Monday, August 10, 2009

The heebie jeebies!

When I was hanging out with Scott Roeder's fan club, I knew these were people who thought he was in the right. Later, a friend told me about meeting Paul Hill at Shelley Shannon's hearing, and I became disturbed. First, fan club, now wannabes.

But an article today by KC Star's Judy Thomas made things all the more scary. Not just supporters, not just potential terrorists but actual terrorists. Jennifer McCoy, quoted in the article, was the same Jennifer who needed "utilitarian" defined for her. She served time. For setting fire to clinics. Hooray for me ...

It's really disturbing to know that not talking about something makes you innocent of a conspiracy. I'm sure they didn't all get together and dare each other to shoot Dr. Tiller. They just got together, talked about the evils, and glanced at one another, waiting for one of them to pull the trigger. And then they give aide and comfort to their hero while he's in jail, show him he's loved, and send him money.

They probably hang around passing quotes like we do. From men like Albert Einstein who said "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it." And Edmund Burke's "All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing." They're perfectly content to do nothing. They know someone else will do it for them, so long as they keep talking it up.

There is this great double-edged sword. As an intellectual liberal, I know that in the 60s and 70s, the US government had documents on liberal leaders, even if they were non-violent. John Lennon had a huge file with the government trying to kick him out of the US. He spoke at great lengths about the need to "cool down [the revolution]," as he said, and spoke out against violence but in favor of a sort of revolution. But he was followed because he was not in favor of the political leaders at the time and because his words could inspire people to actually do something about it.

That he was profiled and harassed embarrasses me as an American.

While he advocated non-violence, Lennon still was friends with those that advocated a bit more violence. I remember a friend telling me Abbie Hoffman himself taught her how to make a Molotov cocktail.

I very much know that this loose association of people lead to all manner of violence. But I also very much fear advocating intrusion into their lives will be used, as it has been, against well-meaning people whose advocacy overlaps with those advocating violence. It's hard to be vegetarian without being associated with either PETA or ALF or a "radical" environmentalist without ELF. It's easy to support the American Anti-Vivisection Society (what with their cute little bunny rabbit logo on products), but it's not hard to see the next step to the Animal Liberation Front (even many supporters of ALF don't really like Jerry Vlasak's statements justifying violence against animal researchers). Similarly, ALF has no members, just principles, and supporters who wouldn't do it themselves smile when actions happen and send them letters and such while offenders serve time. Just because one believes the ends justify the means does not make the means (or even the end, for that matter) just.

Of course we want to aim only at those who advocate violence. But who else ends up in the crossfire? I'm still of the opinion the only real way to win the abortion culture wars is to educate Americans on abortion.

But until then and even then, we have people like Jennifer, living her beliefs. We have access to easy solutions, but we have to question the ethics behind such solutions (and the uneven application seeing as how we have the Patriot Act to go after brown people with foreign-sounding names but we don't touch the white people who openly admit they want to kill people). We want those solutions used when we're the ones needing protection from violence; but when our civil liberties need protected?

So that leaves me perplexed, confused. And with the wonders of the internet, I can share information with other people. Since I know the government and law enforcement won't protect me (Dr. Carhart's protection was removed in spite of rising threats), I've decided I have to be my own advocate and my best advocate. Operation Rescue has decided to move their efforts from Dr. Tiller to Dr. Carhart. As such, I am joining other advocates from Kansas to defend his clinic. (I know the people who read this have probably read all my tweets on the subject but please join us. If you can't join us, there is a link on the page to help us.)

Yea, also, check out Roeder Watch.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Of late ...

I have been doing a very bad job of keeping this blog updated (but obsessively tweet). I have a difficult time forming cohesive enough thoughts to blog about (or so I feel). I've also been doing quite a bit.

This week, I attended Scott Roeder's preliminary hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to go to trial. The answer was "yes," and he plead not guilty. I wrote a rather lengthy entry about it at Feminists for Choice. Also picked up on a story at who picked up on a comment I made on Reproductive Health Reality Check (a site I read on a regular basis).

And for some reason, a couple of Tweeps active in Northeast Kansas managed to talk me into starting a 4th district Young Democrats chapter. So, umm, yea. I have too much life (and, yet, not a date in sight!).

On Facebook, a friend mentioned how he met Paul Hill during Shelley Shannon's trial here in Wichita. Rather frightening. As such, I'm trying to keep track of stuff and follow the trial (and the endless motions) from start until jail time (and possibly beyond). Since the last assassinations in the mid-90s, many states have been pushing various "personhood" laws, not only to define a fetus as a person under the law but also in laws regarding pregnant women (such as Kansas' Alexa's law). I'm really curious how those play out in "defense of a third person" defense for Roeder and others like him.

I honestly fear more violence, as I'm sure many of us do. Not only against abortion providers but, as we have seen, against anyone with a centrist or liberal point of view (because the Holocaust? Not a liberal "idea"!). I really hope the internet can be used to coordinate efforts by citizens to be aware of these groups and loosely affiliated individuals that go into churches and museums and commit heinous crimes.

As much as we would like to think anti-abortion violence (Dr. Tiller) and racially-motivated (militia members slaughtering a Hispanic family) and religiously-motivated violence (Holocaust museum) are not connected, are caused by different motivations, the reality is the base is the same. What compels someone to shoot a health care provider or open fire on a church congregation or kill a family in Texas varies, of course, that impetus for that particular crime. But it's all connected. I know that part of it comes from a great sense of helplessness (that's what motivates the act of violence), but there's a great deal more to it. What have we, as a society, done or not done to make so many people feel helpless?

(Another reason I don't blog much? I drift all over the place!)

So be watching for more Roeder news. And, of course, other progressive updates!

Friday, June 19, 2009

"Anonymous" stops remembering Dr. George Tiller

Previously, I complained that Congress wanted to pass a resolution denouncing church violence. Well, I was not alone in my annoyance that Dr. Tiller's profession wasn't recognized.

The House quickly, and unanimously, passed the aforementioned version. But the Senate proposed a different version. Three Senators, Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), changed the language:

Senate Resolution 187
Condemning the use of violence against providers of health care services to women.

Whereas Dr. George Tiller of Wichita, Kansas, was shot to death while attending church on Sunday, May 31, 2009;

Whereas there is a history of violence against providers of reproductive health care, as health care employees have suffered threats, hostility, and attacks in order to provide crucial services to patients;

Whereas the threat or use of force or physical obstruction has been used to injure, intimidate, or interfere with individuals seeking to obtain or provide health care services; and

Whereas acts of violence are never an acceptable means of expression and shall always be condemned: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate--

(1) expresses great sympathy for the family, friends, and patients of Dr. George Tiller;

(2) recognizes that acts of violence should never be used to prevent women from receiving reproductive health care; and

(3) condemns the use of violence as a means of resolving differences of opinion.

Finally! Hooray! Thank-you Sens. Shaheen, Boxer, and Klobuchar for introducing this, and thank-you to the 43 co-sponsors: Murray; Durbin; Dodd; Schumer; Lautenberg; Mikulski; Landrieu; Gillibrand; Harkin; Carper; Sanders; Kaufman; Wyden; Kerry; Lieberman; Tom Udall; Levin; Brown; Whitehouse; Burris; Mark Udall; Stabenow; Baucus; Cantwell; Bingaman; Inouye; Cardin; Specter; Johnson; Feingold; Leahy; Tester; Snowe; Begich; Akaka; Bennet; Feinstein; Warner; McCaskill; Reed; Kennedy, Lincoln; and Merkley.

However, damn the one anonymous Senator who stopped this. Wanted to back down on referencing reproductive health. That's why he was targeted! That's why we've been targeted for over 20 years! What is so hard about passing this?

It was killed before it even got to the floor. Why? Because someone didn't want to be seen opposing this resolution. Voting against this would be so easily spun as endorsing violence. Of course, whoever killed it is also endorsing the violence. Not just assassination but endorses the constant day-in, day-out violence faced not just by providers of the whole range of women's reproductive health but by women wishing to take charge of their reproduction.

Common ground? Apparently not.

Censored by Choice, Censored Choice

This morning, the Wichita Eagle ran a story about the threats of violence anti-choice groups have received, especially lately. The article is a total wash, such a tool. Umm, have you had your access to health care blocked for 20 years? Have you been called a baby killer for accessing contraceptives? Have you been stalked to your home or had the places you eat at boycotted? Moreover, has any "pro-life" group actually been bombed, attacked, or killed? No? Hmmph.

But the Wichita Eagle has never been known for being actually balanced on the issue of choice. They believe the local sentiment is largely anti-abortion and they write like the pro-choice side is barely here, dominated by older white women, and dying out. This, of course, isn't true. But given the politics of the NOW president elections this weekend, we young women really do want to get involved, and we are. And many of us are simply offended by the Eagle's coverage of tomorrow's events.

