The Aftermath of Hate & Terror

On Sunday morning I walked into work and immediately saw the news: 49 dead; 53 wounded at a mass shooting in Orlando that is being called a domestic terrorist attack. I felt numb and was shocked. For hours, I have sat here wondering what there is to even say.

Some words by Robert F. Kennedy came to mind from a speech he gave the night after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. “It is not the concern of any one race. The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one – no matter where he lives or what he does – can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on.” (Full text of RFK’s speech)

Politics will, in the end, find its way into this horrible atrocity. Both sides will back into their proverbial corners and begin spouting their typical talking points. The left will start talking about more gun control and hate crimes. The right will focus on Americans needing easier access to guns to protect themselves and radical Islam. Neither of these are actual solutions and only work to prohibit further discussion. As we have seen many other times, we talk today but do nothing tomorrow.

“Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire weapons and ammunition they desire.” Robert F. Kennedy~

In truth there is no easy solution. I wish I had one to make the pain and suffering go away. But as we move forward, we must allow common sense into the discussion. Our regular talking points have been worn out and have become a burden on making any progress.

In the US we have the constitutional right to bear arms. Common sense says that there must be a solution to gun violence that will uphold our right yet not arm the entire public. I don’t really want to be a part of a society where everyone must be armed all the time in order to protect themselves.

“We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of all. We must admit in ourselves that our own children’s future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge.” Robert F. Kennedy~

Our emotions are running high. They range from disbelief to sadness to anger. And though it is normal and appropriate for these feelings we must not give in to them. If we allow ourselves to follow that path of darkness then we will become no better than the gunman as anger can only lead to more hatred and to more violence.

Today, I choose to be open in my political discourse on guns and our Second Amendment right. I acknowledge that there is not a single solution or an easy one. And I choose to see the light and the good in my fellow man. It was Anne Frank that wrote,”[I]n spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

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Progress Toward Equality

The Favorable Winds of Pride

I’ve spent most of the morning watching the House of Lords in Great Britain debate same-sex marriage.  The legislation has already passed the House of Commons and is now awaiting approval from the upper chamber.  Today was only the second reading and debate on a proposed amendment.  And just last week, I watched as the Illinois House of Representatives decided not to vote on same-sex marriage, though the deadline for the bill was extended through the summer so it could be taken up if they were called back to deal with other pressing issues.

Both of these debates are on the heels of progress that has been made here in the US and in countries around the world.  Just this year, in the United States, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Minnesota have approved same-sex marriage.  Minnesota had just voted down a constitutional amendment in the November elections banning same-sex marriage.  In all 12 states and DC allow same-sex marriages.  As for internationally, Brazil, Uruguay, New Zealand, and France have approved same-sex marriage within the year.  In all, thirteen countries have allow same-sex marriage with New Zealand and Urugauy to begin in August.

Pride PostageDespite opposition, the proverbial wind seems to be at the back of progressives and those in favor of equality.  According to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted between May 1 – 5, 55% of Americans support same-sex marriage.  This goes with an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll done in April that showed that 63% of Americans are in favor of the federal government recognizing same-sex marriages performed in states where it is legal.  A Gallup poll posted on May 13, showed that same-sex marriage had an approval rating of 53%.  Conservative columnist George Will once stated on This Week with George Stephanopoulos that opposition to gay marriage is literally dying off, and he is essentially correct with that statement.  Polls continually show that the greatest opposition for same-sex marriage comes from those that are older than 65.  Only 44% support same-sex marriage among that demographic.  Those that are 18-29 years old, support same-sex marriage 81%.  And as the older generation continues to die off and with the influx of the younger generation, we are already seeing a dramatic shift in this discussion.

