Friday, November 30, 2012

Tackling the Disparity: Children With Married Heterosexual Parents VS. LGBT Parents

This was seen today at Facebook. It lays out the difference in protections when you compare children with married heterosexual parents vs. most children with LGBT parents. This seemed especially pressing since the National Organization for Marriage has been going through another round of articles discussing the how children are less advantaged when in LGBT homes. Well, let's look at some of the reasons why disparities might exist:

Northstar and Kyle Go On Honeymoon OR Is Astonishing X-Men's Kyle Jinadu-Beaubier the New Madelyne Pryor?

ASTONISHING X-MEN ANNUAL #1 came out this week. It interrupts the honeymoon between Northstar and Kyle. I'm beginning to wonder if Kyle is fated to become the new "Madelyne Pryor" of the X-Men -- at least before she went all Goblin-Queenie. You know, a human companion who acts as support all the time for the mutants.

Almost since the beginning, Kyle has been the victim of one enemy or another. There was the Purple Woman and the Unity Party over in Alpha Flight. Then there was Karma's wicked half-sister and the Marauders and now the Friends of Humanity. I'm thinking he needs to take up Tae Kwon Do or Judo or touch a radioactive meteorite or something. That way, he might stand a chance next time one of Northstar's enemies comes knocking!

Much of the issue dealt with Northstar and Kyle feeling torn between heroic obligations, a desire to be left alone, and worry that they rushed too fast into marriage. Most of the X-Men told Kyle that everything would be fine. Gambit, on the other hand, gave some interesting advice to Kyle: Run! Kyle and the readers were reminded that pretty much every mutant marriage has ended in tragedy or divorce. If Kyle wants to break the cycle, it might be in his best interest to pull Jean-Paul off the team. Is this romantic angst and tension, or creative foreshadowing?

I wish we'd see more family from the other Astonishing X-Men. I would love it if Karma's little brother and sister hung out with the group, for example. Or maybe we could learn a little bit more about Dr. Cecilia Reyes. Maybe we could finally learn how Dr. Reyes survived and escaped from the Neverland mutant concentration camp.

The comic book ends with a reprint of ALPHA FLIGHT #106, the infamous "Northstar officially comes out of the closet while beating up a never-before-heard-of WWII hero and then adopts a baby who happens to be dying of AIDS" issue. Can you sense that a lot happened in that one story? It was nice to be reminded that Jean-Paul adopted a daughter. Maybe that storyline will plant a seed towards another adoption at some point in the future.

As stilted and forced as that original "coming out" story reads (and keep in mind that subtext regarding Northstar's homosexuality had existed for pretty much most of his creative existence), it's definitely led to much progress. Ten years earlier, Marvel Comics had a policy that homosexuality officially did not exist (following the attempted shower rape of Bruce "the Hulk" Banner at the YMCA -- don't ask). Twenty years after he came out, Northstar got married at Central Park and there are tons of openly gay and lesbian heroes in the Young Avengers, in the X-Men and at the Jean Grey School, and at Avengers Arena. Heck, there was even a gay wedding in an Archie-frickin'-Comics last year.

These are exciting times for comic book fans who appreciate stories involving gay and lesbian heroes. It's just good to remember that this current crop of stories got seeded by ALPHA FLIGHT #106.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Coming Soon: Marriage in Illinois and Civil Unions in Colorado???

Yesterday, Lambda Legal announced possible legislative traction in Illinois, which could possibly lead to a same-sex marriage vote in that state as early as January 2013(!!!):
Plaintiff couples in Darby v. Orr and Lazaro v. Orr, the lawsuits brought by Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois seeking the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Illinois, met with legislators to urge them to vote in favor of a bill ending the ban on marriage for same-sex couples in Illinois. The bill, House Bill 5710, The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, could be voted on by the Illinois General Assembly in January 2013.

"We want our lawmakers to know how important this is to our family," said Anne Dickey, plaintiff in Darby v. Orr. "Every day, our child feels different from his friends because Laura and I aren't allowed to get married. Whether it is through the courts or the legislature, we need the freedom to marry."

"Our family, our love and our commitment deserves the recognition and dignity of marriage," said Richard Rykhus, a plaintiff in Lazaro v. Orr. "We believe that Illinois law should recognize fully the family that we have built together."
Meanwhile, Colorado's legislature isn't looking towards marriage equality, but it's considering a civil union bill again:
Labor battles, gun fights, fracking and education financing will test lawmakers when the state legislature opens Jan. 9, but one issue is not in doubt: Colorado is poised to become the ninth state in the nation to allow same-sex couples to form civil unions. After two years of fighting over the issue, the Republicans who controlled the House and killed the measure are out of power, paving the way for a civil unions bill to head to Gov. John Hickenlooper, who supports legal recognition for same-sex couples.
This will be the third attempt by Colorado Senator Pat Steadman to get a civil union bill passed through the state's Senate. The state's House had enough votes to pass it last year.

Of course, both of these bills could crash and burn. It appears that Colorado's civil union bill is the most likely of the two bills to pass in 2013. Keep your collective fingers crossed!

Nero at Daycare -- 11/29/12 // PLUS!: Cat-Friends VS. Dog-Friends

Nero was downright wild at daycare today. Lots of jumping and mouthing and running. He's completely worn out this evening, which makes for a quiet home. Check out these pics:

Lastly, check out this funny video. It asks you to image if your friends acted like pets. Enjoy!:

Seasonal Funny

I occasionally get these joke e-mails from friends or family -- though admittedly not as many since my father died three years ago. Whether that's because he forwarded most of these e-mails to me or whether that's because people finally got tired of these types of e-mails in a post-Facebook/post-Twitter world, I can't say. But I really enjoyed the following joke e-mail and thought you might too! Enjoy!:

Apology Letter To Spouse

Hi Sweetheart,

I am sorry about getting into an argument about putting up the Christmas lights. I guess that sometimes I feel like you are pushing me too hard when you want something. I realize that I was wrong and I am apologizing for being such a hard-headed guy. All I want is for you to be happy and be able to enjoy the holiday season. Nothing brightens the Christmas spirit like Christmas lights! I took the time to hang the lights for you today; and now I will be off to the hockey rink.

Again, I am very sorry for the way I acted yesterday. I'll be home later.

Love you! Don

Her Response

Hi Honey,

Thank you for that heart-felt apology. I don't often get an apology from you, and I truly appreciate it. I, too, felt bad about the argument and wanted to apologize. I realize that I can sometimes be a little pushy. I will try to respect your feelings from now on. Thank you for taking the time to hang the Christmas lights for me. It really means a lot. In the spirit of giving, I washed your truck for you; and now I am off to the mall.

