Archive for the ‘Same-Sex Marriage’ category

Why Gay Marriage is a Bad Idea

July 24, 2011

No, not in this way…

But now that I used this cheap ploy to get you here, please stick around and read this post.

My wife and I are one of the estimated 18,000 same-gender couples that legally married in California before the enactment of Proposition 8. Days like today are tough. While we rejoice with and applaud the decision of New York State to allow same gender-loving couples to legally marry, there is a bittersweetness to it. I have faith that one of these days this horrendous provision will be overturned.

In the meantime, back to that “gay marriage” thing…

I sometimes joke (in an unfunny way) that we are gay-married. That’s the thing: we are. We’re legally married in the State of California (since Prop 8 didn’t invalidate our marriages), and our relationship is now accepted and recognized in New York. This is a good thing. What’s bad is that, as we travel around the country, some states say that we’re married, others say no; some say that our legal domestic partnership is legally valid (even when our marriage isn’t), while others don’t — and many states hold that we are legal strangers. This makes for complicated travel. What if we were in an accident? What if… well, what if lots of different scenarios that legally married heterosexual couples take for granted? (And, as a matter of fact, privileges that UNmarried heterosexual couples are granted, just because they are a male-female couple.) See? Gay married. See? Not funny… Not funny at all.

What we seek, and the only thing that makes legal sense and the only thing that is a true “fit” with the foundational ideas of the United States of America’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is MARRIAGE EQUALITY.

Conservatives call it gay marriage again and again and again until it's been ingrained in our psyches. The media has gulped the Kool-Aid on this because it's an easy shorthand term. But it's wrong, and we shouldn't use it! Words matter.

There are thousands of legal rights afforded to legal couples composed of a woman and a man. Various numbers are thrown around, but the truth is that no one even knows the exact number! Some of these are narrow and don’t apply to many people, but others are almost universal. These include the right to be taxed fairly and equally, the right to own property together, the right of survivor benefits — including Social Security, and on and on. The thing that’s common in these is that they are conferred by the federal government.

In order to have true, honest MARRIAGE EQUALITY, the federally-imposed Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has got to go. It’s legal bigotry, and it creates a separate class of people to discriminate against — a truly unAmerican law.

There is legislation that has been introduced in Congress called the Respect for Marriage Act. This would repeal DOMA. It would take us out of the status of being “gay married” and would provide for full legal MARRIAGE EQUALITY.

This bill has been introduced in the House by Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and in the Senate by Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Both versions are the same, and both have a number of co-sponsors. If you’d like to know if your elected officials are among them, here is the House list (click on View Co-Sponsors) and here is the list of Senators. This would be a great time to contact yours and urge them to co-sponsor this legislation — or to thank them if they’re already on the list. We live in troubling times, and if you don’t actively participate in the system it will remain so. Know that those who oppose marriage equality are the ones who are the most vocal!

Thank you Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Barbara Boxer, and Representative Judy Chu!

By the way, President Obama has endorsed this legislation, so thanks to him too.

So, like many, I join my voice in saying INY today — but let’s not stop at celebrating this little victory and forgetting that there’s far more to do before we achieve true marriage equality.


The case against the Rev. Jane Adams Spahr

March 24, 2011

NOTE: I am a member of the board of That All May Freely Serve, the organization co-founded by the Rev. Janie Spahr after another church court denied her call to serve at the Downtown United Presbyterian Church in Rochester, New York. I am also a legally-married-to-a-same-gender-spouse-in-California who was married in church in a service officiated by an ordained clergymember. It is impossible for me to be unbiased, and I make no apologies for that.

A lot happened today in the appeal of the verdict rendered last summer in the case of Presbytery of the Redwoods vsthe RevJane Adams Spahr.

I typically live-tweet or live-blog such events–something I did during the trial itself–but the (in my opinion) archaic policy of the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Synod of the Pacific disallows the use of electronic communications of any kind while they are in session. Consequently, I was reduced to taking notes via pen-and-paper.

I will share what took place in today’s appeal, but I am making the very intentional choice tonight to not do so until after this body has rendered its verdict. Not that they will likely be reading (or be influenced by) the writing of a blogger who sat through the hearing, but you never know.

In the meantime, I have been thinking and praying about this case, about Janie and the myriad of charges that have been filed against her over the years. In so doing, I started where I often begin: with seeking a definition of the terms. So what is a trial? Here is what the dictionary says:



  1. Law:
    a. the examination before a judicial tribunal of the facts put in issue in a cause, often including issues of law as well as those of fact.
    b. the determination of a person’s guilt or innocence by due process of law.
  2. the act of trying, testing, or putting to the proof.
  3. test; proof.
  4. an attempt or effort to do something.
  5. a tentative or experimental action in order to as certain results; experiment.
  6. the state or position of a person or thing being tried or tested; probation.
  7. subjection to suffering or grievous experiences; a distressed or painful state: comfort in the hour of trial.
  8. an affliction or trouble.
  9. a trying, distressing, or annoying thing or person.
  10. Ceramics:
    a piece of ceramic material used to try the heat of a kiln and the progress of the firing of its contents.

