John Shields

Cool Your Jets

Filed By John Shields | April 10, 2009 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics

What a gay week!

There was the unanimous ruling by the the Iowa Supreme Court, making same-sex marriage legal in the Hawkeye State. Just days later, Vermont legislators weighed in on the issue, overriding the Republican governor's bigoted veto of a same-sex marriage bill that overwhelmingly passed in both state houses.

Within hours of the Vermont legislature's flip-off at the governor, the city council in our nation's capital (...Washington, D.C. ...) voted to "recognize" same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. And last, but not least, gay and lesbian families have been "invited" to the White House Easter Egg Hunt.

Wow, and it's not April Fool's Day. Let's backtrack a bit and review what has just happened.

Starting with Iowa, which for some strange reason usually gets to go first in most things political, Iowa Governor Chet Culver says he's "...reluctant to support amending the Iowa Constitution to add a provision that our Supreme Court has said is unlawful and discriminatory."

Additionally Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal released an extremely moving video saying why he wouldn't support legislative efforts to amend the Iowa state constitution.

In case you're wondering, it takes two consecutive legislative sessions, followed by a vote of the electorate, to change Iowa's State Constitution. IMHO, a prudent concept, considering the importance of any alteration to a state or federal constitution. Proposition 8 come to mind? More on that later...

If you think you know where I'm going, you are most likely wrong. But off we go, next northeastwards towards Vermont, the first state to put forth the idea of "civil unions" for gays and lesbians. On Monday, the Green Mountain state surprised us again by becoming the first state to legalize same-sex marriage without "prodding" from the judicial branch.

Before we leave Vermont, however, there's something very quirky about the Vermont Senate vote you should know. These guys knew the world was watching, the veto override was assured in the Senate and so they took a quick break before the all-important vote to conduct a Vermont maple syrup infomercial. Who knew Vermont maple syrup was fetching up to $60 a gallon?

Recapping, now four states "authorize" same-sex marriages. For those wondering, those states would be Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa. California - you are in legal limbo right now - so we're not counting you.

WOW! Homosexuals really exist after all! And everyone else thought it was just Hollywood, the Wizard of Oz and Judy Garland that just dreamed all of us up.

Four whole states, and a district (our nation's capital, to boot~!) desecrating the "sanctity of marriage." Jeez, we're all going to h&ll in a handbasket (whatever that means), and making serious headway on the same-sex marriage front.

Still think you know where I'm going? Probably not, so cool your jets.

To take a line from Eminem: "...Back to reality, oops there goes gravity, oops there goes gravity..."

Anyone that thinks two cute football players in Florida are going to be able to "tie the knot" in the next decade is delirious. While you're thinking about that, as fun as it may look in your mind, try counting the votes in Congress, or in nearly every statehouse in the country, on the issue of same-sex marriage. The votes don't add up - and will not for a very long time.

What about FEDERAL legislation regarding hate crimes, gays and lesbians serving in the United States military, and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act? These are concrete, federal bills that will affect ALL Americans.

And don't even get me started with the "elephant" in the room - California's Proposition Hate. Been there, done that. This particular issue is sucking the air out of the room all across the nation, all the way to Annapolis, Maryland - where domestic partnership benefits legislation for state employees is about to crash and burn because lawmakers are afraid of the words "same-sex" and "marriage" in the same sentence.

As one friend said while giving me a "Reality Recognition" award, it is "extremely clear that America simply is not yet ready to start embracing same-sex marriage."

Who in the LGBTQ community had the nerve to hijack the gay and lesbian train and decide to take the "same-sex marriage" track to the Cleaver's or the Huxtable's house? Did "they" ask me? Did "they" ask you?

I've got many a friend and family - gay and straight - that don't want to have a thing to do with "marriage." Who is this magical "they" that decided same-sex marriage was more important than federal rights for our community all across America, not just in a few states and a 'district'? What about nearly every gay or lesbian servicemember that has to say goodbye to their partner before they leave their home because they can't be seen on base right before they board a plane to Iraq or Afghanistan to preserve our freedom? Did anyone ask them what should be on the front burner?

Marriage equality is NOT more important than federal hate crimes legislation, the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, or enactment of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

You can fool yourself into thinking the fight over same-sex marriage is more important, but you'd be wrong. This isn't about separate but equal, otherwise there would be "white marriage," "black marriage," "gay marriage," - and the list goes on. You cannot put an adjective in front of the word marriage. It doesn't make sense, so why try?

This single-minded focus on the words "same-sex marriage" is draining much-needed money away from non-profits doing important work, as well as draining brainpower that we could use to more quickly gain equality in other, more important arenas. Arenas that will then turn into a United States of America with equal rights - for EVERYONE.

It has been said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I have a different, but no less important expression: "Focus on the task at hand."

Right now, that task is national respect and recognition of the LGBTQ community. The task at hand is enacting a federal hate crimes bill for our community, repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell for the thousands of gay and lesbian servicemembers that have either been killed or injured in service to our nation, and enactment of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act - all on the federal level.

