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An Open Letter to Rick Santorum

Dear Mr. Santorum,

Recently, you wrote in to the Wall Street Journal in a letter called “My Fight for Life.” In it, you discussed your feelings on the controversial topic of abortion. I just wanted to take a moment to talk a few of your points through with you.

Firstly, I take issue with the idea that you are fighting for life while, conversely, those of us who support a woman’s right to choose must be fighting for death. In reality, I am fighting for life in a far more meaningful way than you are – the right for women to live life the way that they choose; for children born into this world to always feel wanted and welcome in their own families.

Second, your invoking your “Creator” in the same sentence as the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence is counter-intuitive. Our founding fathers felt strongly that citizens should not feel that they have to abide by the rules of any one religion. Americans are a diverse group racially, culturally, and spiritually. Not all feel the same way you do about the rights divined by your “Creator”. If you are campaigning to be the President of the United States of America, please remember that America is a very large country.

Your quote that “40 million babies” have died from Roe v. Wade discounts the importance of women’s lives. Approximately 50% of all maternal deaths resulted from illegal abortion during the first half of the 20th century, and abortion has been going on for centuries – whether or not it was legalized. Roe v. Wade has allowed for women to go to real doctors and clinics to get this procedure done safely.

The 14th Amendment’s guarantee of “life, liberty and property” applies to citizens, not groups of cells that are barely an organism; and President Obama’s recognition of civil rights extends to a woman’s reproductive rights and support of LGBT rights – which is far more than I can say for your sorry butt.

Mr. Santorum,  I believe staunchly in women’s reproductive rights, and I also want children one day. I want my children to grow up in a world where they are wanted, and loved. I don’t want to have them before I’m ready. Effective birth control – which, yes, may have to include abortion – will ensure that I can stick to my own plans. Not that you’re listening to any of this, anyway.

Is Occupy Wall Street lacking focus?

When Occupy Wall Street started a month ago, I was thrilled. The top 1% in this country has most of the country’s wealth, and in our democracy, money speaks. I was thrilled when 2,000+ people showed up in New York to protest the irresponsible actions of the world’s banks, and excited about the potential of a clearly large movement to change economic policies in our country. The “We are the 99%” stories are compelling and real, and you feel the pain everyone is suffering in this economic climate. The world-wide protests this weekend were phenomenally powerful, and the Times Square crowds were huge and inspiring. The more the movement gathers steam, the more impressed I am with its organizers and participants.

But as the days and weeks pass, I worry that Occupy Wall Street is losing some of its initial focus. I went down to the protests on Friday at Liberty Square (and did a little dancing in the rain), and once I went home it hit me that there was so much about the movement I didn’t know – what their core goals were, etc. So I did a little research. And when I was clicking around their website this weekend, I could find no evidence of what protesters were looking for – the most I found was this:

Our nation, our species and our world are in crisis. The US has an important role to play in the solution, but we can no longer afford to let corporate greed and corrupt politics set the policies if our nation.

Important for sure, and a fantastic goal, but a bit lofty and broad for the highly specific nature of our laws and culture. In order to enact real change, leaders should come up with a solution that they would find acceptable. Because it’s not enough to complain, no matter how warranted and overdue the complaints are. We need to also take action.

The claims made in the conservative media that Occupy Wall Street is just a bunch of dirty hippies is flat-out wrong, and their claims that protestors don’t know what we want or what we’re talking about is also wrong. But in order to fully shake that image, the leaders of the Occupy Wall Street protests need to come up with a list of clearly stated and written demands and goals. When that happens, it’ll be impossible to ignore the 99% any longer.

Edit, 10/27: Dahlia Lithwick over at Slate published an interesting piece on whether or not OWS needs to define its purpose further, and she makes a pretty compelling argument.I still think a little more definition wouldn’t hurt, but  she’s right – their message shouldn’t necessarily have to be put in 1 minute sound bytes — it should be defined on their own terms.

Welcome to the 21st Century, Saudi Arabia!

Woo-hoo! Today the Saudi king announced that he was giving women the right to vote for the first time in the 2015 municipal elections. It’s hard to believe that in this day and age, there’s still a country left where women have no say in their government — and Saudi Arabia wasn’t the last one. in Brunei, women are only allowed to vote in local elections. In Lebanon, women are permitted to vote – but it is mandatory for men and optional for women; and women must present proof of an elementary education. In the United Arab Emerites, both men and women have very limited suffrage, but that may be expanded upon soon.

When we talk about the Women’s Suffrage movement in America, we often discuss how shameful it is that it took us as long as it did; that women should have had a say far before 1920. It’s hard to believe that nearly 100 years later, women are still fighting for suffrage around the world. We should celebrate our victories – like the announcement regarding Saudi Arabia – but remember that until every single woman has the right to vote in her country’s elections, our fight is far from over.

Time heals all wounds – and changes all minds.

Empire State Building on Friday night!

About a year and a half ago, I wrote a post about being a New Yorker and continuing the fight for marriage equality in NY State after the State Senate  didn’t pass the bill. I remember being angry and sad, and a little ashamed of my home state.

