Last Night, I Went to Bed a Freer Man; New Zealand Legalised Gay Marriage

I admit, I haven’t been losing sleep over our inability to get legally married.  Why?  New Zealand is a socially progressive, fair country, and if it didn’t happen now, it would happen in a few years.  As Motormouth Maybelle said in Hairspray, “A foot in the door, that’s all it is.  One toe at a time.”

I also have to admit, last night, watching the parliamentary debate of the third reading of the bill to legalise LGBTI marriage on TV, I knew we had it in the bag.  Deep down, something told me, “We’ll be equal in the eyes of the law now.”

New Zealand Parliament didn’t let us down.  They voted 77 to 44 to legalise same-sex and transgendered marriage.  We became the 13th country in the world to do so.

Suddenly, a young man in the gallery above Parliament stood up and started to sing Pokarekare Ana, a powerful Maori love song that makes me cry nearly every time I hear it.  Everyone else rose, even the politicians, even the politicians who had been against the bill, and joined in.  Only in New Zealand, eh?

It shows who New Zealanders are, deep down, as a people.  There is not that great gulf between conservatives and liberals here.  Sure, we may argue about ideology and how things are implemented, but deep down, those divides are not a chasm like they seem to be in the USA and other places.

A lot of people fought for this right for us.  Noel and I had fought for equal rights in immigration, and, to be honest, I kinda felt we did our bit for gay rights.  As I said before, I knew that eventually, one day, we would have full equal rights.

When we went to bed, I think I stared at the ceiling for a while as the sheer weight of now being totally and unequivocally an equal with any of my straight friends, family, or co-workers in the eyes of the law pressed down on me.  It came to me that this was the feeling women had when they got the right to vote or right to make their own reproductive choices.  This was the feeling people who had been enslaved but were now free had upon their freedom.  This was the feeling people who were denied marrying the person they loved on the basis of, first, religious beliefs, then skin colour, felt when they suddenly had the right to marry that person they loved.

I was at the end of a journey, the end of a fight to be treated equally in the eyes of the law.  It had started the day I was born (and we still have a long way to go in the USA and socially, I admit) and here it was, 17 April 2013, and the journey to complete legal freedom ended successfully at the age of 39.

I stared up at the ceiling, tears in my eyes, and a smile creeping along my face.

I felt utterly and completely free.

My 93 Year Old Grandma Thinks I Should Be Allowed to Marry; Why Don’t You?

Today, there are major battles occurring in New Zealand, the USA, France, and many other countries.  It’s a civil war of sorts, another civil rights movement, and this time, the question is:  Should we allow gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) couples legally marry?  (Not civil unionise.  Marry.  As one of the Supreme Court justices said, it’s the difference between a skim-milk marriage and a full marriage.)

We’ve heard every excuse in the book from the anti-marriage crowd.

“Marriage is for procreation.”  Really?  How can two straight people in their 50s get married if marriage is for procreation?

“God / Allah / Jesus / [Insert Your God Here] wants marriage between a man and a woman.”  I don’t think you or I can say anything about what God (or whatever god you believe in) thinks.  Besides, marriage has been around for a lot longer than some of our gods, so no one religion can truly make a claim on the institution of marriage.  Also, holy books like the Bible say a lot of things like, “Don’t eat shellfish” and “Don’t wear clothes of two different fabrics” and “Women are not equal to men” and “You can have slaves” and “Don’t cut your hair” and “Don’t get tattoos or pierce your body” and (my favourite) “Thou shalt not commit adultery”, yet anti-marriage equality people seem to conveniently forget some or all of these parts.  And, while we’re arguing this point, LGBT couples are asking for the right to legally marry so we can have the same rights and privileges under the law (not your church) that straight couples have.

