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On Reaching Out And Giving Chances

It’s now been a week since the unthinkable happened and we are now faced with a Trump presidency. For me this was an outcome I believed never could happen. Trump was so demonstrably wrong for the job that I could not conceive that any person of sound judgement could vote for him. Clearly I was either wrong or there are far fewer people of sound judgement that I thought. Those who have had the misfortune to be facebook friends with me have had to suffer through days of long posts on the subject. This is also likely to be long but the intent is a bit different.

Trump says he wants to be a president for all Americans. He wants us to come together. They are good words. I want the same thing. But, that’s pretty much where the agreement ends. 

Trump helped make the divide in this country worse than it has ever been by running the most divisive campaign I’ve ever witnessed, perhaps the worst in American history. He did this by using racially charged rhetoric. He did it by targeting the members of an entire religion. He did it by having a white nationalist run his campaign. He did it by an utter and complete disregard for the truth. He ran on slogans and didn’t have any substance.

Before people start chiming in with Clinton’s faults and to be sure there were many, this isn’t about her. This is about the kind of campaign Trump ran from it’s beginnings to it’s finish. He denied saying things that he was on record as having said. He lied at a rate that I did not think was humanly possible. People seemed surprised but one cursory glance at Trump’s career showed that this is who he has always been. He has always lied. He has always been a misogynist. He has had a history of discriminatory business practices. He has always been unable to cope with criticism. These are undeniable though Trump denies them. 

Now, after months of demagoguery, he says to us, “Give me a chance.” His supporters say, “That’s just the politics of the campaign. It isn’t how he really feels.”

Seriously? Anyone who believes that is living in a state of serious denial.

If that isn’t how he really feels then he is the most opportunistically vile man I’ve ever seen. If he does believe then he’s just vile. There isn’t a lot of upside here. He did these things and unless you live in the same truth-free bubble Trump lives in you can’t deny it.  He gave voice to the nastiest parts of our society and he made it the calling card of his campaign.

If he wants a chance then he has to immediately change his ways. He has to govern from the center and not the alt-right. Has he shown any signs of that?

The first name on his list of appointments was Steve Bannon, the guy who ran his campaign.  If you have managed to miss that name for the last few months (as Paul Ryan claims to have), he is a proud card carrying white nationalist. They call their movement the alt-right, but it’s white nationalism. It’s anti-woman, anti-black, anti-semitic, anti-gay, anti-muslim. Pretty much if you can put “anti” in front of it and it’s a word that relates to diversity then that’s Steve Bannon and his white nationalists. Look at his website Breitbart and you will be appalled. I refuse to link to it but if you think there is any chance that Bannon is a good human being then you need to look. This is a group that would make Hitler and Mussolini proud.

Throughout the year of the campaign, hate crimes have been rising. They spiked immediately after the election. Yes, some were against Trump supporters but they were 20 times more likely to be against Muslims, immigrants, African Americans and the LGBT community. The people committing these crimes are thrilled that Trump will be president. Many are acting in his name. They see him as one of their own. These are the people that the hateful speech of his campaign has made bold. These are the people who are thrilled that one of their own will be president.

What is Trump’s response? It took five days and all he can say is, “Stop it.” He claims he wasn’t even aware it was happening which doesn’t say much about the guy who will be protecting all of us when he’s only focused on tweeting about the protests against him. I don’t expect his words to have much effect but we’ll see. His attitude seemed dismissive of it being an important issue. When they continue, as they are all but certain to do, we’ll see if he will react. If he continues to be dismissive then that says something about who he cares about protecting.

He still insists that he wants to eliminate a woman’s right to choose. This is not a centrist view. This is an extreme right wing position.

He thinks he’s reached out the gay community by saying that marriage equality is settled law and there’s no need to change it but his transition team is filled with virulently anti-gay people, starting with his VP. The list of potential Supreme Court candidates his campaign listed is filled with anti-choice and anti-gay names. Trump is either naive or deliberately trying to defuse opposition. Could he change the list? Sure, but his transition team is fillled with people like Ken Blackwell who belongs to a hate group. This is not reaching out. This sends a very clear message. It’s hard to trust someone that is more focused on the criticisms of the New York Times than he is on his own transition. 

