What I Learned at the Prop 8 Closing Arguments

The word as of this a.m.—we were in by 1 p.m.

The word as of this a.m.—we were in by 1 p.m.

First off, our side has remarkably great counsel. Ted Olson was funny, intelligent, and relentlessly rational. While there were many laughs at the defense’s expense during their closing, the only joke Charles Cooper (defense) himself managed to get off was that he wished he had never said, “I don’t know.”

He was referencing a very early part of the trial:

The question is relevant to the assertion that Proposition 8 is constitutionally valid because it furthers the states goal of fostering “naturally procreative relationships,” Walker explained.

“What is the harm to the procreation purpose you outlined of allowing same-sex couples to get married?” Walker asked.

“My answer is, I don’t know. I don’t know,” Cooper answered. (MSNBC)

A whole lot of time in Cooper’s argument today was spent on trying—and failing—to justify the assertion that marriage is for childrearing. “The historical record leaves no doubt that the purpose of marriage is to channel procreative urges into stable relationships between the people whose sexual congress created the children that issued from it,” said Cooper. (Firedoglake’s great liveblog)

By the end of the back-and-forth between Walker and Cooper, it seemed that the defense’s main point was that marriage was to stop heterosexuals from running around hog-wild, making illegitimate children. Walker asked [not a direct quote], “But if that’s the case, why don’t marriage laws stop at parental rights, why all the other things they cover?”

Good question.

Sitting there in the courtroom with my wife and our daughter, the point about preventing illegitimate children as the main purpose behind marriage was nothing short of infuriating. If so, do all the queer parents raising kids get to marry? What about my semi-“legitimate” child? Hazy abstractions dominated his replies about why opposite-sex partners who employ a sperm or egg donor, or who adopt in order to have kids, were different. “It’s not quite the same,” he said. OK, then why?

About gay and lesbian parents, he only said:

When couples cohabit, that in and of itself, weakens social norms. But to come back to your point — the state’s main concern in seeking to regulate marriage into stable and enduring marital unions, is to minimize irresponsible procreation. I don’t like that term, I hate to use it, I wish I could come up with a better term—procreation that leads to children being raised outside marriage. It is not a phenomenon that the state needs to be concerned about with same-sex couples. Same-sex couples can’t procreate by accident. (Firedoglake) [Emphasis mine]

But apparently it’s no biggie if WE raise children outside of marriage. When we’d rather not, even.

When Olson got up, he did so with the poise and confidence of a person who knows he is about to win. He made a snide comment about the right’s running commentary on “activist judges,” which got a huge laugh, primarily from Walker himself. I sense foreshadowing in that moment.

The other thing I learned, felt, heard, saw was who cares about this issue.

If there was any doubt whom this trial affects, you only need to have looked around the room. Absent, as far as I could tell, was even one straight couple fearing for their marriage. Olsen got a unanimous ovation at the end of his redirect (it was not contempt of court, we were in the 2nd overflow courtroom).

In the room—and outside holding signs, proffering pamphlets, and wearing stickers—were married and unmarried queers, Christians and those who would forever sever the church and state, lots of Americans and one or two undocumented-but-in-love hopefuls, parents and kids, people in jeans and suits, and a spectrum of ages and races.

Remember: the person shouting from behind the podium is not always the full picture, folks. A career devoted to only our highest principles is, for most, a luxury. A half-day off from work—or hell, unemployment—to run down to the courthouse is much more within reach.

I wish you had been there with us.

One day our grandkids, legitimate and not, will roll their eyes about a time when the law was that backward, not to mention anyone old enough to remember and uncool enough still want to talk about it.

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2K10: A Breakthrough Year, or More of the Same?

Hello, everyone! I have missed you all, and must convey my apologies for our seeming abandonment of this blog. We are still here, still watching the world of marriage (and other LGBT) equality.

We’ve taken the holiday season to reinvest in our lives at home in Seattle. We’ve seen friends, put up and taken down a Christmas tree, rearranged our house for a crawling–and now cruising–Frances, found work (Ami) and pursued employment diligently (me). We still have a trailer parked in our driveway, which I’m sure the neighbors celebrate. We still own a V-8 Jeep, not the ideal commuter car. But our darling puppy, Esmerelda, put her unique mark on our vehicle by chewing through the back seat upholstery and severing the wires to the rear window defroster coils. How to sell such a vehicle? We are still working on that dilemma.

