30 August 2010

Joyful Noise

I can't resist sharing the music I heard at the end of church yesterday. On a sunny Sunday morning, after a wonderful church service, with friend Steve along for the ride, this is the kind of joyful noise that was really appropriate, and matched how I felt. This is proper church music.

28 August 2010

What To Do About Activist Judges

"Borrowed" from Dan's Facebook post. Thanks buddy!

24 August 2010

A View From Outside

Having been born and raised in the Mormon Church, I can confirm that such a background influences one's entire world view. I call it the Mormon-Colored Glasses Effect. It becomes intrinsic to who you are, looking at everything around you from a Church-approved, Church-favoring, Church-centric perspective.

Which makes for some interesting disconnects when such a person encounters a view of the Church from outside, not filtered by those glasses. Many conservative Mormons tend to reject such outside perspectives as inherently biased or pejorative, and that's unfortunate. One would think that a church whose avowed aim is to try to convert the whole world might want to understand how those outside really see that church.

With that background, I'm going to link you to one of the best bits of commentary I've seen in a while along these lines. It's insightful, accurate and fun to read, and it's from a Church member whose honest assessments are likely to make some culturally conservative strictly orthodox Mormons squirm more than a little bit. This should be a wake up call for the LDS Church that much work remains to be done. Click here.

20 August 2010

Cross Post

Check out my latest piece over at gay.com about The Four Wedding Summer.

18 August 2010

Clueless Batman

Maybe I should start a series of movie scenes like this.

14 August 2010

09 August 2010

Filling In The Gap

Talking heads and pundits on news shows are interesting and all, but there's no substitute for studying an original source and making up one's own mind. I've now finished reading all 138 pages of Judge Walker's opinion in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, in which he found Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional. As a lawyer of some years' experience, I found it exhaustively researched, thorough, logical, solidly grounded in evidence, and compelling in its legal conclusions. Anybody who rants about it being the illegitimate agenda-driven power grab of a biased judge is either ignorant or uninformed or blinded to intellectual honesty by their own preconceptions. Such people would usually rather sling ad hominem attacks than educate themselves about details and deal with the merits.

All that said, I'm now going to make a confession. I've always had one concern with the equal rights argument for marriage equality, especially under Loving v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court case which held that laws against mixed race marriages were unconstitutional. Loving clearly said the Constitution establishes a fundamental right to marry. However, marriage equality opponents have consistently pointed out that that statement assumed a male/female marital structure. They agree there's a fundamental right to that model of marriage, but only that, because when Loving was handed down, no other definition of marriage was contemplated. Arguably, then, Loving doesn't even apply to a "redefined" model of marriage as between two men or two women, because that's not a "marriage" under Loving. If that argument is accepted, the equal rights-based argument for marriage equality is noticeably weakened. This implication has troubled me for some time. I knew something was missing in the analysis but I just couldn't put my finger on it.

Thank you, Judge Walker, for supplying the missing piece. As you read on, note that he refers to evidence presented in trial for each conclusion (I've left out the reference notes for ease of reading). This is not the uncontrolled usurpation of power by a radical petty tyrant; it is the reasoned weighing of arguments and evidence presented by both sides and the drawing of conclusions therefrom. Here's what he said:

"The evidence at trial shows that marriage in the United States traditionally has not been open to same-sex couples. The evidence suggests many reasons for this tradition of exclusion, including gender roles mandated through coverture, social disapproval of same-sex relationships, and the reality that the vast majority of people are heterosexual and have had no reason to challenge the restriction.

The evidence shows that the movement of marriage away from a gendered institution and toward an institution free from state-mandated gender roles reflects an evolution in the understanding of gender rather than a change in marriage. The evidence did not show any historical purpose for excluding same-sex couples from marriage, as states have never required spouses to have an ability or willingness to procreate in order to marry. Rather, the exclusion exists as an artifact of a time when the genders were seen as having distinct roles in society and in marriage. That time has passed.

[Now, here's the money quote that supplies the missing piece to the argument about Loving just above]

The right to marry has been historically and remains the right to choose a spouse and, with mutual consent, join together and form a household. Race and gender restrictions shaped marriage during eras of race and gender inequality, but such restrictions were never part of the historical core of the institution of marriage. Today, gender is not relevant to the state in determining spouses' obligations to each other and to their dependents. Relative gender composition aside, same-sex couples are situated identically to opposite-sex couples in terms of their ability to perform the rights and obligations of marriage under California law. Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage; marriage under law is a union of equals."

And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Loving's declaration that marriage is a fundamental right does apply to same-sex couples because the legal nature of spouses' marital roles has evolved since that time, such that we no longer draw legal distinctions based on the gender of each spouse. Since we no longer do that--a result even most defenders of "traditional marriage" would surely favor and have probably reflected in their own lives--there's no longer any legal justification for saying that gender must nevertheless be preserved as the ultimate determining factor for admission to civil marriage in which the roles and responsibilities of each spouse are legally indistinguishable. Put succinctly, the evolution's already done. All we're doing now is recognizing and labeling it.

And women who oppose marriage equality had better recognize that it's the inevitable result of their being freed from past gender-based legal restrictions that would have been imposed on them as part of their marital role if their older sisters hadn't fought so vigorously to throw off those restrictions. If they are intellectual consistent and want to "preserve traditional marriage," then they'd better be prepared to take up those restrictions again, go backward in time, and sign over all their legal rights to their husbands because that used to be part of "traditional marriage" too. Any takers? (Crickets chirping). Didn't think so.

I recognize that this is a bit of legal wonkery that most normal people wouldn't have lost much sleep over. That's fine. But this is my blog so I get to say what I want, right? Of course right. (Public plaudits to the first commenter who identifies the Broadway musical to which I've just alluded.)

