Thursday, October 29, 2009

An advantage to praying in a language you don't understand?

I posted this to my Facebook Wall, where it produced a really interesting comment thread. So, I thought I'd post it here, and see what folks think.

"The other advantage of praying in Hebrew without understanding it is that it spares you the temptation to argue with the prayer book." Harold Kushner, in To Life!: A Celebration of Jewish Thinking and Being, pp. 201-202.

(I said, "Yeah, right!!")

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

PRAYERS FOR PEACEMAKERS, Weds. Oct. 28, 2009 | Christian Peacemaker Teams

I get CPT's Prayers for Peacemakers every Wednesday. Because of some conversations I'm having, I felt like sharing this one.

PRAYERS FOR PEACEMAKERS, Weds. Oct. 28, 2009 | Christian Peacemaker Teams:

Pray for the Palestinian children who walk to school from Tuba to At-Tuwani in the South Hebron Hills. Earlier this week they were threatened by Israeli settlers when the Israeli government-mandated military escort failed to appear to accompany them.

How do we talk about, get support around, death?

Samhain is fast approaching, so of course I am thinking about death. About those dear ones who've died and whom I miss fiercely, and those whom I've been able to let go a little more. About those whom I don't miss at all. About those I love whose death was a release; those who died in old age after a long life; those who died young; those who died suddenly; those to whom I was able to say goodbye; those who died without any final contact.

About a dear F/friend who is actively dying.

Anastasia Ashman, a sister Mawrter, posted this recently, which I recommend to you. She asks questions like, How do we find support around grief? How do we talk about grief and death? Do we mourn silently and privately, or in community? What determines this?, as well as shares some of her own experience.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Nearly-equal rights. Still second-class citizenship.

This is the story (so far) of our civil union in New Jersey, and why I am not, in fact, excited about it.

My wife and I recently moved to New Jersey for her work. After we arrived, I started researching NJ's domestic partnership and civil union laws.

For same-gender couples, NJ offers everything but marriage: the law is exactly the same as for opposite-gender couples, with one major exception: "civil union" rather than "marriage." There is one application, whether you're applying for a civil union license or a marriage license; it has spaces for "Applicant A" and "Applicant B." The federal government won't recognize a NJ civil union, and other states might or might not, but the state of NJ can't control that. NJ is fairly unusual in that, if you've had a registered domestic partnership, civil union, or anything similar in another jurisdiction, you can transfer it to NJ, as long as it offers the same benefits and responsibilities as a NJ civil union, instead of having to dissolve it and re-register; although, if it didn't offer the same state-level legal protection, you do have to dissolve it and re-register. But to transfer it, you still have to fill out the paperwork ("Re-Affirmation of Civil Union"), unlike a straight married couple who moves to NJ.

It seems like the NJ civil union is as close as you can come without it being marriage.

Interesting, I thought. I wonder if we want to do this?

When we were first married, five-plus years ago, we asked ourselves if we should take advantage of our city's relatively new domestic partnership law -- especially since I'd been peripherally involved with the campaign, and since the former head of City Council, who'd opposed it vehemently, was now the mayor, and would have to sign it. Heh. Reading the law and the application left a bad taste in our mouths: it had second-class citizenship written all over it. We recycled the paperwork.

When we embarked on this itinerant phase of our lives for Beloved Wife's job, we moved to another city that turned out to have a domestic partnership law. What's more, we were required to register as domestic partners if I was going to be on her insurance -- the same way opposite-gender couples were required to marry if an opposite-gender spouse was going to be on the employee's insurance. Reading the law and the application, we found, to our surprise, no bad taste in our mouths: the city ordinance spoke of the diversity in our community, and of the need to protect all families.

We did have to giggle, though. The 2-foot by 3-foot, hand-calligraphed and hand-illustrated certificate, with our wedding promises, our signatures, and the signatures of more than 200 witnesses, never got us a legal thing. The 8 1/2-by-11 computer-generated certificate (not even the signatures were "live") with the shiny gold seal on it got me legal access to my wife's health insurance. We put the city certificate in our file cabinet for future reference; our Quaker wedding certificate hangs on our living room wall.

