Hate Crimes Legislation vs. Marriage Equality

Appalled is the only way to describe my reaction yesterday when I saw the C-Span clip of Virgina Foxx, the Republican Congresswoman of North Carolina’s Fifth District during the debate of the hate crime legislation. This former college president and English professor said that the fact that Matthew Shepard was murdered because he was gay was a hoax. (She has since tried to backtrack on her words.) The fact is gay people in this country are attacked and killed because of their sexual orientation here in the U.S. In some cases, gay people are targeted because they seem to some to be “easy pickings” and the real motivation for the attack is pure harassment or robbery or even rape.

There was a rash of attacks on gay people here in Houston in the 90s, one of which was the murder of Paul Broussard, which happened near where I lived. If you’ve never read about this case, I recommend that you read this article or for a slightly different perspective look here.

It only takes reading the gay press online to know that these attacks are still happening today. I can’t say what percentage of gay people have experienced physical attacks or the threat of being attacked, but I would guess that it’s a high percentage, from attacks in schools to attacks in the street to attacks at home.

In spite of all these attacks (I’ve experienced it myself as I’ve mentioned on my about page), I don’t really support hate crimes legislation. If someone is attacked, they are attacked and the perpetrator should be punished. If someone is murdered, the killer should be tried and punished according to the law, not because of who was killed but because murder is murder no matter who the victim is.

I agree with some in Congress who ask how do we determine which groups should be covered under hate crimes. Ours is a democracy and everyone should be treated equally, no slippery slopes.

And that is the rationale of those people who are against hate crimes legislation: they do not want to have to give special treatment to certain groups.

But where is that rationale when it comes to Marriage Equality? Those who are against marriage equality certainly favor the idea of a special status for heterosexual people. And those against same-sex marriage are not just limited to the evangelicals and other Republicans.

How would all of those who voted in favor of the hate crimes bill have voted if the bill were for legalizing same-sex marriage? I doubt that the majority would have voted for it. While many of these representatives may feel they are doing the right thing, this type of legislation is not the answer to stopping the attacks and murders of gay people, nor of any other group of people. It’s no different than putting that metal plate over the construction hole in the street. You can drive over the hole, but it’s still there and eventually needs to be fixed.

The only real “fix” here is to change the attitudes of individuals and of society as a whole. It’s very hard to change ideas when they have been pounded into someone’s head from an early age.

But the government can do that by making laws that bring equal rights to all citizens. (We’ve seen this when slavery was abolished, when women were given the right to vote, when mixed race couples were allowed to marry.) I don’t know if people who have not been denied rights can understand this. I’m pretty sure that most women can understand this; I’m pretty sure that people of many ethnic minorities can understand this; I know that almost every gay person knows this. Even with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of our elected officials are still heterosexual white men, and most of them do not understand what it means to be discriminated against and do not want to understand it. Because if they were to make the playing ground equal for everyone, they might lose some of their power.

Putting specific groups into hate crimes laws does not make people of those groups any stronger. It weakens them by saying they need special protection, and in reality, is a way of keeping them second class citizens.

Instead what the government needs to do is enact and enforce laws, such as for marriage, labor, and immigration, that give all citizens their due rights under the Constitution.

We can only hope that people like Virginia Foxx, who are against giving special status to any citizens through hate crimes legislation, would also realize that by expressing that viewpoint, they are advocating equal status for all citizens and, thus, would support bills that provide that equality: legislation in favor of same-sex marriage and the elimination of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

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After the Rain and Flooding–A Long Drive Home

With the main entrances to I-10 West still closed at evening rush hour, it seemed like there was only one or two ways to head in that direction.  After maneuvering my way on crowded streets in the courthouse area, I finally got back on Washington near the Post Office.  Why, oh why did my old habits of my daily routine override my common sense?  Instead of staying on Washington and just enduring all of  the stop lights, I turned and took my regular Memorial route, and what normally takes me about 12 minutes to drive a little more than five miles took me nearly an hour and a half.  Because of the water covering Memorial near Shepherd (which in the back of my mind I knew it would be), everyone had to exit on Waugh.  So there we were, bullies, wimps, and others–three lanes of us all finally squeezed like dried toothpaste onto the bristles of Waugh.

Compare shots of the frequently flooded Travis Street Exit.

Travis Street Exit 8:30 AM, April 28, 2009

Travis Street Exit 8:30 AM, April 28, 2009 (The water here rose more after this.)