Some of these definitions go far beyond what we most often think of in terms of charges being filed and the courtroom-type process to come up with a verdict; and some of those words are so appropriate. Trying, distressing or annoying. Affliction or trouble. Subjection to suffering or grievous experiences.

Hopefully, having friends and colleagues who love Janie with her today provided that “comfort in the hour of trial” listed among the descriptions as well.

Also today, as the opposing counsel presented her arguments, I had a scripture passage, a psalm, echoing through my head. This passage is the favorite of the father of one of the women who testified at Janie’s trial; it was a favorite of God’s glorious gadfly, the Rev. Howard B. Warren, as well.

Psalm 139

1 Yhwh, you’ve searched me,
and you know me.
2 You know if I am standing or sitting,
you read my thoughts from far away.
3 Whether I walk or lie down, you are watching;
you are intimate with all of my ways.
4 A word is not even on my tongue, Yhwh,
before you know what it is;
5 you hem me in, before and behind,
shielding me with your hand.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
a height my mind cannot reach!
7 Where could I run from your Spirit?
Where could I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you’re there;
if I make my bed in death, you’re already there.
9 I could fly away with wings made of dawn,
or make my home on the far side of the sea,
10 but even there your hand will guide me,
your mighty hand holding me fast.
11 If I say, “The darkness will hide me,
and night will be my only light,”
12 even darkness won’t be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day—
darkness and light are the same to you.
13 You created my inmost being
and stitched me together in my mother’s womb.
14 For all these mysteries I thank you—
for the wonder of myself,
for the wonder of your works—
my soul knows it well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
while I was being made in that secret place,
knitted together in the depths of the earth;
16 your eyes saw my body even there.
All of my days
were written in your book,
all of them planned
before even the first of them came to be.
17 How precious your thoughts are to me, O God!
How impossible to number them!
18 I could no more count them
than I could count the sand.
But suppose I could?
You would still be with me!
23 Examine me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts—
24 see if there is misdeed within me,
and guide me in the way that is eternal.

This is the framework of my thinking and my prayers until we hear from the PJC. I invite you to join in continuous prayer for love and justice until their verdict is issued.

Grace and peace,

Follow-up: Response from Lawry’s

September 21, 2010

I posted my open letter to Lawry’s Restaurants VIP program last week. I was upset about the way that Melinda and I were addressed (“Mr. and Mrs. Forbes”) in their invitation to us to share our upcoming anniversary at one of their locations.

Here is their response that I received by email today:

Dear Ms. Forbes,

I apologize we did not get back with you sooner. Richard Frank is currently on vacation, and rather than wait until his return, I wanted to respond to your email below.

I’d like to say that we are quite concerned and frankly embarrassed that we have overlooked an issue like this. This is the first time this issue has been brought to my attention and I can certainly understand why it would upset you. We are truly sorry that we put a damper on your special day. These mailings are intended to thank our guests for their loyalty and to bring joy, certainly not anguish. I hope that you will accept our apology.

Now, to fixing the problem. Once I became aware of your concern, I immediately contacted our agency that manages our VIP program and mailings to inquire about what could be done to rectify the issue. Of course, it seems nothing is ever easy as the systems that are in place do not allow for multiple last names to be addressed on these mailings. What would seem like a simple fix is actually very complicated and will take revamping the entire system. That said, I think we have a solution that will allow us to have a more general way of addressing our guest (i.e. “The Forbes” or “Forbes Family”) rather than “Mr. & Mrs.”. This would have to be done for all addressee’s as that is a requirement of this specific system. While not a perfect solution, we hope that it will at least help in the short term while we work on a longer term fix. We are planning a revamp of the VIP Rewards program in 2011 and my hope is that we can find a more appropriate and permanent solution at that time.

Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention. Feedback like this really does help us continue to improve our VIP Rewards program to meet our guests’ needs.

If you choose to celebrate with us in the future, please let me know as we would like to make it up to you in some way.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

Kind regards,

Rich Cope Director of Marketing Lawry’s Restaurants, Inc.
(626) 440-5272 ext. 55
(626) 440-5232 fax

—–Original Message—–

From: Allan Guarino
Sent: Monday, September 20, 2010 1:29 PM
To: Rich Cope
Subject: FW: Lawry’s Contact Us


This message came through the contact us page on the website. Thanks.