The following year, the voters of that state passed an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as one man and one woman, and making domestic partner benefits illegal (including my insurance coverage). My wife's employer, along with the city we lived in and many other employers in the state, found ways to insure "other adults" while being in full compliance with the law. I retained my health insurance, so did many other adults, and most importantly, so did many children: the new amendment put second-parent adoptions in jeopardy, and a lot of kids were in danger of losing coverage if they were on a non-birth parent's insurance.

We moved again; last year, we lived in a state with a very, very good domestic partnership law. Still not marriage, but nearly everything-but-marriage. We did not feel any leading or need to register: my wife's employer did not require us to; that state doesn't have income tax; we were going to be there for a year; this was an area with a very good record of honoring powers of attorney and other legal paperwork for same-gender couples.

But now we've moved to a state with a good civil union law, in an area with a mixed record of honoring powers of attorney and other legal paperwork. We're going to be here longer; we both have medical issues; we're thinking about kids.

All good reasons, but I was still doubtful. In my head, anyway. Someplace else, deep down, I had a very strong feeling about registering a civil union.

We've talked about getting legally married in Massachusetts or Canada. We've talked about domestic partnership and civil union and everything-but-marriage laws in other states. And I have felt very clearly that I am not willing to settle for second-best, for nearly-but-not-quite equal.

So, one, it has to be marriage. Not domestic partnership, not civil union. It has to be the same thing regardless of the gender of my partner, the same thing as it is for opposite-gender couples. And two, it has to be recognized by the federal government. Even if we were married legally in MA or Canada, our marriage would not be honored fully in the United States. Some states would recognize it; some wouldn't; they'd pretty much get to choose. We'd still pay federal income tax on my health insurance as "taxable income." We'd still have to carry powers of attorney -- and add our everything-but-marriage license -- when we traveled.


I went back and looked at the law here in NJ again. It's still everything-but-marriage. It's still not federally recognized, like opposite-gender marriages are.

But, I had a strong feeling that we need to register our civil union.

I'm not sure if it's an actual leading or not. Would it feel this uncomfortable if it wasn't? Perhaps it's just a good idea, and perhaps not-quite-equality is not a good reason not to take advantage of the legal protections we do have.

I brought it up to Beloved Wife, and she agreed. Here's what she says:

"One of the things that is infuriating about marriage law in the U.S. is the blurring between religious and civil marriage. True separation of church and state would mean that the state recognized civil partnerships between same or opposite-gender couples, and if a couple wanted then they could also have a religious ceremony. Really, I think that if the New Jersey situation for same-sex couples were as good in real life as it is on paper, it should be the nationwide situation for all couples. It leaves a sour taste first because it's separate and almost-but-not-quite-equal (not all employers provide equal benefits, and some civil partners have had difficulties with health providers), within NJ vis-a-vis marriage, and because of all of the ways that our partnership won't be recognized outside of NJ or by the feds."

So, we printed out the application. I filled out the parts for Applicant A while she was cooking dinner. She filled out the parts for Applicant B while I cleaned up after dinner. We called the parents of some dear friends, who live nearby, and asked if they would be our witnesses. They would be honored, they said, and in fact, they sounded excited. We figured out a date when one of them could go with us to Boro Hall to apply for the license; I called the Boro Hall and made an appointment with the Registrar's/Health Department to fill out our application and pay our $28. ($3 stays with the Boro; $25 goes to the local domestic violence shelter.)

I had a question about something, though: on the application, you have to provide information about when the ceremony will take place. We already had a ceremony, it just wasn't legally binding. The clerk and I talked it through, and the conclusion she came to was: Yes, in order for this to be legally binding, you have to have another ceremony. She gave me the phone numbers of a judge and of the mayor for us to call.

For another ceremony.

Reading the applicable material carefully, it does look like the ceremony is necessary to make this legally binding. We can't just get someone official to sign our license, even with us present and in front of witnesses. There has to be a freaking ceremony. "Do you, Stasa..."

We had our appointment at the Registrar's/Health Department Office to fill out the application. (Both our friends came, and tossed a coin to decide who would sign the application as witness.) Then we trudged down to the Mayor's Office to find out if she could perform our civil union ceremony.

