Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Tribute to Zenyatta

It is, after all, Zenyatta Day. She's the 9-for-9 unbeaten filly who, in my mind, deserves Horse of the Year.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Last Dance: Final Days of Bay Meadows (Part 1)

I tried posting Part One yesterday and for whatever reason, it failed to appear on my blog. So ... here it is. Love the beginning; it's shot on the Caltrain going north up the Peninsula and pulls into the Hillsdale station. I can't tell you how many times I took that ride on the way to my old "home away from home." Another fun tidbit is the short interview with one of the track's characters, exercise rider Joe Hernandez. He's sitting at what was Michelle's bar (Michelle's fans: she's working over at the new OTB facility and says to come visit her!) Joe is the same guy I wrote about here once who pinched me in the love handles and told me he likes gals with a little meat on them. LOL! He's not in Alaska or Hawaii, by the way...he's doing fine over at Golden Gate Fields. For now. :-)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Last Dance: Final Days of Bay Meadows (Part 3) (Bay Meadows' last race)

More notes: in the paddock, in stall four, that's where Chelle and I got married on August 15. In the last race at Bay Meadows, the Last Dance Stakes, the winning horse--number 6, You Lift Me Up--went on to win her next race down south. Finally, we drove by Bay Meadows last weekend, and it's gone. The place is just a pile of twisted metal, rebar, and splintered wood.

The Last Dance: Final Days of Bay Meadows (Part 2)

Two notes: you'll see the Ferris wheel and other rides in the background; that's because the final two weeks at Bay Meadows was held during the San Mateo County Fair. Also, the track announcer, Michael Rona, just auditioned a week ago at Churchill Downs and may very well wind up there. (Right now he's over at Golden Gate.)

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Three-Way



Well, not that kinda three-way ... but a three-way dead heat for first place. It's pretty rare. But this is the photo finish.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Good News on Prop 8

You goin' DOWN, m'f*cker! This is a press release from the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

California Supreme Court Grants Review In Prop 8 Legal Challenges
Court to determine constitutionality of Prop 8

(San Francisco, California, November 19, 2008)—Today the California Supreme Court granted review in the legal challenges to Proposition 8, which passed by a narrow margin of 52 percent on November 4. In an order issued today, the Court agreed to hear the case and set an expedited briefing schedule. The Court also denied an immediate stay.

On November 5, 2008, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit challenging the validity of Proposition 8 in the California Supreme Court on behalf of six couples and Equality California. The City of San Francisco, joined by the City of Los Angeles, the County of Los Angeles, and Santa Clara County, filed a similar challenge, as did a private attorney in Los Angeles. [additional counties just joining the suit include Marin, San Mateo--my county! yay!--Santa Cruz, and Alameda]

The lawsuits allege that, on its face, Proposition 8 is an improper revision rather than an amendment of the California Constitution because, in its very title, which was “Eliminates the right to marry for same-sex couples,” the initiative eliminated an existing right only for a targeted minority. If permitted to stand, Proposition 8 would be the first time an initiative has successfully been used to change the California Constitution to take away an existing right only for a particular group. Such a change would defeat the very purpose of a constitution and fundamentally alter the role of the courts in protecting minority rights. According to the California Constitution, such a serious revision of our state Constitution cannot be enacted through a simple majority vote, but must first be approved by two-thirds of the Legislature.

Since the three lawsuits submitted on November 5, three other lawsuits challenging Proposition 8 have been filed. In a petition filed on November 14, 2008, leading African American, Latino, and Asian American groups argued that Proposition 8 threatens the equal protection rights of all Californians.

On November 17, 2008, the California Council of Churches and other religious leaders and faith organizations representing millions of members statewide, also filed a petition asserting that Proposition 8 poses a severe threat to the guarantee of equal protection for all, and was not enacted through the constitutionally required process for such a dramatic change to the California Constitution. On the same day, prominent California women’s rights organizations filed a petition asking the Court to invalidate Proposition 8 because of its potentially disastrous implications for women and other groups that face discrimination.

