Posts filed under ‘Testimony’

LA Times: With same-sex marriage on hold, elderly and ailing couples face a lengthy appeals process

Did you see this terrific feature-length LA Times article about Courage Campaign members Ed Watson and Derence Kernek? You’ve likely seen the video filmed by Courage Campaign staff about why it is so important that Ed and Derence be allowed to marry in California — before it’s too late. Read their powerful story here, then share it with your friends. -Andy w/ Courage

With same-sex marriage on hold, elderly and ailing couples face a lengthy appeals process

Judges last week extended a stay on same-sex marriage until higher courts rule on Prop. 8. Derence Kernek and Ed Watson hope that process will move faster than the advance of Watson’s Alzheimer’s disease. by Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times, March 27, 2011

Photo credit: Glenn Koenig, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Palm Springs — Derence Kernek and Ed Watson live together each day in fear that they won’t be able to pledge “till death do us part” before it’s too late.

Watson, 78, is in rapidly failing health, afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, diabetes and hypertension.

A federal appeals court ruled last week that same-sex marriage will remain on hold in California until a judge’s ruling striking down Proposition 8 as unconstitutional makes its way through the higher courts — reviews expected to take a year or more.

“We don’t have the money to travel to a state where it’s legal,” said Kernek, 80, observing dejectedly that the travel would probably be too grueling for his partner of 40 years. “Besides, we wanted to do it in California, where our friends are, where we live. Now I don’t think we’ll be able to, not while Ed can still remember.”

The ticking clock on Watson’s awareness was one of a chronicle of arguments presented to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in an unsuccessful bid to convey the urgency of letting same-sex marriage resume during the protracted appeals process.

A 9th Circuit panel made up of Judges Stephen Reinhardt, Michael Daly Hawkins and N. Randy Smith denied the request Wednesday without explanation.

Proposition 8 proponents had argued that the voter initiative’s restriction of marriage to one man and one woman should remain in place pending the appeal. They said the stay was necessary to avert social chaos if, as they insist is likely, the courts decide that the voters of California had the right to outlaw same-sex marriage.

The Aug. 4 ruling by U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker in San Francisco striking down Proposition 8 as unconstitutional buoyed hopes across the national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities that their rights to marry and raise families would eventually earn full legal recognition.

But for some, including Kernek and Watson, “eventually” could come too late.

In response to an online appeal by the Hollywood-based Courage Campaign for testimony to back the legal challenge of Proposition 8 and other gay-rights litigation, more than 3,000 couples came forward with their stories about why they believe marriage can’t wait.

“Life is not eternal — sometimes it is tragically short — and courts should not act as if it were otherwise,” said Chad Griffin, board president of the American Foundation for Equal Rights and a key strategist in the legal campaign to scuttle Proposition 8.

The anecdotes of fatal illness and faltering minds were intended to put human faces on gay- and lesbian-rights advocates’ arguments that continuing to prohibit same-sex marriage after Walker’s ruling inflicts irreparable harm on many.

The Proposition 8 opponents argued that Walker’s ruling recognized marriage as a fundamental right for all Americans, and their veteran lawyers, David Boies and Theodore B. Olson, cited case law dictating that a court should suspend a judge’s ruling only when the party seeking that stay shows that it is likely to win on appeal and be irreparably harmed in the meantime.

“Each day plaintiffs, and gay men and lesbians like them, are denied the right to marry — denied the full blessings of citizenship — is a day that never can be returned to them,” two same-sex couples who brought the successful lawsuit against Proposition 8 argued in their motion.

Those who will be harmed, Courage Campaign chairman Rick Jacobs argued in an accompanying letter to the court, are couples like Kernek and Watson and San Diego residents Jerry Peterson and Bob Smith, both in their 70s and longing to marry before the end of an appeals process that could outlive them. Shane Mayer and John Quintana, 28-year-olds from San Francisco, want to marry while Mayer’s cancer-stricken father can still take part, the friend-of-the-court letter testified.