Stan Finger seems to only have reprinted parts of press releases when talking about tomorrow's "prayer vigil". Kansas NOW responded by holding a counter-protest and pointing out that "anti-choice extremists" are hypocrites (Mahoney, after Tiller's assassination, said "No one should use this tragedy for political gain."). They're praying for the end of violence "inside and outside of abortion clinics" and for "healing to the city of Wichita."

Wichita has been torn apart by abortion for 20 years, but it's not because of abortion. It's because anti-choice activists came here and ripped our community apart. And they continue to abuse us. They continue to use us as a staging point. Abortion is gone from our town, and they still come. They still pray for the fetuses. They act as if we are a horrid little burg because women have had a choice. Our police and our city council and even our citizens have allowed their violence, their stalking, their lies, their fake clinics within feet of actual health care providers. They have brought violence to us, not Dr. Tiller, not the clinics.

And they keep bringing it. Outside forces continue to not allow us to heal. Operation Rescue, original or West, are not from Wichita. Christian Defense Coalition is not from Wichita. Neither are from Kansas. Continuing to come here is not going to allow us to "heal," to move on. And by "move on," I of course mean "allowing women to advocate for their own health including contraception, abortion, safer sex education, pre-conception counseling, pregnancy and childbirth options, and early childhood care." Ooo, evil!

There is nothing honorable in their actions. They are not trying to mourn with us over a murder. They are dancing on Dr. Tiller's grave. And they're rubbing it in our faces by laying roses to honor fetuses. They didn't ask the citizens of Wichita if we wanted them to join us in praying for our community. They decided it for us. Of course, they decide everything for us.

I wish I lived in a world where I could just live. But I don't. Organized groups of citizens and politicians work hard to make sure I can't love who I want, have sex with whomever I want, have sex when I want as I want, decide for myself if I want to have children, how I have children, when I have children, berate me for not wanting to give birth but foster instead, where I live, how much I earn, where I'm allowed to work.

But there's a war over all these things. I wish I didn't have to fight. But I want to live *my* life, not someone else's and not what someone else has set up for me. People out there are attacking me, my choices, my decisions, as if I cannot. It is almost as if being human means I cannot think and moreso being female. But I have a brain, I am educated, I can think for myself, and I do.

So, please, we didn't invite you. Please leave. Leave my home and leave my body!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Shameless Self-Promotion

Sometimes, I think shame is such a silly emotion, but it's actually quite useful, like guilt and jealousy. We just get all shamed over the wrong things ...

Somehow, I am one of the Wichita Eagle's Wichita-Area Tweeps. Pretty neat! Thanks for the nomination(s) whoever did so :)

Really, get the culture wars off me

Not much substance here, but I'm tired of being the middle of the "culture wars". My body is not your battleground. How and who I love is not your moral right to legislate or dominate. And it's not just the religious right doing it. I know liberals who don't want to be "abortion backers" or who wish to still moralize by saying it's not the government's right to tell women not to choose abortion but they just couldn't do it themselves. Telling me you hold the fetus valuable means that, obviously, I don't. You'll let me do it, but you're still moralizing to me. God believes marriage is between one man and one woman, but gays should have certain rights, too. Gee, thanks.

Seriously, my body, my life, my loves are not your campaign points. And for those candidates who don't want to be seen supporting me? Grow up!

The MAD Voter -- Of Pride and Politics

(Originally published in the Liberty Press in June 2008)

In case you haven’t noticed, this June issue of the Liberty Press celebrates Pride. We traditionally celebrate Pride the last Sunday in June to honor the Stonewall riots of 1969. The Stonewall riots changed the way gays and lesbians wanted to appear in society. Many still wanted to work for acceptance calmly, with women in skirts and men in ties, peacefully carrying signs on July 4th, while others wanted to loudly demand acceptance, expanding the counter-culture revolution to include gays and lesbians.

Pride and politics have been intertwined since gays and lesbians decided to speak up. Early on, we wanted our appearance to match that of Leave it to Beaver: clean cut and normal, without actually showing homophile affections. This accommodationism (I usually hear “assimilationist” these days) angered many people. Gays and lesbians, after all, didn’t always conform to these dress standards. Some men wore dresses (illegal in many states, including New York at the time of Stonewall), some women wore pants, and many dressed the style of the times.

It is still a major question today. Most of LGBT activism today seems to navigate around relationship recognition, adoption, and military service with some casual mentions of HIV/AIDS and youth bullying. After all, we’re normal people with the same concerns as mixed-sex couples. We want the tax breaks, kids, for them to be safe at school, to live in crime-free neighborhoods. We’re family people, just like the rest of America.

No where is this dichotomy more apparent than at Pride. Usually, drag shows are confined to gay bars and the occasional HIV/AIDS fundraiser. But each year, PRIDE shows off drag queens and kings in public parks across the United States. Bears, cubs, leathermen and –women, cross-dressers, and many others come out every year at PRIDE. For some, PRIDE is the one place they can go out and feel themselves, even if not everyone else is like them. And yet every year the debate continues: do we really want ass-less chaps in our Pride parade?

And who pays for Pride? Well, that depends. If you want in free, it’s usually mostly paid for by alcohol producers and lubricants with retailers paying a pretty hefty fee to sell rainbow jewelry. Some Prides reject alcohol and lubricant sponsorship. We’re not drunks and sex-fiends, after all.

All the things we debate year ‘round come together at Pride. Do we present ourselves as family-oriented or do we show the diversity of the “gay community”? Do we want the news to show ordinary couples, gay soldiers, and families? Or do we want drag queens and leatherboys on the cover of the newspaper?

The questions raised by those who do not fit within a modified nuclear family model go largely unasked any other time of the year. With so many other problems facing otherwise “normal” LGBT folks, from employment and healthcare discrimination to youth suicides and ex-gay programs, is relationship recognition really our top priority? Should it dominate our news and our conversation?

As marriage recognition continues to grow (five states now recognize same-sex marriage while New Hampshire is currently debating religious exceptions), domestic partnership recognition fades away. Massachusetts and Connecticut have dropped their statewide registries while New Jersey’s limits registration to couples over 62 (as marriage would affect Social Security benefits for widows).

Companies also drop their domestic partner benefits citing the ability to marry. All couples who choose not to marry now find themselves punished for expanded rights for gay and lesbian couples. And, still, LGBTQ youth are four times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers according to a 2006 study of Massachusetts students.

Pride affords us the opportunity to come out of our closets, whether with our partners, our children, our wigs, and our leather. It should be a great day to celebrate the diversity of our community. Yet it is quite often politicized. It remains open to everyone, LGBT folks, allies, the media, and even those who wish we would just stay in our closets. For this reason, PRIDE organizers and LGBT rights organizations sometimes wish to keep their PRIDEs “family-oriented” (an odd phrase for family).

Diversity fills our vibrant community and includes families as well as those who choose other paths. This June, celebrate your own diversity! Attend a Pride in your area, and if there isn’t one, what’s stopping you?

The Mad Voter combines a bit of anger, a bit of crazy, and a bit of passion to Make A Difference (MAD) through simple actions and “armchair activism”. This column provides ideas to be involved and to know why. Follow @themadvoter on Twitter for faster updates!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Congress remembering Dr. George Tiller, victim of church violence

The Hill says Congress is fast-tracking two bills this week, one to honor the Army recruiters gunned down the same day the news was dominated by Dr. Tiller's assassination, also being honored.

House Resolution 505 states:

Whereas Dr. George Tiller was murdered in Wichita, Kansas, on May 31, 2009;

Whereas Dr. Tiller is mourned by his family, friends, congregation, community, and colleagues;

Whereas Dr. Tiller, 67, was killed in his place of worship, a place intended for peace and refuge that in a moment became a place for violence and murder;

Whereas places of worship should be sanctuaries, but have increasingly borne witness to reprehensible acts of violence, with 38 people in the United States killed in their place of worship in the past 10 years and 30 people wounded in those same incidents;

Whereas these acts of violence include the murder of an Illinois pastor at the pulpit in March 2009, the murder of an Ohio minister in November 2008, the murder of an usher and a guest during a children's play in a Tennessee church in July 2008, the murder of four family members in a church in Louisiana in May 2006, and the shooting of a worshipper outside a synagogue in Florida in October 2005; and

Whereas violence is deplorable, and never an acceptable avenue for expressing opposing viewpoints: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives--
(1) offers its condolences to Dr. Tiller's family; and
(2) commits to the American principle that tolerance must always be superior to intolerance, and that violence is never an appropriate response to a difference in beliefs.

I'm glad we recognize the people who have died while at church. Though Dr. Tiller's assassination at church is just as mortifying as anywhere else. Yes, church is a sanctuary, but so, too, is home. So, too, work should be safe. This murder wasn't religiously motivated (though if people want to consider it so, it would be a hate crime). So why are we not recognizing the other providers murdered because they did their job?

