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What is Love?

gaycover

On Saturday I was invited to attend a read through of a play entitled "The River and the Mountain." The play itself is nothing remarkable, but its theme is worthy of discussion and very important to me. The story focuses on a gay Ugandan male trying to live in an extremely homophobic country. At one point, the Ugandan Parliament even heard arguments in support of a bill suggesting that all gays be executed. It became known in global legal circles as the "Kill the Gays" bill. The bill still has not passed and is ongoing revisions, with legal rights advocates demanding that the death penalty component be removed. In real life, the main character of the play was beaten to death.

I'm not a human rights lawyer, but I work with numerous charitable organizations to provide free legal assistance to asylum applicants persecuted in their home countries on the basis of sexual orientation or gender. In my mind there is no question that consenting adults should be free to love whom they choose. And how can "love" be defined or regulated? Yet every country, including America, tries to do so. Perhaps you've heard in the news that the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments this week in two monumental cases concerning gay rights. I took a quick trip to the Court yesterday to check out the scene.

1. The gentleman in the cover photo is a retired naval officer, waving the globally recognized rainbow flag in support of the community. He stood at the foot of the Supreme Court hoping for change, having faced his own life struggles as a gay serviceman at a time when gays weren't permitted to serve. In 2011, the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" law enacted during Bill Clinton's tenure was repealed, and today gays openly serve in all branches of the U.S. military. Here, a photo of the Supreme Court. More police than usual in the event the protests get out of control.

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2. Capitol police.

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3. So what's at issue in the cases? I don't want to go into a lengthy legal analysis but the most important case focuses on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which was signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1996. DOMA defines "marriage" solely between a man and woman. Yet gay marriage currently is legal in DC and nine States (Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Washington and Vermont).

Why does it matter? Because DOMA restricts federal marriage benefits to same sex couples legally married in certain States. Such benefits include social security, tax and pension benefits, etc. There currently are more than 1,000 federal laws that confer benefits of some sort on married couples.

The case currently before the Supreme Court was filed by Edith Windsor, who legally married her lifelong love in New York in 2007. They had been together for 42 years prior to that. When her spouse died the U.S. government, acting under DOMA, required Windsor to pay $363,000 in estate taxes that she wouldn't have owed if her spouse was a male.

The main argument is that DOMA violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees ALL citizens equal protection of the law. I agree and I'm certain the U.S. Supreme Court will hold the law unconstitutional in its final ruling, which probably will not come until June or July. Even Bill Clinton, who signed the bill into law in 1996, advocates for its repeal. Obama also has voiced his opinion that  DOMA is unconstitutional. This man agrees:

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4. The crowd gathered at the Supreme Court was overwhelmingly supportive of the repeal.

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5. What would be the reaction if a guy wore a rainbow coat emblazoned with the Russian flag on the streets of Moscow or some province?

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6. The Supreme Court also heard arguments this week on "Proposition 8", the California ban on gay marriage. The legal issues for this case are more complex as they involve the interplay between federal and State law, so I will not go into a long explanation. If you're curious about it there are tons of excellent articles online dissecting all of the issues. However, I will say again that the crowd showed strong support for gay marriage.

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10. Both cases have received global attention and there are tons of news crews from all over the world covering the issues. I stood next to a guy doing a live broadcast for Al Jazeera.

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11. Honestly I was surprised there weren't more religious zealots or right wing protesters supporting DOMA and traditional marriage. I saw only one man, wearing a microphone and shouting Bible verses. However, note in the photo that he's surrounded by people who totally disagree with his position. The whole crowd was fairly orderly, but this guy was definitely getting heckled.

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12.

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The views on gay marriage/equality have drastically shifted in the States in the past few years, with more and more Americans showing support. Some religious organizations have even advocated for the repeal of DOMA. My cab driver yesterday grew up in Eritrea but moved to Sweden as a teenager. He's highly religious and doesn't agree with the gay lifestyle. However, he believes they are entitled to equal rights and benefits. A really interesting guy. I will repeat what I always say, that you can learn a lot from cab drivers if you take the time to speak with them. They are almost all immigrants with very compelling life stories.

Personally, I don't understand people who hate merely on the basis of sexual orientation. People are people and all deserve the right to feel and be loved. What someone chooses to do in their bedroom has absolutely no impact on my life whatsoever, and I'll never understand the need to impede on others' happiness. If you're against gay marriage, don't do it. I'm not a religious person, but I'm not trying to shut down churches or prevent people from praying in public areas or restaurants. In the end, we're responsible for our own actions and must pay the consequences for our choices in life.

