Raymond Burr

Raymond Burr


Raymond Burr was a handsome second-string actor who started his career in the late 1940s. He evolved into a movie villain (as in “Rear Window” ), and then a heroic TV actor (as in “Perry Mason,” and later “Ironside”). He was handsome and broad-shouldered, with a deep gruff voice. He gained weight in the 1950s and 1960s, but it gave him gravity.

Also, he was gay.

He met an actor named Robert Benvenides while working on the “Perry Mason” show. They fell in love, and spent the rest of their lives together. Hollywood couldn’t endure this, of course, so the studios created a fiction about marriages and children. (Raymond was married to a woman for a while, back in the 1940s, but it ended in divorce and no children.)

He was reputed to be very generous. IMDB reports the story that Errol Flynn told him that, if he died with ten dollars in his pocket, he wouldn’t have done his job. It inspired him to be philanthropic, and he always helped his friends.

He died in 1992, and Benvenides was his sole heir, but Raymond’s family contested this. They failed, thank goodness.

How times have changed! Look at George Takei! And Neil Patrick Harris! And Ellen de Generes!

Partner and I have talked about marriage. Sadly, we’d end up paying more income tax married than we would as two “single” people. But our mutual employer, Brown University, regards us as Domestic Partners, so we enjoy some advantages that way. Also, we have not found any local institutions that discriminate against us. Lately (with all my health-related adventures) I simply introduce Partner to my doctors and nurses as “my life partner,” and he’s welcomed immediately.

How easy we have it, and how difficult Raymond Burr and his partner Robert Benvenides had it, only twenty years ago.

The world is moving in the right direction.

Slowly.


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Three good things: refrigerator, DOMA, Proposition 8

refrigerator doma prop 8


My poor heart can’t stand it. Three good things happened in one day!

 

 

First of all: our old feeble refrigerator got replaced. I wrote a mild email to our landlords two nights ago about how the food in our freezer didn’t seem to be freezing properly, and the landlords replaced the fridge the very next day! And it’s lovely, and they’re lovely people over at the landlord’s office, and we love them and thank them.

 

 

Also: the lovely folks in the Supreme Court – five of them, anyway – believe that they should not overturn the California Supreme Court’s rejection of Proposition 8, and as a result, gay marriage is once again legal in the great state of California (as of July 25, 2013, at any rate).

 

 

This is nothing to me really, because I’m not a citizen of California. I’m delighted, however, for the gay people who married in California while it was legal, and who are legal again; I’m also delighted for the other gay Californians who can now line up for marriage licenses. And I’m delighted to see one more state added to the illustrious roster of states (including Little Rhody) which have legalized gay marriage.

 

 

The third good thing that happened today was this: DOMA – the Defense of Marriage Act – was found, in essence, unconstitutional.

 

 

This is key.

 

 

Partner and I have long debated the issue of marriage. We’ve lived together for fourteen years, which makes us married in the eyes of any deity who matters. Rhode Island legalized gay marriage a few months ago – hooray! But would it be of any advantage to us to get married? Not if the federal government doesn’t recognize it. It would have no tax advantages, or estate advantages.

 

 

But now, after the Supreme Court’s snappy 5-4 decision, it’s a different story.

 

 

Do I hear wedding bells?

 

 

Or is it just our new (and more efficient) refrigerator humming?


 

Gay marriage in Rhode Island

gay marriage


Wonderful news! The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations has become the tenth state of the Union to legalize gay marriage!

It’s a great day. It’s not a universally great day, of course; the federal government still doesn’t recognize gay marriage, which means we’re still in the turbulent state-by-state era in which interracial couples used to live. (Imagine: it used to be illegal for black people to marry white people, and states – well, hmm, Southern states – could still forbid it. Imagine!)

Will Partner and I marry? I don’t know. Largely it will depend on whether the pros outweigh the cons. Will it have tax advantages? Maybe yes, maybe no. Will it guarantee us the right to visit one another in the hospital when we’re sick? Almost certainly yes. (This is a big plus, because we’re both getting older.) What about the rights to inheritance, and to determine what happens when either of us passes away? (Another big plus, and I don’t need to remind you once that we’re getting older.) And, if gay marriage isn’t confirmed on the Federal level, the whole thing can still be thrown out the window.

But don’t worry. If we decide to get married, I’ll be sure to announce it well in advance.

And I warn you that I expect very lavish wedding gifts.