Travis Stree Exit 5:15 PM, April 28, 2009

Travis Street Exit 5:15 PM, April 28, 2009

Heavy Rains Roll Through Houston Area Overnight, Some Missing in Flood Waters, White Oak and Buffalo Bayous Very High Downtown

Buffalo Bayou and Allen Parkway near downtown Houston

Buffalo Bayou and Allen Parkway near downtown Houston (KHOU weather cam)

After leaving home late this morning, when the rain seemed to finally have stopped (It was dry enough that I finally got Annie outside to pee; an earlier, unsuccessful attempt at the usual time only got us both wet), I made it to work without any problems, except for slow traffic.  Although the major ramps into and out of downtown on I-45N and I-10E are flooded, I was able to get to work by taking the McKee Street Exit.  Milam and Travis are definitely flooded right now, and Buffalo Bayou has already covered the lower parking lot behind  the Spaghetti Warehouse and the water has risen even more in the last 10 minutes.

Thank goodness, the rain seems to have stopped, but it is still very grey outside.  I brought my camera with me this morning and have taken some amazing pictures (well, the high water is amazing; I don’t know about the pictures), but I didn’t bring the USB cord.  I’ll post some pics later.  I saw a rescue boat going up the Milam ramp just a few minutes ago; alas, I didn’t get a photo.

There are some views from the TranStar traffic cams that show some of the high water, though.  Look at I-45N at I-10 (submerged cars), 59 Southwest at West Loop (high water), and I-10 Katy at Gessner (deep water under 1-10).

If you know Houston, the heaviest rains were in the Katy, Bear Creek, and Spring Branch areas–the west and northwest areas.   In these areas, up to a foot of rain was reported to have fallen in the past 24 hours.  When I was getting ready for work, the TV said they were evacuating people from houses in the Bear Creek area.  Both Buffalo and White Oak Bayous are watersheds for that area, so I don’t expect these bayous to go down soon.  (Buffalo Bayou is actually the waterway that eventually becomes the Houston Ship Channel a few miles further down from Main Street.)

The Houston Chronicle reports some drivers were swept away in the rushing waters and are still missing and that homes were flooded in several areas.

I Want My Gay TV (Part IV)

The Maury Povich Show helps quench the thrst for personal dirt.

The Maury Povich Show helps quench the thirst for personal dirt.

I had a chance last week to watch some daytime TV. I like to get my dose of the “judge” shows every once in a while; then I’m good until my next time off comes along. Even a few of the “DNA-who’s the daddy” Maury Povich Shows can glue me to the sofa for a bit.

The daytime talk shows, though, do nothing for me. Years ago Oprah might have been OK, but in that time slot, I will take Judge Judy over Oprah with or without the exclamation point.

Last Friday, my flipper finger did pause a bit and left The Ellen Degeneres Show stay on for a moment. As I said, I’m not really into daytime talk shows, not even Ellen. She’s funny as a comedian, but her talk show, even the dancing, doesn’t make me want to watch. I really haven’t seen her for maybe six months, so what has happened to her look? Why is she wearing all that makeup? Actually, she looks like Twiggy’s twin–today’s Twiggy, not the young Twiggy of the 1960s. All that makeup and pixie haircut on Ellen just doesn’t fit her personality. And it makes her look old.

Is somebody telling these high-profile lesbians that they need to “priss up”? I mean everybody knows Ellen Degeneres is not the lipstick lesbian in that family; her other half is Portia de Rossi after all!

And just now I was watching MSNBC, and there was another “not a lipstick lesbian” Rachel Maddow with her eyes all mascaraed up, cheeks blushed out, and lips over-evident with gloss. I watched The Rachel Maddow Show just last week and her makeup wasn’t shouting out through the TV screen.

I have nothing against makeup, but it needs to be done right and be appropriate for the person. I don’t see that with Ellen and Rachel.

Greek comes on at 7 PM on ABC Family.

Greek comes on at 7 PM on ABC Family.

Monday night two of my favorite shows are on; unfortunately, they start at the same time. The Big Bang Theory on CBS has become absolutely my favorite half-hour comedy show. I suppose there’s something in me that can identify with all of the “nerdliness”. Greek starts at 7 PM (CDT) also, but is an hour-long show focusing on college life, not so much on the study side, but more on the party/relationship side. In Greek on ABC Family, Calvin (played by Paul James, is an out gay fraternity brother, but so far this season, the story lines have given little focus to him. Loyal viewers have been left waiting for any kind of relationship for Calvin to begin.

