30 June 2015

It's great to know that some organizations actually stand behind their stated principles.

One such organization is the Girl Scouts--specifically, the Queen Anne Offices of the Girl Scouts in western Washington State.

Not long ago, a $100,000 donation came their way.  But in May, in the wake of all of the publicity surrounding Caitlyn Jenner, the donor sent a letter with this request:  Please guarantee that our gift will not be used to support transgender girls.  If you can't, please return the money.

That donation would have represented a quarter of the office's annual operating budget, and would have been enough to send 500 girls to camp.  For many people, that would make for a wrenching decision.

But not for CEO Megan Ferland.  Shortly after receiving that letter, she returned the money. For her, the reasoning was simple:  "Girl Scouts is for every girl."  She added, "Every girl should have the opportunity to be a Girl Scout, if she wants to."

Thank you, Megan Ferland!

29 June 2015

For The Community, A Victory. For You And Your Partner, Maybe Not So Much.

As I have said in earlier posts, even though I support marriage equality, I would much prefer that the government got out of the marriage business altogether, save to set a minimum age at which people can enter into a union.  And it would be exactly that—a union.  It would allow couples visitation and inheritance rights and specify custody and other responsibilities. It would also allow one member of the couple to add the other to her or his health care policy and apartment lease agreement or title to the house. However, there would be no tax benefit for getting married. 

One reason why I believe in such an arrangement even more firmly in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling became apparent to me today.  Now same-sex marriage is legal throughout the US, employers will be required to allow workers to add their same-sex spouses to their health insurance policies.  This begs the question:  Will employers stop offering domestic-partner benefits?  Will they require couples, whether hetero- or homo-sexual, to be married in order to share in the benefits the company offers?

One of the great ironies of my life is that I was once included in a partner’s health-care benefits—when I was still living as a man with a female partner.  We had a domestic partnership agreement, which New York City was offering to all couples at that time (late 1990’s and early 2000’s).  If I were still with her—whether in my former or current identity—would she be allowed to include me on her health insurance? 

I’m guessing that the answer would be “yes” just because this is New York City and her company had a surprisingly (to me at the time, anyway) enlightened view of such things.  But what if we’d been in one of those states where same-sex marriage—and even domestic partnerships—weren’t legal before last week’s ruling?  It’s hard for me to imagine that a company based in a state that didn’t have domestic partnerships would allow partners’ benefits, especially if it was compelled by court order to offer insurance to same-sex couples.

Somehow I think the battles not only aren’t over; they haven’t even begun yet.

28 June 2015

Body Language And Marriage Politics

Four years ago, marchers in New York City’s Pride March—and revelers on the streets and in parties during and after the event—celebrated the legalization of same-sex marriage in the Empire State, which had come to pass only a few days earlier.

This year, there was similar jubilation because, just the other day, same-sex marriage was legalized in all of the United States.  The cool wind that blew drizzle and rain into this city through much of the day didn’t seem to keep very many people away from the march and other celebrations.

Something I saw after this year’s march bears a striking similarity with something I observed four years ago.  In most years, one sees LGBT people and their allies, alone or in groups, walking around with their rainbow flags and other regalia.  One also sees couples, but many of them have a certain tentativeness that can be seen in the almost-truncated ways they hold hands, put their arms around each other or simply walk with each other.  It’s almost as if some of them know that they can display their affection so publicly for that one day.

But this year, I saw none of that furtiveness.  The couples I saw—young old and in-between; men with men, women with women and cis people with transgenders—walked with more confidence and less of the ostentation people display when they know their moment of bliss can be rudely (or, worse, violently) interrupted.  In other words, they seemed to enjoy the sense of security—Nobody can take this away from us—most cisgender heterosexual couples don’t even realize they take for granted.

I was noticing change in couples’ body language and, it seemed, in their sense of time itself, not on the Christopher Street Pier or in Chelsea clubs or Jackson Heights bars.  Rather, I observed them in the South Bronx, where I rode my bike to meet a friend after the festivities.   I also noticed it later in my own neighborhood of Astoria—which, while it has a fair-sized LGBT community living openly, isn’t exactly Chelsea or even Jackson Heights.  Somehow I imagine that had I gone to other neighborhoods in Queens or Manhattan or the Bronx—or Brooklyn, or even Staten Island—I would have seen something similar.  In short, everyone was breathing a little freer today—even more so than we were four years ago.