In May of 2008, the California Supreme Court held that barring same-sex couples from marriage violates the equal protection clause of the California Constitution and violates the fundamental right to marry. Proposition 8 would completely eliminate the right to marry only for same-sex couples. No other initiative has ever successfully changed the California Constitution to take away a right only from a targeted minority group.

Over the past 100 years, the California Supreme Court has heard nine cases challenging either legislative enactments or initiatives as invalid revisions of the California Constitution. In three of those cases, the Court invalidated those measures.

For more information on this case, go to:http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/courts/supreme/highprofile/prop8.htm

This is the same court and same judges that made gay marriage legal to begin with, so this bodes well that justice may actually be served.

NO ON PROP HATE

Friday, November 14, 2008

In Honor of Our Jockeys

This is really a beautifully created video. If your image is blurry, it's worth going over to Youtube and watching it in "high definition." Hat tip to my pal Cary!

Toni Mirosevich's Pink Harvest


I've written about Toni Mirosevich here before. I may have even persuaded a few of you to buy her latest book of prose, Pink Harvest. Well, if you didn't, perhaps now you will ... 'cause I just found out that book was a Lambda Literary Award Finalist. Yeehaw! You go, Toni! Click here for her official website.

Calming Down, Keeping Perspective

This morning's Chronicle ran a story about how the voting on Prop 8 went within the city of San Francisco, and, as has been suggested over the past week and a half, it does appear heavily Asian and African-American districts went in favor of Prop 8. The finger-pointing has commenced, and many of us who were against Prop 8 feel betrayed. The thinking goes: WTF?! We (white gays) have supported you in your struggles for civil rights, and now you turn your backs on us? Or, WTF?! You of all people know what it's like to be discriminated against; how, then, do you find it so easy to turn around and discriminate against someone else?

These feelings are understandable--because we've been knocked to the ground, and that doesn't feel very good. But, it's exactly what the Yes on 8 people want. Divide and conquer. If we're all busy arguing and pushing blame onto others, we're not focusing on the important work that needs to be done. Let's not create divisions; rather, let's reach out, dialogue calmly, EDUCATE. What's that old saying? You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. Besides, honey's much better for the soul. And trust me when I say I know a number of African American and Asian honeys, male and female, who are most definitely on our side.

Here's a letter from our local movers and shakers. I'm taking it to heart.

Dear Community,

We are on the cusp of a new era as our country has elected its first African-American president, Barack Obama. We hope this unprecedented event will usher in a new chapter in our nation’s history.

This past week has been a difficult time. With the passage of Proposition 8 in California to change the state constitution to eliminate the right to marry, our community has experienced a difficult defeat. We are angry and upset by the passage of Proposition 8 and the betrayal of the promise of equality that has been the hallmark of the Golden State. Yet, we know that this is only a setback in—not the end of—our journey toward full equality for the LGBT community.

It is natural to analyze what went wrong. But in recent days there has been a tendency to assign blame to specific communities, in particular, the African American community. The fact is, 52 percent of all Californians, the vast majority of whom were not African Americans, voted against us. In addition, the most recent analysis of the exit poll that drove much of this speculation determined that it was too small to draw any conclusion on the African American vote, and further polling shows that the margin was much closer than first reported. Most importantly, though, none of this discourse changes the outcome of the vote. It only serves to divide our community and hinder our ability to create a stronger and more diverse coalition to help us overturn Proposition 8 and restore full equality and human rights to LGBT people. It also deflects responsibility from the group that is responsible for this miscarriage of justice: The Yes on 8 campaign. They waged a deceitful and immoral campaign that brought about this violation of our human rights and dignity.

We as a community have come so far. Let’s not lose sight of this. Since Proposition 22 passed eight years ago by 22 percentage points, we have made our case to the people of California. We have talked to our families, co-workers and friends about what true equality looks like. In so doing, we have narrowed the gap substantially since that time. And, in the last week, we have continued to move forward with a great wave of non-violent protest and a strong and powerful legal case put together by some of the keenest legal minds, supported by the governor, our senators and many other elected officials in our state. Moreover, we have seen a great national movement growing in support of equal rights for the LGBT community as a result of our actions in California.

