Friday, March 05, 2010

Rewind: love, marriage, hate and immigration

The legalization of same-sex marriage in the nation’s capital made front page news but the past week also saw a rift in the immigration reform and LGBT coalition, legislation for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell introduced, and raw hatred challenged.

On Wednesday, the District joined Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Iowa in allowing lesbians and gays to wed. Over 150 couples applied for licenses less than a day after the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request from Maryland’s Bishop Harry Jackson that D.C.’s same-sex-marriage law be put on hold until he and his anti-equality posse are able to put our civil rights to a popular vote.

Across the Atlantic in the United Kingdom, the House of Lords overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the nation’s Equality Bill which lifts the ban on same-sex ceremonies in churches. It was introduced by openly gay Muslim peer Waheed Alli and supported by his fellow Lords, including a number of prominent Anglican bishops. Under current British law, religious venues are forbidden from holding gay nuptials. The amendment now goes to the House of Commons for passage.

Yesterday, a law permitting lesbian and gay couples to marry came into effect in Mexico City a day after Argentina had its second same-sex wedding. The piece of legislation, which gives gay people full marital rights and allows them to adopt, was passed by the local assembly in December. Mexico City has now become ground zero for the culture wars in Latin America.

Back in Washington, D.C., the Roman Catholic Archdiocese continued its losing battle against progress by choosing to deny benefits to all domestic partners of Catholic Charities employees. They would rather take away much needed health coverage from spouses of new employees or spouses of current employees who are not already enrolled in the plan than provide for lesbian and gay partners and spouses. Battling its own culture war, the Roman Catholic leadership does not want to be perceived as condoning “aberrant” and “sinful” behavior.

This visceral hate for our families was echoed over the weekend in California, when the University of California Davis campus became a target of homophobia and racism.

Graphic anti-gay words and phrases were found spray-painted on the campus’ LGBT Resource Center on Saturday morning, following the discovery by a Jewish student of a swastika carved into her dorm room door.

Thankfully, many Americans realize that history and right is on the side of LGBT civil rights. In Rhode Island, three major candidates running for governor – General Treasurer Frank Caprio, Attorney General Patrick Lynch, both Democrats, and former Sen. Lincoln Chafee, an independent – pledged to 200 people present at a rally that they would allow same-sex marriage if elected. Even moderate candidate Ken Block expressed his support for our right to marry.

Internationally, LGBT activists and allies continued to fight institutionalized homophobia. In Uganda, hundreds of campaigners led by Anglican priest Gideon Byamugisha urged lawmakers to reject the proposed “kill the gays” law. The campaigners presented the parliamentarians with an online petition signed by 450,000 people worldwide opposing the bill.

In other news, activist and blogger Prerna Lal reported on the apparent rift between the immigration reform movement and LGBT community which surfaced last weekend during a briefing for LGBT bloggers. It was revealed that Reform Immigration for America, a campaign which touts itself as “a united national effort that brings together individuals and grassroots organizations with the mission to build support for workable comprehensive immigration reform,” does not have a single LGBT organization in its management team so as to appease conservative religious groups. Moreover, a leader of the immigration reform movement pronounced that promoting the Uniting American Families Act, a bill which would allow gay American citizens to petition foreign partners and spouses for green cards, was not a winning strategy for the campaign to adopt even though, as Lal rebuts, the bill has more cosponsors than any other immigration-related initiative.

In spite of this blatant shunting of the LGBT community, the bloggers were still expected to advance immigration reform, angering some of those present. A gay activist who attended the gathering summed up how many felt: “It feels like you are telling us to give a big push to your bus while we have to run behind it trying to get on.”

Finally, on Wednesday, Sen. Joseph Lieberman introduced a bill to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2010 would repeal the 1993 law barring LGBT individuals from open service in the U.S. military and put a non-discrimination policy in its place. The senator did acknowledge that this legislation may not pass anytime soon and that Congress may have to settle with a moratorium this year as opposed to an outright repeal.

The week’s big news was love overcoming hate in Washington, D.C. after decades of hard work and incremental steps taken by the community, its leaders and allies. While the overwhelming joy and relief felt by many of us is priceless, the fact remains that a D.C. marriage license does not mean much in most of the country. Those of us who will wed are still denied the over 1,100 privileges and protections endowed to different-sex couples. Nonetheless, the nation is moving in the right direction at least when it comes to civil rights – after all, nearly half of Americans now live where there is some legal recognition of lesbian and gay couples.

You can follow me on Twitter at @ErwindeLeon. Also posted on DC Agenda.

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