History: Made

Tonight, we received amazing news: an Idaho judge has struck down the 2006 amendment to the state’s constitution banning same-sex marriage. This means that, as early as Friday, clerks will begin issuing marriage licenses to every.damn.couple that walks in the door.

Incredible.

Momentous.

Unbelievable.

Read all about it here or here.

Send Judge Candy Dale a “thank you” card here.

idaho freedom to marryI’m so overwhelmed right now, I can barely form a coherent thought about this. I just want to hug everyone I see and hope balloons will start falling from the sky!!

Idaho, we did it!!!

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Idaho – Same Sex Marriage Update

In 2006, the people of Idaho voted to have a constitutional amendment ratified which defined “marriage” as between one man and one woman. (Absurd.) It’s been eight years since this vote. Do we think the tides may have changed in this, the third most conservative state in the American union? We can only hope.

In November of last year, a case was brought before the Idaho federal court on behalf of four lesbian couples petitioning for marriage licenses.

Latta v. Otter is a 2013-2014 Idaho federal court case challenging the constitutional marriage ban and corresponding statutes, as well as state recognition of out-of-state marriages. The case was filed on November 8, 2013 under case number 1:13-cv-482, and was assigned to Judge Candy Dale.

A hearing is scheduled for May 5, 2014. Hopefully, we get some good news then.

Read the case notes here.

(It’s good to know Idahoans are not giving up.)

 

Safe Schools Improvement Act (H.R. 1199)

As you know, locally, we’ve been dealing with adding the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to Idaho’s Human Rights Act, which would extend legal protections and due process to members of the LGBTQ+ community with regard to employment, housing and service. In addition, advocates are hoping to “add the words” to language in the school district’s anti-discrimination employment and student conduct policies.

Well, turns out, adding the words at the federal level is moving along as well, if not better. The Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) has the possibility of heading to the House floor, and with just 25 more co-sponsors (that is, legislators willing to vote in favor), it has a good chance of making it up to the Senate. PFLAG National participated in National Safe Schools Partnership coalition, and by persistently contacting lawmakers, they were integral in attaining 11 additional co-sponsors, bringing the total support to 193. Go here to see what you can do to help. You can also use the information you find there if you plan to attend this event. (We need 218 out of 435 to have a majority vote.) Watch this informative video from my friend, Bill, to learn how how a law is made.

Learn more about the SSIA from the Human Rights Campaign.

The Human Rights Campaign conducted the largest survey of LGBT youth ever conducted, over 10,000 respondents aged 13 to 17. For the resulting statistics on the unique struggle of LGBT youth, go here.

lgbt bullying

 

The Secret Gay Agenda – Letter to the Editor

Locally, we are dealing with a fraught situation. Several months ago, the city council of Coeur d’Alene voted in favor of an ordinance that protects citizens from being discriminated against based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. Did you know that ‘no state entity acting as an employer (including the CDA school district) needs to comply with the ordinance’? Well, they don’t, and that’s why Susan Moss is spearheading the campaign to extend these securities to both employees and students of the school district.

city ordinance

photo credit: Jerome Pollo/ CDA Press The community room in the CDA Library was packed with people on both sides of the argument last June. Even with two-minute time limits and calls to avoid repetition, the meeting lasted over 5 hours and culminated in a passage of the policy by overwhelming majority.

There have been some rough letters to the editor to the local newspapers, including those which accuse those in support of the policy change of promoting a “hidden gay agenda”.. Here is Rebecca McNeill’s response:

I can’t believe you found us out. The LGBT community is only pretending to want equal rights and nondiscrimination in public arenas. That’s the front, of course. But really, it’s all about the bathrooms. The secret agenda is: Gaining access to all bathrooms, all the time.

As the bisexual mother of two children in the Coeur d’Alene School District, I only pretend to care about the possible negative side effects of declaring that I’m bisexual in this letter. I don’t really worry about my children, or their future freedom from the discrimination I faced as a student at Coeur d’Alene High School and North Idaho College. Don’t be silly. I’m not worried about whether this statement will affect my ability to be hired as a teacher in the district, or if the next parent-teacher conference I attend is painfully awkward. No, Mr. Finney — you have nailed it on the head. I want to use the boys’ bathroom. I want my kids to attend public school and willy-nilly use any bathroom or locker room they please. I can’t believe you saw through our cover story of wanting “equal rights under the law” or “to not be bullied to the point of attempting suicide.” I just want to watch you pee.

 I suppose, now that the truth has been discovered, I shall carry on with my personal LGBT agenda of making dinner for my kids and watching some TV.

Here is the original link. If you read the comments, be prepared to fume. If you can be at the school board meeting tonight, either in solidarity or to speak out about the need for “adding the words”, please join up!

