Let’s Do This Already; I’m Getting Exhausted

 Have you seen Abraham Lincoln/Illinois Outline/Marriage Equality pictures on Facebook recently? That’s because the Illinois General Assembly holds its first “veto session” next week: Tuesday, Wednesday, & Thursday (Oct. 22-24).

That means we have yet another chance to finally allow same-sex couples to marry. You’ll likely be hearing a lot about this in the next few days. Here is a quick primer:

1) To pass in its current form, the bill needs 71 votes in the House. That is a high hurdle, because we could not even get 60 votes last May. However, the bill can be amended to change the start date (for next June) at which point it would only need 60 votes. We are VERY close to having those 60 votes.

Rep. Kate Cloonen is about to cast a vote on behalf of Kankakee County against equal rights.

Rep. Kate Cloonen is about to cast a vote on behalf of Kankakee County against equal rights.

2) A few representatives are still undecided. The single most important thing you can do right now is send a personalized email/message/call to your representative. GO HERE to send a message or LOOK AT THIS POST for contact information.

*A special note for those in Kankakee, Bradley, and Bourbonnais. Democrat Kate Cloonen met with the local equal rights organization this Wednesday at Family House Restaurant (my favorite breakfast spot on the planet, so I took this personal). At the meeting she said that she does not believe gay people in Illinois should be able to marry. Please take a moment now to kindly ask her to re-consider. Voting to keep people unequal (in the Land of Lincoln, of all places) should be embarrassing.

FB: https://www.facebook.com/staterepresentativekate.cloonen
Email: staterepcloonen79@att.net

3) If you end up in polite discussion with opponents of equality this week (I hope so), here’s a quick Argument Cheat Sheet

  • Claim A: I do not support this, because I believe it attacks religious liberty. Christians should not be sued because they do not want to participate in these ceremonies.

–Religious liberty is important. That is why the bill does not force any church to perform services against their wishes. Also, the bill makes ZERO changes to discrimination laws in the state. A completely separate law governs non-discrimination rules in Illinois. In other words, passing this bill will not in any way impact the rights or obligations of any religious person or entity.

  • Claim B: I do not support this, because I believe all children deserve a mother and a father. 

–Great. But permitting a loving couple to get married in no way impacts the parentage of children.  Please do not use children as an excuse to perpetuate inequality.

  • Claim C: I do not support this, because gay couples already have civil unions; they just care about the word marriage. 

–Actually, gay couples in Illinois who have a civil union DO NOT receive federal marriage benefits (i.e. Social Security rights, estate tax breaks, +1,000 others). That is because the federal government does not recognize civil unions, but they do recognize marriage.

A Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name

Do you know where that phrase comes from?  A love that dare not speak its name.

It is a line in a poem written by Lord Alfred Douglas in 1894 called “Two Loves.”  Douglas intended it a romantic message to another person you may have heard of: Oscar Wilde.

lord douglas

Lord Alfred Douglas, 1985

Lord Douglas’s father despised his son’s relationship to Wilde.  The year after the poem was published, 1895, the father — a twice divorced man with several illegitimate children– orchestrated criminal charges against Wilde for “indecency.”  In Wilde’s time, Victorian England, it was illegal to be gay.

The love that Douglas and Wilde shared was far from conventional.*   When they met, Wilde was an international celebrity; often considered the most famous man in England outside the royal family.  Wilde was famed for his style—-he never went anywhere unless he had a green carnation protruding from a button hole on his chest–but  he was also a literary genius.  A combo David Foster Wallace and Lady Gaga.

oscar wilde smaller

Oscar Wilde at his peak, 1894

Wilde’s fame and genius were no help when he stood before a judge in May of 1895.   The man on the bench exclaimed Wilde’s “crime” of falling in love with someone of the same sex “akin to murder.”  The judge growled, “It is no use for me to address you.  People who can do these things must be dead to all sense of shame […]  I shall, under the circumstances, be expected to pass the severest sentence that the law allows.”

Oscar Wilde was immediately led from the courtroom and served several years of hard labor in prison.  A bankruptcy sale was held while behind bars; he lost everything.

