Help a Purdue lesbian couple get married

I’m glad I still check out my old student newspaper, because I found this wonderful story (emphasis mine):

Indiana regulations on homosexual marriage could be ignored for a Purdue Director of Communication in the College of Education and her partner when they entered to win a wedding in Washington, D.C., where binding their love is legal. Tonya Agnew and her spouse Amy Crampton received an e-mail that could bend the rules of gay marriage and reinforce love with no boundaries.

With a 200 word essay, any gay couple could enter to win a $100,000 wedding ceremony in the nation’s capital. Expenses could cover anything from the rings to the flowers to the entertainment. The winner is determined through online voting that ends Sept. 30. Anyone can vote in the contest, Freedom 2 Wed.

Agnew and Crampton are one of six finalist pairs that anticipate Thursday’s results, waiting to see if other applicants beat their first place standing of over 4,000 votes. Even though they live in a conservative state, putting faces to their names has brought overwhelming support and encouragement from friends and strangers.

“I was pleasantly surprised with the responses we were getting and many people have come up to us and thanked us for doing this,” Crampton said. “I started crying.”

Not only has this been an exciting experience for Agnew and Crampton, but marriage directly influences the lives of their two sons, Jesse, 17, and Leo, 7. The affirmation of their family was the primary inspiration for partaking in the competition, but it was also about letting the voters know that they are as equally committed to their family as anyone else.

Former co-worker to Agnew, Jennifer Jeffries, said winning will highlight compassion and love regardless of sex, because communities like Lafayette and Purdue are strengthened by the presence of strong and caring families.

“Tonya and Amy love each other, but they didn’t enter the contest to make a statement,” Jeffries said. “It is a response to their 7-year-old who couldn’t understand why, in the land of the free, his parents couldn’t marry.”

The eldest son, Jesse, has been an advocate for their cause and believes that his parents should have the same rights and freedoms as any other citizen. For that reason, Agnew says that having an actual ceremony where they will be legally recognized demonstrates that “if it’s good enough for our nation’s capital, it should be good enough for the rest of the country.”

Since the role of Crampton and Agnew as a joined family has become exceedingly more important to their children, their status as public figures and leaders in the gay community is also having an impact on Agnew’s work at Purdue.

“I feel responsible to be available and out and proud, especially for those who can’t be for whatever reason,” Agnew said. “Hopefully we are raising awareness and breaking down misconceptions.”

It’s not being out at Purdue, and it’s even harder being out in the rest of Indiana. What these women are doing is brave, and will hopefully serve as an example of how loving and normal gay couples can be, just like any heterosexual couple. It’s a message Indiana definitely needs to here.

I’m sure any of the couples in the competition are worthy of winning, but I’m going to play favorites for my Alma mater and ask that you vote for Amy and Tonya here. Voting ends 11:59pm EST TONIGHT, so please hurry! They’re in second place – let’s have Blag Hag readers get them into first.

Need more convincing? They even stopped by the Society of Non-Theist’s Blasphemy Day event today and took a photo with our secretary.So, go vote!

During my first day of grad school

I was walking around the building with the professor I’m doing rotations with this quarter, and we ran into (who I now know is) one of the secretaries in our business office.

Secretary: Hi! *pauses awkwardly* …Is this…?
Me: ?
Prof: *long confused pause, then realization* …my WIFE?!
Secretary: *nods*
Prof: *laughing* No, this is my first roton!
Secretary: Oh, I’m sorry! I just remember someone saying your wife was younger than you, so…

Real thoughts about grad school to come later, you know, when I’m not actually busy with grad school.

How one Christian responded to the "It Gets Better" project

Did you come here hoping this was one of those times a Christian defies negative stereotypes and welcomes gays with open arms?

Well, sorry to disappoint you.

