Updated June 28, 20089 By Bruce H. Joffe & others
Quest News Update
Reality Check: The Column
Forty Years Ago, Today
LGBT Center of SE Wisconsin Director's Remarks Presented June 28 At Gay Equality March In Racine
By Bruce H. Joffe
Forty years ago, LGBT people risked arrest, harassment and possible police brutalization for daring to be different: for being attracted to each other, wearing the wrong clothing, possessing a publication that acknowledged their validity or affirmed their self-concept, for writing about their gender identity without disapproval, for operating a gay or lesbian business, and, especially, for expressing their love for another adult of the same sex-a serious felony embraced by all but one state.
Had we not been citizens, 40 years ago we would have been deported; had we pursued a professional career, we could have lost the certification necessary to practice and derive a livelihood. We were discriminated against in employment, housing, religion and literally every inalienable birthright - life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness - our Constitution promised wouldn’t be denied to any citizen.
Indeed, 40 years ago, there was little hope for homosexuals who the law condemned as criminals, medicine declared insane, the church condemned to hell and eternal damnation.
Forty years ago, others terrified, vilified and attacked us with impunity; what’s worse, though, is that we shunned, belittled, and hid from ourselves.
And then, 40 years ago, Stonewall happened, a defining moment in LGBT history: a series of days when - individually and collectively - those in the sexual minority stood up and fought back against the horrors of our own peculiar holocaust: “Never again! Enough was enough.”
As we look back today and pay homage to those events that occurred between June 27 and July 3, 1969, we honor our lives and reclaim our dignity. Who, precisely, are “we?” Consider this:
We are your sons and your daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, and the people next door.
Family, friends, and neighbors: Please know that we love and abide with you; today, however, we pause to reflect on how - through a revolt sparked 40 years ago - we have been energized to know, accept, and respect ourselves.
Dr. Joffe is Director of the LGBT Center of SE Wisconsin and a Professor of Communication at Carthage College. These are the remarks he shared publicly on Sunday, June 28, when a group of people from Racine and Kenosha walked with determination to several symbolic points in the area.
Vote For Louis Butler On April 1
The Wisconsin Supreme Court Needs A Real Judge, Not A Prosecutor
By Tamara Packard, Esq.
On April 1 we will choose whether to keep Justice Louis Butler on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, or replace him with a guy who apparently thinks he's running for prosecutor.
Next Tuesday, April 1, you need to vote, and I urge you to use your vote to reelect Justice Louis Butler. Most people in Wisconsin don't actually read judicial decisions, but as a practicing attorney I read them every day. Justice Butler is a true judge: he studies the law and applies it impartially in every case that comes before him. In cases I and my partners have had before the Supreme Court since he became a Justice, we have won his vote, and have lost it as well. Sometimes I agree with the outcome of his decisions, and sometimes I do not. Regardless of the outcome, however, I always respect the legal analysis. He is a real judge--not results-oriented (as his challenger appears to be), but always with an eye to the bigger picture--the purpose of the laws at issue, and the Constitutional principles that they are designed to implement.
If you believe the ads being run by his opponent and special interest groups like WMC, you might think that Justice Butler is some kind of anarchist, flinging the doors of the jailhouse open to set all criminals free. Why would a manufacturing and commerce association like WMC care about that? The truth is they don't--but they want to buy another seat on the Supreme Court, so that the next time an entire industry, like the lead paint industry, ignores the fact that its product will make people sick, or is otherwise dangerous, and they go ahead and sell it to us anyway, they might not have to compensate the people they kill or maim. As Justice Butler said in a recent opinion, "Give me a break."