This year could be historic for marriage equality. I have been following the Prop 8 trial on the Courage Campaign’s Prop 8 Trial Tracker (in-depth and immediate coverage) and at Pam’s House Blend (summary coverage). So far only the plaintiff’s (our side’s) witnesses have been called, and so far it’s going well. When I say going well, I mean that our witnesses have made a very good case for why the plaintiff’s constitutional rights have been violated and have not faltered from their positions on cross-examination.

I’ve done some research as to what will happen if Judge Walker, the federal judge on the case, decides in favor of the plaintiff. It will undoubtedly be appealed, in which case it will go to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. When that case is decided, in all likelihood the loser will appeal to the Supreme Court. (Strangely, I had a hard time finding out how many levels there were between this court and the Supreme Court. If my information is faulty, lease let me know so I may correct the information.)

Central to this case are the possible categorization of gays and lesbians as a “suspect class” and the violation of our “fundamental rights.” I didn’t know what these legal terms meant before this trial, so bear with me while I display my legal non-expertise in describing them. In the interest of (vain hope of?) concision, I will describe suspect class today and fundamental rights next time.

Interestingly, the idea of a suspect class originated from a discriminatory ruling on the part of the Supreme Court in 1944, Korematsu v. the United States. Ironically speaking for the majority, which upheld the legality of the internment of Japanese immigrants on the West Coast, Justice Hugo Black wrote:

all legal restrictions which curtail the Civil Rights of a single group are immediately suspect. That is not to say that all such restrictions are unconstitutional. It is to say that courts must subject them to the most rigid scrutiny. Pressing public necessity may sometimes justify the existence of such restrictions; racial antagonism never can.

This ruling created the concept of the suspect class and of strict scrutiny. It relates specifically to the interpretation by the courts of matters related to the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. This clause of this amendment is the one that is violated by Proposition 8:

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. [Emphasis mine.]

There are three levels of scrutiny that can be applied to reviewing laws that may or may not violate the Fourteenth Amendment; strict is the highest. When strict scrutiny is applied, the law is assumed to be unconstitutional, and the court must prove the law is constitutional in order for the law to be upheld. To be constitutional in this circumstance, the law must be necessary to achieve a compelling state interest, and the law must be narrowly written so as to only achieve this result. So far strict scrutiny has only been used to interpret cases concerning discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, alienage, the rights to travel and vote, and the right to privacy.

Contrast this with the lowest form of scrutiny, the rational basis test, in which it must be proven that the legislature made an arbitrary or irrational decision in forming the law in question. This is the default basis for deciding if a law is constitutional. Between the two is the intermediate level of scrutiny, which is used for the “quasi-suspect” class (essentially women), and for questions of legitimacy.

There are four indications for determining a group a suspect class. The state supreme courts in Iowa, Connecticut, and California have found gays and lesbians to be a suspect class. The quasi-suspect class fulfills some, but not all, of these qualifications.

  1. The group must have a history of purposeful discrimination
  2. They must be politically powerless
  3. The trait the class shares must be immutable
  4. The group must be a discrete and insular minority; i.e. that group is distinct from other groups and the rest of society

Still with me? I know, that was a lot. But it’s all at least marginally interesting in relationship to this case (to me, anyway). There’s an analysis of whether gays and lesbians can be a suspect class at the Prop 8 Trial Tracker.

And here’s some irony: After calling us child molesters, stating that just knowing we get married is something children need protection from, accusing us of taking down the institution of marriage just by joining it, lying to voters that their churches would lose their tax exemptions if we are allowed to get married, and implying that the claim that the best situation for a child is parents who are one male and one female is valid, now the Prop 8 side’s argument is that we are accepted members of society, not in any way a suspect class. How absurd is that? Prior to this we were like pedophiles and bigamists, the lowest of the low. Now we’re just like anyone else, and certainly deserving of no special consideration because of a history of discrimination.

Sometimes I just can’t handle the hypocrisy.