“God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”  If you are dumb enough to believe that Adam and Eve were the only two people on the planet at the start, then you are dumb enough to spout garbage like this.  My Mom (a very smart woman) said to me one time: “I think Genesis in the Bible is how God tried to tell His people about these things in very simple terms, like explaining the Big Bang and evolution to a 5 year old.”  And it’s true.  Now, we’d say, “Imagine there was a boy named Adam, and a girl named Eve,” knowing that Adam represented men and Eve represented women.  And, even if you want to argue this point with me, go read some of the additional Biblical texts out there and let me know who Lilith is and how she fits into the picture if Adam and Eve are the only man and woman on the planet.  On the scientific front, homosexuality and even homosexual pairing is observed in many species on this planet.  So, God created gay ducks but He didn’t create gay people?  Right.

“Marriage is sacred.”  If it’s so sacred, why do we allow divorce?

“The fabric of society will unravel if we let gay and lesbian couples get married.”  Really?  Because we heard this argument with multiracial couples, and it totally happened when we allowed a black man to marry a white woman.  Oh wait.  It didn’t.  And see the point above.  If divorce, single parents, mixed marriages, etcetera, etcetera, haven’t destroyed the fabric of society (and they won’t), I doubt letting a few loving, caring, monogamous gay and lesbian couples getting married will unravel society either.

I could go on all day with some of the garbage that people say about the whole thing, but it comes down to this:

I was born gay; the only choice I made was to tell the truth and live my life true to my biology / genetics / whatever made me gay.  I pay the same taxes as everyone else.  I am supposedly equal in the eyes of the law.  But, as the law currently stands, I do not have the legal right to marry my partner Noel.  This automatically bars him and me from certain legal rights (like the ability to adopt as a couple) in New Zealand and thousands of legal rights, protections, and abilities in the USA.  This brings the argument back to that, therefore, as a gay man, I am not equal in the eyes of the law.

The USA is very good at doing this to groups of people, including African-Americans throughout US history and Japanese-Americans during World War II (at least).  Animal Farm has the perfect quote: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

One of the stories my Grandpa used to tell us that stands out in my mind was when he had to go to the emergency room in a hospital in Chicago or Milwaukee sometime in the 1940s or 1950s; I wish I could remember the story exactly.  My Grandpa had scoliosis (a curvature of the spine) and so, I guess he was used to being a bit of an outsider in that regard, and he did the Christian thing and treated others as he would like to be treated.  At the hospital, Grandpa had to wait for a while to see a doctor.  The nurse came in, quite flustered, and apologised profusely.  Grandpa said he was in a bit of pain, and the nurse said, “Well, we do have a coloured doctor on duty.”  Grandpa told her he didn’t care what colour the guy was, send him in.

The doctor came in and kept asking Grandpa if he was sure he wanted an African-American doctor to help him.  Grandpa said, “You’re a doctor, aren’t you?”  The doctor confirmed he was, to which Grandpa replied (again) that he didn’t care what colour the doctor was as long as he could make him feel better.

And this is the attitude a lot of my family has to this day.  This was the amazing attitude Grandpa had towards everyone he met in life, and it’s something I try to emulate (hopefully somewhat successfully, because I, like he, am a minority).

Grandpa died in 2004, aged 83.  I still think about him every day.  At his wake, though, another amazing thing happened.

My Grandma was talking to one of her and Grandpa’s friends, a woman about the same age.  I was standing nearby and happened to overhear my Grandma: something she doesn’t know to this day.

My then-83 year old Grandma said, “Marty (my Grandpa) even got to see Scott before passing away.  Scott flew in from New Zealand; we all wish his husband Noel could be here with us, too.”

My grandparents, devout Catholics their entire lives, never cared that I was gay.  They never cared that I was in love with another man or wanted to marry him.  They thought I should have the same rights as everyone else.  They never judged me at all, because they loved me for who I am.

It took courage for my Grandpa to let an African-American doctor help him out in an era that that was frowned upon.  It took courage for my Grandma to say to her peers that her grandson was married to another man.  It took courage for my friends and family to stand behind Noel and me to love us for who we are and support us in our fight for marriage equality.

Every little step we take as individuals, for the freedom and equality of others, helps change society in a positive way.

Do you have the courage to stand with us, on the right side of history?

My 22 February 2011 Quake Story

This week, with the second anniversary of the devastating 22 February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, I’ll be blogging about several issues relevant to our situation here in Christchurch and natural disasters in general.

