Mary Maxwell with rainbow flag at Montgomery rally
by Mary Maxwell, current candidate for US Senate
If you are not lesbian, gay, bi, or transgender, you should be sad – you weren’t part of a beautiful love-in today, at the state capital of Alabama.
Although I am the original Mrs Straight, I was on the invitation list by grace of being a candidate in the forthcoming election. I had never been to such an event. Maybe this is what the flower children were like at Haight Ashbury in the 1960s? We all got tanked up on love, and I mean seriously.
The only whine I heard was that “Montgomery is 37 years behind Birmingham in having a gay parade.” Believe me this was no high-budget Sydney Mardi Gras — there were no floats, outrageous costumes, or baiting of the media. It was simply a family day in the park.
Family? Yes. One of the speakers said “If your family has rejected you, we are your family.” Last week a friend in Tuscaloosa told me that it is COMMON for parents in this state to disown gay sons. I’m not sure that is correct. (Actually what she said was “It is common for Republicans in this state to disown their gay sons.” Hard to believe.)
By the way, all 16 candidates were invited to the Pride rally but none showed up except the chick in red. (Election primary is August 15, register to vote at alabamavotes.gov!!)
At 10.20am I joined the march to the Capitol. The LGBT’s were all walking fast so I straggled at the end of the parade. A kind, gay woman in a big, black sedan saw me and offered me a lift. She said “Hold on, we are going to go up on the sidewalks.” This got me up to the front, cheating, you know like Rowan Atkinson did in “Chariots of Fire” at the London Olympics.
The big black sedan was air-conditioned, what a relief in the sweltering heat! At first I failed to notice that the driver was wearing a gun. Eventually a cop car pulled up next to her. (The now nationalized color of patrol cars is black-and-white). She and the cop had a suspiciously collegial chat. Finally I got the point!
And, no, I wasn’t wearing a candidate badge, so she actually offered me the ride due to my “seniority.” Cops do the darndest things!
Water and Speeches
On reaching the steps of the Montgomery capitol, everyone was given a free bottle of ice-cold water by Pride, and Starbucks offered discounted ice tea. The steps were ceremoniously covered in the rainbow banner. The music provided was mostly by drums. Very good.
The first speaker was a minister (in US ‘minister’ never means parliament person). This minster of religion said “Since this is Sunday morning I realize some of you are missing church. I also realize some of you didn’t go to church and are not missing it” – laughter.
Many organizations sent a spokesperson, e.g. Southern Poverty Law Center (no friend of mine, quote unquote the Troy Davis case. Ditto the ACLU). A politician spoke – he was wearing a suit and tie. I don’t know how anyone could do that on a summer’s day.
Gender and Therapy
I thought they might call on me to speak. Wasn’t sure if I should introduce myself as a cisgendered Republican or a Republican cisgender (one who is today the same gender she was at birth.)
Oops, I just went to check the spelling and got a lecture:
In learning about the passe composé, the verbs that take être as their helping verb must also agree to the subject. “Je suis allé pour un homme. Je suis allée pour une femme.” What about people who don’t identify as male or female? How does it work here? French is not agender/genderqueer/bigender-friendly.
French has no gender-neutral singular pronoun like English does, e.g., by using “they.” There is “on” but it cannot be used for a specific person the way “they” or gender-neutral pronouns can in English.
It goes beyond that. Saying things like “my friend” will be gendered, as both “my” and “friend” changed based on gender. Same with “my partner”. While English can use gender-neutral term to accommodate for various orientation or hide you own, French doesn’t offer the same liberty.”
The speech at Montgomery today that I expect will stay with me longest came from a man who said: “For me, ‘therapy’ used to consist of sitting on a park bench after work in Dothan, Alabama, crying and crying until I could ‘get it together’ enough to walk home.”
Justice Roy Moore’s Approach
No doubt it was also therapeutic for the whole gang last year to get Judge Roy Moore deposed as Chief Justice, on the ethics charge that he refused to let the courts give out marriage licenses. I’ve said elsewhere that I support his efforts to resist federal intervention in state matters. To do that is really vital today on many fronts – education, health, and policing.
You may ask how Moore could refrain from getting in line with the US Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v Hodges (2015), the case that won (in a 5-4 judgment) the right of every person to marry. Apparently it is because – very technically speaking – the Court only spoke to the case at hand. Obergefell had come up through the Sixth Circuit as a ruling in a particular case.
Nevertheless, by invoking the constitutional right to equality, per the 14th Amendment, any other state case would ultimately lose the its ability to continue banning gay marriage.
Here is the dear 14th Amendment, which arose in connection with the 13th Amendment’s outlawing of slavery in 1866:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Obergefell v Hodges
John Roberts, the Chief Justice of the United States (who came in with Katrina, in September, 2005 – I am referring to the hurricane), wrote one of the four dissents to the majority opinion, as written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, in Obergefell. Roberts said:
“Stripped of its shiny rhetorical gloss, the majority’s argument is that the Due Process Clause gives same-sex couples a fundamental right to marry because it will be good for them and for society. If I were a legislator, I would certainly consider that view as a matter of social policy. But as a judge, I find the majority’s position indefensible as a matter of constitutional law.”
In making comparison between the role of the two branches there — legislature and judiciary — it may have seemed that the Chief Justice was going for what in Australia is called parliamentary supremacy.
It is indeed ultra vires for a court in the US to make law; that’s Congress responsibility. (I think Roe v Wade was wrongly decided – Texas had the right to ban abortions.) But in my opinion, the 14th Amendment did give the Court the power to overturn a ban on same-sex marriage.
In 2013 the High Court of Australia overruled a law in a territory that had allowed same-sex marriage (against the 1961 Commonwealth Marriage Act). I went troppo over it. Not because it forbade the territory to oppose Commonwealth law, but because the Court demanded a rollback of the marriages that had taken place during the short period of time that the law was in effect.
(Please see my troppo-ism in my article “An Australian Defense of Marriage” — the first thing I ever wrote for Gumshoe — in a year, 2013, when GumshoeNews.com was not yet a daily publication.)
Oddly, Australia still has not legitimized gay marriage. It allows “civil unions” — which is a help, as same-sex couples run into frustration regarding inheritance, welfare benefits, or next-of-kin involvement in medical emergencies.
I think some people from Montgomery should pop over to Sydney to see what’s going on, and some people from Sydney should pop over to Montgomery for next year’s Pride love-in.
I’m just sayin’.
Mary Maxwell, PhD, LLB, is contactble at www.MaxwellForSenate.com