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I concur with this statement, but the government already has created a mess by defining "love" for consenting adults. Now the Supreme Court must decide how to clean it up.

***UPDATE: At the end of June 2013, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay rights in both of these cases. A huge step toward equality for all, and absolutely the right decisions.***

And how is the gay community perceived in Russia? I don't recall seeing any rainbow flags and it's my impression this lifestyle is still considered taboo and generally not accepted in the country.

Comments

( 67 comments — Leave a comment )
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moonrainbow
Mar. 28th, 2013 04:39 am (UTC)
You are a master of starting holy wars. :)

No, gay marriage in Russia is absolutely unthinkable, and being a gay is widely considered a perversion. Though, many younger people don't care.

Being a gay is considered to be a purely sexual behavior, as all other aspects (mutual care, living together, etc.) generally fall within the term 'friendship' between men. So if you say you love your friend - that's fine as long as you describe it as non-sexual one; if you say you are a gay - you said that you fuck your friend. Because of this, gays compromise old and traditional definitions of friendship (they introduce sexual aspect into relationships between men), and marriage (you can't have kids between man and man, and that's what family is - so you make family just to have sex). Such things are in the foundations of society. It's a totally bad idea to try to change them. Anywhere on the world, not just in Russia.
modest_so_zvezd
Mar. 28th, 2013 05:14 am (UTC)
И это правильно!
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peacetraveler22
Mar. 28th, 2013 01:39 pm (UTC)
"Parrot man," lol!
livejournal
Mar. 28th, 2013 05:09 am (UTC)
США - страна торжествующих и победивших извращенцев и
User sergey_verevkin referenced to your post from США - страна торжествующих и победивших извращенцев и извращенок saying: [...] Оригинал взят у в What is Love? [...]
modest_so_zvezd
Mar. 28th, 2013 05:37 am (UTC)
I do not understand why ordinary people sexual orientation should protect the rights of gays. I think that in the future heterosexual white male trebuyuet protection.
peacetraveler22
Mar. 28th, 2013 01:33 pm (UTC)
Hey! You asked me the other day about popular American blogs. Here are two options:

Liberal viewpoint: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/. This site has sections for all areas of discussion (Tech, Entertainment, Politics, etc.). The latest article on the Supreme Court cases has thousands of comments. See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/politics/.

For a conservative viewpoint, you can check these sites out - http://townhall.com/ or http://drudgereport.com/.

You will see many different opinions from Americans on this and other pressing issues.
cherez_dorogu
Mar. 28th, 2013 05:39 am (UTC)
In Russia (and in Ukraine, actually, I'm from Ukraine) the situation with gays is not so far from Ugandan. The majority really hates them but cannot explain why. People hide behind some nonsense upon stilts (you can hear the religious reasons from atheistic persons, for example - and Orthodox ideology has much in common with Islamic)
It is Neanderthal way of thinking: "If i don't understand something, I'm afraid of it. If I'm afraid of it, I have to destroy it"


Edited at 2013-03-28 05:40 am (UTC)
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(no subject) - cherez_dorogu - Mar. 28th, 2013 08:44 am (UTC) - Expand
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There is no hate. - xpo_xpo_xpo - Apr. 1st, 2013 10:06 am (UTC) - Expand
togliatt
Mar. 28th, 2013 05:50 am (UTC)
as you like to say - no comments)))

PS: I have a friend - hi is gay. I can not understand gays, but I treat to my friend with respect. He is really good man and good friend. He does not yells that he is gay and he is not involved in stupid actions
peacetraveler22
Mar. 28th, 2013 01:42 pm (UTC)
Well intelligent people do not immediately reject what they don't understand. And you seem like a kind, smart person so it's not surprising to me that you treat your gay friend with respect. It's the way life should be. People should be judged on their character, not who they're sleeping with.
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my_coast
Mar. 28th, 2013 07:08 am (UTC)
oh, when, when will people understand, that showing their disgust to gays is the same unpolite action as showing disgust to hunchbacks or black people or ugly people etc.? It is not one's choice to be gay or black or hunchback, it's what the nature gives you.