Andrew Pugno, a lawyer for Proposition 8 backers, hailed the panel’s ruling as “a victory for Proposition 8 supporters and the initiative process as a whole.”

In his appeals court filings, Pugno had argued that the same-sex couples’ claim of urgency “rings hollow.” He pointed out that they waited six months after the initiative passed to bring their lawsuit and failed to challenge the stay when the 9th Circuit first decided last fall to keep the ban in place while the appeal was being expedited.

Pugno’s opponents say they didn’t make an issue of the stay when Walker imposed it or when the 9th Circuit agreed it should remain in place because the appeals court said the case would be fast-tracked, Jacobs said. But when the 9th Circuit on Jan. 4 asked the California Supreme Court to decide whether the Proposition 8 architects have the legal right to appeal Walker’s ruling, it became clear that the process would drag on until the end of this year, if not longer, Jacobs said.

That outlook is dispiriting for Kernek and Watson, who don’t like to contemplate their prospects for surviving the appeals process intact.

“I can’t even say how many times I’ve had to call 911 when he falls or gets into a position where I can’t lift him,” Kernek says of his partner.

The two retired to this gay-friendly desert oasis five years ago, after their eclectic college pursuits — horticulture, social work and engineering — took them from the Bay Area to Kansas City, then an Oregon farm that was their home and livelihood for a decade.

They registered as domestic partners when they arrived in California, and after the state legalized same-sex marriage three years ago, they thought they could make the ultimate commitment to each other when the time was right. The passage of Proposition 8 in November 2008 shocked them, as did Watson’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s a few months later.

Kernek is more confused than bitter about the legal obstacles preventing them from taking vows before Watson’s memory recedes to a point of no return.

“Why is it important to anybody else who you are devoted to?” Kernek asks. “I just don’t see how who I love hurts anybody else’s marriage.”

Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times

Photo credit: Glenn Koenig, Los Angeles Times

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March 29, 2011 at 10:48 am 34 comments

The Prop. 8 Trial a Year Later: The Education Continues

Stay tuned for an exciting new project we’ll be rolling out on this topic. -Adam

By Rick Jacobs

A year ago this weekend, my brilliant partner Shaun Kadlec joined me in San Francisco as we headed into the third week of the Prop. 8 Trial. Shaun and I had planned for months to be in Vienna to visit a college classmate of mine who’s now a senior diplomat there. I had always assumed that the Prop. 8 Trial would be on TV, meaning that everyone could see the proceedings. After that first day in the courtroom when it became clear that the trial would not be on TV, we canceled the trip and I stayed to live blog the rest of the trial (with lots of help from Brian Leubitz and Paul Hogarth, among others). That was one of the most important and best decisions of my life.

The full meaning and impact of that trial grow daily. A year later, in retrospect, the outcome seemed inevitable. The judge’s thorough and reasoned ruling followed the logic of the witnesses, the pleadings and the arguments. The defendant-intervenors put on no case and the ruling reflected that. But that’s hindsight. During those days of the trial, we could not know how the judge would rule. Would he rule that the state had no role in marriage? Would he decide that even though the evidence for marriage was overwhelming, the courts should stay out of this altogether? Would some other procedural delay intervene, holding the case at bay for months more than the eight it took?

We wait now to find out how –and whether–the California Supreme Court will reply to the appellate court on the issue of “standing,” that is, whether proponents (sponsors) of ballot measures have special rights to act. For a range of reasons unrelated to this trial, I hope that the Court decides they do not have those rights, but that’s a subject for another day. In time, this case or one like it will wind up at the Supreme Court. And that we hope will end what David Boies calls the last arena of legalized discrimination in America. With the fall of DADT and the ultimate legalization of marriage on constitutional grounds, the rest will follow quickly.