No, we didn't have a date picked out. What would be convenient for her? No, we don't have a time picked out. When would be convenient for her? Our flexibility both puzzled and inconvenienced the poor aide to the mayor. The four of us -- Beloved Wife and our two witnesses -- picked out a proposed date. The aide continued down the form to questions about the ceremony: Anyone giving either party away? Single ring, double ring, no ring? How many people present? How large a wedding party?

We've already had a religious ceremony, we explained. We just want something nice and simple.

Well, I'll fill this out and give it to the bailiff, and we'll call you and let you know if the mayor agrees to do your ceremony and if she's available on this date at this time.

We could do another day or time if it doesn't, I offered.

If this doesn't work, you can talk about it when we call, she said. I have to put down a date and time.

Ah, bureaucracy.

As we were leaving, our friends offered, If she can't do it, we know one of our ministers would. (They're members of the Unitarian Universalist Church in our town.)

Well, for that, we could probably get someone from the Meeting here, I said. But I don't think it would feel right to have anyone religious do it. We already had our religious wedding, in our former Meeting (the same year as their son and daughter-in-law; in fact, we were in each other's weddings). To have a religious officiant feels like invalidating our wedding, or acting like it never happened. It would feel like a violation of the Testimony of Integrity. I think we just want it to be civil. Beloved Wife nodded.

To their credit, that made sense to our friends, and we could tell they were a little troubled by it.

A few days later, the mayor's aide called, sounding perky and excited. Genuinely so. "Hi, it's So-and-So from the Mayor's Office, calling about your wedding. Mayor So-and-So has agreed to perform your civil union ceremony on thus-and-such date and time. Now, I'll mail you a copy of the ceremony she uses, and you can edit it and mail it back to me."

(Here's a cool thing: the mayor does not accept honoraria for weddings or civil unions. She asks for a donation to the domestic violence shelter instead, and provides their information and an envelope addressed to them.)

We called our friends: Does this date and time work for you? Yes, we'll be there. And we'd like to take you out to lunch afterwards, if we may.

Sigh. Is everyone involved more excited about this than I am?

It's a small town; the envelope arrived the next day. The ceremony was a variation on the standard Do you, lawfully-joined, in sickness and in health, hard times and easy, til death do you part.

We thought about it. We talked about it. We sat down together and worked it out. We went through every part of it, asking, Can we say this? We tried them out on each other. Does this work?

Does this feel honest and true?

And in the end, we couldn't repeat any part of our Quaker wedding promises. In part, because someone will be pronouncing us, and that is just not compatible with Quaker marriage. It would be lying to repeat that in front of the mayor and have her pronounce us. Part of it is also because we've already said those promises, and while we may (and do!) repeat them to each other, it can't ever be on command. Part of it is that it feels like lying to repeat them as part of another ceremony after which we somehow have a different status.

And some of it is about separation of church and state. We've had our religious wedding. This is purely and completely about civil law.

We found we couldn't repeat any part of the mayor's proposed ceremony that duplicated the wedding we'd already had.

I, in particular, found I didn't want any part of the ceremony to have any significance that wasn't purely legal. So what we said had to be in the service of the civil union contract, with the mayor pronouncing the contract as now in effect, as now legally-binding and legally-recognized.

We felt good about the edits we came up with. They felt right.

We weren't sure what the Mayor's Office would think.

I dropped the edits by the Mayor's Office, and it turns out in-person was a good thing. The clerk was definitely taken aback. I don't know if she'll be willing to do something so short; I mean, this will take five minutes...

Yes, I said. We want something very simple. She blinked. We've already had a religious ceremony, I added. She blinked again.

I understand, she said, I just don't know if the mayor will be personally comfortable... she trailed off.

I decided to try to explain, a little. I explained that we're Quakers, that we had a Quaker wedding, that to repeat those vows could be a violation of the Testimony of Integrity, that...

I could tell she didn't get the "Quaker" or "Testimony of Integrity" part; but she got the "religious reasons" and "violation" part. Her expression changed, became a little less strained, a little less puzzled. She pulled out a Post-It, put it on the sheet, and started a note to the mayor.

