Archive for the 'civil rights' Category Page 3 of 3

“Congress passes ban on protests at military funerals; still OK to protest at funerals of murdered homosexuals.”*

*(thanks to my friend Chris for this post’s title)

A while back I wrote about the new outcry over the Westboro Baptist Church’s protests at the funerals of soldiers who died in Iraq. In these demonstrations, they spew their usual, hateful homophobia, claiming that soldiers are dying because america, unlike their twisted version of God, apparently loves fags. (Yeah. Uh huh.)

Today, Congress easily passed legislation barring such protests at military funerals held at national cemeteries. How nice that Congress was so moved and angered that they jumped to stop homophobic protests at the funerals “fallen heroes,” as the act calls the soldiers, when they can’t be bothered to do much of anything for actual queers. Maybe if a whole lot of queers go invade another country and shoot and abuse the brown people there, Congress will start caring about us, too?

The article states that more than a dozen states are considering similar legislation that would cover nonfederal cemeteries. I wonder if their wording will extend to protect all people, including queer folks, from these kinds of protests, or if they’ll specifically limit their protection to military funerals. I fully expect the latter to be the case.

What’s good for the gays…

…is apparently not good for the soldiers.

As reported in this article from the New York Times, 31 states have either passed or are considering legislation that restricts demonstrations at a funeral or burial. Additionally, Congress is expected to address the issue of protests at federal cemetaries. This legislation stems largely from responses to the most recent disgusting behavior of Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Cult, I mean, Church. It seems that Phelps and his despicable cohorts got tired of spewing their virulent homophobia at the funerals of queer folks; now, they’ve taken up conducting similar demonstrations of hatred at the funerals of american soldiers who were killed in Iraq. In their truly twisted logic, soldiers are dying because of the wickedness of american society, which has apparently embraced queer folks. Funny, I didn’t get the memo letting me know that we’re no longer largely maligned and discrminated against by american society and law. Wonder how we missed that one.

So, in turn, politicians are turning towards legislation to limit the effect that these protests can have on grieving families.

“Repugnant, outrageous, despicable, do not adequately describe what I feel they do to these families,” said Representative Steve Buyer, an Indiana Republican who is a co-sponsor of a Congressional bill to regulate demonstrations at federal cemeteries. “They have a right to freedom of speech. But someone also has a right to bury a loved one in peace.”

“I haven’t seen something like this,” said David L. Hudson Jr., research attorney for the First Amendment Center, referring to the number of state legislatures reacting to the protests. “It’s just amazing. It’s an emotional issue and not something that is going to get a lot of political opposition.”

Now, don’t get me wrong – I think that what these people are doing is disgusting and, while I worry about laws that infringe upon first amendment rights to free speech, I do think that people have the right to mourn their loved ones without having to endure such harassment. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be a grieving friend or family member and to see these fuckers desecrating your loved one’s memory. Well, I’d probably feel something like Jonathan Anstey, who spoke to the Times about his experience at his friend’s funeral: “It’s hurtful and it’s taking a lot of willpower not to go down there and stomp their heads in.”

Yet still, I can’t help but think: where was all the outrage when Phelps and company were pulling the same awful bullshit at the funerals of queer people? I didn’t see much outcry (outside of the queer community, of course) when that was going on, and they’d been at it for nearly a decade before they started picketing soldiers’ funerals. There was certainly not this remarkably widespread political response. There were no vets on motorcycles circling the families and trying to shield them from the awful chanting and sign-waving, as there are at the soldiers’ funerals.

And why is that? Did those queer folks, some of whom died of AIDS, deserve to die more than the soldiers did, by virtue of their sexuality? Did their families not deserve to grieve in peace as much as the families of the soldiers? Were their memories less sacred and less deserving of dignity than those of these soldiers?

Of course, my answers to those questions are no, no, and no. But I can’t help but take away that, for many of the politicians and other people taking action now, the answers would be yes.