I love you too! Fran

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Iowa City Moving Forward With Urban Chickens // UPDATE: Iowa City Chickens Pass Second Hurdle!!

(Originally written on 11/14/12): Good news for Iowa City residents who dream of keeping chickens within the city limits: Iowa City's City Council voted last night 5-2 in favor of two ordinances that could lead to the legalization of urban chicken farms within city limits! The first zoning amendment regulates the buildings used to keep chickens within city limits and the second zoning amendment establishes a permit process for keeping a chicken in Iowa City. The City Council will have to successfully vote on the ordinances two more times in order to get passed. A third resolution establishing the specific rules for keeping chickens within the city has not yet been voted on.

The current proposal would allow Iowa City residents to keep up to four hens. They would be required to file a $100 initial permit and $75 for annual renewals (I'm not clear if this is per property or per chicken). Residents are required to notify neighbors of their intent to raise chickens at least 10 days before the permit would be issued. Urban chicken farmers cannot keep roosters, they cannot slaughter their chickens, they cannot sell chickens or eggs, and they will be in violation of the law if their chickens get loose outside their coops.

Terry Dickens and Michelle Payne are the two City Councilors who opposed last nights proposed ordinances. Mayor Matt Hayek continues to push for a process for allowing neighbors to file objections to urban chickens. In other words, this could still crash and burn.

Updated on 11/28/12: Good news for advocates of urban chickens within the city limits of Iowa City. Iowa City's City Council continues to move forward with zoning changes that, if ultimately approved, will allow citizens the ability to raise up to four hens in town:
In another vote, councilors voted 5-2, with Mims and Dickens opposing, on a second reading to allow people to keep chickens at their homes within city limits. The final vote on the matter, which could come Dec. 4, is not a guarantee. A sticking point appears to be a request to notify neighbors, which will be discussed.
I'm not sure whether or not it's worth stalling this zoning change over the issue of notifying neighbors. Just tell your neighbors and promise to keep your urban chicken farm clean and tidy and then actually keep your urban chicken farm clean and tidy.

I got into a minor back-and-forth over on the Iowa City Patch website with another person on this subject. Actually, as Internet back-and-forths go, this one was downright civilized. She was concerned about crowing roosters and smelly chicken coops. I pointed out that roosters won't be allowed in Iowa City and zoning changes will specifically address the keeping of coops, so there should be a remedy for addressing fowl foul-keepers. Who knows? Maybe I changed a mind or two...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Lesbian Couple Plans 9 Marriages in 10 Days // Updated Information about Their Wedding Plans

(Originally written on 11/21/12): Kacey Frierson and Chwanda Nixon of Jonesboro, GA, have been a couple since 2010. They have seven children and had a civil union ceremony in Illinois this past April 7th. They like their civil union, but they want their relationship to be official. So they and their kids have made plans to travel through the USA to most of the states where gay and lesbians couples can get married (excluding Iowa and Washington) and to Montreal in April 2013 and have weddings in each of those states!

This is their current wedding schedule: New York City (April 7), Stamford, CT (April 8), Kittery Point, ME (April 9), Manchester, NH (April 9), Burlington, VT (April 9), Montreal, QC (April 10), Boston, MA (April 11), Baltimore, MD (April 12), and Washington, DC (April 12). I'm assuming that they won't be filing for marriage licenses in all of these communities, but instead will be seeking commitment ceremonies -- but I could be mistaken.

Frierson explained why they are doing this in a recent blog post:
Who wants to just be in a relationship or just dating forever? There are some people who don't mind it, I'm not one of those people. Even if I was dating a guy, we are not just going to be in a relationship, for 10 years, 20 years...uhhh no...yo are going to have to make me your wife. So the same thing applies to my No getting free milk from this gonna have to buy it!! I'm not a cow, but you get what I'm trying to say. LOL

To me it really isn't about the number of times that we get married, because we did have a civil union on April 7, 2012 that had all the bells and whistles. It was a wonderful day for us. The dresses, the cake, the family and the friends. But at the end of the whole thing we still weren't MARRIED, we were UNION-ED. And that doesn't take anything away from that wonderful day, but it does.

So once same-sex marriage became legal in New York July 24, 2011, I thought it would be a great trip with the kids to ride up to New York and do it after our union in April 2012. And me being me I always want more. So I look and see we can also get married in DC, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. So I say Bay, we can just make it a long road trip since they are all on our route or just a few hours from New York. OOOh, and let's leave the country too!! So Montreal, QC was added to the list. LOL

SO even though our home state of Georgia will never recognize Chwanda as my wife. Me, her and our children will know the lengths we are going through to show them and the world, when you have something or someone you love, you will do whatever you need to do as your symbol of love and support and commitment for them. So I don't care who else knows it, Chwanda is now and will always be my wife, and I will be hers!
What a fun experience for these women and their children! Even though Iowa has been carved out of it, I wish Frierson and Nixon well during their upcoming wedding blitz!

Updated on 11/27/12: Last week, I posted a link to this post on Twitter. I also posted a related post on Twitter asking why Frierson and Nixon weren't getting married in Iowa.

That led to a response from Kacey Frierson on Twitter informing me that the couple apparently is planning their next two marriages in 2014 for the states of Iowa and Washington! Who knows? Maybe they will have additional states to visit by April 2014. (One can hope!) Kacey noted below in the comments of this very thread that the pair will apply for marriage licenses in each of the marriage equality states that they visit, which means they will have quite the collection of licenses by May 2013!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Iowa City May Soon Allow Dogs Downtown

One of the things that has always bugged me about Iowa City is that it is against the law for me or anyone else to walk my dog on the Iowa City Pedestrian Mall -- especially since (with the exception of my current standard poodle Nero) I've always owned small dogs that are leashed and carried when walking downtown. It's not that I want to go shopping with Ms. Lion or take her to the library, but it would be nice to take my leashed dog for a walk or go to a public concert or watch a parade or whatever. And if they are under control and well-behaved, why shouldn't they be allowed on the Ped Mall?

But dogs have been technically banned from the Iowa City Pedestrian Mall since 1978. I say "technically" since I often see dogs on the Ped Mall and, with the exception of a handful of service animals, those dogs aren't supposed to be there. In other words, Iowa City currently doesn't enforce this 34-year-old ordinance.

Now it looks like the Iowa City City Council is starting the process to amend the law to allow dogs access to the Iowa City Ped Mall. Under this new ordinance, dogs would have to be leashed at all times and their leashes could not be longer than 6 feet long. Dogs could not be tethered to either public or private property and they wouldn't be allowed near any sidewalk cafe, any limestone planter, or the playground equipment.

