Monday, June 30, 2008

The Strings Between (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans, Straight) Parent(s) and Child/Children

My children are flying from the east coast to the west coast by themselves, solo, for the first time. They're each on their own flights, going on different airlines. Of course they got to the hub where they were to make a change, and both children's flights either took off late from the east coast, or there was a snafu at the hub airport.

My heart was beating slightly faster.

I am a parent.

I'd like to control the flights, but that is impossible.

I'd like to control the weather so that their flights are not hampered, but that is impossible.

All of these things are part(s) of parenthood, regardless of one's sexual orientation. It is who we are as parents: we care, we worry, we love, we get mad, we try to control, we exert, we persuade, we cajole, we nit-pick...yeah, we love.

It is all about love.

Pace, B

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Heidelberg Catechism: A Few Words Makes a Difference

I walked into the Fellowship Hall/Basketball arena of my home church in Portland, OR, and I noticed all the banners with the various confessions and catechisms from the PCUSA's Book of Confessions, and right in front of me was the historic Heidelberg Catechism, part of the history of the Church in announcing and teaching us of our reformed/Reformed roots. What was moving was thinking of what the Church had done at the General Assembly: moved to strike out the words that homosexuality is a perversion. I asked the pastor of the Church if he knew what we had done in re: to the Catechism. He hadn't heard. Nor did he know of the language in the Catechism. This is not unexpected though: I don't know if anyone really knows the language in most of our creeds and confessions. And we, as a denomination, are about to add another confession or two (e.g., Social Creed, and Belhar from South Africa).

As a gay man, it was wonderful to look at the banner and know that, in the process of things, it is going to change, and soon. There is more language there that hurts people, and we have more to learn about in the coming months and years as society and culture's change. The creeds and confessions reflect or are-but-a-snapshot of a day and age in which we come from. God is always doing a new thing as well as preserving that which God has begun and made foundational to our existence.

Thanks be to God.

Pace, B

Friday, June 27, 2008

Scruples Matter: On How I Can Be a Pastor and Gay in the PCUSA

There's this news from the GA gathering in San Jose on the AP wire line:

"Of equal importance to advocates on both side of the debate, the assembly also voted to allow gay and lesbian candidates for ordination to conscientiously object to the existing standard. Local presbyteries and church councils that approve ordinations would consider such requests on a case-by-case basis.

That vote was an "an authoritative interpretation" of the church constitution rather than a change to it, so it goes into effect immediately. The interpretation supersedes a ruling from the church's high court, issued in February, that said there were no exceptions to the so-called "fidelity and chastity" requirement."

Here's the language:

The assembly also adopted an authoritative interpretation proposed by John Knox Presbytery on G-6.0108 to ensure proper application of ordination standards by a vote of 375-325. It reads:

"The 218th General Assembly (2008) affirms the authoritative interpretation of G-6.0108 approved by the 217th General Assembly (2006). Further, the 218th General Assembly (2008), pursuant to G-13.0112, interprets the requirements of G-6.0108 to apply equally to all ordination standards of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Section G-6.0108 requires examining bodies to give prayerful and careful consideration, on an individual, case-by-case basis, to any departure from an ordination standard in matters of belief or practice that a candidate may declare during examination. However, the examining body is not required to accept a departure from standards, and cannot excuse a candidate's inability to perform the constitutional functions unique to his or her office (such as administration of the sacraments)."
In other words, if I have a difference with a part of the Constitution of the Church, I can, on the basis of "scruples" or "qualm," disagree with the Church conscientiously. On the issue of being gay AND opposing the ordination standards, e.g., fidelity and chastity, I can openly disagree with it AND still be ordained.

Click here for more.

I think I have a scruple!



Another Step Toward Inclusion: The B Amendment is Cracked Open Again

Closer vote than I thought it was going to be: the GA of the PCUSA voted to delete what is called the "B" amendment of the Book of Order, part of the Constitution of the Church. The B amendment was added several years ago, thanks in large part to the folks with the Layman conservative group, in which it states that in order to be ordained we must live "in fidelity in marriage and chastity in singleness."

I know of few people these days who could ever live up to this standard. This isn't because they are impure or bad people. But lust is lust, whether you act on it or not. One can sin with one's eyes open wide, and fantasize...yes?

