The American Way

I really love my country. I still get that cliché lump in my throat when singing the Star Spangled Banner and thinking of great American icons like Martin Luther King Jr., Harvey Milk, Cady Elizabeth Stanton and Frederick Douglas. Our constitution and the form of government it has produced are, by far, the best in the world, after all, countless other nations have emulated it. I love the United States of America. E pluribus unum.

Now that I got that out of the way, let me say one thing: My nation is incredibly stupid. We are in the 13th year of the 21st century, you know, that magical time when most of our problems were supposed to be solved, we’d be living like the Jetsons, and shit would be great for everyone? Despite the fact that information and knowledge is literally at our fingertips (and free), there are massive amounts of ignorance in America.

Income inequality – that huge gap between the richest and poorest among us – has increased to historic levels as the wealthy and the most profitable corporations in the history of mankind continue to pay little to no taxes (thank you, tax code and loopholes). The poorest continue to be hit the hardest by economic hardships and the middle class is continuing to shrink. Our leader’s solution to this problem: more trickle-down, austerity magic! Shame on us.

Climate change is a globally recognized, scientifically accepted fact of life on Earth now. Our science has only gotten better and the cause of accelerated, devastating climate change is us, humanity, burning the remains of dinosaurs and other Cretaceous plant and animal life. Storms, floods and droughts are worse than they’ve ever been and the global average temperature has continued to climb. The oceans are more acidic, a result of absorbing more carbon dioxide than they should naturally be absorbing. Nasty feedback loops have eaten away a shocking amount of the planet’s polar ice caps. Several animal species are approaching the point of extinction. Agriculture and other industries reliant on the Earth itself are already seeing the devastating results of a planet less hospitable to their business, where areas that were once fertile and green are becoming barren, arid wastelands. Parts of the planet that have been traditionally cold are becoming more tropical. Tropical diseases are becoming more common globally. The effects of these catastrophic phenomena have already displaced or killed several million people around the globe.

And yet, nations like the United States and China continue churning out billions of tons of carbon dioxide from dirty sources like coal because, apparently, that’s what “progress” looks like. True, natural gas produces half the emissions coal does and while it is a good thing that more focus is being placed on it as one of the major alternatives to coal, we are still releasing far too much carbon dioxide than the planet can naturally and safely absorb. Renewable energy? We’re investing more in it than we ever have before and that is a very good thing. But to combat a warming planet and ensure our survival sustainably we need to lead the world in massive investments into renewable energy sources like we once did with the interstate highway system decades ago.

Despite the overwhelming amount of scientific evidence and natural disasters stemming from climate change, a large portion of the American public thinks it’s all a hoax (most likely because they heard it on talk radio and saw it on Faux News). There IS  silver lining, however: a majority of Americans agree that climate change is something our leaders should be doing more to address and alleviate. But it should be a vast majority because remember, the information and research on climate change, not to mention the news reports of devastation, are instantly accessible. Shame on us.

We also elect disgraceful excuses for leaders; After the 2010 midterm election, the once-great Republican Party – poisoned by the religious right and purchased for several billion dollars by corporate America – picked up a supermajority of the House of Representatives and state legislatures across the country, as well as governorships in many states.

The philosophy of this terrifying brand of conservatism sees government and taxation of any kind as oppressive. The social safety net? It’s the makers vs. the takers! Investments in education and infrastructure? It’s a commie plot to destroy America! Don’t even mention raising government revenue via tax raises on the super wealthy! Nut jobs like that used to be relegated to the fringes. Now they’re running the party.

The result of electing these jokes to office:

The use of the filibuster exploded to dizzying heights, grinding the process of governing and government itself to a halt; the economic recovery and the transition to a more sustainable, greener future is being painfully suffocated by severe budget cuts, sequestration and a dogmatic refusal to pass anything resembling a job program; restrictions on abortion that would effectively outlaw many forms of birth control and fertility treatments flood state legislatures; the Defense of Marriage Act  (DOMA) – prohibiting all same-sex couples in the nation from having the 1,100 federal benefits that straight couples have – was ruthlessly defended at a cost of millions of dollars to the American taxpayers, despite the fact that the majority of those taxpayers think DOMA needs to go; members of the LGBT community can be fired for being who they are in several states because of Congress’ refusal to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA); new restrictions on voting rights were passed in battleground states controlled by Republicans, restrictions specifically targeted at young people, African-Americans, and the poor (groups that usually vote Democratic); the Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed cross-country pipeline that would expose millions of Americans to filthy tar sands oil spills (like the recent one in Arkansas) and would also act as an exacerbator of climate change has been pimped and promoted by all Republicans and several Democrats in both the House and Senate; and mass shootings have increased in frequency thanks to successful lobbying by the National Rifle Association and the fact that an assault weapons ban, high-capacity magazine bans, and universal background checks aren’t federal realities.