A couple days ago I mentioned Dan Savage’s wonderful It Gets Better project, which aims to reach suicidal gay teens via YouTube since many can’t get help anywhere else. I can hardly watch the videos without getting choked up. But here’s a video this Christian decided to upload as a response, named the Lot Project:

A partial transcript for those who are too enraged to watch to completion:

“Billy Lucus, who hanged himself, obviously because he was gay, and unable to endure the guilt that the words of others prompted in him. This was indeed a tragedy, but not anywhere near the tragedy that Billy will discover in eternity when he faces the wrath of God upon rebellious and unrepentant sinners. Then, he will realize that his sin could not be atoned for by his own death, and he will realize that people like Dan Savage who encourage sin are deceivers. He will see them for what they are, the blind leading the blind. And he will realize that he has fallen into that ditch that the blind leading the blind inevitably fall into: that’s eternal destruction and misery. Sadly, it’s too late for Billy. For those who are viewing this video, however, their remains the opportunity of turning from sin to the obedience of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Now, before someone jumps in here screaming about how I’m a horrible person for assuming all Christians are this hateful, delusional, and ignorant – save your breath. I know. Plenty of Christians are wonderful people, pro-gay rights, and even gay themselves. This by no means represents every single Christian on the planet.

But you know what? If you want us to think those good, loving, caring Christians outnumber the awful ones, maybe you should put forth just a *tad* bit more effort in making that obvious, since this version of Christianity seems pretty common to me.

And no, hollering that this man isn’t a “true” Christian doesn’t help your argument.

Atheist groups in less religious areas

Last night I attended a planning meeting for the Secular Student Union at the University of Washington. It’s equivalent to the group I started at Purdue, and also an affiliate of the Secular Student Alliance. What was interesting to me, as a Board member of the SSA, was how little regular members they had attending meetings.

You would think a liberal area like Seattle would produce way more members than an area like West Lafayette, Indiana. And obviously there are many variables that could contribute to this issue – leadership differences, advertising, event planning… But this is a trend I’ve seen talking to lots of student groups across the country. It makes sense when you think about it: When your non-theism is in the majority, or at the very least when no one cares about it, there’s less incentive to have a club.

In Indiana, clubs like the Society of Non-Theists are the one thing people have keeping them sane from the surrounding area. It’s the only place you can be completely open, safe, and accepted. Seattle isn’t a religious area, so there’s no reason to stand on the rooftops shouting about atheism.

Or is there? I personally think so. Yes, community was one of our main goals at SNT, but it wasn’t the only goal. At UW, you may not need a club to find friends, but you can still use it for volunteering, intellectual discussion, and debates about more controversial issues. For example, many people in the area may not be religious, but you can show how important it is to speak up for your secularism. You can have events educating people about the Catholic Church’s stance on condoms, or how some Islamic beliefs interact with free speech.

What do you think? Do secular groups still serve a purpose in less religious areas? Or is our job here already complete?

Off to lab safety training!

This morning is the mandatory lab safety training new graduate students have to go through. I probably shouldn’t be excited, since I heard this is actually just a boring lecture. But we do get to use a fire extinguisher at the end, so I’m holding out for that bit of excitement.

But we all know the cool part about working in laboratories is the potential for disaster, right? I mean, who didn’t go to chemistry lab secretly wishing something would explode? Be honest.

What’s your best lab disaster story?

Mine actually happened when I was teaching, rather than as a student. We were using Bunsen burners and the rubber tubing connecting the Bunsen burner to the gas source caught on fire. The professor, other TA, and I all just sort of stared at it dumbfounded for a couple seconds before one of us thought to just turn off the gas. Molten rubber is not a nice smell.

Watch out! I'm susceptible to madness!

Biologists are the most common type of mad scientists in books, movies, and television in the last two hundred years. I never thought of starting my PhD in genetics as heading toward the dark side, but I may have to rethink that. I’ll try not to create any horrific chimeras or crazy viruses during my lab rotations.

Though it makes sense, really. Biology is obviously the coolest scientific field, so we have more potential for fiction novels. Just think about it. What would a mad astronomer do? Look at stars maniacally? Yeah, biologists totally trump that.

(Via Skepchick)