We are hopeful the election of Barack Obama signals a new spirit of collaboration among diverse groups of people. There are many allied communities—straight, African-American, Latino, Asian Pacific Islander, people of faith, and secular people—who are energized to join with us as never before. This is progress! LGBT people are a part of all those communities, and with the support of our straight allies, we know that justice will prevail.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best: “The arc of moral justice is long, but it bends toward justice.” Now is the time to come together as one community working together toward human rights and full equality. We are confident that with our growing coalition we will ultimately win this fight.

Sincerely,

Ron Buckmire
Barbara Jordan/Bayard Rustin Coalition

Rea Carey
Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Jennifer Chrisler
Executive Director, Family Equality Council

Oscar De La O
President & CEO, Bienestar

John Duran
Member, West Hollywood City Council

Rabbi Denise L. Eger
Congregation Kol Ami

Lorri L. Jean
CEO, L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center

Kate Kendell
Executive Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights

Geoff Kors
Executive Director, Equality California

Francine Ramsey
Executive Director, Zuna Institute

Rev. Susan Russell and Rev. Ed Bacon
All Saints Episcopal Church, Pasadena

Rodney Scott
President, Christopher Street West/LA Pride

Joe Solmonese
President, Human Rights Campaign

Rev. Dr. Neil G. Thomas
Metropolitan Community Church/LA

Vallerie D. Wagner
National Black Justice Coalition

Marshall Wong
Co-Chair, API Equality—L.A.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Da Spouse Speaks Her Piece

My sweetie got caught up last night on a horseracing forum where some were defending the passage of Prop 8 here in California. She felt obligated to throw in her two cents' worth--a big step for her, because over half of those guys who frequent that forum had no idea she is a woman, much less a lesbian. She's getting lots of congratulations and support this morning from this group of fellas, so with her permission, I'm posting here what she had to say:

Prop 8 p*ssed me off. I married my lifetime partner on August 15th in paddock #4 at Bay Meadows (we all know how much I loved that that track - there's the proof ). Sure, we had a lawyer draw up a trust, power of attorney and living will (at a cost of $3,500), had a civil union several years ago in Vermont and were registered domestic partners in California, but it's not the same. Yes, many of the rights are the same with a marriage and a domestic partnership (in California), the only big difference that I can think of off the top of my head is that my partner no longer has to pay taxes on the health benefits that she receives from my employer, she did when we were "domestic partners". But unlike "straight" marriage, mine probably won't be recognized if I cross state lines. If we are involved in an accident when we travel on vacation in another state, I may very well not be allowed to visit my wife in the hospital and make decisions on her care - my brother and his wife who live in Vermont would have no problem in this same situation. Unfair. If I move to another state, my marriage is not recognized, my brothers is. Unfair.

I'd like to discuss the "I chose to be gay". Who the h*ll would *choose* to be gay? Who *chooses* to be born tall or short, with brown eyes or blond hair, webbed toes - who chooses to be significantly different in any way? Why is 10% of the population left handed? Did you *choose* to like the opposite sex? I'm sorry for all of the folks born straight who just don't get it but I didn't choose this - I *knew* when I was 4 years old that I liked Lisa in my pre-school class the same way that my best friend Tommy liked her, but unfortunately, I absolutely knew in 1970 that a girl liking a girl was not cool - and how sad is that for a four year old kid to know that what they feel at the core of their very being is "not acceptable". It sucks.