I'll tell her it's for religious reasons. I think she'll be fine with it, but I'll call you tomorrow and let you know.

I thanked her and left.

I felt torn.

I called her later and said, We can bring information about our Quaker wedding with us if that will help the mayor feel more comfortable. No, no, you don't need to do that, she said, I'll talk to her and I'll call you back tomorrow.

I don't want to rain on anyone's parade. Our friends, and these strangers in the Boro Hall, from the registrar and the registrar's clerk to the mayor's aide to the mayor, are clearly and genuinely happy for a same-gender couple to be getting the closest thing currently possible to equal rights. They don't get many same-gender couples -- when I went back and said I was there to proof my civil union license, I didn't even have to give my name; we're the only same-gender couple in process right now. But not one person has stuttered, looked flustered at the two-women-thing or the civil union thing, not one person has even asked me about my future husband. So on some level, they get it; I can tell.

I don't want to come across as disrespectful of the mayor, of our friends, of anyone involved. And I'm glad that I'm about to get a level of legal protection I've never had.

But this thing by which we're getting nearly-equal rights?

It's discriminatory.

And that makes this whole situation infuriating.

It's discriminatory because it doesn't grant us equal rights. We won't be legally married. Even in this state, there are employers and hospitals which grant certain benefits and privileges to married couples but which don't recognize civil unions, because they're not marriages. There are no federal benefits or responsibilities: my taxes will still be whacked, and if Beloved Wife dies next week, I still won't be able to collect her social security.

It's discriminatory because we are required to have another ceremony. And if we move to another place where this civil union isn't recognized, we will have to dissolve this civil union and, if we have to have a ceremony to make whatever they offer (if anything) legally-binding, we will have to have another ceremony. And the same thing again if we move again, which we might well have to for my wife's work. How many times will we have to do this? I have F/friends who keep a spreadsheet of their legal unions.

As my mathematician friend Deb says, 1st wedding + N, where N>0, is discriminatory. Opposite-gender couples do not have to go through this.

And so, I am furious.

I have to have a second ceremony because of the gender of my partner. I have to have a second ceremony because the state we lived in when we got married didn't recognize our marriage. We will have to have a third ceremony if the law in whatever state we move to next requires it. We have to do everything someone in an opposite-gender couple has to do, plus more, in order to get fewer legal rights, responsibilities, and protections.

I am frustrated and hurt because our wonderful wedding, with our beloved families, friends, and community, is not visible in this process, might as well not have happened for all it matters to anyone involved with our civil union.

And there are all these well-meaning straight people who are excited for me.

The mayor agreed to our pared-down ceremony.

Who knows how I will actually feel when we go back to Boro Hall again for our civil union ceremony and when our friends take us out to lunch. Maybe my anger will be tempered by pleasure and even some joy.

I'll try to let you know, gentle readers.

In the meantime, we'd certainly appreciate your holding us, our witnesses, the mayor, and her staff in the Light.

And everyone facing discrimination.

And everyone working to end discrimination.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Respecting LGBTQ families

Wow. Thank you, Joanna Grover. (H/t Vonn.)

If you don't believe this shit doesn't happen, or that it's just not that bad when it does, read this amazing and heart-touching article.

Imagine having only five minutes to say goodbye to your dying husband or wife of nearly two decades. Imagine being a 10-year-old girl and being physically blocked from saying a last, ``I love you,'' to your mother, who is just down the hall at the hospital. This may sound unconscionable, but it happened, just as described, to the Langbehn-Pond family at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.

Reflections on Marriage

This is an excellent article. My thanks to a friend for pointing it out. - sm

Reflections on Marriage:

Today, many same-sex couples in the United States live in a fraught, contingent space of loving attachment, unprotected by state recognition. My fierce commitment to marriage equality derives, in part, from my personal biography as an interracial child, descended from American slaves, and raised in Virginia, beginning less than a decade after the Loving decision. Even though I am heterosexual, marriage equality is personal. I learn from the history of racial and interracial marriage exclusion that the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples is wrong.