Here's the vote: The General Assembly voted 380-325-3 to send an amendment to presbyteries that would delete G-6.0106b and add wording that ties call decisions to ordination vows.

The fight is afoot.

We are engaged in several battles to win this war.

It is a fight toward peace & reconciliation...


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Heidelberg Confession and PCUSA: Did the Commissioners Just Vote to Delete the Gay Language?

I was watching the proceedings from the floor of the General Assembly of the PCUSA this morning from the comforts of my parents' home in Portland, OR, and, as God would have it, happened to watch and listen to the voting on a change in the Heidelberg Confession, which is part of our Constitution as PCUSA folk (Book of Confessions, being part of our Constitution).

The Heidelberg Confession that was added to the then-United Presbyterian Church (USA) Book of Confession includes a translation and interpretation of 1 Cor. 6:9-10 as "homosexual perversions." This language is not necessarily included in every translation. What the Overture before the General Assembly did was strike out this language.

Now the fight really begins: being sure that the Presbyteries affirm this change.



Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ramping Up: Being Part of a Re-Form and Re-Forming Reformation Denomination

I am leaving San Jose, CA, where I've been watching, witnessing, telling my story, and signing copies of ON BEING A GAY PARENT, FOLLOW ME, and SCHOOL OF THE PILGRIM. I freaked out someone with the Presbyterians for Renewal when, right before his eyes and ears, I was asked to sign a copy of ON BEING A GAY PARENT with a kiss to the customer buying the book.

What I saw and heard the last few days, and checked out with others, is this: there is a change in energy at this General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA (GA of the PCUSA). The almost literal-but-figure-of-speech carnage that was seen on the floor of other GAs was not visible at this gathering re: LGBTQ issues. At other GA gatherings, you could walk into the hotels, restaurants, and convention centers and feel the animosity reverberating in the hallways and rooms. This was not the case with this GA. Not wanting to talk of "sides," but knowing no other way to talk about it, I was watching prayer groups of some people outside hallways who had spoken in opposition to LGBTQ friendly amendments, and it was clear what they were praying for or against. One rumor was that a contingency of conservatives from one committee, knowing that they were failing, simply did not show up after dinner recess the other night.

I know that there will be a big hurdle to see friendly LGBTQ amendments passed by the Commissioners. But here is where real "battles" will take place in this "war": Presbyteries. And while we have our more "liberal" or "progressive" Presbyteries, I know that the folks with the Layman, Presbyterians for Renewal, have already begun strategizing ways to defeat the amendments that are friendly to LBTGQ people. Covenant, MLP, and TAMFS will have to strategize to defeat those who would want to stop the Spirit's movement.

What will I do? Speak out. Witness. And I am planning to run as a Commissioner, and then run for Moderator of G.A. in 2010 as an openly gay candidate.

What will the Holy Spirit do? We believe God will continue to form and reform the Church time and time again.

It is about time.



Teaching and Learning: the Challenge for Our Churches

What I have come to realize in the middle of the General Assembly of the PCUSA--after listening to some weird half-truths, lies, and myths-turned-factual--is that we who are LGBTQ and straight allies have a great deal of work to do in correcting people's mis-perceptions of who we are, how we live our lives, and how we love.

Case in point: I have heard that we are lousier parents than straight couples, and that the healthiest children are raised "by a mom and a dad"; that we who are LGBTQ couples or single or more promiscuous; that we who are LGBTQ don't need all the laws that straight couples get in marriage because "they shouldn't be raising kids anyway." I heard this in committee meetings of the General Assembly, as well as in hallways. I have watched people praying for us without asking me what they should be praying about (making us straight, of course), and have heard Jesus referred to as one woman's "lover" in explaining her transformation from lesbian to straight.

There is a lot of teaching to be done "out there": the harvest is ready, but are there enough people to do the harvesting?


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Weird and Surreal: Being an Openly Gay Pastor at the General Assembly of the PCUSA

It is weird being an ordained clergyperson in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and part of the General Assembly of the denomination, signing books like ON BEING A GAY PARENT and SCHOOL OF THE PILGRIM when they are discussing whether or not to ordain openly gay and lesbian candidates for ministry. Michael Adee of More Light Presbyterians and I started counting how many openly LBTG clergy there are, and we had to admit we were counting a handful out of the 2.2 million members of this denomination.