Even the political divide is changing.  It was the Labour Party that brought about civil unions for same-sex couples in Great Britain, but yet it’s the Conservative Party, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, that is supporting same-sex marriage.  In the US, the needle is gradually starting to move.  First it was only the most liberal of politicians that supported civil unions and then same-sex marriage, but time would tick by and even the moderate liberals (Democrats) would come to show their support.  Independents jumped on board.  It was the conservative side (Republicans) that are the hold-out as they have been baiting the voters that are against equal rights.  But even that needle position has started to shift in our favor.  First it was just the moderate conservatives that either hold elected office in predominantly liberal states or those that are no longer in office.  Then, just this year, two sitting Republican Senators (both moderates) came forward to support same-sex marriage.  They are Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL).  Regardless of how they came to our side, we should be grateful to have a voice in our support that was once against us.  It gives us that small breach in the wall of opposition that we have needed.  With their help, we can now focus on other moderates to get them to come over our to our side… especially if they are from states that have approved same-sex marriage already or at least lean more liberal.

We have begun what is essentially referred to as Pride Month here in the US.  And this year, we have even more to be grateful for and to have pride in.  Through living our lives, telling our stories, and continuing the drumbeat for equality, we are making progress toward equality.  Even with set-backs, we are continuing to push the conversation forward.  We will continue to face opposition, bullying, false attacks, and more.  But we will rise above such people and such offenses .  We will continue to educate by just being ourselves and eradicating the stereotypes that still prevail.  So as we celebrate pride, let us be thankful for all that we have and the progress that has been made, all the work countless people have done, and take a momentary pause in our quest to regroup so we are ready to get back out there and continue on.

The wind has filled our sails and we are being guided by the sun rising higher and higher in the sky.  Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. wrote, “The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.”  So today, we will celebrate, and tomorrow, we will continue to move forward.

By Popular Vote

Today is the first day that same-sex couples are allowed to get married in the state of Washington.  The legislation permitting same-sex marriage was passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Chris Gregoire on February 13, 2012, but it was stayed pending a vote of the people.  In every instance of same-sex marriage going to the vote of the people, it had been voted down.  But the general election of 2012 would turn out to be more interesting than all the years prior.

Washington was not the only state voting on same-sex marriage.  Maryland had also passed by same-sex marriage through its legislature and the people of the state were voting, too.  The people of Minnesota were voting on whether to ban same-sex marriage in their state.  And in the state of Maine, the people were voting to overturn its ban on same-sex marriage which was put in effect in 2009 after same-sex marriage was signed by the the governor earlier that year.  National polls in recent years have showed a shift in favor of same-sex marriage, but that has never played out in state contests.  Earlier this year, North Carolina voted 61%-39% to ban same-sex marriage… becoming the last southern state to put a ban in place.

gay-marriage-debate-thumb-320x240-9845Most eyes on election night were focused on the election of President and which party would control Congress.  But as the night went on, the results of these ballot measures began to come in.  Maine was the first state to announce that the voters had overturned it’s ban on same-sex marriage, making it legal in the state, by a vote of 53%-47%.  With that vote, it became the first state to overturn its ban on same-sex marriage.  In hindsight, it seems only fitting since it was the first state to approve same-sex marriage through the legislature and with the signature of its governor.  It was a risky move since if it had failed, it could have set back the movement in the state for years to come, but the LGBT community was allowed to rejoice.  Maryland would come in next.  By a vote of 52% to 48%, same-sex marriage was again approved by the voters.  This marked the first time a state, which did not have a ban on same-sex marriage in place, approved of gay marriage through a referendum after having it passed by the legislature.  And here’s a quirky bit of history to go with it.  Maryland was the only colony originally set up with Catholicism under the Calvert family.  Seems to be a bit ironic.  The LGBT community held its breath for the state of Minnesota.  Never had a state voted down a referendum to ban same-sex marriage.  Arizona did briefly in 2006 but approved a different one in 2008.  But again, the winds seemed to be pushing forward.  The people voted 51%-47% not to ban same-sex marriage in their state.  It didn’t make it legal, but it left the door open for it to happen one day in the future.