For the moment, let’s reflect on the courtroom drama I watched and so many here followed through this blog. That first day, Monday, January 11th 2010, was extraordinary in every way. After that vigil outside in cold San Francisco winter air, we’d heard that Justice Kennedy had put a “hold” on whether the trial could be on YouTube. I told my colleague, Andy Kelley, that I’d go upstairs into the courthouse just “to see what’s going on.” That was my first of dozens of trips through the magnetometer, depositing and collecting computer and keys on the beltway through the x-ray machine.

I tried to get into the main courtroom, but it was full. So I went upstairs and found the overflow room. The line to get in that day was not terribly long, but the room was pretty full. I found a seat in one of the pews, opened my laptop and waited. Once the proceedings began, I typed away, much to the chagrin of those sitting nearby. I guess I type loudly.

Courage had built this Prop 8 Trial Tracker site to keep track of what the right wing/NOM/Focus On the Family/ProtectMarriage.com had to say outside the courthouse because we thought the proceedings would be on YouTube. Instead, I emailed my typing to Julia Rosen who then put it up on this blog, added commentary sometimes and organized it so that it was readable.

At first, I did a pretty bad job. I was not sure about format or what to write. Should I actually try to transcribe or just describe? And of course, I had no clue whether anyone would ever read the blog. After all, we’d put it up in a hurry and did not promote it.

By the lunch break that first day, Julia and Eden James told me over the phone that we had about 20,000 hits, maybe more. I was stunned. Your comments also helped shape my coverage of the trial. You wanted more transcription and less description, which I tried to fulfill.

Monday morning began with the judge talking about the controversy over whether the trial should be televised. At the very outset, you were a key component of this trial.

Judge Walker said:

We have received a very substantial number of comments in response to that change (of rules that would allow the trial to be televised). As of — as of Friday, 5:00 p.m. Friday, we had received 138,574 responses or comments.

I think it’s fair to say that those that favored coverage of this particular case implicitly also favored the rule change, which would make an audiovisual transmission of this case possible.

And if these results are any indication of where sentiment lies on this issue, it’s overwhelmingly in favor of the rule change and the dissemination of this particular proceeding by some means through the Internet.

And the numbers frankly are 138,542 in favor, and 32 opposed.

(Laughter)

So I think the — at least the returns are clear in this case. …

I do think what we have gone through in this case in the last few days has been very helpful. Very helpful indeed.

The issue of the public’s right to access court proceedings is an important one. I think it’s highly unfortunate that the Judicial Conference and the courts have not dealt with this issue in the past, have not in a considered and thoughtful fashion worked through the issues.

He continued:

The briefs that you filed in the Court of Appeals and in the Supreme Court deal with those issues. And that’s true of both sides.

Certainly, the concerns that the proponents have raised here are concerns that should be considered, need to be considered, and in due course should be given thorough consideration.

But I think, in this day and age, with the technology that’s available and the importance of the public’s right to access judicial proceedings, it’s very important that we in the federal judiciary work to achieve that access consistent with the means that are presently available to do that.

And I would commend you for the efforts that you’ve made in bringing these issues forward, and I’m hopeful that this experience will have brought these issues to the fore. And maybe, finally, after some 20 years we will get some sensible movement forward.

Courage Campaign members provided nearly all of the public comments. When the judge asked for comment on Wednesday and gave 48 hours, until the Friday before the trial to provide them, you all jumped in with both feet. We collected over 140,000 comments, but by the cut off time of Friday afternoon when we had to deliver them, we brought in just over 138,000. The trial had become an object of considerable public interest, as well it should have been.

I excerpt the judge’s words above at such length because the very essence of this trial is public education. We have said it repeatedly. The trial testimony exposed the lies that have been used for generations to allow legalized discrimination against gays and lesbians. Those lies were at the very heart of the Prop. 8 campaign. The lies further alienated people from each other, led to more bullying, more suicides, more fundamental hurt.

