Susie Bright, in addition to being a best-selling author, activist, and podcast host, is editor at large for Audible. Susie's blog, The Bright List, keeps readers and listeners apprised of new audiobooks.
This is not your average 16 & Pregnant life story.
Without A Map is Meredith Hall's outstanding debut as an author, and it's a story that starts when she gets pregnant by mistake in 1965.
Kicked out by her mother, and shunned by her small town community in New Hampshire— it's a rocky start. Hall’s life doesn't end up on People magazine— there's no plastic surgery/makeover ending.
Meredith moves to the Middle East, first on a whim, but it’s a decision that changes her life. She sells every one of her possessions, and yet arrives on the other side of her adventure with something much more precious, as well as a relationship she never dreamed she’d have.
Narrated by one of my favorite actresses on audio, Kathe Mazur. I discovered her while I was first recording the Best American Erotica series, and I'd ask for her, again and again.
It was seven years ago today that the first legal same-sex marriages began in Massachusetts. We asked three of our authors how they think things have changed in seven years, and what challenges still lie ahead.
Amie Klempnauer Miller is the author of She Looks Just Like You: A Memoir of (Nonbiological Lesbian) Motherhood. She is a frequent speaker about gay and lesbian families, and her writing has appeared on Salon, in Brain, Child and Greater Good magazines, and elsewhere. Miller works as a development consultant to the public media industry and lives with her partner and daughter in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage seven years ago and what has changed? Well, let me point out that the marriage rate nationwide has declined – a-ha! – perhaps same-sex marriage does undermine heterosexual marriage after all. But the divorce rate nationwide has also declined – so maybe same-sex marriage actually strengthens heterosexual unions. Or, here’s a thought, maybe it does neither.
Meanwhile, here in the heartland, we’re having none of it. Six years and 49 weeks after Massachusetts’ action, some Minnesota legislators introduced a bill to define marriage as between one man and one woman in the state Constitution. The bill has been moving quickly through legislative committees and, despite the fact that Minnesota already denies marriage to same-sex couples, it will likely go to the popular vote in the 2012 election. The bill’s advocates are positioning it in the usual ways, of course: giving “the people” the chance for a “dialogue”; protecting children; upholding the will of God. What is clear is that the “dialogue,” when it happens, is likely to play out heavily in the media, to cost millions of dollars, to pit different communities against each other, and to take up a whole lot of time and energy that could be put into other things like – oh, I don’t know – solving the budget deficit, planting gardens, playing with our kids.
Meanwhile, the real dialogue continues, mostly quietly, in communities across our state and the nation. Since Massachusetts (and Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Iowa and Washington, DC) legalized same-sex marriage, more gay and lesbian couples across the nation have become willing to be honest about who they are. In Massachusetts – but also in places like Alabama, Mississippi and Kentucky –same-sex couples are increasingly admitting that they are, in fact, not just roommates.
Maybe this is what the supporters of the Minnesota amendment fear most: that people across the country will increasingly discover that gay men and lesbians really are pretty much like everyone else. And there’s a reason for their fear. Three national polls have now shown that more than half of Americans think that gay men and lesbians should have equal marriage rights. This shift is not occurring only among the young and the liberal, but across religious and demographic groups (though, admittedly, more slowly in some places than others). The primary driver is familiarity. As more people have realized that they are related to, live near, work and volunteer with gay men and lesbians, they have also realized that gay men and lesbians are really just people who deserve to be treated fairly.
That, more than anything, is what has changed since the decision in Massachusetts.
What’s less surprising, however, is the downside of obtaining access to state recognition. Although the fight for marriage equality has been framed as obtaining the choice to marry, the predictable consequence of having that choice is that the state feels justified in maintaining and even solidifying the bright line between those who marry and everyone else. The choice to marry isn’t much a choice if marriage is the only way to protect a family’s financial and emotional well being.
I’m particularly disturbed about this bright line when it comes to raising children. Right now a child born to a lesbian couple in Massachusetts has two mothers if the couple is married and one mother if the couple is not. Although second parent adoption is available, that is an expensive and time consuming process. For more than 40 years it’s been a basic tenet of family law that a child should not suffer because her parents did not marry. Yet that is precisely what happens in Massachusetts. A child can lose access to financial support and to the love and care of a nonbiological mother, solely because her parents did not marry.