Why are Dr. David Gunn, Dr. John Bayard Britton, James Barrett, Shannon Lowney, Leanne Nichols, a physician in Rochester, NY, and Dr. Barnett Slepian not remembered? Is abortion too difficult a subject that we don't honor a man for what he did, what he had to live with on a daily basis? We're willing to collectively ignore and forget *why* he was killed in his church? Oh, well, at least we get something; that something is the continued belief that abortion is somehow wrong.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Between the lines of "murder"

Most of my thoughts on Tiller's assassination live on my Twitter account because it's easier to have sporadic thoughts than try to reason through the past day and a half. I've done what I could to scourer news sources and give a bit of commentary.

CommonDreams reminds us the violence escalated to murder 3 months after Clinton took office and didn't end until Dubya took over. Since then, no one's been assassinated through anti-choice violence. Almost as soon as we learned Dr. Tiller had died, "pro-life" and "pro-choice" decided to lump everyone together. Choice proponents quickly pointed out the vitriol expressed by groups like Operation Rescue; public officials like Phill Kline; and national media personalities like Bill O'Reilly are culpable in Tiller's assassination (and, presumably, future violence stemming out of yesterday's). Choice opponents quickly angered that most people automatically assumed (100% correctly) a "pro-life" activist committed the assassination and warned everyone that the "pro-life" movement is not violent.

R. Albert Mohler Jr., President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, stated in today's Washington Post "For many years, Dr. George Tiller has represented the horrific reality of the abortion industry in this nation." Among many other epitaphs concerning the "industry". Throughout, he pointed out abortion is murder and Tiller was a murderer. Yet, at the same time, he condemns the murder of a murderer.

He calls to John Brown and Henry David Thoreau. John Brown, finding the government and system unable to confront slavery rapidly enough, commited many acts of violence in the name of abolition. Because of his violence, Kansas was known as "Bloody Kansas" and in modern times, we condemn his actions. Though we talk in theoreticals about the justification of killing Hitler as a child or Himler. While any theory of just war or self-defense could certainly be extended to include violent acts freeing slaves or harming the slave trade. And, of course, killing people who participate in abortion. (Oddly, I don't know that these same people would support groups such as ELF and ALF who commit large-scale acts of vandalism, never having harmed a living being)

I'll state now, I'm not supportive of violence. I'm quite the pacifist. I'm not even one who honestly supports the just war doctorine. I'm of the opinion that so long as we find any form of force as acceptable, we will find new ways to justify otherwise unjustifiable acts. What we do legally (such as self-defense laws) and promote personally can be different. I don't think people who harm another human through self-defense should go to jail, but we certainly need to do our part as a society to prevent violence that leads to anyone's harm. Though abortion isn't an act of murder, no matter at what point it happens. Viability assumes a baby and their parent(s) can afford the care necessary early in life and, potentially, for the rest of their life.

But we are a society that finds reasons to justify and celebrate violence and death. After all, John Brown with a rifle in one hand and a Bible in the other decorates a big wall in our Statehouse.

Honoring this history of justifiable violence officially, is it little wonder Dr. Tiller's clinic has been bombed, he's been shot once before, and this time killed in his church? Or that ORW stalks clinic workers and supporters.

Don't be fooled: if you use violent language to modivate your cause, violence will happen. You cannot use extreme language and expect non-extreme actions to happen.

This was not the first. This is not the last.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Dr. Tiller and Survival of Choice

Dr. George Tiller was assassinated just five hours ago as I write this, gunned down while he served as usher at his church, a church he has attended for over a decade. There are so many things to express, to say, about the hole that exists in my body right now.

I've run into Dr. Tiller at fundraising events before, and I know he was getting old. He was 67 and still providing late-term abortions to women from around the country. I knew that someday, probably soon, he would no longer be with us as a provider, and I've wondered what we are to do then. However, I had figured we'd have time to plan. Time for another provider to learn and take his place. Not for "the cause" but for women.

This is not just about an abortion provider assassinated. It's not about the cruelty of someone shooting him down in church. I don't know yet if the shooter is religious or not, but the chances of him being Christian are very, very high. This man walked into a place of worship of his God and shot down a fellow believer. Because they believed differently on a point or two. Everyone in that church suffered today, not just Dr. Tiller and his family.

There are two facilities in the state of Kansas that provide abortions. The other is in the Kansas City area. For Wichitans, that's a three hour drive. For other Kansans, it is quite a bit longer. Kansas has a 24 hour waiting period on abortion. We have to see providers twice. Now, that wait is even longer. Every woman in Kansas suffered today.

Dr. Tiller provided late-term services to women after 21 weeks. He was one of three in the country who did. Over the years, I've read plenty of articles from women about their difficult decisions. Some women who miscarried late in their pregnancy but who still had the dead fetus inside of them were denied life necessary procedures because late-term abortion laws are written in this country in such a way as to put doctors at risk for providing services when a dead fetus doesn't expel itself. Doctors who do not provide abortions are afraid to save women's lives. But Dr. Tiller wasn't. Every pregnant woman in America suffered today.

For years, protesters have stood outside Tiller's clinic and harassed women on their way in. They have taken pictures of women and their families and posted them on the internet. They have followed, harassed, and posted on the internet for all to see the faces, names, and homes of his clinic workers. And they are proud of this harassment as is evident from a 2004 Rolling Stone Magazine article. They did everything they could to take away the choice of women, a difficult choice, a sometimes necessary choice.

Today, choice was taken away from women. Sure, it still "exists," but at what cost? Three more hours to Kansas City? An overnight stay? More harassers camped outside in Kansas City since they don't have to be in Wichita? Knowing these harassers are willing not only to stalk and berate but assassinate ... What choice do I have?

With every assassination, with every attempt, with every hateful word spoken, they take away choice.

God gave humans free will. He gave Adam and Eve the ability to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. He wanted them to make a choice. How could their hearts be pure if they were not given an option they chose not to take?

This was a political assassination, and it was an attack on women. We cannot choose not to terminate a pregnancy if we don't have the option. Our options to prevent pregnancy are limited. And, now, even moreso. The fear we already felt is greater now.

This is why you are labeled a threat to national security. This is why you are terrorists.

I hope you find yourselves in jail. All of you.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tiahrt confuses "Muslims found by the Bush administration to be not-guilty" with "Evil terrorists in our backyard"

I know I don't pay much attention to the news. Too much stuff to pay attention to. However, it has entered my eyeline that Todd Tiahrt (KS-04, R/DB) is making up wild acts with scary-sounding names in order to continue the lies started by the Bush administration concerning "detainees". His No Welfare for Terrorists Act sounds perfectly logical by the name. Of course we don't want terrorists running around the streets of small-town America (big-city America is full of liberals and, therefore, terrorists).

What Tiahrt and Newt Gingrich are concerned over is a group of Chinese Muslims called Uighurs. In spite of what Tiahrt and Gingrich believe, it had long ago been determined by the military tribunals at Gitmo that the Uighurs are completely innocent and unaffiliated with al-Qaeda. But Communist China doesn't like them. So Gitmo kept these people because no one in the world wanted them. Albania finally agreed to take five (but not all seventeen), but because no one in the world wants them, they can't leave, can't communicate with their families, and spent a year and a half under lock and key in Albania.

Twelve innocent people remain detained. Because they were found Driving While Muslim. Five more are stuck in Albania. And, for some reason, we're more afraid of Chinese Muslims than being angry at Communist China. We side with China -- of course -- in their human rights abuses. Of course we do when we have our own human rights abuses.

So Tiahrt and Gingrich and their cronnies think Muslims found in Afghanistan, turned in by residents, are terrorirsts, even if they have otherwise been found not-guilty. Let's ship American democracy to the world, buffet-style. Hey, that's what we do with everything, after all!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Kansas Democratic Party's response to coal deal

Just received this from the KSDP. Thought I should share it.

As some of you know, for the past two years there has been an impasse in the Kansas Legislature over the building of coal plants in Holcomb, Kansas. Just five days after taking office, Governor Mark Parkinson has led the effort to end this standstill. Yesterday, the State of Kansas and Sunflower Energy (who originally proposed the plants) signed an agreement that does more than just settle a dispute. This agreement creates a comprehensive statewide energy policy that builds a platform for a renewable energy future in Kansas.

With his action, Governor Parkinson has shown the true spirit of the Kansas Democratic Party. By working to find common-sense solutions that benefit all Kansans, Governor Parkinson has reminded us why we welcomed him to our party two and a half years ago. Kansas Democrats always strive to bring people together, not tear them apart.

Governor Parkinson made a good point in his remarks to the press, when he said that both sides of this issue should feel good about the compromise reached.
Democrats who supported the effort to build coal plants out West will now have a smaller, cleaner and more efficient power plant to supply Kansans with power.

