Showing posts with label Ohio. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ohio. Show all posts

May 19, 2014

A long time coming but it’s worth it, gay rights in Gooding


                                         Duck Pond Farm A writers cottage between two ponds... Pennsylvania ...

I grew up in Gooding, Idaho, a farming town of a couple thousand people that was, in many ways, a friendly place. But it was not then a particularly friendly place to grow up gay, and it has been interesting to see – as we balding and softening children of the ’80s age – the way that the gays and lesbians among us have emerged and found their voices, even as the culture matures.
It’s safe to say that few of us – straight, gay, open-minded or bigoted – expected Idaho to be at the center of the constitutional issue over marriage for same-sex couples. It feels momentous. Monumental. For if there is any sign that this ludicrous wall is truly crumbling, it’s not the arrival of gay marriage in the blue states. It is how the constitutional questions fare where the opposition is great.
“I’ve joked from the beginning that it’s going to be a race for last place between Idaho and Missouri,” said Rick Schneider, a friend from Gooding who now lives in St. Louis. “I thought that Idaho would be the last state to be that forward-thinking.”
Schneider and I attended high school together in the early 1980s. He says he has always known he was gay – joking that his mom has photos of him at age 4 staging a tea party with his stuffed animals – but he lived in fear of that knowledge for much of his youth, and he was by no means out. He said he remembered that when he moved to Gooding in the eighth grade, on one of his first days in class a girl turned and taunted him for being gay.
From then on, “It never stopped. It was relentless. … I did my best to be as invisible as I possibly could.”
I was a year older than Rick, and though I remember him, and though we’ve reconnected on Facebook, I don’t have any specific memories about his experiences along these lines. But I very much remember the assumptions and insults that flowed toward any kid who “seemed” gay, the kinds of taunting that I, like most everyone, either tolerated or participated in. It’s hard for me to imagine what it must have been like to grow up with that extra self-consciousness – given how fraught with self-consciousness those years are for anyone.
He recalls being teased everywhere in town, even when he was with his mother. He felt horrible about that on his mother’s behalf – having to be the mother of “the town queer.” And he tried his hardest to be something other than he was. He remembers insisting to a friend that he wanted nothing so much as to marry a busty, lusty blonde.
“I was trying to fit that mold,” he said.
The wonderful thing about Rick and Gooding is that the story did not end there. It grew. It got better.
Rick did go on to marry a blond woman, and they had a daughter. Eventually, they divorced and he met his current fiancé – Bobby, who he’s been with for 18 years. They are raising Rick’s grandson. He and Bobby plan to marry this summer in Illinois, with both of their mothers present.
In 2005, they returned to Gooding for their 20th class reunion. Rick was full of trepidation.
He remembers the two of them checking in to a small hotel in town, and the clerk telling him there had been a mistake: there was only one queen bed. He told her that was OK.
“She was like, ‘Oh.’ ” Pause. “ ‘ Oooohhhhh.’ ”
He dressed for the first night party – at a dim, pool-tables-and-jukebox bar – the way he would have dressed to go out on the town in St. Louis, including painting his toenails, he said.
He almost didn’t go through with it. “I thought, this is not a place to be this gay,” he said.
But what happened when he saw his classmates surprised him. One of the first people he saw was the girl who had, back in eighth grade, taunted him when he was the new kid.
“ ‘Rick,’ ” she told him, “ ‘I am so sorry.’ … She said her best friend through life has been a gay guy.”
Rick said his classmates were friendly and supportive. Some of the football players and popular kids who he’d feared made a point to say hi and showed an understanding that they’d been cruel to him. Many people had simply lived long enough to come to know and love a gay person in their own lives or, in some cases, to come out themselves. What happened to him in high school, Rick says, was as much about people being young and ignorant as it was about them being hateful. The weekend that had filled him with nervousness turned out to be a warm, positive homecoming. And he and the girl from eighth grade have gone on to form a long-distance friendship.
“I had a great time,” he said. “I had a great time. It was ridiculous.”
Rick thinks that many opponents of gay marriage – as well as supporters – are locked into separate spheres and not communicating. He tries to emphasize that gay marriage is not about the religious covenant, but rather about the legal status of gay couples in terms of the benefits that are afforded straight marriages, from inheritance issues to benefits costs at work.
The flourishing of support for gay marriage has come with such recent speed that it’s easy to forget how long a wait it has been for someone like Rick.
“I never believed it would happen in my life,” he said. “I thought it’s going to be something maybe my daughter will see, but not me.”
Shawn Vestal can be reached at (509) 459-5431 or shawnv@spokesman.com. Follow him on Twitter at @vestal13