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Thinking of You: More Encounters with Family

When we got home, there was a card waiting for us. It was from a relative of one of ours.

One side of our family, mine, is almost entirely Catholic. The other side, Ami’s, is mostly Mormon. I’m not going to identify the relative who sent the note because much as this card hurt us both, it came from someone whom we both want to continue to have in our lives. And while it was one person who expressed the thought, it could have come from a number of our family members from both sides. We will call the writer Chris.

The front of the card said, “Thinking of You,” and the envelope was addressed to both of us. It was from one of the relatives we had visited on our trip. Inside there was an affirmation that we were always welcome in Chris’s house. Then it said, “I don’t think of your relationship as a marriage! nor do I like how you’re living it!” That first exclamation point was obviously inserted as an afterthought. It was signed “Love, Chris.”

To say that the card hurt us is an extraordinary understatement. Even days later, this card makes me cry.

When we visited, Chris had made no indication that our family was anything but a family, and seemed to very much welcome Frances. There were gifts for her, and at Chris’s request, we agreed to send a portrait of Frances to go with the other family photos Chris had on display. Everyone got hugs on the way out the door.

So what happened between the visit and our return home that made Chris write that card? I suspect guilt at having defied his or her church in some small way for having welcomed us. I suspect shame–maybe Sunday came around, and at church Chris worried that some other congregant might know and think poorly of Chris.

If I were to write a response, it would say something like this:

Dear Chris,

Thank you for welcoming us to your home. We very much enjoyed our visit and do plan to return.

However, we do have to say that we do not believe in the Catholic (Mormon) faith, nor do we like how the church is behaving. It has hurt us in both personal and practical ways, and has hurt many other people in our community as well.

Love,
Ruby

How have the queers hurt you, Chris? I can ennumerate the ways that the Catholic and Mormon churches have hurt us. 1. Proposition 8. 2. Question 1. We’re just trying to have our own private lives while your churches are pouring money into state ballot measures–money collected from congregations all over the world–in order to keep us in our closets, keep us ashamed.

That Chris wrote the note to both of us–her biological family member, with whom she might feel an entitlement to express her opinion, as well as to the in-law she doesn’t believe in–implies that s/he feels a moral latitude to correct gayness in the world at large.

The subtext of that note is this: you should feel ashamed of your relationship. God and I think so. You can come to my house, and we’ll all pretend to be a family, but you need to feel shame while you are in my home.

I will not be ashamed.

Chris, you are a member of my family. I will visit your home, and I will participate in your life to the extent you allow, as long as you never express or even imply your opinion on the subject to our daughter. I will keep quiet about your private correspondence to us, and I will not send my response, out of deference to your esteemed place in the family.

But I will never be ashamed or act ashamed of my family or whom I love. This is where the charade ends.

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Filed under All About Us, Homophobia, LGBT Parenting, Marriage

Oregon: the Last State

Welcome to Oregon

Welcome to Oregon

Greetings from Portland. The other Portland. We’re precariously parked in a lot nearby–I say precariously because we paid for one spot, though technically our rig barely squeezes into two. Also, the spot we chose was the only one in the lot that had two spots lined up so the car and trailer would fit, and happened to be where two parts of the lot joined in a raised asphalt scar. Whether we’ll get out without bumping the trailer jacks as we roll over the hump remains to be seen.

We knew we needed to stop, though, lest you think we’d abandoned the blog. The Bay Area was full of good friends and lots to do. And last night and the night before we were promised WiFi at our destinations, but it didn’t work.

Yesterday morning, back at the Lakeshore Villa RV Park in Lakehead, CA, Ami and I hugged, both to ward off the morning chill and to enjoy our last moments as a married couple–at least for this trip. We return to Seattle today, though our journey is far from over. For one thing, there’s a backlog of states that we still need to report on. Another: there is still more to say about our marriage, legal and not, and our legal everything-but-marriage once we get home. Still another: there are still, as we end this trip, 44 states that do not consider us married.

Until each one of them acknowledges the legal reality of our union, this site will remain. Next year, we’ll visit New Hampshire (likely by plane, and likely in conjunction with a visit to New York that we would have made anyway). We passed through New Hampshire this trip, but it wasn’t yet one of the good states.