• Democrats who wanted to focus on renewable energy can be proud of the new wind farms, transmission lines, net metering and renewable portfolio standard that are a result of the Governor’s leadership.

• Without the strong leadership of Governor Parkinson, comprehensive energy legislation may never have happened in Kansas. Of course, with every compromise there is an expected amount of disappointment on both sides, but at the end of the day Kansas is better positioned for renewable energy than ever before, and that’s leadership we can be proud of.

This new comprehensive energy policy is a win – win solution for Kansas and one reason why we are pleased to call Governor Parkinson one of our own. While Governor Parkinson led the negotiations to reach this agreement, we can’t forget the work done over the last two years by former Governor Kathleen Sebelius and many Democrats in the Legislature. By insisting that Kansas develop a comprehensive energy strategy that would benefit the entire state, former Governor Sebelius and many Kansas Democrats helped lay the groundwork for the agreement announced this week.

By breaking this impasse, Governor Parkinson has put the winds back in our state's sails. Kansans can now focus their attention not on the politics of division, but on a shared green energy future that starts right here at home with Kansas wind. Renewable energy will not only provide more energy with less pollution, it is an industry that will recharge our economy. It truly is a win-win for us all.

Let's all congratulate Governor Mark Parkinson, and the rest of our state on yesterday's victory.


Larry Gates
Kansas Democratic Party

Monday, May 4, 2009

More Coal in Kansas

While Bagyants sees this compromise as at least partially good (he also gives some details on the deal), I'm not happy with this deal. Feels like the last two years ... *sigh*. Coal is bad, mmkay? I recently wrote an article for the Peace and Social Justice Center of South Central Kansas so I'm going to just post it unedited below. Since I'm not a politician and don't have to make these decisions, I can keep my point of view and express it whole.

Welcome to April! The sun has been shining, the air is getting warmer, snowflakes continue to drop on our cars, and Earth Day approaches reminding us we are a part of the environment, not above it. Living in Kansas, we are keenly aware Nature can and will overpower us and we must be respectful of that in order to survive. Our collective inability to apply this fact to more than tornadoes boggles the mind.

This month, Governor Sebelius vetoed, for the fourth time, a bill that would allow two new coal power plants to be built in Holcomb. As it becomes more difficult for these plants to be built, their parent company in Colorado is beginning to back out of coal and invest in more “green” sources of power. The current recession and a national push for clean energy makes this decision wise. And will allow Kansans to breath a little easier.

Keeping our environment clean may not seem like an issue for the Peace and Social Justice Center. Coal is incredibly danger to mine. Workers in coal mines suffer serious health conditions and put their lives at immediate risk every time they enter the mine. Unfortunately, these mines oftimes provide the only economy for communities, especially throughout Appalachia.

As our demand for energy rises, energy companies try to provide ways to bring us more energy with less money. Surface mining, safer and less expensive than traditional coal mines, destroy all vegetation in their area. Even cheaper mountaintop removal destroys most of a mountain to get at the coal inside. The soil and rock from the mountain is left in the valleys leading to contamination of local water sources. Mountaintop removal drives up unemployment in these areas. McDowell County, West Virginia, is the largest coal producing county in the state with 37% of residents living below the poverty line. While coal in Kansas generally comes from Wyoming which strip mines its coal, all demand for energy affects Appalachia.

Locally, the burning of coal has devastating effects on humans and long-lasting effects on the world around us. Coal plants produce carbon dioxide, mercury, lead, cadmium, thorium, and uranium. The Holcomb plants would require over 5 billion gallons of water a year from the Ogallala aquifer. Ogallala provides water to portions of 8 states, including western Kansas. More water is taken from it than goes into it. As we use more of its water for crop irrigation and public use, the available water drops and complex “water rights” immerge. The addition of these plants would further reduce the amount of water available to western Kansas for food crops.

Western Kansas has been in the grips of economic uncertainty for many years. Job creation continues to be the chief argument proponents use to move forward the building of the plants. But with the known health, environmental, and agricultural effects of these plants, is this the best option? And what are the long-term monetary costs?

The best solution for all of us is to reduce how much energy we use. While we all know this and do this in our own homes, we also must encourage businesses and government to take this to all corners of our lives. We must find effective, just, and economical ways to provide our energy, care for poverty-stricken communities, and provide the Earth as much as she has provided us.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The MAD Voter -- Freedom to Marry

(Originally published in the Liberty Press in May 2008)

So much has happened in the month, I hardly know where to start. The Iowa Supreme Court ruled to uphold the August 2007 District Court ruling saying denying same-sex couples the right to marry was unconstitutional. Starting April 27, Iowa couples can begin marrying again.

A few days later, Vermont’s legislature decided to finish what they started in 1999. The first state with civil unions voted twice to expand marriage, overriding the governor’s veto. This marks the first time a state legislature made this decision without a court order.

New York governor Mark Patterson asked the New York State Assembly to expand marriage rights. Talk is happening in Maine, New Hampshire, and New Jersey. This is quite exciting!!

This forward momentum exists in stark contrast to the anti-marriage movement of the past few years. Between 2004 and 2006 alone, 22 states passed constitutional amendments barring same-sex marriage with 29 states barring it constitutionally and an additional 13 states barring it through law alone. But don’t look at the United States Supreme Court to take up this issue anytime soon.

LGBT rights organizations, civil rights organizations, and community advocates disagree over how exactly we should work to expand marriage to include same-sex couples. Generally, working through the legislature is preferred over working through the courts. However, early victories usually come through courts. So-called activist judges aside, protecting our rights through the judicial system is part of our rights as Americans and key to any civil rights struggle.

Take, for example, Brown v. Topeka School Board of Education. This Supreme Court ruling ended school segregation ruling separate but equal schools neither provided the same level of education nor protected the rights of African-American students. In some southern states, National Guard troops had to enforce this ruling at schools.

In the 1950s, many people disagreed with using the courts to force desegregation, yet today, few dare talk about “activist judges”. In fact, the Kansas Statehouse has a section dedicated to this decision. Our legislature recognizes the importance of the judiciary on protecting citizens.

Vermont wanted to expand marriage rights badly. The first vote moved quickly through both houses and was sent via messenger to the governor to sign. Using a messenger instead of normal services required an additional vote by the Vermont Senate. After the veto, both houses voted the same day to override, managing more votes than they had to pass the law.

Iowa’s story is more dramatic. 24 hours after a District Court judge ruled denying same-sex couples from marriage was unconstitutional, he stopped licenses from being issued but not before one couple married. One Iowa, the state’s largest LGBT rights organization, points out on their website Iowa’s long history of civil rights guaranteed by courts.

In Kansas, we won’t see changes anytime soon. The two bills introduced in Kansas this year have stalled. Hospital visitation never made it out of committee. Non-discrimination was voted back to committee. But the re-affirmation of Iowans’ right to marry does affect us.

Iowa, being a Midwestern state, has more impact on Kansas than California. Victories on the coasts impact LGBT rights nationwide, but advancements closer to home shows it’s not a Coasts-v-Midwest mentality but that Midwest values include equality for LGBT people.

So let’s help Iowa. One Iowa, the largest LGBT rights organization in the state, tells me the best way we can help is to go to their website, OneIowa.Org, to stay engaged in the struggle, all from your own home in the Heartland. They have recently released ad, “What does Marriage Equality mean for Iowa?”

April has certainly showered us with goodness. Being active in Iowa means helping Kansas in the future. As schools in the state protect gay and lesbian students, as states around us adopt protections for their citizens, and as we continue to stay engaged, the struggle for our rights will succeed.

The Mad Voter combines a bit of anger, a bit of crazy, and a bit of passion to Make A Difference (MAD) through simple actions and “armchair activism”. This column provides ideas to be involved and to know why. Follow @themadvoter on Twitter for faster updates!
Wow. Just ... wow. For a blog that claims to be issue instead of candidate-oriented, those two certainly don't do it. However, it is refreshing to see the right-wing nutjobs appreciate the genitalia humor. Usually, their inane drivel is completely bonkers in other ways. Sure, I'm new to reading blogs regularly, but I certainly am glad to see the teabaggers believe the Supreme Court of the United States are the balls they suck on. The right is really obsessed with sex, aren't they?

And as much as I could try to go onto something serious about the importance of diversity and seeking out women and minorities, I don't think starting the post with fuzzy balls is quite the way to get into a serious discussion on how there are qualified people who aren't white, straight, married, male, and likely with money falling out of their pockets and into their mistress's hands.


I feel dirty. Any women out there wanting to make me feel less dirty?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Hate Crimes & Free Speech

Dear America--

I know we are all concerned with the economy, whether we fear the Stimulus or hopeful of it, and I know we're all concerned about our moral and ethical integrity, from torture to marriage, from education to childrearing. But let me give you this one bit of hope: Hate Crimes legislation does not in any way stiffle free speech. Reading HR 1913 (the hates crime bill just passed in the US House of Representatives), it seems to provide money for local law enforcement and expands the definition of "hate crime," a definition from Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. And HR 1913 is limited to crimes of violence that are felonies under state, local, or tribal laws, and are bias modivated.

