Guest Blogger

We can all get they-ah from hee-ah

Filed By Guest Blogger | May 10, 2009 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: Connecticut, gay marriage, Maine, marriage equality, Massachusetts, New England, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Sue Hyde, Vermont

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Sue Hyde is a Massachusetts resident and longtime staffer at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

The first coins struck in the Colonies were th...Some folk say, "You can't get they-ah from hee-ah." But in the great region of New England, we know different and better. As the New Hampshire marriage reform bill rests on the desk of Gov. John Lynch and as the ink dries on the Maine marriage reform bill just signed by Gov. John Baldacci, no informed New Englander awoke in surprise and shock at the region's rapid expansion of marriage equality. Rather, we awoke in joy and satisfaction that our states continue a long tradition of bending the arc of history toward justice.

The people of the six New England states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island serve as the craftspeople of the art of our democracy: heating the metals of social change to malleability and then smiting them into the shape of social justice. The crafts, tools and skills of the New England blacksmiths of justice are wielded with fierceness of determination and vision of a people longing to be free and equal partners in civic life.

Some examples from the forge:

  • In 1635, Boston Latin School is established as the first public school in America.
  • In 1636, Roger Williams flees Massachusetts, having been banished for "new and dangerous opinions" calling for religious and political freedoms, including separation of church and state; Williams settles in Rhode Island, which becomes a haven for many other colonists fleeing religious intolerance.

  • In 1639, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut are drafted. Many historians credit this document as the basis for the United States Constitution.

  • In 1697, the Massachusetts General Court (legislature) expresses official repentance regarding the actions of its judges during the witch hysteria of 1692.

  • In 1777, Vermont abolishes slavery, followed by all New England states in 1784.

  • In 1833, the first public library in the United States opens in Peterborough, N.H.

  • In 1837, Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts is founded, the first four-year college exclusively for women in the United States. Mt. Holyoke was followed Wellesley and Smith colleges, both in 1875.

  • In 1841, Frederick Douglass is hired by the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society as a full-time lecturer, to agitate for the abolition of slavery.

  • In 1844, women textile workers in Massachusetts organize the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association (LFLRA) and demand a 10-hour workday; LFLRA is one of the first permanent labor associations for working women in the United States.

  • In 1948, Maine's Margaret Chase Smith is elected to the U.S. Senate, making her the first woman to ever be voted into this office and also the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress.

  • In 1989, Massachusetts becomes the second state to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

  • In 2000, 2,000 Vermont legislators invent a status called "civil union" that grants legal recognition to same-sex couples.

  • In 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rules that barring same-sex couples from marrying violates the state Constitution. Legal marriages commence in May 2004.

  • In 2008, the Supreme Court of Connecticut rules that same-sex couples have the right to marry. Legal marriages commence later that year.

  • In 2009, the Vermont Legislature votes to override Gov. Jim Douglas' veto of a bill allowing same-sex couples to marry and converting civil unions to marriages.

  • In 2009, Maine, acting without court order, enacts marriage reform law that will allow same-sex couples to marry.

  • In 2009, the New Hampshire legislature passes marriage reform legislation; Gov. John Lynch must decide to sign the legislation, allow it to become law without his signature, or to veto it.

What can be expected from Rhode Island, the lone outlier in New England, with regard to marriage equality? Ironically, the state that was founded as a bastion of religious freedoms and separation of church and state is stuck between rocks and a good place. The rocks are Gov. Donald Carcieri and Bishop Thomas Tobin, Catholic leader of Rhode Island. Carcieri has affiliated himself with the group that produces the kookiest anti-gay marriage ads, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). City of ProvidenceCarcieri and his wife, Sue, announced their support for NOM's goals to oppose marriage equality at a press conference in April. Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence warns of what he described as the consequences of allowing same-sex couples to marry in an article published in the Rhode Island Catholic. "Gay marriage, or civil unions, would mean that our state is in the business of ratifying, approving such immoral activity," intoned Tobin.

Meanwhile, the Rhode Island marriage advocates, led by Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI), continue to organize to win the legislative votes to pass marriage reform, which they believe they are close to winning. Legislative support is the good place where MERI's hopes for change can be found. (Roger Williams may be rolling over in his grave at these efforts by both Carcieri and Tobin to ensure that their personal religious views on marriage remain public policy in Williams' home state.)