You all here on this blog have been the heart and the bloodstream that have circulated the truth. Count on us at the Courage Campaign to continue to provide you with the tools and the platform to get the messages out. America’s social fabric has been rent apart by Prop. 8 and its spawn. This trial and your hard work can sew that fabric together into a quilt of justice, diversity and hope.

Even as I write, Arisha Michelle Hatch, Anthony Ash, Jackki Hirahara (from our Courageous staff) are with the folks at Granite State Progress (our sister organization) and the Cleve Jones Wellness Center in New Hampshire holding Camp Courage trainings to train folks on how to tell their own stories and how to use our brand new site–Testimony: Take a Stand (about which much more will be written later).

I’ll add further reflections in future posts, but we need your reflections as well. What have you learned? What messages need to penetrate society? How can we work together to assure that each of us, each of our friends and family members are part of the effort to disseminate the lessons of the trial, which means, really, to give our own testimony?

January 23, 2011 at 9:00 am 70 comments

With Prop 8 case hearing in 9th Circuit fast approaching, Courage launches “The Wedding Matters Month”

by Andy Kelley
New Media Organizer, Courage Campaign

With the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals preparing to hear arguments in the Prop 8 case on December 6, we’re proud to present “The Wedding Matters Month” — a people-powered project launched by the Courage Campaign Institute’s Entertainment Industry Equality Team earlier this year. In just one day, 38 videos about the meaning of marriage equality were produced by 119 volunteers on a budget of $1,600.

Over the course of the next month, we will be featuring these videos on the Testimony: Equality On Trial fanpage. As we here at the Prop 8 Trial Track continue to look towards the hearing with hope, it is important to be reminded that beyond the legalese and day to day developments of this trial, that there is one simple message we must share if we are to change hearts and minds: “The Wedding Matters.”

Paul and Joe were married on July 25, 2008, and their story is the first installment of the Wedding Matters Month:

We hope you enjoy this project, and that you have as much fun watching the videos as we have. We will continue to bring you the highlights throughout the month, but would encourage you to join us on Facebook to view the full collection.

You can also watch this in-depth “Making of…” video to see how the Courage Campaign’s volunteer-driven Entertainment Industry Equality Team did it and how Valerie Alexander’s experience at our Camp Courage Los Angeles training in 2009 became the genesis of this emotionally moving project:

November 10, 2010 at 2:09 pm 34 comments

Will you thank Joel Burns for his #ItGetsBetter video?

by Rick Jacobs
Chair, Courage Campaign Institute

I’ve found myself crying in public more often than I could have imagined over the past week.

What made me cry? The suicides of gay kids (or kids perceived to be gay) and their struggles — and the heartbreaking stories inspired by the “It Gets Better” campaign launched by Dan Savage to stop those suicides.

You might have already seen the powerful “It Gets Better” story told by Joel Burns, a member of the Ft. Worth City Council in Texas. Since a video of Joel’s poignant city council testimony was posted on Wednesday, more than 1.6 million Americans have watched it and shared it with their friends. And now, many more will see it today after messages like this one from Courage, the Trevor Project, MoveOn and the Victory Fund.

Please take a moment to watch Joel’s story now — and join us in thanking him for his courage in expressing his personal story to the world. Along with thousands of other people, your signature will be presented to Joel Burns on behalf of the Courage community:

Tears burst forth when we’re angry or sorry or compassionate or mourning or simply incapable of expressing what’s in our soul.

Friday night, I spoke in Stockton, California. I choked up as I tried to relate some of the testimony from the Prop 8 trial — testimony from an old and famous book that informed millions of Americans that gay people were inferior. The passage I cited sounded funny at first, but then I cried. That passage has been with me my whole life, never out in the open until it was in open court.

That’s what Joel Burns did. He said what was in his heart and locked in his soul, never released until he publicly testified, connecting his story with the teens who killed themselves because they were made to feel like they were less than human beings.

