The Rainbow Over Rome

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Why are there so many songs about rainbows, and what’s on the other side?

If you are a Muppet fan, you heard that line inside your head, sung in Kermit the Frog’s familiar croak. I have always wanted to answer the little green guy’s musical question. We sing about rainbows because they have always been a symbol of better days ahead – a time in the future when our troubles are finally behind us. That optimism,universally associated with rainbows, is one of the reasons they make the perfect symbol for the LGBT struggle.

The rainbow transcends cultures. It is where Irish leprechauns hide their pots of gold.  It is the way the Christians believe God promised Noah he would never again wipe out humanity by flood. And this Christmas, it is the way Ignazio Marino, the mayor of Rome, the very seat of Christianity, reassured the doubting gay community that he has not forgotten his promise to fight for their equality.

The LGBT community of Rome has had a difficult time since 2008, when Mayor Marino’s predecessor, Gianni Alemanno, was elected mayor, the first right-wing mayor since World War II.  Alemanno is the founder of the National Social Conservative caucus within Italy’s right-leaning National Alliance Party. The night he was elected, groups of skinheads stood among his supporters welcoming Alemanno with raised fists and cries of “Duce! Duce” Add to that the relentless verbal attacks by Rome’s most famous citizen, noted homophobe Pope Benedict, and you can see why the gay community in Rome felt under siege.

But 2013 brought a wave of liberal victories.  The center-left Democratic party elected gay-friendly mayors in 16 of Italy’s largest cities. Gianni Alemanno was defeated in a landslide, by a truly unique candidate, Dr. Ignazio Marino, who campaigned on a promise of passing a civil unions law that would give same-sex couples all the same benefits of marriage.

Before you grumble about Mayor Marino promising civil unions and not marriage equality, remember where the Vatican is. Marino didn’t promise what he knew he couldn’t deliver. But legal equality? That is a political promise he just might be able to keep.

ignazio marioIgnazio Marino (left) has an interesting past, including an American connection. He is a transplant surgeon, who studied in Italy, but who, in the early 90s, pioneered baboon to human liver transplants at the University of Pittsburgh. After almost a decade here in the states, Dr. Marino returned to Italy and opened Sicily’s first liver transplant center in Palermo. Dr. Marino’s Wikipedia bio says he has performed over 650 transplants in his career, but there’s one you’ll be especially interested in.

Dr. Marino performed the first organ transplant in Italy on a man with HIV. It was not illegal to do so, but it did go against established medical practice, and he endured much criticism for his decision. Dr. Marino says he was persuaded to perform the kidney transplant surgery after the patient and his father, who was the donor, made a personal plea to him. They had been turned down by every transplant center they had contacted because of the son’s HIV status. Dr. Marino performed the surgery, which was a complete success. His kind act made him an immediate hero among Italy’s gay community, but Ignazio Marino was not always a supporter of gay rights.

washington narional galleryMayor Marino was here in the states last week, bringing the National Gallery in Washington an ancient work of art known as “Dying Gaul” (right). Rome is in financial trouble, and is “loaning” (meaning renting) its treasured art as a means to raise cash. (Something Detroit should think about.)

While he was here, the mayor sat down for an interview with James Nichols of the Huffington Post, in which he confessed that twenty years ago, he would not have been a supporter of marriage equality or even adoption by gays. Mayor Marino credits his time living here in the states with changing his mind. The mayor’s explanation of his evolution is very similar to the one given by President Obama. He says it was raising his daughter in Pittsburgh, meeting the same-sex parents of her friends, that led him to realize LGBT equality was the right and moral thing to do.

So earlier this year, the evolved Dr. Marino ran to become gay-champion Mayor Marino, promising to make civil unions a reality in Rome. He also pledged he would fight for a city-wide LGBT non-discrimination law. Except for the standards demanded by the EU, LGBT protections do not exist in Italy on a national level, but non-discrimination laws are being passed by local communities more and more. He also said he would institute a program teaching acceptance of LGBT people in Rome schools. Mayor Marino:

It’s not possible that a city like Rome there continues to be crimes and offenses driven by homophobia. In my city I don’t want violence of this type and I will fight it.”

“I believe homosexuals must have recognition of the same rights as everyone else. Respect of rights is fundamental.”