Edited at 2013-03-28 07:09 am (UTC)
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pyenot
Mar. 28th, 2013 06:55 am (UTC)
:)))

"As a woman-a woman I was somewhere talking about it: this is our guy fault, woman that she is today replaced by a man. This is our fault. So I'm sorry. We were the untenable guys for some women. Fact that they we had to find, they began to look at the woman, "- said Lukashenko, adding that does not condemn lesbians.
More: http://www.rosbalt.ru/exussr/2012/10/26/1051362.html
peacetraveler22
Mar. 28th, 2013 01:46 pm (UTC)
Lukashenko, a very interesting leader. Thanks for the link. I hope to visit Belarus soon.
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peacetraveler22
Mar. 28th, 2013 01:43 pm (UTC)
Thanks. You more than anyone know my feelings and passion for this topic. :)
doctoralexxx
Mar. 28th, 2013 08:17 am (UTC)
Hi Shannon!
At first I thought this man on the pic1 very happy because he isn't in Russia. Really lucky dude)
Anyway it's don't seem to me quite so funny. Try to imagine if you had homosexual kids. What would you do? Try to imagine if you had two fathers or two moms. You know what I mean. I think you are happy with you male father and female morther, and you don't want another variants.
For my opinion it's a med problem. Such people should somehow be trated and ofcourse the shouldn't be executed or imprisoned.
America always was a Christian and conservative country. What's going on now in people's mind? The point on the black and say it is white.

Edited at 2013-03-28 08:18 am (UTC)
peacetraveler22
Mar. 28th, 2013 01:23 pm (UTC)
Hi! I would have no problem if my child was gay. I have gay relatives, gay friends and gay colleagues. They are people like everyone else, with the same joys and sorrows in life. And I support the right for gay couples to adopt. I would rather a child be adopted by two loving parents in a healthy same sex relationship than being placed with a heterosexual couple in a dysfunctional relationship.

Medical condition? There are certainly others who agree with this position and try to "cure" homosexuality. In almost all cases, this fails. You cannot change the core of a person's being through medicine or hypnosis. So, we simply must agree to disagree on this issue. :) Thanks for your comments.
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doctoralexxx
Mar. 28th, 2013 08:36 am (UTC)
The girl on the pic3 hold a paper with excerpt from Martin Luther. That's funny. Maybe she doesn't know who he was? Christians are against homosexuality. He meaned another.
bondart
Mar. 28th, 2013 09:43 am (UTC)
The main reason for homophobic behaviors in Russia is because many people "feel disgusted", all the religious crap is just camouflage. Another reason is that a lot of parents consider homosexuality contagious and do not want their kids to get it. Are these factors still present in the US? Although not as severe as these crazy Baptist Woodsborough Church people many US citizens seem to genuinely base their hatred on their religious views.
peacetraveler22
Mar. 28th, 2013 01:37 pm (UTC)
The anti-gay beliefs of the majority of opponents are grounded in religion. However, many religious people also accept the lifestyle and welcome gays into their churches, etc. You will find a totally different mindset in the Midwest ("Bible Belt' of the U.S.) as compared to the East and West Coasts. As you'll notice, almost all of the States in which gay marriage is legal are on the East Coast. Specifically, the New England area which is very liberal.

The Westboro Baptist church group (also known as "God Hates Fags") are the true scum of the earth and not representative of the typical religious mindset in America. They even picket the funerals of dead servicemen.

Edited at 2013-03-28 02:08 pm (UTC)
yarowind
Mar. 28th, 2013 04:36 pm (UTC)
>>DOMA defines "marriage" solely between a man and woman.

Yes, it's true!

My opinion is you know - homosexuality is an abomination.
peacetraveler22
Mar. 28th, 2013 07:56 pm (UTC)
Sure, I remember our prior discussions on this topic. We disagree. :)
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peacetraveler22
Mar. 28th, 2013 08:07 pm (UTC)
How can you compare gay people to necrophiles or zoophiles? I said "consenting adults" should be free to love and fuck whom they choose. A dead person cannot provide consent, and neither can an animal. If you don't want to look at gay parades, don't go to them. They aren't asking for special rights in these court cases, simply to be treated as any other couple when it comes to federal benefits. You can find it disgusting, it's your right.
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peacetraveler22
Mar. 29th, 2013 04:35 pm (UTC)
"It is the slavery that Russia is free of." There are no gay people in Russia? :) There are plenty and they may even be among your friends or family.
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