Keri Renault

My Civil Rights Are Different Than Yours

Filed By Keri Renault | March 07, 2010 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Annapolis, civil marriage equality, civil rights, Equality Maryland, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Martin Luther King Jr., Maryland, SB 582, SB 583, Transgender Anti-Discrimination

An ominous undertone pervaded hearings on Civil Marriage and Anti-Discrimination in Maryland last week.

maryland.gifGloomy gray skies and rain prevailed outside the Miller Senate building. Inside the Judicial Proceedings Committee a storm of hateful discrimination raged.

Let me assure you it was far more frightening to be seated inside, part of an edgy, restless audience than standing outside, cold and alone in the rain.

  • The Bilerico Project - and my own words - were used to exploit.
  • A former gay-leader was cited to deny transgender equality.
  • A child was booed for her civil rights analogy, a plea for marriage equality.
  • And an oppressed minority played the oppressor.

It was a sad day; a mournful moment of déjà vu in the Free State and for LBGT citizens across America.

Proponents and opponents of LGBT equality furiously rocked the boat over interpretations of civil rights, riding a turbulent sea of emotional upheaval in a contentious, tug-of-war rematch.

The annual battle in Annapolis renewed late in the day, long after many of the 11 bills on the docket and 117 speakers scheduled to testify had come and gone.

SB 583 proposes protections in employment, public accommodations and housing based on gender identity. But not if the Family Research Council, Maryland Citizens for a Better Government (notmyshower.com) and the Association of Maryland Families have the final say.

Ironically, it was the transphobic words of a longtime gay activist Ron Gold that were readily exploited, made-to-order for the fundamentalist coalition, denying gender identity and the need for anti-discrimination protections.

It was quick and effective strike. A short bio established Gold's credibility as a longtime gay rights leader. Wasn't I surprised when the opposition cited my own blog post, "The Delusion of Transphobic Labeling" as evidence of Gold's respected position within the LGBTQ community:

"There may have been a place of respect for Ron Gold in the LBGTQ community..."---partial blog reference from the Bilerico Report cited by MCBG/Not My Shower.

Taken in full context my words are anything but an endorsement. The full opening text actually reads:

"There may have been a place of respect for Ron Gold in the LBGTQ community once upon a time long ago, but that place is now far, far away. Mr. Gold's days as a gay leader are done, long gone after his Bilerico Report diatribe against the T-community. At least they are in my definition of a leader."

Ron Gold, gay icon, exiled from the Bilerico Report for writing "No to the Notion of Transgender", turned unwitting martyr for the righteousness of LGBTQ discrimination. The opposition's tainted sermon of half truth was more than disturbing. Like witnessing a mother or father in nature eating its young, it was impossible to digest the carnage without being disgusted.

Civil Marriage is a Civil Right

The concept of civil marriage as a civil right also came under attack from the ultra conservative coalition. In the balance rested the 7-day-old opinion of the Maryland Attorney General recognizing out-of-state, same-sex marriages.

The future of in-state, same-sex marriage was also at stake.

The Association of American Families, a not-for-profit organization associated with Focus on Family and bent on the same heteronormative, discriminatory family model, described its contingent gathered to fight same-sex marriage:

"Mega Church leaders from Baltimore City, Anne Arundel, Prince George and Montgomery counties took the day off to stand for marriage in our state's capital. About 60 Pastors, ministers and congregants from prominent churches all across Maryland gathered..."

SB 852 targets the Maryland Attorney General's favorable opinion. The bill would invalidate same sex marriage recognition, legally performed out-of state. HB 1079 goes a step further, aiming to create a constitutional amendment, establishing marriage between one man and one woman as the only domestic legal union valid or recognized in the State.

13-year-old Maya Deane-Polyak, daughter of Gita Deane and Lisa Polyak took the podium on behalf of marriage equality. "I believe that someday, my moms will be granted their civil rights just as women fought for equality and just as African-Americans fought for their rights," she said.

Her words of hope were met with jeers of disdain, catcalls of indignation from the pre-dominantly African-American contingent of opposition.

Anger was swiftly tempered by Elbridge James, a high ranking Maryland official of the NAACP and director of the Maryland Black Family Alliance. He carried a message of equality on behalf of both civil rights organizations.

James underscored the NAACP's commitment to the civil rights of all Americans, an endorsement of civil marriage equality for same sex couples and anti-discrimination protections for gender identity. He informed the hearing that the stance of the NAACP was the position of civil rights champion Julian Bond of Georgia. He informed the audience this was the position of Coretta Scott King.

James, himself a black American, followed Maya Deane-Poyak to the podium. At first he seemed to agree with the dissent of his fellow African-Americans in the audience. "You're right", he proclaimed "Our civil rights are different..."

"Just as Jewish civil rights were different or Native American civil rights and Asian and Mexican American civil rights and women's rights, the rights of the disabled and elderly Americans."

Talk about the power of words. The silence was deafening.

Different civil rights issues every one. Civil rights abuses and atrocities in different times to be sure. But civil rights issues all the same. Each a gross violation of civil rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

There's an old saying that a row boat can't travel in two different directions at the same time. We're in it together for the long haul, for better or worse, whether we're gay or straight, black or white, transgender or cisgender, practicing an organized faith or following an innate sense of spirituality.