At this point the solution needs to come from the legislature. Here in the District of Columbia we have a statute that says when two people plan for a child together and intend to parent together, and when conception takes place through donor insemination, then they are both parents. The law is gender neutral and marital status neutral. The names of the two intended parents appear on the child’s birth certificate. Although same-sex couples can marry in the District of Columbia, they do not have to marry to give their child two legal parents from birth.
Is marriage equality subject to the seven-year itch? Are we losing interest in it? From all the evidence, it looks to me that, in Massachusetts at least, our commitment to marriage equality remains strong. In fact, in our home state, marriage of same-sex couples has become so ordinary that when you hear that someone is about to tie the knot, you can make no assumptions about the gender of the bride/groom to be.
About the only conflict there seems to be around same-sex couples marrying in Massachusetts is what to call your same-sex spouse. Though men have become quite comfortable with “husband,” two professors at Salem State University find that women are still working out the linguistic issues. For many old-time feminists, “wife” just carries too much baggage, “partner” doesn’t infer marriage, and “spouse” sounds a bit legalistic. But give us another seven years, and I’m sure we’ll find the right vocabulary!
This was great news for same-sex families who currently are denied thousands of federal marriage benefits, including Social Security survivor benefits, the right to file joint tax returns, and the right to sponsor citizenship for foreign same-sex partners. It affirmed the administration’s commitment to supporting LGBT equality, and put into sharp relief the country’s shift in attitude since 1996, when then-President Bill Clinton signed DOMA into law. Though there remains strong opposition in many parts of the country, the latest national Washington Post-ABC poll shows a majority of Americans (53 percent) now support gay marriage. That’s up from 36 percent just five years ago.
That shift in public opinion is in no small part due to the “reality TV show” now playing in four New England states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont), Iowa, and the District of Columbia, all of which grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. As thousands of same-sex couples have married, none of the dire predictions by the National Organization for Marriage and other right-wing evangelicals such as Pat Robertson and Chuck Colson have come true. Though some want to blame Katrina, the Great Recession, the Japanese quake/tsunami, and this year’s tornado season on the acceptance of same-sex families, most Americans find that treating people equally aligns with their most cherished values.
Of course that doesn’t mean that the road to marriage equality has been without obstacles. There were the painful setbacks in California (2008) and Maine (2009), when these states passed ballot measures that blocked previous decisions to grant same-sex couples marriage licenses. Proposition 8 in California was especially disheartening since it took away rights granted by the state’s high court, and ended a flood of same-sex marriages that had begun the previous spring. In November 2010, the anti-marriage equality movement focused on Iowa, where they convinced voters to oust three Supreme Court justices who had ruled in favor of marriage equality the previous year. New York, Rhode Island, and Maryland have all come close to passing marriage equality legislation but all have fallen short.
Nonetheless, as Massachusetts abolitionist Theodore Parker said, “the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice.” In the latest round of victories, Hawaii, Illinois, and Delaware have all passed civil union bills in their current legislative sessions. Though these laws fall short of full marriage equality, they offer same-sex couples and their children significant social and economic benefits. Additionally, in a show of bipartisan support, New York marriage equality activists have raised millions of dollars from Wall Street Republicans, enlisting their support, along with that of Mayor Bloomberg, to pressure the state’s Republican-led Senate to stop blocking marriage equality legislation. Finally, just this week, Freedom to Marry announced that Caroline Kennedy had become the 100,000 signer of a petition asking President Obama to explicitly state his support for marriage equality.
Indeed one hardly needs a poll to know that we are experiencing a seismic shift in attitudes toward LGBT people. In 2004, when same-sex couples first married in Massachusetts, Vermont was the only other state where equal rights and benefits were available to same-sex couples (through civil unions). Today, 13 states and the District of Columbia–or more than one-quarter of the United States of America—recognize same-sex couples and their families. That is astounding progress in a nation that is deeply divided on a great many social and political issues. In fact, the movement for marriage equality offers hope that our nation will find its way back to a vision of the future that truly values equality and justice for all.
"Mother's Day is my favorite holiday," my daughter Hannah says to me one morning. I don't believe her for a minute. I know that Thanksgiving is her favorite holiday because we drive from our home in Minnesota to southern Indiana where all of her cousins live, so that she can spend 48 glorious hours gorging on whipped cream with pumpkin pie and playing hide-and-seek with the other girls. But I'm packing her lunch and she wants me to put in a piece of candy. I grant two points and a bite-size Snickers for a savvy pitch.
