poetics, time, body disruption and marginally queer solutions

Sunday, May 09, 2004

'Separate but equal' now part of gay marriage debate
By Victor B. Flatt

    After a shocking and unexpected court decision, much of the nation finds itself stunned at the fast pace of social change that appears to be on the horizon. There is talk of civil disobedience, of the protection of historical values and the need for a constitutional amendment to stop "activist courts" from redefining American society.
  This scenario could be drawn from the current headlines about the issue of gay marriage, but actually refers to the aftermath of the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education 50 years ago where, in striking down public school segregation by race, the court announced that "separate but equal" had no place in our society.
A revered decision in our constitutional jurisprudence, Brown is rarely cited outside the context of racial discrimination. But both the majority and dissent in the recent Massachusetts gay marriage case cite Brown -- the dissent for the proposition that state-sanctioned racial differences are unique and the majority for the proposition that any separate legal system for gay relationships is "separate and unequal." Both are right, and 50 years after this seminal decision, the underlying story of Brown can shed light on what is really going on in the gay marriage debate.
  Though racial segregation in schools and gay marriage are superficially about different issues, they share an important feature. Neither is primarily a legal issue.
The real issue in both cases is social equality.


Gay couples dream of equal housing for seniors
By Diane C. Lade

A safe place to age has been the dream of same-sex partners almost since the gay-rights movement began. The first reference to gay retirement housing found by Gerard Koskovich, a gay-rights historian and an editor with the American Society on Aging in San Francisco, was dated 1954.

"Since the 1980s, there's been serious efforts to develop housing like this," said Koskovich, the society's gay-and-lesbian staff liaison. "There's about 30 to 40 serious efforts going on around the world now."

Yet only a handful of gay-focused active-retirement or care facilities have been built or are in the final planning stages. None is in South Florida, home to what many believe is one of the largest gay senior populations in the country -- and whose numbers are growing, as midlife gay men and lesbians who have been vacationing here contemplate relocating permanently.

Those in the housing industry say high land prices and an untested market are stalling projects here and in other parts of the country.


Toward a More Perfect Union
Published: May 9, 2004

Mary Bonauto vividly remembers her first day as a lawyer at Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), the small public-interest law office that represents gays and lesbians in the six New England states. ''When I came here on March 19, 1990,'' she recalled not long ago, ''one of the things waiting for me on my desk was a request from a lesbian couple in western Massachusetts who wanted to get married.'' At that time, though, she believed a lawsuit seeking a right to gay marriage had no chance of success in any American appellate court. ''It was absolutely the wrong time,'' she told me, ''and I said no.''

A generation or two from now, March 19, 1990, may appear in history books the same way that another date appears in accounts of Brown v. Board of Education: Oct.6, 1936, the day that Thurgood Marshall accepted a full-time job at the N.A.A.C.P. Legal Defense Fund. Marshall, too, said no -- for more than a decade -- to petitioners who asked him to challenge public-school segregation in the South. Only in 1950, as the legal landscape began to shift, did Marshall finally say yes.

For Bonauto, the wait was shorter but the outcome no less momentous. ''I said no to many people over the years,'' she remembered, ''until I finally said yes.'' In 1997, Bonauto and two other attorneys, Beth Robinson and Susan Murray, filed a lawsuit attacking the constitutionality of Vermont's exclusion of gay and lesbian couples from the institution of civil marriage. The case went all the way to the Vermont Supreme Court, which in December 1999 ruled in their favor but invited the State Legislature to devise a remedy. The Legislature responded by creating the country's first-ever ''civil unions,'' which extended to same-sex couples all the legal benefits of marriage without granting the actual name.


Virginia Is for (Straight) Lovers
Sunday, May 9, 2004

With the passage of the Marriage Affirmation Act last month, the General Assembly has called on Virginians to rally at the parapets for another round of massive resistance to social progress. Like segregationists of decades past, legislators have drawn a pink line in the sand relegating gay Virginians to second-class citizenship. This isn't just a return to one of Virginia's most sacred institutions -- "separate but equal" -- this is 21st-century apartheid, Virginia style.

Despite last year's U.S. Supreme Court decision invalidating sodomy laws, Virginia's legislature refused to repeal its ban on sodomy. Del. David Albo (R-Fairfax) suggested doing so would lead to an unabated rash of sodomy in the streets. Albo's cries echo the admonitions of his predecessors, who warned against the integration of schools and interracial marriage.

Although Virginia has been home to some of the most horrific examples of gay-related assaults and murders, the Senate committee considering legislation has refused to include hate-based crimes against gays. Likewise, the General Assembly has prevented local governments and school boards in Arlington and Fairfax from making it illegal to fire someone for being gay or to harass a gay student. Perhaps our legislators should talk with some of the students who have been beaten or spit on for being different before they next consider this issue.

With the Marriage Affirmation Act, legislators enacted far-reaching legislation that Virginia's legal scholars call "recklessly overbroad." The name of the act itself is misleading. It does nothing to affirm marriage. Gay marriage has been illegal in the commonwealth since 2000, and civil unions have never been recognized in Virginia. Even so, the act goes further than outlawing civil unions: It prohibits members of the same sex from entering into any "arrangement" that "purport[s] to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage."


Educators ponder lessons in gay issues
By Dana Hull

Teri Gruenwald wanted to share the big news that she got married with the people she works with every day -- her eighth-grade students. But what she had to tell them was no simple story.

Gruenwald and her partner were among the first same-sex couples to marry in San Francisco, and she worried her students at Cesar Chavez Middle School in Union City would react badly to the revelation that she was a lesbian. Instead she got smiles -- and a flurry of questions.

Said one student: "Yeah, but does your husband know?"

"She doesn't have a husband," another student shot back. "She has a wife."

As the national debate over same-sex marriage ricochets from California to Massachusetts, students, teachers, administrators and parents are scrambling to define how to discuss the issue on campus, and whether to incorporate the subject into lesson plans.


China's homosexuals mark small steps toward equal rights
By Steve Friess, Globe Correspondent  |  May 9, 2004

HONG KONG -- Rager Shen smiled broadly and spoke calmly, seemingly oblivious to how shocking his story was to many in his midst.

"I came out to my mother recently," the 21-year-old from Shanghai told an audience of several dozen other Chinese homosexuals, or "tonghzi."

"I always wanted to tell her that I am gay, and finally, I did it."

Many in the crowd were quietly impressed, but said later they could never do such a thing. Others questioned the slight, spiky-haired college freshman in a bright-orange polo shirt about whether he had merely unburdened himself by burdening his mother.

Shen said that despite his mother's anguished response -- she confined him to their home and briefly confiscated his cellphone -- he was certain he did the right thing because "I want her to know me."


School board to decide if sexual orientation an appropriate topic
Some parents want subject out of classrooms
By Amy Bounds, Camera Staff Writer

Discussing sexual orientation in Boulder Valley School District health classes is proving to be a divisive issue.

People who passionately support or disagree with the idea of schools covering the topic are flooding the district with letters and speaking at school board meetings as educators revamp a health curriculum that is almost a quarter-century old.

The school board plans to discuss the revised curriculum at Tuesday's meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. at the Education Center, 6500 Arapahoe Road.

While sexual orientation has been part of the curriculum for years, the proposed changes would add specifics, such as discussing how the media portray gays and how students could advocate for a school environment free of discrimination based on sexual orientation.


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