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3 Feb
2017

One Week Later

I am in shock. My head is spinning. I am sick. I am terrified! As a life-long member of the “glass-half-full” club, I keep looking for an optimistic approach to all of the damage to our democracy. There must be a small streak of light behind these enormous dark clouds.

It has been a week!! The man, who shall not be named, along with his Cabinet nominees and the Republican Congressional leadership have taken collective unprecedented action. He and they have frozen, denounced, gagged, lied, censored, defunded, threatened, arrested, discriminated against and destroyed people and programs which serve the vulnerable, defend civil rights, protect our environment, safeguard our Constitutional freedoms, conduct investigative journalism and cooperate with long-time US allies.Dear Mr. President, a Week Later Jan 2017

Then I remember last Saturday. I felt a sense of unity, respect, courtesy, camaraderie, diversity, dedication, enthusiasm. The experience was uplifting and heartwarming…a bright light shining through the clouds. The numbers of cities and towns around the country and even around the world. The latest numbers are between 3.5 and 4.5 million marchers in the U.S. alone. It was a Women’s March. But it wasn’t just women. There were a high percentage of men, and children too,…people of all ages. It wasn’t just white. There were many hues of black, brown and tan. This march suggested, organized and led by women is an expanding streak of light in those dark clouds.

The energy we felt, that we needed to lift our spirits, to focus our resistance and to encourage our actions, is beginning to move us forward. The Women’s March on Washington is encouraging ten actions for the first 100 Days, beginning with sending postcards to our senators. In an effort to mobilize and change the majority in the House, Swing Left is asking us to get involved and organize in swing districts. Senator Warren and Congressman Cummings  of Maryland led an effort to get an audit of T’s finances by requesting emails be sent to the General Accounting Office. The GAO has reportedly responded stating they have accepted the request and will “conduct the work in the same non-partisan, fact-based approach we take with all Congressional requests.” I am sure there are many other efforts underway propelled by the energy that poured into the streets across the country.Women's March Jan 2017 NYC

That streak of light I was looking for is much bigger than I hoped. It is not just in reaction to “him” but he has been the spark that lit the fire that has brought us together in ways we haven’t seen in decades. Winston Churchill said that, “The United States is like a gigantic boiler. Once the fire is lit under it, there is no limit to the power it can generate.” The fire has been lit.  We must continue to add fuel to the flames. Let’s use the power of that fire to transform on our country to a more participatory, egalitarian democracy that provides opportunity, education, health care, choice, freedom, protects our environment and respects all of us regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, age or disability.

That vision may be a long way in the future, but it is the future I hope for my grandsons and their children. I am going to follow Robert Muller’s advice when he said, “Use every letter you write; every conversation you have; every meeting you attend, to express your fundamental beliefs and dreams. Affirm to others the vision of the world you want.”

I am going to take action, speak out, write, march, stay informed and continue to look for the expanding light to drive the dark clouds away and move toward my vision. What will you do?

(Originally written the week of January 23, 2017, after the Women’s March)

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17 Nov
2016

Hope is Like a Country Road

 

“She Made Him Vote for Hillary!”

The weekend before the election, my friend Barbara and I joined the other 1500 Californians in Reno, Nevada to canvass for Hillary for President and for Catherine Cortez Masto for Harry Reid’s seat in the Senate. Early voting had already captured many votes.  But we were charged with reminding those who hadn’t voted to go to the polls on Tuesday and vote Democratic. Canvassing is discouraging work because many people are not home or won’t answer their doorbells.

Walking on a country road

But we had some good conversations and one of the most memorable was a young man who drove up in his pick-up after I had left some literature at his door. He recognized us as canvassers, asked us to wait a moment while he rummaged in his truck. He emerged with his “I voted” sticker and proceeded to tell us his story. He was a registered Republican but he declared that Trump was too crazy to be our President, so he voted for Hillary. After we thanked him for voting, we encouraged him to tell his friends and family. He laughed and said, “My brother wasn’t going to vote, but my mom told him he had to vote she and made him vote for Hillary.” We shared a common belief in that light-hearted moment before we walked on to the next house.

