Archive for the ‘GLBT Rights’ Category

Nicole Maines

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Maine has once again made history in the movement toward full equality for LGBT people, this time for transgender students. A case I’ve been following for several years now in which a girl named Nicole Maines wanted to be treated the same as any other girl in Maine’s schools. The school district turned it into a legal battle when they refused to allow Nicole to use the girls’ bathroom. The Maine Human Rights Commission became involved because Maine law specifically forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity / expression. In a 5-to-1 ruling, the Maine Supreme Court ruled in favor of the girl who is now 16. According to the Bangor Daily News:

“It is the first time any court in the nation has ruled it is unlawful to force a transgender child to use the school bathroom designated for the sex he or she was born with rather than the one with which the child identifies, according to the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders of Boston, which represented the girl and her family.”

Transgender student Nicole Maines (center) with her father, Wayne Maines (left), and brother Jonas, speaks to reporters outside the Penobscot Judicial Center, Wednesday, June 12, 2013, in Bangor.

The decision is especially meaningful to me because I helped pass the anti-discrimination law in 2005. Specifically I testified before Maine’s Judiciary Committee when I was in high school. I told about my experience of being bullied in high school because I was gay, and why the bill should protect students in addition to employment, public accommodations, housing, and credit.

We were successful and in 2005, sexual orientation (the Maine legal definition of which includes “gender identity and expression”) was added to the Maine Human Rights Act, including protections for students. The court’s ruling is fairly broad and can surely be extended to the other categories within the Maine Human Rights Act so that transgender employees are also protected. Public accommodations such as restaurants and hotels, along with housing units, are also prohibited from discriminating.

I’m proud of Nicole and her family who has stood by her side since 2007, when Nicole was in middle school. Congratulations to Nicole, her family, and all those who helped and encouraged her to be true to herself, particularly the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders of Boston, the Maine Human Rights Commission, Equality Maine, and the Maine Civil Liberties Union, the latter two of which supported me during my struggles in high school. I think this is a sign of things to come, both here in Maine across the U.S. As Maine goes, so goes the nation.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy Yule! This is a photo I took of Punzo the other night. When I uploaded it to Google Plus, they applied an Auto Awesome filter that made it twinkle. You can see the original image by visiting my Flickr Photostream or by clicking here.

Only a couple weeks have passed since my last post and in that short time New Mexico and Utah managed to legalize same-sex marriage via high court rulings. Marriage licenses have already been issued as anxious couples attended early morning openings at various county clerk offices. This will make for some happy couples this holiday season. There is clearly momentum gaining fast for marriage equality and where I initially thought it may take 5-10 years to get every state on board, I now think that we won’t have to wait any longer than 2015.

The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia are going to be very interesting. Several national leaders and celebrities are boycotting the event due to Russia’s newly implemented anti-gay policies. Three openly gay olympians – Caitlin Cahow, Billie Jean King, and Brian Boitano – have been selected for the official U.S. presidential delegation to represent the United States. I think it’s exciting to see this level of international involvement and I expect to see many visible pro-GLBT messages at this year’s events. The Olympics are about people coming together in a spirit of international unity, friendly competition, and a celebration of diversity.

Catching Up

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Wow, I haven’t written anything in a while! I guess I’ve just been preoccupied with other things, like helping my mom sell her houses and constructing a fence and dog house for our pomeranians. Oh, and seeing Catching Fire in IMAX! Unfortunately the property sales along Route 3 in Belfast, my mom’s house included, are confidential and I personally don’t know what business is looking to develop, despite rumors of Wal*Mart, Home Depot, and Lowes.

I continue to be faithful to my vegetarian diet. I do continue to eat a little fish and shrimp, which I may give up at some point, though overall it’s been very easy for me. A few restaurants, like Texas Roadhouse, make it very difficult to find vegetarian options, so in those situations I usually just put together a number of side items. My mom prepared a special tofurkey for our Thanksgiving dinner and my family has been eating less meat as a result of my decision.

