November 4 is just around the corner, and many Americans are already casting their votes for our next President via absentee ballot. |
( How will you vote this year?Collapse )
Regardless of your overall opinion of any of the candidates, Laurie and I encourage all of you eligible voters to make your voices heard on Election Day. Remember too that even if you're too young to vote, not registered, or not a US citizen, you can still participate in this election! Consider handing out literature or making phone calls for the candidate you support, attending a rally, or engaging in other activities to help inform your fellow Americans about their choices this year.
Same-sex couples wishing to become parents have a long fight ahead of them in Kentucky, where a custody dispute between separated female parents has lead appellate judges to declare that the state's ban on same-sex legal unions should also extend to adoption rights. The recent ruling constitutes a tremendous roadblock for same-sex partners who want to adopt a child or share custody of one partner's biological child.|
While appellate judges in Kentucky did respect the emotional well-being of the child in this particular case by refusing to challenge the terms of an adoption that had occurred more than one year prior to the trial, they have done a great disservice to other children in the state who may be living with two parents of the same gender. The original ruling by Judge Eleanor Garber held some promise for eventually overturning the ban on same-sex adoption that currently exists on the Kentucky law books.
Indeed, many civil liberties that liberal and conservative ideologues alike now hold dear have grown out of ambitious judicial decisions at the state or national level. Perhaps the most famous of these was the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that allowed students of different ethnoracial backgrounds to attend public school together, and thus receive truly equal opportunities in education. Recognizing an unmet need that pervaded all of American society, the Supreme Court disregarded the norm of stare decisis--letting a preceding decision stand as opposed to challenging the principles on which it was made--in favor of social progress that would ultimately benefit Americans of all backgrounds. Given that the nation recently feted the 50th anniversary of the Brown decision, it seems especially inappropriate for an appeals court in Kentucky to suggest that judicial responsibility involves only respect for prior rulings rather than a combination of analysis of judicial precedent and consideration of the best interests of the state's residents.
ACLU representatives have thus decried the ruling as harmful not only to same-sex partners, but also to their children, citing the Kentucky courts' refusal to hear additional same-sex adoption and custody cases as a violation of every child's right to the opportunity to be raised by two loving parents. Should this effective moratorium on same-sex couples adopting children ever be challenged nationally, the question of Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection under the law will surely play a key role in the resulting judicial discourse.
We've had discussions here before about the relative lack of role models in the public eye to whom transgender youth can look for inspiration. Popular reality TV show America's Next Top Model may help to change that with its decision to feature Isis, a male-to-female transgender individual who has yet to undergo any gender reassignment surgery, on its upcoming season. |
Given how natural and confident she appears presenting as female, it doesn't seem difficult to understand why Isis knew from an early age that her gender assignment did not match her true identity. ET Online has more details about Isis's background; personally, I find it very encouraging and inspiring that Isis has chosen to become a professional model without having any chest or genital surgery. If anyone follows this show, definitely drop a note here or on our message boards about her progress.
Unfortunately, some of the coverage of Isis's selection for the upcoming season of America's Next Top Model has portrayed trans individuals in a negative and/or satirical light. A recent interview from Fox News highlights this problem, and shows that as a nation, we still have miles to go before we can consider America a truly hospitable environment for people of every gender identity. Despite the fact that Isis has not yet had, and may never have, gender reassignment surgery, she is no less female than a cisgender or post-op transsexual woman. While pronouns may seem like a nonissue for those of us who have always felt comfortable in our assigned genders--if not the social roles that ostensibly accompany them--using proper pronouns when addressing or discussing a transgender individual changes the entire tone of the conversation, and creates a positive environment for others who may still be questioning their gender identity.
In the meantime, regardless of some media networks' failure to discuss Isis's participation on the show in a respectful manner, it's wonderful to see a trans person taking the spotlight in an industry that has traditionally been dominated by cisgender individuals. While there may be relatively few trans teens who actually wish to become fashion models, Isis can hopefully stand as an example of a trans individual following her personal ambitions and not allowing traditional notions of gender to impede her participation in the industry of her choice. Trans people all over the country continue to break barriers in professional life, but when one does so in such a high-profile industry, this poses an important opportunity for Americans of all gender identities to learn more about what it means to be transgender, and about the experiences of trans individuals in the professional world.
In what will hopefully be the first of many studies to yield similar conclusions, researchers at the Michael D. Palm Center of the University of California at Santa Barbara have found no significant difference in performance between armed forces units allowing LGBT individuals to serve openly and those endorsing a "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Headed by four retired US military generals of varying political attitudes, the study assessed combat performance of different batallions on a number of dimensions. This article from the Associated Press gives a good summary of the study and provides basic background on its principal investigators.|
( Why DADT helps neither military performance nor the proliferation of democracy.Collapse )
Moreover, if one does believe in sowing the seeds of democratic participation in other societies, surely the best place to start lies just as much in the demonstration of one's own country's commitment to true openness and equality for all residents as it does in the building of roads or the removal of landmines. Setting an example of inclusion and open-mindedness certainly constitutes a vital component of any long-term strategy for encouraging people in other countries to exercise political self-determination, whether through representative democracy or through an alternative paradigm of their own choosing.