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It was stated at the beginning, more or less, how the state of Washington ended up voting.  The final vote was 53%-47% in favor.  Why might this be important.  I stated earlier that national polls had shown a shift by the people to support same-sex marriage recently.  In a poll conducted from November 16-19, same-sex marriage was supported by 51% with 40% opposed.  This was preceded by another poll, this time conducted by ABC News/Washington Post from November 7-11, found that 51% approved and 47% were opposed to same-sex marriage.  And just to add one more layer onto this, a June 6 CNN/ORC International polls showed that 52% approved same-sex marriage with 42% opposed.  This is a dramatic shift in support as only 25% approved of same-sex marriage in 1996.  By looking at the percentages in the states Maine, Maryland, and Washington, they are pretty much right on the national poll numbers.  The state of Minnesota, voted down their marriage ban by almost the same numbers as well.

Critics of same-sex marriage have always changed their tactics.  When state courts started overturning laws that violated that particular state’s constitution, the opposition started declaring that the legislatures had to approve of such things.  When legislatures started approving same-sex marriages, critics started saying that a vote of the people should make the determination.  Then they would set out on a ‘fear and smear’ campaign to get voters to approve of same-sex marriage bans.  But with some states, victory for equal rights had already been accomplished.  And with the passage of time, people have been able to see the lies that came with the ‘fear and smear’ campaigns of earlier years.  As the years continue to progress, it would seem that same-sex marriage will only garner more and more approval from the people.  States that currently have bans in place might even follow Maine and vote to overturn them.  But one must wonder since referendums in support of same-sex marriage have now been approved by the people, and a referendum banning same-sex marriage has been defeated in the same way, what will be the opposition’s next move?  No matter what it is, history has already dictated what that outcome will be.

Don’t Say It

It’s my second entry in less than a week to rant on my home state of Missouri.  Once again, I find it absolutely incredible that our legislators would waste time with this particular issue when they complain that we aren’t creating jobs quickly enough.  Let’s put two and two together here.  This time, though, this issue is more near and dear to my heart, so I cannot afford to sit back quietly.  Not this time.  Something must be said… especially for those that have no voice.

The legislation in question is House Bill 2051 (HB2051… otherwise known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill) and is sponsored by Representative Steve Cookson, with the backing of both the current Speaker, Steven Tilley and the Speaker-Elect, Tim Jones.  HB2051 has been referred to the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee, and isn’t on the calendar for the committee as of yet.  But that doesn’t make it any less dangerous.  The legislation has to deal with the LGBT community… and even more importantly, it has to do with LGBT youth.  And at a time when LGBT suicides seem to be running rampant, this particular legislation does not help.  The text of it is short, but it reaches far beyond.

170.370. Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, no instruction, material, or extracurricular activity sponsored by a public school that discusses sexual orientation other than in scientific instruction concerning human reproduction shall be provided in any public school.

My first question is how is this even legal?  How is it not a violation of the First Amendment to the US Constitution?  The government does not have the right to tell us what we can and cannot talk about, and it can’t make up laws that do.  What’s next?  Are they going to tell us what we can think about?  I could see a private school doing something of this nature, but for the public schools that are supported by taxpayer dollars… again, this cannot be even close to legal.  This is another case of the Republicans in the state of Missouri trying to demote part of its population to second-class citizens because they’re afraid of the “homosexual agenda.”  But this is a bunch of BS.  Legislation such as HB2051 is nothing short than a “hear no evil, see no evil” approach.  The Republicans in the state legislature believe that if the youth can’t talk about their homosexual tendencies/feelings, then they won’t give in to them.  They won’t be encouraged.  Unfortunately, the majority of the people that support legislation like this don’t know what they are talking about.  Someone either is or isn’t gay.  It doesn’t matter if it’s encouraged or not.  It is already something that is inside them.  No amount of legislation by the government (any government) will make that go away.  All it will end up doing is isolating a vital, productive, and creative part of our overall community.