I'm completely in support of this change in city code. And it appears that the City Council and the Iowa City Downtown District are completely behind this change, too, which is a good thing.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Northstar and His New Husband Face Their Latest Foe: DOMA

I was traveling for most of the holiday weekend, so I wasn't able to pick up last Wednesday's comic book shipment until early this afternoon. One of the books that was waiting for me was ASTONISHING X-MEN #56. This past June (in issue #51), Canadian X-Man Northstar married his longtime boyfriend Kyle Jinadu. The couple has barely had time to send out "thank you" notes because Northstar has been bopping around with his teammates fighting Karma's evil half-sister. (And let me digress by adding that this has been one of the best Karma-focused story that I've ever read.)

Anyway, it is looking like Northstar and Kyle will be facing a much more mundane threat in coming months: U.S. Immigration officials. That's right. While his other half was fighting crime, Kyle was getting visited by agents from I.C.E. who seem particularly interested in Northstar's immigration status. Check this out:

I'm not sure why the I.C.E. agents are focused so much on Jean-Paul (AKA Northstar). I mean, there is a school-full of international mutants in upstate New York -- one who was just whisked into the States from Brazil just earlier this month. My point is that Jean-Paul is an international professional athlete and a teacher. It's unlikely that he's able to work professionally in the States without some sort of work visa.

But this story is going to explore the negative effects of the United States' Defense of Marriage Act on bi-national LGBT couples. Married heterosexual American citizens can sponsor the federal government to keep their international spouses in the States. But federal DOMA doesn't recognize our marriages, which causes bi-national LGBT couples risk of involuntary separation.

At least with Jean-Paul and Kyle, they can always relocate to Quebec if Northstar gets the boot. I'm sure Alpha Flight would welcome him back, husband and all.

I'll keep readers updated as this new storyline develops.

U.S. Military Recruitment Goals Being Met One Year After "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Repeal

Don't Ask, Don't Tell officially got repealed effective September 20, 2011. It took way too long for that discriminatory anti-gay military policy to get repealed, resulting in the unnecessary career deaths of too many American gay, lesbian, and bisexual officers and soldiers. Since its repeal, we have heard several Republican political candidates argue in favor of DADT's reimplementation, despite the fact that there has been next to zero negative effects from last year's repeal.

One of the arguments against repealing DADT was the idea that the military would be unable to recruit new service members. However, according to new information released by the Department of Defense, that argument holds no water:
All four active-duty services and five of the six reserve components met or exceeded their recruiting goals for fiscal 2012, officials announced today. The Army Reserve shortfall was the result of precision recruiting, which was implemented in an effort to rebalance the force.
According to date provided by the DOD, all four active-duty services (Air Force, Army, Marine Corp, and Navy) met between 100-104% of their fiscal year 2012 recruit goals. Plus, all five reserve services (Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard; Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Marine Corp Reserve, and Navy Reserve) met their fiscal year 2012 recruit goals by 97-115%. The Army Reserve was the only one of these ten military programs that failed to make it to 100% (barely).

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Doe and Fawns Got Freaked Earlier Today While Shopping at Kohl's in Coralville // Updated to Include Video Footage

(Originally written on 11/19/12): A doe and her two baby fawns wanted (according to the Gazette) early access to the Black Friday sales at the Coralville Kohl's, but freaked out when they discovered that the store isn't deer-accessible:
A doe and her two fawns tried to get a jump on the Black Friday sales in Coralville on Monday morning when they surprised the staff at Kohl’s by entering through the automatic front doors. The deer triggered the automatic doors at the front of the store at 2795 Commerce Drive about 9 a.m., and they entered together. The doe proceeded into the store, but her fawns got stuck in the vestibule area, said Coralville police Chief Barry Bedford. “Mom then freaked out and ran to the back of the store, at which time employees opened up all the doors,” according to Bedford. Employees helped the fawns out the front doors, and they reunited with the doe outside, Bedford said... No damage was reported in any part of the store. “It was a little excitement prior to the big shopping day,” Bedford said. An employee who didn’t want to be named told The Gazette that “about 30 associates” worked to corral the deer out.
The angry mama deer and her two fawns were reportedly quite upset after getting chased from the store by over two dozen Kohl's employees and have vowed to personally boycott the retailer for the foreseeable future.

Updated on 11/25/12: While traveling, I came across video footage of the deer entering the Kohl's in nearby Coralville, IA. You can watch the clip here:

For the record, this doe and his two fawns are still quite angry with the Kohl's staff for ejecting them from the business.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The State of Gay Marriage Throughout the World -- 2012

Here is a really cool graphic demonstrating where in the world gay and lesbian couples can get married, where we have civil unions, where our marriages are prohibited, and where homosexuality itself is criminalized. The linked article offers some perspective behind the map. Check it out:

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! Whether it's turkey or cat food, I hope you enjoy your feast today!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

4th Charge Filed Against Deputy County Clerk in Iowa Gay Marriage Scam

Remember last month when I wrote about the arrest of Grundy County Deputy Clerk of Court Brigette Van Nice who was charged with two counts of forgery and one count of perjury involving her role in an alleged fraudulent marriage licenses involving a gay male couples from Florida? The two men from Florida wanted to get married, but didn't want to actually physically come to Iowa. Van Nice allegedly told the men that she would take care of things for $150 and issued a bad license. In the meantime, she told her bosses that she met the men at a Waterloo truck stopped and officiated their license.

(For the record, Iowa requires that you actually come to this state to apply for a marriage license. Not only that, but there is a three-day wait period to process the license -- unless it gets waived by a judge.)

Now the AP is reporting that Van Nice has been charged with a fourth criminal charge in connection to this case. She has now been charged with one count of "tampering with records".

Van Nice reportedly plans to file a written plea of not guilty.

Monday, November 19, 2012

ADF Wants Christian Clerks to Refuse to Issue Marriage Licenses to Same-Sex Couples

Remember how earlier this month voters affirmed legal marriage protections for same-sex couples in Maryland, Maine, Washington? Now Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly known as the Alliance Defense Fund) is reminding municipal clerks in those three states that they do not have to issue those marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Instead, the ADF says that clerks should pass off their job duties to underlings who lack their religious objections:
Three new legal memos advise municipal clerks in Maine, county clerks in Maryland and county auditors in Washington that provisions in state law allow them to delegate responsibility for issuing the licenses to deputies or assistants who don’t have conscience-based objections to issuing the licenses to same-sex applicants. “No American should be forced to give up a constitutionally protected freedom, nor should any American be forced to give up his or her job to maintain that freedom,” said ADF Senior Counsel Austin R. Nimocks. “Religious freedom is paramount to every American, including those issuing marriage licenses. They can perform their job without violating their conscience.”
This story comes from CharismaNews, which appears to be an online Christian news site. All this is to say that -- as of this moment -- all of the comments following that article are urging the very marriage license clerks to do their jobs. One person questioned whether this type of discriminating clerk exercised their right to religious choice by refusing to issue marriage licenses to Pagans or Muslims. Another person noted that these clerks are not vouching for the moral merits of their state's gay marriages. They are just reviewing the paperwork to ensure that each couple meets the legal requirements to actually receive a license.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Jesus In a Tree

Dean Hansen of Lehi, UT, and his uncle Lee Taylor were cutting tent posts and firewood when they noticed the image of Baby Jesus being cradled by his mother Mary etched within the pine wood. It's kind of cool.