(A)IN GENERAL -- Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law ... wilfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person
Why do people only bring up sexual orientation and gender identity? Why not scream religious intolerance about the religion clause? Huh? It's not okay for a pastor to say mean things about, say, Muslims Jews, but it is absolutely okay to make someone mad enough about gays and trans* folk that they go out and commit a crime.

The Hope for America posted a video from an Iowa Congressman talking crap on this hate crimes law and the Iowa Supreme Court (for "forcing" same-sex marriage on Iowa). I would hope America understands that spending three days with a woman and then killing her for being born with male parts was entirely a bias-modivated crime. She wouldn't have died had she been born cisgendered. But, apparently, hate crimes are all about monitoring throught.

It's not about the thought; it's about the crime. Do we look at, say, Nazis and never point out their bias? In fact, when we look at Nazi crimes, we generally only look at one side of their bias. We don't just say "Nazis killed 10 million people" so we acknowledge bais modivating crimes. Why not make sure people are punished for their "crimes of passion" because of their bigotry? It's not forcing a pastor to say nice things about gays or trans* people. It's about punishing people and acknowledging the severity of crimes that are hate-modivated. The US Attorney General has required local law enforcement to track hate-modivated crimes for years (though, having retrieved the information from Sedgwick County law enforcement makes me believe it's not actually being looked at). We know these crimes happen; punish them accordingly

*whimper* Sebelius leaves the state

I am fantastically happy the country can see the good things that can come out of Kansas instead of the constant barrage that is quite mockable. I remain quite sad Kathleen is leaving us. In her time here, she has stopped the spread of coal in Kansas, helped quell the anti-choice takeover, defended National Guardsmen and women, and worked to expand LGBT rights in the state (including gender identity/expression protections, something not picked up even by Lawrence). She is a Progressive Kansan, working to move us forward without leaving anyone, even the reactionary right, behind.

Thank-you, Kathleen Sebelius, for your hard work for our state. I hope we acknowledge your efforts and remember them when election time comes so that we may continue your great momentum.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Dennis Kucinich -- Will the War Ever End?

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich & Ed Schultz of MSNBC's The Ed Show talk about Bush's never-ending War on Terror. Schultz accurately points out President Obama's decision to relocate troops from Iraq to Afghanistan shows he's not a pacifist but a hawk. Kucinich, one of the few people in Washington I honestly admire, correctly notes Iraq was a lie (which is a good reason for Obama to order troops out) and war in Afghanistan does not help stop terrorism.

Al-Qaeda isn't going to be stopped by bombing Afghanistan. Afghanistan has been war-torn for a few decades. It is this state of instability that brings out radical elements. The Soviet Union, the United States, and other Western powers have yet to show concern for the people of Afghanistan. That we would continue aggressions only helps al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and others to recruit future suicide bombers, terrorist leaders, and community support for reactionary Islamic groups.

Recently, Frontline took a look at growing Pakistani support of the Taliban. One of the root causes? Pakistan is not a terribly rich country, and supporting public education isn't a top priority (military dictatorship ranks far higher). Taliban-led madrassas provide the only education in the poorest areas. The only education received in these madrassas is a fundamentalist approach to the Koran.

Taliban-led madrassas has long been one of the primary places to recruit al-Qaeda members. As government-led wars and tribal fighting for rule continue, so, too, will hatred against the West continue. Whatever groups the West support will certainly fall out of favor with those who hate our policies. It's not a hatred of America or Americans but a hatred of the way we work globally.

There is no military solution to combat this ever-growing problem. More American troops in Afghanistan will not help. The Western mentality will not work. Rep. Kucinich is correct: we must pull out of both Iraq and Afghanistan, and we must look at regional approaches.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

How to buy Yellowcake aka What Saddam didn't know but Lehman Bros did

As I'm watching Thursday's The Daily Show , I am stunned beyond belief that Lehman Bros has 450,000 pounds of uranium. And this time, it's actual, real, solid stuff you can touch. Not like all the other commodities they've been selling and insuring and not really having.

You can buy uranium yellowcake? Didn't we invade a country and kill thousands on the allegation Saddam Hussein had bought some from Nigeria? Wasn't war threatened for a few years against Iran for their nuclear program?

And you can buy yellowcake on the open market?

There's a commodities market for yellowcake?! And we bomb countries for having some?!?!

Uranium is a very prominent element on Earth. It's found in dirt all over the planet. In its natural state, it's weakly radioactive and not a problem. But it's easy to break apart and be somewhat stable. You can power nuclear power plants with it and nuclear bombs. And I'm sure the internet has all the schematics possible to do so. Actually having the technology to not accidentally blow yourself up in the process, that's another story.

I know that several countries use nuclear plants to produce their energy. But I would figure regulation would be strict on this considering the potential for badness (and not just on the end of a missle). It strikes me as odd that it's an open market that investment banks can buy it up. Sure, uranium commodity trading is "highly regulated," but wasn't the stock market?

We are one very strange nation. If I buy a pound of uranium, will I be invaded and occupied in the global war on terror?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Who needs the right of assembly?

I had not planned on attending (aka counter-demonstrating) a tea party. I didn't understand what the big deal was. To me, the Boston Tea Party represents one of the greatest examples of non-violent civil disobedience in the American Revolution. A few people, under threat of death, threw tea overboard in Boston Harbor to protest the tea tax because they were not represented in British Parliment. The American Revolution was about representation, not taxation, not the British, but about a people able to determine their own future. Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution states the Congress has the right to collect taxes for defense and general welfare. Where's the problem?

But as I read more about the "grassroots" Tea Parties, so grassroots Fox News has been talking about it for weeks and even saying Obamatrons would invade and cause violence , I decided to see what was happening locally. For a couple of months now, an ex-friend of mine was angry that a Tea Party was taking place in Wichita and the media wasn't covering it. Two months out. And as I looked their website, I became more upset. Silent majority? You mean the silent majority who didn't go out and vote in November?

Well, the media is covering it now. So who, exactly, is causing violence?

I made up five signs (since I had five poster boards): "Majority Spoke Obama Tax Cuts"; "I Pay Taxes For Education For All"; "I Pay Taxes and I'm A Patriot"; "Thank You For Paying Taxes"; and "I Pay Taxes for Solders[sic]". I mostly held the first two. I had blue posters so I figured I would stand out as being, well, a Democrat.

As I approached the airport where Wichita Liberty held their rally, traffic was quite backed up on the post office exit. I could see a large crowd gathered. I twittered "oh holy hell. This mmight turn into a riot ... Please tell me i'm not alone out here! #teaparty". Unfortunately, I was. I later learned the local DFA called off their counter-demonstration out of fear of violence.

When I walked over to the demonstration area, I saw there were no sidewalks or other obvious public areas. I asked a police officer where I could stand since I wasn't with the Tea Party. So I stood across the street from them as the officer said I could. As I stood across from their lot, some Tea Baggers heckled me. I heard most of what they said, but I ignored them. After a while, some of them came over to my side of the street saying they had the right to free speech and I "looked lonely". I moved to the corner, next to a group of police officers.

After about an hour, I was told the property was airport property and unless I had a permit, I could not be there. If I wanted to demonstrate, I had to join the Tea Party. I asked why I wasn't permitted on public property and was told it was airport property and I had to move someplace else. With no sidewalks in sight, I had to consider where to go.

I saw two news trucks and walked over there asking them if they knew where I could stand. Though I was trying to make a point more than honestly asking where to stand. It was recommended I try the post office. But when I got over there, I was told they could not allow me to stand there because they weren't allowing the others to stand there.

As I was determing where next to go, I got a call from the reporter asking where I would be. I moved clear to the other end of the demonstration, outside their caution tape, holding my sign. This was a rougher place to be. Here I was flipped off, someone inside the demonstration seemed to be filming me (at which time I posed and asked if he wanted my name), and one passerby said my Obama sign was "treasonist". Reminding people Americans voted a clear majority in favor of the current president is treasonist?

After half an hour, one of the police cars came over near me, lights on, citation book in hand. The only place I could go was inside the tape, with the Tea Party. I walked away. As I walked back, I saw Tea Baggers outside the line with their signs and two signs in the ground outside the line. And yet only I was in trouble. I went back and talked to the reporter. And then I left.

After two hours of counter-demonstrating, I wonder this: if I had good cause to not feel safe inside the line, where could I express free speech and my right to assemble? If Wichita Liberty was warned that "Obamatrons" would invade and cause violence, why would I join them? I did not know I was going to attend, I did not apply for a permit because, to the best of my knowledge, the airport is public property where I have a right to assemble.