He still says he supports so-called religious freedom bills which only dress up discrimination in religious language. Trump says he would support a constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to discriminate.

Next people will say, “Don’t worry. The Republicans won’t let him go too far. After all, they spoke against him during the campaign.” 

This one is the ultimate form of wishful thinking.

First, all the Republicans have fallen into line. Paul Ryan is doing his best to pretend that the last year never happened to the lengths of pretending he has no idea who and what Steve Bannon is (“I’ve never met him. I don’t know anything about him”). Uh huh. It seems that Ryan, like Trump doesn’t watch the news. Second, the modern Republican Party was already an extremist party. It’s 2016 platform is explicitly anti-gay, anti-choice and anti-immigrant. The only reason they don’t look extreme is in comparison to the campaign Trump ran. These issues got very little media coverage except around the time of the RNC convention. Expecting them to protect the civil rights of anyone who isn’t one of the Right People is yet more wishful thinking.

Many of the people who voted for Trump think it’s about the economy. Most of them don’t believe that any of the scary predictions we have made will come true. But the people they voted in have a very clear agenda. They haven’t been shy about saying it but they got enough Americans to believe it wasn’t  real. Even if Trump himself may not be as radical (I have my doubts about that but I’m willing to concede the point since it’s ultimately irrelevant), the people around him are almost universally enemies of civil rights except for white, straight, male Christians.

So, give him a chance? No, not until he has shown me he isn’t trying to destroy the very things that are what make America actually great. He is the one that won and he is the one who must earn my trust and the trust of anyone who values civil rights. He’s got a steep uphill battle to do that. It’s hard to trust someone who lies and will clearly say anything. It’s hard to trust someone whose words and actions do not align. 

People say we should be reassured because he’s now softening on some of his campaign promises. Again, it’s hard to trust someone who doesn’t seem to have any relationship with the truth. Even if he is backing off the promises the only thing I’m sure about Trump is that he’s looking out for Trump. In the meantime we must watch.  He must reach out to us and it must be with more than words. He’s proven his words are worthless. Only his actions will bring trust. 

We can expect the first of these actions soon with the release of his intended cabinet appointments. If it’s the people from the list of names we’ve seen so far (climate science deniers, oil executives, serial quitter Sarah Palin, etc.) then we will know exactly where we stand. It will be on opposite sides of an ever widening gulf and Trump will be the one doing his best to continue making it wider.

I don’t want to end on such a negative note. The next few years look bleak, to be sure. We must be ready to use every peaceful means at our disposal to oppose any actions that give legitimacy to the alt-right. We must organize. We must be vigilant. We must be ready in 2018 to elect progressive candidates. And, if you believe in the power of prayer, then pray that the progressive wing of the Supreme Court stays healthy and doesn’t give Trump any additional opportunity to appoint more than the one candidate from his list he seems certain to get.

Most of all, stay involved. Don’t tune out. This is a setback worse than 2004 (just see how devastated my posts are from back then) and despite the fact that it’s worse because we thought America had changed for the better, it is only a setback and we will overcome this. If I made a mistake in 2016 it was of complacency and overestimating that Americans would see through Trump. The truth is that even if they did see through him they didn’t care. I’m not going to go into my analysis of why and how he won. Others have done that and better than I could. Instead, I’m focused on learning from our mistakes and learning how we can build a bigger, and stronger coalition so that people will not be so desperate for change they turn the keys back over to the group that ran the economy off the cliff in the first place. If there is a cruel irony here that is it.

When Congress begins meeting in 2017 to begin advancing Trump’s agenda, pay attention. If there is something good in it then support it. If you think it is wrong then call your congressman and senator. Telephone calls are more effective than letters or emails according to former staff. Pick up that phone and let them know what you are worried about.

Pay attention at the state and local levels. This is where a lot of anti-choice and anti-LGBT legislation is going to come from. Expect more religious discrimination bills and more attempts to prevent women from exercising their rights. It’s already started in Florida and Texas. The organizations that fight this are going to need our help more than ever. Make donations, make monthly ones if you can.  But, do more than donate. Make your voices heard. Talk to the people you know who supported Trump and try to show them what the unintended consequences of their actions are. Go the marches that will be happening. Keep the attention of the media focused on these issues since the media has the attention span of a gnat. Actually most gnats seem to have longer attention spans.

