good grades, so he probably was actually turned away for the reason stated and not because he's unqualified.

So far, I haven't seen an impact on the bus system, which I use despite its limitations (it takes me 1.5 to two hours to get to school) and depend on, but I fear that's coming too, because I know they lost money as well.

The thing that drives me crazy about all of this is that in the long run, it's making the problems worse. The more cuts education takes, the fewer people can get a good education, and the more people will drop out at all levels. More uneducated people means that the work that requires a degree of some kind goes out of the state, which means that the people here make less money, which means that they pay less in taxes and can afford to spend less in their communities. Less tax revenue means more cuts are needed later down the line, which means more cuts to education, et cetera, ad infinitum. It's completely idiotic to operate this way. The trouble as I see it is that we're not a system that operates based on the long term. Companies look for short-term profits, and avoid investing in the long term because it will mean short-term losses; politicians look for reelection, and avoid the dirty question of raising taxes in favor of borrowing and cutting necessary programs. The trouble is, we kind of need tax dollars to pay for the programs that allow people to become wealthier. Argh.

I used to like my state, overall. In the past year, however, I've become increasingly interested in leaving it. This is saddening.

(Incidentally, signature-collection is under way to get a measure on the ballot to help combat the budget crisis -- by legalizing marijuana, taxing its sale, and releasing the people incarcerated for using or selling it. I approve of the general idea, because I see no logical reason to treat marijuana as worse than alcohol or tobacco, but at the same time if the people of California decide to allow me to smoke weed after what they denied me last election, I'm going to have a good bit of fun with the ridiculousness of it. Hallucinogen use: possibly okay. Affirming one's commitment to a long-term relationship: not okay!)


2010 vs. 2012: the internal divisions that will kill us

There's some controversy (I hate that word, but I can't think of a better one) about just when the best time is to try to put Prop. 8's overthrow on the ballot. Do we immediately spring back, trying to bring the vote in 2010, or do we keep our heads down this round and wait until 2012? Reading The Bilerico Project posts on the subject, I'd tend to believe that the 2010 side used dishonest means to establish the appearance of being the majority. Personally, I still agree with them about the timing; as I've mentioned, I'm opposed to waiting at all. But I'm frankly disgusted with the campaign's leadership already, based mostly on the stuff I've been getting in my inbox. These are quotes from messages from the Courage Campaign, which was decent to good on the initial No On 8 campaign:
(Message title: "Repeal Prop 8 in 2010? Or not?" Date: 10. August 2009 10:52. Abbreviated for your sanity; emphasis added, links removed.)

It's time to make a very big decision. And the power to make it is in your hands.

Right now, several organizations within the marriage equality movement are debating whether to place an initiative on the ballot to repeal Prop 8 in either 2010 or 2012.

The Courage Campaign community already spoke out in favor of 2010, quite strongly. In May, 83% of our members told us to work with our partners to place a marriage equality initiative on the ballot in 2010 -- and to help build the movement to support it.


But the only way a 2010 campaign can be launched is if the marriage equality movement raises $200,000. That's right. $200,000. That's how much money it will take to determine -- through research, polling and focus groups -- the initiative language and messages that will move voters to support marriage equality.

We are ready to do our part but we can't do it alone. That's why we are asking the Courage Campaign community to raise $100,000 by August 13. And we are challenging our partners in the marriage equality movement to raise the remaining $100,000 as soon as possible.

Are you ready to commit? Time is running out to launch a 2010 initiative. To put marriage equality on the ballot next year, will you help us meet this $100,000 community goal by making a contribution right now? DEADLINE: August 13.


But if the marriage equality movement is not able to raise the $200,000 necessary -- $100,000 from the Courage Campaign and $100,000 from our partners -- to pay for the research to launch an initiative campaign, then we will have to accept that our movement is not ready to repeal Prop 8 in 2010.

And we will have to wait until 2012 to bring marriage equality to the ballot again. It's as simple as that.

It's up to you. Will you help the Courage Campaign community raise $100,000 before August 13? [...]
A follow-up message, sent a day later, quoted the same text with some stats about how much they'd raised, reasserted the urgent need to act (read: give them money) immediately, and was titled "60 hours left to decide Prop 8's fate".

Here we've got a beautiful combination: we need lots of money now (the deadline is completely arbitrary) or it's your fault that we're stuck waiting around for two more years! Don't think about it; act now or you're against us! (Their emails actually have more bolding than my emphasis gives.) Basically, they're guilt-tripping people to raise an arbitrary amount of money -- they say it's the necessary amount for their research, but don't explain why -- by a completely arbitrary date. And I'm sitting here wondering how on Earth they expect to keep the community united behind them when they're fear-mongering and guilt-tripping their way into cash they'll use for goodness knows what.

The movement is splintering, and I think it's pretty clear why. We need new leadership, and it can't be these organizations, or the dubiously-aligned lawyers who supposedly think the US Supreme Court is going to help bring equality to California (long-term? Sure. This court? No.) It's got to be one of us, or a group of us, but acting as individuals, not as a faceless organization.