A Letter from Morehouse SafeSpace President Marcus Lee UPDATED

by Marcus Lee

Thank you for writing this poignant blog about your experience. I’m the President of Morehouse SafeSpace—Morehouse’s Alliance for Gender and Sexual Diversities—and these issues are ones we grapple with frequently.

Our situation is a complex and peculiar one. I’m proud to say that many of us (students & alum) have committed to loving ourselves/each other regardless of—and in some instances because of—our differences. Moreover, there are many faculty and staff members—including the President of the college, the Office of Student Life, several professors, etc.—that embrace us. However, Morehouse’s curricula, institutional policies and procedures do not reflect this embrace. There are no Black queer studies courses, gender and sexual orientation are absent from our employment nondiscrimination policy, we have a dress code that outlaws wearing ‘female attire,’ we have an inactive diversity committee, and the list continues. So, I don’t think the football team’s reactions are inherent to them specifically. Instead, they are a product of a grooming process—that begins in the world, and is buttressed or goes uninterrupted at Morehouse—that’s checkered with heteronormativity and silence; inclusive spaces are forged here in spite of, not because of, the culture of the college.

To be sure, Morehouse will respond to this issue—many of us (students and alum) have reached out to the President and the VP of Student Affairs and they’ve responded with disappointment and noted that the football team will be engaging in dialogue about this soon. And, when asked about an institutional commitment to diversity, the VP noted that it’s also coming soon.

I hope this is true. Issues like these cannot and should not be dealt with discreetly. This is a systemic issue that permeates campus no matter how friendly and encouraging a few administrative folks are toward us. In short, I implore anyone who is concerned to ask, not what will happen with the football team particularly, but what will be installed to permanently mitigate homophobia on campus. That’s the key.

Thanks again,

Marcus Lee

EDITED TO ADD:

So many folks have reached out about the “Dear White People” blog and I’m so thankful for your support. I haven’t been able to offer detailed responses to folks asking about our needs because I’m still a student with A LOT of work to do, applications to complete, etc. But, I wanted to write a short post advising folks on what support for us looks like in this moment.

Things that don’t help:

- [Erroneously] saying that Morehouse is a school full of girls (which is somehow supposed to elucidate the irony of the situation; but, in reality only implies that there is something wrong with being a “girl” [gay] and reinforces homophobia.)

- Opportunistically reaching out to us to be flown down for a panel, a meeting, etc. without actually having any real concern about or knowledge of Morehouse’s history with diversity–i.e. our setbacks and triumphs.

- Castigating the actions of the football team without asking questions about what Morehouse is or is not doing institutionally to interrupt homophobia [thereby, allowing for the possibility that the football team may be used as a scapegoat to avoid dealing with institutional issues].

- Suggesting that homophobia among those men–some of whom are my friends–was inevitable [thereby, perpetuating the myth of Black “super-homophobia” (as opposed to white “gentle-homophobia”?)]

Things that do help:

- Reaching out to the Dean of Social Sciences and Humanities and asking her how many of the several open positions in the social science departments will be filled by scholars who study sexuality and gender–more specifically, scholars who label their work “Black/Queer/Feminist” [be sure that the word “Black” is included somewhere in that label.]

- Reach out to the President of the college and the VP of Student Affairs to ask which campus-wide programs are happening in order to mitigate homophobia.

- Ask the VP who is on the Diversity Committee, how often they meet, and what they have done for the campus

- Reach out to the Provost of the college to ask which part of the general education curriculum includes a necessary, thoroughgoing engagement with Black/Queer/Feminist work. Then, ask which texts are being read.

- Ask when the LGBT diversity competence training happens on campus and how many faculty and staff members show up.

- Reach out to General Counsel and ask how long it will take for gender identity and sexual orientation to be added to the employment non discrimination policy and the student non-discrimination policy.

- Reach out to the President and ask that the “Appropriate Attire Policy” be abolished.

- And the list continues.

I hope this helps!

Ashley Speaking in Chapel Hill Next Monday

If you are in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill area and like Freethought Blogs and/or me and/or the topic of social justice movements and religion, then have I got good news for you!

I will be speaking at UNC-CH for their SSA (Secular Student Alliance) and SAGA (Sexuality and Gender Alliance) groups.