We Believed His Language But We Did Not Take Him Seriously

I returned from Reno feeling cautiously optimistic. Even as I watched the returns Tuesday evening as the states in the eastern time zones were called for Trump, I continued to be hopeful. But as we all learned by Wednesday morning, my hope and optimism were totally wrong. As former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown mentioned in his column last Sunday, people who voted for Trump did not believe his incendiary language but they took him seriously. The rest of us who voted for Hillary believed his incendiary language but we did not take him seriously.

We now have to take him seriously. He will be the next President of the United States. Many like me are still in shock and disbelief with shattered hopes of seeing Madam President in the White House. I am fearful that the advances we have made for marriage equality will be lost, that the racism, misogyny and xenophobia which Trump gave permission to express will become commonplace, that divisiveness, hostility and attacks on those who are vulnerable and different will be accepted. In fact, I fear that anyone who doesn’t meet or support the standard of the traditional powerful white male will be under siege.

Wondering Where Hope Lies

quote Lin YutangFriends and family in other countries encouraged my spouse and I to consider leaving the US and move to Ireland or Canada. In addition, there are many calls to action from causes and individuals in my email and on social media. I personally am not ready to take action yet. I am still in the process of figuring it out, trying to understand those who believe so differently than I do, wondering where hope lies.

Although I don’t know yet what I will do, I am sure I need to stay here in this country. I will need to gather with other like-minded souls, to speak out, to take action, to take a stand.

I will eventually find hope.  This quote by Lin Yutang touched me. “Hope is like a road in the country:  there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence.”

I am beginning to walk the road. Will you join me?

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30 Aug
2016

Choosing to Leave a Legacy

Legacy

(Copyright free photo from Stocksnap.io)

Do you wish you knew more about your grandparents or the generations before them? What do you know about the history of your ancestors? What is their legacy for you?

I have felt regret and wished I had asked more questions, solicited more stories and learned more about the lives of my parents, grandparents and the ancestors before them. That wish has led me to search for the story behind my mysterious grandfather, uncover the rumored family secrets and capture the story of my paternal grandparents’ lives in fictionalized form.

The story title “Sarah’s Secret: A Western Tale of Betrayal and Forgiveness” is a legacy I want to leave for my daughter, grandsons and extended family. In addition, time with my grandsons, sharing family stories and taking them on adventures is a legacy, too. I hope they remember time spent with Grandma for future guidance and reminiscing.

I learned a few years ago legacy is not necessarily limited to the personal memories others have of us when we die but that we can leave an intentional legacy designed before the end of our lives to support future generations. I updated, as a second edition, a professional book which was a concrete and practical way of providing guidance to future young professionals. It also provided me a way of reflecting on my own years of experience as a consultant, capturing my learning from both the successes and failures and offering some insight and perhaps wisdom based on that experience. That book has served as a professional legacy for my years as an organization and leadership consultant.

collage, Bev Scott Author

(Consulting on the Inside, photo copyright Amazon.com, http://amzn.to/2fBgkGN, used with permission; 3rd Act Logo copyright http://The3rdact.com, used with permission; Sarah’s Secret book cover copyright Beverly Scott, used with permission, http://bevscott.com)

Another intentional professional legacy I am leaving is “The 3rd Act” program I co-created and turned over to my business partner in 2014. As the bulging demographic of baby boomers now reaching 60 continues, they will be responding to the question that poet Mary Oliver asks, “Tell me, what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” In researching the work on positive aging for The 3rd Act, we found that investing ourselves in activities or causes outside ourselves, is one of the more significant contributions to healthy aging. Thus I hope The 3rd Act, as one of my legacies, supports the quest of coming mature generations for their intentional legacies.

And finally, there is a will, the document that many of us think of when we hear the term “legacy.” Somehow for me, this is the least significant component of my legacy. My material and financial resources bear little connection to the person I am, to the story inspired by the lives of my grandparents, the contribution I have made to learning, making the world a better place or raising a daughter and influencing her children. For now, I hope my novel, my professional books and articles, The 3rd Act and personal time spent with family and community organizations are all memorable legacies. And there may be more to come.