Shame on us for voting in this insanity.

Even Republicans are stunned, and not in a “look at the pretty fireworks” kind of way. Mark McKinnon, a former advisor to President George W. Bush and lifelong Republican, captured the sentiment in a single quote:

“…the party, by refusing to recognize reality, is going to end up looking like the ‘stupid party’ that fails to adapt and evolve to changing circumstances in our society…On issues where the physics are moving irre…vocably forward, like immigration, gay rights, and guns, the Republican Party continues to look backward. And backward is a sure path toward irrelevance.”

Because of gerrymandering after the 2010 GOP landslide, ousting this far-right crop of Republicans is harder than ever. For example, Democrats received over one million more votes in congressional elections in the 2012 election than Republicans did. But because gerrymandered congressional districts are an affliction effecting many states, the GOP still holds a *slim* majority and majorities in too many state assemblies and senates.

But there’s another silver lining: thanks to rapidly changing demographics and the insanity of their current positions, Republicans will possibly lose their majority in 2014. Until then progressives (not all Democrats, including President Obama) in Congress must hold true to their convictions of advocating for all Americans, not just the wealthy, and helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The nation that is supposed to be that Shining City on a Hill, that beacon of hope to all the world, the global example for what democracy looks like, has descended into utter chaotic stupidity. Until Americans become more concerned with the state of the country and planet rather than the vapid lives of celebrities and the latest results from reality television shows, this epidemic of stupidity will continue. Until we demand that our leaders govern in reality and in our interests at the ballot box, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Dump Decency…for ‘Murica!

Last March (2012), after Starbucks backed a Washington state ballot initiative legalizing same-sex marriage, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) organized a “Dump Starbucks” campaign in response during the annual shareholders’ meeting. The goal was to get closet-cases and people who despise the LGBT community to stop buying cups of coffee at Starbucks, which would cause Starbucks’ market value to tank until they recanted their support for equality. You could almost hear NOM’s Brian Brown say, “Mwahahaha!”

What was the economic effect of Dump Starbucks? Well, the NASDAQ, a barometer showing the health of the stock market, was already in the midst of a dip – it ended up dropping over four percent; Starbucks (“SBUX” as listed in the NASDAQ) only dropped a little over one percent. In other words, as “The New Civil Rights Movement” pointed out last year, the entire market took a little dip during that time and despite that, Starbucks remained strong. Speaking as a Starbucks barista, this is no surprise to me; people find a way, any way, to pay for their addictions.

"Dump Starbucks" logo

This ridiculous campaign then mysteriously disappeared from the news faster than a Newt Gingrich marriage….until now.

CEO Howard Shultz (my boss) recently told a shareholder, who was protesting the company’s stance on marriage equality, that he was free to sell his shares and invest in a different company. The far-right’s reaction: Dump Starbucks…2.0! Yes, the failed and hilarious faux campaign is back.

So you can see through this non-sequitur, here’s what Shultz actually said at the annual shareholder meeting last week:

“If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38 percent you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares of Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much.”

See?! Can’t you just hear and see the anti-Christian drivel oozing from Shultz’s mouth?? Outrageous…we must all boycott this hippie-pinko-commi-faggy corporation at once! Gays are recruiting our children! They’re gross! And something about gay sex!

It really is astounding that in 2013, there are entire organizations devoted to making sure loving, committed couples who happen to be the same sex cannot marry because it would somehow damage their members’ own insecure marriages. Somehow, committed, same-sex couples have a magical power to turn others gay…don’t catch “the gay,” people!

What’s even more astounding is that the cultural tide is turning rapidly. Poll after poll shows public support for same-sex marriage well over 50 percent. Some polls go far into the 60s. Support for marriage equality is even more pronounced and strong with members of my generation (“millennials”), where the number is between the high 70s and low 80s.

The be-afraid-of-the-scary-gay-couple tactic is even failing to work on growing numbers of young Evangelicals and conservatives, maybe because they’re able to tell the difference between equal rights under the law vs. specific religious belief, as opposed to their parents and grandparents.