This is my account of what happened to me on 22 February 2011, when a shallow 6.3 earthquake struck a few miles from Christchurch’s city centre, causing massive damage and killing 185 people.  This has been taken from my Quake Stories entry.

Read My 22 February 2011 Quake Story

Every City in Despair Needs Heroes: Meet Flat Man and Quake Kid

This week, with the second anniversary of the devastating 22 February 2011 Christchurch earthquake approaching, I’ll be blogging about several issues relevant to our situation here in Christchurch and natural disasters in general.

Flat Man and Quake Kid — Credit: Otago Daily Times

We were a city in need, and heroes came to help us.  In our darkest hours, Mayor Bob Parker did what no mayor in Christchurch history has done; he flipped the red switch.  Somewhere in Christchurch, a klaxon sounded, two seemingly-ordinary young men suited up and jumped in their Bumblebee-coloured Camaro to help the city in need.  This is the story of Flat Man, his mother Flat Mum, and his sidekick Quake Kid.

Read Every City in Despair Needs Heroes: Meet Flat Man and Quake Kid

Don’t Worry; The Taxpayer Has Deep Pockets!

This week, with the second anniversary of the devastating 22 February 2011 Christchurch earthquake approaching, I’ll be blogging about several issues relevant to our situation here in Christchurch and natural disasters in general.

I have never been the biggest fan of bureaucracy.  Personally, I feel the definition of a bureaucrat is a person with far too few skills and little common sense who is paid way too much to sit behind a desk all day and try to be as obstructive and obtuse as he or she possibly can be.  (This does not define 100% of all public servants but a good chunk of them.)

The Canterbury and Christchurch earthquakes have pretty much shattered any last little vestige of faith in bureaucracy and Government agencies in general that may have been cowering in some little dark corner of my mind.  Okay.  I admit that I do understand sometimes why it is in place: to protect us against those who would otherwise try to take advantage of Joe Public.  My understanding extends to bureaucracy attempting to stomp out dodgy traders and people, and setting up hurdles to stop people out from getting a quick buck from hurting people like your little old sweet Nana.  But sometimes the bureaucrats go a little (or maybe a lot) power crazy and stomp on the good people too.  They frustrate good people who have the best intentions or can even bring inspiration, wealth, knowledge and creativity to the community and, overall, hurt the economy and public rather than protect them at the expense of stopping the small minority of bad guys.

Read Don’t Worry; The Taxpayer has Deep Pockets

Some Polite Reminders on Driving Etiquette

It’s my opinion that driving in general is getting worse.  I think a lot of this is not due to people being bad drivers, per se, but to people being inconsiderate drivers.

I’m not saying I’m the Best Driver in the World, but I do try to be as considerate as I can be and follow the law and road rules.

Turn signals / indicators.  The lovely people who designed cars put turn signals on cars for a reason.  This is so you can let others know your intentions.  See, when you don’t put any indicators on, I’m assuming (as another driver) that you are not turning.  Contrary to popular belief, neither I nor anyone else I know can read minds.  So, when you’re coming around the traffic circle / roundabout or you are in a lane that can possibly go straight or turn off, it’d be great if you used that little stick poking out from your steering wheel column to let the rest of us know what you are actually doing.

P.S.  Please also use it correctly and as per the road rules, i.e. indicating your entry into the roundabout and your leaving from the roundabout.

P.P.S.  For more than 2 seconds.

P.P.P.S.  Don’t give me a filthy look if you haven’t indicated and I act according to your lack of indication.

Letting other people in.  Okay, so it’s really nice if you are stuck at an intersection where you don’t have a stop or give way / yield sign but the cross-traffic people do have one to let that person through or to turn into your lane; however, you should only do this if you would be blocking the intersection (and that person) by pulling up behind the car in front of you.

Please do not stop during rush hour to let someone who has a compulsory stop in if there’s no one in front of you.  See, you have 9 million cars behind you, and those nice people who designed the intersection in the first place put the stop sign / yield sign / give way sign there to ensure the flow of traffic moves to reduce congestion.  The cross road most likely does not have even remotely close to the same volume of traffic as the road you are on.  By you stopping and letting someone in who has a compulsory stop (because you feel you are being nice to that one driver), you are actually inconveniencing dozens to hundreds of other drivers behind you and adding to congestion.