Prison was insufficient for Victorian England.  He was released on May 25, 1987 around lunch, but it wasn’t until 4 a.m. that he found an actual place to lay his head.  No boarding house or hotel would allow someone of his “character” to stay.  He fled to continental Europe the next morning, securing passage only through the charity of a small band of friends.  Two years later, living in the streets of Paris, an old friend happened upon Oscar at a cafe .  Wilde was uncharacteristically silent.  He soon realized that Oscar had lost most of his front teeth, had no money to fix them, and was embarrassed to open his mouth.

Wilde and Douglas, 1894

Wilde and Douglas, 1894

He died two years later, surrounded by the small group of friends who never deserted him (mostly closeted gay men).  Twelve people attended his funeral service.

Oscar Wilde turns 159 years old next month.  This year, on his birthday, representatives in Illinois will meet in a veto session and perhaps vote on a bill which would treat same sex love equal under the law.  The love that dare not speak its name.

After his conviction, Wilde was a laughingstock, called a “beast.”  He responded: “the true beasts are not those who express their love, but  those who try to suppress other peoples.”

When same sex couples are allowed to marry–and they will be allowed–it won’t be a mere victory for gay couples.  It will be a win for Oscar Wilde.  It will be a win for millions of others who lived, suffered, and died in communities where their love was not just invisible, but poison.  How many people went to their grave in shambles…because of love?

Lawmakers who vote on marriage equality must know that this vote will be part of their legacy.

Do they truly want to explain to their grandchildren why they resisted it to the end?  Do they want their name enshrined forever in the long history of injustice?

One gem in Illinois history is that the state was the first in the entire nation to decriminalize gay relationships, in 1962.  This time around, we can only hope for more Lincoln and less Douglas.**

 

*Reams are written on Douglas’s good looks–and greed, immaturity, selfishness, and temper. But from the time they met until Wilde’s death, they could never quit one another.

**The best that I could tell, running for re-election next year, Rep. Kate Cloonen does not have an active campaign website.

I Want Grandma to Be There

Six thousand Americans will die today.  Many will be seniors who suffer a stroke, end their battle with cancer, or drift away peacefully after a long decline.  Others are younger and will go suddenly–in a car accident or after slipping on a banana peel on the top of a subway stairwell.

My Grandma getting ready to destroy a pig pinata at her 70th Birthday.

My Grandma getting ready to destroy a pig pinata at her 70th Birthday.

Life is unpredictable.  Live Each Day As If It Were Your Last is a motto drilled into us–though we do a poor job absorbing it.

I thought about that this weekend while reading the graceful tributes to Mothers & Grandmothers everywhere.  Many expressed gratitude for those still around; others lit candles while remembering those gone.

All that outpouring of love made me think–as I do often–about marriage.

With three states passing marriage equality laws in two weeks, most assume that nationwide marriage equality is “just a matter of time.”  I agree.  But time matters.

Why?

Because six thousand people die every day.  Mothers, fathers, grandmas, grandpas, wives, husbands…fiances…”partners.”

One of the most common excuses that wavering lawmakers squeak in opposition to equality is: Why are we talking about this now?  There are more important things to deal with.  We need to “create jobs;” gay marriage can wait.  There are a dozen issues that come first.

We are hearing this in Illinois right now, as certain members wiggle to convince themselves that there are logical reasons to oppose equality besides “some religious people in my district don’t like it.”  Obviously, this argument is a dodge.  Legislators always consider dozens of issues at once.

Much more importantly, however, the argument completely misses the reason why gay couples and the growing number of passionate allies are fighting for equality now: We don’t know how much time we have.

Every day people lose the chance to have their mother walk them down the aisle, be kissed on the cheek by their father, or have their grandmother sit in the front row, watch her grandchild say his vows, and consider how large her legacy has grown over the last fifty years.

In 1975, Richard Adams &  Tony Sullivan became the first gay coupe to seek a marriage license.  Richard died in December with Tony by his side after 43 years together.  They were never able to marry.

In 1975, Richard Adams & Tony Sullivan became the first gay coupe to seek a marriage license. Richard died in December with Tony by his side after 43 years together. They were never able to marry.

