HB-36 and Why It Is Bad…

It is true that we have made a lot of progress, as LGBTQ, in the last 60 years. Many states have protection status bills for employment, housing, and hate crimes. More people are openly accepting of the LGBTQ population. And it is also legal for us to marry, in the United States. However, just because we have the legal right to get married doesn’t mean the battle is over. Case in point the following bill.

Before the Ohio Judiciary Committee is a bill that needs attention drawn to it. HB-36 states the following. “To amend section 3101.08 of the Revised Code to provide that an ordained or licensed minister or religious society is not required to solemnize a marriage and a religious society is not required to allow any building or property of the religious society to be used to host a marriage ceremony if the marriage does not conform to the ordained or licensed minister’s or religious society’s sincerely held religious beliefs, to provide that an ordained or licensed minister or religious society is not subject to civil or criminal liability for such a denial, and to provide that the state and political subdivisions may not penalize or withhold benefits to an ordained or licensed minister or religious society for such a denial.”

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It is important to point out that the First Amendment already exists and grants this right to any licensed minister or religious group. It is the wording that is the issue to be considered. All to often many bills are put before the people or committees to vote on that alter wording or add clauses to a bill so they can get passed. It is important that we contact our elected officials to let them know how we feel about this bill. Let them know that you feel they should not pass this bill.

This has already been the right of any licensed minister or religious group, under the First Amendment. What this bill now changes is that any venue can refuse to host the marriage or its services due to religious views, even if the venue itself has no religious ties. The bill also gives rights to “religious societies” having the ability to deny services that do not conform with their own religious views, however religious society is not defined clearly.

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Ohio also recognizes Same Sex Unions as valid and legal, however, this very bill is a slap in the face to that acceptance. In effect saying “Oh sure we recognize your marriage, we just don’t approve of it so you cannot use these places for your ceremonies.” For every scrap of ground we make forward, there is some ambush tactic waiting to be unleashed against that advancement.

This bill provides a loophole under the guise of giving licensed ministers and religious societies the ability to refuse the right of marriage. It allows any business the right to refuse their services to anyone that they deem their religion doesn’t recognize. We can step away from the LGBTQ issue here and show it in another fashion. If a heterosexual couple had been living together before they got married, in essence, the Catholic Church could refuse them the right of using their church, minister, or grounds to solemnize their marriage. And this would be acceptable as the couple had been “living in sin” prior to their marriage. If the female became pregnant before marriage, the same kind of ruling could be applied for attending church or using their facilities. How far could this be carried? Would places start selectively giving information to the church about your personal activities to make sure that what you are doing doesn’t violate something with that religious organization?

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Many bills are written this way and put before the voting body. It is proposed to target something someone may not feel is lawful, but can be expanded in the future to include other things that may not have been thought of at the time of inception. I urge you to research this bill and read it thoroughly and then contact the Ohio Judicial Committee to speak out about it. You can find more information of Equality Ohio here. And remember, simply because we have had a few good steps forward does not mean that the journey is complete. Until we do not have to fight for the same basic rights that so many of the population take for granted, our fight is far from over.

Below is a list of names and numbers of the Ohio Judiciary Committee.  Contact them and let them know how you feel. If you are not confrontational, make the call after 5pm and you leave a voicemail.

Senate Judiciary Committee

Chair Kevin Bacon 614-466-8064
Vice Chair Matt Dolan 614-466-8056
Ranking Minority Member Cecil Thomas 614-466-5980
William P. Coley, II 614-466-8072
John Eklund 614-644-7718
Matt Huffman 614-466-7584
Peggy Lehner 614-466-4538
Sean O’Brien 614-466-7182
Scott Oeslager 614-466-0626
Michael J. Skindell 614-466-5123

 

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The Dye Has Been Cast

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Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

Like many others today, I made my way to the polls to make sure my voice was a part of the cacophony we call democracy. Many view it as a chore but it is also our given right. It’s the chance for us to be a part of a larger collective, to show the government we will be heard and we do matter. This was also my first time voting in Ohio, so there was that added stress. Apparently, not all of Ohio uses the same means for residents to vote, it is county specific. Take Cuyahoga County for instance, we use a scantron method for our votes to be taken. That created its on moment of high school examination dread, when I opened the folder for my ballot.