Rome mayor and popeThe election brought hope to the LGBT community in Rome. There was a tremendous celebration. Supporters chanted “We freed Rome from the fascists,” at the election night victory rally. But right out of the chute, Mayor Marino appeared to let his gay supporters down. The mayor was elected a few days before Rome’s Pridefest. He was expected to make an appearance. Maybe even a speech. But Mayor Marino was a no-show.

The Mayor assumed office last June with a black financial cloud hanging over Rome. His first order of business had to be a budget battle with right-wing council members who are very Tea Party-like in their push for austerity. Perhaps the new mayor felt an appearance at Pridefest would make it seem like he was rubbing their faces in his landslide victory and complicate his negotiations with them. But among the LGBT community there was open speculation about how, now that he was elected, Ignazio Marino had forgotten all about his promise to work for gay equality. Photos of him embracing the new Pope Francis (above right) only made things worse. Say it’s not so Ignazio! The gays of Rome are waiting for a sign.

The sign came this week. The message. The reassurance. Mayor Marino has not forsaken the gay community. And his promise came in the form of a rainbow.

Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino and City Assemblywoman Imma BattagliaThere is a mile and a half long street in Rome known as the Via del Corso, a bustling shopping district that runs from the Piazza Venezia to Piazza del Popolo. Each year the Via del Corso is decorated for Christmas with what the Italians call a “carpet”of lights overhead. Last year, the lights were white. In 2011, for the 150th anniversary of Italy’s unification, they were the colors of the flag. But this year, lesbian Councilwoman Imma Battaglia (left with Mayor Marino) who is an LGBT activist, went to the new mayor with an idea he immediately embraced. Her idea? This year, the lights should be rainbow.

Officially, the rainbow lights of the Via del Corso were said to honor three young gay Italians who had recently taken their own lives due to bullying. Perhaps the hope was even the right-wing wouldn’t trample on the memory of dead children. But trample they did, of course. For an example of the right wing’s reaction, just imagine what Michele Bachmann or Rick Santorum would say under similar circumstances, and then translate that into Italian. Laura Rossi, the event planner who installed the lights, was so flustered after the first few days of the right’s vitriol that she announced the lights were no longer about gay rights, they were now about Mandela.

“This way the message of love, tolerance, unity and sharing will become stronger.” Rossi said.

But Mayor Marino did not back pedal or equivocate under fire.  “It’s about rights.” He told the Huffington Post.

The rainbow lights are Mayor Marino’s message to the gay community of Rome: he has not forgotten them. He will stand against homophobia. He will stand for equality. He intends to keep his promise to champion gay rights and bring civil unions to Rome. It’s not Kermit’s doubts that should be playing in their heads:

“Rainbows are visions, but only illusions…”

It’s the Eagles’ Desperado:

“It may be raining. But there’s a rainbow above you…”

 

 

Mayor Marino’s Photos 
Mayor Marino and Councilwoman Battalia Photo
Light Photos Facebook

 

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Espionage Elves, Buddy Benches And Teaching Kindness

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elf on a shelfI first heard about Elf On The Shelf from six-year-old Madison, who was sitting amid a parade of nutcrackers, and piles of the tissue they had been wrapped in. I was cranky, because Puck the beagle had given me his two minute warning and I was trying to clear a path to the front door. The conversation went something like this:

Maddie: We should get an Elf on the Shelf this Christmas.
Me: Because the elf union is complaining we only hire nutcrackers?
Maddie: It’s a magic elf you buy. It watches what you do and reports to Santa, and then it moves at night while you’re asleep.
Me: Sounds creepy. How much are they?
Maddie: Thirty dollars.
Me: You want to spend thirty dollars on a toy that will rat you out?
Maddie: It comes with a book.
Me: I’m also not crazy about elves that move around while I’m asleep.
Maddie: Santa does. And the tooth fairy too.
Me: But they’ve passed a background check.
Maddie, talking to Cedric, her favorite nutcracker: Things are not looking good for an Elf on the Shelf.

I always feel guilty when I say no to Maddie. And I understand the fun of a magical elf who moves about. I may even have even said yes, had she caught me in a better mood. But it is also true that I really don’t like the tattletale part of that game. So we remained elfless.

Until now.

christian bucksI came across a story this week in the Desert News, about an idea that, in light of the bullying problem that plagues LGBT youth, I thought was worth discussing. A second grader in York, Pennsylvania, named Christian Bucks (left) saw an article about a school in Germany that instituted a “Buddy Bench”, a place where kids on the playground who are feeling lonely can go sit. The hope is other kids will recognize the child who feels left out and make friends.