A word about qualifications: Justice Butler was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2004 by Governor Doyle. Before serving there, he was a trial court judge in Milwaukee County, and also a municipal judge. He also served our state as a public defender, making sure that criminal defendants played on an even field before a jury--an important Constitutional role. He is the first African American Justice in Wisconsin. He teaches other judges all over the country as a faculty member of the National Judicial College. He has been endorsed by a wide variety of people and organizations: from the largest police officer association in the state (the Wisconsin Professional Police Association), to Governor Doyle, to the state and Madison teachers' unions, to a list of Wisconsin judges from all over the state that is as long as my arm. Check out his website if you want to see more: www.louisbutler.com
By contrast, I am better qualified to be a Supreme Court Justice than Justice Butler's challenger-and I am not qualified to be a Justice on the Wisconsin Supreme Court (yet!). While he graduated from law school a year or so before I did, I've participated in several cases decided by the Supreme Court. As far as I can tell, his challenger has never had a case there. No opinion he's written in his short stint as a trial judge in Burnett County (following a questionable appointment process by Gov. McCallum) has even been reviewed by the Supreme Court, either. The bulk of his experience has been as a criminal prosecutor--but the Supreme Court hears many more civil cases than criminal. The guy's main supporters are prosecutors and sheriffs--his friends and colleagues. He managed to drum up only 12 judges who would put their name behind him.
Voting is always important. People died to give you and me the right to vote. Please remember to vote, and to use your right wisely. Please vote for Justice Louis Butler.
About The Author: Tamara B. Packard is a Partner in the Madison law firm of Cullen, Weston, Pines & Bach LLP. Ms. Packard has been practicing law since 1994, primarily in the areas of litigation and appeals, emphasizing employment, labor and administrative law. She was named a Wisconsin "Rising Star" in Employment and Labor Law for 2006 and 2007, as announced in Milwaukee Magazine.
Ms. Packard is the immediate past-President of the Board of Directors of Fair Wisconsin Education Fund, the 501(c)(3) arm of Fair Wisconsin, the statewide civil rights organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. She continues to serve on the Boards of both Fair Wisconsin and the Fair Wisconsin Education Fund. She has provided pro bono legal representation to Fair Wisconsin, as well as to clients through the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation, AIDS Network, and Legal Action of Wisconsin.
In 2007, Ms. Packard and partner Lester Pines defended, in an Original Action before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the Wisconsin Ethics Board's right to discipline Judge Annette Ziegler for her violations of the State Ethics Code. The Supreme Court declined Judge Ziegler's request to take her case, and soon after Judge Ziegler admitted to the violations, agreed to pay a $5,000 forfeiture, and also paid the Board's attorney fees.
In the above opinion piece, Ms. Packard speaks only for herself and not for any organization or candidate. To contact Ms. Packard, email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Quest Begins It's Fifteenth Year
By Mark "Za" Mariucci
Quest has come a long way in it's fifteen year journey from a gay "shopper" to what I - and many others now feel - is Wisconsin's leading gay news and entertainment source. When we began, the draw was bar gossip and free personals for a crowd that was still waiting for gay.com and Manhunt to be invented. Over the years we slowly expanded along side Milwaukee's other two papers, In Step and Wisconsin Light. Finally with the demise of In Step it was our turn to step up to the plate and become Wisconsin's primary news and entertainment source.
Today, thousands of regulars check in, many of them each morning, to see what's new on the QNU (Quest News Update), LGBT Wisconsin's only daily news briefing. Quest's online presence remains Wisconsin's most popular gay website, according to the Alexa and Quantcast web traffic tracking services. Moreover, our expanded magazine size - which I honestly resisted longer than I should have - has given us a visibility and an apparent credibility that the pocket pal version never won.
Quest's staff of writers, columnists, photographers and correspondents span the state from Superior to Milwaukee, from Madison to LaCrosse. Quest's stories online regularly get picked up by mainstream national and state sites such as PageOneQ, WisPolitics and The Wheeler Report. As I write this piece, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's AllPolitics blog just linked to Quest's recent cover profile on Milwaukee's three openly-gay Common Council candidates.
As Quest's publisher, I and News Editor Mike Fitzpatrick, continue to be deeply involved working to better our community. We serve on boards and committees for organizations in Madison, Milwaukee and Green Bay. Mike will begin his 25th year in HIV/AIDS work later this year. We speak regularly with many of the state's LGBT movers and shakers not to find out what needs to be in the next issue, but because of a long standing commitment to the betterment of our LGBT community. It's a commitment that we try to demonstrate with each issue of Quest.