Apparently, these Tea Parties are about spending, not taxes. Which begs the question: why the Tea Party? And why did this Tea Party have a "Paul Revere" riding around on a horse? Where is the confusion over American history? Where is the confusion over the Constitution? Why is it so evil that the Founding Fathers knew taxes were necessary?

Why am I a "moocher"? How am I a socialist? Do you know me? Why do you yell at a random person on the street "get a job!" when you know nothing about them? Especially when they're standing across from a field filled with people doing the exact same thing. Do I not have the rights Tea Baggers do?

I am quite upset about this afternoon. These Tea Parties offend me as an American first and foremost. Don't like how your democratically elected officials work? Then vote them out. That's democracy, and it's what you accept by living here. Don't like it? Then leave. I don't really mean that, but I've been told that for 8 years. Dear Republicans: Welcome to the club.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Movie Recommendation -- Split: A Divided America

A few months back, I surprised a co-worker by informing her I'm not a Democratic Party follower. I said part of the reason I'm a Kansas Democrat is because as a heavily Republican Party state, little opportunity exists for a dialogue. The only way to even attempt to have other ideas is to be a Kansas Democrat. I have very strong opinions, indeed, and some are admittedly extremist, but I know full well my ideas cannot exist now (and should they ever, I would hope they don't stick around for long) but the only way to move forward is to have ideas and talk about them. This is sadly missing from American politics.

From Wikipedia:

1) Politics is the process and conduct of decision-making for groups. Although it is usually applied to governments, political behavior is also observed in corporate, academic, religious, and other institutions.

2) Republicanism is, in a large sense, a political theory opposed to monarchy. [and] is the ideology of governing a nation as a republic, where the head of state is appointed by other means than hereditary, often elections. An important element of Republicanism is constitutional law to limit the state's power over its citizens. Early proponents of Republicanism, such as John Milton, put emphasis on the dangers of corruption and the importance of civic virtues.

3) Classical republicanism was rather aimed against any form of tyranny, whether monarchic, aristocratic, or democratic (tyranny of the majority).

4) The phrase tyranny of the majority, used in discussing systems of democracy and majority rule, is a criticism of the scenario in which decisions made by a majority under that system would place that majority's interests so far above a minority's interest as to be comparable to tyrannical despots.

Just some thoughts that have been running through my head for a while now ...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Cornerstone of Tradition

Today, my twitter alter ego argued for a few hours with a "libertarian" concerning redefining traditional marriage. He stated the onus of proving the argument rests on those wishing to change the definition, not on those wishing against change. Apparently, the defense only has to smile and nod. While I, believing same-sex couples should be entitled to the same rights and privileges as mixed-sex couples, must argue (endlessly) why the system ought to be expanded. Not changed, in my opinion, but expanded.

Typically, the argument against expanding the legal definition of marriage hinges on tradition. It's always been this way, it always will be. After all, the legal union of a man and a woman along with their legitimate children form the cornerstone of society. As an American, I find this particularly insulting.

Cornerstones and tradition shape our beliefs and understanding, the way we interact with the world around us. As people, we can take the same set of events and interpret them very differently from the person standing next to us.

150-odd years ago, slavery formed the foundation of Southern life. The entire economy relied on slavery to function. Free states viewed slave ownership as an uncivilized while not believing blacks equal to whites. Slave states viewed it as tradition. It is here that Federal rights versus State rights really come to a head. Slave states determined they could secede from the United States while the United States believed they could not.

Following former Confederacy states acceptance of Federal sovereignty, they had to release the people they formerly owned. In addition to the devastation wrought from the war, their economy imploded because there was no one left to work their plantations. And when there were people, they had to pay them for their work. Blacks having rights, including the right to vote and to hold office, further harmed southern states. National Guard units were brought in to protect blacks at the polls and to protect black elected officials. Tradition was destroyed; the cornerstone of southern society gone.

But does tradition and cornerstones justify continuing the practice of slavery? Today, this question is almost universally answered as "no". Black people deserve the protections of America as much as white people (Hispanic people is still questionable). To this day, the south has not completely recovered from the Civil War and its outcomes. Yet who would actually suggest a return to this previous way of life?

This belief of freedom and rights and equality and justice form, in my opinion, the foundation of our society, our combined culture. The cornerstone is the system we created to help ensure everyone can participate in this. Marriage is not a cornerstone any more than slavery. It exists as a system to provide benefits to those who participate. Though not everyone is allowed to participate how they believe they should.

In slavery, slave-owners and the southern economy as a whole benefited. In order to keep the system functioning, it must be accepted that some people could be owned. White people were not the only ones who participated; Indian tribes owned slaves, usually black people, as well. Those born into slavery, even if they escaped to Free States, were not allowed to participate in American society. Laws existed to guarantee escaped slaves could be returned to their owners. So even if one had managed to enjoy, for a while, some of the rights and privileges afforded to those not born into slavery, it could be whisked away. Save for the few fortunate enough to sit before juries sympathetic who, knowing the law and knowing the defendant guilty of a crime, nullified the law and let escape slaves see some taste of another life. And yet, participation in this life was incomplete. Nearly 100 years after the passage of the 14th amendment, blacks and whites received different educations. They could still not participate how they believed they should.

The same can be said for same-sex marriage. Anti-marriage fairness folk say gay people still have the right to marry whomever they want. Of course, the stipulation is to marry someone of a different sex. They can sleep with whomever they want, make legal arrangements however they want, there's nothing to stop them. Theoretically, this may be true. I am free to marry, so long as I marry a man. I'm free to live with a woman and share a life and home, but I can't be married. I am not a cornerstone.

What I really want to understand is why this institution has such a bungled application. I cannot marry a woman, but I can marry a man the moment I meet him. I can divorce him and repeat the process ad nausum until I die. I can have numerous children with all of these men, and all of them would have to support me. So long as I marry a man who is not an immediate relation or married to someone else, I can. There is nothing to stop me. We don't have to live together. We don't have to share a life. We don't have to have children. We don't have to like each other. We don't even have to sleep together. At some point, if we desire, we can pretend it never happened. Or we can dissolve it. Questions are asked but it's granted.

Yet with a woman? Even if we are together for 50 years, making a positive statistic on the divorce rate in this country; even if we provide for each other, our children, our community; even if we pay all of our taxes, no questions asked; even if we tutor school children; even if we are in the Rotary Club; even if we are executives or janitors ... We cannot.

"Marriage" has never had a consistent definition, throughout history or even in this country. For a long time, marriage was not a contract between two consenting adults but, rather, the exchange of ownership rights of a woman from her father to her mother. Marriage is used to provide benefits to children so that they are not bastards and then have the right to inherit property from their fathers. It provided for women who had few options to provide for themselves. It had nothing to do with love or tradition or even the Bible. In the legal sense, the one being "defined," it had to do with money and ownership, either of people or of property.

Expanding the legal application of marriage does not mean destroying it or redefining it. Changing "a man and a woman" to "two consenting adults" does not destroy a cornerstone: it builds upon it. It is the just application of a law. Limiting it to one man and one woman only proves the intention to limit one's rights. Keeping it so narrow cuts deep at America, our foundation, our very core. That we are all created equal and have unalienable rights. We are a nation of law, and this law is inequitable, it is not justly applied, and it keeps some Americans intentionally at the edge of society.

Even if the majority want to keep women from marrying each other, men from having husbands, our nation believes those removed from the system still deserve participation equally. It is the right of every American to participate in the institutions of this nation. It is the duty of every American to apply this and to strive for full and equal participation.

This is not a slippery slope. This does not mean we must let people have multiple spouses. This does not mean adults can marry children. This means adults, not otherwise barred, may completely participate. It does not lessen the importance of the institution or the importance of your relationship.

The only one who can destroy your marriage is yourself. Holding onto it too tightly will break it in the end. Keeping marriage between one man and one woman lessens marriage. And it lessens America.

The Mad Voter - A Victory for Schools

(Originally published in the Liberty Press in April 2008)

When I discuss harassment in schools, my personal story often comes up. People nod and pity me, admit to how horrible harassment in school is, and end up still thinking kids will be kids. After all, I am here, alive, with success and a happy life. But one phrase makes them stop. It highlights one of the real costs of schoolyard harassment and bullying:

There is no reason in the world an eight-year-old should be planning her own suicide.

Dramatic but true. In uber-white Andover, Kansas, I did not have gay slurs thrown at me. This was just the group finding the one person to pick on. And to pick on for years to come. As we all grew up, the group harassment disappeared though the lasting effects remain. Paralyzing anxiety grips much of my life. Even at this point, people still do not understand the depth of this problem, seeing instead the success I have and assuming I have overcome. That actually makes me really fortunate.

Intuitively, we understand anti-gay harassment persists, though much of it appears innocuous to many people. We play off “fag” and “dyke” as kids just being kids. While this is true -- kids are cruel -- in no way does this mean institutions should ignore it. I can say responsibility does not rest on survivors alone to make it through.