Joel said he may face repercussions for being honest about his story. Will you join us in showing Joel that he faces not repercussions but support for his courage? Just click here to watch Joel’s amazing testimony and then sign our community card thanking him:

http://www.couragecampaign.org/ThankYouJoel

Sharing Joel’s story is just one of many ways you can help spread the word about bullying and teen suicide. If you’re looking for a helpful list of resources and organizations working to help solve the problem, click here:

http://www.couragecampaign.org/Support

Thank you for showing your support for Joel. If we all raise our voices together, lives will be saved.

October 18, 2010 at 3:44 pm 44 comments

New movie inspired by Constance McMillen’s fight to attend prom with lesbian partner

Cross-posted from LGBTPOV

By Karen Ocamb

Constance McMillenLast February, 18 year old Constance McMillen made national headlines when the Itawamba County school board refused to allow her to wear a tuxedo and bring her lesbian partner to the Itawamba County Agricultural High School prom. McMillen brought in the ACLU to fight back and the board cancelled the prom. Constance was subjected to intense bullying at the school and on Facebook from students, parents and hordes of antigay attackers outside the small Mississippi town, about 20 miles east of Tupelo.

Despite fears of retribution, the young lesbian stuck by her right to freedom of expression and became a reluctant hero. “My daddy told me that I needed to show them that I’m still proud of who I am,” McMillen said at one point. “The fact that this will help people later on, that’s what’s helping me to go on.”

When openly gay Storyline Entertainment producing partners Craig Zadan and Neil Meron heard the story, they knew they had to try to make into a TV movie – as McMillen said – to hopefully help young people.

The producing team has a solid track record of going to the heart of a civil rights issue and changing hearts and minds by telling a story, including:

Craig Zadan and Neil Meron

Craig Zadan and Neil Meron

Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story, the gays-in-the-military story co-produced with Barbra Streisand and starring Glenn Close and Judy Davis; What Makes A Family, starring Brooke Shields and Cherry Jones about lesbian child custody; Wedding Wars, starring John Stamos, the first film about same sex marriage; Hairspray, the John Waters civil rights/integration story made into a musical starring John Travolta in the character made famous by Divine; and Cinderella, the TV retelling of the old favorite with African American singer Brandy as Cinderella, heading an intentionally racially diverse cast.

I spoke with Craig Zadan by phone late Thursday about the news that he and Meron are producing the McMillen story. He was on the Atlanta set of yet another civil rights movie, Footloose, a re-make of the popular 1984 movie about youth culture confronting staid small town religion. We talked about the timing of this TV movie for ABC Family – in which McMillen triumphs – at a time when gay teen bullying has become an epidemic.

When McMillen’s story first made news in February, Zadan said, “we started seeing reports on CNN and reading about it in the newspapers. Neil and I said this seemed like a very, very important subject to tackle and we went after it.” Told there were other producers vying to option the story, they said they really wanted an opportunity to “audition” for it.

Here’s Craig Zadan on how and why they came to the acquire the rights to the story:

“We did two things: one, we sent her a whole large selection of some of our movies. And the second thing we did was we got on the phone with her for about an hour and we explained our point of view and what we wanted to do. It was a long process because she spoke with other producers, also. We just said, ‘Look, we’re passionate about this. We want to make this. This is something we really want to do!’

We just wanted our day in court where we thought if we sent Constance Serving in Silence, and What Makes a Family, Wedding Wars – and we sent her Chicago and Hairspray – we just thought that she’d see those movies and see that we were right for it. When we spoke to her, we told her what we wanted to do.

We had a conversation with ABC Family and they said they’ve never done anything like this – ever – and that it would be a totally unique kind of movie for them to make that they’d never tackled before. But we were excited at the idea of reaching that audience that had never seen a movie like this.

So we got really excited about ABC Family and they made us an offer and said if you end up with rights, we would like to do it. Finally one day we got a call – recently – saying, ‘Constance decided to go with you.’