 

Jamie Sebby – Why I’m An Ally

I shared this on my personal blog last month after being asked by Juli to join up with the new local chapter of PFLAG.

I get asked this question kind of a lot. Why do you care so much? You’re not even gay.

Well, the long answer goes something like this: The saga of my husband and I began eight years ago. We were only together for six months before we got engaged, and although we planned to wait a few years to finish college before tying the knot, we were married the following June. And, you know why? Health insurance. He had great health insurance and a deal on course credits since he worked for the university. We were already living together, so we got married sooner rather than later, without a second thought. It wasn’t a religious act– it had nothing to do with “living in sin”; it was just cheaper.

I am an ally because there are people who don’t have the luxury of making that decision. And the time to change that is long overdue.

My husband and I have two children together, and the laws are such that if something were to happen to me, I know, without anything written down, that my children would be taken care of by him, their second parent. If my husband were to be hospitalized, I could visit him outside of regular hours—I could sleep by his side if I wanted to without worrying if someone is going to call the legitimacy of our relationship into question. When we file our taxes, we both get credits for our children and joint household expenses. There are couples, families, who are denied these basic human rights simply by being disallowed a piece of paper which would consider them deserving.

I am an ally because, even though I try not to, I can take these rights for granted. The only reason marriage is a religious institution anymore is for the sake of tradition. My husband and I were married in a backyard, by a friend who had become ordained over the internet.

why i'm an ally || motherhoodhonestly.comIt’s about human rights. Everyone has the right to work and live and love without fear of discrimination. Unfortunately, being gay is something a person can hide. But at great personal cost. Those who oppose the fundamental human rights of the LGBT community say “don’t ask, don’t tell”, placing blame on the victims for wanting to live freely and true to themselves. People go nearly their whole lives suppressing a central part of their individual identity to avoid victimization and hate. Teenagers grapple so violently with inner demons or are bullied mercilessly by peers and take their own lives as a means of escape. It is unacceptable to judge people by their sexuality.

I joke with my husband that I’m excited for one of my children to come out if and when they know, so that I can show how good a parent I am by being okay with it. He says, “You know it’s not about you, right?”

Well, the truth of the matter is: it’s not about me, but it is. I am a part of the human race, and I am an ally because standing up and being an activist for the equal rights of all people, and teaching my children the same views of tolerance and love, is what I have to offer. And I am proud to say that when the tides finally change, my family and I will be on the right side of history—not the people who stood by and said nothing. We were part of the solution.

Juli Stratton – On Coming Out

I met Juli while organizing a last-minute candlelight vigil for the Add the Words campaign. We quickly realized how much drive and passion we share for some of the same issues: namely, human rights and equality for all. She asked me to be a part of PFLAG, and I was (and am) incredibly honored. After reading her story, I can appreciate so much more the struggle, both internally and outwardly, that she (and I suspect many) face and, hopefully, overcome. I am proud to know her and have a budding friendship as well as be a part of the change she hopes to see in the world.

Here’s Juli’s story, in her own words:

January 29, 2014

I just finished watching the documentary “Bridegroom”. It is a love story, tragedy, story of family (biological and of choice), of coming out and of self-acceptance. It made me cry, laugh, it enraged me and it made me reflect on my own coming out and journey of self-acceptance. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend that you watch it.
This writing is about love and acceptance. Coming out is just apart of that. I came out when I was 15 years old. There wasn’t a big party, there wasn’t much talk, it was just the time when I finally realized that I likes girls more that boys and acted on it. It made me realize that for years, since childhood, I fought these feelings and as a result developed poor and harmful coping skills. My life has been a journey of unlearning, relearning, believing and accepting what is good and real.

Recently, I was visiting my mom after she had a serious health scare. We agreed that we would talk about anything that was bothering us, had questions about or just needed to say. We agreed that we would “get it all out on the table”.   I feel very close to my mom and have for some time but there were a couple things I had never talked to her about or asked her. One of them was my “coming out” to her. I told her that I don’t remember ever having a conversation with her about being gay and I wanted to know what her recollection of that time was. As she shared her memory of that time in our lives it became painfully clear how much other “shit” was going on in our lives and that my being gay was way down on the food chain. As a terribly self-absorbed adolescent (I really think self-absorbed is part of the official definition of adolescence) I was not aware of all the struggles that my mom was going through. It was just she and I, and most of the time it was just her and she was trying to provide for us in every way. I was nowhere to be found – even if I was physically present, I wasn’t there.   My mom loved me no matter what…this I believe with all my heart. She didn’t turn her back on me, she didn’t condemn me to a fiery hell, she didn’t shame me, she didn’t do a lot of the horrible things that I hear almost on a daily basis that parents do to their children for being true to who they are. She loved me! And she loves me even more to this day.