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Queue the flashback sequence, a la Wayne’s World (party on Garth, Party on Wayne). It would be more apt to say… Pictures it Montgomery County, Virginia November 1992, a small town gay boy makes his way for his first time of entering the booth. Now before you get all pervy on me, I am recalling my first time voting in an election, not a video booth. Sheesh, maybe if you are good we can recount that story, spoiler alert I have never been in one of those booths. Anyway, back to the young boy, going through high school civics/government class we all had training to help man the polls and learn how to use the machines. At that time, Virginia was still using the punch ballot. You essentially would put your card in this machine, line it up, choose your candidates and using a pin push through the paper, and when you were done you would pull a lever to cast your ballot. The machine would reset for the next person. Think slot machine without the payout.

That was nerve-wracking back then, thankfully Virginia now uses an electronic system. Being a Gen X-er, we grew up watching technology evolve, so merging into that type of system wasn’t a hard migration. Moving to Ohio I was unsure what to expect and they didn’t let me down. I decided to vote before work and managed to get there about an hour after the polls opened and took my roommate along for the ride. Of course I grilled him about how it would work, since I hadn’t used a paper ballot since high school. I was expecting a large turn out and it wasn’t bad. The lines moved very quickly and since I screwed up one of my forms I was even able to retrieve a new one and recast in fairly quick time.

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What’s that you say? How could I have screwed up my vote? Well I did mention earlier the flashback to high school examinations with scantron sheets. Early in the morning my eyes haven’t adjusted and have a bit of double vision, combined with this season’s allergies. So, like a good child is known for, I colored outside of the lines. Apparently more than the machine would tolerate. I could joke about an attempt but saying that could be misconstrued and I wouldn’t want Big Brother showing up at home this afternoon.

All in all, we were in and out quickly. Nice to see that things were under control enough to make them move that effortlessly and thank you for the patient people that had to endure me not understanding the intricacies of Cuyahoga County Voting. I just hope that it wasn’t an indication of low voter turnout. I haven’t checked any information for Ohio, as of today, about early turnout versus showing up on Election Day. As of now at 10 am, it’s a bit too early to see any kind of results as to what may be happening. The fate of the country rests firmly in our hands and it’s time to remember that the government should fear its people and not the people who should fear the government. If you haven’t yet, get out there and vote, no matter who or how you choose to vote. Make your voice be heard.

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Sing it from the mountains…

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I can’t stress enough the importance of voting. Recent elections have shown us that deciding factors can be really close and sometimes a few extra votes can swing things wildly. This year is just as important, with it being midterm elections. How we decide to vote, as a people can vastly change how the remaining two years of this Administration play out. For the LGBTQ community, much of the stage for how our rights may be affected hinge on these elections. Many more communities and states are offering up ordinances for the protection of job status for the LGBTQ people and our votes will greatly impact those decisions.

Tomorrow, November 6th is the day to vote. Please make sure you exercise your right to be heard. No matter how you choose to vote, just do it. We live in a word where the very people who run it are trying to pass legislature that will take away basic rights of every individual. They will decide what you can do with your body, what options you have in healthcare or lack thereof, how laws will affect you in the future. Look at each and every item on the ballot for your area and think how you feel about them. If you are unsure of the wording seek help.

Remember, it is important that each of us get the opportunity to exercise our rights to vote. If you are heading to the polls, take someone along with you. Go as a group and make an event of it. Become educated on the issues so you know how and what may affect you. Let your voice be heard. Remember Thomas Jefferson once said, “When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.” Don’t let this administration that is so keen to publicly spouse hate rhetoric be the only voice that is heard. It is time we speak out, in unison, to let the government know that we are here and we need to be heard.