Even though Maine's legislative victory will, in all probability, face the "people's veto," a statewide referendum effort to repeal the marriage reform law, and even though Rhode Island advocates may yet be a governor's race away from achieving marriage equality, these delays amount to no more than some substandard, low-temperature iron in the forge of democracy. The hammers strike and smite; the world changes; and New England endures as a beacon of social justice. We can all get they-ah from hee-ah.

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Kathy Padilla | May 10, 2009 8:31 PM

"New England endures as a beacon of social justice."

Not so much from where some of us sit, Sue. I there anywhere in that whole history you note where you might have mentioned transgender people

It's now two decades since Massachusetts since Massachusetts passed a non-inclusive civil rights bill. And it's all about marriage.

I'm rather proud that Rhode Island, Maine and Vermont passed nondiscrimination legislation for every lgbt person before moving on towards including everyone in relationship equality.

Massachusetts still has a long way to go. Maybe Thomas Morton will stop rolling is his grave.

Kathy Padilla | May 10, 2009 10:20 PM

Wow - that post got processed into word salad!

Brad Bailey | May 10, 2009 9:02 PM

"Bending the arc of history toward justice." What a beautiful phrase.

In 1989, Massachusetts becomes the second state to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The first being Wisconsin.

Trans people are still waiting for the same rights there too.

Just a little reminder, so we don't get completely forgotten. Again.

From The Curvature:

I wrote earlier that the main bill I am concerned about seeing pass is GENDA. The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act would protect people from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression in the areas of employment, housing, credit, and more. Right now, in New York, no such protections exist for trans or otherwise identifying gender variant people — despite the fact that such protections are in place (as they obviously should be) on the basis of sexual orientation.

Last year after Equality & Justice Day, I was surprised and pleased to see that GENDA, while it did not ever reach the Senate floor with Republicans in charge, was given seemingly equal attention to marriage equality and DASA (Dignity for All Students Act). It could be that I’m simply more aware of trans issues and their marginalization within supposedly LGBT communities than I was last year — though I was already aware of this issue last year, and for that reason made a specific point to watch out for its presence. But whatever the reason, I noticed a significant shift, and I feel obligated to mention it.

It started, or at least it became noticeable to me, when Governor Paterson came out to give his speech as the first official speaker. It was a great speech, it really was, and I was happy to see him there. Except. Well, it was a great speech if we were only there to talk about marriage equality. Because that’s all his speech was about. And that’s not the only reason we were there.


Because marriage equality, though on paper it was not supposed to be, was the focus of this day. While GENDA and DASA were often mentioned as sidelines, for a majority of the morning speakers, they were not the focus, and they were not even usually given equal treatment. In fact, I’d say that GENDA received the least treatment of the three issues in question. Because though I don’t remember who it was, I do specifically remember someone talking at decent length about bullying in schools. I also admittedly missed a chunk of the afternoon rally — but from what I saw, it was much of the same. It seemed from the program that there was only one speaker at the rally there to represent trans issues; and I saw her speak, and she only spoke for a minute or two.

I saw the same dynamic in my lobby visits. Now, I want to be clear that the Pride Agenda has no direct control over what goes on in the lobby visits. The lobby visit facilitators are volunteers who do not officially represent the organization. And I will also say that I like the facilitator from my group very much and spent a good deal of the day in his company.

But when we got to the meeting for our senator — and remember, GENDA has passed the Assembly, so the Senate is what matters — he had people in our group talk at length about marriage equality. Then he had people talk at length about DASA. (I personally said something about both bills.) And then, before I knew it, the meeting was over. When I realized what was happening I tried to catch my facilitator’s eye to say “What about GENDA?” but he didn’t look my way, and it was too late. When the one person in our group who had identified herself as trans questioned him on it after the meeting, the response was basically a fairly sheepish “yeah, well, I guess I only got to fit two in.

It's been 20 years now. Has the MA GLBT movement been committing the overwhelming bulk of its effort into correcting the situation, just to make up for past neglect?