What is your legacy? Have you given thought to intentional creating your professional or personal legacy? What will you leave for your family and the generations that follow? What is your intentional legacy?

(An earlier version of this blog was posted in February 2014, and a longer version was published in “Seasonings: A Journal of Senior OD Practitioners,” Volume 7, Number 1, Winter 2010.)

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14 Jun
2016

In Honor of My Father

Henry Clay Scott

Henry Clay Scott, 2 years old

I share these memories of my father, Henry Clay Scott, who died almost 50 years ago.  I am also very aware of him and his life since I am writing a novel inspired by the lives of his parents and their children, “Trust, Betrayal and Forgiveness.”

A white-out blizzard roared on the prairie plunging the temperature to below zero.  Clay, as he was called, put the last piece of wood in the wood burning stove.  Although he was a young boy, he saw himself as “the man of the house”.  He prepared to bundle up to go to the barn to look for some other fuel to burn.

His mother, crippled from rheumatoid arthritis stopped him.  “I can’t let you go out in this storm.  With the white-out, you could get disoriented, lose your way and freeze to death.   Let’s wait and see if it lets up.”.

But the blizzard didn’t let up and the white-out thickened.  The temperature in their small two-room house dropped without any heat.  The outside temperature plummeted to an estimated thirty below zero and the wind howled and blustered through the cracks.  My father, his sister and mother were bundled in several layers of clothes and wrapped in blankets but it was not enough.

My grandmother came to a difficult decision.  She believed it was the only choice she had to save them all from freezing to death.  They burned her books to stay warm.  This must have been a painful decision for a woman who was a school teacher and highly valued education.

This is just one of the stories I heard about the sacrifice, deprivation and poverty that shadowed my father in his childhood.  Clay was the fourth son of Ellen and Harvey Depew (HD) Scott, born in 1907 in Dewey County, Oklahoma.  H.D. was thirty years older than Ellen and died in 1911 leaving her with five children including an infant girl born just months before.

Before his father died, Clay had rheumatic fever.  He had barely survived and was so weak he couldn’t stand or walk.  His older brothers doted on him and carried him everywhere.  Their fondness for my father was evident to me when I was growing up even though I knew nothing about this childhood experience.

The older brothers left home early to work and begin their own families.  My father and his younger sister worked too, scrimped and saved, and ultimately managed to get college educations.  My grandmother had given to my father her love of learning and belief in the value of education.  I knew when I was as young as four years old, that I too would go to college one day.  A nickel from my fifteen cent allowance was required to go into my college fund.

Henry Clay Scott

Henry Clay Scott, as a young man

My father was a terrific role model always reading and learning.  He saved articles for me to read, taught me the Latin names of plants when I was five and always answered my questions with another question or “What do you think?” He believed in respecting and accepting all people.  He taught me, “You don’t have to like what someone does, but you must respect who they are as a human being.”

Clay was frugal but not stingy.  He and my mother taught me to appreciate and be grateful for my life and to give back as generously as I could.  The poverty and sacrifice of his early life influenced his actions throughout his life.  He didn’t like waste.  He was sure to get the last drop, eat the last crust of bread or chew every shred of chicken off the bones.  He was friendly and humble with a delightful sense of humor.  He was very handsome with black wavy hair.  When he was courting my blond, blue-eyed mother, her friends called him the “dark prince.”

After I graduated from high school, he suffered from heart disease.  He sold his business and went back to school to get a Master’s degree to teach.  He died in 1967 at the young age of sixty. He was teaching college students to appreciate the amazing wonders of the natural world just as he did for me as a little girl.

His love and guidance will always be with me.  And, I miss him.   Happy Father’s Day!

What are your memories of your father? 

 

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Turning on Your Creative Brain

Our brain is complicated.  It is not as simple as right brain and left brain.  Neuroscience has studied what part of our brain lights up when we exercise our organizational/executive functions.