“If two people are sitting at the bench, they could ask each other if they want to play,” Christian explained to his classmates. “The bench is not for hanging out or just sitting. It has a purpose to help grow our dream circle of friends.”

Besides Germany, the concept is being tried in the UK and in Singapore. Christian brought his idea to his school’s principal, and now Roundtown Elementary School has a buddy bench of its own. I will let Christian explain his project:

 

For his efforts Christian was nominated for a Charlotte Bacon Award. I, of course, was curious as to what that might be. What I found was inspiring.

A year ago, when we were all still in shock from the horror of  the Sandy Hook massacre, Ann Curry suggested each of us commit 26 acts of kindness, one for each of the 20 students and the six teachers killed. Many of us joined that effort, and when our acts were completed, we promptly forgot about the 26 Acts Project. But that idea of promoting “kindness” is alive and well in the Sandy Hook community.

There is a conviction in those moved to action by Sandy Hook, that if hatred can be taught, so can kindness. I think that concept has special implications in the LGBT community where so often children are rejected by their own families. Humans have a natural instinct to love and protect their children. To reject them for being gay is learned behavior. What is learned, can be unlearned. And if it can’t be, at least a new generation can be taught differently.

charlotte baconThe award Christian Bucks was nominated for honors Charlotte Bacon, (right) one of the children slain in the Sandy Hook massacre. It is given for acts of kindness. On the Charlotte Bacon Awards Facebook page people post photos of their kind deeds,  and videos they have made and about how kindness can change the world. There is a Charlotte’s Litter Campaign that raises funds to provide “comfort dogs” for children in need of companionship, and a Charlotte’s Kindness Bucket initiative that sends materials to schools that want to “teach kindness”.

If Sandy Hook could bring us more kindness, we would all be the better for it. It is a quality desperately needed these days, with our political leaders seemingly determined to model the most mean-spirited behavior: voting to throw children off of food assistance during the holidays. Repealing Obamacare to return to a system where the uninsured were forced to beg for medical care. Demonizing people who receive public assistance while refusing to raise the minimum wage to one that would make the people they disparage self-sufficient.

kindness elvesDon’t get me started, we’ll be here all day.

As I scrolled down Charlotte’s page, I was thinking about the lack of kindness demonstrated by the Tea Party and how that might be overcome. I certainly wasn’t thinking about Maddie and her wish for an Elf On The Shelf. But there they were. It was as if the universe had tracked me down. Kindness Elves. “An alternative to Elf On The Shelf.” said the comment box.

It seems I am not the only one who thinks a spying elf who tattletales is not such a wonderful message to be sending children. But here was the answer from a company called The Imagination Tree: elves who appear every day with a suggestion for a kind deed, like baking cookies for a neighbor or coloring a lovely picture for grandma:

kindess elf 2

 

 

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So yesterday, a kindness elf came to visit us for the Christmas season. Her name is Snowflake, and she appeared on Maddie’s nightstand holding a reindeer sticker, and a note that says Maddie can have the sticker if the next time they play a video game, Maddie lets her sister go first.

First-grader Maddie was thrilled with Snowflake. Maddie’s smile made me think of first-grader Charlotte Bacon.

 

 

 

Photos:

Christian Bucks from Alyson Bucks’ Facebook
Charlotte Bacon from Charlotte Bacon 26 Acts of Kindness Facebook
Elf On The Shelf from Facebook
Kindness Elves from The Imagination Tree Facebook

tncrmJean Ann Esselink is a straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle.

Follow me on Twitter as @Uncucumbered or friend me on Facebook.

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A Christmas Gift To The World

by-audrey-heller-e1353079453459In Hiroshima Peace Park, built to commemorate the victims of the first nuclear attack, there is a statue of a young girl holding a golden origami crane. On its base are inscribed these words: “This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace in the world.” The memorial was built by the efforts of the classmates of Sadako Sasaki, the subject of that statue, who was only two years old when the United States dropped the nuclear bomb, code-named “Little Boy,” about a mile from where Sadako lived.