The annual Pride Parade is replaced with a Resist March as members of the LGBT community protest President Donald Trump in West Hollywood, California
The annual Pride Parade is replaced with a Resist March as members of the LGBT community protest President Donald Trump in West Hollywood, California, U.S. June 11, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

 

Toxic Avengers

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What we have to realize is that we currently live in a world that categorically is choosing to take away rights from marginalized communities. You have to understand this based on what we are seeing around us in the media. We cannot sit by and let rich, old, white, heterosexual men make the decisions that affect our very livelihood. Are these the people we want deciding if women have the capacity to make correct choices for their bodies, if being transgender is considered human, or who should and should not have rights. We have fought wars over similar principles.

We have a person in office that cannot speak the truth on any topic that comes out of his mouth. During his campaign, he stood on a stage waving a flag handed to him by someone who was supposed to be of the LGBTQ community stating that Trump was for LGBTQ rights, as shown in the picture below. The two years he has been in office has been one action after another that has shown he has no consideration for any LGBTQ person. By March of this year, the DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services) had stripped any words of gender from its online documents. Now we know that there is a memo circulating about how this administration wants to make it legal for them to decide what is or is not gender. These same old, rich, white, heterosexual men want to be able to legally decide what gender is to be defined as.

Image: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds up a rainbow flag with "LGBT's for TRUMP" written on it at a campaign rally in Greeley

If this memo were to become a new policy it would allow Title IX to have a redefinition that could affect more than just healthcare. We could see it reach into the educational system, public access, job discrimination, and into the legal system. Title IX states “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Children, who identify, as a different gender than assigned at birth, would no longer have access to restroom, single sex class education, locker rooms, or any other access based on gender. It would remove any protection that transgender would have for discrimination in their jobs or housing. If you are transgender, it would allow anyone to refuse you service or reasonable accommodation due to someone else’s beliefs or definitions of gender.

We have already seen this administration push to the Armed Services not actively recruit transgender people to serve openly in the military. Four courts had turned down this ban, but the administration enacted it in March of this year. It says that any transgender person cannot serve in the military, openly. The only exception is if they were diagnosed under gender dysphoria, however, there are very few actually fell under this diagnosis. To be able to enlist you cannot have starting any transition process, so in essence you have to enlist as the gender you were born under and must continue to serve as that same gender. If you are transgender and have a diagnosis and are currently serving you are fine but if you do not have the diagnosis there is no clear directive of how it may affect you. In the past we have seen punishments like”lack of promotions, denial of deployment, forced discharge for pretextual reasons used against those that didn’t conform to popular mindset.

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In a country that is supposed to separate church and state, we have witness the Supreme Court side on the rights of a cake shop to refuse service to a gay couple based on First Amendment Rights. Freedom of Religions gives you “Freedom of religion means freedom to hold an opinion or belief, but not to take action in violation of social duties or subversive to good order.” Yet, the Supreme Court decided that their views could be used to not serve a specific group of people. We have also seen that the Justice Department fully believes that rights of protection should not be afforded to LGBTQ people. If this were allowed to be rule of the land, it would in essence give any employer the right to fire any employee based on “perceived” sexual orientation. That’s important to note due to them not having to have proof of it, only suspected belief, how else could one proves orientation of someone they do not have personal knowledge of.

In the first year of his presidency, we were witness to the Department of Health and Human Services creating the Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom. This group was created and put into action to ensure that healthcare workers religious liberties wasn’t affected in having to deal with LGBTQ patients. Part of the Hippocratic oath states “I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.” By that very wording it is said that the healthcare provider is not to play God, so by denying someone access to what may be life saving means is making that decision

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Lastly, we saw that the Trump administration fired all members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. This doesn’t affect only the LGBTQ people, but ALL people. Yet the importance of this advisory council doesn’t seem to affect this president. Also there have been numerous reports of moving around funds from the Ryan White Fund to help offset detention camps that this administration started to detain children of “illegal immigrants.”