Let’s work together and show Trump and his alt-right cronies that America is bigger than them and that American won’t stand for the prejudice and bigotry of their cause. And if, by some miracle, he surprises us all and turns to the center then let’s support that. I don’t expect it to happen but I’m prepared to accept it if it does. 

A Personal Plea

I know all of us want this death march of an election to be over. Before that happens I wanted to reach out to those who know me and also might be considering supporting Trump or a third party candidate. Many of us think that the choices we make on election day don’t really matter all that much. No matter who wins it won’t affect the life of people we know one way or another. 

I’m here to let you know that if Donald Trump gets elected that it has the potential to harm my life in a very direct and personal way.

You may wonder why I say that. After all, Trump doesn’t target gay people like Bush and Romney did. And it’s been a bit of a blessing for gay issues not to be a major factor in the election this cycle. However, because of that it’s easy to overlook that while Trump himself may not be overtly anti-gay the people he is surrounded by definitely are.

His running mate, Mike Pence has made a career of being anti-gay. As the governor of Indiana he signed a horrible legalized discrimination bill that lets people hide behind religion to justify discrimination. He’d love to eliminate marriage equality. And that’s just to start. He’d probably go further given the chance.

But, unless Trump dies in office, Pence wouldn’t have much of a platform to work from. The real issue is the Supreme Court. The odds are good that the next president will have up to three seats to fill and the names Trump has listed as likely candidates would love to hear a case to repeal marriage equality. If that happens you can expect regressive legislatures around the country to do their utmost to dismantle our marriages through legislation.

So, for me, this is personal and I’m hoping it will be for you also. Help Lauri and I protect our marriage and elect Hillary Clinton. If you can’t vote for her on her own merits then do it to help protect us. Do it to protect the women in your life who could be harmed by the decisions of a Trump court. Your decisions do matter so, please, get out there and vote!

Libations With Linda, Episode 2: Rachel – Gay Marriage In The Church

The podcast has made it to episode number two!

In this episode I speak with Rachel about same-sex marriage in the Episcopal Church where she can speak from personal experience. Along the way we enjoy some Stash Chai Spice Black Tea.

On a technical note, while the audio quality is a bit better in this episode the need for better lighting is obvious. Apologies for the quite noticeable video noise. Hopefully some better lighting can be obtained before the next episode.

Here are the links mentioned in the episode:

HB1414 – Marshall’s Anti-Gay Attacks Continue

Delegate Bob Marshall, the notoriously anti-gay legislator from Manassas has apparently recovered from his apoplectic fit he threw when the court struck down his beloved anti-marriage equality amendment. For the 2015 session he has introduced HB1414. This little piece of work seeks to exempt state employees or officials from having to help gay citizens.

Here’s the text:

Provides that a person shall not be required to perform, assist, consent to, or participate in any action or refrain from performing, assisting, consenting to, or participating in any action as a condition of obtaining or renewing a government-issued license, registration, or certificate where such condition would violate the religious or moral convictions of such person with respect to same-sex marriage or homosexual behavior.

He has the gall to call it a “conscience clause”. The irony is that the judge who struck down his anti-marriage amendment cited an animus on the part of the state to its LGBT citizens. I guess animus never goes out of fashion.

Even if there were a legitimate religious reason for having such a law (and the legitimacy of any such reason is up for healthy debate), freedom of religion is only one of the freedoms that we enjoy in America. It is just one among many and must be balanced against the other freedoms we enjoy.

However, even bothering to have that debate gives Marshall more legitimacy than he deserves. This bill is state-sponsored discrimination, pure and simple. To call it anything else is to miss that Marshall is using religion to attack a group of people simply because he doesn’t like them. It is more than past time for Virginia to be done with this nonsense.

I urge everyone in Virginia to write to your state delegates and senators to urge them to vote against this bill.

An Amazing Night

Obama: Reelected.

Kaine: Elected.

Connolly: Reelected.