We must do more than simply integrate new groups into an old system. Let's use this moment to re-imagine marriage and marriage-free options for building families, rearing children, crafting communities, and distributing public goods.

Monday, October 19, 2009

More on marriage equality

I found myself writing recently, a little unexpectedly, about some of my experiences with marriage inequality, and why marriage equality matters when it comes to real-life, practical details.

Well, I'm finding myself even deeper, more face-to-face, with marriage inequality right now, and it's very, very frustrating.

I'm a reluctant marriage equality advocate, let me admit that.
For most of my adult life, I have had two big issues with marriage. One is that marriage is not necessarily good for women. In terms of mental health, quality of life, economics, and other areas, the research is pretty clear on this, and has been for many years. Yes, for many women, marriage is beneficial; but when you aggregate very large amounts of data, marriage is not necessarily or by definition good for women overall.

My other issue has been about the separation of church and state, about the little-understood difference between religious and civil (or legal) marriage, and about how minority religions are treated differentially under the law (even though we're not supposed to be).

Most people simply don't understand the difference between religious marriage and civil, or legal, marriage; to borrow a phrase from Bishop Gene Robinson, the difference between religious rites and civil rights: where each happens; who performs each.

But in the 21 years that I have been out of the closet as a lesbian, all the practical ways in which my life is more difficult and so many of the ways in which I am legally not afforded equal protection under the law keep coming together in this sharp point of marriage inequality.

And then, on top of it, the Goddess called me not just to be in a committed partnership, but to be in a marriage.

So, between those two things, here I am, a marriage equality advocate.

I know there are people who think civil marriage is the be-all and end-all of equal rights for LGBTQ people. Um, no. Civil marriage for same-gender couples will not keep my trans friends from being fired or being evicted for being trans, or address any of the other kinds of inequality lesbians, gay men, bisexual women and men, transgender women and men, and queer women and men face.

But yes, marriage equality matters. It matters for both symbolic and practical reasons. It matters because oppressions are connected: I earn less as a woman; my family earns less because the two adults in it are both women; we lose money every year because we pay extra taxes on my health insurance and because we have to pay extra money for legal paperwork -- powers of attorney, wills -- to achieve some of the legal protections as opposite-gender couples. Does this matter next to homelessness? I've been homeless, and I've done case management with homeless folks, and shit, yes, it matters. For people living paycheck-to-paycheck, that tax burden at the end of the year can mean missing a rent or mortgage payment, paying taxes instead of groceries or utilities, or other such impossible choices. These are exactly the kinds of things that lead people to lose housing -- to become homeless.

(For more information: The New York Times had a very good article recently on the literal additional costs with being in a same-gender couple: The Higher Lifetime Costs of Being a Gay Couple. They also had an article pointing out the complete ridiculousness of our patchwork of same-gender marriage laws, as evidenced by a Texas couple who would have to move back to Massachusetts for a year in order to get divorced.)

So, no: marriage equality is not a white, middle-class luxury. It's a basic right. It's not the ultimate proof of equality under the law, but it's absolutely an important, essential milestone on the way for full equality for LGBTQ citizens.

And I, for one, am thoroughly sick and tired of this unequal bullshit.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Not the National Coming Out Day conversation I expected

If you're on Facebook, you may have noticed a number of folks over the last few weeks with standardized status updates that read:

[Name] is (a lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender). There are X days until National Coming Out Day and I pledge to have heartfelt conversations for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. Donate your status and join me by clicking here:

I didn't donate my status -- for one, I rarely do apps, since I like my privacy -- but I did post one or two status updates to this effect.

I'm always surprised when people who know me at all well are surprised to find out I'm a lesbian. It's less startling, but still frustrating, when people are surprised I'm bi, because there's still an assumption of monosexuality in this culture: either you're homosexual or you're heterosexual. Folks who are startled to learn I'm bi either know I've had successful romantic relationships with men and assume those are invalid now (because I must be monosexual), or assume that because I have been involved only with women since they've known me and am not that interested in men, I must be monosexual.

But those are still the conversations I more or less expect to have. The kind where I refer to my partner or spouse in conversation at an event, the other person asks what my husband does, and I say, "My wife is a mathematician," and they blink. The kind where someone I've known for a long time says in shock, "You had a husband!?," and I say, "Yes, my first partner was male, and yes, I was out before we got together. He took me to my first Pride event."