Today’s post title comes to you from this funny and smart animation by Mark Fiore, which I discovered by reading a great post of the same name by Junichi over at Poplicks. Check that blog out for good reasons why we should be thankful that the immigration reform “compromise” bill wasn’t passed (and hopeful that something that actual resembles justice does get passed in the end.)

Yesterday’s rally was actually one of the best, most fun, and most inspiring I’ve ever been to. When my girlfriend and I arrived at Canal and Broadway, the end of the protest was right there on that block – very impressive, though possibly also a partial result of the weird spacing that the police caused with their stupid penning tactics, now familiar to any New Yorker who has seen or attended protests in recent years. The going was slow but eventually we made it down to City Hall, lots more people still flowing in behind us even though we’d gotten to the protest pretty late.

Part of the effectiveness of the protest was that it was felt very focused – it really did feel like we were all raising a unified cry for justice and immigrants rights. The mood was optimistic and almost festive – yes, there was the gravity of the matters at hand and the anger and frustration at how immigrants are abused in this country, but there was also the high energy and high spirits of many peoples gathering together to fight for something that they really think they might get – that hope is really important and I think is often less evident at many protests.

Also, Latinos know how to make just about everything more fun than anyone else (hehe, sorry other folks, gotta have the Latino pride here.) Other than the Still We Rise march back during the RNC (which probably ties this one for Jack’s Best Protest thusfar), this was probably the most people-of-color-dominated protests I’ve ever been to. Even though me and my girlfriend (who is white) were lost in a crowd of strangers for most of the protest, I felt really happy and all warm and fuzzy inside, surrounded by so many proud Latinos, yelling “¡Sí se puede!” and “El pubelo unido jamás será vencido!” at the top of our lungs.

Speaking of that, though, the overwhelming number of Latinos at the protest made me pissed off at NPR’s local NYC coverage this morning, in which three people with white-sounding last names and american accents were interviewed. Like, come on, they must have worked really hard to find those few white folks swimming in a veritable sea of brown. (Yes, I know, it might’ve been a fluke, and I can’t really say for sure that those people were white or non-Latino, but still.)

One thing that was weird for me was the amount of american flag-waving going on at the rally. Maybe it was in response to the kind of bullshit criticism of the presence of other countries’ flags that I wrote about yesterday, or maybe it was all really genuine sentiment, but either way, there were tons of ’em, everywhere. I’m not much of a fan of the american flag, since to me it can’t be anything but a symbol of the centuries of genocide, land theft, slavery, imperialism, and other assorted oppression that has been wreaked in the name of the good ol’ u.s. of a. And most of the protests that I attend are critical of the u.s. in ways that don’t seem to prompt a lot of flag flying. I know that immigration protests are a different story – the whole point is about people wanting and deserving to live in this country, so it makes sense that they should carry the flag as a symbol that they, too, are americans. But american patriotism, in any form and for any reason, still kind of icks me out.

On that topic, here’s a good look from the folks at Media Matters at the inanity, the bigotry, and the hypocricy being spewed by some conservatives over protestors carrying the flags of Mexico and other countries. One particularly obnoxious comment from Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review:

Well, aren’t there plenty of Irish flags at St. Patrick’s Day parades, and Italian flags at Columbus Day celebrations? What makes the Mexican displays more ominous is their hint of a large, unassimilated population existing outside America’s laws and exhibiting absolutely no sheepishness about it.

Hmm… now, come on, Richie, is that what really scares you about those Mexican flags? Let’s see… Irish and Italians… ethnic groups who used to be persecuted in this country but have now been well assimilated into the white ruling class. Mexicans… SCARY BROWN PEOPLE AUUUUUUGH! And look – they’re not just serving your food or cleaning your house – they’re all together! And proud! Empowered, even! Yes, for much of white america, I bet that’s a very frightening spectacle, indeed.