A year and a half later, I couldn’t be prouder. By now, you’ve all heard the news: New York State legalized gay marriage Friday night. There were celebrations all over my facebook, my twitter, and, of course, the streets of NYC – both that night and at Pride on Sunday. I’m excited, and simply pleased with my State Legislature! Who would have thought?

Now, of course, this was a controversial vote. It passed by a margin. Speeches on the senate floor ranged from full to cautionary to zero support for the bill. Our society still isn’t, unfortunately, progressive enough for everybody to treat gay people as just that – people.

However, one thing happened that is worth noting: In 2009, the vote was strictly among party lines. not a single Republican voted for the bill. But this time, Republicans were the deciding factor in passing this bill – many quoted as saying they wanted to be on the right side of history, do the right thing, even if it might spell trouble for them in their districts.

That year and a half was so formative to changing the outcome of the vote on gay marriage – so many more supported it, called their senators, action groups were successful – that it changed people’s minds. Not just any people – politicians.

But time alone wasn’t the only thing that helped pass this major victory for equality and human rights. Advocacy groups, people, and activists did. And this isn’t the end of the fight – there are 44 more states where gay marriage is still illegal. The fight isn’t over – but I wouldn’t be surprised if this makes people consider reintroducing laws legalizing gay marriage where they’ve been shot down before. Let’s hope so!

FBI’s definition of rape older than Twinkies, the Empire State Building, and Betty Boop

The Empire State Building: completed in 1931.

Ms. Magazine has a great article on this, along with a link for how to take action.

My question is: What’s taking so long? It’s absolutely absurd that anal or oral sex isn’t in there; never mind statutory rape, rape with an object, or male rape.

Rape isn’t just a women’s issue, it’s a HUMANITY issue. Women AND men should feel free to walk down the street without being sexually violated, and know that the law and definition under the FBI protects them from that. Wake up, Robert Mueller. Let’s enter the 21st Century.

Westboro Baptist Church to protest Elizabeth Taylor’s funeral…

gee, why am I not even remotely surprised? The Westboro Baptist Church has been gloating about their Supreme Court win,

Counter-Protesters get inventive...

where their funeral protests were declared protected free speech.The funeral of a widely noted and loved celebrity is the perfect place to protest what they perceive to be all the sins and evil in our society – and now, it’s a confirmed protected form of free speech.

Many people, myself included, were initially disturbed by the Supreme Court victory for such a hateful group. But I knew soon after my initial anger that the freedom of all kinds of speech needs to be protected, not just ones I agree with. The fact that the WBC can protest means that I can also counter-protest, like we did at American this past January when they came to protest us, and potentially start a discussion that our society can have. We can’t do anything about WBC protesting her funeral, but we can do something about who they see when they show up. Fans wherever her funeral is being held should stage a counter-protest, with hugs and love and songs and talking about our favorite Elizabeth Taylor moments, photographs, and memories – because nothing is more harmful to hate than love.

UPDATE: They never showed. I guess it wasn’t worth it; or they couldn’t get their act together in time? Regardless, Elizabeth Taylor arrived fashionably late to her own funeral. Somehow, this makes perfect sense. RIP, Liz.

Perhaps an Executive Order is in Order

President Obama ran for office promising voters who supported and believed strongly in GLBT Civil Rights real action; and many have been disappointed. This isn’t to say that Obama isn’t the most gay-friendly President we’ve had in quite some time: he has appointed the most number of openly gay cabinet officials of all time; beating President Clinton’s record from his TWO terms before he’s even finished his first.

But that still doesn’t explain the lack of action on initiatives that are symbolic of the GLBT Civil Rights struggle, such as Gay Marriage or repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Obama has come out against DADT and promised to end it multiple times, but his actions have made it clear he’s leaving it as an issue for either the courts or congress to decide, which may not spell the most ideal solution.

President Harry Truman faced a similar type of issue when he took office: African-Americans had been serving in segregated troops of the armed forces. Only a few weeks before the 1948 Election Day, Truman made a politically unpopular decision and signed into action the order to integrate our Armed Forces. The Democrats were nervous that many would take this as their cue to vote Dixiecrat (a break-off of the Democratic Party which believed in segregation and states’ rights) and leave the Democrats in the dust. Newspapers (famously) printed “Dewey Defeats Truman” on every front page, only to be proven wrong.

Public opinion in 1948 in favor of integration was way lower than today’s public opinion in favor of eliminating Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and allowing gays to openly serve in the military. It was a politically risky move for Truman, sure, but in the end it paid off. So why doesn’t Obama do the same thing? I’m not the first to have brought this up, I’m sure. And many say it’s because he didn’t want to harm the Democrats in the 2010 election – well, the election is over. He has two full years until the next one. If he signed such an Executive Order before the end of 2011, undoubtedly it will have vanished from the forefront of the news media cycle by November 2012. Plus, with public opinion being what it is now, chances are it really wouldn’t hurt Obama that much.

So the question is: Will President Obama take a historical cue card from Truman? Or will he continue to leave this decision up to courts and congress, only voicing his support of eliminating it?

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