– – – – – – – – – –

I appreciate the way that they worded this response. I knew the solution wasn’t easy, since I worked in an IT capacity for some time, but just because it can’t be done today is no reason to say that it can’t be done. I’ll be keeping my eye on them to make sure that they live up to their promise. I think that since he said that they are “concerned and frankly embarrassed,” they will make it happen.

We’ll certainly go back now, and we will contact them about “mak[ing] it up to us in some way”!

Open letter to Lawry’s Restaurants:

September 16, 2010

Richard R. Frank
President and CEO
Lawry’s Restaurants

Mr. Frank:

We are happy to be Lawry’s VIP members; however, as a legally-married same-gender couple, we weren’t happy to receive our anniversary coupon and see it addressed to “Mr. & Mrs. Forbes.” When we filled out our application, it had spaces for both of our names, and we filled it out that way.

Anniversaries are special times, and this misgendering and lack of recognition makes it less likely that we would spend our special day with you at one of your restaurants.

By the way, this not only insults us, but it also insults the gay servers who have waited on us when we’ve dined with you.

The time for silence by LGBT people is past, and it’s time for you to recognize that — even in something as “simple” as this.

Sonnie Swenston and Melinda Forbes

Teenagers have mixed views on gays – and they’re OK with that

August 28, 2008

From the Los Angeles Times

Sandy Banks 
June 17, 2008

Kye D’Aguilar doesn’t have a traumatic story to tell about coming out. The 18-year-old said he’s always known that he is gay. “My mother told me she knew when I was born.”

“She was like, ‘Whatever.’ “He mimicked her, waving a beefy hand in the air. His mother is a lesbian.

His dad — who has another wife and new set of kids — wasn’t quite as sanguine. “Take the pink out of your life,” he wrote on Kye’s MySpace page. Kye responded with a diss of his own. “I blocked him,” he said.

I met Kye at a Hollywood shelter run by the Los Angeles Youth Network for runaways, homeless and foster teenagers, just a few hours before Los Angeles County pronounced its first Mrs. and Mrs.

I wanted to talk to the generation that stands to benefit most from this historic civil rights advance: gay kids who will come of age knowing that a hookup could eventually lead to a marriage proposal. Just like their straight friends.

Of the 10 teenagers I talked with, three said they were gay. I found the group as philosophically divided as adults, but more comfortable with dissension. They shouted, insulted and defended one another, then settled back in to watch television.

‘I don’t like it,” said David, twirling his skateboard wheels and shouting over the others. “Nothing personal, but two dudes ain’t natural. . . . I’m not tripping; just keep it in San Francisco.”

“Hel-lo!,” responded Jazz Lepe, an in-your-face 17-year-old who straddles gender boundaries. “This is Holly-wood.”

Tall and slim with delicate features, Jazz was a boy when she reached adolescence. Now she’s transgender. Or bisexual. Sometimes she’s not sure.

When I visit, she’s wearing tight jeans and a rhinestone-trimmed pink T-shirt. She has long black hair with a dramatic red streak, pink nail polish on slender fingers and eyebrows so perfect I’m dying to ask who did them.

She grew up in group homes and foster families, was taunted at school and on the street. I get the feeling she’s not one to wait on the state’s permission for anything.

“I always had crushes on boys,” she announced, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. Her mother wasn’t bothered when she came out at 15. “She just doesn’t want me to be a slut.”

I asked if she’d heard about Lawrence King, the Oxnard middle-schooler allegedly killed by a classmate in February for flaunting his homosexuality. She hadn’t. But she had heard about “this other guy that got killed . . . . They tied him to a fence. It was a big deal.”

Jazz couldn’t remember his name, but I could. Matthew Shepard. He died 10 years ago, before Jazz probably knew what “gay” meant.

His death publicly sensitized the nation to discrimination against gays; sparking hate crime laws and public outrage. But it seems not so much has changed in our private relations.

I’m stunned to read that one-quarter of gay teens say that coming out to their parents got them kicked out of the house, or led them to run away.

“The law doesn’t change anything,” said Jenette Hurst, 17, who landed in the Hollywood shelter three weeks ago when she came here from Seattle.

“We’re always going to have this discussion. I’m not a lesbian, but if they want to get married, why can’t we just be happy for them.

“It’s just like blacks and whites,” she said. The older generation “grew up saying things about each other because you didn’t know anybody like that. But we know.

“Like me and Jazz. She’s trans, she’s bi, whatever. I’m not. But I like her. She’s a person, he’s a person . . . whatever. I like her for who she is. Or he is.”

Mercy Molina didn’t say a word during our discussion. From across the room, I couldn’t tell if she was a girl or boy, lounging on the couch with her close-cropped hair, baggy clothes and black piercings hooked through her eyebrow and lip.

Up close, she looked and sounded much younger than her 17 years. She had a soft voice, perfect teeth and a rainbow-colored yarn bracelet neatly braided around her wrist.