Allies

allies


The Supreme Court heard arguments about two gay-marriage issues last week: California’s Proposition 8, which declares (by popular vote) that gay marriage is out of the question, and the Defense of Marriage Act, enacted by the usually-smarter Bill Clinton, which declares that (for federal purposes) marriage can only ever be between a man and a woman.

 

 

The passage of Proposition 8 implies that voters can grant or deny civil rights.

 

 

DOMA creates a situation in which married gay couples can still be denied federal benefits.

 

 

You can guess (if you don’t already know) where I stand on both issues, but here are some thoughts:

 

 

–         Can a referendum really decide a civil rights issue? I’m fine with the voters electing representatives, and deciding on bonds issues, and so forth. But I’m pretty sure that, if civil rights for black people had been put to a vote in the sovereign state of Mississippi in 1964, the vote would have gone badly for black people.

–         Much has been said and written about “marriage.” Isn’t “civil union” enough for gay people (in the states which grant it)? Well, not so much, since “civil union” almost never grants the same rights as “marriage.” If Partner and I were in a civil union, most or all of the local hospitals would be within their rights to deny either of us the right to visit the other. (Most or all of them don’t – Rhode Island is surprisingly gay-friendly – but the law permits them to be far more restrictive than they are. And the Catholic Diocese of Providence is extraordinarily gay-unfriendly.)

–         Someone on Facebook suggested “holy matrimony” as a substitute for the Catholic / Baptist / etc. word “marriage.” After all, pretty much every City Hall grants “marriage licenses,” and City Hall is no place for religious ceremony. So: if the Holy Roman Catholic Church doesn’t like gay marriage, it doesn’t have to perform them; that would be allowing two men to enter “holy matrimony.” But it must acknowledge that two men are civilly and legally “married,” just as they acknowledge Protestant marriages and Jewish marriages and Muslim marriages and purely-City-Hall marriages.

 

 

Over the past few weeks, a lot of my straight Facebook friends have posted pro-gay marriage messages and images. People at work whom I’ve known casually for five, or ten, or twenty years, have suddenly come forward and hugged me. (Partner reports similar behavior in his office.)

 

 

These are “allies”: straight people, people whose rights are not in question, who are coming forward to say that they support our right to marry.

 

 

I thank all our allies: Mary, and Diane, and Paul, and the rest. They are wonderful people.

 

 

And who cares what the Supreme Court decides?

 

 

We know we’re right.

 

 

And we will win in the end.


 

The American Christian politician


Todd Akin, last week, made his concession speech in the name of God. I think his point was that God is allowing America to become more and more sinful, so that he (God, not Todd Akin) can destroy it with impunity, a la Sodom and Gomorrah.

I picked up a local Christian newspaper last week, just to catch up on the Good News Today. I used to enjoy these papers: they have cute features, like Bible riddles (Who’s the shortest man in the Old Testament? Bildad the Shuhite!) and little homilies about grace and forgiveness.

But this little newspaper was full of vitriol. Mostly it was about abortion and gay marriage. These are the two worst things happening in the United States, in case you’re wondering.

Do you remember Jesus, in the New Testament, doing anything or saying anything about either of these issues? He did not. He fed people, and healed people. But apparently health care and world hunger are not important issues for modern fundamentalists.

I am so sorry that, for so many modern Christians, “social issues” consist of abortion and gay marriage. Why don’t they address health care, and hunger, and housing, and poverty? Their Saviour addressed all those things.

I don’t believe that Jesus was the son of God. But Jesus the man, as depicted in the Gospels, had a lot of good ideas.

Such as: Don’t worry so much about how sinful your neighbor is.

Just make sure he’s fed and housed and warm.

Let the rest take care of itself.


Chicken sandwiches, gay marriage, and freedom of speech

Sarah-palin-chick-fil-a-facebook


I wrote last week about Dan Cathy, CEO of fast-food chain Chick-fil-A, who made a big contribution to an anti-gay-marriage organization, and bragged about his morals as he did so. (He made a comment about “all of us here being on our first marriages,” which I think is pretty comical.) He and his company promptly got dumped upon, most publicly and most appropriately by the Henson Company, which broke ties with Chick-fil-A (Henson used to manufacture toys for their children’s meals).  The Hensons then contributed the money they’d received from Chick-fil-A to GLAAD, a prominent gay organization.

 

 

All of this I love.

 

 

The next part becomes more complex.

 

 

Leaders in four American cities – Denver, Boston, San Francisco, and Chicago – have talked about forbidding the expansion of the Chick-fil-A chain in their cities. Is this okay? I’m not sure. I dislike homophobes and prudes, of course, but I can’t forbid them to own businesses, and I’m not sure if I can justify zoning them out of whole cities.  If they were openly flouting the law – refusing service based on sexual preference, or something like that – I might think differently.