Check this out:

Saturday, November 17, 2012

By the Numbers: Same-Sex Marriage in Iowa -- 2011

I read a lengthy piece in the Iowa City Press-Citizen earlier this afternoon discussing the current state of marriage equality in Iowa. Here is the gist: Iowa's Republicans still want to get rid of Iowa's gay marriages, but not as badly as they did a few years ago. Iowa's Democrats continue to insulate Iowa's gay married families from Iowa's legislative Republicans. And Iowa's gay families increasingly feel supported by our friends, family members, and neighbors.

The article ended with an interesting graph breaking down the percentages of same-sex marriages in Iowa by county during 2011. It should be noted that Johnson County's Recorder Kim Painter believes that this official list is actually lower than the actual number of same-sex marriages, because marking gender on a marriage license is now options and many people tend to leave that spot blank on their marriage license applications.

One might think that liberal Johnson County had the highest numbers of gay marriages last year. But that's not how the numbers bore out. Here is the tally:

Polk County -- 328 marriage -- 25.2%
Scott County -- 154 marriages -- 11.8%
Pottawattamie County -- 123 marriages -- 9.4%
Johnson County -- 106 marriages -- 8.1%
Dubuque County -- 72 marriages -- 5.5%
All Other Iowa Counties -- 519 marriages -- 39.9%

In related news, Iowa's Senate Republicans now have a new minority leader: Bill Dix of Shell Rock, IA. Among Dix's legislative goals during the coming year? His goal is to tackle and eliminate Iowa's gay marriages, despite the fact that Iowa's Senate majority leader Mike Gronstal has no intention of addressing either issue on the Senate floor:
Dix also made it clear that if Republicans find a way to get a statewide vote to ban same-sex marriage or advance abortion restrictions, they’ll pursue it. “There are a number of members of the Senate Republican Caucus who continue to hold expectations that we can find ways to protect the life of the unborn and give people the opportunity vote on marriage,” Dix said.
One has to wonder what they will say about Iowa's gays and lesbians to justify amending our state constitution to eliminate our marriages. We have been marrying in this state for nearly four years. Outside of a handful of problems -- including one fraudulent gay marriage license and a handful of arguments between gay grooms, lesbian brides, and anti-gay business owners -- none of the typical slippery-slope incidents have occurred. Kids aren't being taught about gay sex. Pastors aren't being arrested from the pulpit. Churches aren't being forced to officiate at gay weddings. Nothing. Which doesn't mean that they won't try defaming us. It just will be easily apparent for Iowans to realize how far fear resides from reality.

Friday, November 16, 2012

"The Cross in the Closet": A Prelude // Updated: "The Cross in the Closet": A Review

(Originally written on 10/28/12): It's been a really busy weekend, which has negatively affected my ability to update the blog. I thought I would post a clip featuring Timothy Kurek and his new book "The Cross in the Closet". I have heard a few interviews about this man, his year-long project to come out to everyone and pose as a gay man, and the book that resulted from this project. I have mixed thoughts on the concept, though I feel better about everything since listening to a couple different interviews with Mr. Kurek. I will be reading Kurek's book during the next couple weeks and plan on posting my reactions here. In the meantime, check out the following clip and feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions in the comments section:


Updated on 11/16/12: I finally got around to reading Timothy Kurek's new book "The Cross in the Closet" earlier this week. It was an okay book. But I think I got caught up in the promotional hype surrounding this book and its premise -- the idea of a straight Christian coming out to everyone in his life and living the next year of his life posing as a gay man.

Here was my biggest problem with the book -- I couldn't buy the premise. I just re-read the part where Kurek decides to come out of the closet as a gay man (and in the process go into the closet as a straight man). A karaoke friend tells him that her parents have disowned her because she's a lesbian. She's crying her heart out and he's internally debating how to proselytize to her. She leaves before he gets a chance to tell her to turn or burn, but the conversation begins a reflective moment where Kurek realizes that he would've been a big jerk by responding in that manner.

It's at this moment that Kurek decides that he needs to walk a mile (or a calendar year) in his lesbian friend's shoes and play gay. He will come out to his friends, his family, his church pastor, everyone as a gay man so that he can better understand the struggles that gay people go through.

I've re-read that section of the book a few times and I honestly still don't see how he makes the leap from feeling bad for his lesbian friend and pretending to assume a gay identity.

Regardless, the book goes through his year of gay identity. Only a handful of people know his secret: a straight friend and his wife who provide occasional spurts of encouragement; an aunt who provides inside information about how the family is processing Kurek's coming out (I learned this from a radio interview -- I don't recall actually reading about this in the book); a gay acquaintance who poses as Kurek's boyfriend and helps him learn how to socially interact with gay men; Mel White of Soulforce; Jay Bakker of Revolution Church; and a apparently a few other people from other communities. Otherwise, everyone else thinks that Kurek is actually gay, including is parents, his brother, his sister-in-law, and his pastor.

The purpose of this experience -- outside of developing empathy -- is to help Kurek and his future readers learn about the life of a gay man. This is what I learned about being gay through Kurek's filter. I learned that being gay means hanging out at bars and coffee shops on a nearly nightly basis; developing borderline alcoholic habits; flirting, hugging, and kissing any and all gay friends; and occasionally going to protests or support groups. At least, Kurek joined a gay softball league during his gay summer (recruited one night while he was hanging out at the bar). Otherwise, I'm not sure he'd have seen any gay person or family outside of a dance club or Soulforce vigil.

I'm not saying that there aren't gay people who don't lead their lives like Tim did and maybe that's how Timothy Kurek the Gay Man would have actually lived his life. But, considering that I imagine that this book reaches out to Christian audiences more than gay audiences, I worry about what Kurek is subtley communicating to straight Christian readers about gay people with this book.

I'm also surprised how almost none of his new gay friends were upset his Kurek following his year-long deception, based off the descriptions within the book. His family was livid when they found out about being duped. Those reactions felt real.

The reactions of his gay friends didn't. They responded with statements like "We are all liars here... How is your lie any different?" or "Thank you!... You cared so much that you'd make such a mess of your life, just to understand" or "I have never in my life felt so loved by a straight Christian... You are going to be a force of love and grace for this community." I have a hard time imagining that his new gay (and sometime closeted) friends would consistently thank him for having a huge heart after spilling their secrets to him under false pretenses for twelve months. It doesn't make sense.