Schools provide another place for children to learn. They get to interact with other students which provides as much to our development as books do. Schools must provide a safe environment or some students will not have the same education as others. It is quite difficult to learn when you are scared.

A safe, inclusive school environment prepares kids to live as adults, and making sure they are not only safe but learn to accept and understand differences between people. We must all learn how to work with people we do not like, disagree with, or believe will be on the receiving end of the fires of hell. 

We learn to get along with people of different religious backgrounds (to some extent), though by not teaching about accepting gay and lesbian students, we instead teach this form of discrimination is acceptable not only in personal relationships but in social and professional environments. Even if Kansas modifies laws for adults, students won’t be protected without specific changes to education laws.

For the past year and a half, several local organizations brought together through Students United petitioned the Wichita school board to change their non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation. Lawyers for the district argue making their policy different than federal law will open them up to lawsuits (though the opposite has shown to be true). 

In May of last year, the district made a policy change they felt would be helpful. While strengthening their anti-bullying policy, the Wichita school board also added specific examples of classes. Among those lists was sexual orientation. 

Throughout the month of February, the board debated changes made to their diversity policy. Board member Betty Arnold suggested adding sexual orientation to the policies. While these changes do not affect those policies Students United sought changed, they are, in fact, the very changes every school district should have.

“The Wichita Public Schools shall ensure that there is no discrimination based on but not limited to … sexual orientation … in the placement, instruction, and guidance of pupils; the employment, assignment, training, or promotion of personnel; … and in all matters relating to the instruction, supervision, administration, and Board policy making.”

Woohoo! I’m dancing in the streets! Watch me as I dance and jump up and down. .

Wichita remains only one of two districts in the state -- after Lawrence -- to include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies. Lawrence is the only one to include gender identity. We, as a community, must carry forth with this momentum and make sure every student in the state -- all 300 districts -- are fully protected.

But until then, let us send letters to the Wichita school board and thank them for taking the time to include sexual orientation in their list of protections. Their students and staff deserve it. Go to for their information.

I raise a glass to those who worked on this. With all my heart, thank-you. Join me in the celebration!

The Mad Voter -- Keep Some Change

(Originally published in the Liberty Press in March 2008)

As I write this, Barack Obama has been president for just over a month. George W. Bush’s “pro-family” agenda has been replaced with Obama’s. We’re promised a great deal of change for a hopeful future where many of us, myself included, live without jobs, too many medical bills, and with limited rights.

One man or one administration or one Congress cannot alone make these changes: if we wish rights to fully include LGBT people, we must demand it. And, more importantly, be the change we wish to see.

President Obama promised in his inauguration to set childish things aside, that we deserve the promise “that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.” Will this apply to LGBT Americans? has been updated to include the new administration’s civil rights plan ( LGBT rights represent over half of the webpage. This represents quite a step forward for us over years past!

And in other national news, the NAACP filed paperwork with the court in opposition to Prop 8, joining other racial and ethnic minority organizations opposing this horrific anti-marriage amendment.

“It is imperative that the Supreme Court of California recognize that by allowing Prop 8 to take effect, it is setting a dangerous precedent that allows a bare majority to strip minority groups of their fundamental rights. We are joining this challenge to ensure that the rights of all minority groups are being protected,” said John Payton, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund President and Director-Counsel.

There seems so much happening around us, moving us forward towards full protection and recognition. Can we carry this energy in Kansas?

Unfortunately, I doubt we can.

The Kansas Legislature didn’t gain enough LGBT-friendly legislators to make much of a difference. Positive state representatives moved to the senate, which is good news for all of us, but the house continues to be stacked with ultra-conservatives.

Take, for instance, Sen. Dennis Pyle from Hiawatha. 

Two days before Valentine’s Day, the Kansas Equality Coalition testified before committee on behalf of Senate Bill 169. The bill amends the Kansas Acts Against Discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity, protecting LGBT Kansans from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations (so no getting kicked out of IHOP with my girlfriend).

Sen. Pyle’s concern lies with adding these two classes to the ones that already exist (race, sex, religion, etc). He asked “Would that protect bestiality?” And Rep. Janice Pauls from Hutchinson said the two classes would dilute its effectiveness. I am moved, as always.

February also saw a hospital visitation bill introduced in the State House. At this point, It has not yet been debated.

This legislative session probably will not see much opportunity for our issues to get very far. Budget cuts, especially with fights over education funding, means we probably won’t see the Kansas Act Against Demonstration expanded as this would require more work and money by the Human Relations Commission nor any enforcement of the anti-bullying statute.

There might be some movement in hospital visitation, but as coal and energy continues to pay in many people’s minds, all but the most minor legislation is destined to never make it out of committee.

It looks as if this session will, once again, be largely dedicated to stopping bad legislation such as last year’s attempt to take away Lawrence’s domestic partner registry and 2006’s attempt to keep LGBT (and single) Kansans from becoming foster or adoptive parents. 

Our best hopes rest in Washington, D.C. And this makes it all the more important to be involved in Kansas. While we might not see much movement in the Capitol, we can still work on our local communities.

Our schools are required to have anti-bullying policies. Are they complete? Do they include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity/expression?

Hospitals make their own visitation policies. Do the hospitals in your area allow unmarried partners to participate in each other’s care?

Businesses can make policies stronger than federal and state law requires them to. Which businesses in your town provide inclusive anti-discrimination policies? Does your company? Help them make stronger policies! Work with them to include inclusive training materials, such as using “partner” instead of “spouse”.

Many of us find ourselves with some “extra” time on our hands. What can you do with it? And what do you think your community needs? Gather up some friends, and let’s make it happen!

Change isn’t something we’re given by a president or a legislature. We must keep some of our ambitions for change in our hearts and in our communities. Share your change with those around you. If not now, then when?

The Mad Voter -- Exclusive

(Originally published in the Liberty Press in November 2008)

What is this evil Gay Agenda that is taking over our country? It forgot to tell us how to do it.

Concern over the “Gay Agenda,” the fear that gays will take over and marry cows, has our political leaders doing everything they can to ensure us they prefer eating cows over other unseemly things.

Gay is everywhere. Gay marriage, gay agenda, gay lifestyle, gay bars, gay pride, gay rights. Gay, gay, gay! On occasion you hear about lesbians, but they so often come after gays. I have heard many people (most notably gay-identified people) talk about the “alphabet soup”. You know, that attempt by activists to show inclusion. LGBTTIQA and so forth.

Non-gays don’t get it. We should just keep it simple. “Gay and lesbian”. Why confuse people? Why make them think we can’t make up our mind or that we are bearded men wearing dresses to school? At the same time, I’m told that I should just be a lesbian. Give up on men. It would be less confusing that way. Gay people point out to me their own adventures into opposite-sex-land and how they don’t consider themselves bisexual.

I’m all for inclusiveness, simplicity, and a united front. But seriously? Not only should I make sure not to confuse straight people (who largely just want to understand), I shouldn’t confuse gays and lesbians. It’s just easier to not explain the “alphabet soup”. Who needs LGBT pride? If we include BT, we’d have to include TIQA!

Uh, yea. Isn’t that a good thing? GLBT might be too much for some to handle, let alone TIQA, but the choice to write off BT, to use an inclusive gay, reminds us all that the rest of us must stand up for ourselves since those we’re suppose to be struggling with are so quick to drop us for the sake of simplicity.

This isn’t just in terms of alphabet soup. This exclusive “Gay Club” has lead to some gay rights organizations, including HRC, to tell transgendered people to basically wait for their rights to be protected. Once the gays get their rights, they’ll fight for transpeople, too.

Which doesn’t explain why Lawrence passed a non-discrimination ordinance in 1995 with only sexual orientation and hasn’t gone back to get gender identity/expression included. This, in spite of the fact gender identity/expression is protected in the Lawrence Public School District.

This attempt, both personally and politically, to simplify GLBTTIQA to simply “gay and lesbian,” writes off bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, intersexed, questioning, queer, and allies as not only significant to the struggle for civil rights but to also deny rights and recognition to us.

One of the greatest insults to the rest of the alphabet lies in how “gay rights” groups make sure to “protect” trans* rights. It has shown successful in litigation to include gender identity, expression, and characteristics (in some wording) as a definition of sexual orientation. So all those people trying to call gay “inclusive”? They’re telling transpeople that they’re nothing more than a part of gay.

That means, technically, transpeople are protected by the law. But if you walk into a workplace to see yourself on the Kansas Law poster, you won’t find it. And, being in HR, I can tell you that hiding something in a definition, instead of spelling it out doesn’t help much at all. It may give recourse, but it doesn’t limit discrimination.

Straight people aren’t confused because LGBTTIQA itself is confusing. They are confused because the bulk of the gay rights movement focuses around same-sex pairings and refuses to understand, let alone defend, BTTIQA. On occasion, the need to look inclusive, sometimes even be inclusive, comes up. But that gets us hidden in definitions, not out and proud.