Yes, we have won several battles in the past week. But they are only battles. Let's aim to win the war for equality all across America, not just in a few convenient spots on the gay and lesbian map of equality.

IT IS TIME to stop playing with the lives of gay and lesbian Americans because of a single word. It is time to start playing offense, and teach this country what the meaning of "separation of church and state" really means. It is time to replace, symbolically as well as literally, the word "marriage" with something that works for all Americans.

So cool your jets, call your representatives and senators and fight for a few things that are achievable - for ALL of us.

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hmmmm...i think you are referring to something i stated, something that i still consider accurate.

"as a symbol of LGBT equality, marriage equality has no equal. as a trans woman, no issue is as important to me as ENDA. but hey, we have ENDA in DC and i still can't get hired because of discrimination. we have hate crime protection, and we still get attacked. when you are talking about shifting the hearts and minds of our culture, we NEED marriage... Read More equality. you don't have to want to get married to benefit. same-sex couples become the "folks next door"... the "cleavers" and the "huxtables". we are NOT second class citizens. if we have to take some risks to gain equality, so be it. whatever doesn't kill us will make us stronger.
ps- i have nothing to gain from marriage equality legislation. george clooney hasn't even asked me yet..."

nobody said marriage was THE only issue, or the most important issue. it is however, IMHO, the single greatest SYMBOL of our status as first class citizens that we are going to achieve. and i do believe it will be achieved in my lifetime, and i'm far from a youngster. if you don't want marriage equality, don't fight for it. i lobbied with NCTE for ENDA, and SLDN for freedom to serve. i collected signatures for marriage in DC. but i am not hijacking your private movement, just trying to gain some equality for those i call my brothers and sisters, even when it's not in my own personal interest. so when we celebrate a little victory, do you really need to pee on our parade?

John Shields John Shields | April 11, 2009 12:00 PM

Ummm...sorry to break this news to you jerindc, but I didn't "read" what you wrote until AFTER my article was posted, so - NO, it's not "your" idea. It can be all of ours though, as I didn't patent it either.

And I get to pee anywhere I want.

John Shields John Shields | April 11, 2009 12:02 PM

And, I am happy to report that my reference to Maryland DP benefits, which will directly affect my same-sex household, looks headed for passage. Cool~!

From The Washington Blade:

john, i am rather surprised that you state you were not referring to my comment.

John Shields at 3:20am April 8- on Phil Attey's facebook

"Marriage equality is NOT more important than hate crimes legislation including transgender protection, the repeal of DADT, or enactment of ENDA.

You can fool yourself into thinking that is true, but you'd be wrong."

i responded to your comment with my reference to the symbolic importance of marriage equality, including the cleaver and huxtable phrase, at 9:18 am april 8th in the same blog.

since your article was posted on bilerico on april 10th, i think it quite reasonable to assume that you were making a return reference in your bilerico article.

since you state you were not, no harm done. i am correct, in any event. likewise, anyone can use the term "cleavers and huxtables". there is no copyright protection for a phrase.

as you stated, you can pee wherever you want. no one will probably even notice. but if you truly care about the issues that you allegedly support, you would do well to remember that this struggle will be won by making our enemies into friends - and not by making our friends into enemies.

be well...jeri hughes

John Shields John Shields | April 11, 2009 2:13 PM

Jeri's right about the Cleaver's and Huxtable's comment. I thought it was hilarious, and forgot I didn't invent it. It was just too funny. Sorry Jeri.

And I'm totally with you Jeri on friends and enemies. Totally.


smoochies back at you! lol be my friend, godfather? i put in a FB request...


Here's where we agree: our "task is national respect and recognition of the LGBTQ community." 100% agreement. But... While we're fighting for the same end result, we have different ideas about what's possible and how to make it happen.

This is not a zero-sum economy. It's not marriage OR DADT OR ENDA OR DOMA. It's all of those issues. And there is no reason we have to fight one battle at a time.

It's a big country. There are lots of folks who can help us win the war. Yes, it's critical that our military service members get the support and recognition and protection they deserve fighting for us in Iraq or Afghanistan. But it's also critical that the 75 year old couple who have been together for 50 years get the support and recognition and protection they deserve as one heads into the emergency room. And, especially in this economy, it's important that the 30 year old single lesbian mother gets the support and recognition and protection she deserves at her job.

Not one of these situations takes priority over the other, nor do they have to. Civil rights should never be prioritized. It is time we all stand up and fight for ourselves, as individuals and as a community. But we can do it together, at the same time.

At the start of every year, when I make my goals, I don't plan to take care of my body, THEN improve my relationships, THEN find ways to contribute to my community, THEN save money. All my goals are goals that I work on throughout the days and months of my life. So it should be for us as a community.

We are a diverse and strong community. We can handle more than one thing at a time. It's time each of us realized the amazing power and responsibility we have to ourselves and to each other. Let's get started.