Prop 8 – The Musical!

EDIT: Upon watching this video again, the gay couple strikes me as stereotypical and kind of offensive (although I know that as a straight woman, I’m not the one to make that call). So I apologize if the portrayal put anyone off.

WordPress sucks too much to let me embed this, so here’s the link:

Prop 8 – The Musical

(Cross-posted at Alas, A Blog.)

Whoo hoo!

From the AP wire:

Miami judge rules against Florida gay adoption ban

MIAMI – A judge on Tuesday ruled that a strict Florida law that blocks gay people from adopting children is unconstitutional, declaring there was no legal or scientific reason for sexual orientation alone to prohibit anyone from adopting.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman said the 31-year-old law violates equal protection rights for the children and their prospective gay parents, rejecting the state’s arguments that there is “a supposed dark cloud hovering over homes of homosexuals and their children.”

She noted that gay people are allowed to be foster parents in Florida. “There is no rational basis to prohibit gay parents from adopting,” she wrote in a 53-page ruling.

Florida is the only state with an outright ban on gay adoption. Arkansas voters last month approved a measure similar to a law in Utah that bans any unmarried straight or gay couples from adopting or fostering children. Mississippi bans gay couples, but not single gays, from adopting.

The ruling means that Martin Gill, 47, and his male partner can adopt two brothers, ages 4 and 8, whom he has cared for as foster children since December 2004.

“I’ve never seen myself as less than anybody else,” Gill said. “We’re very grateful. Today, I’ve cried the first tears of joy in my life.”

But won’t this give our precious children a case of THE GAYS!?

The state planned a swift appeal, likely setting up a battle that could reach the Florida Supreme Court. A judge in gay-friendly Key West also found the law unconstitutional in September, but that ruling has not been appealed and has limited legal reach.

The state presented experts who claimed there was a higher incidence of drug and alcohol abuse among gay couples, that they were more unstable than heterosexual unions and that the children of gay couples suffer a societal stigma.

Organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association all support permitting same-sex couples to adopt.

…oh. Forget The Gays – it is THE ALCOHOLS and THE SINGLES and THE STIGMASES that we must protect the precious children from! I once had a roommate who’d been raised by two mothers. She had MANY ALCOHOLS and THE STIGMA, and also I am sure her parents are now BROKEN-UPPED because of their being lesbians, who are unstable, as we know.

Ahem. Anyway, let me repeat: whoo hoo! I can only imagine how good it must feel to know that the children you love now have a permanent place in your home.

Hold the Fucking Phone.

So yesterday I was listening to Patt Morrison on KPCC, and she was interviewing various people about prop 8. One of the topics that came up was, of course, support for prop 8 in the black community. But before she began her interview with Jasmyne Cannick, a black lesbian journalist who wrote an op/ed for the LA Times, she stated that “lack of black support wasn’t as substantial as initially reported – just over 50%, very much in line with much of the rest of the population.”

The archived show is here; Cannick’s segment starts around 25:00.

…did I hear that wrong? Am I going crazy? Is she right? If so, why can’t I find any mention of this anywhere else? Why is no one talking about it? Or is she just mistaken? If so, that seems like an incredible statement to make without checking your facts.

Has anyone else heard about this?

(Cross-posted at Alas, A Blog.)

Kristallnacht

I don’t really have much to say about it, but tonight’s the 70th anniversary, so I feel obligated to post something. If you’d like to read more, Wikipedia’s always useful.

In other news, white people are feeling free to toss around the word nigger.

In other other news, here’s a story about my election day. I tried to give an elderly couple No on 8 flyers but they wouldn’t take them. “We’re voting yes,” the man said. “We think it’s a good idea!”

I couldn’t help but think of all the casual hatred that has simmered throughout the centuries – all the people who have thought of themselves as well-meaning, sensible, just concerned. I came across another anti-“Zionist” tirade the other day, on a site linked to by a major feminist blogger. Its reasoning went like this: 1. There’s no such thing as a secular Jew who isn’t a Zionist. Religious Jews aren’t necessarily Zionists, but no non-religious person would ever want to be Jewish and not Zionist. (After all, Zionism’s 100% of all Jewish cultures, right?) 2. Anyone who cares about anti-Semitism is obsessed with anti-Semitism, and thus does not care about Palestinians. 3. If you think I’ve got a problem with Jews, re-read #2.

I tried not to let it get to me, but you can see that it did.

Anyway.

Prop 8

Last summer, when the California Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional, I found it impossible to get excited. I didn’t know why. It just seemed too good to be true, so deep down I didn’t think it actually was true. Same-sex couples around me started getting married and I tried to be happy for them, but I never quite believed it.

