What About Protection For LGBT Families??

*Note: this piece has been sitting in my drafts folder for almost a year. Since then the U.S. Supreme Court has deemed The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional and several more states have struck down their anti-same sex marriage laws. A lot has changed since I wrote it, but the sentiment remains. I’ve witnessed the damage that happens to gay couples because they didn’t have the legal protections afforded to their heterosexual counterparts. This isn’t about hurting straight couples. This is about protecting LGBT couples. Nothing more.

lineAnyone who has lived through the height of the AIDS crisis understands why Same Sex Marriage is necessary.

I’ve witnessed countless gay men lose everything as the families of their deceased partners swooped in like vultures, devouring everything in sight. It reminded me of the peasants picking through Scrooge’s things in the Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol. These family members weren’t close to the deceased. In most cases they had disowned their gay son. Some were so fearful of AIDS that they refused to come visit their son or brother in the hospital, leaving the survivor to care for his sick partner alone. — Strange. Where was their fear of HIV/AIDS when they were picking through the dead man’s belongings?

It pissed me off to no end seeing these cowards walk in after the fact and claim property simply because they were family. Where was their “Family Values” when their relative was sick??

One woman had the arrogance to tell a friend of mine that his 15 year relationship with her brother was nothing more than playing house. “My husband and I have been married for ten years,” she said. “You two may have lived together, but it was not love.” WHAT?? Was she out of her friggin mind??

One of my friends challenged his deceased partner’s family. The father, who was a lawyer, told his son’s partner, “I have infinite resources. You will go bankrupt if you try to challenge me.” My friend’s case never made it to court. He was forced to move less than a year later.

Those are just two examples of the complete disregard for and discrimination of LGBT families. Did you know it is legal to fire someone simply because he or she is Gay in 29 states? Twenty-Nine States! That’s the reason ENDA is so important. AND… Gays and Lesbians can be DENIED housing in another 29 states. What the hell!

“But what about the children?”

Yeah. Conservatives love to hold children hostage over every issue they don’t approve of. For some reason, they think legalizing Same-Sex Marriage will somehow interfere with the raising of their children. I don’t understand the resistance to educating children, in an age appropriate way, about the world around them. Besides, what of the Gay and Lesbian couples who are raising children? Where is the protection for their families?

If the foundation or your marriage so fragile that it would crumble under the weight of another couple’s happiness, I feel sorry for you.

Here’s the thing. Same Sex Marriage is a conservative idea. It’s personal liberty. It’s “Family Values”

Fifteen years ago, when the idea of Same-Sex Marriage was in it’s infancy, I may have settled for Civil Unions, but Civil Unions are NOT equal to Marriage. A Marriage grants you 1,138 federal rights, protections and responsibilities   A Civil Union does not.

Depending on which state you live, it will cost you between $50 and $100 for a Marriage license. In order to acquire some of (but not all) those rights an LGBT couple must hire a lawyer and spend hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars. Why do I need to make a lawyer rich just to enjoy the same rights as any two strangers can get just because they said, “I Do” at a Las Vegas Drive-Thru wedding chapel?

lineIt heartens me to see that we have accomplished so much since I first drafted this post. At this moment nineteen states and the District of Columbia have given the ‘go ahead’ to same sex marriage. We still have a long way to go, but I cannot overlook the accomplishments of just this last year. LGBTs and their allies have much to be proud of.

Happy Pride Month Everybody!

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What Kind of Ass**** Shoots a Gun Into a Car Full of Teenagers?

There is an ongoing battle in my neighborhood between residents and teenagers in parked cars blaring loud music. Not once, in the years that I’ve been living here, has any of us pulled a gun on one. single. teenager.

Not once!

To be sure, blaring your music at top volume, with the bass up so high it shakes my house, is inconsiderate at best. It shows a lack of respect for your neighborhood. It shows the world that you’re the worst kind of ass who’s probably trying to overcompensate for some major insecurities. But it’s not reason enough for me, or anyone for that matter, to take a life.

Most of the time, as with Mr Davis and his pals, it’s just teenagers being teenagers. They haven’t had enough life experience to understand that the people who live in these houses have to get up in the morning to go to jobs they hate, jobs that don’t pay very much, so that they can pay an outrageous amount of rent. They don’t need to listen to some punk kid showing off his bad taste in music. Oh… Don’t think you have bad taste in music? Just wait until you’re an old head like me and some snot nosed kid blasts your house with whatever passes for music at that point.

