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Hey, It’s Personal!

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

It’s Wednesday evening after another steamy day on the NC coast, with the temperature still close to 100. I have just poured a crisp, cool glass of white wine, and am scanning the Internet, waiting to hear about Judge Walker’s decision on Prop 8, and the fight to repeal the ban of gay marriages in CA. My cell rings, it’s my (straight) friend Liz, “Hey! We won! I just heard on NPR! They overturned Prop 8.” Wow. While not unexpected, suddenly I am short of breath. Imagine the impact: this decision supports every couple’s right to express their love and commitment. Over the rest of the evening (and one more glass of wine) I explored the Internet, and wanted to share three steps you could take now as this case heads to the US Circuit Court of Appeals.

1) Be proud. Read Judge Walker’s ruling: 136 pages of carefully reasoned, critical rationale for overturning the ban. The US Constitution is alive and robust throughout this document.
2) Read analysis of the decision and watch some excellent news videos from Prop 8 Trial Tracker.
3) Go to Christie Herring’s facebook page for The Campaign, a film in development supported in part by Working Films that shares – with startling insider access, the daily emotional roller coaster of the folks who worked to defeat Prop 8 in the voting booth. They lost that fight. It suddenly looks like the film might have a happier ending.

As an out gay man, living in the American South for over 40 years, this decision is intensely personal for me and for thousands of gays and lesbians like me. In his findings, Judge Walker states: In the absence of a rational basis, what remains of proponents’ case is an inference, amply supported by evidence in the record, that Proposition 8 was premised on the belief that same-sex couples simply are not as good as opposite-sex couples. Whether that belief is based on moral disapproval of homosexuality, animus towards gays and lesbians or simply a belief hat a relationship between a man and a woman is inherently better than a relationship between two men or two women, this belief is not a proper basis on which to legislate. In other words, you can’t legislate hate.

Suddenly, the universe has tilted a bit in our direction, and for the first time, we are free to imagine a future and a life that fully embraces all the potential for intimacy and happiness with a partner. My faith in the founding principles of this country has just been reclaimed a bit; I am heartened and excited about the possibility of winning this battle, all the way to the Supreme Court. It is, without question, a profound moment in American jurisprudence. But it is also intensely personal.

The Campaign: Inside the NO ON PROP 8 Fight

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

The Campaign Logo

I was energized by the news last week that Christie Herring’s work-in-progress The Campaign was just awarded a new grant from Chicken & Egg Pictures. All week I had been following the related so-called Prop 8 trial, Kristin M. Perry v. Arnold Schwarzenegger, through the Courage Campaign’s Prop 8 trial tracker. Christie attended our MASS MoCA residency in 2009 when her film was in early development.

The Campaign follows the daily efforts and emotional rollercoaster of the community of people working to stop Prop 8, the 2008 Constitutional Amendment to end gay marriage in California. The film offers extraordinary behind-the-scene access and compelling evidence that what unfolded in this California campaign was a focused and cynical push to eliminate the fundamental rights of a “despised” minority.

As the trial heads into its third week in a U.S. District Court, Christie’s film and the story she is telling takes on new significance. The daily proceedings in the courtroom are astonishing; the plaintiffs case is that there is and was no bias against gays in this effort, a viewpoint which Christie’s film clearly undoes. As the defense began its case this week I asked Christie for her perceptions about this case, an update for her film and how folks can get involved and support her documentary. Here’s her response:

Hey Robert, I also have been following the case by tweet and blog. It touches on so many issues that affect me and people I love – airing out the ugliness of homophobia (last week’s testimony included a “Yes on Prop 8” leader claiming that homosexuality has been linked to pedophilia), the trauma that the ex-gay movement inflicts on us and our loved ones, the long term effects of internalized homophobia, and the reality of our lukewarm political support. It’s upsetting and infuriating.

Campaign_CH_RallyThe court fight is focused on a national / federal approach to LGBT rights and specifically marriage equality. This is a departure from the state-by-state strategy that’s been the focus of much of the movement thus far. The Campaign explores these strategies through Proposition 8, which has spanned both. In California, Proposition 8 stripped same gender couples of the right to marry, a fundamental right recognized and protected by the California Supreme Court just months before the 2004 election. By documenting the dedication and struggle inside the No On 8 campaign, my film makes clear how precious marriage equality is to LGBT families and how hard so many people fought to protect the equality and dignity that was ours for a just a moment. The Perry case will take this issue to the Federal Courts and eventually challenge the US Supreme Court to rule on the quality and validity of the families we form. The stakes are high, and there has been some disagreement among LGBT leaders about whether the Perry case is the right strategy and at the right time. But this is a disagreement about strategy, not values or direction. The common denominator is that marriage equality is precious and worth fighting for.


What I learned from the LGBT Bloggers Summit

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

I just got back from the LGBT Blogger and Citizen Journalist Initiative Summit in Washington, DC which was sponsored by Jonathan Lewis, Human Rights Campaign, Bolthouse Farms, Victory Fund, Center for American Progress Action Fund, National Organizing Institute, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and many others.

I met many different kinds of bloggers and writers. Some were personal bloggers who did not consider themselves activists while others were hard core activists and politicos. We all shared one thing in common: We all identified as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and/or Queer although everyone had different experiences of writing and of life itself. We each had our own story which helped us to create visibility by personalizing the gay rights struggle. By writing about individual instances, we are able to address the bigger picture at hand.

On Saturday, there was a tense discussion about Proposition 8 which led us to the question “who is to blame?” Fellow blogger Alex Blaze wrote a post summarizing the Prop 8 discussion on the Bilerico project. The pro-Prop 8 campaigns were run incredibly well. They focused on issues that affected people emotionally such as family and children while the opposition created counter-ads that seemed defensive and, to a point, offensive. No wonder we lost as badly as we did; our message was not as tight and strategic as it could have been.

Instead of telling our own stories, we jumped on the back of the Civil Rights Movement claiming that our struggles are the same African Americans faced. Instead of defining what we truly want when we say “marriage”, we’ve just thrown around broad terms that can mean anything to anyone. We need to focus on OUR story. The story of being able to adopt children and have families of our own. The story of being able to visit our partners in the hospital. The story of young school children who are ashamed to have same-sex parents because everything they’ve ever learned outside of the home has told them their family is not normal.