There is a lot to celebrate about César Chávez, the noted labor and civil rights leader whose birthday we celebrate Saturday. But what many don’t know is that Chávez was also an ardent advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.
Marc Grossman, the Chavez Foundation’s communication director and César Chávez’s longtime spokesman and personal aide, says that for Chávez, support for the LGBT community started early. A long-time friend of the Chávezes from the ’40s on, who was a lesbian, baptized the Chávezes eldest son, Fernando.
“By the late ’70s, he would go to gay rights parades,” Grossman said. “I was with him when he met Harvey Milk.”
And Milk, in turn, was an early supporter of the United Farm Workers grape boycott.
“This was not a position that was popular,” said Grossman, referring to Chávez’s support for LGBT equality. “But César didn’t care about what was unpopular. He came out strong against the Vietnam War, something most other labor organizations wouldn’t do. He believed you couldn’t lead by following the crowd.”
Grossman shares the anecdote of a young aide who had left Chávez to move to San Francisco, and who later came out. Chávez came to San Francisco for a labor rally and went to a gay pride parade. The aide recognized him and said, “I’m surprised to see you here,” and Chávez replied, baffled, “Why would you be surprised?” (more…)
Opponents of Equality were greatly outnumbered by those in support of marriage for same-sex couples
As I got close to the Court on my way to the DOMA hearing, I was greeted with big, ugly posters with Hate Fag language. Soon, I did see our people, and they took up all the rest of the street. A large press area was cordoned off. Once inside the Gallery, I saw a bunch of folks I know: all the heads of GLBT organizations seemed to be in the Bar section. Knowing, they paid a lot of money for placeholders. I was so grateful again to Justice Ginsburg for the gift of my tickets. Anyway, Edie Windsor was right in front of me. Soon I noticed Nancy Pelosi, and we had a conversation. She hates DOMA. I don’t know, however, if the Court fails to act, if she can muster the votes necessary to repeal it. Moving along, I was glad to see Ted Olson who argued so brilliantly yesterday against Prop 8, which I told him. Finally – and by this time we’d all been waiting at least an hour inside the Gallery, I saw Valerie Jarrett and had a very strong feeling she’d be rushing back to the White House later to fill in Obama.
At the stroke of 10:00 a.m. in they walked. Chief Justice Roberts, after housekeeping details and the issuance of their ruling against class certification in the Comcast case, called on the Amica, Vicki Jackson, a Harvard Law Professor, whose very first sentence was: “There is no justiciable case before this Court.” And thus began a more than hour-long examination into whether the Court may, by the Rules of Civil Procedure, determine DOMA’s constitutionality since the executive branch of the government agrees with Edie that DOMA does not pass muster. Is there a real case and controversy? On this point, Roberts said he didn’t see why the President didn’t have the courage of his convictions and stop enforcing DOMA, rather than ask the Supreme Court to decide for him.
In sum, I feel Justice Kennedy, who on the merits is no doubt the swing vote in this case, may be tempted to fuss that the case is not properly there. But given what he said later, I don’t think he’s going to abandon the need for our equal protection. Whether or not BLAG has standing, I do feel that 5 of them, at least, will get to the merits on our side. We should note here that we want BLAG to have had standing, BLAG having been appointed & hired by the House when the Administration decided it would enforce but not defend DOMA. If BLAG were to be found not to have standing, chaos reigns. The 2nd Circuit’s decision that DOMA is unconstitutional would stand. Edie would get her money back. What would happen in the other Circuits and for other federal benefits is quite a muddle and requires an entirely different and way too complicated discussion than we can embark on here. In fact, Nancy Pelosi gave me more bad news on this: Not only, she said quietly, did the Chair of the House Administration Committee authorize $1.7 million to pay for BLAG’s lawyers so far, there is another $3.3 million of our tax dollars ready for BLAG’s next legal bill. She, who has a lot of power in the House, seemed appalled at this.