To use Walker Percy's analogy, I feel like the turd in the punch bowl at a gala event.

While we have a progressive moderator in Bruce Reyes Chow, he hasn't come fully out for LGBT people. He is playing it close to the chest. And the commissioners who will vote later this week may not be "for" all the amendments to the Constitution that would make our denomination more welcoming.

I'm off to sit in on some hearings!

More later!



Sunday, June 22, 2008

Reporting from the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) as a Gay Dad Who Happens to Be a Ordained Clergyperson of This Denomination

Yesterday was surreal: I was signing copies of ON BEING A GAY PARENT in the middle of the exhibition hall of the San Jose Convention Center, which is the place where we Presbyterians are meeting for our bi-annual General Assembly. I signed books, talked to people, and discussed issues from folks with disabilities and pilgrimage to gay parenting. And the sky was still blue when I walked outside; the sun was shining, and there was no earthquake.

Being a clergyperson in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and being gay are not incongruous any more.


"Why didn't I do this sooner?" I asked God. "What was I really scared of?" No one came up and took the books off the stand where I was signing them. No one said I couldn't do it. No one objected to my book. In fact, one person said "I thought you were Episcopalian, because of who printed the book?!" which is Church Publishing, an Episcopal publishing house.

I'll be blogging from San Jose, CA for the next two days.

We did vote for a Moderator, Bruce Reyes-Chow, who is empathetic with the LGBTQ perspective and issues, which is good. And the worship with both straight and LGBTQ people has been good. I am tiring of hearing the same line about "We're not going to take being locked out anymore," spoken from young LGBTQ leaders-to-be.

It has sunk in: It is O.K. to be gay and a dad and a Presbyterian clergyperson. I no longer fear for my ordination. It is O.K.



Friday, June 20, 2008

In The Advocate!

Here is a link to my article in the national magazine, The Advocate!


Get a Room!

Click here.


(in Oregon)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Heinz Mayo and the Gay Headed Household: A Note of Humor

All right: here it is, the Heinz Mayo commercial from Britain. After a long set of blogspots that are serious and emotionally heavy, I laughed out loud when I watched this winsome advertisement from Heinz Mayo. What a joy!

The thing I love about this ad is simply this: the normality of it all. There is no sense of "I'm gay" or someone saying "I'm gay!" Instead, they act as a family in its "normal" routine, with a sense of fun in the Britain-USA/New York City deli operator.

Have Fun!



Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Morning After: Sun is Out, Blue Sky Above, and Gay Marriage in CA!

Last night, a rain shower came through and washed the earth in North Carolina. This morning, the sun is out, blue sky above with white clouds racing by; the red oleander is beautiful with fuchsia blossoms...and Californians who are lesbian or gay are marrying in their home state, along with other folks from other states.

This morning on all the morning cable shows and network news, along with websites, e.g., (click here), not only about gay marriage in CA, but also looking to MA for hindsight perspective. It looks like there have been a steadily declining number of gay and lesbian marriages in MA, while there are now divorces among those who are gay or lesbian. In other words, things are pretty darn normal in MA, as they are and will be in CA.

And as we who are LGBTQ are getting married, straight couples are still getting married. There are no reports of a lessening of straight marriages in MA.

What a beautiful morning!



Monday, June 16, 2008

Amazing and Beautiful! Gay Marriage (CA) and Gay Fathers (NC)! Oh, Happy Day!

It is Monday, June 16th, and today, at 5:01 P.M. in CA, gay marriage is legal. Amazing! I'll be flying to CA today, but not with my partner Dean. Instead, I'll be going to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), held in San Jose, CA this coming week, in which we will be debating ordination of LGBTQ folks. Currently, the ordination standards make it clear that one must be living "in fidelity in marriage (one man, one woman), and chastity in singleness," though no one defines what is chastity in marriage (Check it out!).


Click here for more.

On top of that, enjoy the stories of gay fatherhood in the Asheville Citizen Times. Unlike my Raleigh News and Observer, where there were no stories of gay fatherhood, Asheville Citizen Times spotlighted being a gay father.

Beautiful! We've got a story to tell!

Enjoy here.