Who knows what state will be next on our travel agenda. We welcome unlikelies like Alaska and Alabama. We would be thrilled to visit Wisconsin and Wyoming to say “we did.” Someday we’ll have them all, and this trip and the need for it will be just a matter of history.

History, hurry it up, will you?

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Searching for a Protestant Pope in Fresno

Cheese Store of Silverlake

Cheese Store of Silverlake

We left the Silverlake neighborhood of Los Angeles in the afternoon, in the last hour of pink-sienna-magenta sky before twilight. I’d sampled amazing Italian olive oil at The Cheese Store of Silver Lake, taken a delightful turn through the ReForm School, and eaten the best gelato of my life (Market plum! Chocolate covered raisin! Salty chocolate!) at Pazzo Gelato.

We were sad to leave L.A., but I was even sadder that we were leaving for Fresno.

Fresno: n., The place that you struggled to leave physically many years ago, but still struggle to leave mentally. A place you don’t like to visit, because as soon as you’re back it seems like nothing ever got better at all.

You know what, though? I’m married in Fresno. And I have my family with me. So maybe there’s only one coffee shop (Thanks for the WiFi, guys!) downtown, only one or two gay bars (Glad to see you still bustling, Veni Vidi Vici.). Maybe it freezes at night and you can’t stand to be in the sun after 11 a.m. So what if the public transportation consists of your cousin’s tattered 10-speed and FART, the Fresno Area Rapid Transit?

Fresno has a PFLAG chapter, a Lesbian and Gay Film Festival in its 20th year, and a Gay Fresno website.

After a less-than-perfect morning with my mother, who is an active Mormon, Ruby reached out to the local PFLAG chapter. They were empathetic, and invited Mom to a meeting, even offering to meet with her beforehand to talk. But ultimately it would be up to her to contact them, and only then would she be able to access the literature she desperately needs to begin to understand us. The likelihood that she would do so seemed, well, slim. So the search continued.

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but we found a group of Mormons for Marriage.  As in our marriage.

I cried. At first, when Ruby said, “There must be Mormons out there that support their gay family members,” I didn’t even respond. I thought, Ya, like there must be a Protestant Pope. I’m sure he has a website, too. But lo and behold: “Mormons for Marriage supports marriage equality for all, and stands in respectful opposition to California Proposition 8.” There’s even The Feminist Mormon Housewives, and the Family Fellowship–a volunteer service organization, “a diverse collection of Mormon families engaged in the cause of strengthening families with homosexual members.”

Ruby wrote an e-mail to Mormons for Marriage, and a woman named Laura immediately wrote back. She attached four documents written by Mormons who are LGBT or support LGBT people. She copied another woman who she thought may know some people in Fresno. They even mentioned a book: No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons Around Our Gay Loved Ones.

Maybe Mom won’t read the book when we buy it for her. Maybe she will and even then still say things like, “I’m sad in my heart [about the fact that your aunts outed you to your grandmother], but your grandma and your aunts love you, no matter what choices you make.” Maybe my wife will still cry in the living room once Mom has left for work, feeling like she was that ill-advised “choice.”

But today, in sunny, oppressive Fresno where I once learned internalized homophobia, I found just a little hope for our family. Our whole family.

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Filed under All About Us, California, Homophobia, LGBT Unity, Marriage, States, Travel

Marriage (and Other LGBT) Equality in New Mexico and Arizona

Sure, it’s cheesy, but I’ve been known to say that my soul lives in New Mexico. My marriage, on the other hand, does not.

Before I talk about these two states, however, I want to talk again about Border Patrol. As we made our way on I-10 and then I-8, we were driving alongside the border occasionally. You could see the fence that separated the United States from Mexico. A long, man-made blight on the otherwise beautiful desert. White SUVs with the green Border Patrol stripe passed us frequently, sometimes on dirt roads along the interstate. While these facts may be less than positive from our perspective, what was shocking and upsetting was the number of times that we had to go through Border Patrol checkpoints. Let me remind you: we did not go to Mexico. These were checkpoints set up along roads that only traveled through United States land–both I-10 and I-8 are east-west roads that do not enter Mexico at any point. But because of the proximity to the border, we were all suspect.