(Just think about this logically for ten seconds and you’ll get it.  It’s not mean not letting those people in.  They have a stop sign for a reason.)

Don’t dawdle.  If you aren’t comfortable driving the speed limit on a fine, sunny day, that’s fine.  But use your rear view mirrors and look out your wind-shield.  If you see 20 cars piled up behind you, no cars in front of you for quite a way, and there is a lot of oncoming traffic, do the decent thing and pull over so those 20 cars behind you can pass you.

Don’t tailgate.  See, you being on my rear bumper will not make the 10 cars in front of me go any faster.  We’re all travelling 10 kph above the speed limit, anyway.  I suggest you do that too.

Bigger isn’t always better.  Great, you have an SUV, which is bigger than my Honda Accord.  That doesn’t excuse you from obeying the same road rules.  See, trucks are bigger than SUVs, and the vast majority of them obey the road rules.  And just because my car is smaller, and you have a tank of a car, doesn’t mean that my car can’t do some pretty serious damage to you and your car in the perfect accident.

Put your cell phone away.  There’s nothing so important that you need to break the law to text on your phone.  The text will be there when you get to wherever you are going.  Your inattention could kill you and me both.

P.S.  A lot of us know you are using your phone, even if we can’t see it.  I think the vast majority of people are not that interested in their steering wheel that they stare at the bottom portion of it, eyes flitting up to watch the road every few seconds, for nearly a minute at a time.

Stay on your side of the road.  Just because a car or delivery truck or cow or whatever is blocking your side of the road, it does not give you automatic rights to swerve into the oncoming traffic’s lane to get past.  If I’m in my lane coming towards you, and your lane is blocked, I have the right-of-way.  Get a little bit of patience and wait until oncoming traffic has passed.  Passing a stationary car and a moving one in your lane have the same rules.

Drive to the conditions.  Last winter, we had a good dumping of snow, probably in the region of 6 to 8 inches.  Christchurch doesn’t have snow plows, and the authorities told people to stay home if they could.  This didn’t stop some of the SUV brigade (and some other idiots) from deciding that driving the speed limit or above in 0C weather (i.e. freezing) with 8 inches of snow on the ground and poor visibility thinking they should be able to go out and drive like morons.  The result?  A family in a Beemer tried driving down our street at normal speed.  When they saw a pick-up truck approaching the intersection (and the pick-up truck had the right-of-way), the Beemer driver tried to stop at the give way / yield sign.  The BMW slid right through the intersection, t-boning the pick-up truck so hard that the Beemer ended up about 20 feet back from the intersection with the hood bent up like an upside-down V and the pick-up truck had its drive-shaft broken into two.  The people in the Beemer were crappy about the whole thing, but everyone who approached from the surrounding houses (including Noel, me, James, and many other neighbours) pointed out had they listened to authorities and not gone out or even, you know, drove to the freaking conditions, they wouldn’t be in the situation they were in.  (It’s really common sense.  Really.)

In a residential area, don’t speed.  At the same intersection as the Beemer incident, some drivers swing around the corner and decide to floor it down our street.  Now, our street is only a block long before it hits another intersection and main thoroughfare through our subdivision (continuing down the extension of our street in either direction does not lead to any major road or is a dead-end).  There’s no real need to drive 70 kph down our street other than just being a dick who doesn’t care about his fuel consumption or the safety of the street’s residents.

I often toyed with the idea of crouching between our cars on our driveway with a kids’ bouncy ball, and as soon as I hear some idiot throttling his car around the corner, bouncing the ball and run after it like I’m going to run into the street to see what happens.  This, however, would only scare the daylights out of one driver and wouldn’t really influence the other 80 drivers every day who do the same thing.  It could cause a car accident or worse. So… it will remain a fanciful thought.

Your actions have an effect on others.  It’s all I’m trying to say.  Think about how your actions affect others.