The last thing that really bugged me about this book were the numerous editing errors. Words would be forgotten or obviously phonetically misspelled. Phrases would halted mid-sentence. And one poor guy's name kept switching from Ben to Lance and then back to Ben. This last example happened twice in the book: once when he was introduced and then towards the end of the book when Kurek came out as straight to all of his gay friends. I understand editing mess-ups. I live for them here on this blog. Then again, this is a hobby blog. I don't get paid for it and I don't have an editor.

I apologize if I'm overly negative with this review and I certainly encourage (as always) anyone to share their positive reaction to Kurek's book and his experiment. A few of my online Christian gay friends read the book and came away with much more positive reactions to Timothy Kurek's book.

One online friend found this to be an inspiring project. He believes that this was the only way that Kurek could learn to positively relate to gay people and he thought the book was a great way for Kurek to share the emotional roller-coaster that he experienced. He told me that he supports Kurek and "The Cross in the Closet" 100%.

Another online friend found Kurek "to be sincere in his desire to confront and remove the hatred in his heart and grow as a Christian." He believes that this book is a "must-read" for Christians, LGBTs, and LGBT Christians who find themselves struggling with our current culture war. (This guy also found himself distracted by the spelling and grammatical errors, but not as badly as me.)

Have you read "The Cross in the Closet"? What was your reaction to it? And even if you haven't read the book, what do you think about Kurek's yearlong project with the gay community?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Catholic Church Denies Confirmation to Teen//Communion to Entire Family Over Pro-Gay Marriage Facebook Post

Behold the story of a priest who decided to punish a 17-year-old boy and his family over a pro-marriage equality Facebook post. The boy is Lennon Cihak of Barnesville, MN. He has been working all year with his local Catholic Church -- Assumption Church -- to get confirmed within his church. During the past election cycle when Minnesota was grappling with a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay and lesbian couples from marrying and the state from recognizing the legal marriages of existing gay marriages, Cihak posted a picture of himself holding the attached sign opposing the constitutional amendment. Several of his friends -- including several of his fellow confirmands clicked that they "liked" that Facebook post. Cihak ended up getting punished for the pro-marriage equality image. His friends did not.

The Rev. Gary LaMoine discovered the Facebook post and has decided to punish Cihak. Cihak will not be confirmed at his church. Not only that, but he and his family are being banned from participating in communion. Presumably, they will also be banned from any and all other Catholic sacraments because of their son's Facebook post.

Understandably, the family is not pleased:
Still, Doug insists he’s not mad at LaMoine, calling him just a “messenger” of the church. The same could not be said for his wife, who said she doesn’t plan on returning to the church ever again, her son nodding in agreement. “You should be able to go to a church for support, help,” Lennon said. “He pushed me away.”

Shana said she contacted Bishop Michael Hoeppner of the Catholic Diocese in Crookston to see what her options were to appeal, but Hoeppner said not much could be done. A more formal appeal could still be filed, she said...

But through it all, Lennon said his faith hasn’t faltered. “I don’t want the church to be put down. I don’t want the Catholic religion to be put down,” he said. “It’s just the way the priest has things running. He’s so strict. He won’t loosen up about things.”
As far as I'm aware, Cihak is not advocating that the Catholic rites of marriage be broadened to include gay and lesbian couples. He just opposed the idea that the state of Minnesota amend its constitution to ban gay and lesbian couples from the legal rights of marriage. Keep in mind that in the eyes of the Catholic Church, the legal marriage of me and my husband is no more valid than the marriage of my Methodist parents or siblings. But the Church isn't trying to legally void my family members' marriages, nor are they seeking to punish Catholics who choose to respect the legal marriages of non-Catholics.

But this entire family has been cast out by the Church because their minor son sought to respect the potential marriages of gay and lesbian couples who someday might try to get legally married in that state. Who will step forward to mend this relationship? What is more important ultimately for this religious leader? Will he eventually reach out to reconcile with this family of Catholics? Or will he cast them out permanently in an effort to cow the rest of church's flock?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Nero at Daycare -- 11/13/12

It was another fun day for our poodle at the doggy daycare earlier today. Not only did he get to run around and burn off a lot of energy, but he received a free rawhide treat afterwords! Check it out:

Monday, November 12, 2012

Mount Vernon, IA, Passed Urban Chickens!

I have been fascinated with the developing trend of Iowa communities that pass ordinances allowing the ownership of chickens within city limits. Iowa City has been fighting this (up until recently) for nearly four years. Meanwhile communities like Cedar Rapids, Palo, and Hills have allowed them and Des Moines already allowed them. Now we have another chicken-friendly community in Iowa: Mount Vernon!

According to this Gazette article, Mount Vernon's City Council passed an ordinance last month that allows his residents to raise up to six chickens within city limits. Apparently, it's part of the city's process of become a "Blue Zone" community.

Up to 23 residents have already expressed interest in keeping chickens. Urban chicken farmers need to pay an annual $10 permit fee (presumably per chicken) and they are prohibited from owning roosters in town.

Gay Marriage in the USA: Post 2012 Election

One of the more popular searches that have led people to this website asks where same-sex marriage is legal here in the United States following last week's 2012 election. Since earlier Marriage Equality Maps predate the election, I thought it would be good to post updated material. I found the following map on the Box Turtle Bulletin. This map will go into effective on January 2013. Check it out:

Here is how you read the map. The Green States (Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington D.C., and Washington State) are marriage equality states. The Blue States (California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island) offer domestic partnerships or civil unions that offer gay and lesbian couples all or most of the rights of marriage. The Orange States (Colorado and Wisconsin) offer limited rights to registered same-sex couples. And the White States don't offer any statewide rights, restrictions or protections for same-sex couples.

The National Conference of State Legislatures has its own updated Marriage Equality Map that agrees with the Box Turtle Bulletin map, with the exception of Colorado. Check it out:

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Congressman Steve King Not Optimistic About Gay Marriage's Repeal

Congressman Steve King was interviewed earlier this week following his U.S. House re-election victory. The topic of marriage equality came up and Representative King revealed that he's not terribly optimistic about successfully fighting against the expansion of marriage rights and responsibilities for America's gay and lesbian couples:
On Tuesday voters in Maine, Maryland and Minnesota all voted to support same-sex marriage and an Iowa Supreme Court justice who participated in the 2009 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in Iowa was retained. King says that likely means same-sex marriage is here to stay. “That’s, I think, the kind of prediction that we can expect from looking at these results around the country,” King says.