Likely some of us more than others. While one of the patrolmen did remind Ami that she was in California when she identified that as her destination, and a few of them gave us less-than-savory looks, we were not stopped for more than a minute at each point. We were not searched. We were not harrassed. What would have happened if we were not so fair-skinned? I will leave you to draw your own conclusion there, since I’m just speculating, but I know I have my theories.

And we can’t afford universal healthcare? Moving on…

Stump Henge, LoW-HI RV Park, Deming, NM

Stump Henge, LoW-HI RV Park, Deming, NM

In Deming, New Mexico, we went a little further off the freeway than we normally do in order to visit a certain RV park, the LoW-HI Ranch RV Park. As in Loners on Wheels Headquarters International. The tagline? “Serving single campers and travelers since 1969.” Now, despite the fact that New Mexico does not recognize our marriage, we are not by any means single. But the RV park welcomes others when it is not having a LoW-HI event, which it was not when we called to make a reservation. The reason for its existence? It seems that most RVers are couples or families, and when single folks pull in to an RV park, they are not welcomed over to some family’s fire to hang out for the night. Single RVers live a lonely life.

Not those at the LoW-HI, though. The place was pretty well packed, mostly with seniors, which is common throughout the sunny South. Many of them were either permanent residents or paid monthly for their winter accomodation. The desert gardens were gorgeous. There was a fenced dog run and a bunkhouse with free coffee in the mornings. And people were very friendly. While we were there we met Ellie, who was traveling from Redmond, WA. She said she’d made a point to get her ballot in the mail before she left our mutual home state so she could vote to approve Referendum 71. Yay, Ellie!

The next day in steaming hot Tucson, AZ, we stopped at Revolutionary Grounds, a cafe and book store on 5th Street. We wound up sitting next to one of the owners, Joy Soler, who sat and talked to us for awhile about the weather (hot), owning a cafe and book shop (great), and mostly about Frances (perfect). It was an excellent place to drink coffee and use the free WiFi, and were we Tucsonites, we’d be there all the time.

Afterwards, I insisted that we test the pizza at Brooklyn Pizza Company. Normally I’m an unapologetic pizza snob, and probably wouldn’t insist on any pizza not created in one of the five boroughs, no matter which borough the shop happened to be named after. But it smelled damnned good from outside, so we stopped for a slice. And it was good, surprisingly good. The crust was a tad salty, but other than that I have no complaints at all–and that’s saying something for Arizona. Plus, the pizza shop was entirely solar powered. That was something you didn’t get at Sal’s on Bainbridge Rd. in the Bronx, my childhood pizza joint.

But oh, yeah, we’re queer, and so are some other folks in Tucson and Deming. What’s it like to live with New Mexican and Arizona law as an LGBT person?

New Mexico

  •  In 2004, the Sandoval County Clerk issued 66 marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The state’s Attorney General declared the marriages that followed invalid. The Clerk brought a motion before the New Mexico Supreme Court to challenge the Attorney General and start issuing the licenses again. The motion was denied. There is no law prohibiting the recognition in New Mexico of same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions, but there has been no law to recognize them, either. There is no domestic partner or civil union law in New Mexico.
  • New Mexico allows same-sex partners to make medical decisions for an incapacitated partner as an “individual in a long-term relationship of indefinite duration with the patient in which the individual has demonstrated an actual commitment to the patient similar to the commitment of a spouse and in which the individual and the patient consider themselves to be responsible for each other’s well-being.” Written advance directives may be issued in writing, signed by two individuals. They may also be given orally to a health care provider.
  • Any individual may adopt in New Mexico, including LGBT individuals. Based on the wording of the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families adoption application, which uses the term “partner,” it seems that same-sex couples may adopt jointly. There is no prohibition against same-sex partners adopting each other’s children.
  • With a medical affidavit and documentation of a name change, New Mexico will issue a new birth certificate with corrected sex information.
  • Both sexual orientation and gender identity are protected by New Mexico hate crimes laws.
  • New Mexican non-discrimination law states that you may not discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • There are no safe schools laws in New Mexico. [via HRC unless otherwise specified]