And, well, now I know why. Because it was too good to be true.

Last night, I watched one of our organizers start crying as he realized we were going to lose. I didn’t know what I could possibly say to console him. The stakes were infinitely higher for him than for the homophobes cheering in Orange County. I think of all the other married couples my husband and I worked with on this campaign, and it breaks my heart.

That’s really all I can say at this point. My heart is broken.

(Cross-posted on Alas, A Blog)

Speaking of Basing Your Campaign on Lies…

My husband is a phone banking coach for the local No on 8 campaign. Tonight, at an update meeting, they confirmed a rumor that was circulating around the phone banking session last week: Yes on 8 supporters are calling members of gay and lesbian communities and telling them that if they support same-sex marriage, they should vote yes.

Again, for people in the back – anti-same-sex marriage people are telling people in same-sex couples to vote yes on 8. Their case is so weak that their strategy is now to just confuse people. Now, we don’t know how widespread it is, and obviously the Yes on 8 campaign would deny it if asked. But our campaign has received multiple reports from people saying they’ve been called.

The bad news is that now we have to divide our efforts between calling undecided voters and calling our own supporters to undo the damage. The good news is that we’ve raised enough money to expand our efforts.

Still, please, donate donate donate and volunteer volunteer volunteer. Have we mentioned yet that prop 8 is a constitutional amendment? Meaning that if it passes, it’s virtually impossible to reverse it?

And for California residents who may have gotten here through Google – if you support same-sex marriage, VOTE NO ON 8.

(Cross-posted on Alas, A Blog.)

Proposition 8

As many of you heard, Connecticut’s supreme court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage today. Awesome.

However, next month Californians will be voting on prop 8, which seeks to eliminate same-sex marriage here. For the last couple of months, polls have been looking good, but earlier this week support for the proposition jumped by ten points. 47% of Californians are now in favor of eliminating same-sex marriage rights, with 42% opposing. If this proposition passes, it’ll reverse the supreme court’s decision and once again make same-sex marriage illegal. Now, the numbers are inexact, and pollsters are saying it’s still too close to call. But we need to pay attention to this.

A couple of quick notes: contrary to the lies supporters are spreading, the existence of same-sex marriage does not mean that officiants are now forced to perform these marriages. One thing you hear fairly often is that theoretically, people can now sue their places of worship if said place of worship won’t marry them. Sure, they could file a lawsuit – they could absolutely take the paperwork down to the courthouse and hand it to the clerk. But it’d be laughed out of court. Rabbis aren’t forced to marry Jews and non-Jews, even though that’s legal.

Also. This whole thing about forcing teachers to tell their students that homosexuality is okay? Please. The reasoning goes like this: since teachers sometimes talk about marriage in the classroom, teachers would theoretically be required to teach that same-sex marriage is just as good as hetero marriage. I actually wish that were the case, but no – the police aren’t going to break down the doors of classrooms in which teachers aren’t extolling same-sex marriage. It just isn’t going to happen.

My husband put it very nicely: supporters of prop 8 are framing all of their arguments as theoretical – as if Californians haven’t already been living with gay marriage (in our state, cities, neighborhoods, or homes) since June. They don’t want us to think about the fact that it’s a reality: first off, because that would call attention to the fact that they’re trying to take away actual rights, and secondly, because people might start to notice that civilization hasn’t crumbled to pieces yet.

And don’t get me started on that party-A-party-B-is-ruining-straight-marriage bullshit.

If you live in California, please volunteer to phone bank with the No On 8 campaign. And if you live in Connecticut, pay attention to this – the bigots are showing their cards.

Stay tuned for my diatribe against prop 4! Also opposition to prop 2, which people are claiming will force us to eat Mexican chickens. No, I’m not making this up.

(Cross-posted on Alas, A Blog)

Book Review: Righteous Indignation

Righteous Indignation: A Jewish Call for Justice
Rabbi Or N. Rose, Jo Ellen Green Kaiser, and Margie Klein, editors

I love me a good social justice anthology, and considering my growing involvement in Jewish social justice, I figured that this book would be right up my alley.

Unfortunately, the most disappointing aspect of the book was its almost exclusive focus on activism from a religious viewpoint. Not only did this fail to address many of the concerns and contributions of secular, cultural Jews (we need love, too!), but it led to a lot of repetition – I ended up skimming a lot of the passages whose main focus was presenting even more Biblical evidence that social justice is a good thing. Which isn’t to say that justice-oriented readings of the Torah and Talmud aren’t very useful for many people. But if that’s not the thrust of your activism, then it can leave you feeling really unsatisfied.

