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Lesbian Visibility Shines Through in Memoir by Federal Prop 8 Plaintiffs

“Ordinary” lesbian couple came to represent same sex couples everywhere

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Sandy Stier and Kris Perry. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

A joyous celebration occurred May 13 in Highland Park as lesbian and straight women artists and performers launched an exhibition of archived work from the historic Women’s Building, the one-time “feminist mecca” for women’s culture in downtown Los Angeles. Already marginalized by mainstream society, the artists refused to be invisible even unto each other.  

Kris Perry and Sandy Stier would have loved it. One of the most famous couples in LGBT history as plaintiffs in the historic federal Prop 8 trial, they have nonetheless had their share of lesbian invisibility, even, as they reveal in their new memoir, “Love on Trial: Our Supreme Court Fight For the Right to Marry,” unto themselves.

In “Love on Trial,” Perry and Stier emerge from behind their famous “odd couple” lawyers Ted Olson and David Boies and trial leader Chad Griffin, now President of the Human Rights Campaign, and sidestep their fellow plaintiffs Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami to share how this “ordinary” lesbian couple came to represent same sex couples everywhere. But unbeknownst to them, the couple would each be forced to face unsettling deep dives into their own lives when that lawsuit was filed in May 2009.

Perry shares that she always felt “different” but didn’t know why until her late teens; Stier had always been straight until, inexplicably, she fell in love with Perry. That would be a point Brian Raum, the attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund, would harp on until turning red with frustration deposing the former church-going Iowa cheerleader.

“I was not the lesbian he expected to see,” Stier writes, as Raum pummeled her for answers about her relationships.

“I answered truthfully. I performed well under oath, and, frankly, I have nothing to hide. Yes, I dated men, or rather, boys, in high school and college. Wonderful guys. Yes, I cared about them. Yes, I married a man in my mid-twenties. Yes, I had loved him. All true. The other thing that was true was that I now loved a woman, and I wanted to marry her; I was in love with Kris.”

Raum asked for intimate details. Stier would only say they were “romantic.” He started using baseball terms: “What ‘base’ was reached in each of those relationships?” she writes. “We have more of our parents in us than we may realize. I gave him my best Iowa deadpan stare and restated that the relationships had been romantic. And I stopped there. My people don’t talk about ‘bases’ to lawyers. It’s not dignified.”

Stier understood that she was being probed for the “immutability” argument.  She finds the argument offensive. “Being gay is not wrong and it’s not bad. It’s not. Love is not harmful; hate is. Rejection is. Growing up immersed in religion and spending most of my career in the field of human services, nothing could be clearer,” she writes. “Love and acceptance are what matters and are worth fighting for.”

For Perry, pre-trial preparation was tough as she was forced to come face to face with coping mechanisms after her beloved sister’s death and how those fed into an endless cycle of self-protection from perpetual discrimination as the “other.” That included the pain and humiliation of knowingly refusing to even think of being happily married because, as a lesbian, it was not available to you—and everyone else knew it.

“After we had meandered around the core question for hours,” Perry writes, “Ted asked me, ‘How does it feel to be different?’ I burst into tears. All that heartache was closer to the surface than I had thought. I’d tried to put distance between myself and Bakersfield and how I felt there, but it hadn’t worked. I told Ted that ‘I knew who I was, and it had made me stronger,’ but I didn’t like that I had been forced into being strong by building walls or hiding my feelings. Hiding was a necessity, and it had changed me, permanently.”

The awareness hit her even harder on the witness stand. “I suddenly thought, ‘Enough. Enough coping. Enough settling. Enough making me easier for everyone else,” Perry writes.

“I could picture the three-year-old me, the eight-year-old me, the sixteen-year-old me, every one with a huge weight on her shoulders,” she continues. “Keeping a secret she didn’t know or understand, afraid of losing the love of her family, of being rejected by her friends. By fighting to be unseen and unheard, I didn’t grab love when others did. I didn’t hold my head high—I looked down. I didn’t see a future with my children and spouse; I thought I’d always be single and alone.”

Perry couldn’t even imagine what was possible. “I had covered up my embarrassment and humiliation for years, and it was painful for my loved ones to hear these experiences without censoring or sugarcoating,” she writes. “I felt like a huge weight had been lifted from me—but I knew well there was still so much more to come.”

“Love on Trial” is a kind of catharsis for all LGBT people who haven’t realized the pain of internalized oppression. Additionally, it humanizes the “Prop 8 plaintiffs.”

“It’s as if we weren’t people until the trial,” Perry tells the Los Angeles Blade. “The world projected a lot onto us. We were one dimensional. But we knew we have very complicated lives.”