I am personally proud of the fact that for most of the past 14 years, Quest has owned and operated its own printing facility. It began in our first year when a local newspaper printer in Ripon informed us they would not continue to print the little Quest mainly because of the classified ads and photos showing the gay lifestyle. Never get a queen angry. It motivated me to invest in and learn to operate my own press equipment. While print quality sometimes suffers a little, it is a labor of love. Today we print Quest on four small format high speed offset litho presses and the people who help print include my family members as well as personal friends in the LGBT community.
And by LGBT community, Quest means ALL of the community. That includes some of the folks that some politically correct types have a hard time recognizing in public: the leather gang, the drag queens and kings, the transgendered, the cross dressers and even the bi-curious and bug chasers.
I know that we all struggle with acceptance, some more than others. As I enter my fifteenth year of publishing Quest, I want to pass on one of the secrets of my success. I've learned one of the best ways to accept myself is to not only accept but love and celebrate everyone in our queer community without exception.
Each will get their '15 minutes" in Quest. That sometimes results in advertisers shying away from placing an ad with us. Many of these "would-be" advertisers prefer to spend their money, sometimes for much more expensive ads, with other publications that do not share the spotlight with all the fringes of the LGBT community. We are proud to be all-inclusive even if it means we will lose some of those lucrative ad dollars.
It's also one of the reasons we love our advertisers. I encourage each of you as readers to acknowledge their fearless commitment. You can also help us grow by suggesting to your favorite business that they consider advertising in Quest. Often your suggestions can make a world of difference in attitudes towards the gay-owned press.
So my philosophy apparently works - sometimes better, sometimes worse - but it works. Otherwise Quest wouldn't have made it to a distinction that we pass into this month - 15 years of proudly serving Wisconsin's entire statewide LGBT community.
Lee Dreyfus Remembered - An Appreciation
By John L. Quinlan
Editor's Note: John Quinlan, who was recently selected to receive the City of Madison's Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award, is co-host of WTDY's Forward Forum, a weekly broadcast program of interviews and discussion on LGBT and other progressive issues. Quinlan is also the former Executive Director of OutReach and awarded the late former Governor the community center's first ever Political Courage Award in 2003. The photo below shows Quinlan (L), Madison Assembly Representative Therese Berceau and Dreyfus.
A truly visionary and authentic leader died this month, and the world is richer for all that he brought to Wisconsin and to the world.
If there are two politically powerful acts for which I am most proud, one was surely the opportunity to present former Wisconsin Gov. Lee Sherman Dreyfus with OutReach's Political Courage Award in July of 2003 for signing Wisconsin's first-in-the-nation gay rights bill into law twenty years before. His speech that night was filled with humor and candor--and a deep sense of a man who was not only an effective communicator, but also a risk-taking truthspeaker with a genuine commitment to both minority rights and to the greater good. That evening, I also had the honor of personally introducing him to countless LGBT community members of all ages and backgrounds who each expressed a deep sense of gratitude to a man who rose above partisan politics "to simply do the right thing" back in 1982. While at first appearing larger than life in that gloriously flamboyant blazing red vest that was his trademark, he quickly charmed each one of the people who approached him that night with his warmth and down-to-earth style.
I was privileged to have had several heartfelt and revealing phone conversations with Gov. Dreyfus in the days proceeding his receiving that award. He was clearly now a man without a party--because the GOP leadership in Wisconsin in recent years had traded in moderation and tolerance for an exploitative new agenda based in hatred and fear. In general, the state political scene had deteriorated into the destruction that is being wrought by blatant partisanship on both sides of the aisle--a political ethos in which ethics and conscience too often take a back seat to the overwhelming drive to win re-election. Gone were the days when northern Wisconsin legislators of both parties carpooled to Madison together--vigorously debating their respective positions during the day at the Capitol, but then breaking bread and drinking beer together that night. Working together with Democratic former Gov. Tony Earl, he toured the state in the 1990s, arguing for a return to the relative civility and collaboration that had characterized state politics in the not so distant past.