On any given election having the candidates I supported elected would be more good news than I expect. This is only the second election where my vote for president actually counts at the electoral college.

The good news doesn’t stop there. Perhaps more significant than the above:

Maryland: Marriage Equality passes!

Maine: Marriage Equality passes!

Minnesota: Marriage equality ban fails!

Washington: Looking good for marriage equality!

To win one would have been more good news than I would have expected. To win three (and probably all four) is amazing beyond words!

I was so giddy with excitement last nights news regarding marriage equality that I had to wake Lauri up to tell her the good news. Then it took another 45 minutes before I settled down enough to be able to go to bed.

To all my family and friends in Maryland and Maine: Thank you! You’ve been amazing!

That’s the good news. While there is far more of it than I would have predicted at the beginning of the day, there are still lots of problems.

I won’t bother to list the ones we heard about for months in election ads. We all know what they are. The ones that I mean are the structural problems built into our political system. The fact that the country elected Obama and sent a much more moderate Senate yet sent a conservative House back to Washington points to more years of gridlock. It also points to how political the House districting system is. The party in power sets up the system to stay in power. It will take 3-4 House elections before this structural inequality has a chance to change based on population movement.

If our political parties don’t learn how to compromise our system is in danger of breaking apart. Politicians need to start representing their constituents and not their parties. This is imperative. John Boehner, in particular, needs to look up the word “compromise” in the dictionary and put it into practice.

Boehner isn’t alone. Both parties are playing Brinksmanship with America. This must end. Remember, all of you work for us. Your job is to govern. Your job is not to scramble for power at the expense of the country.

Hopefully this election will put some of the social issues behind us so we can have a meaningful discussion about the issues facing our country.

How The Marriage Debate Has Shifted

On Saturday, Lauri and I drove her new RAV4 out to Front Royal to visit Skyline Caverns. It was the first road trip with her new car. Everything aligned to make for a wonderful day. Traffic was light, the weather was beautiful, and the cavern tour was fun and enjoyable.

Afterward, we stopped at the Main Street Mill Restaurant & Pub for lunch. The food was good and the eavesdropping was even better. Not that we intended to eavesdrop but the gentleman’s voice carried clear across the top floor of the restaurant to where we were sitting.

The gentleman in question had a problem with gay marriage. However, to my surprise, his problem wasn’t with anything but calling it marriage. In his loudly broadcasted view, we should get all the rights but shouldn’t be so stuck on using the word “marriage.”

Lauri and I had a hard time not joining in the conversation but he was clear across the restaurant and it would have been a challenge. We don’t know what got him started nor do we know what his conversation companion thought. The other gentleman’s replies were inaudible across the restaurant.

The thing I found most interesting was how far the debate has moved. He was dead set against “gay marriage” but he was “100% in favor” of “unions”. He said we should have all the rights but just use a different word. That’s a far cry from just a few years ago when Virginia passed it’s anti-marriage amendment.

I would have loved to engage him in a real debate to see if I could get to the root cause of his objection. It’s almost certainly an emotional reaction. It would have been nice to see if he could be reached by a rational discussion or if he was locked into his gut reaction.

Even with his anti-marriage stance his pro-civil union stance is a fair distance from where someone in Warren County was just six years ago.

Great News and a Bleak Outlook

As I write this, we know that Senator Obama will be the next president and that is indeed great news! But, though only 15% of the precincts are reporting in California, I fear that proposition 8 will pass.

It looks like this could be a night where Obama wins by a greater margin than I could have imagined and equality in California falls by a greater margin than I would have expected. Indeed, I was hopeful that proposition 8 would fail in the most progressive state in the country. Unfortunately, hatred and bigotry look like they have won another temporary victory.

Regardless of how that turns out, at worst it can only delay the inevitable. As gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members of our society become more accepted, as the lies and myths are debunked, the opposition to full equality will crumble. It looks like it may take longer than we’d hoped. As I head off to get some sleep, maybe the tide will change, but even if it doesn’t, it is only a matter of time.

Election Day Excerpts

Now that a week has gone by and I’ve been able to put the slightest bit of emotional distance between what sanity remains to me and Election Day, I thought I might relate some of the encounters I had with people at the polls. For the most part it was a positive experience. People in Reston are definitely supporters of diversity!