Arizona

  • In 2008, voters in Arizona approved Proposition 102 by a margin of 56% to 44% [via Ballotopedia], adding an amendment barring same-sex marriage: “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state.” This was after voters rejected Proposition 107 in 2006 [via Ballotopedia], 52% – 48%, which would have amended the Constitiution to ban both civil unions and same-sex marriage. This was the first state-wide constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage/unions that ever failed at the polls in the United States. To date it is still the only one. Arizona law also bans recognition of marriages from other states. “Marriage between persons of the same sex is void and prohibited. … Marriage valid by laws of the place where contracted are valid in this state, except marriages that are void and prohibited by section 25-101. Marriages solemnized in another state or country by parties intending at the time to reside in this state shall have the same legal consequences and effect as if solemnized in this state, except marriages that are void and prohibited by section 25-101. Parties residing in this state may not evade the laws of this state relating to marriage by going to another state or country for solemnization of the marriage.” And despite the fact that the voters rejected an amendment barring civil unions or domestic partnership, no such relationship recognitions exist in Arizona.
  • Recognized as a “close friend,” same-sex partners in Arizona may make decisions for an incapacitated partner, but only if another immediate adult relative is unavailable. An advance directive may be created naming a partner as the health care proxy–the directive must be in writing, signed, and witnessed by one person or notarized.
  • Single adults, including LGBT people, may adopt in Arizona. There is no law prohibiting joint adoption by a same-sex couple or the adoption by one partner of the other’s kids, but no case has been heard to affirm this right.
  • After sex reassignment surgery, or with proof of a chromosomal count that establishes a difference in sex from that listed on a birth certificate, Arizona will issue a new birth certificate. To get the new certificate, an individual must write to request it and include a written statement by a physician documenting the surgery or the chromosomal count.
  • Sexual orientation is protected from hate crime in Arizona by law, but not gender identity. This is where the Feds must pick up the slack.
  • Neither sexual orientation nor gender identity is covered by Arizona non-discrimination law.
  • Safe schools laws in Arizona do not protect students on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. [via HRC unless otherwise noted]

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California – Where Our Legal Marriage Began

Welcome to California
Welcome to California

This wasn’t the easiest picture to get. Yesterday afternoon we drove into California and, not finding a welcome sign at which to document our entry, back to Yuma, Arizona.

“You’re in California. Nobody cares.” I said.

When we drove back across the one-lane bridge, there was no sign saying we were welcome in Arizona, either. We took a different road, and there was this sign. But no shoulder to pull off onto. So we turned around again and parked the entire rig right next to the I-10 on-ramp. We put on the hazards and made our way across the four-lane road to get to the sign.

This was the last time we’d be entering a state in which we were married–it was important.

We took several pictures, rejecting each one. My teeth looked too large. Frances wasn’t looking at the camera. Ami wasn’t smiling. Then the camera lens retracted and the display said, “Battery exhausted.” That was it. We had to go with what we had.

So here it is, folks, our final return to our legal marriage.

We became legally married when we entered Iowa from Minnesota. Then unmarried when we got to Illinois.

We remained unmarried until we made it to Washington, D.C. Entering Delaware, we left our marriage at the border. Picked it back up on the George Washington Bridge entering New York. We stayed married through Vermont and Massachusetts until we got to New Hampshire–in which state, had we taken this trip after January 1 2010, we would have remained married.

Back in Massachusetts we were again bride and bride, stayed that way through Connecticut and New York, and again lost our legal standing at the border to New Jersey. From Maryland to D.C. we became married again, and later that day, entering Virginia, we were again “roommates.”

Through eleven states we traveled. Girlfriends in North Carolina. Partners in Louisiana. Just friends in Arizona. And yesterday we returned to California for the first time since we left last August, legal, binding marriage certificate in hand.

Yesterday we found ourselves married again. Yesterday we got recognized. Yesterday we once again occupied the same physical location as our marriage.

We have been married all along.

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Marriage (and Other LGBT) Rights in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas

I’m probably not telling you anything, but Texas is one big state. It took us three long days of driving to get through it.