But I’m in a residential neighborhood where there’s a certain expectation of a reasonable noise level. Something just above a whisper would be nice, but probably unrealistic. Mr Dunn was at a gas station where there is no such expectation.

He was at a friggin gas station convenience store, for crying out loud! It is reasonable to expect that there will be lots of noise! Hell, it’s almost guaranteed!

I wasn’t on that jury so there’s no way of knowing what the hell was going on during deliberations. But there’s one fact that I just can’t get past. After shooting ten rounds into an SUV full of teenagers, Dunn left the gas station and drove 40 miles away to a bed and breakfast in St. Augustine, where he “walked his dog, ordered a pizza, and drank rum and cola.

A normal human being would have called for an ambulance.

But then, a normal human being wouldn’t have fired a gun into an SUV full of teenagers over loud music.

What an ass****!

World AIDS Day

“There will never be a cure! Big Pharma is making too much money stringing me along from one treatment to another.” – Sam W.

In order to help keep AIDS awareness in the minds of people around me, I thought I’d share some of my personal experiences, and how HIV/AIDS has affected people in my life. The following is pulled together from casual conversations with my friend Sam, whom I’ve known for almost two decades. I’ve entered direct quotes as I remember them. Everything you read here is fact.

Sam, quoted above, has been living with AIDS for a little over twenty years. He tested positive in 1991. His survival, he says, is a double edged sword. He feels fortunate to be alive but, like many LGBT folks our age, most of his close friends are gone. “There’s no one left!” he says. “In the early 90s my friends were dropping like flies, one after the other. I thought I was next. My doctor told my parents to make my final arrangements. I was prepared to die.” Sam told me that when he didn’t die, he went into a depression. Psychologists call it Survivor’s Guilt.

Though ten years younger than Sam, I can easily empathize. At the height of the pandemic, AIDS took most of my friends. But the friends that I lost were relatively new friendships. Sam had known most of his friends for ten, fifteen years. You’re not supposed to lose so many friends at such a young age.

Sam says his biggest lament is the cost of survival. He was fortunate enough to have had a decent enough employer who provided him with healthcare, and who was understanding enough to alter his work schedule as needed. He worked for as long as he could, but by the mid-nineties his health had so declined that he had no choice but to go on Social Security Disability and wait for death. Then Protease Inhibitors came along.

The new drugs that saved his life cost a small fortune. Sam takes three Anti-HIV pills which cost about $900 per bottle, and a handful of medications to handle side effects that cost between $20 and $150 per bottle. And that doesn’t include regular blood tests, doctor visits, and medical procedures.

“Remember the assisted suicide controversy in the 90s?” he asks. “All those conservatives wanted to hang Dr. Kevorkian! Now they want to cut my benefits! (Social Security, Food Stamps, Medicaid, Medicare) Where’s their compassion for the sick and dying, now?? If you don’t want to help me live, then allow me to die!”

Sam assures he doesn’t really want to die. He’s understandably frustrated by a system that has failed him. It would be difficult for him to go back to work. He couldn’t even afford a part time job. If he went back to work, he’d lose his healthcare. If he lost his healthcare, he’d get sick again and most likely die.

In a perfect world, Sam could rejoin the workforce, keep his healthcare, and maybe pay an affordable percentage of his salary back into Medicare. The trouble is the cost of prescriptions. As long as he has to take those expensive medications, he can never leave Social Security.

I reminded him of the recent advancements in developing a vaccine. “There will never be a cure!” he says ” Big Pharma is making too much money stringing me along from one treatment to another! It’s a scam, and the American people are too blind to see it!”

Though careful what I say to him, I can’t help but think perhaps he’s right. There’s no money in cures. The money is in treatment. If you cured cancer tomorrow, all those Cancer Treatment Centers would go bankrupt within months. Susan G Komen would cease to exist. I hate to sound pessimistic, but I have little faith in a system that values money over people.

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The best I can offer is try to educate people around me and hope that they pay attention.

AIDS (Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome) has been around for three decades. Some of the biggest myths about AIDS that still persist today include, “It’s a gay disease” “It can’t happen to me” and “There’s a cure”. AIDS is not a “Gay” disease. It CAN happen to you. There is NO cure.