I had felt that same charisma and charm 25 years before, as an 18-year-old freshman at the UW, about to vote in my first election. Gov. Dreyfus's 1978 campaign was a refreshing return to a grassroots-based style of politics--and he gained the Republican nomination, despite the odds that had been stacked against him by the party establishment, with a clear majority of the vote in that September's primary. My parents were both life-long Democrats, and my politics were undeniably progressive. And yet, it was then that he presented me with the opportunity to do what was arguably the other most powerful political thing I've ever done--to cast my first-vote-ever for a fair-minded, optimistic, and inclusive Republican candidate for governor.
I long for the days when such choices were still possible--when pious political extremism was still on the fringes, and not in the mainstream of our political life. In those precious phone conversations, Gov. Dreyfus conveyed to me a sense of nostalgia laced with regret as as he longed for a time when forward-looking values were embraced by all politicians--and yet he also conveyed an undying optimism about the power of the grassroots to return our government back to the people. In his speech that night, he remembered two women who had touched his life deeply both named Clare--a mother who had been a leader in the fight for women's suffrage and other issues of basic human dignity, and a granddaughter whose idealism and sense of commitment to helping others, and to speaking out against homophobia, left him with great hope for the future. (His obituary notes that his memorial service was being delayed while that granddaughter made her way back from her role as a Peace Corp volunteer stationed in Africa.) He observed that we live in times when it feels as if the politically cynical are winning--but in that speech, he also modeled the fact that while history is full of steps forward and backward, the cycle of our political life ultimately points us back again toward justice.
Gov. Dreyfus impressed us all by actively supporting and signing into existence the nation's first gay rights law. For this historic role, we should all be grateful. But to make his legacy real, we must embrace his larger life's philosophy--his call for a return to a civil and respectful public discourse that makes no one its scapegoat, but elevates each of us to our highest potential.
Colorful, memorable, truth speaking, and bridge building Governor Lee Sherman Dreyfus. Whatever our party, whatever our background--we can each take great pride as Wisconsinites as we remember his inspiring example. And to honor his legacy, we must also reach deep into ourselves to come together with other justice-seeking Wisconsinites to make his dream become real.
My Neighbor Outs a Hypocrite of the Senate
The D.C. Madam’s Public Service
By Allan J. Lichtman
Editor’s Note: The column originally appeared in the Montgomery County Gazette, July 14, 2007 and since has been re-posted on several blogs and political websites. It was brought to Quest’s attention by veteran Milwaukee journalist Jamakaya who told us it was one of the most insightful pieces she’d read in some time. We agree.
“This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible. Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling. Out of respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there-with God and them. But I certainly offer my deep and sincere apologies to all I have disappointed and let down in any way.”
-- United States Senator David Vitter (R-Louisana), July 9, 2007
Thank goodness for my neighbor, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called “D. C. Madam.” She has performed a singular public service by exposing the hypocrisy of yet another moralistic politician, Republican Senator David Vitter of Louisiana. Vitter’s phone number turned up on a phone list of Palfrey clients for what the Madam’s lawyer Montgomery Blair Sibley euphemistically called “legal sexual services,” but for which the Madam is being prosecuted.
Politically, Vitter is no libertarian, but a “family values” Republican and presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani’s personal ambassador to the Christian Right. Sorry Rudy.
Last month, Vitter backed abstinence only education for “teaching teenagers that saving sex until marriage and remaining faithful is the best choice for health and happiness.” During the debate on the “Protection of Marriage Amendment” last year, Vitter said that nothing was more important than banning gay marriage for “promoting that stable, loving, nurturing home environment that can avoid so many of the social ills we’re dealing with today.” He has strongly opposed a woman’s right to choose safe and legal abortions.
As a Louisiana State Representative in 1998, Vitter advocated that President Clinton be “impeached and removed from office because he is morally unfit to govern.” A year later, when Vitter won a seat in the U. S. House of Representatives in a special election, a constituent “sick to death of the old-time politicians in Washington,” wrote to the New Orleans Times-Picayune hailing the victory of “a real family man who believes in family values and high morals.”
Ironies pile on ironies here. Vitter replaced Bob Livingston, the GOP’s designated successor to former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who resigned from Congress after admitting to adulterous affairs. Gingrich, of course, had himself fled Congress in part because of his own extra-marital affair.