The Supreme Court is gearing up to hear two landmark cases in the struggle for equal rights and if the make-up of the court is any indication, along with increasing public support, things are looking good for marriage equality.

NOM’s Brown recently compared marriage equality to slavery and vowed to go for an amendment to the U.S. constitution if the Supreme Court ruled in favor of equality. Good luck with that, Brian. Keep fighting the losing, bigoted fight.

What exactly is the end game of these groups? Most of the products we use in our modern society come from corporations that support equality. Will bigots like AFA’s Bryan Fischer or FRC’s Tony Perkins simply live on farms outside Atlanta, hiding from the equality-supporting zombies (Yes, that was a “Walking Dead” reference….)? Unless they plan on living like the Amish, their ridiculous boycotts will accomplish nothing more than making them look like the narrow-minded bigots they are.

 

Here’s to 2013

Suck it, Mayans. Not only was 2012 not the end of humanity, it was packed with major milestones and records. Every blog on the Internet and every columnist known to Man have written some sort of commemorative post or column to look back over the previous year and welcome in 2013 – nothing special here…and since the year is over, I figured I’d write SOMETHING to look back.

There’s so much that I’ve written about over the past year: more states legalized marriage equality and brought national equality closer to being a reality; President Barack Obama beat human cyborg Mitt “Cayman Islands” Romney and won re-election to the presidency; The one and only Queen of Pop (hint: her career is over 30 years old) performed at the Super Bowl halftime to a record-breaking number of viewers and topped the charts with her 12th studio album, MDNA, all over the world.

And…

All previous heat and extreme weather records were broken this year than in all the years that scientists have been studying global climate and planet’s oceans continue to become more acidic…because humans have absolutely no effect on climate change because it is totally fake, or something. The number of mass shootings in the United States continued to skyrocket with tragic results, and still America has grossly inadequate gun control policies – the National Rifle Association’s lobbyists have blood on their hands.

We must make 2013 a better, more responsible and unified year.

Throughout this chaotic and interesting year, my own life saw some changes and milestones. I’m still working and going to school and by 2014, I’ll have a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication with a minor in Mass Communication and Journalism from Fresno State. I may decide to go on for a Master’s Degree in Mass Communication and Journalism. I turned 23 in August, danced to “Gangnam Style” and realized I’m annoyed with the teens and children of today….and I’d just like to say that One Direction can go back the direction they came.

Having said/written that, here are a few highlights from my year:

 

I became a father………….to a beautiful kitten…

I am the proud father of the most beautiful, funny, adorable cat ever – FACT. I got little miss Lucy, named after Lucille Ball, when she was only a six-week-old bundle of fur. I fell in love instantly. For almost seven months, she’s brought be joy and a few headaches. Lucy has abnormally long legs and can literally jump over half-way up a door if she’s following a mysterious laser and she loves to chit-chat with me. I love Lucy. She’s purrrfect.

my little girl

my little girl

 

I saw Madonna LIVE in LA

It was a surreal experience, seeing my favorite artist and the legendary Queen of Pop (I wrote about it for my university newspaper – read it here). I purchased the tickets for a pretty penny, but it was definitely worth it. In fact, for the next tour, I’m paying even more to sit in front of the stage AND I’ll be going to more than one show. Madonna puts on a concert like no other by channelling her pioneering, independent spirit and chart topping hits into one two-hour extravaganza. Seeing a Madonna concert in one’s lifetime should be on everyone’s bucket list. Sadly, my phone died before the concert began and I wasn’t able to take any pictures. So, here’s an iconic screenshot from the highest-grossing tour of 2012…

Madonna wearing a Gaultier corset (homage to her 1990 Blonde Ambition Tour) and vogue-ing

Madonna wearing a Gaultier corset (homage to her 1990 Blonde Ambition Tour) and vogue-ing

 

I *proudly* helped re-elect President Obama.

President Barack Obama is not perfect. For example, I wish he would be more aggressive on fighting climate change via policy, Wall Street reform and gun control. But when one of the parties in a two-party system literally does all it can to fight, tooth and nail, everything the President and his party do, it’s hard to enact meaningful legislation or accomplish anything aside from Congress-wide pay raises. Since the corporate backed Conservative Movement, Religious Right, and the Tea Party took over the Republican Party, Washington has been a nightmare. I agree with most of the President’s agenda and over-all goals and when it came down to him and Mitt “binders full of women” Romney, it was really a no-brainer. Historians will look back in amazement at how politics regressed in this time. The 2014 congressional elections cannot come fast enough…

President Obama - two-term, 44th President of the United States.