Monday, February 11, 2013
6:30pm until 8:30pm
Murphey 116, UNC

“Come out to hear Ashley Miller, a writer and tv/film editor, speak about religion’s interaction with women’s, gay, and minority rights, both the costs and benefits of religion to individuals in those groups, and how atheism as a movement has failed to be as strong an ally as they can be and how we can change that.

SSA and SAGA members are welcome to join us with Ashley for dinner before the event! “

Marriage as protection against accidental pregnancies not a new argument

Greta has a post up about the “increasingly stupid” tactics used by supporters of DOMA and Prop 8 — but, for better or for worse, the argument that marriage is different for heterosexuals because of accidental pregnancy is not a new argument at all.  It is, in fact, the primary argument used by the proponents in the original Prop 8 case.

I know, because the first time I ever got published in a “big space” was on Salon, for writing about this argument.

And Greta’s not the only one pointing to this — Rachel Maddow’s blog did as well.  Not that it isn’t worth pointing out, it definitely is, but it is even more worth pointing out that in the two and a half years the lawyers have had since the closing arguments of Prop 8 they’ve been unable to come up with anything more compelling.  Ouch.

Here was Judge Walker’s response at the time:

And [marriage], as Mr. Olson described this morning, is a right which extends essentially to all persons, whether they are capable of producing children, whether they are incarcerated, whether they are behind in their child support payments. There really is no limitation except, as Mr. Olson pointed out, a gender limitation.

Good news for us, bad for them.

Robert Bork, scariest almost Supreme Court Justice, dead at 85

bork-timeRobert Bork, the intensely conservative failed Supreme Court nominee from 1987, has passed away after a heart ailment. Bork was a sort of bogeyman from the right, destroyed by Joe Biden in the senate hearings for his nomination for being absolutely insane and who Mitt Romney made head of his judiciary appointments in an attempt to gain conservative credibility.

Thanks to the failure of the Bork nomination, we got Kennedy, who will occasionally vote in favor of things like equality and gay rights.  He is, in fact, our best hope that the court will overturn DOMA and Prop 8.  So, the borking of Robert Bork was quite fateful.

From my speech about the war on women earlier this year:

The Supreme Court has four justices over 70 and Mitt Romney’s chair of judiciary appointments is Robert Bork.

Robert Bork, the man Reagan failed to get on the Supreme Court 15 years ago.  Robert Bork who doesn’t believe in the right to contraception, much less abortion, who thinks discriminating against women is QUOTE “not possible”, who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  I know who I don’t want putting people on our already too anti-woman court.

The thing about Bork, though, is that he was very smart and very funny. I actually have a lot of respect for his intellect, but it’s hard to respect someone who fought for Nixon during Watergate and would repeal equal rights laws if he had the opportunity — and he very nearly did have the opportunity.

More here: http://www.startribune.com/nation/184098181.html?refer=y

What Prop 8 and DOMA rulings from SCOTUS could mean

Today SCOTUS agreed to hear two of the gay marriage cases that had been submitted to them, and they were the two big ones — Proposition 8, California’s anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment, and DOMA, a law passed by Congress to prevent the federal government from granting federal benefits to those who are gay married.

The gay marriage court cases are a bit complicated because they are dealing with a few different issues.  I’ve noticed a couple people on Facebook confused about what exactly the court will be ruling on and I thought I would explain it a bit.

It should be noted that I am not a lawyer nor have I been to law school, I’m just really interested in constitutional law and prop 8.  I covered it somewhat obsessively when I lived in California.  I haven’t covered DOMA as obsessively.

PROP 8

Officially known as: HOLLINGSWORTH, DENNIS, ET AL. V. PERRY, KRISTIN M., ET AL.

The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted. In addition to the question presented by the petition, the parties are directed to brief and argue the following question: Whether petitioners have standing under Article III, §2 of the Constitution in this case.

In 2008, California legalized gay marriage through the court system and began performing gay marriages in the state.  That fall, a constitutional amendment saying marriage was one man and one woman was passed by the general population, making gay marriage illegal again.  Immediately, the state was sued by several gay couples who wanted to be able to get married.

The original ruling, by Judge Vaughn Walker decided that the amendment was unconstitutional for several reasons, some narrow and some quite broad.  He declared gay people to be a population that had been historically discriminated against and deserving of heightened scrutiny when laws applied to them.  What that means is that, if you make a law concerning creating a “separate but equal” status or targeting a minority group in particular, the government must have a compelling interest in doing so that cannot be served by other means.  In this case, civil unions were not the same as marriage — historically we know “separate but equal” is not equal — and any denial of gay marriage was unconstitutional.