Black Friday Shopping with Ashley & Tayler

Speaking of Thanksgiving, I went Black Friday shopping and got rear-ended by another vehicle. Fortunately the woman behind me has insurance and I have a front and rear dash cam that recorded everything. It was also reported on local news. We all had neck pain and headaches for a day or two following the incident. I’m still able to drive my RAV4, though it’s going to need quite a bit of repair. I didn’t even buy anything, though I’m more of a Cyber Monday kind of guy anyway (I spent way too much yesterday).

In national news, Hawaii and Illinois legalized same-sex marriage. While I was not especially surprised, it was historic in that Hawaii was the first state to try to pass marriage equality back in 1991 (see Baehr v. Miike). I’m sure the new law will bring a great deal of revenue to Hawaii, one of the most popular wedding and honeymoon destinations in the US. New Mexico is expected to be the next state to legalize same-sex marriage and there are lawsuits in many other states, most notably Virginia. The same team of attorneys who represented the Prop 8 case, Ted Olson and David Boies, have joined a lawsuit in Virginia that could be the end-all case in this matter (see Bostic v. Rainey). The potential for an historical decision is huge when you consider that this is the same state where the 1967 Loving case arose and put an end to discriminatory laws that prohibited interracial marriage.

British Olympic Diver Tom Daley

This past week also brought with it news of British Olympic Diver Tom Daley. Daley, who is 19 years old, decided to offer a public statement concerning his sexuality and the fact that he is currently in a relationship with a man. Last year I blogged about the London 2012 Olympics and Tom Daley, including some of the athletes who were out at that time, most notably Matthew Mitcham. Daley’s decision to come out is being labeled brave, and rightfully so, though I have to agree with BBC’s Matt Slater that it shouldn’t matter. Daley’s announcement comes at a time when much of the world, most notably Russia, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics, still enforces discrimination against gay and lesbian people. Nonetheless I think Daley will serve as a role model for other youth across the globe, showing that you can be yourself, even in sports.

Dispatch Magazine

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

I just got a copy of July’s issue of Dispatch Magazine, which is local to Maine and New Hampshire. My boss had actually saved it out for me because she recognized my picture on the first page (see full spread below). My friend Jesse and I went down to Portland and stayed for Pride weekend. I had a good time and this was the first Pride we’ve had since the passage of marriage equality in Maine, so it was even more special this year.

In more recent GLBT news, the Federal 9th Circuit Court just today upheld the ban on reparative therapy, a type of “counseling” intended to change the sexual orientation of gay and lesbian people. For now the ban only applies to minors, but I believe it will soon be extended to all adults, especially if opponents appeal the decision and it goes before the US Supreme Court. Following the DOMA and Prop 8 decisions, I think it’s pretty clear how our nation’s highest court feels about gay and lesbian people, so I have no concerns. Republican Governor Chris Christie recently signed a similar ban into law in New Jersey, a further indication that conservatives and the GOP are beginning to embrace equal rights for all.

Prop 8 supporters lost their last appeal a little while ago, meaning Prop 8 is permanently dead. As to the DOMA decision, there was some ambiguity about whether same-sex couples living in non-equality states who got married in an equality state, would receive federal marriage benefits. Today the IRS announced it would in fact extend federal marriage benefits to all same-sex spouses, regardless of their state of residence. That means a couple from Texas, for example, can vacation and get married in Maine, then return to their home in Texas and continue to receive federal marriage benefits. The IRS decision, combined with the current Supreme Court position, new litigation across the country, and public acceptance of marriage equality, leads me to believe same-sex marriage in every state is only a few years away.

Equality II

Friday, June 28th, 2013

This is an update from my last post about the DOMA and Prop 8 cases. It was just announced that the 9th Circuit Court lifted the stay on the ruling and same-sex couples in California can now get married again! This comes as welcome and exciting news to many of us who believed it would be at least a month or so until marriages could resume in California.