All right, back to the protest. About an hour or so of slow as molasses marching (thanks, NYPD!) we reached the point where speakers and screens were set up so that we could take in the speeches going on down by City Hall. We’d missed many of the speakers by that point, but two of the ones I heard – Roger Toussaint of the Transit Worker’s Union (who, in yet another travesty of “justice,” was sentenced to ten days in prison and $1000 for defending his workers’ rights) and a Filipina woman whose name I didn’t catch but who spoke before him (if someone knows who she was, please tell me!) – reminded us of something that I think many americans, especially those who are anti-immigration, tend to forget: america’s role in creating the conditions that force people to leave their home countries in search of a better life in this one. Democracy Now! provides this quote from Toussaint:

Everyone here should think long and hard about what is happening in America today. We have a government that creates immigrants by the millions and then mistreats them. I say the U.S. creates immigrants the old-fashioned way. If you have tyranny and oppression and famine and poverty around the world, you are going to have immigrants coming to the U.S. No wall is going to stop them. No fence with barbed wire on the Mexican border or no frozen moat on the Canadian border is going to stop them. It will just make it easier to arrest and brutalize them. We don’t need a wall. We need a new foreign policy, so people can make a decent living and live in peace in their home countries.

That’s crucial to remember: the u.s., along with other western powers (though I think that no one does it quite like the u.s. does), is directly culpable for the decimation of Third World economies and social structures. In turn, the u.s. is directly responsible for the tide of immigration, legal or not, to this country. Should we, as a nation, wring these countries dry for the profit of u.s. interests, then give a big ol’ fuck you to their people when, out of sheer desperation, they come to the u.s. for the only shot they think they’ve got? Apparently, there are lots of people out there who think that’s precisely what we should do. But anyone with a whit of decency and sense should, when presented with the facts, realize that such actions are irresponsible and morally inexcusable.

no one is illegal

let’s try that blog revival business one more time…

The current weather in New York City: sunny, not a cloud in the sky that I can see, 57 degrees.
Sounds like good weather for a protest. Soon as I am able, I’m leaving work and heading down towards City Hall for what will certainly be a massive demonstration of support for immigrants’ rights and condemndation of the racist, xenophobic, perhaps less obviously but still certainly homophobic, and just generally fucked up attitudes towards immigrants and immigration that pervade the US government.

It’s inspiring and exciting to see such a massive mobilization occuring in cities and towns across the country. I know that many years and countless hours of work have made such a mobilization possible. But in some ways it has this magical feel of coming out of nowhere, a popular uprising of people who may not share all of the same politics, philosophies, histories or ideologies but who are suddenly banding together to speak out against the disgusting legislation and its weak derivatives currently being considered and debated by the US Congress. (Well, not quite currently, as they’re in recess right now, but, you know.)

One thing that I’ve found unsettling, though, in listening to coverage about the protests thusfar, is this “good immigrant/bad immigrant” rhetoric that’s present in what some people are saying, protesters and organizers alike. This morning, while listening to NPR, I heard one woman speak about how Latino immigrants aren’t doing anything to harm this country, that they “love America” and just want to become good, hard-working Americans. Then I heard one organizer, speaking at one of the rallies, say something like this: “Nineteen people hijacked planes and participated in the 9/11 attacks, and not one of them were named Gonzales, Rodriguez, or Santiago. But you can bet that many of the people dying serving their country in Iraq are named Gonzales, Rodriguez, and Santiago…” so on and so forth.

I understand that much of this is in response to the whole immigration debate getting wrapped up in worries about “national security” – how the specter of terrorism seems to make allowances for all manner of discrimination, racism and xenophobia, and how countless immigrants are nonsensically made to suffer because of it. However, it definitely seems like a very bad, very problematic move to buy into this sort of dichotomy that pits “good” immigrants or “good” brown folks (here, Latinos) against “bad” ones (apparently people of Arab or Middle Eastern descent – because, you know, the actions of individuals become the responsibility, the fault, the burden of their entire race and religion.) Latinos, like all other immigrants to the United States, deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and are entitled to certain rights and protections because they are human beings, not because they’re good, flag-waving*, American-loving immigrants. No one is illegal, no matter whether your name is Juan or Mohammed, Gonzales or Atta.

