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Besides the obvious presidential election, which I voted early for already, there are a few other elections and states that I’ve got my eye on this year:

  1. Back in May, a California Supreme Court judge ruled their gay marriage ban unconstitutional.  One month later, hundreds of couples (including Ellen Degeneres) got their marriage on.  This, of course, infuriated conservatives, who then garnered enough signatures to take it to the voters, resulting in Proposition 8.  Proposition 8 states that marriage should be between a man and a woman.  This will make for a confusing ballot- those who believe in marriage equality have to vote no on Prop 8, while those who disagree have to vote yes.  Conservatives are pulling out all stops to make this proposition pass, including cyber attacking the No on Prop 8 website.  Check out some awesome videos encouraging people to vote no here.
  2. Another cause near and dear to my heart- animal rights.  Once again, California is taking the lead in reform and has drafted Proposition 2, an animal rights proposition that would outlaw certain types of animal confinement crates, such as gestation crates and battery crates. 
  3. The magic number right now is 60 for the Democratic Party to have a fillibuster-proof majority over the Senate.  There are 12 GOP seats up for election this year, and a few very close races:
  • Ted Stevens, the Republican senator from Alaska, was convicted of corruption charges and ethics violation, yet he still claims to be staying in the race.  Here’s hoping that Alaskans maybe see that whole ethics violation as a bad trait to have in a senator and instead go for Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich.
  • Former SNL star and political writer Al Franken is running for a US senate seat in Minnesota against incumbent Norm Coleman and seems to be taking the lead.
  • In North Carolina, incumbent Elizabeth Dole seems to be losing her steam while Democratic candidate Kay Hagan is moving forward.  It’s really tight at this point, but Dole may very well lose her seat.

This is a pretty big election year, for so many obvious and not so obvious reasons.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed for an amazing Election Day and a joyous Wednesday, November 5th.  As for me, I’ll be partying down at Obamapalooza in Grant Park on the night of November 4th.

Two steps forward:

This past February, Illinois General Assembly Representative Greg Harris (D-Chicago), the only openly gay and HIV-positive representative in the Assembly, introduced the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act. This would make civil unions legal in Illinois. This is a pretty freakin‘ big deal. It would make Illinois the first state in the Midwest to have such a law, and it’s very, very close to taking it’s first giant step towards becoming a reality here. I spent this past Wednesday in Springfield lobbying with Equality Illinois for this cause. Lobbying is a really interesting process. Basically, when the representatives are in session and on the floor, you have to go to a roped-off door that leads to the floor. You then hand your business card with your rep’s name on it to the security guard there, who gives it to a page, who gives it to the rep on the floor. If the rep is able, he/she comes out to speak with his/her constituent. Sounds like a very calm, regulated process, right? It would be, if there weren’t at least ten other groups trying to lobby for different bills. It’s pretty much a madhouse with people pushing against each other in a small space, shoving their cards in front of them so someone can pass it on to the security guard.

While my rock star representative is already a co-sponsor of the bill, I decided to visit the white Republican land of Lake County representatives. I tried to speak with the representatives where both sets of my parents live as well as the representative from where I grew up. Unfortunately, I was only able to get one representative, Sid Mathias (R-Arlington Heights) to come out and speak with me. I tried to explain to him how important this bill was, and he told me that he hadn’t made his decision one way or another about the matter and that he was waiting for the debates and keeping an open mind. His tone of voice and demeanor gave me the impression that he’s already decided to vote against the bill, but you never know.

So what happens next? We’ve been told that we only need about 12 more strong supporters before they feel comfortable to call a vote to this bill, which will probably happen in the end of May. Next, it goes to the Senate to be voted on some time in November. Once it passes through the Senate, Governor Rod Blagojevich will sign it into law. And that’s it, folks. Civil Unions in Illinois for Christmas.

Want to help? Check out Equality Illinois and sign up for their updates. They’re the ones with their fingers on the pulse of this issue and will let everyone know as soon as they know who we need to lobby again, when a vote will happen, and other ways to help. This is a huge deal. Please, try and do your part to be a part of Illinois and Midwest history.