The district court issued a much more narrow ruling, saying that none of the broader things mattered to the case, but the fact that California allowed some gay people to get married during a specific period of time and then REVOKED access to that, the very specific case of Prop 8 meant that only California’s anti-gay marriage amendment was unconstitutional, but other states with anti-gay marriage amendments would not be affected by the decision.

As the decision is written, if the Court simply upholds the district court’s decision, gay marriage will become legal in California and nowhere else.  Historically, the court has tended towards narrow decisions, but because of the amount of cases it has been given and the complications of some states allowing gay marriage and others not and the general wave of public opinion it is possible that SCOTUS will write a broader opinion that will legalize gay marriage in general.

The other complication is that there is a suit also to determine whether the people participating in the suit have the right to do so, and if they don’t it can mean that none of the courts had the right to make decisions.  Basically, the government in California was like “I want nothing to do with standing on the wrong side of history, I’m not defending the amendment, it’s toxic” so other people stepped in.  California ruled that this was fine, but it’s still being brought before SCOTUS.  According to the release, SCOTUS is also considering the problem of “standing” so there is also a chance that the case will be more or less thrown out.

THREE POSSIBILITIES

1. Gay marriage is made legal in all states (Broadest ruling)

2. Gay marriage is made legal in California (What I think will happen)

3. The entire case is thrown out and who knows what happens then, it’s complicated, probably gay marriage would be legalized in California but I’m not entirely sure

DOMA

Officially known as: UNITED STATES V. WINDSOR, EDITH S., ET AL.

The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted. In addition to the question presented by the petition, the parties are directed to brief and argue the following questions: Whether the Executive Branch’s agreement with the court below that DOMA is unconstitutional deprives this Court of jurisdiction to decide this case; and whether the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the United States House of Representatives has Article III standing in this case.

This case is a little more straightforward than Prop 8, if only because it’s not dealing with the minutiae of state law in addition to the question of gay rights.  DOMA states that people who are gay married do not have access to federal marriage benefits.  This has been ruled unconstitutional and, like in Judge Walker’s opinion, gay people have been declared a minority deserving of special consideration.

Like Prop 8, however, SCOTUS has to consider the issue of standing and could decide that the people participating in the suit don’t have the right to do so and could then throw the thing out entirely.

I think it most likely, however, that the court will be unable to find a constitutional justification for treating some marriages granted by states as federally acceptable while others are not.  I also think that, if California will have gay marriage, it will be incredibly difficult to justify not recognizing them federally, simply because California represents such a large portion of the US population.

DOMA is not my area of expertise, though, so I’m happy to hear other feedback.

DOMA ruled unconstitutional by CONSERVATIVE federal judge

A woman married to another woman owed almost $400,000 in estate taxes upon the death of her wife because DOMA prevents the federal recognition of her marriage, so she filed a case arguing that this was illegal discrimination.  This case was just reviewed in federal court by Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs, a super conservative judge.

Shockingly, not only did he (and the court) rule DOMA unconstitutional, his opinion includes language that states that LGBT should be treated with heightened scrutiny under the Constitution.  This basically means that the court recognizes that LGBT are a historically marginalized group who deserves special consideration when having laws directed at them.

In this case, all four factors justify heightened scrutiny: A) homosexuals as a group have historically endured persecution and discrimination; B) homosexuality has no relation to aptitude or ability to contribute to society; C) homosexuals are a discernible group with non-obvious distinguishing characteristics, especially in the subset of those who enter same-sex marriages; and D) the class remains a politically weakened minority.

Not only is DOMA unconstitutional, but ALL attempts to discriminate against gay people have to pass heightened scrutiny — something that law has, somewhat shockingly, completely failed to establish.

The hope now is that SCOTUS will adopt the same reasoning.  They should because it is completely reasonable, but that doesn’t always mean anything.  If SCOTUS did accept this reasoning and adopt it, it would functionally mean that all discrimination on the basis of orientation would be illegal.

The opinion is here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/110431508/12-2335-447

This is a big deal, or at least could be. Fingers crossed.

Prop 8 Update: on the SCOTUS conference docket

The first SCOTUS conference of the session is today and both DOMA (multiple cases) and Prop 8 are on the docket, meaning the Court will (probably) decide whether to take one or the other up in the next term. The votes of four justices are required for a case to be heard by the Court.