In 2004, Vitter won election as the first Republican Senator from Louisiana in 120 years. He featured pro-family ads with his wife and children, called upon voters to stand up for “Louisiana values, not Massachusetts’s values,” and secured 76 percent of voters who cared most about moral issues. “We met Vitter, the dad who knows that it’s family that really matters, not whether we are Republicans or Democrats,” wrote Times-Picayune columnist James Gill.
Vitter’s exposure comes hard on the heels of a recent scandal engulfing Rev. Ted Haggard, President of the National Association of Evangelicals, one of America’s oldest and most respected Christian Right groups. Haggard, also an outspoken opponent of abortion and gay marriage, resigned his presidency and ministry and entered long-term rehabilitation amid allegations that he had purchased drugs and the services of a male prostitute.
Vitter-style hypocrisy, however, extends deeply into the history of America’s modern Right. Charles Lindbergh, the spokesman for America First in the 1940s secretly fathered a second family in Germany, unknown to his American wife and six children. Strom Thurmond, who campaigned for president in 1948 to preserve “the racial integrity and purity of the White race,” concealed a mixed-race daughter for 75 years. Oil magnate H. L. Hunt, who spent millions to propagate Christian conservatism in the 1950s, was a gambler and multiple bigamist.
Terry Dolan, founder in the 1970s of the National Conservative Political Action Committee, which joined the anti-gay fund-raising frenzy with a letter warning “our nation’s moral fiber is being weakened by the growing homosexual movement,” was a closeted homosexual. Here in Maryland, conservative Representative Robert Bauman was arrested in 1980 for soliciting sex from a 16 year-old boy.
Vitter did not deny that he indulged in the D. C. Madam’s juicy services. Rather, as shown above, he apologized and reported forgiveness from God and his family. He said that he will respect his family and keep the matter private. Fair enough, although you’ve got to wonder about a guy with the hubris to say he not only asked God for forgiveness but actually received forgiveness.
The bigger question is whether he is now willing to say that our choice of marriage partners or our reproductive decisions should be private matters between us, our family, and our God? Will he now propose that we now teach our children, not just abstinence, but safe sexual practice? It’s time for politicians to extend to others the tolerance and privacy they reserve for themselves.
Allan J. Lichtman is a professor of history at American University in Washington, DC. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
Editorial: Marriage Amendment Casts Gays From Society's Mainstream
From the Tomah Journal - Published October 9, 2006
Click here to see original document and multiple reader comments
For as long as homosexuality has been a political issue, gay men and women have been condemned as filthy, sinful and abnormally promiscuous.
It’s against this backdrop that many gays and lesbians yearn for the mainstream values embodied in faithful, lifetime relationships. Gays who embrace this lifestyle should be encouraged, not discouraged, which is why Wisconsin voters should reject the marriage amendment on the Nov. 7 ballot.
The constitutional amendment is more than discriminatory, divisive and mean-spirited; it’s illogical. It’s true that legal recognition of same-sex couples would alter the idea of traditional marriage, just as repealing laws against inter-racial marriage did 40 years ago. But if recognition of same-sex couples challenges one tradition, it fortifies another: monogamy.
The most offensive argument against same-sex unions is the slippery slope. Amendment supporters argue that once same-sex couples unite, it’s only a matter of time before the government recognizes polygamy, pedophilia or bestiality. That’s ridiculous. Recognition of same-sex unions serves as a restraint on sexual behavior. Lifetime, monogamous relationships work for opposite-sex couples, and gays are simply asking to be part of an institution that encourages a lifetime commitment between two people and discourages multiple sex partners.
Obviously, there are religious objections to same-sex relationships, but state-sponsored marriage has long ceased to be a religious function (atheists and agnostics are allowed to marry). Besides,it’s not necessary for the state to use the religious term “marriage” to recognize same-sex couples. Vermont pioneered the workable concept of civil unions, but backers of the Wisconsin amendment specifically foreclosed that option. The amendment’s second sentence clearly takes civil unions off the table.