* And speaking of flag-waving, apparently you’d better be waving the right flag at these protests, because waving a Mexican or El Salvadorean or other foreign flag might be perceived as “a slap in Americans’ faces.” Apparently, some people were actually insulted to see flags of Latino countries being carried in the protests. It’s gotten to the point where some of the groups organizing these protests are actually asking people to bring American flags instead of their own countries’ flags, which is ridiculous to me. Why should immigrants – or any Latinos or other people of color in this country, frankly – have to kiss the collective ass of a country that’s been doing its best to treat them like total shit for centuries on end in order to “earn” their human and civil rights? It’s beyond me.

Also, the picture of the Mexican flag flying over the upside-down American flag that has Michelle Malkin and all the other conservatives frothing at the mouth – well, I’ve got to say, it warms the cockles of my little anti-American heart. Perhaps it wasn’t the smartest political tactic, but I can’t say that I disagree with the sentiment in the least.

The Catholic Church: doing something right, for a change.

I’m an ex-Catholic. Catholicism was a big part of my life for a long time. I went to Catholic schools for 12 years. As a kid, I used to love to read the Bible – not for the rules and regs, but for the stories, the imagery. I was obsessed with the Vatican. For a while when I was in elementary school, I went on a kick of lecturing my heathen cousins (who all went to public school and – gasp – didn’t even go to CCD!) about how wonderful Jesus was. God, was I obnoxious.

Anyhow, my zealous Catholicism all started crumbling down during high school, when I started realizing that I was not only a leftist, but a big ol’ queer. I think the real turning point was when I went the big anti-abortion march in DC during my Junior year. Ironically, the primary reasons for going to the march were to a) get out of school for a day and b) more importantly, spend a lot of time with the uber-Catholic girl who I had an incredibly huge crush on. I got there and was totally horrified by most everything I saw, from the huge placards with the gross and utterly misleading images of fetuses, to the gay anti-choice activists protesting from the sidelines because they weren’t allowed to march, to the creepy fervent droning chanting of the Rosary that was going on around me. Luckily, I was able to convince my crush to escape with me and go hang out in some random government building for much of the afternoon.

Since parting ways with Catholicism, I’ve had many opportunities to cringe, sigh, and scream over the activities of my former church. The large majority of what gets the Catholic church into the news is very cringe-worthy stuff, from the rampant child abuse by priests and subsequent cover-ups, to the Church’s continuing persecution of queer folks, to the total disregard for women’s rights perpetuated by the anti-choice movement.

But, every once in a while, there’s a news story that shows that, sometimes, the Catholic establishment can do something right. My friend Dex sent me one such article today: an op-ed piece from the New York Times lauding Cardinal Roger Mahony, head of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, for taking a stand against the appalling anti-immigration legislation that’s being pushed through Congress right now.

I didn’t actually know much about this legislation, H.R. 4437, until a few weeks ago, and I was both horrified at its contents and at the fact that I didn’t even know about it. I try to stay relatively abreast of stuff like this, and was shocked that I hadn’t heard more uproar about it. The uproar is there, I’m sure, but I just wasn’t hearing it for some reason.

Anyhow – in case you’re in the same boat, here’s a good summary from the Immigration Legal Resource Center of this awful piece of legislation. There’s some really horrendous stuff in there, including the creation of a whole new federal crime of “unlawful presence,” the transformation of minor offenses into aggravated felonies when involving undocumented immigrants, and the expansion of “alien smuggling” to include merely assisting undocumented immigrants, making such assistance a federal crime. That’s right – individuals and social service organizations who merely help undocumented immigrants survive could be charged with fucking crime. And it’s already passed the House, and is currently in the Senate.

