Tuesday, February 16, 2010

New Hampshire, The "Live Free or Die! (Unless You're Gay)" State

Earlier in 2009 I went to the state house in Concord New Hampshire and filmed some of the most vitriolic testimony I've ever witnessed against the equal rights of GLBT people. Some statements were so backwards that in one instance a man told the legislative panel consisting of several women legislators that we should go back to a time when women wore dresses instead of pants. Chillingly, this elicited applause rather than the disapproval it should have, making me wonder what the hell happened to the "Live Free or Die!" state.

As most people know New Hampshire legislators voted to extend marriage equality to same sex couples, that change taking place January 1, 2010 only weeks ago. This came after several very heated public meetings in which it became very clear that religious beliefs are being openly used to justify the majority's call to deny equality to those lifestyles they don't approve of regardless of the fact that they have not proven any benefit to doing so.

Associated Press - February 15, 2010 8:15 AM ET
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - New Hampshire's House votes Wednesday whether to repeal the state's six-week-old law legalizing gay marriage. The House also will vote on a proposed constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. The Judiciary Committee is recommending that the House kill both measures. Gay marriage supporters said gay couples have gotten married without any detrimental impact on society. They also said it would be wrong to enshrine discrimination in the Constitution. Opponents said the consummation of gay unions can't be spoken of in polite society. They also said voters should decide, not lawmakers if the marriages should be allowed.

This leaves me wanting to ask the public; do we have a right to restrict our neighbors liberties simply because we disagree with their choices? My instinct is to say no since one of the inalienable rights listed in the Bill of Rights is the pursuit of happiness. My second point is one based on religious freedom. I'm well versed in Catholicism and once had the notion I'd be a Catholic priest, and it is my opinion that the Church's official stance against GLBT equality is not Christ's will, but rather the will of those who know how turn hate and fear into a money making business. If we truly had religious freedom in our country and in the state of New Hampshire how is it that I cannot live by the terms I believe in? I am again looking at the threat that my government is going to side with another religion against me without a stitch of proof  of harm needed. So much for the seperation of church and state.

Another thing that really gets under my skin are all the bald faced lies said to scare conservative bigots into believing their children are at risk someone because GLBT people now have marriage equality. Here's a fine example of this attempt from N.H. state Rep. Nancy Elliot of Merrimack:

During a judiciary committee hearing last week in Concord for a bill that would repeal same-sex marriage, Elliott, R-Merrimack, said a parent called her and told her that fifth-grade students in Nashua were being shown naked pictures of men and taught how to engage in anal sex. Elliott did not name the parent but blamed the state’s passage of same-sex marriage for the graphic subject matter being introduced to elementary schoolchildren.

“Because we have made a marriage of same sex, they are now teaching it in public school. They are showing our fifth-graders how they can actually perform this kind of sex,” Elliott said.

Since this outrageous statement was made some of the moderate middle have come forward to finally question this claim and hold Rep. Elliot accountable for her allegations:

“Either turn in the name of the ‘mother’ whose child was subjected to this alleged display of pornography to the Nashua Police Department, as required by law to protect the children, or recant and apologize publicly,” Ward 3 Alderman Diane Sheehan wrote in an e-mail she sent to Elliott on Sunday afternoon.
“If neither of those two actions take place in the next 48 hours, I will begin exploring action to prosecute for false statement, and your removal from office,” Sheehan wrote.

Tomorrow marks the next time American equality will be up for a vote; Lurleen, over on Pam's House Blend has more to this story as well as links to those who wish to contact N.H. legislators prior to their vote. A big thank you should be sent to Alderman Sheehan for her courageous stand for truthfulness in this and all matters. America needs more people interested in standing up for what's right regardless of what they personally believe in the matter.

"I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." -Evelyn Beatrice Hall 
Hall's quote is often cited to describe the principle of free speech; the essence of liberty. New Hampshire had it's own version of such a liberal; General John Stark who coined the term:

"Live Free or Die!" which was shortened from "Live Free or Die! There are worse things than death!"

He was talking about oppression of both freedom and religion.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Why All Homosexuals Are Loosely Moraled Pediphiles Who Don't Deserve Equality

I draw your attention to the picture I have chosen for this article, one of the character Dr. Smith in the 1960's series "Lost in Space" who was portrayed as a cowardly villain overtly, and subliminally as a homosexual. The two independent ideas seemed to be intermingled by society and fueled by both religion and media. This character and image is part of a misconception that needs to be addressed, and one that even in our time today is hard to shake off.