Two steps back:

Just one day before we were lobbying for civil unions in Illinois, another bill was being debated on the floor, introduced by the aforementioned rock star representative of mine, Sara Feigenholtz (with help from the ACLU). This bill, called the Vital Records Act would have made easier for people to change the gender on their birth certificate after undergoing a sex change. Currently, Illinois law allows this to happen if the person presents an affidavit from the doctor who performed the procedure. This process, however, does not recognize affidavits from foreign doctors. This bill would have allowed US doctors to examine those interested and sign an affidavit affirming that they’d undergone a permanent sex change through surgery or hormone treatments. The bill failed by a vote of 32-78.

But wait, there’s more. Three particular representatives, two Republicans and one Chicago Democrat (!!!), completely demeaned the bill and those it was supporting by saying outrageous comments on the floor, in public view. Here’s a little snapshot of the incredibly asinine and insensitive things they said (taken from the Chicago Tribune article linked above):

Rep. Bill Black, a Danville Republican, said he objects to recognizing non-surgical sex changes. “Maybe you went somewhere and a voodoo doctor said you were now a man, where you had been a woman,” Black said. “I’ve often thought that perhaps I was a female trapped in a male body. I know — it scares me, too,” he said to hoots from his colleagues. “I wish I didn’t have to shave every day. … I’d like to smell better. I’d like to have softer skin.”

The legislation came up shortly after a debate about neutering deer to control their population. Mahomet Republican Rep. Chapin Rose, joked that the state might start issuing sex-change documents to deer. He complained about spending time on the issue when bigger problems, such as electricity prices, remain unresolved. “How do you possibly — possibly — bring this forward when there’s so much this body needs to be considering?” Rose asked Feigenholtz.

Rep. Art Turner, a Chicago Democrat, was presiding over the chamber during the debate and switched to a falsetto voice to ask, “Have all voted who wish?” Turner voted for the measure and said he didn’t mean to offend anyone.

Seriously, these guys run our state? This is absolutely unacceptable. If you live in Illinois, please write your representative and tell them how you won’t stand for this kind of insensitivity and bigotry. Here’s a sample text you can use:

Dear Representative __________:

The behavior that took place during the discussion of HB1732 is beyond disgusting and has no place in our House of Representatives. Rep. Bill Black (R-Danville) , Rep. Chapin Rose (R-Mohamet), and Rep. Art Turner (D-Chicago) should be censored for their comments and actions.

It is this kind of hurtful language that dehumanizes people and perpetuates and legitimizes a culture of hate. Please let your “colleagues” know that people in your district are appalled. Did they not learn anything during the Imus incident?

Please if this ever happens again have the courage to stand up and stop it — rules or no rules.

Sincerely,
(Your name here)

These people are in place because we made it so. They have an obligation to listen to us. They’re not going to hear us if we don’t speak up. Please do your part.

First of all, thanks to Robby for showing me this article in the most recent issue of Mother Jones:

The Gay Marriage Stimulus Package
Cameron Scott March 01 , 2007

Gay marriage is usually cast as an issue of human rights (for supporters) or immorality (for opponents), but what about fiscal responsibility? Herewith, some of the annual economic benefits of legalizing gay marriage:

  • Same-sex couples marry and move into a higher tax bracket, boosting federal taxes by: $400 to $700 million
  • Newly formed gay households move up in income and are cut from programs such as Medicaid, resulting in savings of: $50 to $200 million
  • Uninsured gays and lesbians, whose health care costs are now paid by the government, join their spouses’ insurance plans. If a third do so, federal costs drop by: $190 million
  • If half the same-sex couples now living together get married (the rate seen in Vermont and Massachusetts) and spend a quarter of what straight couples do, it results in a wedding-industry boon of: $2 billion
  • TOTAL: Up to $3.1 billion

Sources: Congressional Budget Office, Williams Institute

Who thinks that will help convince Congress? Anyone? Funnily enough, these stats were developed using information from the Congressional Budget Office, meaning that those folks up there on the hill have access to it pretty easily. I wonder why it hasn’t come up at all?

In more local news, I’ll be down in Springfield next week with Equality Illinois lobbying for the passage of the Religious Freedom and Civil Union Act, which would extend legal recognition and many benefits of civil marriage to same sex couples. The fact that it made it his far in the Illinois government is pretty exciting. Check out the Equality Illinois site to see what you can do to help.