It’s absolutely disgusting, frightening and enraging. And Cardinal Mahony thinks so, too. From the NY Times article:

If current efforts in Congress make it a felony to shield or offer support to illegal immigrants, Cardinal Mahony said, he will instruct his priests — and faithful lay Catholics — to defy the law.

… Cardinal Mahony’s defiance adds a moral dimension to what has largely been a debate about politics and economics. “As his disciples, we are called to attend to the last, littlest, lowest and least in society and in the church,” he said.

It’s refreshing to see the Catholic Church, or at least one member of the Church establishment, rallying people and using their political clout around the good parts of Catholic doctrine – that people should care for and help one another, that charity and justice are important, and that Catholics have a duty to help those who are most abused and neglected by our society. It’s a nice change from the usual stories about Catholic political pressure, like when the bishops decided to start denying communion to Catholic politicians who were not anti-choice.

One can only hope that those Catholics who are all too willing to use church doctrine as an excuse for their rabid homophobia, sexism and anti-choice attitudes are equally willing to heed this call to defend the human rights of immigrants. Of course, Catholics tend to let me down with their hypocrisy all the time, especially those who are virulently anti-choice but are either silent about or supportive of the death penalty. So I guess my hope is kind of slim. I’m prepared to sigh, cringe and scream as usual.

“Deserving” the death penalty

When I was sitting in the airport on Tuesday, waiting for my delayed flight to Atlanta to board, there was a piece on CNN about the delayed execution of Michael Morales, a man in California convicted of the murder of high school student Terri Winchell in 1981. The execution was delayed because of questions over the ethicality of the method of execution, legal injection. Because of concerns about the possibility that the combination of the three drugs administered in the execution could cause undue pain and suffering, a federal district judge in San Jose ruled that medical professionals must be present to ensure a painless death. The two anesthesiologists hired to do so refused to participate because participating in the non-consensual death of another person is in violation of the core ethics of the medical profession. The execution is now delayed indefinitely.

The CNN piece that I watched consisted of the CNN anchor (I forget her name) interviewing a legal expert on the specifics of the situation. The anchor kept talking about how horrible it must be for the victim’s family, to see such consideration being given to the man convicted of their loved one’s murder when no such consideration was given to her when she was so horribly killed. The anchor also kept saying, over and over, that no one was disputing that he did it, that he in fact deserved to die.

However, at the bottom of the screen, the little news ticker kept reading that the judge who originally sentenced Morales to death was requesting clemency due to doubts about the validity of the evidence used in the case. This continued to run across the screen as the anchor continued to assert that no one questioned that Morales deserved to die. Had she not heard about this apparently crucial doubt shed on whether he deserved to die by the very man who had sentenced him to death in the first place? Or was it just deemed unimportant to highlight that piece of information?

Apparently, most of the mainstream media shares that anchor’s attitude, since the vast majority of the media coverage of this case has neglected to mention Ventura County Superior Court Judge Charles R. McGrath’s request for clemency for Morales, since he believes that the sentence was based on false testimony provided by an informant. From the L.A. Times article (emphasis added):

Bruce Samuelson testified that Morales had callously boasted during a jailhouse conversation that he had planned to rape and kill the teenager. The confession supposedly took place in a crowded cellblock that Morales knew was full of informants.

Samuelson explained away Morales’ willingness to talk by saying the two men spoke in Spanish. A later investigation by the state attorney general, however, showed that Morales, a fourth-generation Californian, doesn’t speak Spanish, McGrath said.

The false testimony not only persuaded judge and jury that the killing was egregious, but effectively canceled out Morales’ claim that he felt deep remorse for the crime, McGrath said.

… Samuelson’s claim of Morales’ “confession was the only evidence to support the single special circumstance — lying in wait — that made Mr. Morales eligible for the death penalty,” the judge added.