For those of you in other parts of this great country, and there is no where else I'd rather live, I understand that this is not something you may understand, want to accept, or can even tolerate - but it is my life and the life or upwards of 10% of your fellow Americans - whether you like it or not, we are amongst you - we are your co-workers, your family members, your friends, your neighbors, and we may even be you. It's ok, we are all Americans and we look out for each other. The only thing that separates us is fear of the unknown, some hate, some misunderstanding and unfortunately, religious beliefs. There, I said it. Interpretation of the Bible separates us. You can read it anyway you want, but to say that my life is not worthy of the same rights you have is ridiculous. In the Old Testament, homosexuality is practically on the same level as eating shellfish and wearing blended fabrics - yes, all are an abomination. Think about why these items were "forbidden" - homosexuality didn't propagate the species, eating bad shellfish caused horrible illness and sometimes death, and blended fabrics simply looked tacky (ok, I made that part up). Times change, as evidenced by the Civil War, suffrage, Civil Rights, the fall of the Berlin Wall, etc. People afraid of change are simply fearful that the way that they live their life may change, and folks like to be comfortable. I know I do. But I also appreciate changes in my life and the lives of others – who can’t appreciate happiness and seeing others do well? Why wouldn’t we want that for others? Only two reasons – fear of change and wanting to impose your belief on others – neither are good reasons. Live your life, do it as well as you can, let others live theirs as well. And let God sort ‘em all out in the end – remember, that’s above your pay grade.

My two cents.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Prop 2 And Prop 8



You have to admit it's weird when chickens are treated more humanely than gay people.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Special Comment on Gay Marriage ~ Keith Olbermann

If you missed this, you must see it! It's an impassioned, articulate response to the passage of Prop 8 by a man who is straight.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Rachel Maddow for VP 2012

On a happier note, it occurs to me that, if the phenomenally frightening Sarah Palin wants to run for Prez in 2012, we Democrats should reignite our own base by putting in our own gal (to be Barack Obama's running mate, of course!) I can think of no better choice than the pretty and witty and gay Rachel Maddow. Heck, I'd vote for her as early and as often as I could!

On the Legality of H8

This editorial by James Brosnahan ran in yesterday's Chronicle:

Proposition 8 has passed, denying to some the right enjoyed by other citizens in California, the right to marry. Now, the central question for the courts to decide is: Are gays in California equal, or can members of certain churches declare them constitutionally inferior?

The approval of a constitutional ban on gay marriage raises troubling but age-old issues concerning the lines between religion and government. Before the founders of our country separated church and state, there were hundreds of years of turmoil caused by one religion dominating the government and using it against nonbelievers.

In the aftermath of Tuesday's vote, do gays and lesbians in California have a reason to believe that they have been abused, discriminated against and relegated to a separate-but-equal status?

Yes, and that's why this fight is far from over. There will be a challenge under the U.S. Constitution. In the 1960s, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a California constitutional amendment that limited fair housing on the grounds that prejudice could not be put into a state Constitution.

No one can forecast the outcome of this next fight, but there is bound to be some fallout that may harm those religions that so vehemently insisted that their beliefs be placed in the California Constitution. All religions require tolerance to flourish, but in Proposition 8 some religious groups aimed at and wounded gay people in California.

The drafters of the U.S. Constitution had a brilliant, experienced view concerning the importance of drawing the lines to protect religion on the one hand and civil government on the other. They put those lines in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Today, those lines are very relevant.

Government may not attack religion. Californians who have religious beliefs concerning the proper scope of marriage may exercise those rights as they see fit. Churches have always been able to proceed as they wish concerning marriage ceremonies. There was no mandate to suppress religious beliefs. This should be obvious to everyone in California because of our tolerance of all religions.

That the supporters of Proposition 8 were motivated by religious beliefs cannot be denied. Now the religious beliefs of some Californians are in our Constitution and, until overturned, govern us all whether we like it or not.

The other branch of the First Amendment is equally important. The state may not establish a religion. The state may not take principles of religious belief from a religion, any religion, and establish it as the law applicable to all. This line establishing the double branch of protection of religion on the one hand and no establishment on the other was arrived at after hundreds of years of turmoil.

Historically, marriage was used as a method of oppressing a despised group. These lessons of history are relevant to reflect on today. In Ireland, for 150 years, the penal laws provided that no Protestant could marry a Catholic.