It was 11:13 a.m. (and the Court usually ends hearings at noon) before they turned to the merits. It was already, I noticed later, 55 pages into the transcript by this time! The lawyer for BLAG, Clement, made almost no sense. Justice Breyer interrupted him off the bat, asking why treat gay marriage differently? And Justice Ginsburg observed in a tone that both warmed my heart and brought tears again to my eyes that every aspect of life is affected by DOMA, that the discrimination is pervasive. I am inserting here her words that set the tone for the rest of her remarks, as well as those of Justices Breyer and Sotomayor: (more…)
My feelings are full & complex after today in the Prop 8 hearing. Since they started with Chief Justice Roberts interrupting the Proponents’ lawyer, Cooper – barely a sentence in – to say he wanted to hear about whether they even had standing to bring the case, there was a full-throated bombardment from virtually every Justice (except Thomas who never says anything) on that issue. My conclusion is that there may be 5 Justices who don’t think they should be hearing the case, which, of course, brings up the question of why did they take it in the first place? However, though I won’t go into it here, I think Scalia, Alito and maybe even Sotomayor alluded to a real problem: If these people don’t have standing, who does? Someone should. Ted Olson – on our side against the initiative, as was the Solicitor General of the U.S., Donald Verrilli, – says that people who represent an initiative, or put another way, the proponents of Prop 8, have no fiduciary duty to the state and, therefore, should not be able to represent it as they’re trying to do here. Does that mean he’d prefer to let the lower court decision that Prop 8 is unconstitutional ride? No. He’d like the court to rule on the constitutional question but this remains a big open issue in the case: I’m not sure we have a majority willing to reach the broad question of whether it’s constitutional, in any state, to prevent us from marrying – absent the Prop 8 history.
Later in the hearing but relevant here, the Solicitor General was grilled on the jurisdiction of the Court and the sweep of its ruling: Justice Breyer asked pointedly how he can argue that a state that does nothing to protect us can be left alone but a state like California, or even any other that has Civil Unions or Domestic Partnerships and thus has tried to be more fair, can be forced to let us get married (vs. allow those other states to relegate us to no fairness at all).
When the issue of the constitutionality of Prop 8 was addressed head on, Justice Kennedy seemed clearly on our side – that Prop 8 is unconstitutional That was clinched for me when he asked Cooper (their lawyer) if he really thinks we should prevent parents of the 40,000 children of same-sex from “full recognition and full status”, from getting married? It became clear that the Justices leaning toward holding Prop 8 unconstitutional would grill Cooper most, whereas the conservatives reserved their fire-power, such as it was, for Ted Olson.
Justice Breyer asked the more than obvious question: If procreation is the issue, as Cooper kept insisting, why should California allow sterile couples to marry? And Justice Kagan, picking up on this, asked Cooper if it would be constitutional to prevent people over 55 from marrying. After some jokes about whether it would pass muster to ask people who want to marry if they’re both sterile – or not – Cooper actually said that men outlive their own sterility, meaning they can father babies forever. (Whether they should is something about which rational minds might wonder.) This does not speak to the issue of how the female persons in those marriages might actually bear children…. By this time, Cooper, who said he feels it’s good for over 55-year-old men to be married so they wouldn’t go around impregnating random other women, really seemed not only flustered but pathetic. (more…)
A number of LGBT and allied groups, grassroots leaders and families are organizing events all over the country including right outside the Supreme Court. Together we will remember how far we have come, and look forward to that moment when every American can marry the person that they love.
When we asked you to contact President Obama and encourage him to file a friend-of-the-court brief in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Proposition 8 case, we knew that the strength of our movement has always been in the simple, honest yearning for equal respect and dignity. We knew that by asking you to contact the President, and giving a way for you to share your stories, that the President would listen.
And he did. The Justice Department filed a friend-of-the-court brief today urging the Supreme Court to strike down the unfair and unjust Proposition 8, which denies the freedom to marry to millions of Californians.
So today we thank President Obama for following his words with actions and giving our love his support from the highest office in the land. And we thank you. Your letters and stories made this possible, and when we look back at this historic moment, you can feel a justified pride in being a part of it.