Whether she's just angling for a treat or not, it's a good thing that she claims to feel this way. Mother's Day is a twofer in our home. Father's Day, on the other hand, doesn't much register, since there is no father here. We are a nuclear family with a twist: two moms, one kid. We do pretty much what other families do on Mother's Day, I suppose, but twice over.
This past week, Beacon authors have been very active out in the world, putting a human face on immigration and talking topics spanning a wide gamut of social justice issues, including: global population, feminism, consumer choices, education, and so much more. Visit our homepage to see the many books on immigrant rights that Beacon has published. And, if you're in or around Boston, learn more about the May Day March, which will begin on Boston Common at noon on Saturday.
WNBC New York talks to Stacy and Steve Trebing about their successful struggle to save their daughter with a "savoir sibling." The family's moving story is chronicled by author Beth Whitehouse in her new book The Match.
Author Bob Moses champions a constitutional amendment to guarantee quality education, the topic of his forthcoming book Quality Education as a Constitutional Right, in The Nationarticle about the 50th anniversary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
Today marks the 35th anniversary of the fall of Saigon. Hear Dana Sachs talk about the nearly 3,000 "supposedly orphaned" children swept into "Operation Babylift" on NHPR's "Word of Mouth."
In the weeks leading up to the fall of Saigon on April 30th, 1975, nearly three thousand babies and children were airlifted out of South Vietnam, often under chaotic and dangerous circumstances. Dubbed "Operation Babylift," the mission was a highly publicized U.S. backed plan to evacuate Vietnamese orphans and bring them to America for adoption.
In The Life We Were Given: Operation Babylift, International Adoption, and the Children of War in Vietnam, Dana Sachs, who has written about Vietnam for 20 years, draws on extensive research and countless interviews in both the U.S. and Vietnam to offer a fresh look at this complex and often controversial mission. She traces the stories of adoptees, including a woman whose Vietnamese mother managed to find her twenty years later, and looks at why there was so little oversight and such sparse documentation attached to the movement of these children, many of whom, it was discovered, weren't orphans at all and were desperate to go home.
This week, in the lead up to the 35th anniversary of the fall of Saigon on Friday, Sachs was interviewed about Operation Babylift and how its lesson can be applied to the current debate about international adoption:
The drama in Haiti took a new turn when 10 Americans (8 of whom were released this week-- ed.) were arrested as they tried to carry a group of Haitian children across the border into the Dominican Republic. While the American group claimed to be rescuing orphans, the Haitian government accused the group of child trafficking. These conflicting accounts reflect the opposing views in a debate that has been raging ever since the devastating earthquake occurred last month, leaving in question the fate of thousands of displaced and homeless children.
On one side of this debate, for example, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators is promoting legislation to speed up the adoption process. "The littlest and most vulnerable victims of the tragedy in Haiti are orphan children," Senator Christopher Bond argued, "and they cannot wait for help." On the other side, several international aid organizations have been calling for a complete suspension of adoptions in order to adequately investigate the orphan status of each displaced child. "Haiti's infrastructure has been severely damaged by the disaster, and with it the systems to ensure that children are correctly identified as orphans," said a statement issued by Save the Children. "The possibility of a child being mistakenly labeled as an orphan during this time is incredibly high."
These arguments seem eerily familiar, and speak to the fact that the United States has yet to develop a well-reasoned policy regarding displaced children in time of crisis. Thirty-five years ago, in April 1975 in Vietnam, another evacuation of children took place. The scene was Saigon, on the brink of collapse as the Communist forces approached the city. The foreign volunteers who ran international adoption programs begged for help getting their wards out of the country. In response, President Gerald Ford authorized funds to evacuate thousands of children, who were flown out of the country and placed with new adoptive families overseas.
By all appearances, Operation Babylift, as the evacuation came to be called, looked like a bold response to a heart-wrenching humanitarian crisis. In Vietnam, hundreds of thousands of people had lost their homes; hungry children wandered alone through the streets; foreign aid agencies could not meet the most basic needs of the population. The idea of evacuating displaced children and placing them in loving homes overseas seemed not only wise but also deeply moral.