Peace, B

Sunday, June 15, 2008

"Here Comes the Bride, All Dressed in White": The Realities of Marriage and LGBT People

Insightful article in the this morning on the realities of being married in the state of Massachusetts. Of course, many of the stories in the article sound like they could be married heterosexuals, e.g., the troubles of living commuter relationships, who is ready for living in the "bonds of marriage," and the issue of fidelity, and the kids (Happy Fathers' Day).

Of course, what was interesting in the essay, for me, was the discussion of monogamy versus an open relationship. Some of the couples talked about the "practicalities" of being in a commuter relationship, with permission to have, um, "relationships", a.k.a., sex, as part of the relationship, while others talks about being married and monogamous, but now and then throwing in a "third person." Out of 100+ weddings I've performed, and the countless hours of counseling prior to the wedding, I don't remember discussing "third parties" and the practicalities of having sex with someone in an open but committed relationship. Maybe I should have discussed these possibilities!?

The challenge: how do we understand and practice marriage as LGBTQ people? What, from heterosexual marriage models, do we want to use, and what new understandings and practices do we bring into marriage?

I write all this as one who was in a 21 year marriage with a woman, but also as a man who has not been in married but lives with another for now 13 years in a committed relationship. I think I would like to marry Dean, but we're in a state that would not recognize it at all.

Click here for more.



Saturday, June 14, 2008

Gay Dad Stories

I searched for some gay dad stories in honor of Fathers' Day tomorrow. I didn't check this out on Mothers' Day (sorry), but I'm not finding a lot of stories of gay dads on the usual,,, or sites. The dearth of stories might be indicative that we gay dads and lesbian moms are, well, not on the popular gay "radar" or "gaydar."

When I went around Googling this morning, looking for stories of gay dads, I found this one website, a support group of sorts, for gay dads, with lots of stories. From the language like "Bloody hell," and spelling, like "honour" instead of "honor," I could tell it was most likely British. Click here for some stories.

As for my story? Please pick up my book ON BEING A GAY PARENT and read a story!



Friday, June 13, 2008

Stories of Fathers Who Are Gay and Their Children

This morning's hit on held in its list of interesting news-worthy stories this story of gay dads in Seattle, who adopted young children whose names all begin with a "Z": Zach, Zayn, and Zeth, and their dads Devin and Geoffrey. Devin and Geoffrey have been a couple for over a decade, and they work in the telecom business while living in one of the suburbs of Seattle area. They have a rather normal, ordinary life: they go to church, shop at Costco, and watch Disney movies on their big screen t.v. Don't tell them that Disney animated films usually have single parents raising kids, from "Bambi," "Lion King," to "Aladdin," and "Beauty and the Beast," not to mention "Snow White," and "Cinderella." No American nuclear family in Disney animated films!

For the next few "blog" entries I am going to include stories of gay dads. I should have done the same with lesbian year! Why? I want us to read and know and understand how many of "us" are "out there" in the world, living life in all its fun times and challenges. And for those of you who read the blog and are in the closet, there aren't enough stories for us to consider as we look at our own futures.


Click here for more!



Thursday, June 12, 2008

How Gay is Your Church?

Interesting article in "Jewish Living!" Around 3,700 rabbis and synagogue presidents are going to be asked this question: how gay is your shul? There is a massive campaign to assess, rate, and see how inclusive shuls are in welcoming LGBT people.

From the article:
"Most synagogues in the U.S. are walking advertisements for heterosexuality," says Gregg Drinkwater, executive director of Jewish Mosaic, one of the organizations behind the LGBT Welcoming Synagogues Project, which launched in April. (The other partners are the Institute for Judaism and Sexual Orientation at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and the S3K Synagogue Studies Institute of Synagogue 3000, a think tank whose aim is revitalizing synagogue life.) "Shuls think they're more inclusive than they really are. They're family-oriented businesses, and that's alienating for people who don't see their own families reflected."

Click here for more. Thanks for for this essay.

So here is my question, and perhaps we can get some people contributing to a fund for carrying this out: how gay is the Presbyterian Church (USA)? What kind of survey would we pull together, and who would fund this fascinating study? I've seen such studies done on the issue of disability concerns, and have participated in drawing them up. It would not be that difficult to come up with an easy survey that would give us a "snapshot" of how LGBTQ our congregations are in the Protestant Churches, Catholic, Orthodox, Pentecostal, and Evangelical.