  • Congressman Moran stopped by early in the morning and thanked me for working against the amendment. He has been a wonderful supporter of equality in Congress and it was great to hear in his voice just how much he meant it.
  • One republican poll worker who had not yet voted seemed quite concerned about the possible side effects of the amendment (sadly he seemed only midly concerned about the intended effects) but after a fair amount of discussion it seemed he was likely to vote no.
  • A trio of highschool girls who were also republican poll workers (and wow, did that hurt my head) were against the amendment as obviously awful except for one who said, “I think I voted yes by mistake.”
  • The older woman who, when she saw what I was handing out, said she was definitely voting yes. When I asked if she read the whole thing, she said it didn’t matter because she knew how she was voting.
  • The pair of women who walked up together and said, “Duh! Of course,” when I asked them to vote no.
  • There was a man who asked for me to explain what a vote yes and a vote no meant. The language of the amendment was apparently too convoluted for him.
  • There was an evangelical Christian republican poll worker who proved to me that you can’t argue with someone who accepts as an axiom that you are wrong. His response was that perhaps if I prayed more that God would set me straight (pun intended in my paraphrase).
  • The democratic poll workers were all amazingly supprtive. They were often as vocal as I was in their opposition to the amendment.
  • There were three constitutional amendments on the ballot. The republicans tooka formal position in their sample ballot only on one. I’ll give you one guess as to which one that was.
  • The number of people who knew how they were going to vote on everything surprised me. These people didn’t want any party’s sample ballot though some of them would take my non-partisan literature.
  • The number of people who only wanted a particular party’s sample ballot was kind of scary. I can’t imagine being so mindless that I would do what any political party wanted me to do without a fair amount of forethought.

I could probably continue on like this for longer than anyone would want to read. To say that it was an educational day would be an understatement. It was certainly an exhausting day. Spending about 11 hours on my feet handing out literature was definitely tiring. As I drifted off to sleep that night, I was still hearing, “Please vote ‘no’ on number 1” in my head. I was afraid I would be hearing it for days whenever there was a quiet moment but fortunately it was just the one night. Even though I’m not sure my presence really influenced many undecided voters (based on comparing those precincts with other nearby precincts that didn’t have a coalition poll worker), it was interesting to see the process in action.

Welcome to the Bill of Wrongs

I want to thank all of my friends who came out to vote yesterday. These people stood against hatred, bigotry, intolerance and stood up for equality, tolerance and acceptance. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be the typical Virginian. I’ve always thought my friends were special, but I didn’t realize just how blessed I was to know them until yesterday.

In the weeks leading up to the election and even in the final few days, it seemed momentum was beginning to shift in our direction. Clearly, polls tell an incomplete picture.

The one thing that was clear was that northern Virginia was going to be a place where intolerance would not carry the day. I’m happy to say that was true. I live in district 8 which includes parts or all of Arlington, Fairfax, Alexandria and Falls Church. People voted against evil by 2 to 1. Unfortunately, statewide, they supported the amendment by 57% to 43%. If the polls were accurate this means that both the undecided vote and the inherent uncertainty in the poll went almost entirely toward the other side.

Only two districts voted against the amendment. District 8, my own, as I mentioned above and district 3. District 3 voted against the amendment by 53% to 47%, but only two jurisdictions carried the day, Richmond voted overwhelmingly against the amendment with 73% against. Also, Herico County eeked out a narrow majority of no votes by about 1%.

District 9 seems to be the heartland of hatred in the state, supporting the amendment by 3 to 1.

Looking at counties, rather than districts, here are the islands of hope within Virginia: Albemarle County (59% no), Arlington (74% no), Fairfax County (54% no), Alexandria (70% no), Charlottesville (77% no), Fairfax City (52% no), Falls Church (69% no), Fredericksburg (58% no), Lexington (62% no), Norfolk (54% no), Petersburg (65% no), Richmond (69% no) and Williamsburg (62% no).

So, much as I knew it was a long shot, Virginia was not the first to defeat a gay marriage ban at the polls. It wasn’t even as close as I thought it could be. I suppose Jerry Falwell, Pat Buchanan and their ilk still have a stranglehold on the minds of most Virginians.