From CNN Today: Ballot Measure: Straight couples, procreate or else

Basically, these people in Washington are saying, “OK, fine. If marriage is all about the procreation, let’s see it.” I think this is a great example of creative thinking and turning some one’s words against them. I understand that most conservatives have other issues with gay marriage, but I feel like this addresses a large part of the argument. There are plenty of married couples without children in this world, and the number is rising:

  • In 1970, 27.4% of women ages 50-54 had at least one minor child of their own in their household. By 2000, it had fallen to 15.4%.
  • In 1976, one in ten women in their forties was childless. In 2004, it was almost one in five women who were childless.

So, there it is. Marriage isn’t about procreation anymore. It’s about a lot more than that, and if you don’t agree, then sign onto this bill in Washington and see how many marriages become annulled, or even worse, how many married couples have children even though they didn’t want to, just to prove that marriage exists only for procreation.

No worries- even the people who introduced this bill know that it’s absurd. But they’re making a point and they’re making it loud and clear. Just the other day I was lamenting about how our generation lacks the passion and the energy that was found in the activists and protests of the 60s. These kinds of happenings gives me hope for our generation.

Media Matters is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to “comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the US Media”. These folks go through the media (written, audio and visual) with a fine-toothed comb and find any discrepancies. They’ve documented times when a politician has said something that directly contradicts what they’d said months earlier, when newscasters are blatantly favoring one side of a story or misconstruing facts and when obvious points are completely disregarded. These people rock. Most of the information that I found about the issue below is thanks to them. Please support them in any way possible.

I’m sure we’ve all heard about Mary Cheney’s pregnancy. Yes, she’s a lesbian and has a life partner. Yes, they used a donor. And yes, she is a declared Republican (which, as it were, happens sometimes with the gay community). The media jumped all over it and haven’t really let up since. It’s opened up the debate on gay parenting in a much more public light, which means that closed-minded conservatives get to construe hard facts and evidence however they wish. For example, remember when Kerry supposedly “outed” Mary Cheney in the 3rd presidential debate in 2004 (even though she was already publicly out)? The media had a field day with it and lambasted him for being insensitive and for invading her privacy. Well, 2 years later, Mary Cheney announces her pregnancy, and the media couldn’t jump all over it fast enough. Suddenly, it was OK to invade her privacy to no end. Interesting.

One certain crazy conservative who took advantage of the situation is James Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family. In a recent article in TIME magazine, Dobson took the opportunity to spout his conservative nonsense about how children thrive and grow best in mother-father parenthoods and that, as his title states, “Two Mommies Is One Too Many.” He sited studies on the importance of a father figure done by Dr. Kyle Pruett of Yale Medical School as well as from educational psychologist, Carol Gilligan. Did he represent these studies correctly? Of course not. In Dr. Pruett’s book, Fatherneed: Why Father Care Is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child, he states that “What we do know is that there is no reason for concern about the development or psychological competence of children living with gay fathers. It is love that binds relationships, not sex.” Both Dr. Pruett and Ms. Gilligan have separately stated that their research was twisted and distorted by Dobson and that none of their collective evidence points to the conclusions that Dobson came to, namely that gay parents are inadequate. Ms. Gilligan went so far as to request that Dobson never use her research ever again and demanded an apology. And yet thousands and thousands of people will use Dobson’s words as fact.

The American Psychological Association stated all the way back in 2004 that “[t]here is no scientific basis for concluding that lesbian mothers or gay fathers are unfit parents on the basis of their sexual orientation.” Also, ” Overall, results of research suggest that the development, adjustment, and well-being of children with lesbian and gay parents do not differ markedly from that of children with heterosexual parents.” You can read their full study here. The American Psychological Association is a pretty reputable source, don’t you think? I’m probably going to listen to them a little more than some crazy conservative who founded an organization with an extremely deceptive name.

PS- For a nice counterpoint to Dobson’s op-ed, check out what Jennifer Chrisler, the Executive Director of Family Pride, had to say.

What Is This Girl Talking About??