Craig Zadan

Craig Zadan

We were thrilled and really excited about it. And then – out of the blue, sort of – this situation last week or so happened where all of a sudden all day long on CNN and everywhere else are stories about teen bullying and the tragedy of all these suicides. We were just horrified by it.

We hadn’t gone into optioning this material because of that – because we didn’t know that this rash of things was going to go on this week.

But it turned out that just at the moment we got the rights, set it up at ABC Family – we went after John Gray because John Gray is one of our best collaborators we’ve ever worked with – ever – because he wrote and directed Brian’s Song for us, which we thought was fantastic and Martin and Lewis, which we thought was fantastic. He’s so talented. It’s also one-stop shopping because you get to hire him and he writes a brilliant script and hen he directs so well. He’s a great director.

We told him about this and he said, ‘I have to do this because this story is amazing and it has to be told.’ Then he called Constance and spoke to her for a long time – I think he spoke to her a couple of times – and then he spoke to the ACLU lawyers and other people. He came back to us and pitched us the entire movie.

When we actually heard the details – the ins and outs of what really happened behind the scenes – we were even more shocked than we were in the beginning. The story is so complicated and so filled with such devious behavior that we couldn’t even believe what he was telling us. So we thought, ‘Wow, now more than ever, we have to do this.’

And then John pitched ABC Family executives in the last couple of days and they were flipping out: ‘Oh, my God – we had no idea it was even this complicated.’ They loved it and said, ‘Go write the script immediately. Let’s get it written right away and let’s go make the movie as soon as possible.’”

Zadan is also excited that the story of how Constance McMillen stood up for herself in her small town in Mississippi will inspire other LGBT youth at a time when gay teen suicide seems to be an epidemic.

“All these bullying stories, sadly – very sadly and tragically – ended in suicides and in this story, Constance is triumphant. She became a reluctant hero and she stood up and I think the movie will be an inspiration for these kids who might normally think of doing something bad to themselves. I think it will inspire them to say, ‘You know, I don’t have to kill myself.’”

Zadan said he and Meron are keenly aware of how the power of television can save lives.

Serviing in Silence“We’re honored she chose us to do it and thrilled we’re able to make something so important to us and hopefully to a lot of people. What we showed with Serving in Silence and What Makes a Family and Wedding Wars is that there’s nothing like going into people’s living rooms and having them see this on TV. That changes minds and really makes people look at things differently.

After we aired Serving in Silence, Greta Cammermeyer went out on a speaking tour and she was in Oklahoma and she called from the road. She said that after each speaking engagement, everyone would leave but there would there would be a handful of people who stayed behind who would want to shake her hand and meet her. She said this one teenage boy went up to her said to her, ‘I just want you to know that I just saw your movie on NBC and recently I had realized that I was gay – and I had decided to commit suicide. And when I saw the movie, I decided I didn’t have to.’ She said the kid collapsed in her arms and they both were crying.

So we thought – if that happened to one teenage kid, how many did we not know about who had that experience by watching the movie? So for us, we’re getting an opportunity, once again, to do something with Constance that hopefully will have the same effect on teenagers all across America.”

Zadan said they expect to provide resource-links to one or several helpful organizations at the end of the TV movie.

Zadan also noted that the Cinderella TV movie in 1997 starring Brandy and Whitney Houston:

“was the first time that multicultural casting had ever been done that to that extent on a broadcast network. It was really unique and unusual and people were so surprised and I think that the reason we reached 60 million viewers – we got the highest rating that any movie on ABC had gotten in 14 years – was because we were inclusive. White people and Latinos, and African Americans and Asians – everybody could watch the movie and see themselves in the film.”

Zadan said that Footloose will wrap early in November and will open in movie theaters on April 1. “It’s going really, really well and Paramount loves it. They’re so excited about it.”

Another Zadan and Meron endeavor – Promises, Promises on Broadway – has been a “smash” since they opened, Zadan said, landing in the top fiveLayout 1 (Page 1) grossing shows each week – despite the economy. Though Zadan didn’t mention the Newsweek article questioning whether audiences would accept gay Sean Hayes playing straight, but the push-back implication was implicit.