When it comes to relationships, this past Sunday’s episode of my favorite show, Brothers and Sisters over on ABC had almost all of the romantic relationships ripping apart. The most stable relationship is that of Scotty (Luke MacFarlane) and Kevin (Matthew Rhys), despite last week’s reappearance of Kevin’s hot, ex-boyfriend Chad (Jason Lewis) and the big lip-smacker that he laid on Kevin on their encounter in the street. Actually, there are so many loose ends in the show that it makes one wonder how many of them will be tied up before the season finale, or whether we’ll be left hanging on many fronts over the summer.

Will Chad cause some kind of trouble in Kevin and Scotty's relationship?  (Jason Lewis and Matthew Rhys of ABC's Brothers and Sisters)

Will Chad cause some kind of trouble in Kevin and Scotty's relationship? (Jason Lewis and Matthew Rhys of ABC's Brothers and Sisters)

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(Also check out “I Want My Gay TV” Part I, Part II, and Part III.)

An Historic Day for Iowa and for Marriage Equality: Couples Get Licenses and Exchange Wedding Vows on the First Day for Same-sex Marriage in the Heartland State

Melisa Keeton and Shelley Wolfe became the first same-sex couple to exchange marriage vows under the new Iowa ruling.  (Des Moines Register photo)

Melisa Keeton and Shelley Wolfe became the first same-sex couple to exchange marriage vows under the new Iowa ruling. (Des Moines Register photo)

Today is the first day that same-sex couples can apply for marriage licenses in Iowa, and in some cities they are lining up at county courthouses to do it. Some couples, who have had the usual 3-day waiting period waived, are already getting married.

Couples line up waiting to apply for marriage licenses at the Polk County Courthouse in Des Moines, Iowa.  (Des Moines Register photo)

Couples line up waiting to apply for marriage licenses at the Polk County Administration Building in Des Moines, Iowa. (Des Moines Register photo)

According to the Des Moines Register, at least 360 same-sex couples had applied for marriage licenses on the first day. There also have been petitions by anti-marriage groups asking courthouse officials not to grant licenses to gay couples, but, in general, there was very little visible protest against those waiting to make their applications.

“We all are equal and we all are different”

I’m not a movie goer. Maybe because I’m such a channel flipper. When I get into that theatre, there are no remote controls, so if the film is less than exciting, I either have to sit there waiting for something to happen, or if the whole thing is more than I can stand, I just walk out. So I’m not a movie goer.

I don’t really like Hollywood movies much either. No matter what the story-line might be, most American movies follow a predictable pattern: introduce the situation, bring in the conflict, resolve the conflict; audience goes home.

The movies I like are generally in the “foreign film” genre, and many of them never make it to the local theatres, so I have to hunt for them. I found this trailer (When did they start calling them trailers instead of previews?) for a Spanish film shown at a sneak preview for the 2009 Latin Gay Film Festival in Miami. (Take a look at the site. If the festival is as attractive as the site, it’s sure to be “festive”.)

The trailer for Spinnin’ (6000 Millones de Personas Diferentes) is almost like a short film itself, and definitely worth the 6 or 7 minutes it takes to watch (sub-titled for the Spanish-impaired).

Want To Track Your IRS Refund? Would You Like To Know the Likelihood of Your House Flooding? Check Out These Great Informational Sites Brought to You by Uncle Sam

unclesam11No matter which side of the political fence you sit on, or even if you just sit on the fence, everyone has something to say about the government.

Politics aside, the government does do some “good stuff” with all those tax dollars that get squeezed out of people, and some of that good can be found right here, by clicking on that keyboard a little more.

One really good site that has a lot of information is at irs.gov. That’s right–the Internal Revenue Service. One thing in particular that might interest you is your tax refund. You can actually track your IRS refund by accessing a link on the main page on the left side. You’ll need to give your Social Security number, your filing status, and an exact refund amount. And it’s free!

There’s also lots of other “good stuff” too, like information about tax breaks on new cars, downloadable forms, and even how to apply for IRS jobs.

Another federal government site, that might interest some of you is that of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency. If you are a homeowner or a prospective one, at fema.gov, you can use your address to find flood plain maps and check where your property sits in relation to the different types of floods (i.e. 500-year, 100-year). Click on “Flood Insurance, Maps and Information” on the right side of the main page. This site also has lots of other information, including how to apply for disaster assistance.