Friday, January 8, 2010

Lisa Miller Brings Fight for Equality Back to Va. (Do Va.'s Gays Even Care?)

Most LGBT Virginians assume that our fight for equality ended with the passage of the 2006 Marshall/Newman  constitutional amendment, which banned same-sex marriage in the commonwealth. Most political insiders in Virginia acknowledge that the move was nothing more than a political strategy on the part of Virginia' s republicans to rally and solidify their base. Democratic political strategist and Roanoke native, Dave "Mudcat" Saunders, who actively fought against the amendment, said at the time, "It is political trickery - it has nothing to do with queers and marriage. It is to help Republicans, in general, unite their base in the name of hate."

Four years after Virginia's queer community rolled over and accepted defeat, the issue of same-sex marriage and child custody rights has been forced back on our doorstep with the child custody battle involving Janet Jenkins and Lisa Miller. The couple had entered a civil union in Vermont in 2000. In 2002, Miller became pregnant by artificial insemination and gave birth to daughter Isabella. The couple broke up in '03, whn Miller found Jesus and decided she wasn't gay anymore.

Lisa Miller moved her daughter to Virginia in the believing  that our homophobic laws would protect her from having to honor Vermont's custody ruling. A Vermont judge ad awarded primary custody of 7-year-old Isabella to Jenkins in light of Miller's refusal to honor Jenkins' visitation rights. The legal battle followed her to Virginia, where Jenkins filed suite. The Bedford County (Virginia) Court found in favor of Jenkins and ordered Miller to turn over the child last Friday at the home of Jenkins' parents in Falls Church.

Miller, a member of the late Jerry Falwell's Thomas Road Baptist Church, has gone into hiding with her daughter and faces contempt charges. A statewide hunt is now under way. ACLU attorney, Rebecca Glenberg, who represents Miller, told the Lynchberg News and Advance,“We expect Virginia law enforcement to take whatever actions they can to locate the child and make sure the custody order is complied with.”

Maj. Ricky Gardner of the Bedford County Sheriff's Department released a statement on Wednesday saying, “We have been and are, as I write this, working with the Fairfax Co. Police Department and officials in Vermont on this matter. That’s all we have at this time.”

Here's where I go off.

If Lisa Miller had taken her daughter to some other homophobic state, none of us would care about this story. Why? Because Virginia's LGBT community can't be bothered. We pat ourselves on the back for joining activist groups on facebook, but when we are called upon to get off our asses and join together in the real world to create real change, it's too inconvenient. We have done absolutely nothing to fight for our own rights. We don't vote or get involved in anything political. We did nothing to fight the passage of the Virginia Marriage Amendment.

Of the 36 members of the Roanoke Equality group on facebook, only four have bothered to show up at our first two meetings. Don't give me the excuse that you're too busy. It just doesn't fly. Our enemies know that we can't be bothered and they love it. Our own apathy is their greatest weapon against us.

A wise man once said "Civil rights are never handed down from on high. They are fought for from below."

Be ashamed of yourselves, Queer Virginia. Be very ashamed.

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1 comment:

  1. I would agree with 98% of what you have stated here Steve. As one who moved here excited to be a part of this community and to assist, I offer another view. A child learns not to put the hand in the fire by pain. So do adults.
    I have lived here just over a year. The only individuals, not groups, which have even been the least bit welcoming and or friendly would be yourself, one attorney, Teresa at Star City 247, and Frank House. In ALL other areas doors literally slammed insultingly in my face or simply ignored.
    I did not come to Roanoke to be an admin or to control. My life partner of thirty years was transferred here. My goal was just to be a part of the community and merely offer my support and assistance where it was beneficial or needed. I have found over the last year the hard way the assistance and support was not appreciated, deemed necessary, and or in the words of one local "leader" "Not all that".
    So I choose to keep my focus on the international and national levels where I have achieved some level of success. As an activist for over 35 years I have learned the hard way to keep the focus where the motivation is enabled.
    The apathy and fear here in Roanoke are extreme I agree. However, if others have experienced the same rude and anti-productive attitudes as I have, cannot say I blame them for opting out. When your own community is closed to you and make members feel unwelcome, the message is pretty clear. It is enough work and frustration to combat anti-GLBT groups, so to have to fight to just be a part of the community? I feel that I nor anyone else can assist where assistance is not wanted.
    I have however been a part of, and an assistive part of Roanoke Equality. Admittedly behind the scenes and not at meetings. Bodies in chairs do not mean anything but bodies in chairs. In my personal effort to aid you in your goal to offset that 36 to four ratio mentioned I will resign my membership and up it to 35 to four. I would encourage you to realize there may be many reasons people don't or cannot attend meetings. However if they are active and supportive don't throw them out with the bathwater so to speak to fill chairs.
    I totally agree with your wise man quote. However that fight is not always fought in meetings or by being the seat warmer. I believe that same wise man would also say not to discount support.


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