Ten years after Little Boy decimated Hiroshima, Sadako, like so many other Japanese children, came down with leukemia as a result of her exposure to radiation. The prognosis for anyone with leukemia in those days was “terminal.” There was no hope. A friend of Sadako’s, Chizuko Hamamoto, visiting her in the hospital, reminded the suffering girl of a Japanese fable; if one folded a thousand paper cranes, the gods would grant their wish. Then Chizuko picked up a gold-colored piece of paper and folded a crane, telling Sadako, “Here is your first one.”

So Sadako began folding paper cranes, hoping the gods would grant her a life beyond age twelve. On the wings of those cranes, she would write messages, like: “I will write peace on your wings and you will fly all over the world.” But after two months, with 356 cranes left to fold, Sadako died. Her grieving school friends folded the remaining cranes, and the thousand paper birds, along with the wishes for peace and hope inscribed on their wings, were buried with Sadako.

For seven years now, the Rainbow World Fund, an all-volunteer, international charity based in the LGBT community, has used the symbol of Sadako’s origami cranes to decorate their internationally renown Christmas tree, the World Tree of Hope,  a wonderful gift the LGBT community gives to the world at Christmastime.  

Since 2006 the tree has been displayed in San Francisco City Hall, first at the invitation of Mayor Gavin Newsom, and now under Mayor Edwin Lee who has continued the tradition. Each year, organizers in San Francisco ask the people of the world to send them their wishes for the future as a reminder that “We are all one human family.” Last year, volunteers lovingly inscribed over 7,000 messages, on the wings of cranes folded by origami enthusiasts and volunteers they teach, and hung lovingly upon the World Tree of Hope.

tree2009The tree itself is magnificent! It’s a twenty-foot white fir, donated by the Delancey Street Foundation, a San Francisco charity that runs a residential treatment center for drug abusers and ex-cons. It sparkles with lights and the handmade ornaments. But as a symbol of community, as a reminder of the ties that bind all men and women living on this big blue marble, as evidence peace is a common and a constant goal of people everywhere, The World Tree of Hope’s power to inspire dwarfs its physical beauty.

Anyone can make a wish. It costs nothing but some time and some thought, and a spark of hope in your heart. People the world over, from the famous and powerful, to the small and helpless, have sent their own wishes. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hoped,“For a world where all people are treated with dignity, respect and equality, no matter who you are or who you love.” President Obama’s wish is also on the tree: “I wish for a world for our children more just, more fair, and more kind than the one we know now.”

20071This year’s tree will be unveiled at a free Lighting Party, December 10. That means you still have time to make your own wish fly over the world on the wings of a snow white crane. You can make your wish of up to 100 words here, on the Rainbow World Fund’s website, and it will be transposed onto an ornament and hung on the World Tree of Hope in time for the unveiling.

Soon, hopes and wishes from paupers and presidents alike will laden the branches of the World Tree of Hope. My wish for equality for my LGBT friends will be among them. I hope your wish will be too.

 

Author’s Note:
Each of the trees pictured above is a World Tree of Hope from a former year. To see them in better detail, just click on them.

 

 

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The Just Us Lounge – The Gay Bar With The Holiday Heart

just-us-lounge-e1385293905423There were three nooses hanging on the door when Lynn Koval arrived at work one morning. The year was 1998 and the Just Us Lounge, on Division Street in Biloxi, Mississippi had just opened for business. Back then, there was tremendous opposition to the opening of a neighborhood gay bar, including a white supremacist group who targeted them.

“I told my staff that if a Molotov cocktail didn’t come through our doors the first year, we would be open for 20 years-plus,” Lynn told the Sun Herald.

tammy Lafontaine and Lynn kovalIt’s fifteen years later, and Just Us Lounge, the gay bar Lynn owns with her wife Tammy Lafontaine (that’s Tammy and Lynn on the left) and with her straight sister, Lysa Broussard, (below right) is still open for business in southern Mississippi, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.

“We only close if a hurricane is coming and they knock on the door and make us leave,” Lysa said.

The White Supremacists have faded away, and no one leaves nooses for the three owners anymore. Lysa credits the community, saying:

“The Coast is a melting pot. Our entire community is more accepting.”

lynn broussardBut truth be known, the reason the Just Us Lounge survived in an area you might expect fierce opposition to a gay bar, is its owners, who have made their bar an integral part of the community. The Just Us Lounge is a place its neighbors can turn to when they need help.