Treatment has it’s own issues. Side effects of Anti HIV medication include, fatigue, neuropathy, fungal infections, liver damage, heart disease, kidney disease, body fat re-distribution (buffalo hump), chronic headaches, nausea, vomiting, vision loss, blindness, high cholesterol, diarrhea, constipation, dementia, calcium deficiency, loss of bone density, death and more.

  • Sounds fun, right? Especially when you consider prevention is as simple as proper condom use.
  • And ladies, because men are so reluctant to wrap it up, there’s a condom designed just for you. – Introducing… The Female Condom!

Knowing all of this, would you rather protect yourself and your loved ones, or spend the rest of your life at a doctor’s office?

To learn more about HIV/AIDS, check out the NIH AIDS info page.  http://www.aidsinfo.nih.gov/

WTF! No… seriously, W – T – F?

When I created ADignorantium I set a few guidelines for myself. Two of the most important are, I don’t bully and I don’t use language that I’d be embarrassed to let a grandmother read. Don’t get me wrong. I do plenty of cussing at home. Some of my favorite words have only four letters. Lately though, it’s been difficult to maintain the latter. The political climate has devolved into a childish temper tantrum, and I am pissed!

I am so friggin pissed I could spit nails!

I never truly understood that expression until those unbelievably shortsighted tea party republicans decided to put the screws to the United States. I can’t even put thoughts into words, I’m so angry. This is not how America works! We don’t allow a few extremists to shut down the entire government  Do we?

Instead of passing a clean appropriations bill, house republicans attached an ACA rider that doomed it to fail. The unrelated provisions guaranteed the bill would not pass the senate. All they had to do was pass a continuing resolution (CR) that was clean of extraneous nonsense, but they are blinded by their hatred of anything Obama.

Truth be told, I’m not exactly thrilled with every bit of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but it’s a good start. It’s a step in the right direction. When you’re not happy with something, you don’t fix it by killing it. And before you throw “corporate exemptions” at me, those exemptions were concessions to republicans. If you want to get rid of the exemptions, you write a bill, separate from the appropriations bill, and send it to the senate. But that’s not what they want. They want to undo the healthcare law. After trying and failing to repeal the ACA forty two times, they try this stunt!?

Now the government is shut down. National parks, museums, and landmarks are closed to the public. Millions are now without work.

  • Don’t they understand that a government shutdown affects more than government employees?
  • Don’t they know that everyday Americans like hotel staff, bartenders, waiters, and store clerks depend on tourism to make a living?
  • Do they even care that their stubbornness will have a negative effect on the economy?

There is no doubt in my mind that this bullisht is racially motivated. I wasn’t sure at first. I just chalked it up to politics as usual. But after six years of stubborn resistance, there can be no other explanation.

So now I owe some very good friends an apology for all those late night conversations about “race in America” in which I was so certain that things had improved since my father’s generation. Apparently, I was wrong. I was wrong and it sickens me. I am so f*king ashamed of my own country. MY OWN COUNTRY!

I’d like to think we’ll remember. I want to believe we will carry this rage with us to the voting booth. I know I will. But America has a short memory span. We are more worried about Miley, Kim, and Kanye than we are about what our local politicians are up to. More Americans know the names of the Real Housewives than who their representatives are.

So why am I surprised when this isht happens?

~end rant~

Thanks to all for bearing with me. We now return to our regularly scheduled blog.

George Takei: A defeat for DOMA — and the end of ‘ick’

by George Takei (Thursday June 27) Washington Post Op-Ed

George Takei, an actor and activist, played Mr. Sulu on “Star Trek” and is the author of “Oh Myyy!: There Goes the Internet.” Follow him on Twitter: @GeorgeTakei.

 

Forty-four years nearly to the day after drag queens stood their ground against a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, sparking rioting in New York City and marking the beginning of America’s gay rights movement, our nation’s highest court at last held that a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. Amazingly, since Stonewall, the question of LGBT rights has evolved from whether homosexuals should have any place in our society to whether gay and lesbian couples should be accorded equal marital stature.

Whenever one group discriminates against another — keeping its members out of a club, a public facility or an institution — it often boils down to a visceral, negative response to something unfamiliar. I call this the “ick.” Indeed, the “ick” is often at the base of the politics of exclusion. Just this March, for example, a young woman at an anti-same-sex-marriage rally in Washington was asked to write down, in her own words, why she was there. Her answer: “I can’t see myself being with a woman. Eww.”