Last night, San Jose’s City Council took an important step towards invalidating California’s Proposition 8, when they voted 9-1-1 in favor of officially joining San Francisco in an amicus brief to challenge the Prop 8 in the United States Supreme Court. The Council’s support to ban Prop 8 is a move forward in achieving the freedom to marry in California, and in support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
The decision was made possible thanks to the hard work, mobilization and community organizing done by the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council, Pride at Work and the LGBT movement in San Jose, and the leadership from Councilmember Ash Kalra, as well as Xavier Campos, Kansen Chu, and Don Rocha to get the issue on the table.
“This is San Jose’s chance to affirmatively stand on the side of equality for all and on the right side of history,” said Councilmember Kalra in a press release.
The second round of Breakthrough Conversations in the Desert took place last night at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Center of the Desert in Palm Springs. It was the second training session as there was a wonderful gathering at the local PFlag meeting. This was the first random gathering and not an organized group. Many of the 22 folks who attended knew each other and as LGBT and Straight allies in the room had worked together many times.
John O’Connor, newly appointed Equality California, made his first visit “home” to where he had been the ED of the LGBT Center previous to his appointment. He had a chance to greet the group and give a brief review of EQCA and some of the projects he sees for us in the near future. Since most in the room have been supporters of EQCA, his talk was greeted with enthusiasm. He promised the group that he would return soon for a larger public gathering.
I then led the group into a discussion on the history and principles of Breakthrough Conversations. It was a great conversation that was positive and everyone agreed to a certain extent that they could use some of the points brought the group. (more…)
As a young man, achieving the rank of Eagle Scout was one of the proudest accomplishments of my life up to that point. The leadership development and values of scouting had a profound effect on me and have served me well in adult life. As an out gay person, the Boy Scouts of America have let me — and the entire world — know in no uncertain terms that I am not welcome. Their policy sends a message to kids around the country that it is indeed OK to discriminate against gay people.
And yet the scouting values still resonate with me and guide me in life today. Being honest means talking about how exclusionary policies hurt the Scouts; being kind means working to let every young man have the same opportunities in scouting without having to hide who they are; being brave means breaking ranks with an organization that I loved so much. In this case, being helpful means working to end these unfair rules.
It is so exciting to see that, after decades of excluding gay, bisexual and transgender young men from scouting, the Boy Scouts of America are signaling a willingness to change their policies. They have asked for public comment on whether to change their policies, so that local entities can decide to include all young people. While it would be so much better if they were considering a broad, national non-discrimination policy, it is very encouraging that they may be willing to change.
The Boy Scouts of America want to hear from the country on this issue!
I’d like to ask that your good turn for the day by sending a letter or calling them directly at 972-580-2330.
Equality California staffers across the state spent Martin Luther King Jr. Day volunteering in their local communities
Equality California’s offices were officially closed in observation of Martin Luther King Jr day, but Equality California staffers across the state were still hard at work in their communities to observe this day of service.
Today, Online Director Shaun Osburn and I volunteered at St. Anthony Dining Room, San Francisco’s largest and oldest meal program serving homeless and low-income residents. After being given a quick run down of operation, we were put to work in their very systematic way of distributing the meal of the day. Volunteers put food on the tray, hand deliver to those who need assistance, bus the tables and clean up any spills. Those who receive meals are called guests and very much treated that way.
St. Anthony’s has a 60 year tradition of treating every guest that walks through its doors — no matter of their race, religion, identity, orientation, gender, identity — with dignity and respect. Hot, nutritious meals are served with as Dining Room staff and volunteers give referrals to those seeking anything from clean clothes, job training, substance abuse recovery or a shelter bed.
Because today was a holiday, St. Anthony’s was busier than usual, with no let up of guests. Service ran from 10:30am to about 2:15pm — normally, they stop serving at meals at 1pm. For me, celebrating Dr. King’s birthday reminds me of the end goal: community. Equality and justice for all, no matter race, religion, identity, orientation, gender or socio economic status.