But these conversations have progressed and changed over time. For example, more and more over the last few years, the conversations I've been having around the fact that I'm a lesbian center around civil rights, and especially marriage equality.

And while there's one little thread on my Facebook Wall about National Coming Out Day and how people identify and what labels mean (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer), there's another, completely different, conversation I've ended up having about the reality of my life as a lesbian in today's society.

And it really does feel like a coming-out conversation: Here is my reality. Here is the truth of my experience.

And as with many other such conversations over the years, I'm finding someone I'm talking with disbelieves the uncomfortable truth.

This person isn't a bigot. They seem to be a well-meaning straight person, but someone who just doesn't want to believe the discrimination I live with every day is as bad as I say -- that their legally-sanctioned heterosexual privilege is, in fact, just that.

(All names changed but mine; all quotes paraphrased except where indicated.)

The conversation has gone something like this:

  • Friend A posts to their Facebook status that they're grateful to the marriage equality movement for helping them understand how many rights and privileges go with legal marriage [which this person has].

Conversation ensues in the comment thread, and then it gets interesting:

  • Person B: I thought it was just the death tax that can't be addressed in a contract; what other rights can't they have?; of course anyone should marry whomever they want!; isn't Toys R Us great, they give domestic partners full health insurance.
  • Person C: Oh, no, there's the whole hospital visitation thing; do you want to wrangle with a resistant family member in order to say goodbye to a dying partner?
  • Person B: Wrong! If you have a living will and a signed and notorized agreement, the family can't keep you away!
  • Person C: Uh-huh. So, my husband's in the hospital, and I have to dig out my legal paperwork before I go to the hospital?; in my case, take the bus home from work, find the paperwork, and drive back into town, when on top of it I'm probably not safe to drive?; assuming we've gone to the expense and trouble of getting such paperwork?; oh, and by the way, because we're an opposite-gender couple, they're not going to ask us for a copy of our marriage license, and we're in less need of powers of attorney and living wills, because we're legally married.
  • Person B: Gosh, it's really awful when family members are jerks, and I'm really sorry for anyone who has to deal with that; but you do kind of know what you're getting into; spending $100 on a contract is nothing at all for the peace of mind it gives you, and of course if I had to do that, I'd know exactly where my paperwork is; so what else are the issues?, I know there aren't a lot of people who have to worry about taxes on huge estates.
  • Me (direct quote):
If you're not legally married, which NO same-gender couples are on a federal level, you have to pay income taxes on your health insurance, b/c it's a taxable benefit.

I can't collect my wife's social security if she dies first.

Health care powers of attorney aren't enforceable everywhere. There was a Seattle woman who died ALONE in FL when the hospital refused to honor the couple's legal paperwork - and her kids couldn't say goodbye, b/c the hospital also refused to honor the adoption.

It doesn't matter how much money we spend on legal paperwork: it's not the same protection.

Imagine that every time you move, you have to get divorced and then re-married in your new town, county, or state. And that benefits that depend on the date you get married got re-set every single time.

Imagine that in addition to that, every time you move, you have to re-do your will, living will, and financial and health care powers of attorney, b/c getting remarried doesn't cover everything.

Imagine that if you get married and move, and then want to get divorced, you have to move back to the original state for a year first.

The NY Times had several good articles recently:

  • Person B (with lots of exclamation points): But everyone pays taxes on health insurance, regardless of who their partner is!
  • Person C: Stasa, I figured you'd be up on this kind of stuff; and what about the Seattle woman whose partner died when their house flooded, and even with a sympathetic family and good state laws, she had to get permission from the family?; why should anyone who's willing to make this commitment have to jump through these hoops?; why should it matter who your partner is?; I have heterosexual privilege, and that's not fair; my adult child does not; this is wrong.
  • Person D: It's ridiculous what people have to go through; it makes me ill; this is unfair and wrong; it's time to change the law.
  • Me (direct quote):
Person B, there definitely is a difference. My health insurance through my partner is taxed very differently than my health insurance was through my former employer.