Mom, Amy and I at Amy's and my commitment ceremony in 2006.  It meant so much to me that she was there to share in such a special night.

Mom, Amy and I at Amy’s and my commitment ceremony in 2006. It meant so much to me that she was there to share in such a special night.

It is still difficult to believe that there are some people, even in my family who may not like me simply because I am gay. Intellectually I get it but in my heart it makes no sense. Living in North Idaho gays are continually bombarded with the strong Christian belief that homosexuals are an abomination and are all going straight to hell. It baffles me that they can judge without even knowing me or any number of wonderful gay friends I have. I will save that rant for another time.

juli name calling

Juli, with members of NIC’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance, illustrating the damage of name-calling

Back to love and self-acceptance…and coming out. After I got out of college I met a man (who was also gay) we spent a lot of time together, grew to love each other and got married. Wow, life was so much easier – for a while. It was easier when I was coaching to tell a parent “I’m married” and not have to field questions about being gay like I know a lot of coaches do. It was easier in the work place to say “my husband”. It was easier to go to family gatherings and not feel bad for introducing my partner as “my roommate or my friend”. It just seemed easier, until it wasn’t! After 15 years of marriage and most of it playing the straight game I finally came back out…this time for good and for real. It was the first time I used the words “Mom, I am gay”. Once I told her and she said “honey, it’s ok, I just want you to be happy”, my world opened up again. You see, my world had been reduced to the size of a thimble. For the last ten years I have worked to build that world back up one truth at a time. Today I can honestly say I am happy being exactly who I am. That doesn’t mean I don’t have work to do and that I am all put together but it does mean that I will never again deny my truth and who I am. I am loved and accepted, by those who matter.

In October I got a tattoo on my forearm that reads “Truth * Passion”. The Spiral is a sacred symbol that reminds me of my evolving journey in life and the power to flow and change. This is a constant reminder that I must live my truth and live with passion.   I can’t imagine my world without my mom in it. She is my constant champion and role model.   When that day comes that she is not physically here anymore I know that she will always be in my every thought and action when I am living true and she knows that I will always be loved and accepted.

juli speaker

Speaking on allyship and the importance of “adding the words”

Until next time, be true and live with passion!

See the original blog post here: My Journey in 2014: Love and Acceptance.

“Add the Words” to Coeur d’Alene Schools

At the March 3 District 271 school board meeting, I asked the Board to consider adding protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in its official nondiscrimination and anti-harassment policies. The Board thanked me for my proposal and referred the issue to the school district attorney. There have been letters to the editor since that meeting, accusing certain of the school board members of having some sort of secret alliance with the LGBT community. Of course, that is simply incorrect. However, the Board has been in the spotlight over the issue as a result.

At the April 14, 2014, school board meeting, the school district’s attorney will issue his legal opinion as to whether the school board must “add the words”  and even if it is not mandatory, whether the board has the option of adding the words if it chooses. I predict the attorney will advise the Board that the policy changes are a discretionary matter; that is, the Board may choose to expand the policies, but it is not legally required to do so.

I expect that the Board will, at the same meeting, schedule public hearings on the issue. These will likely be in late April or in May. It is at these hearings that we will need a lot of supportive testimony about why the school district ought to explicitly forbid discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity. (Note that the anti-bullying policy already prohibits bullying on the basis of sexual orientation, but it is silent as to gender identity.)

Submitted by local attorney Susan Moss. She lives with her wife and two daughters in Coeur d’Alene.

Now, this seems simple enough, right? The existing policy, found here, already prohibits discrimination of students based upon sexual orientation, among other things.

Harassment – Defined to include verbal, written, graphic, or physical conduct relating to but not limited to gender or sexual orientation, race, color, national origin, age, religious beliefs, or ethnic background.

The point here is to take an extra step to make some of the most vulnerable kids– the ones struggling with their own biology– feel safe in (what shouldn’t be but is) a harsh environment. Schools. But some people are missing the point.

In a letter to the editor submitted to the Coeur d’Alene Press, resident Gary Finney warns of the “hidden agenda” of the LGBT community to allow anyone to use any rest or locker room the individual sees fit. He also fears that adding the two words gender identity to the existing anti-harassment policy would allow sex-integrated sports (i.e. boys playing field hockey or girls playing football). Which apparently is a travesty to the sacred traditional American gender roles.

Anyway, it’s not about that. Don’t let that letter or any other that talks about it fool you into thinking there is some homosexual-led conspiracy to infiltrate the bathrooms. We just want trans-identifying kids to feel empowered and secure. Those two little words can go a long way to do that. Send in your letters of support to be published in the paper here.

We’ll keep you posted on the exact date of the public hearing for which supporters and speakers will be needed.

photo by Tre Vision Photography

photo by Tre Vision Photography