Monday, November 23, 2009

The Turkey Count

It's that time of year when we think about turkey. Or in my case, turkeys. In honor of the season, I'm highlighting many people, at home and abroad, who've recently behaved like turkeys.

I realized I didn't know what to call a group of turkeys, a drawback when writing about multiple foul fowl. I searched the Internet for the proper term, and came up with a surprising number of distinctive options: rafter, gang, gobble, flock, brood and bale. The turkey is a wordy birdie.

So let's take a look at our first rafter of turkeys, which requires leaving these shores for the Philippines. A gay rights group called Ang Ladlad (Out of the Closet) wants to run in next year's national elections. But the Elections Commission decided the group can't register as a political party because it advocates immorality.

The Elections Commission is a gang of turkeys. A gobble of gobblers.

The commission stated Ang Ladlad "tolerates immorality which offends religious beliefs" and exposes youth to "an environment that does not conform to the teachings of our faith." The nation is largely Roman Catholic, but the commission generously cited passages condemning homosexuality from both the Bible and the Quran.

The leader of the gay rights group has filed a petition asking the Elections Commission to reconsider its ruling, which he points out was based mainly on religious grounds, not legal ones. We can only hope that some commission members start thinking for themselves and stop being birds of a feather.

Over 150 Christian leaders make up the next flock of turkeys. Roman Catholic bishops, conservative evangelicals and others issued "The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience," a document outlining their opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion and promising to protect religious freedoms.

These folks do a pretty good Turkey Lurkey.

The document claims that legalizing gay marriage could lead to marriage rights for "polyamorous partnerships, polygamous households, even adult brothers, sisters, or brothers and sisters living in incestuous relationships." The sky is fixin' to fall. Just like Henny Penny said.

The authors try to sound compassionate, but the sentiment falls flat: "We acknowledge that there are those who are disposed towards homosexual and polyamorous conduct and relationships, just as there are those who are disposed towards other forms of immoral conduct."

The statement continually couples gayness and polyamory. Is homosexuality so unthreatening these days that the authors felt the need to amp up the fear level? Or is there some meaningful movement for polyamory that I've missed? If it's the latter, I need to shake my caruncle—the fleshy growth on a turkey's head—and wake up.

Our final dirty bird is in Oklahoma. State Sen. Steve Russell, R-Oklahoma City, is all aflutter over the new federal hate crimes law protecting people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

In a press release, he claims the law "far exceeds" the power of the federal government over states according to the 10th Amendment. Russell further frets about harm to freedom of speech and religion. He's introducing multi-pronged legislation to "protect" the rights of Oklahomans.

If you've never heard the call of a turkey, it sounds like this: "Basically, if Oklahoma decided a case that the Feds later wanted to overturn, they would be on their own—we would not share evidence or manpower."

Russell flipped gays the bird when he told the University of Oklahoma's student newspaper, "Sexual orientation is a very vague word that could be extended to extremes like necrophilia."

At this time of year we ponder what we're thankful for. These turkeys—the Philippine Election Commission, "The Manhattan Declaration" backers and state Sen. Russell—don't make the cut.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Waiting on the Outcome

My girlfriend Anne and I reached the point in our relationship where we wanted to make it official. Also, her employer wanted proof that she and I are really a couple and she hadn't put me on her insurance because I looked pretty.

Here in the state of Washington same-sex marriage is illegal, so making it official means domestic partnership. We filled out the requisite forms and had them notarized. I deposited the envelope with the documents into a mailbox.

On Election Day. I don't know if it was an act of whimsy or masochism.

As you've likely heard, Washington was voting on whether to expand the domestic partnership law. Anne and I didn't know, when we submitted the papers, whether we would be receiving some of the rights of domestic partnership or all of them.

It was like buying a grab bag at the dollar store.

Anne goes crazy when she reads exactly what I just wrote, that the vote was over whether to expand the state's domestic partnership law. In fact, the legislature had expanded the law earlier this year; scaredy-cat religious conservatives responded by getting Referendum 71 on the ballot, which asked voters whether to approve or reject the legislature's action.

There. I've explained that the referendum was actually about taking away rights we'd been given. Now Anne will be happy, and there will be peace in my domestically partnered household.

Washington got the domestic partnership ball rolling in 2007, allowing same-sex couples all of 23 rights and responsibilities. In 2008 the legislature added over 170 more. In 2009 it added about 285 rights and responsibilities, bringing domestic partnership level with marriage.

What a peculiar mixture of pride and unease I felt dropping the partnership forms in the mail. Would Anne and I have the rights of 2008 or 2009? It wouldn't have surprised me if the cast of "Rocky Horror," dressed in postal uniforms, had jumped out from behind the mailbox to do the "Time Warp."

Our ability to take care of each other was in doubt thanks to a campaign led by a man on his third marriage, and another man with a history of unpaid taxes who lives in Oregon. Don't beam me up, Scotty—beam them up instead.

With our rights to be decided by the electorate, all Anne and I could do was wait. And wait some more, thanks to Washington's mostly mail-in ballot system. Finally it became clear that our side had won, and Anne and I were about to become industrial-strength domestic partners.

In signing off on the "everything but marriage" law, Washington voters became the first in any state to approve a gay-rights ballot measure. The evergreen trees in the Evergreen State should stand a little taller today.

However, we were clearly a state divided. Every county east of the Cascades rejected expanding the law. In fact, only the counties huddled around Puget Sound voted correctly. Something in the water, indeed.

I don't know precisely how I would've reacted had the outcome been different. I'm not the type to do an interpretive dance around the Space Needle—more likely I'd have spewed a colorful stream while walking the dogs.

I'm filled with sympathy for Mainers devastated by the vote on same-sex marriage in their state. Like us, their state government had passed a law, and reactionary citizenry had reacted with a ballot challenge. Unlike us, they'd achieved the dizzying height of marriage, so their fall was great.

California, Maine, Washington—each granted rights, only to see some residents try to snatch them back. With all this moving forward and being yanked back, this phase of our struggle calls for a neck brace.