 

 

This is the lovely thing about America. You can be as ridiculous as you like, and no one can really tell you to shut up about it. You can be against gay marriage, or women’s suffrage, or the Emancipation Proclamation if you like, and you can even put up big banners in your place of business announcing your political beliefs.

 

 

You’d just better be prepared to lose quite a bit of business.

 

 

To be sure, the homophobes are rallying around the chicken place. Mike Huckabee, the Christian zealot, and Rick Santorum, the animated sweater-vest, have encouraged other zealots and bigots to join them at Chick-fil-A on August 1, to show their “support.” (It’s like the Civil Rights Movement in reverse: lunch counter sit-ins to deny people their rights!) I also saw a lovely photo of Sarah and Todd “Secede From America” Palin picking up their chicken sandwiches and smiling pretty for the camera. (CNN played Pink’s song “Stupid Girls” as background as they relayed the story. Excellent commentary.)

 

 

The natural response for the gay and gay-friendly communities is to boycott Chick-fil-A. Some organizers, more interestingly, are organizing “Gay Day at Chick-fil-A,” to be held on the same day as the Huckabee/Santorum hate rally. This will create, um, an interesting dynamic.

 

 

Myself, I’m with the boycotters. This will be easy for me, because there are no Chick-fil-A franchises in Rhode Island.

 

 

(I was never much for chicken sandwiches, anyway. I’m more of a burger queen.)

 

 

Sally Ride, gay marriage, the Muppets, and Chick-fil-A


I was saddened when I read that Sally Ride, first American woman in space, passed away a few days ago. She was a role model, certainly; back in 1983, science and engineering were still distinctly woman-unfriendly disciplines. (The Russians had Valentina Tereshkova all those decades ago, but never really closed the gender gap.)

 

 

Astronauts were never really my heroes. They were too bland. When I was a kid in the 1960s, I used to be irritated when all those Gemini missions kept preempting my favorite programs. And then – these guys went into space, and came back, and never had anything interesting to say!

 

 

Then, the other day, I learned that Sally was in a relationship with a woman, Tam O’Shaughnessy, for the last 27 years of her life.

 

 

Now I’m interested.

 

 

The astronaut business was intensely macho. The original astronauts – Mercury, Gemini, Apollo – were mostly test pilots and Air Force hotshots, and most of them were insufferable boors. (My favorite reference text on this subject is Michael Collins’s lovely book “Carrying the Fire,” about his own time as an astronaut. He was the guy who circled the moon back in 1969 while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were traipsing around in the Sea of Tranquility.  He describes the psychological tests, and the physical training, and the sometimes-not-very-friendly sparring between the astronauts.)

 

 

 

Now: imagine being Sally Ride, competing in that macho environment.

 

 

I would have wilted in five seconds under that pressure. In the words of Tony Kushner, daisies would have sprouted out of my ears.

 

 

But Sally made it. She even married (for a few years in the 1980s) one of the other astronauts, Steve Hawley, who seems nice enough.

 

 

But she ended up with Tam O’Shaughnessy, who lived with her for over two decades, and worked with her, and co-authored several books with her, and was with her through her final illness

 

.

Bravo to her.

 

 

And what does Tam get?

 

 

Why, nothing! No death benefits. The U. S. Gummint don’t recognize non-traditional relationships.

 

 

(Mitt Romney recently posted a fatuous/obvious comment on Twitter about Sally being a “pioneer.” Here’s how that went:)

 

 

Tweet

 

Which brings me to Chick-fil-A.

 

 

We don’t have this particular chain in Rhode Island, thank goodness. I say “thank goodness” because Dan Cathy, the company’s CEO, recently made a large donation to an anti-gay-marriage cause, and made some nasty comments to accompany his contribution.

 

 

The Jim Henson Company, which made toys for Chick-fil-A’s kids’ meals, broke with them over this. They made a wonderful statement about it, and they gave the money they’d earned from Chick-fil-A to GLAAD, a gay organization.

 

 

Tee hee!

 

 

And here’s a pictorial version of the victory:

 

 

531711_498718156824309_1440480707_n

 

 

All of this means we still have a very long way to go.

 

 

But there’s light on the horizon.

 

 

Maybe.

 

 

(Rest in peace, Sally. Tam: best wishes, and stay strong. Lisa Henson: you go, girl. Dan Cathy of Chick-fil-A: go to hell, rapidly, now.)


 

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