Much more recent in the United States were the rules against marriage between a black person and a white person. These were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1960s and the California Supreme Court in the 1940s. Using the civil marriage ceremony as a method of expressing governmental disdain toward a particular group is as old as the Sierra Nevada. It has been an assault on tolerance.

Finally, marriage is a fundamental right in constitutional analysis. There are very few things in life more important than the ability to choose one's partner. Marriage is not just a word; it is a status, a state of mind, a way of being. Look in any direction and you will see examples of the people's respect for the institution of marriage.

A large group of Californians has now been denied that fundamental institution. These folks are our neighbors, our friends, our colleagues and our relatives. The constitutional promise of this state is, as the California Supreme Court held, that they are equally protected in the enjoyment of rights by all Californians. But the voters have spoken.

Now it will be up to the courts to explain whether equality is real - or just an illusion. I would not wish to be the one to justify this vote to a gay woman going to Afghanistan in the military, to a gay police officer who risks everything so we may be safe or any of the other thousands of gays and lesbians in California who contribute so much to our culture, our advancement and our well being.

I cannot square this vote with my view that Californians are decent, accepting and tolerant. But I know that the gays and lesbians of California, like the oppressed Catholics of Ireland who lived under penal laws, will fight this visible, constitutional, embarrassing injustice until it is no more. And when that day comes, we will live in a better state.

James Brosnahan, author of the "Trial Handbook for California Lawyers," is a senior partner at the Morrison & Foerster law firm in San Francisco.

We Are Just Now Beginning to Fight ...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Thoughts On Prop 8

As you can imagine, Tuesday's election was bittersweet for me: I experienced the adrenaline-rush of Obama's win, and then the colossally disappointing low that came a day or so later with the official passage of Proposition 8 here in California. I'm still not sure I can write about this without sputtering inarticulately because it's such an emotionally charged issue for me. To be told I am a second-class citizen, unworthy of equal rights, and that my relationship isn't "good enough" to be worthy of legal marriage is simply painful. Knock-the-breath-out-of-me hurtful. I am incredulous that bigotry, in California of all places, is alive and well.

Then again, should I be all that surprised? The Yes on 8 folks waged a heinous, deceitful, and downright shameful campaign cloaked in the guise of what's Christian, and moral, and good for our children. But the distortions and outright lies that campaign put out are mind-boggling. One ad suggested there's a cause-effect relationship between allowing gay marriage and then toppling moral decline. As proof, the ad offered as an example the Netherlands, which "legalized same-sex marriage in 2001. And to date, incest & polygamy are all legal." Um, yeah, but incest (between adults) has been legal in the Netherlands for the past 200 years. Same-sex marriage didn't cause that. Why not, instead, bring up a country like Canada, where gay marriage is legal? No moral decline there. And what's really ironic is that polygamy was, until fairly recently historically speaking, standard practice in the Mormon Church. Who threw tens of millions of dollars into our state in support of Prop. 8? Sadly, the Mormon Church.

Then again, I always get nervous when people start waving their Bibles at me and cherry-picking verses or stories to justify oppressing certain groups of people. Let's not forget the Bible was once used to justify black slavery in this country.

The Yes on 8 people also claimed that domestic partnerships are the same as marriage in terms of rights, so by passing Prop 8, gay people don't lose any rights. Where else have we heard that "separate but equal" argument? Oh yes, thank God the Supreme Court didn't buy that nonsense either, and desegregated our schools in Brown vs. Board of Education. Fact: domestic partnerships are not the same. One example is health care benefits. Right now, I'm on my spouse's policy as a domestic partner, and by law I have to count the cost of that insurance as income and pay tax on it. Married people don't have to do that. Separate isn't equal. Equal is equal.