Ocean gaze, creativity

This author argues that we should pay attention to when it does not light up, for example when we daydream or relax.  For creative thinking, we need some time when we shut down our organization and executive thinking such as in the shower where many of us have experienced our most creative thinking.

As a writer, I am acutely aware of how important it is to turn off the chatter in my brain about dates, tasks and emails.  I find I do some of my most creative time is when I first wake up in the morning.  My mind is unfocused, unorganized and empty.

This article also offers some tips to help us be more creative in any work we are doing.  What are you doing to support your creativity?

Turning on Your Creative Brain

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Who Are Your Family Role Models and Inspiration?

In recognition of International Women’s Day, I honor my grandmothers and my aunts who have inspired me  and served as significant role models.

Who Are Your Family Role Models - 1

Years ago, one of my favorite aunts came for a visit when I was in my mid-thirties experiencing a low point in my life.  She gave a life-long gift by reminding me of the role models I had in the strong women in my family.  It was from them, I could always find inspiration and direction.

Both of my grandmothers had been school teachers.  My paternal grandmother, Ellen, also became a school superintendent.  Ellen was a great cheerleader and encouraged me to succeed in school, get good grades and go to college.  My maternal grandmother, Grace, was disappointed that she had to give up teaching school to become a farmer’s wife.  But she continued to read the Atlantic Monthly and other books and periodicals.  She wrote letters about what she read and shared her opinions about the news and politics in letters to her daughters.

My aunt pointed out that both Ellen and Grace had significant challenges in their lives: Grace, reluctantly left school teaching which she loved to manage her husband’s family farm which she resented.  She worked hard to survive the depression and the dust bowl.  Ellen was left a widow when her youngest of five children was a few months old.

Grandma ScottEllen, in particular has been an inspiration to me.  I am currently writing a fictionalized story of her life.  As a widow without a means of support, Ellen applied for widows benefits.  The Government Agent who came in April of 1912 to interview her in person, filed a sensitive descriptive report, (which I recovered from the National Archives).  She was living in a tent south of Thedford, Nebraska where she had filed a land claim.  He reports that

“she hopes to establish a home for herself and children; but it looks like a most hazardous undertaking as she is practically an invalid because of rheumatism (sic), and her children are undersized puny looking little fellows, and they are more than a mile from the nearest water….In their present desolate surroundings their condition is pitiable in the extreme.”

This was the occasion when she learned that her husband had a former wife and family.  The agent describes,

“until I informed her of the fact, claimant declares she had no knowledge of the existence of a former wife.  Her grief and tears where convincing of the truth.  She begged me not to tell anyone in her home neighborhood.”

This helps explain why no one in the family knew about a prior family.  Ellen shared no information about him with her children.  Despite her crippling rheumatoid arthritis, she pulled herself together; returned to teaching school; became a school superintendent; and raised her family.  See my blog series, “A Journey to Fiction” on my genealogical journey to learn about my paternal grandparents.

Both Grace and Ellen were also models of strength, resilience and accomplishment for their daughters.  All five of my aunts completed college educations at a time when the lack of financial resources and societies’ cultural norms were major deterrents. Yet, they were persistent and resourceful.  They found work to pay their way.  Between the first wave of feminism and the second, during my young adulthood, all these women had successful careers and raised a family.  They worked hard and overcame many obstacles.  To me they were pillars of strength and fortitude.  They were role models of how meet challenges and find a satisfying life.

These seven women have been my inspiration and my role models.  I honor and pay tribute to them on International Women’s Day.

Who are the women role models in your family?  How have they influenced and inspired you?   Are there other strong women who have served as role models and inspired you?

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18 Sep
2014

Confirmation of Our Plans for the Future

We were in the emergency room in the middle of the night. The admitting nurse told my spouse to stay in the waiting room as he motioned me into an examining room. I had awakened with my shoulder screaming in pain. When the pain was still severe a couple hours after taking mild over-the-counter pain medication, we decided to go to the ER at a nearby hospital.