President Obama – two-term, 44th President of the United States.

Here’s to a kick-ass 2013.

 

Rachel Maddow Sums It Up Beautifully

After an amazing night, where the country chose to progress forward into the 21st century, I was incredibly happy…and I slept quite well, I might add. I expected the President to win a second term, but I didn’t expect the Republican majority in the House of Representatives to shrink and the Democratic majority in the Senate to grow. I was pleasantly surprised that, for the first time in U.S. history, voters approved of marriage equality in three states and against discrimination in Minnesota. It was an incredible night for the entire country.

I am so proud to be an American. We finally have the chance to have a government that works for the 100 percent. Climate change can finally be seriously addressed. The United States now ensures access to healthcare, and we’re closer to achieving universal healthcare like the rest of the developed world. Marriage equality across the land is even closer to becoming a wonderful reality. The hundreds of millions of dollars spent by dark money groups to ensure the status quo remains ultimately meant nothing. Americans spoke loud and clear. Our democratic republic is alive and well.

Rachel Maddow summed up just what this election meant for the nation:

“We are not going to have a Supreme Court that will overturn Roe v. Wade. There will be no more Antonin Scalias and Samuel Alitos added to this Court. We’re not going to repeal health reform. Nobody is going to kill Medicare and make old people in this generation or any other generation fight it out on the open market to try to get themselves health insurance. We are not going to do that.

“We are not going to give a 20 percent tax cut to millionaires and billionaires and expect programs like food stamps and kid’s health insurance to cover the cost of that tax cut. We’re not going to make you clear it with your boss if you want to get birth control under the insurance plan that you’re on. We are not going to redefine rape. We are not going to amend the United States Constitution to stop gay people from getting married. We’re not going to double Guantanamo. We are not eliminating the Department of Energy or the Department of Education or [the Department of] Housing [and Urban Development] at the federal level. We are not going to spend two trillion dollars on the military that the military does not want. We are not scaling back on student loans because the country’s new plan is that you should borrow money from your parents. We’re not vetoing the Dream Act. We are not self-deporting. We are not letting Detroit go bankrupt. We are not starting a trade war with China on Inauguration Day in January. We are not going to have, as a President, a man who once led a mob of friends to run down a scared gay kid, to hold him down and forcibly cut his hair off with a pair of scissors while that kid cried and screamed for help, and there was no apology, not ever.

“We are not going to have a Secretary of State John Bolton. We are not bringing Dick Cheney back. We are not going to have a foreign policy shop stocked with architects of the Iraq War. We are not going to do it. We had the choice to do that if we wanted to do that as a country, and we said ‘no’ last night, loudly.

….

“Ohio really did go to President Obama last night, and he really did win. And he really was born in Hawaii, and he really is legitimately President of the United States, again, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics did not make up a fake unemployment rate last month, and the Congressional Research Service really can find no evidence that cutting taxes on rich people grows the economy, and the polls were not skewed to over-sample Democrats, and Nate Silver was not making up fake projections about the election to make conservatives feel bad. Nate Silver was doing math, and climate change is real, and rape really does cause pregnancy sometimes, and evolution is a thing, and Benghazi was ‘on’ us, it was not a scandal ‘by’ us, and no one is taking away any one’s guns, and taxes have not gone up, and the deficit is dropping, actually, and Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, and the moon landing was real, and FEMA is not building concentration camps, and UN election observers are not taking over Texas, and moderate reforms of the regulations on the insurance industry and the financial services industry in the country are not the same thing as communism…

“…in this country, we have a two-party system in government and the idea is supposed to be that the two sides both come up with ways to confront and fix the real problems facing our country. They both propose possible solutions to our real problems, and we debate between those possible solutions, and by the process of debate, we pick the best idea. That competition between good ideas from both sides about real problems in the real country should result in our country having better choices, better options than if only one side is really working on the hard stuff…if the Republican Party and the Conservative Movement and the conservative media is stuck in a vacuum-sealed, door-locked spin cycle of telling each other what makes them feel good and denying the factual, lived truth of the world, then we are all deprived as a nation of the constructive debate between competing, feasible ideas about real problems…they [GOP] are going to have to pop the factual bubble they have been so happy living inside if they do not want to get shellacked again, and that will be a painful process for them I’m sure, but it will be good for the whole country, left, right and center.