“The show’s success, Zadan said, is “a tribute to Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth. I think people have fallen in love with them as a couple in the show. We’re really excited because Molly Shannon goes into the show next week in one of the other roles.”

Also in the works is a Broadway revival in the Spring of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, starring Daniel Radcliffe and directed and choreographed by Rob Ashford.

Radcliffe, a strong advocate for LGBT rights who is best known for his Harry Potter character, told MTV that he is “heartbroken” over the epidemic of gay teen suicides:

“These young people were bullied and tormented by people that should have been their friends. We have a responsibility to be better to each other, and accept each others’ differences regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ability, or religion and stand up for someone when they’re bullied. When a friend is feeling depressed or says they’re thinking of killing themselves, we must take it seriously and get them help.”

Radcliffe made a PSA for LGBT helpline, The Trevor Project:

October 10, 2010 at 8:05 am 27 comments

Testimony: Coming out to my mother (by Linda Liles)

Linda Liles, who comments frequently on the Prop 8 Trial Tracker, recently wrote a very compelling comment about the process of coming out — one of 358 comments to date on a post introducing front-page blogger Rob Tisinai to the P8TT community — and another example of the robust and meaningful discussion engaged by participants every day on this web site.

In the spirit of the next phase of the Courage Campaign Institute’s “Testimony: Equality on Trial” project, in which Americans will be asked to provide their “testimony” in the form of videos, pictures and text, I asked Linda to write a longer-form piece about coming out to her mother, which she did just last month. It’s essentially a “story of self” — the integral element of our Camp Courage training program, which more than 1,600 people have experienced in trainings across California.

Linda’s very thoughtful and provocative post will be the first in an ongoing “Testimony” series of posts about coming out, written by P8TT community members and others. If you would like to participate, please share your coming out story — or if you are straight, share a story about a friend coming out — in the comments below and we’ll consider posting it on the front page as well (don’t worry about the length; if your original story is short, like Linda’s original comment, we’ll ask you to write a longer-form piece as well).

Eden James
Managing Director, Courage Campaign Institute


Coming out to my mother

By Linda Liles

Have you ever jumped off a high dive?

You know those intense sensations that hit you as you step off that solid platform and into the empty air? It’s exhilarating and yet petrifying! You’re panting and yet you can’t seem to breathe! And you feel strangely detached, like a spectator, watching your own fall.

Those are the feelings I had when I came out to my mother last month.

I hadn’t intended to do it. I had come to the conclusion that my parents would be better off never knowing. They’re 79 and 82, and staunchly conservative Christians. We’re talking faithful Focus on the Family followers and supporters. The Bible is the literal, inerrant, infallible Word of God. Period. They have dedicated their lives to their faith. Nothing is more important. And there is nothing more antithetical to their faith than homosexuality.

I am a living, breathing contradiction to everything they believe.

But when I was visiting with my mother we drifted to the subject of my ‘friend’ in South Carolina. And my mother started digging. Do any of you have mothers like that? You know, the kind that can ask question after question and force you to divulge much more than you ever intended? That’s what my mother was doing; and the questions were getting uglier and nastier until I finally couldn’t let it continue, so I just went ahead and told her.

I think we were both stunned by what was coming out of my mouth. My revelation was so shocking that neither one of us could fully comprehend what was happening. An eerie calmness seeped into the room, wrapping itself around us. Emotion was too frivolous at that point. We sat there talking in hushed tones as chill realization took up residence inside us.

She argued.

I tried to be understanding while holding my ground.

She quoted scripture, and told me I was wrong. She told me how wicked and sinful my deviant lifestyle was. And she told me it was unnatural. I told her that I know how I feel, and that I’m not wrong. I asked how a loving, monogamous relationship could be wicked; and I told her that for me, it was very natural.

