Wednesday, April 10, 2013

From Beyoncé to the Moon – the Making of a Great Summer Party Auction

Post by Molly Paul, Special Events Intern

Now that the snow is finally melting and the on again-off again snow flurries have become on-again-off again spring showers, it’s time to start gearing up for GLAD’s Summer Party in Provincetown on Saturday, July 27th.  With Kate Clinton confirmed as our celebrity auctioneer extraordinaire - this is definitely an event you don’t want to miss!

Kate Clinton will once again be our auctioneer at the
annual Summer Party in Provincetown July 27

Friday, April 5, 2013

Broadening and Embracing the LGBT Family

David Wilson, together with his husband Rob Compton, was a plaintiff in GLAD’s 2003 case Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, which made Massachusetts the first state where same-sex couples could marry. Since that experience, he has committed his time and resources to the movement for LGBT equality, and particularly to working within the movement to increase outreach to people of color, combat institutional racism, and broaden and diversify who is embraced by and feels a part of the LGBT family.

And family is what it’s all about for David.  He was in Washington D.C. last week for the two days of Supreme Court arguments on marriage equality and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). When we sat down to talk about that experience, however, he started with a different story, about his granddaughter.

David was a keynote speaker at the 2013 GLSEN Massachusetts Conference last weekend, and when his granddaughter Ruby, a high school student, learned about the engagement she not only asked to attend but wanted to speak. At the conference, she shared a story about a classmate who came out to her as transgender two years ago and how she immediately jumped into action as an ally, encouraging the student and asking what she could do to help him feel supported at school.   She was a key player in helping fellow students understand the transition and ensuring that they use the right pronouns and be respectful of his privacy.

Her awareness as an ally, David pointed out, stemmed from her upbringing in a family headed by a gay couple (between them, David and Rob have five adult children from prior marriages, and seven grandchildren) and absorbing the joys and difficulties that LGBT people face through the experiences of her own family. Years and years of LGBT people forming families, he said, has led to entire families – like his and Rob’s – that are standing up to share their stories and join the movement for LGBT equality.

David calls this phenomenon “broadening the diversity and inclusion of the team” -- expanding the LGBT family to better represent the diversity of our community and the diversity of our issues.  That’s precisely what was on his mind as he attended the Supreme Court arguments in the Windsor case, and when he spoke at a rally on the courthouse steps last week.

“I was there [in DC] to figure out how a ‘win’ will impact people on the ground, especially people of color, transgender people, people outside the movement, people who don’t feel the movement is for them,” David explained. “As a plaintiff in the first winning marriage case, I’ve had a lot of privilege.  How can I make sure I take the access I’ve had, and translate it to others?  I’ve been at the forefront of this fight. What about the people left out or left behind?”

His concern for “the people left out” was only heightened when he finally got into the courtroom to hear a portion of the Windsor DOMA argument after a lucky opening happened for the last thirty people who were expected to stay 3 to 5 minutes but actually stayed 15 minutes until the ending statements. Once inside, David found himself thinking, ‘Where’s the diversity in this room?’ To my mind, it wasn’t there. There was certainly diversity among the nine justices but it did not appear to be present  in the rest of the room.”

It was a marked contrast to the exuberant scene outside the Supreme Court doors, where a throng of LGBT protesters and various supporters of the freedom to marry gathered to make their voices heard. “The rally outside the Court was real,” said David. “The speakers, and the people gathered around were very excited, proud and connected.  It was a really diverse crowd.” 

“But then the people coming down the steps from the Court didn’t reflect the people at the rally,” he added. “And there I was, coming out of the Court feeling so proud but disconnected from the folks gathered at the bottom of the steps of the Supreme Court”

Prior to going into the court, David received a warm welcome when he stepped to the microphone at the rally. “I think the organizers and the people gathered were excited to see a man of color, someone with gray hair, someone who has had long range involvement in this movement,” said David. “I felt incredibly welcomed, appreciated and valued.”  Once the crowd recognized me as one of the earlier speakers, they were so happy and proud that I had been granted access as one of them.

He wants other members of the LGBT family to feel that same embrace, even if they feel the marriage movement doesn’t speak to them.  Justice Elena Kagan gave him a way to do that during the DOMA argument when she quoted a passage from the House Judiciary Committee’s report on DOMA, in which the committee concluded that by passing DOMA, “Congress decided to reflect and honor collective moral judgment and to express moral disapproval of homosexuality.”