Let's do it!

Anyone reading this blog want to fund it?



Birds Do It, Bees Do It, Even Friends from Norway Do It," with apologist to Cole Porter

On this morning there was news of the Norwegian Parliament approving of gay marriage. Not only can LGBT couples marry, but there is protection that both LGBT parents are seen as equal (unlike many states in which only one of the parents is legal), and that lesbians are allowed to seek "medically assisted reproduction." Click here for more.

Of course, when I read such news while sitting in my little office in the state (red state) of NC, I wince. This article makes me uncomfortable because I realize where I live and know that for us LGBT folks in this beautiful state, the future possibility is such a remote, distant possibility.

My hunch: we'll be one of the last countries in Bush's "Coalition of the Willing" (remember that term), who approve of LGBT marriage.

Time to change!

Pace! B

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Being a Gay (Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) Couple: Good For Your Health!

All right, heterosexuals! Listen up! We homos have something to teach the world, according to this article in NYT:
* We can initiate sex without playing with sexual politics of who initiates and who doesn't, and thus we have more sex;
* We've figured out the housekeeping tasks because we have to make things up without America's script telling us who does what in a house;
* We have to talk and express ourselves because nothing comes easy to us in terms of using humor without jumping off the ledge of anger;
* Less "demand-withdraw" dance;
* This leads to healthier hearts, minds, and bodies.

To paraphrase the line from "Avenue Q" "It's good to be gay."

Click here for more.



Monday, June 9, 2008

"And they lived happily ever after": Gene Robinson and Mark Andrew Are In a Civil Union

In America, the script calls for wedding dresses, tuxes, cakes, flowers, candles, music, half-filled columns of colored sand to be mixed (don't ask), doves, mylar balloons, rice or bird seed in a bag ready to be thrown in celebration as an ancient fertility-cult practice.

All of that was missing in the picture of Mark Andrew and Gene Robinson's "civil union photo," posted on this morning. What was present was love: watching the two men gazing with love into one another's eyes was heart-warming, though the person in the middle looked less than thrilled to be in the photo. (click here).

Will they live happily ever after? Their lives are already a witness to the power of love as they maintain a relationship that includes a daily dose of harassment, uncomfortable stares, being able to withstand the onslaught of name calling nationally and universally, bullet-proof vests, and guards.

What a way to begin "unionized" life!

With my morning coffee mug, I toast Gene and Mark! Happy Trails!


Saturday, June 7, 2008

Faith Communities' Role in Teaching People to Harass LGBTQ People

I've linked here my latest "Letter to the Editor" in today's Raleigh "News and Observer," in response to an essay in the News and Observer by Shannon Gilreath who wrote about institutions like schools and homes that teach and nurture harassment toward LGBTQ people. My letter was published today, 6-7-08, in which I state that it happens to be communities of faith that teach harassment and hate toward LGBTQ people every time we are denied ordination, a wedding, a role in leadership, entry through sanctuary doors, acceptance of a sacrament, a place in religious instruction, or pastoral care.

Click here for more!

It is time for us to change not only the wider society, but what I see and hear is one of the first places that hate and harassment of LGBTQ people is taught and nurtured: communities of faith.

Peace, B

Friday, June 6, 2008

Civil Unions in Vermont: More Like Marriage Than First Thought?

In the New York Times on-line, there was an article about a lesbian couple who were in a civil union in Vermont, in which one of the women had a transforming experience when she became a Christian, and is now no longer a lesbian since she moved to Virginia, and is now declaring that the child is hers, and is not to visit with the former lesbian partner. But the Virginia Supreme Court said that the now-transformed lesbian-turned-heterosexual must share custody with her former partner. Click here for more.

What was interesting was the observation by the lawyer for the former lesbian who understands that changes in the laws in Massachusetts and California, along with the other states with domestic partnership bills, allowing us legal rights, will change the rules on child custody...and for the better. Better? Because we will be entrusted for the overall care for our children not only relationally, spiritually, intellectually, but legally as well. And this is all for the good.



Who Wants to Be Part of a Club Where We are Second Class Citizens?