“The case was no way the hardest thing we’ve ever done,” says Stier, noting the difficulties they’ve faced and the losses they suffered. “Blending families is hard,” for instance, especially when her two sons didn’t accept their parents’ divorce and rejected Perry. It got better when “Kris took her foot off the gas and wasn’t so authoritarian, becoming more like an aunt than a parent.”

Television station KQED filed a motion April 28 with the U.S. District Court for Northern California to unseal the videotapes of the Prop 8 trial. It might be useful to read “Love on Trial” first to understand how much Perry and Stier’s love story matters in shedding light on lesbian visibility everywhere.

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Kansas

Anti-LGBTQ Kansas lawmaker who assaulted student given probation

In the classroom incident last Spring students recorded videos of the lawmaker talking about suicide, sex, masturbation, God and the Bible

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Kansas State House Representative Mark Samsel (R- House District 5/Wellsville) (Photo Credit: Kansas House)

OTTAWA, Ks. – Fourth Judicial Circuit Magistrate Judge Kevin Kimball sentenced Kansas House Representative Mark Samsel, (R- House District 5/Wellsville) to 90 days in jail (suspended) and probation for a year on Monday. Samsel was convicted of assaulting a male student after a physical altercation while he was substitute teaching at the Wellsville High School last April.

Samsel originally faced three misdemeanor battery charges following his arrest in April that involved two male victims, both approximately 16 years old.

The Kansas City reported that during a short hearing conducted over Zoom, Kimball in his ruling ordered that Samsel must apologize to his teenage victims. Samsel is also prohibited from using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms for personal use. An exception is included to allow social media for political and legislative purposes.

In the classroom incident last Spring that sparked four months of court proceedings according to the Kansas City Star, high school students began recording videos of the lawmaker talking about suicide, sex, masturbation, God and the Bible.

In one video shared with The Star, Samsel tells students about “a sophomore who’s tried killing himself three times,” adding that it was because “he has two parents and they’re both females.”

“He’s a foster kid. His alternatives in life were having no parents or foster care parents who are gay,” Samsel said.

The student videos additionally showed the lawmaker verbally targeting one student and encouraging other students to bully him.

The Star also reported: At one point, Samsel tells the student, “You’re about ready to anger me and get the wrath of God. Do you believe me when I tell you that God has been speaking to me?” He then pushes him, and the student runs to the other side of the classroom.

“You should run and scream.” In another video, he tells students, “Class, you have permission to kick him in the balls.”

Parents told The Star that Samsel “put hands on the student” and allegedly kneed him in the crotch. In a video apparently taken immediately after the incident, the student is shown on the ground. Samsel is standing over him and says, “did it hurt?”

He then asks him why he is about to start crying, pats him on the shoulder and apologizes, and then says he can “go to the nurse, she can check it for you.” Samsel addresses another student and says, “do you want to check his nuts for him, please?”

In another video, Samsel is shown telling the student about “distractions from the devil,” and then grabs him from behind and lifts him off his feet. In a different clip, he tells the student to go to the office. “You were not following — not my rules — God’s rules right now,” he tells the student. “You better take a Bible.”

“Keep denying God, keep denying God, see how it’s going to turn out,” he told the student.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal appeals court orders Trans professor fired in 2011 reinstated

The Tenth Circuit also rejected Southeastern’s cross-appeal in its entirety, citing the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County

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U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Byron White Courthouse Denver Colorado (Photo Credit - Library of Congress Collections)

DENVER – The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 55-page ruling issued Monday, ordered Southeastern Oklahoma State University located in Durant, Oklahoma to reinstate a Trans professor who was fired over a decade ago.

Douglas N. McMillan, then interim vice president for academic affairs at the university reportedly said that the professor’s “lifestyle” offended his Baptist beliefs.

Dr. Rachel Tudor, a 54-year-old Native American member of the Chickasaw Nation, in a statement released after the appellate court’s ruling said that [she is] “looking forward to being the first tenured Native American professor in her department in the 100-plus year history of the Native American-serving institution that is Southeastern Oklahoma State University.”

The 10th Circuit in its ruling overturned a lower District Court in Oklahoma City that had ruled “reinstatement would not be possible due to alleged hostility between Dr. Tudor and Southeastern.”

Tudor worked as a tenure-track professor of English at Southeastern Oklahoma State University between 2004 and 2011. In 2007, she informed Southeastern that she would be transitioning and that her gender identity was female. Following this, she was denied tenure and terminated even though her own students and the English Department supported her tenure application.