Young transgender individuals currently housed in juvenile correctional facilities in the State of New York are beginning to reap the benefits of a progressive policy decision made by new Governor David Paterson back in March of this year. Apparently Paterson's directive assuring that transgender teens receive appropriate, non-discriminatory treatment from corrections staff went into effect the same day as his executive order assuring that New York would recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, but this initiative has flown low on the media radar until recently. |
Response to the new policy among LGBT youth and proponents of equal rights has been extremely positive thus far. While utilization of the new rules has been relatively limited due to the small number of transgender individuals currently housed by the New York corrections system, some of the estimated 20 to 30 transgender youth within the system have begun to request more appropriate clothing or use of gender-appropriate pronouns when interacting with staff. This news story from the Associated Press details the resources that New York has put into place to ensure that transgender youth can reap the full benefits of Paterson's March 17 order. I was particularly pleased to see language in the 14-page Office of Children and Family Services guide produced in response to Paterson's directive that acknowledges the importance of talking openly about sexuality and gender identity, and of educating one's peers to do the same.
Clearly, New York is working on all fronts to create environments that not only protect the rights of LGBT individuals, but also foster nurturing environments that promote positive development. This proves especially important for young people in correctional environments, as the quality of the relationships a young person cultivates with peers and staff during time served there can exert a huge impact on the choices that person makes after his/her release. And speaking of foster care, the new policy also applies to transgender New York youth currently placed in foster care, increasing the chances that they will receive the same respect when interacting with OCFS staff that their cisgender peers do.
|» Legal Progress on LGBT Custody Issues|
While California has stolen the spotlight from other states this month with legalized marriage for same-sex couples, important legal victories for the LGBT community are also occurring elsewhere in the country. As marriage becomes an option for same-sex partners in progressively more states, those states also need to establish systems to safeguard the rights of partners and their children in the event of a separation or divorce. Even in states that do not currently extend full marriage rights to same-sex couples, these protections can save couples a lot of heartache--and state governments a lot of personnel time for legal hearings.|
( Good news from America"s heartland.Collapse )
Implicit in the Ohio decision is the idea that relationship commitments and parenthood are active choices that any responsible consenting adult should be able to make, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. While Ohio has yet to acknowledge fully the legitimacy of same-sex marital unions, this ruling deals a major blow to opponents of such action, and holds promise for shaping the course of future State and national policy on gay marriage in a progressive manner.
|» Update on Same-Sex Marriage Policy in NY, CA|
Apparently May has been Marriage Month from coast to coast as far as LGBT news goes, so we'll close out this month with a quick update on the same-sex marriage legalization and recognition efforts in New York and California.|
( Progress toward full marriage for individuals in same-sex relationships continues slowly but steadily.Collapse )
If any of you readers have further information on these emerging issues in California and New York, please comment here!
|» California Gay Marriage Ban Overturned|
In a historic decision that will hopefully pave the way for other US states to grant full marriage rights to LGBT couples, California's Supreme Court ruled today that civil unions are not an acceptable subsitute for marriage. The decision was close at 4 votes for to 3 against, and may still come up against challenges in this November's general election, but significant support for marriage rights does exist among California's elected officials. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger emphatically declared that he would not support any ballot measure that sought to overturn today's landmark ruling.|
Of particular interest to our readers here at Families Joined by Love will doubtless be the language used by Chief Justice Ron George to justify the court's ruling: "Our state now recognizes that an individual's capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation." This statement not only validates the capability of LGBT individuals to enrich one another's lives in romantic relationships, but also gives credence to the fact that people in same-sex relationships can provide a wholesome and nurturing environment for any children they may choose to bring into their lives. The ruling thus constitutes not only a victory for LGBT marriage rights, but also a promising look towards future opportunities for LGBT individuals to become parents without social hassle or legal barriers.
As far as legal issues go, California already has provisions on the books to allow individuals in committed same-sex relationships to divorce, obtain custody of children, and/or sue for child support. While we can all hope that every same-sex couple that marries in the State of California will enjoy a long and happy life together, these provisions must exist to prevent some of the problems that have occurred in other states regarding options for divorce and/or protection from domestic violence. For now, we can all celebrate this important legal victory, and keep our fingers crossed that California civil courts begin practicing full marriage ceremonies as soon as possible.
|» California Supreme Court Set To Rule on Gay Marriage Ban|
If you're on the East Coast, it's already Thursday, which may well become a historic day for LGBT individuals in California and across the nation. Later today, the California Supreme Court will rule on the controversial gay marriage ban that currently forms part of the state's civil code. For background on this issue, this news story from the AFP provides a good overview of the basic facts surrounding California's gay marriage ban amendment and the debate over its Constitutionality.|
This post is really just a teaser to make sure that everyone knows about the ruling, which according to the AFP story should be available by 10:00 am PST. I'll give an update here later today with the outcome of this landmark case.
|» Day of Silence Takes on New Meaning|
This year, teens all over America have given added significance to the annual Day of Silence by using it to memorialize Lawrence King, the 15 year-old high school student from Oxnard, California who was murdered in a shooting incident this past February. For the details on participation in this year's Day of Silence, check out this video from Logo Online.|
( An important tradition evolves.Collapse )
Participation in the Day of Silence has grown exponentially since the original event in 1997. Next year I'll post a reminder on our forums so that people can register in advance at the GLSEN Day of Silence site--just click the link at the beginning of the entry to get counted in the participation totals for 2009. If you did the Day of Silence this year, share your experiences with us!