We have to recognize that this administration is toxic to us. We have to be the ones that make the stand. LGBTQ people have fought for the very frail precipice we stand on and we cannot stop that fight or we will be pushed from it. It is now that we must rally in strength and numbers. It is now we must get out there and make our voices heard. Your voice and vote matters so let it be heard. Show up in numbers, ensure that those who cannot get to the polls on their own have the means to go, and talk your friends and family into voting. To change this tide before it swallows us whole will take each and every one of us. Make your voice known.

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History is Family

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As National LGBTQ History month comes to close we should reflect back on the many important people and events that have came before us. They are important because it is what makes our family. My very first boyfriend gave me the most important lesson I still carry with me to this day. It was this, “as LGBTQ we have the special ability to be able to choose our family when the one we are born into turns away from us.” It gives us the ability to leave the pain that may be caused by the people that are supposed to love us unconditionally and find one that will lift our very souls upward. To do that we have to make one simple choice, which is to love ourselves.

Each post I have made this month has been about finding your inner strength through our history. That inner strength promotes pride and love of who you are and want to be. That sense of pride and love in turn forces you to choose a community that accepts you and you in turn hold that community to a higher standard that reflect the very things you hold important in yourself. That community, hopefully, takes those lessons forward to create unity and strength to battle those that would sooner rob us of our very existence. These actions turn into a movement that says we will not be satisfied with being held down any longer and we demand to be seen as equal. With hope and strength, this movement will shape the change for the future to create the better place that those of us who are coming out in the future will be safe in.

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It all comes from you, though. You who are reading these very words are the ones to shape those images into reality. How you choose to take these words and plant them in your heart and soul. How you choose to share your feelings with others. These first steps are always hard trust me, I know. Looking at yourself in the mirror and knowing that you are perfect the way you are and the feelings you feel are completely natural. The strength and love you have in yourself is enough to make you stronger than anyone who tries to tear you down.

I say to you, from the very bottom of my heart, that I am your family. I support the person you know you are deep inside. I see your value and know that you are a beautiful sole. I am here to listen to you when you think no one else will. I am just like you, even though you feel you are the only one. You may not see it at this very moment, but you are strong, stronger than anyone will ever fully understand. Love yourself, forgive yourself, and never give up the fight.

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Coming Out Through the Ages

History is important because it becomes our guidestone for the future. Knowing the steps and struggles that came before us give us a better feel for who we are and where we need to go. Knowing the stories of those who witnessed first hand the hardships that got us to where we are now can even give us the ability to truly love ourselves. Our history is important because it shows our “logical family,” not the family we were born into. It gives us a sense of community in times where the light seems to struggle against the darkness.

Please take a moment and share these coming out stories. Each shows a part of our recent history and what it was live to live through those eras. Many of these people didn’t know the strength they had at the time or the impact they were about to make. And please take a moment to visit Pyeharrisproject.org, the site these videos came from.

Coming out in the 1950s

Coming out in the 1960s

Coming out in the 1970s

Coming out in the 1980s

 

Tracing Our History

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What does history mean to LGBTQ people? I often sit and wonder this very concept. Being Irish, Scottish, and Native American I can have a shared history with those peoples. Being American, I can learn and interpret where we started and what we’re moving towards. Asians, Africans, Japanese, British, Australians, and Central Americans can all be easily identifiable when it comes to history and it’s because of a shared experience. You can even look at your own family history and see where you came from; again this is because of a shared experience through your DNA. How does that fit in with LGBTQ people?

It would be nice if when we came out that we were sent a magical letter offering us invitation to a school that only teaches history of LGBTQ. We had a means to take a special mode of transportation; I’m thinking a unicorn that pulls a chariot able to carry s few of us at a time. We arrive at a large hall where we are greeted by icons of our history to give us our education. Teaching everything from the history of our modes of dress to why drag queens should be celebrated, classes that teach us the importance of acting out and civil disobedience, showing that we don’t need to be defined by boxes that heteronormative society has placed upon us, and teaching us that love is equal in all eyes and should have no limitations.