In her appeal, Tudor was represented by the Washington D.C. based National Women’s Law Center and its private law firm counsel, Erica Lai, who argued for NWLC.

In a recap statement NWLC noted:

The Tenth Circuit also rejected Southeastern’s cross-appeal in its entirety, heavily citing the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which overruled previous 10th Circuit precedent and held that discrimination against transgender employees is sex discrimination under Title VII.  

 After fighting her case in the courts, she won her jury trial on November 20, 2017. Although the jury awarded her $1,165,000, the court both lowered this amount to $300,000 and then awarded her only front-pay wages in an amount of $60,040.77. This front-pay figure was calculated without the court undertaking any meaningful analysis as to her ability to return to a tenure job in English at Southeastern as she wanted, or what amount would make up for her lost future earnings.

[…] Also, courts have made clear that employers may not cite litigation-related hostility as a reason to refuse someone a job. Finally, as the jury found, Dr. Tudor was only denied tenure because of sex discrimination.

Tudor’s statement reflected her desire to return to the classroom and press on the Tulsa World reported:

As injurious as the sex discrimination and retaliation were to Dr. Tudor, she did not consider it merely personal. Rather, she was a symbol to those who discriminated against her. They wanted to create an environment where certain views and certain people are punished to create fear and shame instead of self-confidence and opportunity for all.

“They wanted people like Dr. Tudor to be afraid, and to go away. Instead of going away, instead of accepting a settlement — conditioned on never teaching in Oklahoma — she fought for the rights and dignity of her Native and LGBT communities.

“Dr. Tudor would like to thank her allies and colleagues for their support through 10 long years of fighting for justice. She is grateful and honored to be the recipient of their goodwill. She promises to repay their trust by being the best professor she can be.”

 

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Colorado

Anti-LGBTQ extremist Bob Enyart who spread COVID lies- dies from virus

Enyart proudly referred to himself as “America’s most popular right-wing, religious fanatic, homophobic, anti-choice talk show host”

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Bob Enyart (Screenshot via KUSA9 NBC News Denver)

DENVER – The vehemently anti-LGBTQ preacher who made national headlines over his gleefully reading out the obituaries of AIDS victims on his cable television show, while cranking out the song “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen- whose lead singer, Freddie Mercury, died from that disease, has himself died from complications after contracting COVID-19.

Bob Enyart, 62, who had proudly referred to himself as “America’s most popular self-proclaimed right-wing, religious fanatic, homophobic, anti-choice talk show host” and pastor of the Denver Bible Church, died Monday after a short battle with the coronavirus. The news was confirmed by his longtime radio and podcast show co-host Fred Williams in a Facebook post Monday.

Enyart and his second wife Cheryl, had both contracted COVID-19 after refusing to take the vaccine citing pro-life reasons; “Bob and Cheryl Enyart have sworn off taking the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson vaccines because, as those firms admit, they tested these three products on the cells of aborted babies,” according to a statement in August on Enyart’s webpage.

In addition to falsely claiming that the vaccines were developed using fetal tissue, Enyart urged his followers to boycott the vaccines to “further increase social tension and put pressure on the child killers. (Remember, many institutions and celebrities who have been “pro-choice” all along are now also calling to legalize infanticide, what they call after-birth abortion.

In October of 2020, Enyart filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Denver asking to overturn the Colorado State Public Health order on facial masks at religious services, as well as rules limiting gatherings to 175 people amid the pandemic.

U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Domenico, who was appointed by President Trump, granted a temporary restraining order against the health order.

A long time radical anti-abortion activists and a spokesperson for the pro-life Colorado Right to Life, Enyart in 2009 along with other antiabortion protesters were jailed over protest at Focus on the Family after the group accused Focus founder James Dobson of not being antiabortion enough.

After attempting to deliver a letter to Focus president James Daly deploring Dobson’s endorsement of 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain, American Right to Life Action members staged an hour long standoff with ministry security, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.

In addition to his open hostility towards the LGBTQ community on air, in 2016 protesting the U.S. Supreme Court ruling the previous year that granted same-sex couples the right to marry, the Huffington Post reported that he released a bizarre video as part of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) boycott of Starbucks, after the coffee-based chain announced its support of same-sex marriage.

As first reported by Good As You blogger Jeremy Hopper, Pastor Bob Enyart of Denver Bible Church purchased a Starbucks coffee before proceeding to dump it down a sewer in protest.

“Jesus Christ said God made us male and female at the beginning of the creation,” Enyart proclaims. “Starbucks, in a move that’s not wise for eternity and not good for business here and now, has decided to promote homosexual marriage.”

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