I love all you 100% homosexual and otherwise gay-identifying folks out there. I really, really do. Many are good friends and understand. But there are still so many who don’t show the love back.

So, please, try not to use “gay” to describe all of us. Learn about everyone else. If you have a difficult time with it, ask questions. Legislation and policies will come up, in your city, in your school district, in our state, to extend civil rights protections. Demand that it’s inclusive. Make sure it adds sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

But most of all, don’t be afraid of the soup.

The Mad Voter -- Who Wants Your Vote

(Originally published in the Liberty Press in October 2008)

Actions speak louder than words. That’s the old adage. A presidential candidate can promise no new taxes or an open government, but why should we believe them? The only way to believe they’ll do what they say is to see what they’ve done.

So I asked Google. Google led me to LesbianLife.About.Com. I was looking for Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention but became sidetracked by this much-easier-to-research site. I know Obama talked about LGBT rights in this speech and appeared on the Human Rights Campaign’s primary debate earlier this year. I’ll start with him.

Barack Obama’s “lack of experience” apparently stems from several years in the Illinois state senate where he sponsored a bill that banned sexual orientation discrimination. While in the US Senate, he co-sponsored expanding federal hate crimes laws to include both sexual orientation and gender identity. He supports a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (HRC agreed to pull the gender identity language to gain more votes for sexual orientation; that was so considerate of … no one). He wants us to serve in the military openly and adopt children. But he doesn’t want us to get married. He’s a good Christian, after all. But he did oppose the anti-marriage constitutional amendment and the Defense of Marriage Act. All in all, he believes we’re fully-realized human beings deserving of the same rights as other Americans.

His pick for VP, Joe Biden, does nearly as well. Still not all into us getting married, he did support a bill that would allow LGB Americans to sponsor their same-sex partners for immigration. He also supports a fully-inclusive ENDA, opposes an anti-marriage amendment, but did vote for DOMA. Maybe he’s grown since 1996.

Then there’s John McCain and Sarah Palin. McCain, having served in the Navy for many years, fully supports “Don’t ask, don’t tell”. He thinks we have the best military we’ve ever had. I don’t think it’s because of gays serving in secret; I think it’s because he retired. “Open homosexuality,” he said, “within the military service presents an intolerable risk to morale, cohesion and discipline.” That’s humorous coming from a maverick.

Palin really hasn’t had much to do on our issues. She did sign into law a bill granting same-sex domestic partnership benefits. But only because the Alaska Supreme Court told her to. She stated she disagreed with the ruling but it’s her responsibility to abide by the Constitution. It’s nice to know she will do what the Supreme Court tells her to. She certainly uses the Constitution’s freedom of religion clause in her church to sponsor conversion conferences. “You’ll be encouraged by … His desire to transform the lives of those impacted by homosexuality,” says her church bulletin.

I really wish I could speak about candidates in Kansas, but the Kansas Equality PAC has yet to release their state and local endorsements. Hopefully, they'll be published before the election. I will say that over the years, many people have argued for KEPAC waiting until the last minute as the Gay Endorsement could be used as a tool by “the other side”.

Why are LGBT-friendly politicians so afraid of standing up for us when asking for our vote? Am I really someone to be ashamed of? Some in KEC seem to think so. If you haven’t yet made a decision on your state and local candidates, just wait. We should find out in the November issue of the Liberty Press - due to hit newsstands a few short days before Election Day – who is endorsed. Guess it adds to the mystery.

We ought to demand more from our elected officials. There’s so much that goes on, so much crap to wade through, that we depend largely on information from organizations close to our issues – the Alternatives to Marriage Project, League of Women Voters, Human Rights Campaign, American Civil Liberties Union, and so forth – and we hope that they tell us what we need to know to make an informed decision. And don’t look just at the federal level. Many decisions that affect our daily lives come from Topeka and our local communities, not Washington. KEC organizes a yearly lobby day where you can go and meet legislators and discuss LGBT issues. Take the day off and go. It really is a great event.

Get informed. Vote. Stay informed. Demand more from your elected officials. Let them know you’re still around. And if they don’t work for fairness, replace them with someone who will.

The Mad Voter combines a bit of anger, a bit of crazy, and a bit of passion to Make A Difference (MAD) through simple actions and "armchair activism". This column provides ideas to be involved and to know why.

The Mad Voter -- The Gay Smear

(Originally published in the Liberty Press, September 2008)

Welcome to this new political column, The Mad Voter. I am your host on this mad adventure, Carolyn Marie Fugit. I have a fairly colorful resume: professionally, I am a human resource manager; as a volunteer, I serve on the Board of Directors for the Wichita Peace Center, and until mid-August, I served as chair of the Wichita chapter of the Kansas Equality Coalition, founding chair of the Kansas Equality Foundation, and served on the KEC state Board. I was also director of the Fair & Safe Schools Campaign, and before that, I was vice-chair of Wichita Pride. What’s on my resume is not nearly as important as why it’s there.

On occasion, I have been accused of being gay. In our circles, “gay” is not an accusation. But oftentimes, people bandy about the word as a horrifying epitaph, the end of civilization, as if we would all burst into flames or pillars of salt. And those that believe we LGBT folk might have some inherent human right to live free - you know, allies - receive almost as much hostility. Allied elected officials face losing their offices if seen as gay-friendly, and we need courageous men and women in office working for us. It is quite disappointing that “courageous” is an apt word for someone choosing fair legislation.

More disappointment lies with candidates and interest groups who choose to prey upon some voters’ homophobia to win elections. Wedge issue, red herring, diversion, ignoring all other issues . I say gay is an important issue but not because we happen to be. This election season proves to be no exception. This year, three openly LGBT candidates ran or are still running for office: Aunesty Janssen in Olathe, Inga Taylor in Wichita, and Christopher Renner in Manhattan. Janssen, running for state House of Representative, and Renner, running for state Board of Education, made it to the general election. Taylor, however, lost her bid in the primary against Gail Finney. As nasty as the Taylor/Finney campaign became, the repercussions reach beyond the primary and into other campaigns.

Without going into detail (Google and the Washington Blade provides more information than even I can), the Taylor/Finney campaign ended with Taylor’s sexuality becoming the primary focus. Between damning emails from Finney, subtle postcards and calls, and an out-right hateful whisper campaign by Finney supporters, Finney somehow managed to come out with the support of the Kansas Equality Coalition, the Sedgwick County Democratic Party, and other Democrats from around the state. Taylor, on the other hand, resides in the middle of the heated exchanges between KEC, Finney, and the Victory Fund.

In all of this, Victory Fund seems to want to stay out of Kansas elections for the time being. According to Renner in a post he made to the Kansas Rainbow List, Victory Fund has decided on a “hands-off” approach to our state based on the “debacle” here in Wichita, leaving him short on campaign funds. Even before his ultra-conservative opponent won her primary, Kathy Martin or her supporters started automated calls asking “Do you want a pervert on the State Board of Education?" Martin has never been a friend to us; in a questionnaire response to KEC, Martin stated “I do not support promoting the homosexual lifestyle choice, but I do support treating all of God's people with dignity, respect and goodness.” I feel dignified, don’t you?

The Gay Smear can be even subtler. When the Kansas Legislature finally voted on a measure to outlaw Lawrence’s domestic partner registry, a political tactic sent the bill back to a committee instead of asking legislators to outright vote to support unmarried partners registering with the city of Lawrence so they might be able to get health insurance from their employers. This hidden support of the registry meant none of their opponents could call them gay lovers. It’s a terribly quiet way of apparently supporting us.

I have long believed that we Kansans are a fair-minded group. These Gay Smear campaigns prey upon our concern for our neighbors and escalates into fear and hate. While Martin tells the people of Manhattan that Renner is a pervert, Dodge City High School has a Gay-Straight Alliance; another GSA formed in Winfield this summer. USD 259’s Board of Education included sexual orientation as a protected class in their safe-school policy without a monumental hate campaign before, during, or after the decision. And two rural school districts decided to start the school year off with a gay-inclusive safe-school policy. When we focus on community and each other, fairness and Kansas values, we collectively move forward to a more inclusive state.

I hope to end each mad adventure with some encouragement and ideas to help make change happen. This month, I have the tried-and-true “get out and vote,” but also pay attention to your local KEC chapter. Support an allied candidate by baking cookies for a fundraiser of theirs. Make sure to tell them you are there because they promise to support LGBT-inclusive legislation. Tell friends who don’t usually vote that they should vote for allied candidates. And most of all, be friendly to our friends!

And PS: I am, much to the bemusement of many friends, bisexual.

The Mad Voter combines a bit of anger, a bit of crazy, and a bit of passion to Make A Difference (MAD) through simple actions and “armchair activism”. This column provides ideas to be involved and to know why.