Here in Iowa, there’s not going to be a vote on it that I can see and if that’s the case and another two years go by, I would never say never…but it doesn’t look very optimistic for people who believe in traditional marriage as I do.”

King supports the “Defense of Marriage Act” — a 1996 federal law that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. King says he’s not sure that law would be upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. “Justice Roberts has delivered us a decision on ObamaCare that will forever cause us to wonder and speculate as to how he might come down,” King says, “and he right now is the swing vote on the Supreme Court."

Friday, November 9, 2012

Same-Sex Smoochies in This Week's Comics

I'm slowly making my way through this week's comic book haul and discovered some teenage love of the same-sex variety brewing over in AVENGERS ACADEMY #39, which also happens to be the final issue of this comic book series. (And before we start thinking that it's nothing from gay lust in this book, readers are also treated to romance by most of the kids in this book, including Hazmat & Mettle and Reptil & White Tiger.)

But there's lots of same-sex smoochies in this issue, starting with super-celeb Striker, who got roped into a prom date with another gay teen by his publicist. Striker apparently made one of those "It Gets Better" videos, which inspired this lonely and isolated kid to come out and now he wanted Striker to take him to his prom. What starts off as awkward, quickly leads to gentle kisses (as seen below). It's implied that the date goes well for both boys:

In the midst of this, we catch a glimpse of one of Striker's fellow Junior Avengers flipping around in the sky with her new girlfriend. I'm talking about Lightspeed (AKA Julie Power formerly of the Power Pack) and her girlfriend Karolina Dean of the Runaways. They are a cute couple who haven't gotten much time to let her relationship build up too much in this title due to its impending cancellation, which is a shame. I hope their relationship isn't forgotten too quickly post-Academy:

I'm going to chalk this last one up to subtle gaydar. LIFE WITH ARCHIE #24 features one of those uber-subtle comic book moments where the gay readers say look at that and most of the rest accuse us of creating something from nothing. This issue features the launch of Archie's and Jughead's new nightclub. To help create opening night buzz, they reunite the Archies and they bring Josie and the Pussycats back to Riverdale. Keep in mind that the Pussycats are world famous, so their performance at the new club is a hit.

But check out Josie and Valerie in the panel below. I know that I will be accused of inventing something from nothing, but that ain't nothing. I'm curious to see if this particular romantic connection will be touched on in the future:

Iowa City Council to Vote on Urban Chickens Very Soon

It has taken nearly four years, but Iowa City is finally opening itself up to urban chicken farming within city limits! I have heard fears expressed about filth, odor, and disease, but that hasn't been the general experience of nearby chicken-friendly communities such as Cedar Rapids. The Gazette reported today on two zoning issues that are being hashed out by the current City Council, both of which related to urban chicken farming:
Two items related to backyard chickens are on the City Council’s agenda for Tuesday. One is an amendment to the zoning code, which the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously recommended last month. Another ordinance would establish the permit process.

A resolution adopting a policy laying out the regulations would go before the council if the permit ordinance gets to a third reading, tentatively scheduled for Dec. 4.

Towns across the nation and in Iowa, including Cedar Rapids, allow backyard chickens. Supporters say it’s an environmentally friendly way to get eggs and saves money on grocery bills.
City Manager Tom Markus was quoted in the Iowa City Press-Citizen yesterday saying that the first zoning amendment (regulating the uses and buildings to allow for the keeping of chickens) needs to be approved before the second one (regulating the specific rules related to keeping a chicken in Iowa City) can be considered.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

"Justice Not Politics Action" Responds to Justice Wiggins' Successful Judicial Retention Victory

I gladly reported earlier this week that Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins successfully won his retention vote 54.52%-45.48% despite being targeted by Iowans for Freedom and their various non-Iowan members. They wanted to punish Justice Wiggins for his involvement in the unanimous Varnum v. Brien court decision that struck down Iowa's DOMA law and paved the way for gay and lesbian couples to get legally married in this state.

Bob Vander Plaats teamed up with the National Organization for Marriage and a few other non-Iowa groups back in 2010 to successfully oust three other Iowa Supreme Court justices. Unfortunately, people didn't take BVP seriously back in 2010. Fortunately, they didn't take him for granted this election. This time around, Justice Not Politics and the Iowa State Bar Association both led the charge for Justice Wiggins and the the integrity of Iowa's judiciary. And their efforts won out!

I received the following e-mail today from Justice Not Politics Action President and former Iowa Lt. Governor, Sally Pederson, expressing gratitude to Iowa's voters for Tuesday's successful retention votes:
This is a proud and historic day for our state. Iowa voters said Yes to keeping politics out of our courts. Iowa voters said Yes to a Supreme Court that follows the law and safeguards the constitutional rights of all Iowans. Together, we said Yes to the values of fairness and equality that Iowa holds dear.

First, I want to thank our supporters for the contributions of both time and money. Tens of thousands of Iowans participated in this campaign helping spread our message, both online and offline, to keep politics out of our courts.

The results of this election send a message across this state, and across the country, that brave and principled judges can and will be protected by the people they serve. Iowans from all political leanings have come together to reject attempts to bully and intimidate judges. Today our state stands tall as a leader in the fight to keep our nation’s courts fair and free from politics.

The retention of Justice Wiggins and all Iowa judges represents a turning point in the movement to protect Iowa’s fair and impartial courts, a movement we’ve been building since 2010. Former Iowa Lt. Gov. Joy Corning and I joined with the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, the Iowa Association for Justice and One Iowa to form Justice Not Politics, and we’ve come a long way in just two years.

As an educational organization, Justice Not Politics has built a strong base of support around keeping politics out of our courts. But as extremist groups launched another attack campaign against our courts this summer it became evident that more was needed to protect Iowa judges.It became obvious that a “Vote Yes” campaign was needed. In September, I joined with the Iowa Association for Justice and Scott Brennan (a Des Moines attorney and leader in the Iowa legal and political communities) to form Justice Not Politics Action and strengthen our impact.

Over the last several weeks, Justice Not Politics Action has run an aggressive, but entirely positive, campaign aimed at reminding supportive Iowans to turn the ballot over and vote Yes for all Iowa judges. We worked closely with allies like the Iowa State Bar Association and Progress Iowa to get our message out - their efforts were a big piece of this victory. Thank you to the hundreds of donors and tens of thousands of followers that made this successful campaign a reality. Through direct mail, phone banking and the hard work of our supporters and volunteers, we delivered a positive pro-courts message to hundreds of thousands of voters leading up to Election Day and it paid off.

The campaign to protect our courts will continue, and Justice Not Politics is committed to that effort. We can only hope that the political extremists who have attacked Iowa judges for over two years have heard the message of this election loud and clear. The people of Iowa have spoken, and they sided with justice, not politics.
And from myself: Thank you very much for everyone who voted to support Iowa's judges and justices and from resisting the efforts by out-of-state influences to politicize our judicial system.