Women and LGBTQ people are in a quandary: why do we remain members of groups in which we are treated with disdain and second class citizenry, e.g., the Church? For example, women cannot be priests or deacons in the Catholic church because of their gender, yet closeted gay priests and deacons are not "touched." Women are not allowed to be pastors in most Southern Baptist churches. Likewise: LGBTQ folks who are open are not allowed to be ordained in most Protestant denomination churches, let alone be married, etc.

So on,, etc., there were two articles that stuck out: one was a Northern Ireland Member of Parliament who was talking about the virtues of a psychiatrist who does reparative therapy, while a Bishop of the Anglican Communion from Uganda wants an apology in regards to the position many members of the Anglican Communion takes toward LGBT people: they're for our ordination, marriage, etc. Click here for more.

Why are we members? Because we are also people of faith. and the Spirit that resides in our sisters and brothers who want us removed or "confess" and turn away from living normally resides in us. And it is a Spirit that is calling for a time of prophecying and speaking out in the name of God. As the United Church of Christ has made much of: God is still speaking, and there is a "comma" after that line, not a period.

Time to change.



Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Spirit of Uganda

A few weeks ago, Dean and I went to a marvelous performance production of "The Spirit of Uganda" at UNC's Memorial Hall. This was a dance and song performance of young boys and girls whose parents and families have been ravaged by the spread of AIDS. The spirit of joy on the stage, the brilliance of the choreography and rhythmic wonders of song and drum were electrifying. It was one of those performances that could never be captured on c.d. or DVD.

Then to read this morning about the arrest of gay AIDS activists in Kampala, because they were making a protest in favor of LGBTQ Ugandans being provided health care as well as the rest of the population affected by AIDS. Click here for more.

This is not the "spirit" of Uganda that we saw on display at UNC. In other words, this is the "spirit" of the government, but it is not the spirit of the Ugandan people who know, first hand, the ravages of AIDS in a land that is desperate for help in controlling the spread of this disease.

It is time to change how we who are LGBTQ are seen.



Wednesday, June 4, 2008

"Goin' to the chapel and we're goin' to get married": Still Happening in CA!

The California Supreme Court is moving ahead, permitting LGBT couples to wed on June 17, 2008. There were several people and groups who were petitioning the Court to stay the landmark decision, but the court persevered. The fear of conservative groups? The voters, who can vote in November about same sex marriage, may be swayed by the look of love and happiness on the face of so many LGBT couples, and thus be moved to just let it be!?

Indeed, this is what happens, and is part of our homosexual-agenda plot: we LGBT couples, who are after all your next door neighbors, look like we are happy because, well, we are happy. Then, when no one is looking, we remain happy, or we do what all other heterosexual couples do: fight, make up, make love, live happily, fight, make-up, make love, live happily...


California Supreme Court won't stay gay marriage ruling

California's Supreme Court has just announced that it will not stay the landmark ruling it made last month, which overturned the state's ban on gay marriage. This latest decision means that same-sex couples could be able to wed in California as soon as June 17.

Conservative groups opposed to gay marriage, joined by 10 state attorneys general, had asked that the ruling be stayed until after state residents go to the polls in November and vote on an amendment to California's Constitution that would effectively override the court's decision. Their argument was that allowing gay marriages to occur before the vote would lead to legal confusion if the amendment passed.

This is also most likely a political loss for gay marriage opponents, as voters on the fence about the issue may be swayed by images of gay couples being happily wed, or by simply knowing gay couples who decide to get married.

By a vote of 4-3, the same margin as in its original ruling, the court also denied a petition to rehear the case.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Update on Same Sex Benefits at Area University

Acting to clean up a mistake, or being thoroughly institutional: you decide.

Read below.

"Thanks for your follow up regarding the attached concern. Per our brief
discussion, Aetna made a decision to discontinue selling Long Term Care
plans so Duke had to make a decision regarding a new administrator. We
considered several administrators. Some of the key factors we looked at

Stability of Company
Comparability of Plan Design Options
Impact on Premiums

Prudential was a leader in most of the key areas.