“We are a viable resource, not just for the LGBT community but the entire community, period.” Lynn said proudly. “As long as we can meet overhead, our goal is to give back to our community.”

In Biloxi, the Just Us Lounge has become the gay bar with the heart. The owners rarely say no to holding a fundraiser for a good cause, LGBT-related or not. On Thanksgivings, they donate turkeys for the Back Bay Mission. Last September they hosted a night benefitting the Buddy Walk For Downs Syndrome, donating the cover charge to the group. The owners have agreed to make Buddy Walk Night annual event.

The owner made friends with the straight community by welcoming the nervous strangers who came for the fundraisers, including servicemembers from nearby Keesler Air Force Base. And every morning workers from the nearby casinos come in for a free “shift change” drink. The Just Us Lounge is now s0 accepted in the community that the Republican Mayor of Biloxi, A.J. Holloway, made an appearance at a Just Us charity event.

But my favorite undertaking of Just Us Lounge, and the reason I decided to write about them today, is what they do at Christmas; a kindness they have generously undertaken for the last fifteen years. Just Us Lounge “adopted” every child with HIV or AIDS on the “Angel Tree” of the South Mississippi Aides Task Force for the first thirteen of those years, and from the Coastal Family Health Department for the last two.

“We buy them everything on their wish list,” said Lynn.

 

Photos:
Feature Image: Just Us Facebook
Tammy and Lynn: Tamara LaFontaine Facebook
Lysa: Lysa Broussard Facebook

 

 

tncrmJean Ann Esselink is a straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle.

Follow me on Twitter as @Uncucumbered or friend me on Facebook.

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Walking For Joe Bell

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You probably remember this story from last month. The grieving father of a bullied fifteen-year-old who hung himself on an elementary school playground, quit his job and began walking across the country in his own bullying awareness campaign, when he was hit by a truck and killed instantly.

Neither the suicide of Jadin, nor the death of his father Joe, are stories I would normally choose to write about, especially on a Sunday morning. Such events really need someone more appreciative of Greek tragedies. A Sophocles or a Euripides. I can’t find a moral to their story much less a silver lining. Two lives wasted, and nothing changed.

Except something did.

Jadin Bell killed himself because he was bullied for being gay. He couldn’t hang on for the “It gets better” promise to kick in. He had friends. He had his family on his side. And it still wasn’t enough.

In this tribute video, Jadin looks like the kid at the McDonalds counter, or the neighbor’s son who helped push your car out of the snow. The pain doesn’t show. But that’s all I can think about when I look at him catching snowflakes on his tongue: You must have been in such horrible pain Jadin Bell. And I have nothing uplifting, or insightful or the least bit clever to say about that.


While I may be able to choose whether or not to dwell on the loss of Jadin Bell, his father had no such luxury. When I heard of his planned two year trek across the country to bring attention to bullying, I have to admit, my reaction was not “Now there’s a good idea” or “That ought to work.” My thoughts about Joe Bell were very similar to my thoughts about Jadin Bell: “You must be in such horrible pain.”

joe bell2I used to scoff at the idea that everyone went through the same stages of grief. Everyone grieves differently, right? So how can it also be the same for everyone? Yet it’s hard to deny that people in grief will at some point feel compelled to do something to make their loved one’s death make sense. They often use terms like “so they did not die in vain” or “so some good can come of this” or “so no other family has to go through this.”

John Walsh felt compelled to search for predators. Sarah Brady worked a decade to pass the Brady Bill. Susan G. Kohmen’s sister started a breast cancer charity. Rich families fund scholarships. Poor families plant trees. And Joe Bell quit his job and began walking from his home in Oregon across the country. He decided on a southern route, because that’s where homophobia is the most ingrained. Joe walked for six months. He made it to Colorado, and then the truck ended his pain, and opened a fresh wound in the hearts of his family.

A tragic end to a tragic story. Except that it’s not.

The community in Colorado where Joe was killed did the unexpected last week. They “Walked for Joe.” Led by the Lincoln County sheriff, a group of law enforcement officers started at the place where Joe was struck and walked the twenty miles to Kit Carson, which would have been Joe’s next stop. The walk took them six hours. This is the video they made at the beginning of that journey:


Communities across the country have taken Colorado’s lead and are signing up to help finish the walk Joe started. “Community Walks For Joe” is aiming at amassing a million “Likes” on Facebook, a million miles walked in honor of Joe, and a million dollars raised for anti-bullying groups. And while I suppose even this community support does not qualify as a happy ending, it is now our turn to channel our grief so that Jadin and Joe “did not die in vain” and “so some good can come of this” and “so no other family will have to go through this”.