Nero at Daycare -- 11/08/12

It was a brisk yet beautiful day -- just perfect for a pack of dogs looking to run around and play and burn of excess energy. Nero was no exception. Look at the smile on that poodle. Check it out:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

NOM Responds to Yesterday's Equal Marriage Victories

It's pretty much official. There were four gay marriage voter ballot elections. One legalized same-sex marriage in Maine. Two others affirmed same-sex marriage in Maryland and Washington. And a fourth defeated a proposed constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage recognition in Minnesota. On top of that, Iowa voters retained Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins despite the best efforts of Bob Vander Plaats, Iowans for Freedom, and the National Organization for Marriage. It was probably the best ever electoral win for gay and lesbian families here in the United States.

It seems only fitting to share the responses of NOM's various spokespeople, starting with Maggie Gallagher:
The Obama electorate defeated marriage. I’m guessing we lose at least three of tonight’s four races, and maybe four of the four. We were outspent eight-to-one — and no one was willing to speak for marriage, while the whole Democratic establishment and Hollywood campaigned for marriage. Last night really is a big loss, no way to spin it.
Anyone else find that bolded bit interesting? Maggie admitted that the Democratic establishment and Hollywood were campaign "for marriage" -- not against traditional marriage or for gay marriage. She virtually admitted that we have been fighting for marriage with these marriage equality efforts.

And then there was Brian Brown's reaction to last night's elections:
Obviously we are very disappointed in losing four tough election battles by narrow margins. We knew long ago that we faced a difficult political landscape with the four marriage battles occurring in four of the deepest-blue states in America. As our opponents built a huge financial advantage, the odds became even steeper. We ran strong campaigns and nearly prevailed in a very difficult environment, significantly out-performing the GOP ticket in every state.

Despite the fact that NOM was able to contribute a record amount to the campaigns (over $5.5 million), we were still heavily outspent, by a margin of at least four-to-one. We were fighting the entirety of the political establishment in most of the states, including sitting governors in three of the states who campaigned heavily for gay marriage. Our opponents and some in the media will attempt to portray the election results as a changing point in how Americans view gay marriage, but that is not the case. Americans remain strongly in favor of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The election results reflect the political and funding advantages our opponents enjoyed in these very liberal states.

Though we are disappointed over these losses, we remain faithful to our mission and committed to the cause of preserving marriage as God designed it. Marriage is a true and just cause, and we will never abandon the field of battle just because we experienced a setback. There is much work to do, and we begin that process now.

Election 2012 Results!

The election is over and tons of people and PACs spent way too much money to pretty much maintain the status quo with regards to the federal goverment. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden won second terms, the Democratic Party maintained control of the Senate, and the Republican Party maintained control of the House of Representatives.

This is what really interested me:

It looks like Iowa maintains a split legislative system. It's not official, but it is looking like the Democratic Party maintains control of the Iowa Senate 26-23. There will have to be a special election for Pat Ward's seat (she just recently lost her battle with breast cancer), but the Dems managed to maintain a majority. Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal was re-elected and he's been the biggest buffer for keeping a constitutional amendment against gay families off of the docket, so that's really good.

It looks like the Republican Party will maintain control of the Iowa House, though they have lost some of their seats to Democratic challengers. One might think I'm upset about this, but I'm not. I've written before that I think it's good for Iowa's legislative branch to be split. It prevents either party from going too crazy and it forces both the House and the Senate to actually compromise towards saner bills.

Maine voters legalized same-sex marriage. Maryland voters affirmed same-sex marriage in that state. It's looking like Washington affirmed same-sex marriage in that state. And it's looking like Minnesota voters defeated a constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage in that state. This is huge. Groups like NOM always talk about how same-sex marriage never win when it's brought to the ballot. Until last night.

Lastly, Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins -- targeted by the ironically-named Iowans for Fredom consisting of the FAMiLY Leader from Iowa, National Organization for Marriage of New Jersey, of Illinois, and Citizen Link of Colorado because of his role in the unanimous Varnum v. Brien court decision that struck down the state's DOMA law -- won his retention vote 54.52%-45.48%. I saw a map of these results. Basically, the west half of the state voted against his retention and the east half of the state vote for his retention. But it's a good sign for Iowa's gay families that campaigns against us can indeed be defeated.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Nero at Daycare -- 11/06/12

It's been a cold and dreary election day today, but Nero still needed to burn off some excess energy at doggy daycare. Check it out:

Monday, November 5, 2012

Obama Wins! (... The Hamburg Inn's Coffee Bean Caucus)

The Hamburg Inn has become a mecca or sorts for politicians and political folks to make themselves known here in Iowa City. It's pretty much expected that any and all presidential candidates will stop by the Hamburg Inn at least once -- usually before the Iowa Caucus. Last January, Barack Obama and Michele Bachmann won first and second place, respectively, in the infamous 2012 Hamburg Inn Coffee Bean Caucus.

For whatever reason, I thought that the Coffee Bean Caucus ended its bean count right before the actual Iowa Caucus. But apparently there is a pre-election Coffee Bean Caucus at the Hamburg Inn for the last three years and this year's results are looking very good for the incumbent President Obama -- though I don't know if the Electoral College will count the results of this election! (Husband Mark assures me that they won't):
In the 2nd Congressional District caucus, Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, beat Republican opponent John Archer by a tally of 1,784 to 452. In the presidential caucus, Obama beat Romney, 6,001 to 1,741. Dudley said the most surprising tally he saw was for “vinegar.” He said votes cast for vinegar represented a none-of-the-above vote.
Tim Hagle, a UI associate professor of political science, said the caucus results should not be compared to the results of the actual election. “The results themselves aren’t all that valuable,” he said. “They aren’t much of an indicator.”  Hagle said while the specific votes may not be indicative of the presidential race, the coffee-bean caucus can be valuable in terms of gauging enthusiasm for the election.
Terry Dahms, head of the Johnson County Democrats, said Obama’s landslide victory in the caucuses is not remotely valuable in terms of the actual election.
Frankly, I would think that the Coffee Bean Caucus win would be a huge boon to the Johnson County Democrats, but I guess that's why I'm not a politician.

It's too late for you to vote in the Coffee Bean Caucus, but hopefully you have either voted early or plan to vote in tomorrow's election. Your vote is needed not only for the presidential race, but also the federal and state Congressional and Senate elections, as well as various other local campaigns. Your vote is your voice. Don't waste it.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Too Funny!

