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(Miss) California Dreaming April 30, 2009

Posted by Kate Ryan in Gay Marriage, Gay Rights, National Politics, Politics, popular culture.
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ca-usa-2009I really thought that the dust-up over Miss California Carrie Prejean’s same-sex marriage comments during the Miss USA pageant would settle and fade away in time.  I mean, really, does ANYBODY think that ANYTHING a beauty queen has to say is that important?  (Think Sarah Palin!)

Apparently, they do.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, “celebrity blogger” and Miss USA judge Perez Hilton – who is openly gay – asked Miss Prejean about her opinion of same-sex marriage.  Miss Prejean answered that it was her opinion that marriage should be only between a man and a woman, “no offense” to anyone out there that may believe differently.  Miss California did not win, but instead finished as first runner-up to Miss North Carolina.

I, to be certain, did not watch the pageant – but I did see the crowning as I was flipping channels.  I had no idea that there was any controversy, but on the following Monday’s “Morning Joe”, Joe Scarborough asked Willie Geist (who was also a judge) if Prejean’s answer was what kept her from the crown.  Geist hemmed and hawed and said that he “hoped not”. 

Well, since then, this story got legs.  Miss California became the latest right-wing darling.  Miss Prejean has given her opinions on the issue again and again.  She was in Washington, D.C. today to appear in anti-gay marriage advertisements by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) – the organization behind the anti-gay marriage “gathering storm” ads.  Apparently, the Miss California-USA organization is none too happy about Miss Prejean using the pageant platform to espouse political and religious views.

“In the entire history of Miss USA, no reigning title holder has so readily committed her face and voice to a more divisive or polarizing issue,” the organizers said in a statement issued to the media. “We are deeply saddened Carrie Prejean has forgotten her platform of the Special Olympics, her commitment to all Californians, and solidified her legacy as one that goes beyond the right to voice her beliefs and instead reveals her opportunistic agenda.”

Carrie Prejean was Matt Lauer’s guest on the Today Show this morning, talking about the controversy and her new role with NOM.  If you watch the interview, perhaps you will be as struck as I am by the number of times she says, “I’m just here to protect marriage, Matt.”  Lauer even reads her the statement by the pageant officials and she can only reiterate, “I’m just here to protect marriage.”  (see the interview, below)

Can she answer protect it from what?  See, that’s the answer that anti-gay marriage people can never give you.  When asked directly how Adam and Steve getting married would devalue my marriage or place it in danger, they can not answer.  According to their “talking points” on their web site, the reason gay marriage should be illegal is because it deprives children of a mother and a father.  Huh?  Doesn’t single-parenthood, deadbeat parents, and parental death deprive a child of a mother and a father?  This is a little bit of a stretch, people.

Frankly, a few years ago, I was where all these folks are.  I was adamantly opposed to gay marriage, but when pressed for a reason why, I just couldn’t come up with anything more than, “It’s what I believe”.  Some people think that is enough – remember we used to believe that slavery was A-OK.  But just believing in something isn’t enough if it serves to deprive a good portion of citizens their rights as citizens.  It really forced me to rethink my position.

Right now, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Canada have legal gay marriage and surround my state of New York.  Soon, New Hampshire will follow.  Governor Patterson has introduced legislation to legalize gay marriages here in New York.  Iowa just approved it, and the California courts are likely to declare Prop 8 unconstitutional.  Since all these measures have been taken, I do not know of a single heterosexual couple whose marriage meant less because gay people married.  I do not know of a single heterosexual divorce because of gay marriage.  I do not know of a single church that has been forced by the governments of states where gay marriage is legal to perform one.  I do not know of a single religious group forced to provide their facilities for gay marriages. 

And as far as the NOM talking point  –  “If courts rule that same-sex marriage is a civil right, then, people like you and me who believe children need moms and dads will be treated like bigots and racists.” – goes….you ARE bigots and racists.



Victory in the Heartland April 3, 2009

Posted by Kate Ryan in Christian Right, Gay Rights, National Politics, popular culture.
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Today in a unanimous ruling, the Iowa Supreme Court struck down a state statute that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.  In a 69-page opinion, the three justice panel stated, ” If gay and lesbian people must submit to different treatment without an exceedingly persuasive justification, they are deprived of the benefits of the principle of equal protection upon which the rule of law is founded.”  The panel’s decision makes Iowa the third state in the nation, after Massachusetts and Connecticut, to allow gay marriage.  The battle now shifts back to California – where that state’s highest court heard arguments against Proposition 8 – and to the Vermont legislature – where lawmakers are considering a bill to make the state’s civil union law one of full marriage rights.

The Iowa ruling is significant because of it being in Iowa.  Gay rights are often looked upon as something only the loony lefties on the coasts are interested in – as if there are no gay people in middle America.   Richard Socarides, a former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton on gay civil rights and a senior political assistant for Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin in the early 1990s said of the decision,  “I think it’s significant because Iowa is considered a Midwest sate in the mainstream of American thought.”  Indeed.  Iowa set the tone for the presidential election and has been a bellweather state in terms of showing changes in traditional rural voting patterns.

But just because the Iowa courts are enlightened, it doesn’t mean that our intolerant friends from the Christian right are going to take this lying down.  Already this morning, they gathered at the Iowa state house to object to the ruling and began the process of amending Iowa’s constitution to deny gays the right to marry.  Iowa Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley (R-Chariton) issued the following statement this morning:  “The decision made by the Iowa Supreme Court today to allow gay marriage in Iowa is disappointing on many levels. I believe marriage should only be between one man and one woman and I am confident the majority of Iowans want traditional marriage to be legally recognized in this state. Though the court has made their decision, I believe every Iowan should have a voice on this matter and that is why the Iowa Legislature should immediately act to pass a Constitutional Amendment that protects traditional marriage, keeps it as a sacred bond only between one man and one woman and gives every Iowan a chance to have their say through a vote of the people.”

One Christian protester, Craig Overton of Pleasant Hill, had been carrying signs before the result was known.  Overton’s jaw dropped when he heard the news. He’s opposed to same-sex marriage, he said. “I don’t want this taught in schools,” Overton said. “Animals don’t do that. I don’t like it. I have small children, and I just don’t think this is right. I think the people ought to be allowed to vote on this instead of letting just a few people make all the rules.”

It is time that the gay marriage challenge goes to the United States Supreme Court.  New Jersey and New Hampshire have civil union laws, and New York has passed legislation that recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other states.   Until the U.S. Supremes get a crack at the issue, we hope that as more states allow and recognize gay marriages, heterosexual couples will realize they are no threat, and this opposition will fall away.

(read a summary of the opinion HERE)