We spent last night in Deming, New Mexico, after driving through El Paso alongside the blazing Mexican sunset. We passed through a Border Patrol checkpoint somewhere near Las Cruces, which was something of a shock. It stood, as imposing and impervious as the international border between Washington and Canada, but it was well into New Mexico–we never even entered Juarez. They waved us through, and we drove past their something-sniffing dogs. Were they hoping to catch people with those dogs, or what?

Catching up on some states we missed–there are a lot we didn’t document. Here are three.

Mississippi

  • There is no form of relationship recognition for same-sex couples in Mississippi. In 2004, the good people of Mississippi voted to approve Amendment 1, 86% to 14%, adding amendment to their constitution stating, “Marriage may take place and may be valid under the laws of this state only between a man and a woman. A marriage in another state or foreign jurisdiction between persons of the same gender, regardless of when the marriage took place, may not be recognized in this state and is void and unenforceable under the laws of this state.” [via Wikipedia]
  • If the spouse, adult children, and siblings of an individual cannot be contacted, “an adult who has exhibited special care and concern for the patient, who is familiar with the patient’s personal values, and who is reasonably available may act as surrogate” may make medical decisions on behalf of an incapacitated same-sex partner. An advance directive may also be written–it must be in writing and signed, contain the date, and be witnessed by two people or signed in the presence of a notary public.
  • Any unmarried person may adopt in Mississippi, including LGBT people. Same-sex couples may not jointly adopt, however, and the law that prevents them from jointly adopting likely also prevents adoption by one partner of the other’s child.
  • Mississippi law does allow amendments of birth certificates, generally, including changes of name and sex.
  • Hate crimes law in the state does not protect individuals on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation–but now there are federal hate crimes laws in place to help bring hate crimes perpetrators to justice.
  • It is perfectly legal–or at least not prohibited–to discriminate on the basis of someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity in Mississippi.
  • Safe schools laws do not protect students on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. [via HRC unless otherwise specified]

Louisiana

  • In the state where apparently not everyone got the memo about Loving v. Virginia, the 32-year-old Supreme Court verdict that allows interracial marriage in the U.S., constitutional amendment prohibits same-sex marriage. In 2004, by a 78% – 22% vote, this amendment was added to the Louisiana Constitution: “Marriage in the state of Louisiana shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman. No official or court of the state of Louisiana shall construe this constitution or any state law to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any member of a union other than the union of one man and one woman. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.” [via Wikipedia] This appears to apply to marriages from other states, as well.
  • Only by advance directive may a same-sex partner make medical decisions on behalf of an incapacitated partner. This directive must be signed, and witnessed by two people. [via LSU’s Law Center]
  • Any single person, including LGBT people, may adopt in Louisiana. There is no prohibition against joint adoption by same-sex partners, but this has not been tested in court. The same is true of the adoption by one partner of the other’s children.
  • After gender reassignment surgery, a new birth certificate may be issued in the state of Louisiana.
  • Louisiana hate crimes law protects people on the basis of their sexual orientation, but not gender identity.
  • There is no law in Louisiana prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • There are no safe schools laws in Louisiana to protect students on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. [via HRC unless otherwise specified]

Texas

  • The Texas State Constitution was amended in 2005 to prohibit same-sex marriage. By a vote of 76% – 24%, Proposition 2 was passed: “Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman. This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.” [via Wikipedia] As far as marriages from other jurisdictions are concerned, Texas law states: “In this section, ‘civil union’ means any relationship status other than marriage that is intended as an alternative to marriage or applies primarily to cohabitating persons; and grants to the parties of the relationship legal protections, benefits, or responsibilities granted to the spouses of a marriage. A marriage between persons of the same sex or a civil union is contrary to the public policy of this state and is void in this state. The state or an agency or political subdivision of the state may not give effect to a: public act, record, or judicial proceeding that creates, recognizes, or validates a marriage between persons of the same sex or a civil union in this state or in any other jurisdiction; or right or claim to any legal protection, benefit, or responsibility asserted as a result of a marriage between persons of the same sex or a civil union in this state or in any other jurisdiction.”
  • Only by advance directive may a same-sex partner make health care decisions on behalf of an incapacitated partner. This directive must be signed and witnessed by two people.
  • Single adults, including LGBT people, may adopt in Texas. There has been some case law granting joint adoptions by same-sex couples, but this is not explicitly allowed. There has also been at least one step-parent adoption by a same-sex partner.
  • Texas hate crimes law protects people on the basis of “sexual preference,” but not gender identity.
  • Neither sexual orientation or gender identity is a protected class in Texas non-discrimination law.
  • Texas does not have safe school laws that protect students on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. [via HRC unless otherwise specified]