Although they are on the docket, it’s not uncommon for cases to be rescheduled, so it’s possible for the day to end without any information on whether the Supreme Court is planning on hearing the cases.

So what do we want?

Well, because of the extremely narrow ruling in the Prop 8 trial, it would probably be better for the court to decline to hear it. As I understand it, this would make gay marriage legal in California, effective immediately. It would also mean that the court would not be ruling for universal gay marriage, but they are somewhat unlikely to do that off of the Prop 8 decision — again, because of the narrow ruling in previous courts.

DOMA, on the other hand, looks like it could be fully destroyed by the court if it is picked up.

Gay marriage might resume in California very, very soon.  We shall see.

Chick-fil-A Decides it’s OK to be Gay!

And I think that means I can decide it’s OK to eat Chick-fil-A!!!

http://www.sdgln.com/news/2012/09/18/chick-fil-agrees-end-anti-gay-donations-mandates-equal-treatment-gays#.UFlvlf8MRs8.facebook

After months of negotiations with Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno over its anti-gay positions and donations, Chick-fil-A has agreed to cease donations from its non-profit charity to anti-gay organizations and issued a company-wide internal mandate calling for the equal treatment of all employees and customers.

Marriage Equality is an issue with no valid middle ground

This could also be titled “how to get unfriended on Facebook”.  Always beware of someone asking “genuine, non-rhetorical questions” they want answers to from the opposing side.  Sometimes they don’t like your answer.  My former FB friend posted the following, in reference to an article by Michael Rowe:

I truly hope this opinion from one man doesn’t reflect the consensus of those who oppose Chick-Fil-A. Is there no room for nuanced or civilized debate that doesn’t resort to character assassination?

Here’s just a sample of how the Chick-Fil-A supporters who showed up on Wednesday are labeled: “(they are) a pageant of banal, cheerful deep-fried American hate, unified in bigotry and detestation of a group of their fellow Americans who were different from them.”

It gets worse when describing Dan Cathy, the owner of Chick-Fil-A: “He’s actually making millions from it, and he’s done it cynically, and at the expense of other human beings, then sharing that blood money with others like him, whose mandate isn’t holiness, but hatred, violence, division, and ostracism.”

Now here’s a genuine, non-rhetorical question I’m hoping to get answered by those who oppose Chick-Fil-A. Do you believe it’s possible for someone to oppose same-sex marriage and not be a hateful bigot? Do you believe that all who oppose same-sex marriage follow a mandate of “hatred, violence, division, and ostracism” that trumps the dictates of Christian behavior?

I am not for redefining marriage, but I also have several gay friends who I love dearly and whose honor I would defend (physically if necessary) if I ever witnessed them being bullied or harassed because of their orientation or for any other reason. Is this love I feel for my friends automatically phony because I oppose same-sex marriage? Do I have deep hatred that’s even hidden from myself? I think not. Christ’s command to love is far too important for me to not take seriously as a dedicated Christian. God loves all his children unconditionally, and woe is any Christian who finds any reason not to love a person whom God loves.

Michael Rowe also makes a point to say that basically those who oppose same sex marriage are not practicing true Christianity. I don’t know if Rowe is a Christian himself, but biblically-based Christianity (Catholic or Protestant) has never supported the idea of same-sex marriage.

So Christians who actually believe in what is almost universally taught are labeled as bigots and phonies. Rowe has no authority to redefine beliefs systems about gender and sexuality and then declare them to be more Christian than what’s been traditionally the case.

Then let’s be clear. Anyone is free to disagree with, or even hate, Christianity if they feel so inclined. And as a lover of liberty I will fight to defend your legal right to smear Christianity six ways from Sunday. But if you think I am a bad Christian (or specifically bad Catholic), because I follow what my church teaches, you are simply wrong.

I know this country is deeply divided ideologically. But if we are to make any progress in bridging the divide it must start with a commitment to cast aside examples of false polarization. Between legalizing gay marriage and keeping it as the status quo is an entire spectrum of thoughtful and valuable opinion that doesn’t automatically involve degrees of ignorance, hatred, or bigotry.

But nuance doesn’t make for good sound bytes.

My answer that got me unfriended:

“Do you believe it’s possible for someone to oppose same-sex marriage and not be a hateful bigot?”

