Friday, July 17, 2015

Crushing It

Damn right, Amy
I had a post in mind for this month. It was going to start out all cutesy about how we won on marriage equality and now we can all relax, and then I was going to launch into a rallying cry to get back on the legislative firing line and push for equal employment protection for LGBTQ+ across all 50 states...and then the EEOC did that already. Thanks for sucking the wind out of my sales Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. That's fine. I'll shake it off. We've got other stuff to work on. Let me look down the increasingly checked off list for equal rights...

We're not done, but we're quickly coming to the end of the equality that can be accomplished through the legal and legislative processes. As any other minority group can tell you, that's not nearly the end of it in this country--see the disrespect for America's first black President for notes on how the cultural side can lag behind the legal. The cultural discriminatory bullshit facing the LGBTQ+ community is far from settled, even though Caitlyn Jenner won an ESPY, which is a cool step in the right direction. Big congratulations to her.

Marriage equality across all 50 states in one step is amazing. No longer do we have to worry if a slightly higher court than the last one will take the right away in your state (or the voters in some cases), or if you get married in one state you might not be married in the state you actually live, and what if you travel to another married are you there? Better look that up before you book the flight. By the way, all of these were actual concerns for Nikki and I because of when we lived in California, how long we've lived in Florida, and the various places around the country we've traveled as of late. It just didn't feel like marriage before. We couldn't get married in California when we were in college because we missed the window. A few years after that we could in California, but we'd moved to Florida by then, and Florida wasn't going to uphold a California marriage unless it fit Florida's version of one man and one woman. Then Florida said we could get married, but hold on, our very conservative governor and state attorney general were fighting that ruling tooth and nail, so if we did get married, who knows if it even would have stayed legal. But that's not the worst of it because any state we have to drive through to get out of Florida wouldn't recognize the marriage, and that was true for about two thousand miles in any direction--hope there's no car accidents along the way that would require hospital visitation rights because you're not going to have those in Alabama!

Now that it's real, can't be taken away, and isn't dependent on what state you're in or driving through, Nikki and I have been married, which is good, because we we're bordering on common law at this point anyway. Based on certain family complications and some of our personal history, we did it in our own way, on our own time table, and we did it entirely for us--so don't expect a Kardashian-esque E! special on our big day. Then we went on a cruise and it all felt suddenly very real.

I tried to talk her into the two Corpse Brides topper, but she wasn't going for it.
When we got back from the cruise, we still had to worry about when and where she wore her wedding ring, who we told, and how much exposure she personally had since she still has a job with a boss who didn't seem all that happy about the marriage equality ruling.

Why should that matter? Well, up until Wednesday, it would have been legal for Nikki's boss to see the wedding ring, ask her husband's name (my wife's name is Cassandra, thank you very much), ah, well, you're fired, ya big lesbo! And that would have been completely legal in Florida. Being a freelance writer, and one that writes almost exclusively for lesbian publications, that was never a concern for me--I'm pretty sure all my editors and publishers know I'm super-duper, rainbows flying out my eyes and ears kind of gay, and it doesn't bother them. Nikki didn't have that luxury. No wedding photos on her desk, no conversations about her honeymoon at the workplace, just silence, lots and lots of silence because we live in a state where firing someone for being gay is completely legal. At least, it was. Then Wednesday happened and the EEOC didn't just say LGBTQ+ had federal protections, we'd ALWAYS had them. So now, if Nikki's boss fires her for having an adorable wife instead of a strapping husband, we can literally make a federal fucking case of it.

Let's just go ahead and bring those 29 states into the modern era.
I can hear what you're saying, even through the internet and miles of distance, but hold onto your epic happy dances for the moment, because we're not done yet. Culturally, who knows how long it'll take us to reach some semblance of equality and respect. Ask any black, Hispanic, Asian, female, or other cultural minority of any kind how long it took them to reach equal cultural relevance and they'll tell you, "Not sure, but we'll let you know if it ever happens for us." What can we do to keep moving that forward? Pretty much what we've been doing. Support LGBTQ+ cultural contributions:  TV shows, movies, books, comics, magazines, etc. to keep the voices relevant and contributing. Vote for allies at all levels of government. Come out. Speak up. Be heard.

Or for our generation, continue to fight!
What's left legally, though? Not a whole lot, but what's left is important. The next big fight, the next hurdle to true equality that needs to take place, the next victory we have to win is getting rid of the adoption discrimination laws. You can check out this website for the specifics on which states ban same sex couples from adopting. Suffice it to say, the map looks very similar to the maps of other LGBTQ+ discrimination laws for marriage, hate crimes, and employment protections. Specifically Michigan very recently added new discrimination laws to ban LGBTQ+ couples from adopting or fostering.

Many lesbian couples have the option to have biological children fairly easily--all we need is a male friend with functional sperm and a willingness to sign a contract even though there were hitches for Bette and Tina and the Fosters. Or we can just google "nearest sperm bank" if we don't feel like having that awkward conversation with a close friend. Not all women have that kind of fertility, though, and it gets significantly more difficult and expensive for our gay brothers in this fight who often have to come up with eggs and surrogates and what not (enough to buy a new house kind of expensive sometimes). More to the point, there are plenty of people in the LGBTQ+ community who could have biological children but they're more interested in providing good homes and loving parents to children who need them and would rather adopt or foster children because they're fantastically giving people.

Full disclosure, I have no idea if this is how donating sperm actually works, but it seems wrong.

Next fight up on the block--equal protections for adoption and foster care for LGBTQ+ individuals and couples. You can learn more about what can be done from Human Rights Campaign and what states need the most work. I caught flack for this on my last blog, and to be honest, I don't give a tenpenny fuck if I insulted then or continue to insult now conservatives and Republicans within our community or at large. We need to vote in allies at all levels of government and those allies are almost always going to be from liberal parties like Democratic or Green. Legislatures make laws at the state levels and governors sign them, so it's pretty obvious why the states that discriminate are the states run by Republicans. Vote against them, tell them your rights and the rights of the LGBTQ+ community are a top voting issue for you, and more of them will back away from the topic or switch sides on the issue entirely. It has happened and we can continue to make it happen but only if we apply pressure.

There are children that need homes, LGBTQ+ people wanting to adopt, and the only thing standing between them in many cases are bigots in state houses who think their bigoted base is more important than equality. The best way to prove them wrong is to vote them out.

Stand up and continue to fight!

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