Classic Arguments for Discrimination Showcased in Video

These days, viral videos of anti-gay, backwards ministers and fringe-idea leaders are somewhat commonplace. “Another video of a minister calling for the criminalization of homosexuality? Another example of bigotry and ignorance from a fundamentalist Southern church? *YAWN* What else is new?”

However, one video in particular has created quite the buzz around the World Wide Web recently.

 

Watch it, and be sure to see it through to the end:

 

 

 

**SPOILER ALERT**

 

 

 

Quote from the video:

“I worry about the future of our city. Any accurate reading of the Bible should make it clear that gay rights goes against the plain truth of the Word of God.

“As one preacher warns:

‘Man, in overstepping the boundary lines God has drawn by making special rights for gays and lesbians, has taken another step in the direction of inviting the judgment of God upon our land.

‘This step of gay rights is but another stepping stone toward the immorality and lawlessness that will be characteristic of the last days.

‘This ordinance represents a denial of all that we believe in and no one should force it on us.

‘It’s not that we don’t care about homosexuals but that our rights will be taken away, and un-Christian views will be forced on us and our children, for we would be forced to go against our personal morals.

‘Outside government agents are endeavoring to disturb God’s established order. It is not in line with the Bible. Do not let people lead you astray.

‘The liberals leading this movement do not believe the Bible any longer, but every good, substantial, Bible-believing, intelligent, Orthodox Christian can read the word of God and know what is happening is not of God.

‘When you run into conflict with God’s established order, you have trouble. You do not produce harmony. You produce destruction and trouble and our city is in the greatest danger that it has ever been in in its history. The reason is that we have gotten away from the Bible of our forefathers. You see, the right of segregation…,’

“I’m sorry, hold on.

 ‘The right of segregation is clearly established by the holy scriptures, both by precept and example.’

“I’m sorry, I’ve brought the wrong notes with me this evening…I’ve borrowed my argument from the wrong century. It turns out what I’ve been reading to you this whole time are direct quotes from White preachers from the 1950s and the 1960s, all in support of racial segregation.

“All I have done is simply take out the phrase ‘racial integration’ and substituted it with the phrase ‘gay rights.’

“I guess the arguments I’ve been hearing around Springfield lately sounded so similar to these that I got them confused. I hope that you will not make the same mistake. I hope you will stand on the right side of history. Thank you.

So, I saw Madonna LIVE…

Madonna’s latest tour is an incredible, out-of-this-world spectacular. The high-energy, exciting show is yet another reminder to us all that the cultural groundbreaker is still the Queen of Pop.

On October 10th, I had the incredible privilege of seeing the one and only Queen live at the Los Angeles Staples Center. As a die-hard fan, the experience was both visually stunning and one of the best times of my life. As soon as the lights went down, I joined the stadium in ecstatic cheers and calls of “Yeah! Madonna!”

Aside from seeing my favorite artist and performer, I was amazed at the amount of detail and energy that went in to the show. The sets and screens pushed the technological envelope as did the 54-year-old superstar’s endless amount of energy and toned physique that puts women half her age to shame. The show progressed through different themes, beginning in a gothic cathedral and ending in a Benny Benassi-mixed dance number. It had everything: bare-chested, chanting monks… in heels, a Kill Bill-esque fight scene, vintage majorette uniforms, gender-bending models strutting their stuff to “Vogue,” and even a Joan of Arc-inspired outfit – all designed by long-time Madonna-collaborating designer Jean-Paul Gaultier (Madonna’s iconic coned bra and various tours).

Nobody puts on a show like Madonna. She is one of the great musical performers of our time, up there with both Michael and Janet Jackson and Prince.

She began touring in May and has been performing in sold-out arenas and stadiums all over Europe and North America since. The MDNA Tour is the superstar’s ninth concert tour in her 30-year career and is on track to become one of the highest grossing tours of all time. The last time she toured the world, four years ago, her Sticky & Sweet Tour raked in a record-breaking $408 million dollars, the highest-grossing tour by a solo artist and the fourth highest-grossing tour of all time.

Madonna also got political in the middle of the show, and urged concert goers to register to vote and never “take [our] freedom for granted.” She spoke of the human rights violations in Russia, where over 70 men were arrested for simply being gay and a band was jailed for speaking out against the government.  She even dedicated a heart-felt song to Malala Yousufzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head for blogging about the importance of education for women.