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Filed under Louisiana, Mississippi, States, Texas

A Little Help from Our Friends

We may not have mentioned this, but we’ve been doing this trip on a shoestring. Not to abuse the metaphor, but if you were using this string of ours to tie your shoe, you’d definitely think to yourself at this point, “Wow, I really need new shoelaces.” </metaphor>

You may notice that we’ve put a donate button on the sidebar to your right. If you choose to donate, you’ll be taken to a secure PayPal site. We wish we didn’t have to ask, but here we are–in Texas, far far from home. It was supposed to all work out–if barely–but things happen, sometimes all at once.

Every bit helps. For example:

  • $50 will buy us a tank of gas.
  • $30 buys us a night at an RV park.
  • $20 buys us food for a day.

Or, to look at it another way, every dollar you donate will sponsor about 2 miles of travel. Every day we’ll post the names of the day’s sponsors. Sponsor us for five miles or a hundred–either way, we’re extremely grateful.

If our trip has given you hope, inspiration, or some other intangible benefit, and you want to donate, choose the gift or other amount you want to donate in the sidebar, click Donate, and you’ll be taken to the PayPal site.

If you are not able, or your donation dollars are spoken for, we still very much appreciate your participation in our journey, and hope that you will continue to join us.

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Filed under All About Us, Travel

Marriage (and Other LGBT) Equality in Vermont

Welcome to Vermont!

Welcome to Vermont!

I know it makes people in New England cringe, but there’s a dream popular among New Yorkers of moving to the country and buying a farm in Vermont. I think Vermont is chosen as a setting for that dream because it’s rural, beautiful, and the people have a reputation for being liberal. Even though I am from the Northeast originally, before this trip, Vermont was one of the six states I’d never been to. (I’m down to three: Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Alaska.)

I was sad the weather didn’t accommodate a longer visit to Vermont. I really wanted to get to Burlington. I just knew I’d love it. It wasn’t to be, however. As we mentioned in a previous post, the RV parks in northern Vermont had their water shut off during the time of our visit. It was also threatening to snow. So we headed south to Massachusetts–where it actually did snow.

But here’s what we missed as far as being queer in Vermont goes.

Vermont

  • Vermonters of all sexual orientations can marry as of September 1, 2009! The legislature passed the new law, and even overrode a veto by the governor. The state also recognize same-sex marriages from other states. Prior to September 1, Vermont had civil unions that held all the same rights and responsibilities as marriage in Vermont. These will continue to be recognized, but no civil unions will be performed as of Sept. 1.
  • Married gay and lesbian people in Vermont and those who have entered a civil union may make medical decisions for an incapacitated spouse or partner, and have visitation rights in the hospital. Those who have not married or civilly unioned (See how awkward that is?) may enact an advance directive authorizing a partner to make medical decisions. The advance directive must be dated and signed by the individual in the presence of two or more witnesses.
  • Any adult in Vermont may adopt, including single LGBT people. Those with a civil union or married same-sex partners may adopt jointly, and married and unified (Is that better?) couples may adopt each other’s children.
  • Vermont will issue a new birth certificate for transgender individuals with a decree of the probate court of the district where the individual was born. No idea how hard that is to get, or what warrants that decree.
  • Vermont hate crimes law covers both sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Discrimination on the basis of both gender identity and sexual orientation are prohibited in Vermont.
  • Vermont’s anti-harassment education law protects students from bullying on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. [via GLSEN, otherwise via HRC]

Vermont gets 100% on my (admittedly not comprehensive) LGBT law survey–gold star! Maybe I will buy that farm after all.

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Filed under RVs, Travel, Vermont