OMG... I saw this on my Twitter feed this morning and I cannot stop laughing! Check this out:

Saturday, November 3, 2012

New "Des Moines Register" Poll Supports Justice David Wiggins

A new Des Moines Register Iowa Poll indicates that 38% of voters plan to vote to retain Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins in next week's election. 34% say they will vote to remove Justice Wiggins, an additional 22% are still unsure how they will vote, and an additional 6% do not plan to vote on that particular ballot issue. Justice Wiggins needs to secure 50% of the votes in order to retain his spot within the Iowa Supreme Court.

I voted to retain Justice Wiggins and strongly encourage you to vote to retain him also. Don't let out-of-state interests politicize and destroy Iowa's judiciary.

Tim Tebow Trademarks "Tebowing"

I'm a little bit slow with this development, but just learned that Tim Tebow of the New York Jets just trademarked the act of "Tebowing". Tebowing is when you go down on one knee and hold your fist against your forehead in prayer:
Tebow said Friday he wasn't aware the trademark was official. "I know it was something that was cool for me in the past, but it's not something I do as Tebowing,' " Tebow said, via "It's something I do that's prayer for me, and then it got hyped up as Tebowing. So I think (it's) just to control how it's used, as well. Make sure it's used in the right way." Tebow, a devout Christian, said his representatives filed on his behalf not for financial gain, though Tebow said any money he might make on the move in the future would go to his charity, the Tim Tebow Foundation.
I'm sure he and his handlers think this is a cool move, but nobody ever accused Tebow of being right. I will curiously await future assertions of Tebow's new trademark.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Zombies Attack Students at Luther College in Decorah, IA!

I was checking out my Twitter feed earlier today and learned found a link to an exclusive Chips video news article talking about a week long zombie attack at Luther College in Decorah, IA. Of course, I'm upset that the undead hordes are once again trying to create an undead apocalypse. But this story hits close to home given my academic relationship to Luther. This is how the news article is described by Chips:
Chips videographer Bryce Kilker follows around some brain hungry students as they participate in Humans Versus Zombies at Luther College.
You can watch the news story here:

I'm hoping that this particular zombie plague eventually gets halted before it stretches beyond the borders of Winneshiek County. In the meantime, please keep the people of Luther College, Decorah, and its surrounding communities in your prayers!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

New "Hawkeye Poll" Suggests Justice Wiggins Will Survive Retention Vote in Iowa

Last week, I shared the results of a recent Public Policy Polling poll that indicated that on 37% of Iowans will vote to retain Justice David Wiggins at next week's election. He needs at least 50% of the vote to retain his spot on the Iowa Supreme Court.

However, earlier this evening I read the result of a new Hawkeye Poll -- which is conducted by University of Iowa researchers -- that shows 53% of Iowans plan to vote to retain Justice Wiggins, while 30% plan to vote against his retention. That's good.

However, it was also noted that there are still lots of undecided voters in this particular election, which might not bode well for Justice Wiggins. Also, this poll has a margin of error of 5.6%, which means that he still might not receive enough votes to survive this election.

I voted to retain Justice Wiggins and strongly encourage you to vote to retain him also. Don't let out-of-state interests politicize and destroy Iowa's judiciary.

Why Is It Important to Flip Your Ballot and Vote Yes to Retain Iowa's Judges and Justices?

The Iowa State Bar Association has released a video Judicial Retention Guide. Its goal is to educate Iowans about Iowa's judicial retention system. It's a little over five minutes long and well worth watching. Check it out:

I voted to retain Justice Wiggins and strongly encourage you to vote to retain him also. Don't let out-of-state interests politicize and destroy Iowa's judiciary.

All Sarah Crank Wants for her 14th Birthday is the Destruction of My Family and Others Like It // UPDATE: Sarah Crank's Story of Cyber-Bullying Being Used To Denounce Gay Families

(Originally written on 01/31/12): Maryland's Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee has been listening to testimony this week about a pending marriage equality bill. Lots of people from the public came to speak before the committee, including one teen named Sarah Crank:
Today is my 14th birthday and it would be the best birthday present ever if you would vote no on gay marriage. I really feel bad for the kids who have two parents of the same gender. Even though some kids think it's fine, they have no idea what kind of wonderful experiences they miss out on. I don't want more kids to get confused about what's right and okay. I really don't want to grow up in a world where marriage isn't such a special thing anymore.

It's rather scary to think that when I grow up the legislature or the court can change the definition of any word they want. If they could change the definition of marriage then they could change the definition of any word. People have the choice to be gay, but I don't want to be affected by their choice. People say that they were born that way, but I've met really nice adults who did change.

I guess it is pretty scary when people change the definition of something (like "school") and alter it's original message into something else (like "home school"). It's essentially the same thing, but it's kind of different from the original intent. And yet people adjust and adapt and make it work, even though other people who have nothing to do with the newer definition (like non-home schoolers) feel bad for those who experience that amended definition (like home schoolers) because they don't get to share the same wonderful experiences that the majority of students get to experience.

Fortunately, most of us are willing to concede that there are pros and cons to traditional schooling and nontraditional home schooling and even the way nontraditional unschooling. Myself, I know lots of kids. Most have done traditional schooling, but I also know some home schoolers and unschoolers. Most of the kids have thrived. A few haven't.

It's too bad that people like the Cranks are unwilling to concede that marriages and families -- like schooling and home schooling -- aren't one-size-fits-all institutions. Just as there are many terrific traditional heterosexual married families, there are some pretty great gay and lesbian families who experience our fair share of wonderful experiences despite not fitting the traditional mold. Hopefully, through her education and life experiences, Sarah will eventually learn to appreciate the unique gifts that all families offer to Maryland and the broader country. Even those who don't completely fit the traditional definition of marriage.

Updated on 11/01/12: This particular blog article garnered a lot of attention and attracted a lot of comments. Now Sarah Crank's story is being used by the Family Research Council to advocate against gay families, proving once again that anonymous Internet threats rarely lead to any good:

The gist of the video is that Sarah really loves her family. She loves her mom and dad so much that she wants to make sure that kids like mine won't ever have married parents and that those of us gay and lesbian couples who are married should have our marriages involuntarily annulled. That's how much she loves her family.

Yes, I know that's snarky. I'm kind of sorry about that, but kind of not because it's my family at stake in these types of campaigns. Sarah's family will remain legally intact and protected no matter what happens next week in Maryland (or Minnesota or Washington or Maine). It's the families of gay people that are at risk.

I was accused of attacking Sarah by her mother back in February for posting the earlier portion of this post in response to her public political testimony. I thought I was being polite in my response to her testimony.

Sarah does not deserve to receive vulgar, abusive, or violent threats for her testimony. That type of Internet bullying needs to end -- not just for her but for the larger society as a whole. But my family and others like it also don't deserve to be voted against by people who have no clue about gay people or our families and who don't care about the ramifications of such votes.