Employer contributions to health insurance premiums are NOT counted as taxable income for workers whose coverage includes themselves, legal spouses, or dependents. As soon as you add a non-dependent adult -- such as a domestic partner -- that person's health insurance benefit becomes taxable income.

My family most certainly *does* have a higher tax burden for my health insurance than if my partner and I could be married legally, or if I had insurance through an employer -- because my health insurance counts as taxable income. (We even get a separate little income statement for it.)

Person B, you said, "...what you were dealing with 100 dollars at most for your well being is nothing..." First off, $100 is out of reach for a lot of people. Secondly, $100 buys you NOTHING in terms of legal paperwork and protection. This kind of paperwork, if it's going to stand up in court, starts at thousands of dollars if there's ANY property or any children involved. And court comes AFTER the shit hits the fan, and your partner or kid is in the hospital and you're not being allowed to see them or make medical decisions for them. For way too many of us, court comes after our partner or kid is *dead*. And *that* is discrimination at work.

Person C, I'm particularly up to my eyeballs in this crap right now (which you probably know), since we just moved and are in the process of registering our civil union with the state.

Okay, folks, if all the other paperwork does the trick, and legal, civil marriage doesn't matter, then I'm sure every heterosexual legally married couple in the country would be just fine with not being legally married but getting to do all the other paperwork instead.
  • Person B: But your child is your child; no one can change that; even if you adopt, that is the same for everyone; health care is always taxable income, it's about how your employer sets it up not about your "legal status"; "I am sorry but you are very wrong!"
  • Person A: This is a great discussion!; what else do folks think?
  • Me (direct quote):
Bullshit. I wish I was wrong. Tell me I'm wrong when you've lived my life, paid my taxes, and dealt with what I deal with every day. Believe me, I'm much more aware of my legal rights on a daily basis than you could possibly be.

Tell us we're wrong to all those parents in MI whose legal right to their children is now in jeopardy b/c second parent adoptions may now be invalid and illegal. Tell it to the kids in FL who were kept out of their mother's room while she was dying b/c they had two moms, legally, and the hospital refused to recognize them as her kids. Tell it to the IRS if I don't pay income tax on the insurance premium my partner's employer pays.

Person B, if you are legally married to an opposite-gender partner, and you get health insurance through your husband's employer, you do NOT pay income tax on the portion of the premium that his employer pays. That's a fact. It's the law. It has NOTHING to do with how an employer sets it up and everything to do with legal rights you have that I don't.

And if you still don't believe me, do some of your own research instead of just telling me I'm wrong. Google "taxable health insurance."

Person A, thanks for starting this conversation!
  • Person B: In NJ and MN, we absolutely pay taxes on health insurance!; "I don't know what planet you live on" but we pay taxes on insurance for our kids.
  • Person C: I've never gotten a separate income statement for my spouse's insurance, b/c it's included in the regular W2; has anyone else?; so how can we say Stasa's wrong when she's the one with the experience with this?; you're only your child's legal parent if your state recognizes the adoption, and if your state doesn't recognize gay adoption or second parent adoption, you are up the creek; these are inequalities that shouldn't exist, and no one should have to pay more than someone else for equal protection under the law anyway; why would anyone be okay with this?; this is discrimination.
  • Person B: I agree, but you still have to pay taxes; unless the family of origin is totally horrible, why would a kid be prevented from visiting?
  • Person C: "Person B, have you read any of the articles Stasa posted?"; I don't know why anyone would keep a child away, but it *does* happen; it happened this year; it doesn't have to be a family, it can be a nurse who decides they don't like gay people; it can happen, it does happen, it's wrong; and sure, you can go to court afterwards, when it's too late; same problem with living wills; family or hospital decides not to honor it, they don't honor it; also, remember there's a difference between state and federal income tax, and make sure you're comparing apples to apples and not apples to oranges.