Also, only hours after the DOMA ruling, California Senator Diane Feinstein reintroduced the Respect for Marriage Act (RMA) into the Senate with 40 co-sponsors. The same bill was simultaneously introduced into the House of Representatives with 160 cosponsors. The RMA is a bill that would completely overturn DOMA. The recent Supreme Court ruling only struck down section 3 of DOMA, meaning the federal government now recognizes same-sex marriages performed in states where it is legal. However, section 2 of DOMA, which allows non-equality states to continue to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, still stands. RMA would eliminate that and same-sex marriage would effectively exist in every state in the US. That is, although every state would have to recognize same-sex marriages, not every state would perform such marriages for the time being, assuming the passage of RMA.

To clarify, prior to the DOMA ruling, a same-sex couple could get married in Maine, for example. Their marriage would only be recognized in Maine and the other states that recognize same-sex marriage. Following the DOMA ruling, the federal government now recognizes such a same-sex marriage performed in Maine and other equality states, which brings with it numerous federal benefits such as tax advantages. If RMA passes and DOMA is completely eliminated, then such a same-sex marriage in Maine should be legally recognized in every state, even states like Texas and Mississippi. Again, those states would still not perform same-sex marriages, but theoretically a resident of a non-equality state could simply get married in an equality state like Maine and then return to their home state and have full marriage recognition. Even if RMA fails in the House, it’s very likely a same-sex couple will soon sue a non-equality state for recognition of their marriage performed in an equality state. This would essentially follow in the footsteps of interracial marriage (see Loving v. Virginia (1967)) and it’s apparent from the court’s DOMA ruling that they would easily find section 2 of DOMA to likewise be unconstitutional.


Thursday, June 27th, 2013

First of all I want to say thank-you to the courageous plaintiffs of the DOMA and Prop 8 cases, as well as their attorneys and everyone who helped us toward today’s victories in our nation’s highest court. We made history, a history that can never be revoked by a popular vote or referendum. This is permanent and it has set the stage for the final steps in this battle for equality. I am proud of our nation today. We are led by the first president to openly embrace and support the LGBT community. Gays and lesbians are serving openly in the military and now are proud members of the Boy Scouts. It is fitting that these Supreme Court rulings came in June, which is, by presidential proclamation, National LGBT Pride Month. For the first time in history, a majority of Americans favor marriage equality, and that majority becomes a vast majority for those in my generation and younger.

The direction in which we are moving is clear and the path ahead is laid out before us – we need only take a few more steps. I expect it won’t be long now until we achieve nationwide marriage equality in every state as same-sex marriage is now free to follow in the footsteps of Loving v. Virginia. There is still a great deal of work to be done in other areas of law, such as the federal Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA), which will make it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation in employment and education, respectively. As David Boies, attorney for the plaintiffs in the Prop 8 case, indicated, the DOMA ruling demonstrates that when the issue of gay marriage returns to the high court, “marriage equality will be the law throughout this land.”

When I was in high school, I was harassed on a daily basis for being gay. I was suspended for a week and threatened with arrest because I wore a gay pride t-shirt to school. No state had yet recognized same-sex marriage and sodomy was still criminalized in some parts of the country. My experiences convinced me that I had to take action and stand up for what was right, and shortly after graduating high school, I helped pass Maine’s anti-discrimination bill that outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity / expression. So much has changed since then. Today’s ruling not only grants over 1,000 federal benefits to married same-sex couples, but is also symbolic of a cultural shift. I think I speak on behalf of millions of other gay and lesbian Americans when I say that I feel very affirmed and proud of who I am and my community. Nothing will ever be the same again.

While the majority’s opinion praised equality and condemned discrimination against gay and lesbian people, Justice Scalia’s homophobic dissent was quite prophetic and I believe he is correct. We haven’t much longer to wait until full equality is realized for LGBT Americans…

“The Court is eager – hungry – to tell everyone its view of the legal question at the heart of this case…Yet the plaintiff and the Government agree entirely on what should happen in this lawsuit. They agree that the court below got it right; and they agreed in the court below that the court below that one got it right as well…As far as this Court is concerned, no one should be fooled; it is just a matter of listening and waiting for the other shoe.”


Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

My uncle brought my new RAV4 to Maine from California today. I’ve been working really hard and saving up for the past 6 months so I could get this car and not have any loans or debt. I’m super happy with it! It’s a V6 and has tons of room inside, 5 seats with a huge trunk / storage area (with fold-down seats), and can get up to 31 mpg. Sound system is great and I can attach my iPhone to the audio input. I got it from California so that there wouldn’t be any concerns about rust damage, which is common for cars sold in New England. I don’t intend to keep it here much longer since I’m planning on leaving Maine in a year or less (my aunt and uncle would like me to move out to southern California), but in any case I know it will last me a long time. Consumer Reports rates it as the best mid-size SUV. I’m right in love with it 😀

These are photos from the California dealership’s website when the listing was still up. Click on the thumbnails to enlarge:

Next month (June) is LGBT Pride Month, made official by Presidential Proclamation last year. It is fitting that the US Supreme Court will soon be deciding the final outcomes of Prop 8 and DOMA. I expect both of them will be repealed in some form, though how broad the ruling will be is anyone’s guess. It could be anything from marriage equality in California and at the Federal level, all the way to full nationwide marriage equality overnight. AFER has a great graphic that explains it better than I can: Prop 8 Potential Outcomes. I think Prop 8 will be overturned, DOMA will be repealed, and thus California, the Federal government, and all states with only civil unions will have full recognition of same-sex marriage. With DOMA out of the way, interstate lawsuits will ensure that same-sex marriage follows in the same footsteps as interracial marriage (see Loving v. Virginia, 1967). Also this week the Boy Scouts will be deciding whether to allow gay youth in their troops and Illinois may become the 13th state to pass marriage equality.


Sunday, May 5th, 2013

Spring is here and the weather is so nice. I’ve already been out shooting (archery) and rollerblading. I’ve been working really hard to save up for a new car – almost there! I’ve also been conducting some of my own experiments with plants, mostly tissue culture. I’ll publish results when I have something interesting. Still working on Pom Rush, the iPhone game I’m developing. It’s about two-thirds complete. I’m working on making it more difficult, but all the levels and characters are finished. That’s all I’m saying for now. I think I’ll have it ready and for sale in the App Store sometime this Summer.

This Summer is going to be exciting in the world of gay rights. As many of you know, Rhode Island just became the 10th state to legalize same-sex marriage. It also means that every state in New England has marriage equality! France also recently passed it, making 11 countries that fully embrace equality. It will not be long before the entire US recognizes same-sex marriage. Next month the Supreme Court will hand down rulings on DOMA and Prop 8, both of which are expected to favor equality. I predict Prop 8 will finally be overturned, adding California to the states where gay couples can wed. I believe that parts of DOMA will also be struck down, paving the way for Federal recognition of same-sex marriages and establishing significant precedent that will qualify sexual orientation for “heightened scrutiny” (protected classification along with race, religion, gender, etc.). Once DOMA is out of the way, same-sex marriage will be free to follow in the footsteps of interracial marriage, specifically Loving v. Virginia – there will be nothing to prevent a same-sex couples married in an equality state, such as Maine, from moving to another state such as Florida, and suing that state for marital recognition. At that point it’s a fast track to national recognition in every state. For now, but probably not much longer, DOMA is the only thing standing in our way.

The majority of Americans who support marriage equality continues to climb in number and organizations that previously objected to equality, such as the Boy Scouts, are now reconsidering their position. Even the Republican Party seems to be shifting its stance on several social issues including same-sex marriage. I don’t think anything can stop our momentum 😀

Madonna at GLAAD Awards

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

This is why I love Madonna. She’s always been my favorite. She spoke at the GLAAD awards, dressed in a Boy Scout uniform, and called on the BSA to end their discriminatory practices. She presents an award to Anderson Cooper, who recently came out on national TV. She gives a very good speech about the national and international state of prejudice against LGBT people, bullying, and how we cannot accept this as we move forward. She points out that homophobia is no different than a white man hanging a black man before the civil rights movement, or the Taliban shooting a young girl in the head because she blogged about equal education for girls. I totally agree. Homophobia is no different than racism or sexism or any of the past prejudices which have come to fall from popular discourse. Homophobia is on its way out. Please read my February 6th blog about how I used to be a Boy Scout and call on the BSA to end discrimination against LGBT youth, as well as my work in civil rights.

