Thursday, February 24, 2011

Three Steps Ahead for Marriage Equality, Countless Steps Back on Reproductive Rights

Later today, the Maryland Legislature is likely to pass marriage equality legislation for same sex couples.

Yesterday, Hawaii's governor signed a same sex union bill, giving same sex couples all the rights of marriage in the state. A few weeks ago, the Illinois governor need similarly.

And, the President of the United States told the U.S. Justice Department to stop defending DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, even as it continues for some inexplicable reason to defend "Don't Ask Don't Tell" in the courts following the signing of its repeal.

I'm celebrating all of those.

But, I can't help wonder how it is that these bills are moving ahead with such alacrity while at the same time attacks on family planning and abortion are at the highest levels I can remember in my 35 years in this field. As I'm sure you know, last week, the House of Representatives voted to defund the federal family planning program, eliminate most funding for international family planning, and specifically ban Planned Parenthoods from federal funds. (I wrote about support for domestic and international family planning in last week's Washington Post.)

People across the country are speaking out against these cuts, and you can add your name to a petition that is receiving tens of thousands of signatures. Rallys are planned for many cities, including New York City this weekend, and I intend to be there.

I'm struggling to understand how rights for lesbian and gay people are advancing while reproductive rights for women are so precarious. Is it that the religious right has abandoned their fight against homosexuality because they know that the culture has tipped and they will lose? Is it that reproductive rights are taken for granted as they've been in place for the past 40 years so the activists have not made inroads into the mainstream and perhaps these latest assaults will be a needed wake up call? Is it the difference between state laws and legislatures which vary widely and the U.S. House which has so precariously tipped conservative? Is it that gay votes are seen as more important than those of women? Is it that in a troubled economic time, poor women are seen as marginal? Is it that the LGBT movement is better organized and better funded?

It could be all of this. I'd like to know your thoughts.

What I do know is that sexual justice shouldn't be siloed. That at its core my commitment is to sexual justice for all -- and that includes women, LGBT people, sexuality education, family planning and abortion access, and marriage equality. I hope you will join me in speaking out for all our rights.

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