Shane, Tom

Shane & Tom were together for six years. They bought a house, started a business, and took care of their dog. Tom died in a freak accident two years ago. They were never able to marry.

Ed & Derence spent 40 year together.  They fought desperately to have the Prop 8 decision enforced immediately so that they could marry before Ed's Alzheimer's advanced.  Ed died last December.  They were never able to marry.

Ed & Derence spent 40 year together. They fought desperately to have the Prop 8 decision enforced immediately so that they could marry before Ed’s Alzheimer’s advanced. Ed died last December. They were never able to marry.

This Issue Is Different

Many other political issues are “more important” — Pension costs, tax rates, education reform, the healthcare system…

But make no mistake: They are different.

It wasn't about seating arrangements.

It wasn’t about seating arrangements.

We all have the same goal in mind with those issues: a better healthcare system, a better education system, more secure financial footing.  Even those who are political opposites have the same big-picture end-game–they just have vastly different ideas about how to get there.

Marriage equality is different.  The two sides do not have the same goal.  One side believes that gay couples should be treated the same as their straight counterparts.  The other side does not.

When Rosa Parks stood firm in 1955, the only issue at stake was a seat on a bus.  Seating arrangements in Montgomery were of little importance when we had communism to fight, tax rates to set, and education to fund, right?

Wrong.

The importance of political issues are dictated by the principles that underlie them.  The Civil Rights movement was important, but not because bus seating in Montgomery affected people more than avoiding nuclear holocaust with the Soviets.  Marriage equality is important, but not because allowing gay couples to marry affects more people than pension reform..or healthcare…or taxes.

This is how they made bacon "in the old days."  Hopefully we can re-create this at a family wedding soon.

This is how they made bacon “in the old days.” Hopefully we can re-create this at a family wedding soon.

In the United States, Equality is always important.  Very important.  Critical.

When citizens do not have equal protection under the law, we fix it. We don’t wait until everything else is perfect.  We don’t say that we will get to it after we pass an education bill or pension reform measure. We do it now.  Right now.  Because now is all we have for sure.

But also because everyone wants Grandma at their wedding.  Or the chance to have a wedding at all.

When I am finally able to get married…in five years…in a decade…in fifteen years…who won’t be there?  Will I even make it? I’m quite clumsy.

Nothing is more important than Now.

The vote may happen in the next week or two in Illinois. We may be only a single vote short.  Please take one moment to send a final message to your Illinois representative and remind them that delay is unacceptable.  Today is all we are guaranteed.  Equality cannot wait:  CONTACT INFORMATION HERE

Wedding Songs – Choose Wisely

A YouTube video went viral a few months ago showing Alzheimer’s residents in nursing homes who seemed to awake from a stupor upon hearing a favorite song from the past.notebok

Obviously, upon re-watching the video I mentally wandered to the year 2075, when my own mind may start to give as a result of tau protein build-up in the brain.  What songs will awaken me?  From there I thought, well…probably my wedding song.  Isn’t that suppose to be one that you never forget, a tune filled with memories of everlasting love, happiness, and excitement?  Yes, I think it is.  And as long as the marriage doesn’t end in divorce, one’s wedding song may very well be one of the only sounds capable of pulling you out of a near-permanent mental fog. Think: The Notebook.

The point is this: Do not take your wedding song selection lightly. If you are already married, this life-saving lesson isn’t helpful. If you married folks do not regret your wedding song selection, great. If you do regret it, consider a divorce and a second wedding to correct the mistake.

For those yet to marry, I recommend always having a notecard and pen in your back pocket with a running list of your top 3 options. Whenever you hear a potential winner, jot it down. My Top 3 as of this moment…

1) As Time Goes By – Louis Armstrong

2) One and Only – Adele

3) Everything I Do (I Do it For You) – Bryan Adams

 

If you read this whole post and are feeling generous, please let me know your own choice–I’m always looking for more options.

History Will Remember

The Minnesota legislature is having the same debate as Illinois regarding gay marriage.  One former Republican state representative in the state gave a powerful testimony on the issue.  She was emotional while explaining how her 2002 vote against equality was something she has regretting ever since.  Take two minutes to listen (and maybe send along to your own wavering legislator in Illinois)…