Long Term Care Plans are regulated by the Department of Insurance and plan
designs and/or plan design changes have to be approved by the Department
of Insurance. We were aware of the differences in the way the plans were
filed with the Department of Insurance in regard to the discount for
married persons vs. Married/Same Sex Spousal Equivalents. Aetna's plan
had been more recently filed and included a provision for a discount for
Same Sex Spousal Equivalents (when both are enrolled in the plan).
Prudential's plan did not specify Same Sex Spousal Equivalents but rather
only specified "married persons". We discussed this issue with both Aetna
and Prudential and was able to negotiate an agreement that would enable
those who currently have the discount with Aetna to keep the discount with
Prudential. In regard to new faculty and staff enrolling in the plan, we
asked Prudential to re-file their product with the Department of Insurance
to include the discount for Same Sex Spousal Equivalents. Unfortunately
it takes a while to get the filing approved and it has not yet been
formally approved but we are confident that it will be approved by
September 1. We could not formally communicate this in our communication
materials until the change has been officially approved by the Department
of Insurance. However, we don't anticipate any problems getting this
provision approved.

I am following this very closely and will keep you posted and let you know
when this change has been finalized. Ensuring that benefit plans offer
equal provisions to same sex spousal equivalents is a very important goal
in Human Resources. Please let me know if you have any questions or would
like to discuss further.

Again, thanks for your follow up. Regards,"

Peace, B

Monday, June 2, 2008

"Slip Sliding Away": Same Sex Spousal Equivalency at Duke University May Be Changing!

There was this note this morning from a friend at Duke University: It seems that in negotiating a new insurance package there is a change afoot: while others fought for same sex spousal equivalency (SSSE) for those of us who are LGBT, so that employees had the same rights as heterosexuals, e.g., dental, health, and other insurance benefits:

All Duke employees who are currently in--or think they might ever be in--a long-term same-sex partnership that qualifies as a SSSE ("Same Sex Spousal Equivalency") for Duke benefits of whatever sort should note that Duke is changing one of its programs to eliminate one benefit for SSSE's for future Duke employees. Here is how it works:

"Currently, Duke has a contract with Aetna Insurance to provide Duke employees to purchase long-term care insurance. Married couples and SSSE recieve a 10% discount.

According to Duke, Aetna is going out of the long-term care business. Duke has contracted with Prudential to offer a long-term care policy. Under this new policy, SSSE couples are NOT eligible for the 10% discount. According to Sonja Daniels of the Duke Benefits Office, who tells me that she negotiated the contract, current SSSE couples who transfer from Aetna to Prudential will receive the discount. However, new employees will not be eligible for the 10% discount. Moreover, while Ms. Daniels assured me on the phone that current SSSE employees will not be affected by this change, there is nothing in the literature that her office has distributed that makes this clear: it says simply that the discount applies only to those who are "married."

Duke has thus negotiated a contract that takes away a benefit from SSSE couples and therefore is in direct violation of Duke's nondiscrimination policy.

This may seem like a minor thing: if what Ms. Daniels told me on the phone is correct, nobody who is currently on this list is going to be harmed by this. However, the fact is that this change in benefits-- negotiated, apparently, by someone in a position of real authority in the Duke Benefits office--takes away something that Duke has previously offered to SSSE workers. At best, this represents a new insensitivity to LGBT issues at Duke. At worst, it is a deliberate first-slide down a slippery slope that will end with SSSE relationships losing the respect that we struggled years ago to gain from this University.

This must be corrected at once. What can be done?

Here's the point: we will have to be vigilant in not only establishing new rights of equality with our heterosexual peers, but once we reach them we will have to keep fighting
to keep them.



Sunday, June 1, 2008

"Transvestite Wives" on BBC-TV America

Caught up in the stories of three transvestite wives on BBC-TV America: "Transvestite Wives." It is an amazing show, following the lives of three men, married to women, who are transvestites, claiming and living their inner woman. None of the men-to-women are talking about sex change, but are dressing as women, which seems more like a cross-dresser than trans per se, though there are discussions with men-to-women operations and hormone treatments. The women whom these trans are married to seem to have a lot of fun with their man-to-woman as "girlfriends" while shopping for clothes, going out on a date, dining.

It is a fascinating phenomenon, listening to these stories of change and courage. I don't quite understand it all, which is why I am enjoying listening to the stories. I know that it is a courageous way of living, walking into the light of day, blending in, trying not to get spotted as being unusual. These are people looking forward to being accepted for who they are.

Peace, B