Cross your fingers that tomorrow Judge Walker will deny the stay and that the 9th Circuit and SCOTUS will do the same. And in case you hadn't heard, it now appears this thing might not make it to the Supreme Court after all, for legal procedural reasons I find fascinating and which will no doubt have Mags Gallagher and the NOM crowd squealing like stuck piglets. Watch this space for further developments.

06 August 2010

The Way Out of The Corner

In my last post I mentioned the corner into which the LDS Church is painting itself on the issue of marriage equality. Many thanks to good friend David Baker for supplying a perfect solution which almost every active Mormon will recognize instantly.

04 August 2010

The Wall Starts To Crumble

I was at lunch with a friend in Los Angeles today when we heard that Judge Walker threw out Proposition 8 as unconstitutional. Elation ensued, of course, along with frustration that all the Internet pipes were predictably clogged so we couldn't get any details. Eventually those surfaced, and it became clear that Prop 8 had been knocked down decisively by a 1-2 punch, unconstitutional on two separate grounds.

I won't take time to rehearse the decision in this post. I recommend that everyone read this summary instead so you'll know what the ruling actually says. Don't rely on or be swayed by overheated rhetoric from anyone who hasn't read at least that much about it.

I had a business function to attend this evening in LA which is why I went up in the first place. And by sheer dumb luck, today was the day of decision. And since I had some free time in the afternoon, I attended the post-decision celebration rally at West Hollywood Park. The mayors of WeHo and Los Angeles were there, along with hundreds of others in a celebratory mood. Everybody knew this wasn't the end of the fight, but it's a significant step forward. Jubilation reigned.

I love it when life throws pleasant surprises at you. Out of all the hundreds of people at that rally, who did I end up standing next to? Two gay Mormon boyfriends. One wore a CTR ring, and the other had a tattoo of the Angel Moroni on his right calf. That is SO California. What a delightful surprise. I wished I had a magic wand and could have transported them to the BYU campus for a stroll around during Especially For Youth. Just goes to show you that gay Mormon boys are everywhere!

So sorry, Prop 8 proponents who gave money, but I think you fought a lost cause and your money was wasted. The LDS Church predictably lamented the ruling and in its press release repeated the myth that civil rights should be subject to popular vote. More paint, please, for around that corner into which the Church has backed itself. Fight this if you want, but the trend is unstoppable. Why not cut your losses and make your peace with the inevitability of marriage equality now, rather than making it even more difficult for yourself later on? The time's coming when the Church is going to have to change again. Accept it. Embrace it. Walk your talk about living the Golden Rule.

Some of the rhetoric I heard this afternoon from Prop 8 supporters was really disheartening. Is there actually that much ignorance still out there about the law, about marriage, about how our courts work, about who and what gay people are? Apparently so. That's really depressing. But it just means there's more work and educating to do. So we keep at it. But for today we can pause and savor a great achievement. And the discovery of a CTR ring in WeHo Park.

01 August 2010

Dear Blog Readers:

I'd like to ask a favor. Those of you who've read my blog for a while know the story of how I came out to my family. You know that it's not followed the pattern we usually hope to see, and that it's been increasingly difficult, not less difficult. When I came out to each of them individually, most of them were initially startled and hesitant, I could tell, but they tried to say what the Church said they should, namely, "we still love you" or some variant of that. However, without exception they also said some variant of "this (or this behavior) is wrong and will always be wrong, we will never accept it, we don't want to hear anything more about it, or read anything about it, we don't want to hear you try to defend it, we don't want to talk about it anymore and we don't want you to either, and if you try, we won't listen."

This puts me in a very difficult position. They are asking me to go back in the closet and pretend I never came out, and to live the rest of my life like I did before. This is something I can never do. That said, they are my family and I love them. I don't want this issue to sunder our relationships permanently. I want to help them overcome their hurt and confusion and fear, and I'm still thinking through how best to do that.

But this morning, something occurred to me. The LDS Church believes in what's sometimes called "the law of witnesses." Joseph Smith relied on witnesses to try to convince a hostile world that the gold plates really did exist. The Bible says "in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established" (2 Co. 13:1). In my business we use witness testimony to establish the truth of something, or rebut contradictory evidence and show that it is not true, or is invalid, or untrustworthy, or should be discarded.

So here's the favor I'd like to ask. I'm only one, but I'm a lot stronger with all of you. Would you be willing to help me try to persuade them to open their hearts and minds and really listen to what I have to say? Not just sit through hearing me talk so they can repeat what they've said before, but really truly listen and give full consideration, be willing to re-examine their own beliefs and consider the possibility that I may be right about some things.

Those of you who are so inclined, would you mind writing a letter to my family, keeping in mind what you've read here about them and my experience with them? Short or long, doesn't matter, anything would be helpful. Send it to me by e-mail or as a comment to this post, either way. I'll post your letters on the blog. Say whatever you think would help get them to that point of really listening and seeing this issue more positively. Your own experiences, your own families, what you know of me, our relationships, whatever. Anything you can think of that might help them see this whole issue from a broader and more positive perspective, that might help them overcome their fear.

Because that's really what it is. Fear. They fear that I've suddenly bolted away from the true path, they fear having to deal with the shame they believe I have brought on our family, and worst of all (especially for my dad) they fear that I am deliberately choosing to break apart family unity and that I will be "the empty chair in heaven". This is a classic Mormon response, of course. I cry for them, I sincerely do, just as I'm sure they've cried for me. Because just as they fear for me, I fear they are putting themselves through totally unnecessary anguish and that their fear is a horrible, stressful, tragic waste of time and tears. And until we figure out some way to really talk to each other--which so far they've said they're not willing to do--that's where we'll all stay stuck.

I don't want that. Can you help? Thanks.