Her parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses and reject homosexuality, she said. When she told them she was gay two years ago, “they told me to leave. Then they said ‘If you go, we’ll call the cops.’ “Confused, she stayed.

But when she brought her girlfriend around, the arguments started. So the two ran away, stayed with friends, then wound up living in separate shelters.

Mercy was a tomboy all her life, she said. “I played sports and never liked dressing up or doing girlie things. My friends and my teachers, they were OK with it. I don’t know how my parents didn’t know.”

I asked her what she thought of gays’ right to marry. She smiled and looked away from me. “Me and my girlfriend, we’ve been together for three years. We say we’re engaged.”

She laughed, and when she looked up I saw that same glow in her eyes I see when my daughter talks about the young man she loves. “I don’t know . . . but yeah, maybe we’ll get married.”

And I don’t see a gay kid, but a 17-year-old romantic.

Wait a while, I tell her, thinking like a mother. And hoping, come November, voters don’t take the choice from her.





Copyright 2008 Los Angeles Times,0,6146666,full.column

Wedding update

August 8, 2008

Things went really well at our wedding, and it was so much fun. About 140 people were present in our relatively small sanctuary. People who cried, people who laughed, people who listened, people who loved us and were so supportive. Family, friends, neighbors, church and church-related people.

The reception was at our home. Almost everyone came over. Some said that they’d come, but just stay “for a little while.” And almost everyone–including those “little while” folks–stayed for hours. We tried to get around to see everyone, but we couldn’t–so it was great to see people from all aspects of our lives talking together and enjoying each other’s company as if they were old friends. When I talked with my brother afterwards, he said, “You have such cool friends. It was such a good party that you didn’t even need to be there!”

Our theme was sort of Hawai’ian, since we love Hawai’i so much. I ordered the cake from a little locally-owned independent bakery here in town.

This was our beautiful wedding cake

This was our beautiful wedding cake

It was a day that we’ll always remember.

So, please–if you live in California,

Who has time for this?

July 16, 2008

It’s quite funny that my last post was what it was. Over a year ago, and my last post was about the campaign for equal marriage in California. SO MUCH has happened since then. Marriage Equality has become the LAW in California–and I am now seventeen days from my own wedding.

We went to the county offices the first day that licenses were available to same-gender couples. At first Melinda was hesitant, but then she decided that we should go. The night before when we were talking about it, first she was worried about the crowds and the chaos–and then she decided that we needed to go, needed to be part of history; and then she was fussing about traffic and parking, when my brother, who was visiting for a few days, offered to drive us there–at first she declined, and then about an hour later accepted. There were four sites in LA County where we could go, and we intentionally went to the “just folks” location nearest to us. My brother dropped us off, and went away to have his coffee and read the newspaper. We got there well before the offices opened, and got in line with maybe 60 couples ahead of us. As we were talking with the people around us, all of a sudden I saw my car drive by. My brother (very straight, 6’6″ 275# construction worker-type) had gotten so caught up in the whole thing that HE had to be part of history too. He parked the car, greeted us, and then went and sat in the back row to absorb the love of the day.

It was tempting to go ahead and get married that day there at the courthouse. But we had decided a long time ago that when we get married, it would be in church–in our church. And so we came home with our license, and a lot of wonderful memories.

Our church is a small Presbyterian church that is committed to justice issues, including LGBT inclusion. We have been members there for almost all of the 15-plus years that we’ve been together, and part of the leadership there for most of that time. So it was no surprise to the pastor when we approached her about performing our wedding. She was ready right then, but in the Presbyterian system, the governing body (the Session) is a party to such decision-making; when the pastor brought it to the Session, they unanimously approved our request.

So then we chose a date. August 2, 2008. The invitations went out a few weeks ago. We started getting responses almost immediately. Everyone who has responded has been enthusiastic and excited for us. We’ve only had one marginal reaction, no overt negative ones. And we have a great variety of people who are coming: church people, neighbors, family members, work friends; Democrats and a few Republicans; gay and straight; young and old (our youngest guest is 6, and our eldest is 94); and people of all colors–European-Americans, Filipinos, Mexican-American, African-American, and a number of multiethnic individuals (as well as multiethnic couples).

All people who want to say yes to us, and yes to love.

So now there are a million things to do. We’re having the wedding at church, but the reception is going to be in our back yard. We’ve sort of figured out what we’re doing about food and beverage, but we have to make it happen. An artist friend is helping with the decor at both the church and home. Others have said that they’ll help, they’ll bring food. One dear friend told me early on that “this thing will take on a life of its own” and that people will offer to help–and that we should accept their offers. We have, and it really helps me to stay in a more-or-less calm place, and even the often-frantic Melinda is doing quite well.

Now I have to go. I have a service to write!