Even if the amendment passes, same-sex couples could still hire an attorney and hammer out many of the legal rights and obligations that opposite-sex couples receive free of charge. But why should the state erect roadblocks against any couple that’s ready to make a lifetime commitment of love and fidelity? Gays and lesbians only desire a place in society’s mainstream, and there’s no legitimate reason to deny them rights and privileges everyone else takes for granted. The marriage amendment has no place in an increasingly bloated state Constitution. It deserves rejection Nov. 7.
July 29, 2006 Letter To the Editor:
A Georgia Peach Battles Wisconsin’s Proposed Civil Union Ban
(Editor’s Note: Quest’s news editor Mike Fitzpatrick met the author of the following opinion piece July 22 while the two were working on a volunteer canvass in Green Bay. Fitzpatrick encouraged him to follow through on his idea to share his very special story with Quest’s readers.
Marlin is a 53-year-young Wisconsin native who now lives in suburban Atlanta with his long-time partner and their cat Bubba. Marlin’s partner declined to be identified because of an association with state government.
Marlin works for Quest Diagnostics, the nation’s largest provider of clinical lab testing. His employer scores an 85% on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index.
Marlin also volunteered to battle Georgia’s anti-marriage/civil union amendment by doing “opposition research”. Marlin currently serves as president of an evolving neighborhood association.)
Last week I visited Wisconsin to celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday. I kept it in the back of my mind that, if the election were held today, she and others in my family would probably vote yes on the ban against civil unions and marriage. They would do so, knowing fully well they have an immediate openly gay family member in me.
It’s a “hot button,” emotional issue with me. Like Mary Cheney, I really don’t believe in begging others for what ought to be my civil rights. I’ll let others do that for me, when it comes time to lobby my own dysfunctional family members. However, I did ask my supportive gay-friendly niece if she saw any evidence that Fair Wisconsin was making headway in getting our points across to the general public.
Very delighted was I to learn from her that the first Fair Wisconsin commercial was being broadcast to my hometown people in Clintonville from the Green Bay media market. She described it to me in detail and added that she thought it was powerfully effective.
Then I saw it with my own eyes, while watching TV with my mom. I wholeheartedly agree with my niece’s opinion. As soon as I was able, I visited www.fairwisconsin.com to learn much more. Even though I was only going to be in Wisconsin for a few more days, I volunteered to help in the Fox Valley and Green Bay.
The very next day, I received a call on my cell phone from volunteer coordinator Mitch. I made it a point to get involved with getting signatures on a petition in the Appleton farmer’s market. But that wasn’t enough. I wanted to do more. I met up with Mitch and he gave me a short training session. After that I did door-to-door canvassing of voters on streets in Green Bay on Saturday and, again, in Appleton on Sunday afternoon. That still wasn’t enough and I felt the urge to do more.
Well, here it is: My purpose in writing this letter is to let your readers know that Fair Wisconsin is doing all the right things! As far as I’m concerned, anyone, who contributes dollars to “A Fair Wisconsin Votes No” message, can expect a high rate of return from their money. Based on the reactions of voters, with whom I spoke in northeast Wisconsin, I have never felt so confident that Wisconsin will be the first state to buck the falling dominoes effect that we’ve seen so far in all the states that approved a marriage discrimination amendment to their constitutions.
You guys stand a lot better chance of defeating this mean-spirited amendment proposal than what we had here in Georgia! All the while we were resisting basically the same language to be found on our November ballots in 2004, Georgia GLBT’s had a gut feeling in our stomachs that we were going to lose. (I encountered substantially more voters blinded by anti-gay religious dogma in Georgia than I did in my foray on Wisconsin turf.) Why, we couldn’t even raise enough funds for commercials! HRC gave only token seed money because they thought something could be gained by prioritizing the bulk of their resources on Oregon voters that year.
Well, the results were impressive over there in Oregon with 44% voters on our side, but it wasn’t enough to keep it out of their state constitution, probably because the language lacked a far-reaching collateral damage clause that pertains to unmarried straight couples; whereas, yours does (as if the ban on gay marriage, itself, wasn’t enough to vote no). Nevertheless, I do believe that we will win here in November because: Wisconsin is different; and Wisconsin is progressive; and Wisconsin is fair…and “A Fair Wisconsin Votes No.”