“I don’t know about you, but I can’t take this shit anymore. And that is why I want to start a revolution.”

Madonna Calls on Boy Scouts to Lift Ban on Gays

Boy Scouts

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

“Every American boy shall have the opportunity of becoming a good scout.”
~Boy Scouts of America, Handbook for Boys, 1911

I was disappointed with the Boy Scouts today. They were supposed to make a decision regarding their organization-wide ban on gay scout members. Instead, that decision has been deferred to May.

The Boy Scouts are feeling heat from both perspectives on this issue, that is if the side of discrimination and bigotry can be called a perspective (more like a delusion). A number of religious organizations, including the Maine Christian Civic League, have signed a statement encouraging the Boy Scouts to “stay morally straight.” That statement also includes a threat to end their support, including financial support, to the Scouts, if they change their policy.

The topic is not merely a matter of liberal views vs. fundamentalist delusions. Our country is moving in a direction of civil rights and there is no turning back now, anymore than we would turn back and reinstitute racial segregation. Those opposed to basic equality for gay and lesbian individuals, which, for now, includes the Boy Scouts of America, are on the wrong side of history. The direction we are moving in is obvious. DOMA was overturned, more and more states continue to legalize same-sex marriage on the heels of high court rulings in favor of equality, and in every walk of life gay and lesbian people are becoming more accepted. A majority of Americans now support marriage equality and Maine recently became the first state to legalize marriage equality by popular vote. This is the first time in history we’ve had a president who openly affirms equal rights for us.

When I was in high school (Class of 2005) I was harassed and bullied on a daily basis for being gay. Several students and even some teachers regularly did whatever they could to make me feel unwelcome and down about how I was born. It got so bad that I attempted suicide and had to transfer to another high school. When I sued the school district, their attorney said, “Yes, we did all those things, but they weren’t illegal at the time.” In 2005 I told my story to Maine’s legislature and helped pass the anti-discrimination bill that makes it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity in education, employment, housing, credit, and public accommodation. Now less than a decade later, my little sister attends the same high school and reports that there are several openly gay students who are accepted and that the homophobic bullies are in the minority and remain silent, as they should.

Whether or not it is the right way to make this decision, the Boy Scouts will likely choose a course of action based on finances. Membership has drastically reduced over the years and a large number of major companies have already terminated their funding to the Scouts due to the Scout’s anti-gay policy. Such companies include Intel, Emerson, Verizon, 3M, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Pfizer, Valero, UPS, U.S. Bank, Eli Lilly and Co., GE, Monsanto, Medtronic, PNC, Nationwide, Abbott, General Mills, Alcoa, Caterpillar, Illinois Tool Works, Allstate and Dow Chemical. In any case, if the Scouts uphold their current policy, they will become increasingly outmoded and unpopular to the point of no longer being able to maintain their existence.

As was true with the US Military prior to the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, gay scouts and leaders are already present in troops across America. I know this because I was a Boy Scout for several years. I did all the things that you might expect in scouting and it was a very good experience for me. Among other things, I participated in box car racing, skeet shooting, camping, wood carving, and a number of other activities that no boy should be denied just because of how he was born. It is worth pointing out that the Girl Scouts do not ban lesbian leaders or scouts from their troops.

I hope that come this May, the Scouts will make the right decision and end their discriminatory policy. Opponents of equality still have a voice and are putting all their efforts on trying to maintain the last remnants of homophobia in our society. They know they are quickly becoming irrelevant and that their message is rapidly losing support in modern America. When such groups become trivial hate factions and go the way of the KKK and Neo-Nazis, I really hope the Scouts are not in the same boat. Whatever decision they make this May, there will be unhappy people and the Boy Scouts will have to follow their own motto – Be Prepared.