Despite its flaws, though, there were some really interesting essays. The writing of Jay Michaelson, April Rosenblum, and Rabbi Jill Jacobs was wonderful, as usual. And I found that I was moved by some of the Biblical readings despite myself. Take, for example, Rabbi Jane Kanarek’s explanation of what tikkun olam really means. Rabbi Kanarek shows us a peculiar Mishnah on the subject of captivity:

One does not redeem captives for more than their worth because of tikkun ha’olam. One does not help captives to escape because of tikkun ha’olam. Rabban Shimon the son of Gamliel says: because of the decree of the captives. (Mishnah, Gittin 4:6)

Kanarek explains that, even though the Mishnah seems to imply powerlessness – we can’t ransom prisoners because it encourages kidnappers to take more prisoners, and we can’t free them because future prisoners will be treated even more cruelly – it’s actually suggesting that the proper course of action is to create a world in which no prisoners are taken in the first place. It’s not literally saying that we should never try to release people from captivity, but rather that our first priority should eliminating systemic injustice.

The book also gives Jews some ammunition against anti-choicers who use religion and morality to shut down arguments about abortion and stem cell research. Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff points out that “[d]uring the first forty days of gestation, the fetus, according to the Talmud, is ‘as if it were simply water,’ and from the forty-first day until birth it is ‘like the thigh of its mother.'” This means that, from a Jewish point of view, an embryo is not a human being; furthermore, even when the pregnancy is advanced, the fetus is still part of its mother’s body.

However, Dorff explains that late-term abortions are “generally prohibited” because the mother would be doing harm to her own body (just as if she tried to cut off a thigh). But if the thigh needs to be cut off – just as late-term abortions are virtually always necessary procedures, not flighty changes of mind – then she’s obligated to do what it takes to protect her health and wellbeing. (This may seem like a loophole, given the “generally prohibited” clause, but I think we can read it as an assertion that the woman is the best judge of what she and her body need.) Similarly, if embryonic stem cell research will save lives, then we’re obligated – indeed, commanded – to do whatever it takes to save those lives.

Abigail Uhrman tells an interesting Talmudic story to explain the pitfalls of ableism: Rabbi Elazar meets a disfigured man and comments on his ugliness. “Tell the Creator who made me what an ugly, empty vessel I am,” the man replies. Rabbi Elazar realizes that to insult one of God’s creation is to insult God, and begs for forgiveness. Here’s where the story gets interesting, though – the man refuses to forgive him, no matter how much Rabbi Elazar begs. His grudge indicates that the man is just as flawed as Rabbi Elazar. He’s not a saint; he’s just human. This demonstrates that putting disabled people – or any version of your personal Other – on a pedestal is just as myopic as considering them lesser beings.

One essay that really affected me was Rabbi Elliot Rose Kukla’s “Created Beings of Our Own.” He makes a very eloquent case against transphobia:

Although Jewish Sages often tried to sort the world into binaries, they also acknowledged that not all of parts of God’s Creation can be contained in orderly boxes. Distinctions between Jews and non-Jews, Shabbat and the days of the week, and purity and impurity are crucial to Jewish tradition. However, it was the parts of the universe that defied binaries that interested the Rabbis of the Mishnah and the Talmud the most. Pages and pages of sacred texts are occupied with the minute details of the moment between fruit and bud, wildness and domestication, innocence and maturity, the twilight hour between day and night. We read in the Babylonian Talmud:

Our Sages taught: As to twilight, it is doubtful whether it is part day and part night, or whether all of it is day or all of it is night… Rabbi Yosi said: “Twilight is like the twinkling of an eye as night enters and the day departs, and it is impossible to determine its length.” (Shabbat 34b)

…Jewish tradition acknowledges that some parts of God’s Creation defy categories and that these liminal people, places, and things are often the sites of the most intense holiness.

This essay hit home for me as a half-Jew (an identity which many Jews and a surprising number of gentiles are quick to inform me doesn’t exist – as if I’m supposed to cut my connection to my own family) and a secular Jew (since so much of Ashkenazi culture has been obliterated in the last century). It’s intensely lonely to find yourself straddling a binary; if it feels so bad to be the only secular Jew around, or the person at a Seder who has to dodge questions about her mother, I can’t even begin to imagine the pain that transpeople feel at our society’s ferocious attempts to disappear them. Profundity is a very scary thing to witness, and perhaps cisgendered people’s fear of transfolk is evidence of that. Rabbi Kukla’s essay was nothing short of inspiring.

The editors have put up a website with resources and action alerts; it’s a bit sparse right now, but hopefully they’ll add more content as time goes on. In the meantime, the book is definitely worth a read, even if you don’t find all the essays useful.

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