Our youth will be the most adversely affected by such legislation as it is targeting them and the schools they go to.  Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) clubs will be prohibited, and faculty and administrators will be forbidden to talk about anything dealing with sexual orientation… even if a student needs someone to talk to about it or even if a student is reporting a case of bullying.  Growing up, I was often teased throughout school.  Not for being gay but for basically being more of the nerdy type.  I know how it can make one feel.  Sometimes, I young person just needs someone to sit and listen… and to care.  And as we grow into young adults and starts dealing with more “adult-type” of situations, we need those people more and more.  We are often very careful about who we confide in, as well.  We want to make sure that it is a person that we can lean on.  For some, that particular person is a teacher.  And if this bill is put into law, that teacher won’t even be able to help even if he/she is the only person that kid or young adult feels like he/she can talk to.  It is just shameful.  And it hurts me to my core that our young people are made to feel more alone and more isolated at a time in their lives when they should be embraced and loved.

Missouri is not the first state to attempt a “Don’t Say Gay” bill.  The state of Tennessee voted several times last year on a similar bill, but it drew national ridicule that even came from the state’s Republican Governor.  The Tennessee bill eventually failed… though the state is trying again this year with an identical bill.  And now the state of Missouri is trying.  Apparently, the dumbasses who thought this thing up didn’t think this through very much.  Are they trying to prove that they are more conservative that the Republicans in Tennessee?  Is there a special prize at the end for them?  Well maybe on that last one… re-election by the same crazy voters that allow them to do dumbass things like this.  Again, it’s these same Republican legislators that say that we have fallen behind in creating jobs… that new businesses and new people are not moving to the state.  Yet, they can’t seem to make the correlation that it’s stupid stuff like this that makes Missouri a less-desirable place to live.  People tend not to want to live in a state that is trying to revert itself back to the 1850s (or even the 1950s).  This is the 21st century, and again, the people in Jefferson City need to pull their head out of their asses long enough to actually see the real world.  I know it might seem scary to them at first, but it will subside.

The consequences of such a bill needs to be thought through.  We’re isolating our youth.  We are isolating a part of our community.  Is that really a wise thing to do.  Regardless of our religious beliefs (and yes, I am a Christian), no one deserves treatment like this.  The legislators in Missouri need to realize this first and foremost.  They do not have the right to tell us how to live our lives, nor do they have the right to tell us what type of people we should be.  We are all different and unique, and we should all be embraced.  Even though I have been quite harsh on the legislators in this entry, I am trying my best to go after their actions. Afterall, hate only begets more hate.  I don’t mind when people think differently, it’s just when they act upon those thoughts and try to make others feel inferior… or in this case, feel like second-class citizens and that something is wrong with them.  The LGBT youth are simply amazing, and I think quite brave for all they have to endure at such a young age.  The bullying must stop… not only within our schools but from our government, too.  And if want a state that attracts businesses and new people, then we must stop writing BS legislation like this that makes people believe that Missouri is an ass-backwards state.  Let us move forward.  Let us work together to build a state that embraces everyone instead of isolating.  And let us work together to teach our youth to be good citizens and to be proud of who they are.  I think the youth of our state could teach some of the Missouri legislators a few lessons.  Afterall, to love thy neighbor means to embrace and accept them.

“Homosexuality, is regarded as shameful by barbarians and by those who live under despotic governments just as philosophy is regarded as shameful by them, because it is apparently not in the interest of such rulers to have great ideas engendered in their subjects, or powerful friendships or passionate love-all of which homosexuality is particularly apt to produce.”  Plato~

INFORMATION:
If you or anyone you know is contemplating suicide, please call 1-866-4-U-Trevor (1-866-488-7386).  You can also click on the link for The Trevor Project.

For those living in the state of Missouri wishing to contact their Representative regarding HB2051, please click Here for the directory.

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From The Shadows

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