In view of the 24-0 vote by the NH senate to deny Trans people the same rights that gays have had for years there, and on the same day they voted in favour of gay marriage, one can be forgiven for seeing a pattern of behaviour here in the NE states.

Please show me evidence that I'm wrong, that the najority of the MA GLBT effort is now going into GLBT rather than GLB-only issues, just to balance past neglect. Or is it 25% at best? Because, you know, you only have time to fit two in?

That URL -

And this is not a complaint. No-one could justly criticise the MA GLB groups for doing such wonderful work, work that has inspired everyone else. Without the MA GLB efforts, there is no way we would have such great successes elsewhere.

It's a reminder. Of unfinished business that has waited 20 years, and is still waiting.

Hee-ah, hee-ah!

--a fellow New Englander

NGLTF, huh?

More proof that the elites have spoken: Gay marriage is the only thing that matters; trans rights...uhhhhhh...what's that?

Projector Friends,
I gladly accept all criticisms of my post, We Can All Get They-ah from Hee-ah, that note the failure to include realities concerning transgender people's protections, and lack of, in certain New England states. However, I do not and will not accept or tolerate criticism of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force for somehow failing transgender people in our programs, our policies and our legislative priorities. Altho our history on transgender issues is relatively well known, I bring to your attention that the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force withdrew support/endorsement and work on the Employment NonDiscrimination Act (ENDA)in 1995 due to its failure to include gender identity and expression. We were the first LGBT organization to take this position and did so with few expectations that any other organizations would follow suite; further, we did so at a time when that position relegated us to the (relative) sidelines in Washington DC, sending us to the lobbying locker room, so to speak, for about a decade. To learn more about the Task Force's work on transgender-related issues, please visit

Agreed. Attacking the Task Force for not being trans friendly is silly. They're the most trans inclusive org!

That was my impression too, Bil.

That's also why it was a little disheartening that they made no comment on the NH Senate's 24-0 vote. Nothing about it on the NGLTF website, no press release, it's vanished down the memory hole.

It's also why I was a little disheartened by this article. I know it's supposed to be inspiring, but I have to say that for our section of GLBT, it just emphasises how little our cause matters, even to the most trans-friendly organisations.

A list of significant dates and events from the Trans viewpoint would look quite different - from the Illinois law of 1955 (yes, 1955) that allowed Birth Certificate changes for us, to the effective repeal of those laws for most purely by bureaucratic fiat in 2006.

Even just talking about trans marriage, the laws from the 50's that allowed them, to the court cases of the 70's through to the 2000s that overturned many of them, and rendered birth certificates legally meaningless in some states, leaving us only the option of same-sex marriage - if any form of marriage is open to us at all.

An inspirational 100% Gay Only Trans-excluding list like this one is something I'd expect from the HRC, not NGLTF. I hope it doesn't signal a change, if not of policy, then of emphasis and corporate culture. Such things have been known to happen in the past.


I absolutely, definitely must give showers of applause and bouquets to the NGLTF for their three recent publications on transgender issues. Just the one on homeless shelters will SAVE LIVES and is far more important than all the press releases (or lack thereof) in the world. These people deserve far more recognition for actual concrete help than they get.

Only 13 of the last 61 human rights laws for gays have included trans people. That figure's from an NGLTF publication.

Can you imagine the brouhaha if less than 1 in 4 pieces of human rights legislation covered gay men as well as lesbians? Or the reverse? Or if hard-won gay marriage rights had been steadily eroded over 40 years?

If we feel a little paranoid at the trend line, of fewer and fewer GLBT laws being passed, and more and more GLB-only ones being passed with some GLBT laws being repealed, I think we have good reason.

Wow, I'm sorry, could you be any more arrogant? You make a half-hearted apology and then slap us in the face again. I thought I could respect the Task Force to not be like the HRC, I guess I can't.

I think I'm going to find someone else for my donations this year, thank you for making the choice easier!

It isn't paranoia if its true.

Kathy Padilla | May 12, 2009 10:15 AM

“I do not and will not accept or tolerate criticism”

Hey – I love the Task Force too. But maybe the high dudgeon patrician speaking to the great unwashed ‘tude isn’t the most effective way to persuade. It’s the internet – it’s not unreasonable to expect other viewpoints to be expressed.