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I'm Erin Judge. I'm a comedian and a writer. I live in Los Angeles. Let's hug.

November 10, 2008

Some Reasons to Support Gay Marriage

I'm writing this in response to the exciting conversation over at Jack and Jill Politics about gay marriage. Several people in the comments section of the original post have mentioned that the pro-gay marriage movement is elitist and ignores the concerns of minority voters. I don't have a ton of time for this, so please excuse my obnoxious PowerPoint style here:

A few of the material benefits:

* Full marriage equality is especially important for working-class and poor gays and lesbians because it grants them necessary spousal benefits, from health insurance to social security (once DoMA is gone).

* Immigrant and foreign citizen gays and lesbians cannot be sponsored for a green card by their American partners. This disproportionately effects poor and working-class gay people who cannot afford to immigrate on student visas or spend years in this country without working.

* State and federal tax breaks afforded to married couples would help working-class gays and lesbians.

Psychological and social benefits:

* One reason that gay people are concentrated in certain areas (New York, San Francisco) is because of homophobia in people's communities of origin. For many gays and lesbians, the difficult choice is to leave their communities to live openly or stay close to home and remain closeted. The legitimacy and dignity of full marriage equality brings us closer to a time when various communities accept sexuality diversity and gays and lesbians can live openly in their communities of origin.

* The children of gays, as I mention in my previous post, are not a hypothetical but an existing group of people. When these partnerships are not granted the same rights and dignity as straight partnerships because of homophobia, this has a negative effect on the self-esteem on the thousands of children of gay families.

* According to Dr. King, unjust laws are those that take the rights away from a certain group that are afforded to another group. An unjust law "gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority." Because heterosexual adults are allowed to enter into civil contracts called marriages, the California Supreme Court decided that it is only fair to allow any two adults to enter into a civil contract called a marriage. The active retraction of that right by California voters represents a step back towards separate and unequal.

A couple of additional comments:

* Many people believe that the pro-gay marriage movement's use of the term "civil rights" is meant to evoke the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. While I agree that the term is evocative of the brilliant struggles of that time period, it's also the correct term for the rights granted to individuals in our society for the nonpolitical conduct of their lives. Marriage rights, adoption rights, and property ownership rights are all examples of civil rights.

* The will of the electorate is not always used to decide issues of expanded civil rights, and with good reason. In cases where a majority seems intent to strip the rights of a minority, it is the responsibility of the courts to decide if laws that exclude the minority group are constitutional or not.

* In the case of California, the "No on 8" (pro-gay marriage) people were on the defensive. It is simply a different psychological position when you're trying to ask voters to grant rights than when you have some rights that voters are being given the opportunity to take away from you. It was not a passive or status-quo-maintaining choice to outlaw gay marriage. It was an active choice to remove rights, and I think that a "Why did you do that?" response is to be expected.

* Hopefully, after this tragic defeat of equality, the pro-gay marriage movement will adopt a positive, awareness-raising stance rather than one of scapegoating of various groups and lashing out. Gay voters were big Obama supporters, and he mentioned the contributions of gay Americans to his campaign within the first moments of his victory speech. That bodes well. We can reconcile our differences, but only if we continue to talk to each other respectfully. Scapegoating is wrong and unproductive. However, if a group of people (in this case, African-American voters) has taken a pretty strong stance against the rights of another group of people (gays who seek marriage equality), we have to be able to have dialogue. African-American voters effected the outcome of this proposition, and so what that means to me is that it's time for some serious outreach to the African-American voters and communities in this country. As long as the conversations are respectful, I see no reason why non-Black gays and lesbians cannot engage in them. It's unfair to Black gays and lesbians to ask them to launch and execute a behind-closed-doors PR campaign for Black voters all on their own; that simply does not make sense. We're all Americans, and we can all talk to each other.

November 5, 2008

Prop 8 Bigots: The Worst Americans

Dear friends,

I would like to name some names. From the caption of this photograph in the LA Times, "Bob Knoke, of Mission Viejo, Amanda Stanfield, of Monrovia, Jim Domen, of Yorba Linda, and J.D. Gaddis, of Yorba Linda, celebrate returns for Proposition 8 at an Irvine hotel."

Dear Bob, Amanda, Jim, and J.D.,

How sad it is that you have marred this beautiful, historic election with your unbridled elation at the triumph of bigotry and hate (by however miniscule a margin). Like videos of smug, self-satisfied racists chanting "2-4-6-8, we don't want to integrate," this image of the four of you celebrating the stripping of rights from a minority group will be viewed by the eyes of history with disgust and shame.

All day, we have been hearing incredible stories of the children and grandchildren of former slaves voting for a black man, of people who attended segregated schools and marched with Dr. King seeing a day they never thought would come in their lifetimes, of the kinds of bitter and casual racism in people's day-to-day lives that was soundly rejected by millions of people across this nation yesterday. Well, now I'm going to tell you my story.

I remember sitting in my 11th grade Advanced Placement American History class at Plano East Senior High School in Texas. My teacher (let's call her "Mrs. B") was asked about some of her political beliefs. She wouldn't talk about abortion or the death penalty, saying they were too volatile and that her opinions might upset people in the class. Then, "Ah!" she said, remembering a belief that she was sure would be uncontroversial. "I don't think gay people should be allowed to have children."

I sat there turning red. Only one close friend of mine in the class knew that I lived with my mother and her female partner, who raised me together for most of my childhood. As Mrs. B elaborated on the dysfunction that she surmised would befall the poor children of gays, I shuddered at the idea of being discovered. I desperately wanted to defend my own existence as a successful young person with the very background she was maligning, but I could only do so at my social peril. Despite the fact that most of my friends suspected the truth about my family, I was too afraid to reveal it. The climate was too charged with hatred and fear. I felt so frustrated and ashamed at myself for not being brave enough to tell my teacher the truth. I felt so afraid of the harsh judgment of those around me, especially religious Christians. I felt degraded and dismissed, and I sat there with no recourse, a 16-year-old gnashing her teeth with fear and shame, frustration and self-loathing.

With Prop 8, there has been much talk of "the children." These children are always hypothetical. Well, we're not. We're real, and we exist, and we are AWESOME. We're successful and balanced and productive members of society. And we will raise our children alongside yours, teaching them to be proud of their diverse backgrounds. We will do this so that no child will have to feel humiliated, marginalized, invisible, as I did in my 11th grade history class that day.

The only problem the children of gay people have is bigots like you.

So, back to your legacy, Bob Knoke and Amanda Stanfield and Jim Domen and J.D. Gaddis. On a day when America broke through some of its most painful discriminatory legacies, you stood for bigotry. On a day when the nation defied the expectations of the world, you became justice's worst nightmare. On a day when thousands of children might have been elevated to dignity with the validation of their family bonds, you reduced those children to second-class citizens. While we stood up to believe "Yes we can," you blocked the door to equality and viciously replied, "Actually, no you can't, you gays." (Perhaps you used stronger words than "gays.") But that is no matter. We have heard it all, and we have survived.

My people -- gay people, the families of gay people -- will not be defeated. We will continue to live our lives, build our families, contribute to our society, and live with dignity. You may never be convinced of our equality, but your children or your children's children will be. I hope for the day when you see the error of your ways, but I also know that if that day does not ever come, your ideologies will nonetheless be defeated. I believe that unjust laws must be destroyed, and if you don't, I suggest you read what I read every single January:
Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Erin Judge