Last week's post here on Live, Love, and Learn elicited an anonymous responder who left no comment of their own other than two hyperlinks for us to visit and draw our own conclusions from. Clearly the person leaving these links thinks along the lines that bring us the character of Dr. Smith.

The first link belongs to an article by Scott James in the New York Times titled "Many Successful Gay Marriages Share an Open Secret". The article goes on to give the argument that new research shows same sex couples have open relationships, and this seems one ground by which people should disapprove of same sex marriage. The underlying message becomes more clear with this portion of the article:

"As the trial phase of the constitutional battle to overturn the Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage concludes in federal court, gay nuptials are portrayed by opponents as an effort to rewrite the traditional rules of matrimony. Quietly, outside of the news media and courtroom spotlight, many gay couples are doing just that, according to groundbreaking new research."

The flaw in this statement is that heterosexual couples pioneered open marriages, not gay couples, coining the term "swingers" to refer to it. Gay couples obviously cannot be responsible for a condition that existed before their marriages were legal, so couples who decide to open their marriages are far from rewriting what has already been rewritten.

Those who wish to have open relationships, married or not, face the ire society has for them as their penalty, but it is not grounds for dismissing their freedom to marry. In no way does the decision of swingers effect an outside party's beliefs, or lessen the ability of people who disapprove to enjoy their own marriages.

James' article when read fully does attempt to deliver evenness (while still incorrectly assigning swinging as a new creation from gay couples) to the the argument quoting benefits to swinging:

"And while that may sound counter-intuitive, some experts say boundary-challenging gay relationships represent an evolution in marriage — one that might point the way for the survival of the institution."

The second link that was shared anonymously with us was to an article written by Mary Ann Bragg of the Cape Cod Times titled "Cape Activists Support Child Pornographer". The article is about John Perry Ryan, 62, of Braintree, Vt. who was once a gay rights activist in Cape Cod and who is now convicted of disseminating child pornography.

While the facts against Ryan are compelling you need look no further than the title of Bragg's article to see an anti-gay inflammatory statement that encourages the stereotyping of GLBT Americans. I'm on the Cape and I'm also a gay rights activist. I most certainly don't approve of child pornography, and I resent being impugned by Bragg's blanket statement "cape activists support child pornographer" which might as well say "Gays are Pedophiles" since that seems the subliminal value of the title when read at a glance. All the people I know, gay or otherwise, openly and loudly denounce any form of child abuse including child pornography. 

Interestingly, and for reasons unclear Bragg publishes the names of seven of the more prominent people who came to Ryan's defense by writing letters on his behalf asking for leniency based on his former accomplishments as an activist. Bragg does this not once, but two days in a row while reporting on Ryan. While these letters may be part of a publicly heard case and therefore public information it begs the question; doesn't posting their names encourage intimidation and therefore wrong? Isn't this akin to the same argument that has kept KnowThyNeighbor.org from publishing the names of petition signers in Washington state who signed an unsuccessful anti-equality effort? Is it different when the shoe is on the other foot?

Ms. Bragg's article is irresponsible and beneath her ability as well as Cape Cod Times' standards of fair and ethical unbiased journalism because of the article's title. As in the first article cited by our anonymous contributor the title seemingly baits the reader into thinking along bigoted stereotypical lines.

A fundamental ethical principle we can all live by is that we should be viewed as individuals afforded the dignity our own actions and intents deserve. This is an ethic America, in all its diversity needs in order to grow in healthy unity. We as a nation need courage, wisdom, and determination to look carefully at each situation and be sure that we are not hastily judging others and unnecessarily restricting someone rights based on their differences from ourselves. Might does not make right, not in America, not anywhere. The recent voting away of GLBT equality in several states only serves as an example of our discriminatory past and how we will eventually look back at these mistakes with the appropriate shame we do our other hard learned lessons.

My question for the moderate middle is such; When is it ethical to suspend the fairness of equality and view a group of people with only one common bond as a stereotyped threat based on unsubstantiated fears? The answer is never, and more by the day stand with me United.

"History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people." Martin Luther King, Jr.