It’s true that no one – neither Morales, his lawyers, or other supporters – is arguing that Morales didn’t commit a horrible crime. However, it seems like many people, especially in the media, are losing sight of the fact that, even though a crime may be horrible, that doesn’t mean that the law proscribes the death penalty for that crime. I, personally, don’t believe in the death penalty at all in any case. But the law itself, even when it allows for the death penalty, has a very strict and specific set of criteria that must be met before the death penalty is even an option. And in this case, that criteria was only met because of false testimony, proven false by the state attorney general and obtained in yet another dubious deal between the prosecution and a jailhouse informant.

So, in fact, in the eyes of the state, Michael Morales does not deserve to die. Yet Governor Schwarzenegger has decided to ignore that fact and deny clemency. It seems that this man has been condemned in the eyes of the governor, the mainstream media, and much of society, and it doesn’t matter that, no, according to those very laws that allow the death penalty in the first place, he should not be condemned.

To me, this points to one of the major problems in the public discourse about the death penalty – it’s an emotional conversation, filled with the desire for revenge and retribution instead of the desire for justice and restitution. What this man did was a horrific thing, and therefore, people want him to die. Some people even want him to die a painful, horrible death, himself. Screw the law, screw the false circumstances under which he was convicted and sentenced, screw remorse, screw the seemingly careful consideration that went into establishing guidelines for when to apply this most absolute and terrible of punishments – just kill him.

In writing this entry, I found an editorial by Joan Ryan in the San Francisco Chronicle – “It’s about the killing, not the pain.” In it, she points out the strange contradiction of worrying so much about whether the method of death is ethical while not looking about the serious ethical implications of the act of killing itself. She focuses specifically on the fact that doctors refuse to be involved in executions because they deem them to be against medical ethics, and asks the questions: “What’s so different about the rest of society? Why is killing a fellow human being not beyond the bounds of our own ethical behavior?” Important questions to ask, especially in this newest context for the ongoing death penalty debate.

Fuerza Bruta Imperialista: FBI abuse and intimidation in Puerto Rico

FBI agent sprays Puerto Rican reporter in the face with pepper spray

This is slightly old news, but still probably news that far too few have heard. On last Friday, February 10, FBI agents raided six private homes and one business in Puerto Rico in an attack of intimidation and repression against the Ejercito Popular Boricua (Boricua Popular Army). The raids were conducted under the pretense of a “terrorist threat,” though no arrests have been made. People’s homes were ransacked, and files, computers, and other belongings were seized from the homes and office.

When the press attempted to observe and record the raids, the FBI clashed violently with them, spraying many in the face with pepper spray, as in the picture above. The use of excessive force by the FBI has been widely decried, by media and journalism outlets and organizations, Puerto Rican Governor Anibal Acevedo Vila, and US congresspeople, who are demanding a federal investigation into the FBI’s actions.

Of course, the mainstream media is primarily spitting out the spin they’ve been fed by the FBI, saying that the FBI thwarted a terrorist attack. How, exactly, did they do that? By making no arrests and producing absolutely no evidence of any sort of planned attack? But see, the FBI knows that it doesn’t have to answer those questions. In our current political climate, one only need conjure up the specter of Terrorism to justify any excessive force, any civil rights violations, any complete and utter trampling of that worthless stack of papers called the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

It seems to me like all the FBI has done is to continue their campaign of terror, violence and intimidation against those people and organizations who are trying to rid Puerto Rico of their imperialist, oppressive colonizers. These most recent actions are completely in line with the September assasination of nationalist leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios, comandante of the Ejercito Popular Boricua. The FBI (or Fuerza Bruta Imperialista, as I read on the Indymedia PR website) continues to crack down on the independence and nationalist movements in Puerto Rico with absolutely no regard for the civil rights of the Puerto Rican people, further driving home the US’s attitude towards the Puerto Rican people as second class citizens. Also reflecting that attitude, the FBI neglected to inform any Puerto Rican authorities, such as the governor or the island’s chief of police, of the impending invasions. As reported in the NY Sun article on the call for an investigation from US congresspeople,

“In our democracy, the most fundamental obligation of law enforcement agencies is to uphold the constitutional rights of citizens as well as to protect the freedom of the press,” the congressmen wrote to the director of the FBI, Robert Mueller. “Even in Puerto Rico, where the Bureau and its agents have a reputation for behaving as if they are above the law, the FBI is not exempt from these duties.”