April 15, 2014

Ohio Ordered to Recognize All Out of State Gay Marriages



                                                                   
A federal judge on Monday ordered Ohio to recognize same-sex marriages lawfully performed in states that authorize them in the latest court victory for gay rights supporters.
Judge Timothy Black temporarily stayed his decision until both sides present arguments on the stay Tuesday.  Black will then rule quickly on whether to delay the full effects of his ruling pending the state's appeal in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Black ruled that refusing to recognize gay marriage is a violation of constitutional rights and "unenforceable in all circumstances."
"The record before this court ... is staggeringly devoid of any legitimate justification for the state's ongoing arbitrary discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation," Black wrote.
The order does not force Ohio to allow gay marriages to be performed in the state.
“This is a great day for many Ohio families,”  said Cincinnati civil rights attorney Al Gerhardstein, the lead counsel for the plaintiffs. “Yesterday, they lived in a state that discriminated against them; today they live in a state that has declared them equal. Their marriages, the very foundations of their families, are recognized under the law.”
Gerhardstein, who has filed three gay marriage lawsuits in Ohio since June, said several gay couples who want to win the right to marry in Ohio have contacted him. He is considering filing a new lawsuit on their behalf aimed at striking down Ohio's gay marriage ban entirely.
"The ultimate goal is full marriage equality," Gerhardstein said.
Phil Burress of Citizens for Community Values, which opposes gay marriage, said about Black's ruling: “We believe that Judge Black made up his mind the minute he got the case.  We firmly believe it will be overturned before the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals."
Both Burress and Chris Seelbach, a leader of the group "Why Marriage Matters" and Cincinnati's first openly gay council member, claimed that public opinion is on their side.
Burress cited the 2004 vote that banned gay marriage in Ohio by a 62-38 majority. 
“3.3 million people voted in 2004 to change the state constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. One person in a black robe is not going to overrule the will of over three million people,” Burress said.
But there has been "a shift in values" since that vote 10 years ago, Seelbach said. 
"I think in the last 10 years the hearts and minds of people in Ohio have really changed and they believe gay and lesbian families deserve to be treated fairly and equally under the law – no special treatment but just the same," Seelbach said.
Burress said a new poll shows 56 percent of Ohioans back traditional marriage and 33 percent support same-sex relationships.
"That's important because they got 38 percent of the vote in 2004," Burress said. "So, they're not going to win by going to the people.
"This is a Hail Mary pass for them.  They're the ones on the defense because the only way they can force it upon Americans -- same sex marriage -- is through the United States Supreme Court."
    
Seelbach said groups like CCV aren't mainstream.
"I think more and more groups like CCV are becoming the fringe of this movement.  Most people -- most Ohioans -- believe that gays and lesbians should be treated equally under the law," Seelbach said.
Not so, Burress countered.
"The average person knows that marriage is between one man and woman and he can say all he wants to about fringe, but why are they going to the courts?  Why are they going to the courts to win their case if he didn't know the people was against him?"
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine plans to appeal, spokesperson Dan Tierney confirmed Monday. The state will argue that Ohio has a sovereign right to ban gay marriage.

“The attorney general has previously indicated his intent to appeal the decision. The judge stayed the order and asked both sides to prepare briefs by 3 p.m.  That’s what we will be doing,” Tierney said.
Black said he is inclined to stay his ruling pending appeal, except for a portion that applies to the four gay couples who filed the February lawsuit that led to the court case. That would mean the state would immediately have to recognize their marriages and list both spouses as parents on their children's birth certificates.
If Black declines to stay his broader ruling, that would allow gay couples in Ohio to obtain the same benefits as any other married couple in the state, including property rights and the right to make some medical decisions for their partner. DeWine told The Associated Press last week that he believes marriage is between a man and woman. He declined to speculate on the outcome of the state's appeal or the future of gay marriage rights as a whole.
"Every state is having a lively debate over this and I think that's a proper thing to do," he said. "I think it's pretty obvious that all these issues are going to be resolved by the 6th Circuit and some cases are going to get to the Supreme Court. They're going to have a decision in the United States Supreme Court and we're all going to have to accept that."
Attorneys representing the four same-sex couples who filed the lawsuit that triggered Black's ruling argued that it amounts to state-approved discrimination and likened it to when interracial marriage was illegal in the United States.
Gay marriage is legal in 17 states and Washington, D.C. Federal judges recently have struck down gay marriage bans in Michigan, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma and Virginia, though stays have been issued pending appeals.
Judges in Kentucky and Tennessee have ordered state officials to recognize out-of-state gay marriages. The Kentucky decision has been stayed pending appeal, while Tennessee’s ruling applies to only three couples.

Amanda Lee Myers, Associated Press

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