Afterward, I felt completely numb. I couldn’t believe what I had just done. And I hoped that her reaction was just that…a reaction; and not really how she would respond when given a chance to think it through.

A week later my mother pulled me aside to tell me that she just wanted me to know that it would have been easier for her if I had told her I had cancer. She was full of emotion this time as she pronounced her verdict. I was shameful at best; stolen by Satan at worst. I was showing total disregard toward my children, my parents, my relatives, my ancestors. I needed to turn away from my wickedness and draw near to God. The very least I could do is live my life devoid of companionship for the remainder of her life.

She refuses to meet my girlfriend.

Of course I’m grieving. But I’m angry too. My mother is one who has been duped by people like Brian Brown and Maggie Gallagher into thinking that all gays are perverts, deviants, and controlled by Satan. And let’s not forget James Dobson, and the thousands of church pastors who act as conduits, enabling these liars to relay their hate-filled false information to their gullible congregations week after week. The groundwork is carefully laid; they leave no opportunity for their supporters to objectively consider the wealth of information from scientists, psychiatrists, psychologists, physicians, historians, sociologists, and anthropologists who have documented, time and time again, that we are not mentally ill; we are not in need of curing; and we are absolutely identical to everyone else in every way but one. As we heard from one of the people that Arisha Hatch interviewed for the NOM Tour Tracker, “God’s law trumps Man’s law”, and as long as they can convince their docile flock that their lies are God’s law no amount of reasoned discourse will have any affect.

I have been a good daughter, a good mother, a good woman; and my mother knows that. But she has to turn her back on me in order to not turn her back on what she has been told to believe.

Those who oppose us would say that I should just go back in my closet; in fact, they would call me selfish for not going back. They would point to the anguish my mother is enduring and call me cruel for making her experience that. They would use her trauma as one more proof of the horrible consequences of my “lifestyle choice.” But I am not the one at fault here! We are not the ones at fault here! They are! They are the ones who have preyed on the gullible, naïve masses; spewing their lies and distortions with abandon. They are the ones who have characterized us with such hateful, damning language. Their relentless, almost gleeful persecution of us has left those who are faithful adherents to their shared beliefs no choice but to likewise hate and reject us.

It’s hard to come out. And we have to do it over and over and over. And I admit there are still times I choose to just keep silent. But at the same time, if we don’t come out, if we hide or give into fear, then aren’t we, in effect, accepting that mantle of guilt and shame those who persecute us would have us bear?

I didn’t choose to be a lesbian. I am choosing to live as one; proudly and unapologetically.

September 1, 2010 at 8:35 am 294 comments

Lack of Political Power in Minnesota and Script 5

By Julia Rosen

One of the main arguments by the plaintiffs in Perry v. Schwarzenegger is that LGBTs lack the political power to protect their basic rights. Nowhere is that more evident today than Minnesota. Governor Pawlenty, who many expect will run for president in 2012, just vetoed a bill that would have allowed same-sex partners to decide what should happen with their loved one’s body when they die. Pioneer Press:

Pawlenty had said he would veto the bill, calling it unnecessary because partners can draw up a living will. But advocates argue that married couples do not have to do that and that legal documents often cost money to draft.

The “Final Wishes” bill would have been the second one supported by Project 515 to be passed into law. The group is named after the 515 Minnesota laws it says discriminate against same-sex couples, though the group is not seeking marriage rights for gays and lesbians.

Pawlenty’s actions are absolutely reprehensible. Can you imagine what it would be like for a surviving member of a same-sex couple to have to watch a perhaps distant relative make that decision because they forgot to go to a lawyer to pay them for documents that a marriage automatically provides?

This issue of political power is actually Script No. 5 “Gary Segura: Do gay and lesbians lack political power.” Fight back against Pawlenty. Go reenact Script 5 and spread the message that unless marriage equality is the law of the land, we will continue to have losses just like today in Minnesota.

May 17, 2010 at 10:06 am 48 comments

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