If the US government is going to continue its colonization of Puerto Rico, shouldn’t it at least treat the Puerto Rican people as true US citizens, enjoying all civil rights and liberties therein? Oh, but wait, that respect isn’t even present on the mainland, at least not for people who have ideas or identities that the government doesn’t like, so I suppose I shouldn’t expect it to be present on the island, either.

All of this is frightening, infuriating and disgusting. It makes me really fucking angry. It also makes me reflect more on my own activism, the places where I devote my energy. Right now, I mostly do my work around issues facing queer and trans people of color. Issues that are obviously very important, both in the grand scheme of things and personally in my own life. But, more and more, I think that my struggle – or at least, a larger part of my struggle, my energy, my work – should be for the liberation of my people. Incidents like this only make that feeling stronger.

More info:

One of the most thorough accounts of the FBI invasions that I’ve found so far, from the Monthly Review Zine

Pictures from the FBI raids, from Indymedia Puerto Rico

An article from Prensa Latina about Puerto Rican Association of Journalists President Oscar Serrano’s challenge to the FBI to prove that journalists were breaking the law and that any force against them was justified.

more info from the UrbanGuerrilla blog

An account from Infoshop News

I was happy to see this article in the Swarthmore Phoenix (my alma mater’s newspaper), about the long history of political repression in Puerto Rico, right up to the FBI’s most recent acts.

2005: a very bad year for human rights…

And not surprisingly, we have the United States and the War on brown people, I mean Muslims, I mean Terror, to thank for it. As described in this press release, the Human Rights Watch has released its World Report 2006. It’s rather grim.

New evidence demonstrated in 2005 that torture and mistreatment have been a deliberate part of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism strategy, undermining the global defense of human rights…

U.S. partners such as Britain and Canada compounded the lack of human rights leadership by trying to undermine critical international protections. Britain sought to send suspects to governments likely to torture them based on meaningless assurances of good treatment. Canada sought to dilute a new treaty outlawing enforced disappearances. The European Union continued to subordinate human rights in its relationships with others deemed useful in fighting terrorism, such as Russia, China and Saudi Arabia.

Many countries – Uzbekistan, Russia and China among them – used the “war on terrorism” to attack their political opponents, branding them as “Islamic terrorists.”

Not that I ever thought that any good has come from the “War on Terror,” but it’s striking and sickening to read about just how much damage it’s done to human rights, both in the US and globally.

Legislating love

From my friend Dex: He looks too ‘aloof’ in photographs, so Immigration rejected his wife. This is a Canadian incident, but similarly racist, xenophobic, and just plain heartbreaking applications of immigration laws occur in the US every day. As Dex put it, “this is what happens when the government tries to legislate love.”

Speaking of legislating love, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Latino/a Coalition for Justice recently released this report about queer Latina couples, based on the 2000 census (thanks to Julie for the link). Some of the findings: Latina queer couples earn less and are less likely to own a house than white queer couples, which is not very surprising – racism and classism affects queer Latinas just as it affects all Latinas.

What was particularly interesting to me were findings that about two-thirds of Latina queer couples are raising kids, and nearly half of Latina queer couples include someone who is not a US citizen, both statistics indicating that gay marriage could have very important affects on Latina queer folks – and that a lack of gay marriage can have very negative affects, when it comes to raising children and immigration struggles.

I often hear (and often agree with) arguments that the mainstream gay movement leaves many people out by focusing so singularly on gay marriage, that gay marriage is not priority number one for many low-income queers and queers of color, and that gay marriage is all about legitimizing certain kinds of queer relationships (monogamous between two people) and delegitimizing others. But it’s important to remember that gay marriage really could have an important and beneficial impact on many queer immigrants and queer people of color.