She told the audience:

“…support the people that support your freedom…register to f***ing vote, ok?! Take responsibility for your future and your destiny…support the people that support education and support the people that support women, and being gay, or being Muslim, or Christian, or a Jew…none of you have any business being complacent and all of you have a responsibility for the person standing next to you, and don’t you ever forget it!”

This take-charge-of-your-life-and-future idea is the very thing that has kept Madonna on top and relevant since the 1980s. Many artists have come and gone since then, some who many thought would outlive the “outrageous,” “one-hit-wonder” Madonna. It’s 2012 and she has sold over 300 million albums worldwide. She is the top-selling female artist of time. Billboard has her at the top of the “Top 10 Singles” list, ahead of Elvis, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson.

Her in-charge attitude has inspired a generation, including many of today’s leading artists like Lady GaGa, Beyoncé, Britney Spears and Katy Perry. We wouldn’t have “Mother Monster” or “Sasha Fierce” or even the “California Gurl” had it not been for the trailblazing legacy of Madonna and her unapologetic style.

Sure, she stays with the times and is often slightly ahead of them; she collaborates with fresh, up-and-coming artists and DJs. Her look and sound are routinely reinvented throughout a single decade. But catchy, dance-inducing music and style is not the only thing that has kept her relevant all these years.

This is the woman who spoke out for LGBT equality during the height of the AIDS crisis. This is the woman who broke sexual and cultural taboos during the conservative time of Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority.” The Catholic Church had a field day with her video for “Like a Prayer,” which depicted stigmata, burning crosses and romance with a saint. Her music video for “Justify My Love” was banned by MTV in the early 1990s because of its depictions of bisexuality, gay couples kissing, and nudity. Her reaction to the establishment’s outrage: in 1992, she released a tongue-in-cheek, soft-core pornographic coffee table book that sold out in a matter of days. Her provocative style spurred discussions on sexuality, censorship and the role tradition plays in society.

Throughout her career, the critics and culture warriors declared her “finished” and derided her as a bad influence. They scapegoated her and did their best to end her career. By the late 1990s, her image had softened – she had become a mother and embraced spirituality. But her feminist message of equality and inner strength have never ceased.

Her drive and bravery are still clearly seen today; in June, while performing her 1994 hit “Human Nature” in the predominantly Muslim, very conservative country of Turkey – where many women have to wear burqas – she briefly exposed her right breast. No apologies. No regrets (as the song says).

Madonna is a force of nature within the music industry. Her legacy and bold attitude have paved the way for many of the artists we consider “innovative” today. At 54, she’s still vibrant, healthy, energetic and unapologetic. Seeing her perform in LA was a surreal experience for me and an experience I’ll never forget. In the vocally-morphed words of Nicki Minaj, “There’s only one queen, and that’s Madonna, b*tch!” I’m pretty sure she’ll outlive us all. 😉

For my many other Madonna posts, click here 🙂

California Takes a Giant Leap in the Right Direction

It will soon be illegal for licensed therapists to try to “cure” minors of their homosexuality in the state of California. Governor Jerry Brown signed SB-1172 into law this past weekend, outlawing the dangerous, destructive practice for those under 18 statewide. So-called “reparative therapy” has been around since psychologists first began recognizing the complexities of sexuality. All credible psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals have rejected it for nearly 40 years. Trailblazing California is the first state to ban it altogether for minors (effective January 1, 2013).

“These practices[reparative therapy] have no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery” – Governor Brown

The law itself is quite stunning and one of the many reasons I am proud to be California born-and-bred. Paragraph after paragraph, SB-1172, also known as the “Sexual orientation change efforts” law, destroys the myth that being LGBT is abnormal and somehow perverted. The first half of the very first section of the bill makes the case for why such a law is needed:

(a) Being lesbian, gay, or bisexual is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency, or shortcoming. The major professional associations of mental health practitioners and researchers in the United States have recognized this fact for nearly 40 years.
(b) The American Psychological Association convened a Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. The task force conducted a systematic review of peer-reviewed journal literature on sexual orientation change efforts, and issued a report in 2009. The task force concluded that sexual orientation change efforts can pose critical health risks to lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, including confusion, depression, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, shame, social withdrawal, suicidality, substance abuse, stress, disappointment, self-blame, decreased self-esteem and authenticity to others, increased self-hatred, hostility and blame toward parents, feelings of anger and betrayal, loss of friends and potential romantic partners, problems in sexual and emotional intimacy, sexual dysfunction, high-risk sexual behaviors, a feeling of being dehumanized and untrue to self, a loss of faith, and a sense of having wasted time and resources.
(c) The American Psychological Association issued a resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts in 2009, which states: “[T]he [American Psychological Association] advises parents, guardians, young people, and their families to avoid sexual orientation change efforts that portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder and to seek psychotherapy, social support, and educational services that provide accurate information on sexual orientation and sexuality, increase family and school support, and reduce rejection of sexual minority youth.”
(d) The American Psychiatric Association published a position statement in March of 2000 in which it stated:
“Psychotherapeutic modalities to convert or ‘repair’ homosexuality are based on developmental theories whose scientific validity is questionable. Furthermore, anecdotal reports of ‘cures’ are counterbalanced by anecdotal claims of psychological harm. In the last four decades, ‘reparative’ therapists have not produced any rigorous scientific research to substantiate their claims of cure. Until there is such research available, [the American Psychiatric Association] recommends that ethical practitioners refrain from attempts to change individuals’ sexual orientation, keeping in mind the medical dictum to first, do no harm.
The potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient. Many patients who have undergone reparative therapy relate that they were inaccurately told that homosexuals are lonely, unhappy individuals who never achieve acceptance or satisfaction. The possibility that the person might achieve happiness and satisfying interpersonal relationships as a gay man or lesbian is not presented, nor are alternative approaches to dealing with the effects of societal stigmatization discussed.
Therefore, the American Psychiatric Association opposes any psychiatric treatment such as reparative or conversion therapy which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that a patient should change his/her sexual homosexual orientation.
…….
(n) California has a compelling interest in protecting the physical and psychological well-being of minors, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth, and in protecting its minors against exposure to serious harms caused by sexual orientation change efforts.

The American Psychological Association and The American Psychiatric Association are not alone in their assessments. The American School Counselor Association, The American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Medical Association, The American Counseling Association, The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and The Pan American Health Organization (regional office of the World Health Organization) have all denounced reparative therapy. This isn’t some “liberal” conspiracy; they’re peer-reviewed, scholarly studies designed to discover the effects of reparative therapy. The findings of the professionals: stay far away from it.

The law delivers a major blow to one of the major pillars of the argument against same-sex marriage. The Prop 8 trials were filled with numerous claims that homosexuality was not a natural variant on human sexuality – despite all credible mental health organizations saying otherwise – and thus discrimination should be maintained in the state constitution. With an entire American state essentially slamming the door in the face of that argument, marriage equality is even more inevitable.

There is one exception to the law: minors 12-17 years of age have the ability to choose to undergo this ridiculous treatment. I worry that the LGBT youth “choosing” to undergo this quack treatment will actually be coerced or even forced by their families to go. Will there be a way to tell if parents and family are forcing their children to undergo this “treatment” under the guise of “choice?” We shall see what happens.

Despite this compromise, anti-gay groups are already preparing to sue over SB-1172. I must say, you gotta admire their determination: In spite of society moving to accept and treat all people equally, ironically labeled “pro-family, pro-America” groups have the gall to identify which groups deserve second class citizenship and which deserve first. It’s almost a  moving story on the perseverance of a small, organized and determined group… (*insert MEGA sarcasm*). Damn that United States Constitution and its equality for all! 😉

Citing the official positions of the world’s leading mental health organizations isn’t the only angle SB-1172 takes. This groundbreaking law also cites disturbing facts:

LGBT youth who experience family rejection for their identity are…
  • over eight times as likely to attempt suicide,
  • almost six times as likely to have high levels of depression,
  • over three times as likely to abuse drugs,
  • and over three times as likely to have dangerous, unprotected sex than their LGBT counterparts who experience little to no rejection from family.

This is one of the best things to come out of the California legislature in a while. Despite the fact that California is very dysfunctional politically and economically (thanks mostly, in my opinion, to an out-of-control ballot initiative/proposition process), the Golden State doesn’t condemn people for being who they are. California’s lead on this issue is already being emulated; New Jersey and other states are considering similar laws. Despite the protests of groups that are neither “pro-family” nor “pro-America,” society is moving forward. As Dick Cheney said (ironically, to say the least), “…freedom means freedom for everyone.”