A couple of things really got me about this conversation:

One is Person B's complete unwillingness to believe the truth of my experience when it doesn't match their experience, or what they think. Of course it doesn't match their experience: they have heterosexual privilege. This person isn't living their life as a lesbian, trying to protect themselves and their family. I am also reminded of the bumper sticker, "Don't believe everything you think." For years, my reaction was, How random. But, really: just because you think it, doesn't make it true. Just because you think $100 gets someone else equal protection under the law, just because you think I don't pay more taxes than you do, does not make those things true. (But gosh, what if it was! My life would certainly be easier.)

Two is that I am grateful to straight allies, and queer folks in legal opposite-gender marriages, who stand up for the truth.

Three is, how amazing are folks who don't want to see their privilege. I've mostly dealt with this in the context of sexism ("Of course women in my company are paid the same as men") and racism ("Of course I'm comfortable when Black people come into my store"). I've dealt with it some in heterosexism ("I don't care what you do in the bedroom, but do you have to flaunt it by holding hands?"), religious discrimination ("Of course she can wear a cross, but people will be uncomfortable if you wear a pentagram"), and other kinds of discrimination. I know I have my own blind spots.

But it's been a while since I went toe-to-toe (keyboard-to-keyboard?) with someone who just plain doesn't believe me about the everyday reality of my life in quite this way.

So my tiny little mind is blown again.

And that's the conversation about equality that I had for National Coming Out Day.

Jana update

I just learned my F/friend Jana is going home tomorrow. She's still got a cast on one leg, and will still have lots of medical and rehab and therapy appointments, but she's going home.

When I think about how uncertain I was about Jana's survival the first weekend after the accident, and then think about her going up and down her house's stairs on her behind, I want to weep with relief and joy.

And gratitude for love and community.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Queries for Full Moon Worship-Sharing

First, I encourage folks to familiarize themselves with FGC's information on worship-sharing, available here (

These are some queries I've developed for the Full Moon. You, or your meeting for worship, may devise your own, or already have some of your own.

Queries for Full Moon worship
  • What am I thankful for in my life in the month since the last Full Moon (or in my life since we met last)? What do I wish to bring to fruition in the next month, by the next Full Moon?
  • The phases of the moon -- waxing, full, waning, and dark/new -- can be seen as the phases of a woman's life: Maiden, Mother, Crone, and the space between death and birth. How have I experienced the Goddess as Mother? (Or, how have I experienced another face of the Divine as Mother?)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Full Moon Meetings for Worship/Worship-Sharing

For the last year, I've been hosting Full Moon Meeting for Worship/Worship-Sharing each month. Usually I've done this at my home; last month, I knew I would not be that organized, less than a week after moving cross-country, but Emrys and Nimue in the Philly are organized a Meeting at a local Meetinghouse.

Something that was different, that time, was that since there was on-line discussion about our get-together, we knew there were people joining us from afar -- either at the same actual time we were meeting, or at the same hour in their local time, or just at another time that same day or evening.

This gave me a marvelous sense of connection, similar to the one many Witches have to everyone else who celebrates the Full Moon or the Sabbats, similar to the one many traveling Friends have to their home Meetings...

So this month, I am proposing both virtual and in-person Full Moon Meetings for Worship/Worship-Sharing.

We are meeting Monday night, 10/5/09:

  • 6:45-7:00, gather; local groups decide on worship or worship-sharing
  • 7:00-8:00, worship/worship-sharing
  • 8:00-8:45, potluck tea (I was thinking this would be local groups, but I can imagine having tea in virtual community!)
  • 8:45-9:00, clean up together (local groups)

For full details, please click here.

Local, in-person groups

You can host a get-together by inviting Friends and friends. If you let me know, either through comment or an email, then there's an increased sense of community. Also, with your permission, if I know of someone looking for a local gathering in your area, I can put you in touch with each other.

I am willing to host in central NJ, or someone else can host here or in the Philly area.

Please click here for important details for in-person groups.

What do I mean by "virtual"?

I was originally thinking of individuals and groups who would be meeting at either the same time, or the same hour local time, or some time the same day or evening. But in on-line conversation, I'm realizing there could also be on-line Meeting for Worship, perhaps through, or using Skype's IM function (which I've used for large classes, small conversations, and small-group worship before).

I look forward to more discussion about this, seeing what other questions and ideas people come up with, and seeing what happens Monday night.

Blessed be!