The Yes on 8 people also did the following: (1) send threatening letters to donors to the No on 8 campaign, stating they'd "expose" them as gay marriage supporters if they also didn't donate to the Yes on 8 campaign; (2) coordinate a cyber attack on the No on 8 website, essentially shutting down the site days before the election so that donors were unable to give money; and (3) perhaps most disgustingly, robocall registered African American voters in California with a fake "voice" of Barack Obama speaking out (and out of context) against gay marriage. The truth, of course, is that Obama--and even Arnold Schwartzenegger--were against the removal of fundamental rights already granted by the state constitution.

Removal of those rights is a terrible precedent to set. So what also gets my goat are the people who say, "The people of California have voted! This is a democracy! The majority rules, so live with it!" Well, I want to ask them, what America are you living in? Did you never take a government class when you were in high school? Remember America's system of checks and balances? Remember the courts are also supposed to protect minority groups from the tyranny of the majority? If it weren't for the courts overriding the will of the majority when interpreting the Constitution, interracial marriage might still be illegal, and, as suggested earlier, segregation might still be the norm ... and the list goes on. The majority isn't always right.

On the issue of Prop 8, the majority got it wrong. The struggle for civil rights will go on.

Here's an editorial that ran in the New York Times on Wednesday, and I do take heart from the sentiments expressed:

Equality’s Winding Path

Amid the soaring oratory about the presidential election, it was Barack Obama who put it best late Tuesday night. “That’s the genius of America, that America can change,” he said. “Our union can be perfected.”

But as Mr. Obama’s victory showed, the path to change is arduous. Even as the nation shattered one barrier of intolerance, we were disappointed that voters in four states chose to reinforce another. Ballot measures were approved in Arkansas, Arizona, Florida and California that discriminate against couples of the same sex.

We do not view these results as reason for despair. Struggles over civil rights never follow a straight trajectory, and the ugly outcome of these ballot fights should not obscure the building momentum for full equality for gay people, including acceptance of marriage between gay men and women. But the votes remind us of how much remains to be done before this bigotry is finally erased.

In Arkansas, voters approved a backward measure destined to hurt children by barring unmarried couples from becoming adoptive or foster parents. In Arizona, voters approved a state constitutional amendment to forbid same-sex couples from marrying. Florida voters approved a more sweeping amendment intended to bar marriage, civil unions and other family protections.

The most notable defeat for fairness was in California, where right-wing forces led by the Mormon Church poured tens of millions of dollars into the campaign for Proposition 8 — a measure to enshrine bigotry in the state’s Constitution by preventing people of the same sex from marrying. The measure was designed to overturn May’s State Supreme Court decision, which made California the second state to end that exclusion of same-sex couples. Massachusetts did so in 2004.

The firmly grounded ruling said that everyone has a basic right “to establish a legally recognized family with the person of one’s choice,” and found California’s strong domestic partnership statute to be inadequate.

We wish that Tuesday’s vote of 52 percent to 48 percent had gone the other way. But when those numbers are compared with the 61 percent to 39 percent result in 2000, when Californians approved the law that was overturned by their Supreme Court, it is evident that voters have grown more comfortable with marriage equality.

Progress is evident, too, in the fact that since 2000, the California Legislature has twice passed a measure to let gay couples marry — only to be vetoed by the Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. To his credit, he opposed Proposition 8. We suspect that if California holds another referendum on the issue down the road, it will yield a different result.

Not all the results for same-sex marriage were negative. In Connecticut, voters rejected a proposed constitutional convention through which opponents of same-sex marriage wanted to overturn a recent decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court, on sound equal protection grounds, allowing same-sex couples to marry.

Far from showing that California’s Supreme Court was wrong to extend the right of marriage to gay people, the passage of Proposition 8 is a reminder of the crucial role that the courts play in protecting vulnerable groups from unfair treatment.

Apart from creating legal uncertainty about the thousands of same-sex marriages that have been performed in California and giving rise to lawsuits challenging whether the rules governing ballot measures were properly followed, the immediate impact of Tuesday’s rights-shredding exercise is to underscore the danger of allowing the ballot box to be used to take away people’s fundamental rights.