I moved to Georgia in 1982, just as my home state became the first state in the nation to enact the first gay rights law. Twenty-four years later, Wisconsin can make history again and to serve as a model for other states facing the same aggravating nonsense we are dealing with now. Because we’re making this November election relevant to them, I envision a large coattails effect from our push to get the fair-minded voters to the polls. I also envision swelling with pride on November 7. I’m also running my mouth right now to my gay friends here in Georgia about the impressive campaign that Fair Wisconsin is running.
Lastly, and most importantly: If this Georgia gay man can volunteer part of his vacation time in Wisconsin to help out with “A Fair Wisconsin Votes No”, then what is the excuse y’all have in not getting involved with attaining a victory within your reach on your own home turf? (I encourage you to contrast how 76% of Georgia voters in 2004 voted for the constitutional ban on civil unions and marriage versus the latest polling data of Wisconsin citizens, most likely to vote upon the same cookie-cutter language on your November ballot.)
At what point will you start getting involved? Or, do you want to resign yourself to feeling like a third-class citizen, as how we feel here in Georgia (because even civil unions are now banned down south here)?
D Marlin Knapp
Some Insights From 'Brokeback Mountain'
By Rev. Dr. Tony Larsen
Don't worry - this is not a movie review. (I wouldn't know the first thing about critiquing a movie that I found so emotionally draining.) But if there was any lesson for society in this "gay-cowboy love story," it was this: People who discover that they are gay (and yes, homosexuality is something that's discovered, not chosen), they should not try to pretend it away by getting married to someone of the opposite sex.
As "Brokeback Mountain" reveals, doing this disrupts the lives of all too many people: the gay people themselves, their unlucky spouses who didn't realize what they were getting into when they said "I do," and the children who must live through the breakup of their family.
As a Unitarian Universalist minister, I have often seen this in my counseling work. Because my denomination is accepting of gays and lesbians, I sometimes get calls from gay people from other religions - people who were told by their church or family that they could "overcome" their homosexuality by getting married or by praying it away. When I hear their stories, my heart goes out to them for the pain they've been through. But it also goes out to the spouses and children whose lives have been disrupted or even shattered by what has occurred.
I realize, of course, that some people don't discover they are gay until after they are married; and that, in any case, families can break up for many reasons other than sexual orientation. I also realize that many divorcing parents (gay OR straight) make the best of a difficult situation, and they and their children take something positive from their family's breakup. But I think most of us would agree that an intact and nurturing family is the ideal we want to strive for. (Certainly, when two people come to me for pre-marital counseling and wedding preparation, they do not do so with the idea that their union will be temporary. They understand that a marriage can fail, of course, but they don't go into it with that intention. They hold up the ideal of "as long as we both shall live.") If we can agree that intact marriages and families are an ideal worth striving for (even it not always possible in the real world), then I hope we can agree that it would be better for all concerned if people who discover they are gay are not pushed into a heterosexual union that is unlikely to last.
Unfortunately, some well-meaning clergy and family members believe homosexuality is a choice, or at least a condition that can be overcome. (The vast majority of psychiatrists and psychologists disagree with that assumption, of course.) These well-meaning folks point to "former" gay people who have successfully adopted a heterosexual lifestyle. But if you examine the evidence, you will see that some of these "former" gay people are actually bisexuals - i.e., people who can fairly easily have a romantic relationship with either gender. Some others are people who only temporarily adapt to a heterosexual lifestyle and find they cannot keep it up in the long run. (These are the people I most often meet in my counseling experiences.) There are, I suppose, some folks who "successfully" fight their natural gay orientation and live in a conventional marriage - and, though I would hardly call that an ideal relationship, I respect people's right to try that if that's what they truly want, and if their spouse-to-be is fully informed. (And, of course, there's always the option of remaining single.) But I think it is unfair to all concerned, to lead people to think they can just change their sexual orientation by wanting or believing they can.
Please, if you are (or think you might be) gay, think carefully before "choosing" to go straight. (Sexual orientation is not a choice. Think about it: Who would choose to be in a minority that's persecuted as much as gays and lesbians are?) Think about not only your own life and happiness, but the well-being of all the people who may be affected by your decisions.