The date for our move from our spacious Victorian flat to a modern condo complex was two weeks away. I had been focused for the last two months on organizing, downsizing, donating and packing. It was a daunting task to reduce thirty years of accumulated treasures, papers, books, furniture, and family mementoes sufficiently to fit into space that was half the size of our flat. I had been careful to pack into small size boxes and not lift anything too heavy. I didn’t think I had Moving in #2done any serious damage but why was my shoulder so painful?

“Who’s the woman with you?” I realized the nurse was speaking to me. “My spouse.” I replied. He quickly motioned to her to join us, realizing that married same-sex couples have the same hospital privileges as heterosexual married couples. Through the discussion with the nurse, the examination by the doctor and the report of the x-ray, we were treated with courtesy and respect as a couple. The doctor reported that I had overdone it…packed and moved too many boxes, carried items that were too heavy and repeated the motions of reaching and wrapping too many times. I had severe bursitis or tendonitis. My shoulder was immobilized and I left with prescriptions for a stronger painkiller and advice to see an orthopedist. Obviously this was not a major traumatic injury requiring hospitalization or surgery.

The experience was, however, enlightening and re-assuring. We were making this long planned move to smaller space with less maintenance, security, amenities and no stairs in preparation for our future. My spouse and I had both cared for and visited relatives who waited too long to move into space they could handle. Often they were forced to move by the realities of aging and illness and the pressure of adult children only to find themselves lonely in facilities they hated, suffering from the trauma and the loss of their home and without the comfort of familiar surroundings. Neither of us wanted that experience.

We wanted to move to a space we could take care of, feel secure to age in place and seek support as we needed it. We also wanted to live in our new space long enough to meet friends and establish community…a community of where we could both give and receive needed support in our aging lives. Having the support of “chosen family” and community is particularly important to those of us who came out as lesbian or gay Moving in #1many years ago and experienced the rejection and hostility of biological family. Research reveals that many LGBT seniors live isolated and alone or go back in the closet when they enter an assisted care or nursing facility. We were being proactive now to create opportunities to build “chosen family” to take care of ourselves in the future.

The nurse’s response in the ER, the final packing and experience of unpacking and getting settled in our new home, offered reassurance and highlighted the importance of the choices we had made. The nurse inviting my spouse to join me in the examining room demonstrated in a small but reassuring way the sea change of LGBT patient rights made possible through same sex marriage…having a loved one with us in the hospital. In the middle of the night, I could relax a little. I had an advocate, a second pair of ears and someone to provide comfort. More importantly, in the future when a hospitalization might be much more serious, we could be assured that we would be allowed to support, visit and comfort each other. In addition, with my injured shoulder limiting my mobility to pack and unpack, friends from our community stepped forward to help, demonstrating the value of building a community of supportive friends and chosen family who can step in to help when it’s needed in the future.

Originally published in The Transition Network Newsletter, July 15, 2014. www.thetransitionnetwork.org

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What Is Your Legacy?

I found myself in conversation with a friend discussing the second edition of a professional book released last year. I commented that updating the book had not been a part of my plan for my third act, but it was a professional legacy. That conversation started me thinking more about my legacy and how I might use my third act to create and define that legacy. I use the term “the third act” to refer to that time after we transition from building a career and/or growing a family (our second act) into an intentionally designed stage in our lives which brings us meaning and purpose, opportunity to engage in our passions, enjoy the everyday pleasures and a sense of appreciation for the learning and rewards of our lives.

LegacyIn the past, I have often thought of legacy as the remembrance of a person who has died, the personal and, perhaps, professional memories of has left us…what others remember. More recently, I have come to understand that we can leave an intentional legacy designed before the end of our lives. Thus, the idea that updating my book for a second edition, is an intentional legacy. It is a concrete and practical way of providing guidance to future young professionals. It also provides me a way of reflecting on my own experience, capturing my learning from both the successes and failures, and offering some insight and perhaps even some wisdom.