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Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com

Sadly, there is no Hogwarts school of LGBTQIA, no train to sweep us away to our magical world of wonder, sparkles, and rainbows, and no means of solidarity to keep us sane and moving forward with pride and strength. We are born, largely, into heterosexual families who, not always for their own faults, no very little of our history and culture. We are given talk about our burgeoning desires in the relations to the birds and the bees. We aren’t surrounded by images of others like us in love. When we do get images, they are more furtive glances into what is defined and perverse and taboo. As LGBTQIA kids, we oftentimes sneak books and magazines into our bedrooms to read in the quite hours. We constantly clear our browser history, so parents aren’t aware of what we may have been viewing and this is only if you are a LGBTQIA youth. These means become complicated exponentially as we get older and develop other relationships.

In 1979, the San Francisco Lesbian and Gay History Project said, “Our letters were burned, our names blotted out, our books censored, our love declared unspeakable, our very existence denied.”- LGBTQ Heritage Our desire to know our history isn’t just a passing fancy of the modern era to prove our worth; as far back as the early 19th century there has been a desire by people with same sex attraction and non-normative gender identities to find means of connecting with our past. It wasn’t until the late 70s that homosexuality was still considered a mental disorder; so finding our history in libraries and bookstores is increasingly difficult.

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Part of the issue with tracing our history comes from the fact that many of the words that are used today to describe us aren’t that old. Take the word homosexual was first recorded in use between 1890-95. The term lesbian being used to describe women who love other women also shows record of being used in the 1800s and became much more popular in the 1960s. I hear what you are saying, it dates back much older to the sister of Sappho who were a group dedicated to Sappho of Lesbo. Now tell me that don’t sound like a line? Religious communities destroyed many of her works but what does remain does speak of her love of women. Gay however has a much more varied past, as far back as the 17th century it was used to describe a person who is “uninhibited by moral constraints.” A gay woman was often a prostitute, while a gay man was a womanizer. Using it to specifically talk about a homosexual was more of a branch of it being used to talk about a prostitute. It wasn’t until somewhere closer to 1920 that it was used more exclusively as a reference to gay men.

Even the feelings toward homosexuality changed over the time frame as often as the climate of the culture did. When a new group asserted power, history was changed and rewritten. Older dogmas would fall to the wayside for new or “enlightened” ways of thinking. There are conflicting ideas amongst Catholic scholars as to when exactly the church started condemning homosexuality. There are records of Christian monastic communities and other religious orders where homosexuality was a part of their way of life and the church exerted no direct interference. What is known is that it became a much more serious offense in the High Middle Ages and reaching their height in the Medieval Inquisitions. During this time, being homosexual was equal to being accused of Satanism. This was around the time that Thomas Aquinas came up with the idea of “natural law,” were homosexuality was viewed as “special sins that are against nature.”

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As Christian dogma changed over the ages, what it enforced also changed. And with that mentions in history of positive references to homosexuality would have been removed so that there would be more representations of how it was a sin and amoral. History also shows us that almost every culture referenced LGBTQ in some way. Native Americans who had no concept of the individual and sexual roles didn’t focus on a gender binary point of view. There are plenty references from various tribes that show men dressing and living as women, while taking husbands. There are accounts of women who dressed as men and fought in battles. There are even reference of those that did not fit any binary thought of gender roles that were held in high spiritual regard.

Realistically we are all human. Not a single one of us is any different other than who we choose to love and sleep with. If they world viewed it as such, there wouldn’t be a need to try to find our history and teach it. However, history is a way for us to feel connected and comforted. It is a way for us to draw strength when so many only want to take that away from us. We live in a climate where we have fought for rights and watch as they are slowing being taken back, history can be what gives us the strength to keep fighting forward. Each of you matters for our future.

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