 

Photos from Facebook

 

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A Thank You To The Jakobsson Family

naomi-jakobsson4-e1383830731111

On Tuesday of this week, Illinois became the fifteenth state to come over from the darkside and embrace marriage equality.

On Wednesday, the office of Illinois State Representative Naomi Jakobssen, who voted for the bill, released this statement:

“Equal protection under the law is important to everyone in my family, including Garret. This was a vote that was important to my whole family, one that I felt I could not miss, and I know my son was proud of my decision.”

That’s the family she was talking about in the photo above, eight children, six of them adopted, twelve grandchildren, assorted in-laws. Naomi Jakobsson is the white-haired woman in the center of it all, both literally and in the photo. Her husband Eric is behind her, with his hands on her shoulders. Garett, the son she singled out for mention, is next to his mother in the green Adidas jacket. Garret’s wife, Beth, is in the green sweater to his right, and their son, ten-year-old Gunnar, is the boy on the first step wearing a black jacket. I wish I could tell you why so many members of the family are holding sock puppets, we’ll just have to enjoy the mystery.

The gay and lesbian community owes this family a thank you.

Rep. Jakobsson was a co-sponsor of the marriage equality bill in the Illinois House, but she had been conspicuously absent in the week before the vote. This was unusual for Rep. Jakobsson, who has served in the Illinois State House since 2002. She never missed the debate on a bill she sponsored, much less a vote. But as the argument heated up in Springfield, Naomi Jakobsson was ninety minutes away, at a hospice in Matoon, keeping a vigil at the bedside of her son Garret, who was dying a slow death from a progressive neurodegenerative disorder called Pick’s Disease.

Garret had been in hospice care for some time, and his death was imminent. No one would have faulted Naomi Jakobsson if she had chosen to be a mother first and remain by the side of the boy she and Eric had adopted from South Korea in 1968, at the beginning of their journey together. No doubt husband and wife had discussed it many times before, whispering in the dark while their son slept, about the possibility that she might be called away to vote on the marriage bill. They would have talked about that eventuality among the family. The decision would have been made long before the phone call from the capitol was.

Tuesday morning that phone call came. The bill was scheduled to be voted on that afternoon. A “test vote” for an amendment had just failed, receiving only 59 of the 60 votes it needed to pass. Marriage equality for the state of Illinois could hinge on Rep. Jakobsson’s vote. She had to come!

naomi jakobsson32Naomi Jakobsson shouldered her responsibility as a legislator. She kissed her sleeping son and promised to return the very minute she could. She embraced her husband, each of them drawing strength from the other as they had through all their years together. There would have been no last minute discussion. No second guessing their decision. Just promises to be quick, and warnings to drive carefully. Then Rep. Jakobsson buckled in for the ninety minute drive to Springfield, no doubt with her circular thoughts outracing the car all the way.

Rep. Jakobsson arrived just after the final debate got underway. She sat through two and a half hours of the back and forth, tortured by her circumstances, no doubt hearing little of what was said.

Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, one of Rep. Jakobsson’s best friends in the chamber, said of that day:

“Everything was a little surreal. She had left this environment that she’d been in, kind of a waiting vigil at her son’s bedside, to come here.”

House Majority Leander Barbara Lynn Curry noted that Rep. Jakobsson was visibly distraught, but did her best to get through a difficult day. Rep. Greg Harris, chief sponsor of the bill, stated:

“I take my hat off to her, I admire her, and I give her nothing but respect for the courage it took to come to Springfield.”

Rep. Jakobsson cast her “yes” vote for marriage equality. There were 61 yes votes, one more than was needed for the legislation to pass. Democratic lawmakers took a victory lap, posing for photos and happily answering reporters questions, but Rep. Jakobsson was not among them. She was back on the road to the hospice, back to her husband and her daughter-in-law, back to her young grandson Gunnar, back to her beloved son Garret. Garret would have all of her time and attention now that she had stood up and done her duty to Illinois.

Garret passed away ten minutes before her car pulled into the hospice parking lot. She was too late. Rep. Naomi Jakobsson had stood up for equality, and lost the opportunity to see her son out of this life.