I do not believe it is possible for someone to oppose same-sex marriage and not be a bigot. The denial of rights is inherently hateful. Saying I am better than you is hateful. Saying you aren’t quite a fully deserving human, but a lower caste member deserving of second-class citizenship is hateful. Saying my religion tells me to do this so I don’t care what your religion says, I’m going to make you follow my religion’s rules is inherently hateful. Saying love is wrong is hateful.

“Do you believe that all who oppose same-sex marriage follow a mandate of “hatred, violence, division, and ostracism” that trumps the dictates of Christian behavior?”

As I have seen many Christians who endorse that sort of behavior, I’m not sure I can say that they’re going against their dictates. I do not think they are necessarily violent, but telling a group of people their love is worth less than yours is, again, inherently hateful, divisive, and ostracizing.

“Is this love I feel for my friends automatically phony because I oppose same-sex marriage?”

If a white man has a lot of black friends who he loves dearly but flips his shit when his daughter dates a black man and thinks interracial marriage should be illegal, is his “love for his friends” automatically phony. No. It’s just really fucked up.

To those of us who support marriage equality, what Chick-fil-A and their supporters look like are people who protested integration of schools and the civil rights acts and allowing black people at the lunch counter. And in addition to discriminating against them for who they are, you are punishing them for having the most wonderful thing that a person can have: love.

If your religion wants to be cruel, fine, but don’t enshrine it in law. If you’re mad at invective, just remember how heartbroken those of us who think of gay people as fully human and deserving of happiness are to see them treated so badly. It’s so hard to watch every day, and it’s so hard to watch people get so excited and mean about it, it’s so hard to hear the word faggot and dyke thrown with such invective at people who are fundamentally decent, it’s so hard to see children whose parents aren’t allowed to marry or jointly adopt the child they are raising, it’s so hard to see people deported because their partner is of the same-sex and therefore they cannot get citizenship through marriage, it’s hard to see people say that these wonderful people are destroying America. It’s really hard. And if you really have a heart and can look at these people and say that that’s OK, well, you must not think they’re really people.

So yeah, people called Dan Cathy a bigot — but hey, at least they aren’t calling him a cocksucking faggot who will destroy America just because he is in love with the wrong person.

Addendum to that answer for the blog:

“Between legalizing gay marriage and keeping it as the status quo is an entire spectrum of thoughtful and valuable opinion that doesn’t automatically involve degrees of ignorance, hatred, or bigotry.”

There is no middle ground on the question of whether gays should have equal rights under the law.  There may be a middle ground in the debate Christians have over how bad gay people are, but that’s a separate question.  I’m sorry to be so blunt, but how you justify your bigotry isn’t thoughtful or valuable to anyone but other bigots.

I’d also add that the gentleman in question is a *good* Catholic, and that’s his problem — sometimes being a good Christian makes you a bad person.  It’s a shame, because he’s not a bad person, but he’s wrong and being wrong on this issue causes harm.

Chick-fil-A pretends to be a girl for PR reasons, is caught

This is the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time.  H/t to George Takei for posting it.  Chick-fil-A has been horrific to gay people for a long time, I am glad that they’ve finally been outspoken enough about it to cause everyday people to start protesting.

The story is this: the founder’s son/COO said CFA money was going to fight gay marriage so Jim Henson announced they would not partner with Chick-fil-A in the future.  Chick-fil-A suddenly discovered that the Muppet toys they were giving out were defective and announced they would no longer be giving them out.  Obviously, many people think that they dropped the toys because Jim Henson called them on being homo-haters, but Chick-fil-A is sticking to its story… an making up fake Facebook accounts to do the dirty work for them.

“Abby Farle” is a FB account created by Chick-fil-A to promote the lie that the toys had been removed weeks ago.  I guess the logic being that if someone who isn’t the store makes a claim that is untrue, no one can be mad at the company for lying.

Except social media under the scrutiny of tens of thousands of people is not the best place to use easily found stock photos as your head shot or to start a profile only a few hours ahead of when you post to a company’s website.  Especially if that’s the only thing the fake account does.

So, not only did CFA create a profile to enable them to lie, they made her super Christian, and they didn’t make her convincingly.  CFA was caught in the act 2 hours after they began the lie.  The internet is sometimes a beautiful thing, but companies are sometimes incredibly stupid at what they think they can get away with.

Dear everyone, when you get caught doing something bad, just admit it, because then it won’t be a story.  This?  This is a story.

BUAHAHAHA

UPDATE: Here is screencap of the stockphoto for those who think it isn’t the same girl:

UPDATE2: Personal message to Chick-fil-A