Frankly, as a gay man, I can’t see myself being with one, either. But it’s usually not gays who write the laws. If this woman were in Congress, her personal discomfort might infect her thinking — and her lawmaking. Gays kissing? Ick.

The Supreme Court may be the ultimate interpreter of the rules, but it is still the court of public opinion that matters. And public opinion has shifted — 51 percent of Americans now favor same-sex marriage, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll, and 42 percent oppose it. Reflecting this slim majority, Wednesday’s 5 to 4 ruling made clear that “ick” is not a proper basis for constitutional jurisprudence. Justice Anthony Kennedy, in his opinion, warned against this specifically, noting that when “determining whether a law is motived by an improper animus . . . ‘[d]iscriminations of an unusual character’ especially require careful consideration.” Kennedy was not prepared to allow the “ick” to remain law, knowing that the result is often embarrassing when judged by history.

For more than 70 years, I’ve watched the “ick” infect American life in a variety of ways and concluded that it’s little more than a function of unfamiliarity. Once upon a time, you never saw two men kissing — for that, you’d have to visit an adult video store.

Even I was taken aback the first time I saw two men being affectionate in public. The “ick” runs deep, instilling unease even in those for whom an act is natural. When I was a child, I knew that my sexuality was not something I could reveal to others. Later, as a young actor, I knew I could not be open about it without serious consequences for my career. It wasn’t until 2005 — when I was in my late 60s — that I came out.

read more at The Washington Post

A word about the so-called IRS scandal…

Shortly after President Obama was elected, 501(c) (4) applications started to pour into the IRS by the thousands from anti-government Tea Party groups. Those of you with a short memory might not remember the negative reaction to the economic stimulus and those big business bail outs that saved the auto industry. By 2010, as healthcare reform legislation became law, and the U.S. Supreme Court deemed corporations are people too, the number of 501(c) (4) applications increased.

According to Michael Scherer of Time.com, “many of these so-called social-welfare groups have multiplied–annual applications for the designation have nearly doubled since 2009–with many spending nearly 50% of their money on campaign advertising, almost daring the IRS to challenge their activities. Of the more than $1.2 billion spent by outside groups in the 2012 federal election cycle, at least $254 million came from “social welfare” nonprofits.”

To me, this is a red flag!
“All this outrage threatens to obscure an important point: the IRS does need to crack down on political groups masquerading as social-welfare organizations. Many of the nonprofit groups who claim 501(c)(4) status either flout tax law or flirt with the murky line between electioneering and issue advocacy, all while using their tax-exempt status to conceal their donors.” – Alex Altman “The Real IRS Scandal” time.com

The IRS may have been overzealous, but there’s certainly no scandal here.

Marriage Equality

File this under #DiggyRant
Can you imagine waiting for The Supreme Court of the United States of America to decide whether or not you are Created Equal & endowed by your creator to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness? Can you imagine waiting for a group of nine judges to determine your worthiness as a human being?

Fifteen years ago, when the idea of Same-Sex Marriage was in it’s infancy, I may have settled for Civil Unions, but the negative outcry from conservatives and religious zealots has made me dig in my heals.

So now I will settle for nothing less than equal treatment under the law.

It’s personal.

At the height of the AIDS crisis I lost many close friends, the majority of whom were in long term relationships. In each case, the surviving partner had a negative experience with the parents or family of the deceased. All but one surviving partner were forced out of their homes as family members of the deceased claimed property. He was spared because he and his partner were rather wealthy and had hired lawyers to draw up contracts that specifically defined ownership rights. It cost then thousands of dollars for the very same protections that every heterosexual couple is afforded with a $50 marriage license.

In one particularly ugly case, the surviving partner challenged his deceased partner’s family. The father had disowned his gay son and then completely cut off all communication when he discovered his son had AIDS, but then decided he had rights to his dead son’s property. The father, who was a lawyer, told his son’s partner, “I have infinite resources. You will go bankrupt if you try to challenge me.” The surviving partner’s case never made it to court. He was forced to move less than a year later.

These are just two examples, but they illustrate the issue clearly. Our relationships deserve the same legal rights and responsibilities as all married couples.

Civil Unions are NOT Equal to Marriage. Married couples have 1,138 federal rights, protections and responsibilities. Civil Unions do not.