However, Arizona, may have defeated it’s constitutional ban! The no’s carried the day by 51% to 49%. However, it hasn’t been officially confirmed.

Colorado defeated it’s domestic partnership amendment and passed it’s constitutional ban. Idaho passed it’s ban. South Carolina passed it’s ban as did South Dakota and Tennessee.

Of this, only Arizona’s possible defeat is a true surprise. If there is any surprise here at home it’s that the “yes” votes were less than 60% of the population. This proves the tide is slowly turning but it takes time to truly change people’s minds. Unfortunately, during that time, countless of people’s lives will be harmed.

Now we find out just how right or wrong the attorney general is. My expectation is that an assault on domestic partnership benefits will be next. And another attempt at an adoption ban. I hope that unmarried heterosexual couples won’t be caught in the net cast by the amendment. But, if they are, they can send their thank you notes to Delegates Marshall, Senator Newman and their comrades. The cynical part of me says that they did it to themselves, but I can still feel sorry and pity for them.

I’ve reached the point of rambling so I’ll finish with this. We lost. Even knowing that was the likely outcome, I’m disappointed. We did make progress. People are beginning to understand. I hoped that the politics of fear and hate were finally going to break down. While there was progress, it still has a long way to go.

The only question is will we turn the tide before the American Taliban gets a complete stranglehold on all our lives? Because once they run out ways to legislate homophobia, who will they target next?

Debate on Question #1, the anti-marriage amendment at the Fairfax Government Center

On Friday, October 27th, the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations and the Fairfax Committee of 100 co-sponsored a debate about Question #1, the Marshall/Newman “marriage” Amendment at the Fairfax Government Center.
Standing against the amendment were Jim Dyke, a partner at McGuire Woods and a former VA Secretary of Education, and Doug Koelemay, Managing Director at Qorvis Communications. Standing for the amendment were Delegate Bob Marshall, patron of the amendment and Victoria Cobb, executive director of the Family Foundation of Virginia. A Fairfax Public Access, Channel 10, film crew were taping; look on Channel 10 for replays of the event.

On a night where the weather was uncooperative, somewhere between 100 and 200 people showed up to hear the debate. Unfortunately, it seemed to be mostly a theater of the decided as roughly 80% of the audience seemed to strongly disapprove of the amendment with perhaps 20% of the audience in favor of it. It wasn’t clear how many undecided voters were actually there. This shows how much of a non-issue this is for the general public when only people whose lives are personally affected and those who through intolerance or misunderstanding want to hurt us.

The other disappointment was that the format was not interactive. Though audience questions were taken, they had to be pre-written before the debate started and were selected by the event sponsors. While this does allow them to screen out off topic questions, it doesn’t allow any follow up based on answers.

Still, despite this limitation, the event was interesting.

For example, according to Mrs. Cobb, our families aren’t families. According to her, we are “so-called families.” For a person who claims to be so concerned about the welfare of families to be so committed to working to ensure ours are disadvantaged is beyond comprehension.

Delegate Marshall reprised his well-worn litany of exaggerations and generalizations quoting limited studies and questionable statistics he said support his position that children should only be raised by heterosexuals, therefore marriage should be reserved for heterosexuals. He said “gay marriage is like a square circle; not possible.”

Mr. McQuire and Mr. Koelemay made some excellent points about the unintended consequences of the amendment, some of the most serious being the consequences to victims of domestic violence. Ms. Cobb and Delegate Marshall tried to gloss over with responses that amounted to, “that can’t happen here. Trust us. If it does, we’ll fix it.” Something says they’d be very selective about the “unintended” consequences they decided to fix.

Sadly, the following questions that should have been asked, never were given a hearing:

How does allowing two men or two women to marry affect a single heterosexual marriage?

Name one consequence of gay marriage in Massachusetts except that thousands of gay couples have been able to protect their families?

Since these questions were not answered, make sure they continue to be asked! Questions like these expose the hypocrisy of the pro-amendment position, and those people who are undecided about how to vote need to hear both the questions and the loud lack of an answer.

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