And please, if you know people who are gay, do not encourage them to deny who they are or to try to change their nature. I've seen too many unfortunate results from such misguided efforts, and I think all of society would be better off without the turmoil that so often flows from this.
If we care about healthy relationships and lifelong marriages (and I, for one, do), let us encourage people to be true to their nature and to enter only relationships that have a reasonable chance of success.
In the long run, this will be better for straights as well as gays. Then perhaps movies like "Brokeback Mountain" will be reminders of a distant past - but not examples of the present, or visions for the future. At least, that is my hope and prayer.
The Rev. Tony Larsen is pastor at Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church. Parson to Person is written by community religious leaders and coordinated by the Racine Clergy Association. The above piece originally appeared in the Racine Journal-Times.
Gay, Lesbian Citizens Enrich Region
By Susan Allen
In the discussion of diversity in our community, I think it's important that we focus on all types of extant diversity here, not just racial-ethnic diversity. In a climate in which legislators are currently trying to write discrimination into our state's Constitution, a document historically used to ensure equal civil rights for all citizens, it should be no surprise that the gay and lesbian population is also experiencing exclusion and rejection.
As the (Green Bay) Press-Gazette has stated, "Stereotypes and negative attitudes, some learned from role models at very young age[s], must be changed." This applies to attitudes toward our neighbors with sexual orientations that are variants of the societal norm as well. It has been estimated that between 6 percent and 10 percent of our population is born with an orientation other than heterosexual. Combine this population with the 19.6 percent of non-white residents in our community, and we have one-quarter of our city's population that cannot check the white-heterosexual box on the census form.
This should not classify these people as insignificant or undeserving individuals in our predominantly white heterosexual community. Gay and lesbian members of the Green Bay community are business owners, physicians, clergy and church members, lawyers, teachers, law enforcement professionals, journalists, university professors, taxpayers all. They are upstanding, hard-working, contributing members of our society, who do not deserve to be marginalized legislatively, constitutionally or otherwise.
Thankfully, there are those in Green Bay who courageously embrace this diversity in our community. State Sen. Dave Hansen is one leader who chose to take a stand against the attack on gays and lesbians in Wisconsin. After receiving a voice mail from a Green Bay man saying, "Maybe we should have an open season on those people, and just let 'em know how we really think," Sen. Hansen voted against the proposed constitutional amendment banning marriage and civil unions for gay and lesbian citizens. He acknowledged that this proposed amendment goes too far and would hurt people in our community as well as in our state.
Several area businesses and corporations have committed to respecting all types of diversity within their companies and within our community. A few among the many include Kohl's, Schneider National, American Family, WPS and Procter & Gamble. They recognize that corporate social responsibility includes fostering a work environment respectful and inclusive of all members of the workforce. A commonly held belief within the business community is that economic development will be stymied if we drive away some of the best and the brightest because of hostile and/or non-inclusive community sentiments or state practices.
The Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, through its Partners in Education Program, funded a grant last year that helped gay and lesbian youth explore through literature identity issues, gender roles, tolerance, relationships and what it takes to live an authentic life.
The Green Bay Area Public Schools also strive to support and enhance their learning communities where differences are valued and affirmed. They are dedicated to developing a culture, curricula and skills in students that demonstrate an understanding and appreciation of diversity. All four high schools have Gay-Straight Alliances, which work toward making the schools an inclusive and safe learning environment for all.
This area has enjoyed a proud tradition of progressive values and acceptance of a diverse citizenry in the past. It's what our country has traditionally prided itself upon as well. I truly believe that the majority of people in our community are not appreciative of and condemn the hurtful and hateful banter we've been hearing from select public officials and select Press-Gazette readers as of late. It's time for the rest of us to stand up and let our voices, voices welcoming, respectful and celebrating of diversity, be heard. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "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."
Susan Allen is the faculty adviser for the gay-straight alliance at Green Bay Southwest High School. She advocates for gay youth in the Green Bay Public Schools and is an active ally and advocate for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. She has worked with local businesses to create a list of gay-friendly businesses where students can seek employment. Allen is also active in Positive Voice Inc., the northeastern Wisconsin's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organization.