Or as the great Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now."


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14.5 years on average, and still growing.

*sigh*

Chitown Kev | March 8, 2010 12:21 AM

Thank you, Mr. James for making those loudmouth ignorant bigots from the opposition shut the hell up.

And even if they did disagree substance with the 13 year old kid, that's really not like black Americans to act so ignorant in reaction to a child.
These African Americans are acting more like their white church brethren or even teabaggers.

At least as far as the testimony of a CHILD is concerned.

Chitown Kev | March 8, 2010 12:57 AM

Yikes!

[REWIND]

Thank you, Mr. James for making those loudmouth ignorant bigots from the opposition shut the hell up.

And even if they did disagree in substance with the 13 year old kid, that's really not like black Americans to act so ignorant in reaction to a child.
These African Americans are acting more like their white church brethren or even teabaggers.

At least as far as the testimony of a CHILD is concerned.

I was always taught that face to face in a circumstance like this, you respect other folks children if they have not harmed you.

Those aren't black values...it's just common decency. I think the problem is the general coarsening of our culture and our politics, and nobody of any background is immune.

Chitown Kev | March 8, 2010 3:16 PM

I didn't mean to imply that they were "black values."

Only that coming from the cultural standpoint that I come from, that's very strange to see, although I agree with you that it fits into the larger theme of the coarsening of civility in the culture.

It's just...strange to me!

For those not Trans.... 14.5 years is the average gap between the time rights are given to gays, and the same rights given to trans people, when the two are separated.

In 2007, at the time of the ENDA debacle, it was less than 12.5 years.

It's still growing, and while GENDA has passed the NY House, don't bet it will pass the Senate. Remember, the NH Senate on the same day they voted for same-sex marriage, voted unanimously against giving trans people equal rights to gays.

Rick Sours | March 8, 2010 8:07 AM

It seems like whenever anti-LBGT comments, ads or jokes have been made in public there is always
some excuse, justification or rationalization why what was said or done is acceptable. It is as if
the members of the LBGT community are being dismissed or simply told they are over reacting.

At present there is zero tolerance for comments or jokes regarding most groups except members of the LBGT community. I recently read the phrase on this blog "institutional discrimination" which addressed how society treats the LBGT community.

In the past several years, my Partner and I have gone to shows of various types where the comedians had told some very crude, rude, hurtful jokes/comments regarding members of the LBGT community. Sadly when this has been addressed in a very proper manner, we have been told that they either did not say what they said or they did not mean any harm since the comedian was just joking. We have also been told since the comments were not about Gay men, we were over reacting.
We do not accept this rational for bigotry since know how angry we felt as a result of what was said. When we did attempt to address our concern in a very proper manner, issues which had nothing to do with what happened were brought forth. It was simply a manner of anti-LBGT comments/jokes being said; period. In both cases the comedian was not a Lesbian, a Gay male, or a Transgender individual; regarding Bi-sexual - we simply don't know. Yes, my Partner and I are male and yes, the comedian was a member of an "established"
minority group; but that had nothing to do with the issue. The bottom line was that extremely anti-LBGT comments were made. Regardless of the excuses, discrimination is always wrong. If someone says something negative about anyone who is a member of the LBGT community, my Partner and I are offended.

In addition, my Partner and I have heard members of the LBGT community verbalize that they have
observed other members of the LBGT community being harassed in public; they did nothing.
We can appreciate the fact that one must consider their own public safety when they encounter
situations of public disturbances/harassment. Today we all carry cell phone and there is no excuse for not calling the cops if one's observes such events.

Guess they feel that they pass for straight in public, they are not being harassed, it isn't their problem and the individuals who are being harassed must have done something to cause the harassment.

It seems that the Trans community is going to, for some time, pay the price for the dubious honour of Bilerico's foray into posting transphobic screeds written by hidebound fossils.

Let me ask the trans community, now, if you feel that Gold was worth it?

I don't. Saw too many of his ilk during the struggle for a separate Lesbian political identity.

SarasNavel | March 8, 2010 4:06 PM

So, for being born as a mix of male and female, for being on the low end of two overlapping bell curves, people can be denied a safe place to house themselves or their families and means to provide for themselves or their families.

This is not just about transsexuals.

This is about everyone that visibly crosses the socially accepted appearance and actions of a "real man" or "real woman". Or anyone who is thought to do so.

This is about transsexuals.

This is about gay and bi men and women.

This is about everyone in the gender variant universe. All of us.

Ron Gold was speaking out against transsexuals but his words will be used for a long time against his own, too.

For political expediency, some people want anyone whose label starts with 'trans' removed, arguing that the fight is about sexuality. Or that we're just too icky, that we'll hurt "the cause". Guess what? Even if you do so, our common enemies will still use us against you. And later, when it's convenient, they will use you against us.

Something else to keep in mind: To them, all trans folk are actually gay and that is the true evil against which their Bible speaks. The dirty little secret is that Transsexuals are given passage to the Christian Heaven so long as we have Faith. Gays, it would seem, are not so lucky.

The ugliness and vileness in the rhetoric used against us. The pure hatred taught at a young age. The use of us-vs-them. These tools for power are why we all need to do what is right for ourselves and all that cross gender expectations. We must all embrace the fight for inclusive equality. Like it or not, we are in this together.