Monday, June 29, 2015

Equality for all of my friends

Friday- what a wonderful and emotional day this past Friday was. I kept reaching for the kleenex as I read posts and articles celebrating this long overdue victory for civil rights, equality and love. One post in particular had me tearing up with its bittersweet reminder that we have a long way to go before the LGBT community can freely enjoy all of the liberties and freedoms the rest of us enjoy without a second thought.
My friend Joe's words say it better than I could ever hope to. Please read and remember that there is still work to be done.

(From June 26, 2015)
That time in Council Grove someone slowed down to yell at us from his truck.
That time in Shawnee a prospective landlord told us to stay where we were in no uncertain terms.
That time someone walking by us on Mass St. yelled at us.
That time we had a high school boy as a new roommate because he was evicted by his parents and was homeless.
That time I had to conduct business with a company exclusively by phone because their servers returned any email containing the word "gay".
That time a law firm hiring committee member told me years later that that I was passed over because the firm wasn't sure it was ready for an out attorney.
That time someone straight woke me at 3am to insist I get ex-gay "therapy" because they couldn't sleep thinking about me being gay.
That late night at the office when drunk co-workers yelled through my door.
That time after family law class when the professor told me I was the first student in 30 years of teaching to come out during the same-sex marriage discussion, and 3 other gay students sat nearby silently.
Those times Drew has been called my friend, roommate, brother, business partner, or skipped in introductions entirely (and vice versa).
That time I was closeted and my employer asked my out co-worker to go back in the closet so as not to scare away customers (he refused).
That time I overheard a straight classmate saying he wouldn't associate with us gay students.
That time a gay friend attempted (but thankfully failed) to commit suicide.
That time I got a personal hate message sent to me online.
That night in the restaurant our family ate out next to the state attorney general and his family while he had been fighting recognition of our family by day.
That time a parent told me other parents wouldn't let their children eat food made by a classmate with lesbian moms.
That time five days ago when we met a gay couple who had 30 swastikas etched on their car, and the police said it would have taken a lot of time to do that.
That time my state representative told me in a conversation that gay rights weren't civil rights.

Today's decision is about a specific technical legal issue but it's also about all these times.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

One Road

If you’ve lived in Kansas any amount of time you are probably familiar with the two-finger wave; the two fingers you raise from the steering wheel in recognition of a fellow driver passing by. It is one of my favorite things about Kansas.

When I was younger and first encountered the wave on road-trips, I thought it was odd. But after time, it grew on me. The other driver was recognizing my presence.  So I even began to give the wave myself. At first I felt like a poser. But the more I waved, the more natural it felt. I saw them and they saw me.; two Kansans, one road and a shared understanding.

I drive less on country roads these days but I still smile when I get the friendly wave from a fellow Kansan.We could use a few more friendly Kansans in the Statehouse these days.

It is frustrating, disheartening, infuriating and depressing to see the lack of common sense, humanity, and leadership in our elected state government. Our legislators, elected by us, have forgotten us. They have forsaken most Kansans for their generous donors and no-tax pledges.

They have forgotten their humanity while passing laws that treat their most helpless constituents as burdens that need to be shunned and shamed. Our legislators have no understanding or empathy for people that are less fortunate than their donors- which is everyone. 

I have a hard time understanding how the majority of our legislators can repeatedly put the well being of corporations before the well being of their constituents. In 2012 they made the bad decision to eliminate taxes on pass-through businesses and lower personal income taxes. That experiment has failed. They know it. We know it. Our Governor knows it.

But in their desire to please their big donors and national political strategists, they continue to vote against the best interests of our state. The fear of losing their elected position is so strong that it causes them to do serious and long term harm to Kansas and Kansans. They are jeopardizing the education of our children. They are demolishing our access to social services and healthcare. And economic growth has been lagging behind national growth consistently during the Brownback years.  

One constant of the current administration has been the reminder of their devotion to the core religious beliefs that guide their decisions.  Every Sunday my church prays for our leaders, including "Barack, our President and Sam, our Governor". I love that we use their first names. It reminds us that they are people, just like us, who have chosen to serve the public in elected office. So, I pray for our Governor. I pray that he remembers that he has been elected to serve all the people of Kansas; the poor and the rich. 

In Sam Brownback’s own words from a 2006 interview, “The central Christian thesis is to love. Love God, all your heart, mind, soul and flesh and love your neighbor as yourself - that's the central thesis. It doesn't say anything about hating people anywhere in there, other than that that's not a good thing. And you're even to pray for your enemy. There have been many of us as Christians who have failed to practice the faith as it's called upon and that has been damaging to the faith and I regret that.” 

I pray for our Governor and our legislators. And us. I pray that calmer and more sensible heads will prevail and will start to right the course we are on. I pray that our elected officials will start to give us the friendly wave that means we see you and we will help you when you need it;  many Kansans travelling one road.