Since I have been thinking about my professional legacy, I realized that another professional legacy I am leaving is The 3rd Act program I have co-created. As the bulging demographic of the baby boomers now reaching 60 continues, they will be responding to the question that poet Mary Oliver asks, “Tell me, what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” In researching the work on positive aging for the 3rd Act, we found that investing ourselves in activities or causes outside ourselves, is one of the most significant contributions to healthy aging. Thus I hope The 3rd Act, as one of my legacies, supports the quest of coming mature generations.

Many who are focused on a family legacy put together family trees, document family stories and create family videos to leave for future generations. For me, at the personal level, time with my grandsons, sharing family stories and taking them on adventures is a legacy I hope they remember time with Grandma for future guidance and reminiscing. My next third act writing project is to write a historical novel based on the lives of my grandparents.

And finally, I will mention my will, the document that many of us think of when we hear the term legacy. Somehow for me, this is the least significant component of my legacy. My material and financial resources bear little connection to the person I am, the contribution I have made to learning, making the world a better place or raising a daughter and influencing her children. For now, I hope my professional book, The 3rd Act and my personal time spent with family and community organizations are all memorable legacies. And there may be more to come.

What is your legacy? Have you given thought to intentionally creating your professional or personal legacy? What will you leave for your family and the generations that follow? What is your third act action plan for your legacy?

(A longer version was published in “Seasonings: A Journal of Senior OD Practitioners”, Volume 7, Number 1, Winter 2010.)
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17 Sep
2013

I Have a Dream, Trayvon Martin and the Voting Rights Act

 

I Have A Dream - 1This month we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington and the Reverend Martin Luther King’s inspirational “I Have a Dream Speech.”   In that speech, Dr. King called for our country to meet the “promissory note” written in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence….the promise that all men are guaranteed inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  He reproached America for defaulting on that “promissory note”.  Yet he optimistically refused to believe that “the bank of justice” was bankrupt.  Fifty years later, we still have not fulfilled the promise.  Recent happenings emphasize that as a country we are still behind on our promise.  Is it any wonder that some worry that the “bank of justice” is bankrupt?

The verdict in the Trayvon Martin case brought forth healthy dialogue in the spirit that would make King proud.  It also, sadly brought forth vicious racist diatribe.  The jury in the case determined that according to Florida law, George Zimmerman did not murder Trayvon Martin.  Many in the white community argue that justice was served, agree with the verdict and don’t understand the angry reactions from the black community.   One of the reasons that many in the white community don’t understand is that as whites we haven’t lived our lives facing the suspicion of authorities that we are a punk, a criminal or involved with drugs. Yes, our hearts might race momentarily when we are pulled over by the police, anxious about getting a speeding

I Have A Dream - 2

ticket. But we do not live with the common experience of suspicion simply because of the color of our skin.  We are not stopped as we drive through our own middle class neighborhood as an excuse to search our cars for drugs, nor are we arrested and thrown in jail on the suspicion that we committed a burglary because we happen to be the same skin color as the burglar, nor are we roughed up, frisked or shot because we look like we don’t belong in the neighborhood.

 

As a college student in 1963, I remember listening to King’s speech and being inspired by his dream.  That inspiration led me as a young white woman to become an activist in support of civil rights, to work in the “War on Poverty” and to become involved in anti-racism education.  When I first heard King’s speech, I thought the problem was rooted in the South and in big urban areas.  I wanted to change the voting rights laws and remove “Whites Only” privileges.  I wanted to increase opportunity for the poor and disenfranchised.  But I learned from my experience that the problem was not only in discriminatory laws and practices but that the problem was also lodged inside me and each one of us who are complicit often in blissful unconsciousness of how our white privilege serves us.  It is the ignorance of what white privilege means that many of us in the white community don’t understand and it is the knowledge and experience of what white privilege means that angers the black community.   Because of white privilege, If Trayvon had been white, he would still be alive.