Majority Leader Barbara Lynn Curry announced Garret Jakobsson’s death on the house floor Wednesday, requesting a moment of silence so that member could, “express in their own hearts, their concern for Naomi, her family and young Gunnar.”

Rep. Greg Harris said of her:

“Naomi Jakobsson is an amazing woman. Kind, caring and courageous. She was among the first to sign on as a sponsor to marriage equality, and has been a champion for this and many other issues of justice and fairness in Central Illinois, and across our state. What a sacrifice her family made.”

I agree. It is the kind of sacrifice that should not go unnoticed among the gay community.

So today let’s take a moment to express our own thanks for the extraordinary generosity of the Jakobsson family – an acknowledgement that we have taken notice and appreciate their selflessness, at a time when they most needed the comfort of their wife/mother/grandmother. Let us also take special notice of Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, who earned a place in gay history this week. Let us offer our condolences upon their loss, and our thanks for their sacrifice.

Today, Illinois State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson and the entire Jakobsson family, are On Our Radar.

 

 

Photos: Rep. Jakobsson’s Facebook

tncrmJean Ann Esselink is a straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle.

Follow me on Twitter as @Uncucumbered or friend me on Facebook.

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Lisa Mehos’ Scarlet Letter – ‘A’ – For Abortion

lisa-mehos-e1383440220390Divorces are rarely friendly. That’s why we involve a judge. We expect a judge to draw some boundaries. Otherwise it ends with the couple hanging from a chandelier.

This is not a new story. At least this part: A wealthy New York banker marries a lovely young woman named Lisa, who is tall and lithe and blond, and twenty-years his junior. They are happy for a few years, welcoming a baby daughter Macy, and three years later a son John, named after his father. Then the happiness went away.

In 2011, they divorced. The banker gave full custody of the young children (photo below) to Lisa, but they visited their dad. Then there was an incident. Lisa ended up with a black eye and a broken finger. The banker claimed it was the result of Lisa using Botox. Lisa claimed the banker hit her. The banker said, if that was how she wanted to play it, then he wanted his kids back.

In the preliminary round of the custody trial, Judge Lori Sattler allowed the lawyer for the banker, Eleanor Alter, to subpoena Lisa’s medical records. That’s how the banker discovered that six months after they divorced, Lisa had an abortion. The banker wanted to know the details so he could use Lisa’s abortion as evidence against her in his custody suit. He wanted to know who. He wanted to know where. He wanted all the dirty details.

This is where that impartial judge is expected to draw boundaries. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

The banker’s lawyer argued her client was entitled to know if his children “were exposed to this man, how it all came about.” Alter:

“If this man was coming in the house, if she’s out of the house to see him, if it was date rape, that’s relevant.”

Lisa’s attorney Emily Goodwin responded that such a request was outrageous. Goodwin:

“I think the very idea of the potential of using, against a woman in a custody case, the fact that she may have had an abortion sets women’s rights and the rights of choice back in a way that I can’t imagine this court would want to be associated.”

lisa mehos3Eleanor Alter told the judge that her client should be privy to the details about the abortion because Lisa had refused to allow the banker to have his children for Easter, saying it was because he was an atheist. Alter told the judge the abortion put Lisa’s credibility in question concerning that Easter excuse, and the judge agreed.

Apparently neither were aware there are pro-choice Easter observers.

Emily Goodwin was shocked at the ruling. She told the judge her decision was “scandalous and outrageous.” Goodman:

“This might go over well in Texas or Mississippi, but not here.”

Goodwin then requested that the judge recuse herself, but Judge Sattler refused.

When the story broke nationwide, the judge seemed defensive of her ruling, telling reporters she allowed Lisa to be questioned about her abortion “purely for credibility issues alone relating to her prior sworn testimony, and not due to the content contained therein.” Judge Sattler:

“I emphasize that this was an evidentiary ruling, and all statements made trying to twist it into anything else are misguided.”

To that reasoning I would like to say: Lisa Mehos was forced by a judge to be questioned in open court by an attorney for her ex-husband about the details of her sex life. Refusal to do so would mean she would lose her children. It doesn’t take much twisting.

 

 

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tncrmJean Ann Esselink is a straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle.

Follow me on Twitter as @Uncucumbered or friend me on Facebook.

 

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