That’s when it dawned on David that a win in Windsor would not just provide married same-sex couples with federal equality in marriage, it could also potentially strike a blow to the many other laws that have been enacted out of moral disapproval of LGBT lives, affecting a much broader swath of our community.

“When Justice Kagan read the morality piece I really understood,” said David. “I thought, okay, when I leave this room, leave Washington, what can I do to make this more real?  How can I show people that this will impact you, too?  How can I translate this to the Black Church, to seniors, to kids of color?"

"That’s what I’m thinking about now.”

Wrapping up the week at the Supreme Court with Mary Bonauto

Post by Laura Kiritsy, Manager of Public Education

GLAD Civil Rights Project Director Mary Bonauto (right) discusses
DOMA and the Supreme Court on the Rachel Maddow Show March 27

On the heels of two of the most exciting and important days in recent LGBT history – the Supreme Court arguments in the Perry and Windsor cases – our own Mary L. Bonauto gave her expert analysis on the arguments in a conference call with GLAD’s Equal Justice Council late last week. Not surprisingly, we had the most RSVPs we’ve ever had for one of our monthly EJC calls.

Before summarizing Mary’s analysis, allow me to kvell for a moment, and point you toward a recent New York Times profile that does a fantastic job detailing Mary’s and GLAD’s historic and strategic contributions to the marriage movement, work that made last week’s Supreme Court showdown possible. She also wound up  on Rachel Maddow’s show –– and went head to head with the Family Research Council’s Ken Klukowski on PBS News Hour, among several other media appearances.

Now, a few highlights of Mary’s analysis, which was offered with the caveat that she was giving her “tentative impressions” of the arguments and the questions the justices asked, rather than making a prediction about case outcomes. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

No Ordinary Day

GLAD Public Affairs and Education Intern Adam Connito was in D.C. on March 27 to watch his aunt sworn in before the U.S. Supreme Court, and was able stay for the arguments in Windsor v. United States. He shares his reflections - written in the airport on his return flight to Boston - on witnessing the historic deliberations on behalf of Edie Windsor (pictured above with her late wife Thea Spyer) and tens of thousands of others impacted by DOMA.

Airports are a good place to reflect. Something about leaving one place for another – maybe it’s the anticipation of movement, progress, and destination. It’s nice to think about where you were before you get to where you’re going, and I can’t shake the thought of serendipity when I consider that my first trip to D.C. included a visit to the nation’s highest court to hear oral arguments in Windsor v. United States.

Creating "Beloved Community" Outside the Supreme Court

Post by Carisa Cunningham, Director of Public Affairs and Education

Inside the Supreme Court on Monday and Tuesday it was all blue suits, “may it please the Court”, legal arguments, and tradition.  Outside the court was a very different and yet also very American scene. 
Wandering around connecting our side’s people with reporters, I was invigorated by the variety of expression and sheer joy of equality supporters.  What’s not to love about signs like “If God hates gay people, then why are they so cute?” and “Nature Digs Homosexuality: Scientists for Equal Rights”?  In addition to scientists, there were labor unionists, inter-racial (straight) couples, African-American ministers, military members, kids and grandparents, civil rights leaders, people from north, south, east, and west, all supporting equality under the law for gay people.

The other side cornered the market in mixed messages:  we had the Westboro Baptist Church singing “Another One Bites the Dust” – by Queen; and men in skirts (okay, kilts) in an anti-equality marching band.

I ran into our wonderful plaintiffs Melba Abreu and Beatrice Hernandez, as well as Bette Jo Green and Jo Ann Whitehead, and Goodridge plaintiff David Wilson spoke to the crowd on the second day.  The media was both penned up below the Supreme Court steps, and set up on the plaza to talk to lawyers and plaintiffs immediately following argument.  Both days, the first person out the building was Jeffrey Toobin of CNN, who headed straight for his camera and immediately started talking.
It was incredibly moving to see Edie Windsor, in her bright pink scarf, waving to the crowd, which lovingly cheered her.  And it was satisfying to see GLAD’s Mary Bonauto share her wisdom with everyone from ABC News to members of the community who stopped her on the street.

Kudos go to all of the organizers, and all who showed up, whether organized or disorganized.  No matter what the legal outcome, these two days were a true expression of what Martin Luther King, Jr., called “the beloved community.”  He said, “But the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the beloved community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opposers into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.”  