I wrote recently about the excitement and celebration for the Supreme Court decision striking down DOMA and allowing the lower court ruling against Proposition 8 in California to stand.  These decisions are great leaps forward in support of the civil rights of gays and lesbians.  Yet that same week, the Supreme Court delivered another decision which also highlights our current default on the “promissory note” of equality for all.  That decision I Have A Dream - 3struck at the heart of the 1965 Voting Rights Act allowing states with histories of voter discrimination to change election laws without federal approval.  Some states moved almost immediately to require voter identification and to begin re-districting as this Supreme Court decision allows without federal oversight on the potential impact of disenfranchisement.

The Court seems to believe that we are beyond discrimination at the ballot box almost fifty years later.  Do they believe the “promissory note” been paid off? The moves by these states demonstrate that it has not.  To counter the moves by these states to enact so called “anti-fraud” and other laws of potential disenfranchisement, civil rights leaders are now acting in defense.   They recently announced a campaign called “American Values First” which will fight for legislation and will offer templates to expand voting rights in all 50 states.

Dr. King said “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”  The arc is not complete.  We still must bend it toward justice when it veers off,  take a stand to pay off the “promissory note” of freedom and liberty and fulfill King’s dream, “that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”

 

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17 Aug
2013

Striking Down DOMA and Proposition Eight

Doma3The Supreme Court struck down DOMA, The Federal Defense of Marriage Act, and allowed the lower court ruling against Proposition 8 in California to stand!  I was surprised, thrilled and celebrated with my spouse in our Castro neighborhood in San Francisco.  It was a celebration marked by music, congratulatory speeches and the excitement of thousands who have advocated and hoped for this day.

“But, what does it mean?” many have asked.

There are many legal nuances in the complicated rulings.  However,  to simplify and personalize it, it means that my partner, now spouse, of over 35 years and I can now benefit from the over 1100 federal benefits granted to heterosexual married couples including social security and inheritance benefits.  We were married along with 18,000 other couples in California during the breathless few months when same sex marriage became legal because the California Supreme Court recognized our relationships as legal under the California Constitution, and the time when voters influenced by misleading ads voted in November 2008.  Passing Proposition Eight by a small majority limited marriage in the California Constitution to a man and a women.  Striking down Prop 8 now means equality among same sex couples in California who want to marry.  Many of our friends, denied the opportunity when Prop 8 passed, are now headed to the altar.

Wedding-B-C-440x320The rulings also mean filing taxes will be easier…a joint return filed with both the Feds and the state instead of the contortions of filing a joint return to the state tax board and separate returns to the US Department of Treasury…and potentially paying more.  It reinforces the right to visit and make health decisions for same sex spouses in medical facilities and the recognition of the non-biological spouse as a parent.  Many more benefits will come to light as the Federal Government works to clarify how those over 1100 benefits will be available to same sex couples.

Most important, the rulings mean acknowledgement of our full equality, rights and privileges under the law.  We are not “less than”, ignored or undeserving.   It means that our loving relationships deserve the same respect, recognition and appreciation that heterosexual couples are given.  I have been grateful for many years that my heterosexual married daughter readily acknowledged that her “moms” provided her a model of how to be in a long term committed relationship.

Wedding-HandsAlthough it is exciting to celebrate and to be swept along with the tide of this current civil rights movement, there is still a lot of work left to do to ensure that these rights and benefits are extended to couples in other states.  The Court did not give us a ruling that provides full equality to same sex couples in every state.  Only thirteen states currently allow same sex marriage and it appears that the ruling will require the Federal Government to recognize and provide benefits to those married couples.  But, thirty one states have passed constitutional bans against them.  The same sex couples in those states cannot marry or receive Federal benefits accorded either heterosexual couples in their states, nor same sex couples in the thirteen where same sex marriages are allowed.  Many who oppose same sex marriage believe that our love is immoral or goes against tradition or their religious beliefs.  However, I believe love ultimately transforms hatred, bigotry, intolerance, ignorance and even traditional beliefs.  One day our love, our relationships, our families will be equal, recognized and respected in every state not just thirteen.

(Note: This blog was originally posted in the Transition Network National Newsletter – August 2013 and the Vibrant Nation website).

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