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What a Day it Was: Stepping Up for Equal Rights

Jo Ann Whitehead (right) and Bette Jo Green, plaintiffs in GLAD's challenge to DOMA, Gill v. OPM, were in Washington D.C. last week for the rallies outside the Supreme Court. They share their experiences below.

Jo Ann Whitehead

And now we step up for our rights under the law of the land.  Bette Jo and I are happy we went to DC last week to stand outside SCOTUS during the morning rallies on Tuesday, March 26 (prop 8) and Wednesday, March 27 (DOMA):

The weather was cold, but the fervor for equality warmed us deeply.  The size of the supportive rally crowd took our breath away; it felt like a cold-weather Gay Pride Day.  As the rally formed, we were cheek-to-jowl, able to move slowly through the flux of the crowd; this was a great opportunity to strike up conversations and make new “instant friends.”  There was a mix of young, old, lgbt, straight, racially and culturally diverse, businesses, political groups, and religious groups.  When the religious leaders (representing about every denomination you can think of) came from the prayer breakfast and walked through the crowd to the speakers’ area singing “this little light” it sparked a joyous sing-along.

Fortunately, we were a distance from the “opposition” and the “must-hate” groups who were there, but they were much smaller numbers than the waves of support; some of their signs and banners were confusing, some were downright nasty (tradition, marriage, property; [swastika]; god hates fags). 

From our vantage point we enjoyed the bountiful upbeat, colorful, and supportive signs and banners, some homemade and some provided by the rally organizers:  (Jesus had two dads and he turned out fine; guys, I said I hate figs; if God hates gay people, why are they so cute?; in case you’re confused [the rainbow flag] isn’t a white flag). 

We were so happy to see two other Gill vs OPM plantiffs (Beatrice and Melba, who stood for a loooong time in the “three minute line” to get into SCOTUS for a bit of the hearing on Wednesday).  Kudos go to many:  GLAD, HRC and other media coordinators; the rally organizers (the lineup of speakers was notable); the legal teams, the legal teams, the legal teams... 

Wow, thank goodness times change!  As Gill vs OPM plaintiffs, we hope the big celebration comes soon.

Bette Jo Green

Tuesday morning early we were on our way.  The Metro was humming with folks in suits carrying  briefcases, getting on and off, until we arrived at our stop: Capitol South.  We emerged into the crisp air, greeted by volunteers in red t-shirts and vests, giving us directions to the Supreme Court building, along with placards and smiles.  Our placards read “Marriage is Love Commitment Family” and we noticed more and more warmly dressed placard-carrying folks going in the same direction.  Then we joined the throng – bright colors, lots of laughter, hand-printed signs, rainbow flags – and tried to get as close to the front steps as possible.  People stood in the visitor line for the hearing, but many more were just like us making their way past the cameras and reporters to celebrate this historic moment together:  the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) taking on gay marriage and gay marriage rights.  I shivered when I saw EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW inscribed on the building.  Could that also apply to us?
The cold wind on this sunny day didn’t seem to matter so much in such a sea of humanity.  We were huddled close together, jostling, saying “excuse me” so many times that we started talking about the day, learning each other’s stories, laughing as each new sign went by, chanting, singing, applauding the speakers, thanking the volunteers for all their efforts.  We were a sea of color:  rainbow and American flags, scarves, mittens, hats, and skin tone with the musical interludes keeping us hopping.  A large contingent of ecumenical clergy wound their way through the crowd singing “This Little Light of Mine, I’m Going to Let it Shine” drawing us all in.  And the speakers from near and far gave us inspiration from their personal stories and their support of the LGBT community.  We left many hours later, only after our numb feet couldn’t hold us up any more.   We needed energy for the next day.
Wednesday morning we were old timers, not only in age, but in experience.  We knew the route, the stop, the way and came even earlier to the front steps of SCOTUS.  This time we introduced ourselves to the folks around us who came from Virginia, Maryland, California, etc.  Gay, straight, young, old, black, white – all energetic, all with stories to tell.  The placards read “Equality Now” and multitudes of American flags joined the handmade signs, each person with a wider grin than the last.  By this time our cheeks hurt from smiling so much.  We talked with each other about the joys of commitment and our families and the weather and how good it felt to be here.  It was amazing to realize that each of us in that vast crowd had a story to tell if we would take the time to listen.  And we cheered for Edie Windsor and her legal team when she emerged from the SCOTUS building.  By that time we were happily ensconced indoors watching her on TV.
What a good day it was.