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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



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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Michigan teacher walks off job & resigns after told to remove Pride flag

“To me, the flag represents love and inclusion for everybody, not just whoever is of the LGBTQIA+ community”



Three Rivers Community Schools administrative offices (Photo Credit: TRCS Facebook)

THREE RIVERS, Mi. – A middle school health teacher walked off the job Nov. 22, then resigned after the school district’s administration ordered LGBTQ+ Pride flags removed from classrooms.

Russell Ball, who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, told local media outlets that “The rumors kind of floating around is that one or two parents that complained about the flags being in the classroom.” 

“To me, the flag represents love and inclusion for everybody, not just whoever is of the LGBTQIA+ community,” Ball said during an interview last week with NBC News affiliate WOOD TV 8 on Grand Rapids. “I felt very disheartened and saddened. The students losing that representation throughout the classrooms really hurt, losing my own representation in the classroom really hurt. It was just something I was not prepared to do.”

He told NBC 8 that, combined with burnout, caused him to resign from his position as a health teacher.

“It all comes down to having some open communication and building understanding that we’re not out to vilify anybody, but we are here and we do exist,” he said.

In a statement posted on its website, the school district’s Interim Superintendent Nikki Nash said officials were notified by what he referred to as an “an external party,” Nov. 18. According to Nash, the person questioned information shared within the school day, which also included an inquiry of the Gay Straight Alliance after-school club and pride flags within Three Rivers Middle School classrooms.

“We continue to work with the district’s legal firm and board of education to ensure we are providing a safe learning environment for all students,” the statement continued. “There is a board meeting on December 6th.”

Attorneys representing the district did not reply Tuesday to multiple requests for comment.

Comments on the school district’s Facebook page reflected anger over its decision, with one person writing; “It is disappointing Three Rivers Community Schools has decided to kick protections and support for LGBTQ+ students to the curb for some undisclosed reason. The district claims protection for all students but somehow figured LGBTQ+ students don’t fit in that category for all students and are now willing to show the students and their support network of teachers to the door.”

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Virginia Tech Co. burns LGBTQ poster at company party- then apologizes

“I’m mortified that our event was interpreted in this way,” said Nate Reynolds, the founder and partner of Hypershift Technologies LLC



Nate Reynolds, the founder and partner of Hypershift Technologies LLC

ASHBURN, Va. – The owner of a Virginia technology company that hosted a private Veterans Day party on the grounds of an Ashburn, Va., brewery in which a company employee used a flame-throwing device to ignite a rainbow flag poster said the selection of the poster was a mistake and he and his company have no ill will toward the LGBTQ community.

A customer of the Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn, where the incident took place on its outdoor grounds, made a video of the incident with his cell phone and sent a copy of the video to the Blade.

The video, which includes an audio recording, shows a man using a hand-held flame-throwing device to ignite the rainbow poster, which was hanging from a cable and appeared to be mounted on cardboard or a thin sheet of wood. Bystanders can be heard laughing and cheering as the poster is set on fire.

The poster consisted of a variation of the LGBTQ Pride rainbow flag that included the word “love” configured from an upper white stripe on the rainbow symbol.

The customer who took the video, who has asked not to be identified, thought the decision to set the poster on fire was a sign of disrespect if not hatred toward a longstanding symbol of LGBTQ equality and pride.

Chris Burns, Old Ox Brewery’s president, shared that view, telling the Blade he and his staff were “shocked and horrified” when they learned later that a rainbow flag poster had been burned on the brewery’s grounds. Burns said Old Ox supports the LGBTQ community and participated in LGBTQ Pride month earlier this year.

He said the company that held the private party paid a fee to hold the event on the brewery’s grounds, but the brewery did not know a rainbow poster would be burned.

“I’m mortified that our event was interpreted in this way,” said Nate Reynolds, the founder and partner of Hypershift Technologies LLC, the Falls Church, Va.-based technology company that organized the Nov. 11 party at Old Ox Brewery. “I can assure you that ZERO ill-will or offense was meant,” Reynolds told the Blade in a Nov. 24 email.

“We held a small private party for a few clients, which included a demonstration of Elon Musk’s Boring Company ‘Not a Flamethrower,’” he said in his message. He was referring to one of billionaire businessman Elon Musk’s companies that specializes in boring through the ground to create tunnels for cars, trains, and other purposes. 

“After so many being isolated during COVID, we wanted to have an event that was lighthearted and to some small effect, silly,” Reynolds said in his message to the Blade.

According to Reynolds, in thinking about what should be used for “fodder” for the flame-thrower, he went to a Five Below discount store and purchased items such as stuffed animals and posters, including a “Space Jam” movie poster as well as what he thought was a poster of the British rock group The Beatles.

“When I pulled the Beatles poster out of the tube it was instead the ‘Love’ poster,” he said, referring to the rainbow flag poster the Blade asked him about in an earlier email.

“All I focused on was the ‘Love’ wording and not the rainbow and did not draw the conclusion that the poster was an icon that represents the LGBTQ community,” Reynolds said. “It was my own ignorance of not connecting the symbolism of the poster. If I had realized it was a symbol of the LGBTQ community, I would not have used it,” he said.

“I feel terrible, and I want to emphasize that I am solely responsible for this mistake – not the Old Ox Brewery,” he wrote in his message. “Nobody at Old Ox had anything to do with this activity.”

Reynolds added, “Hate has no place in my heart, and I sincerely apologize for any offense that could have been drawn from what I now realize was poor judgement on my part. I simply didn’t correlate this poster with the LGBTQ pride symbol.”  

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Before Reynolds issued his statement of apology, Burns, the Old Ox Brewery co-owner, told the Blade in an email he was “saddened and upset” over the rainbow poster burning on the grounds of his brewery.

“We do not wish to benefit from this event,” he said in his email message. “Therefore, Old Ox is donating 100% of the revenue generated from the private event to GLSEN.”

GLSEN is a national LGBTQ advocacy group that focuses on education and support for LGBTQ youth. Burns said Old Ox Brewery also donated proceeds from a Pride month event it organized earlier this year to GLSEN.

LGBTQ activists and organizations contacted by the Blade said they were unfamiliar with the variation of the rainbow flag with the word “love” that was the subject of the poster burning incident. The poster is available for sale at Five Below stores in the D.C. metropolitan area for $5.

Small print writings on the poster show it is produced by Trends International LLC, which describes itself on its website as “the leading publisher and manufacturer of licensed posters, calendars, stickers and social stationery products.” The Blade couldn’t immediately determine who designed the poster.

The video of the poster burning incident can be viewed here:

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The White House

New virus variant stokes global alarms, flights banned from South Africa

The variant is classified as a highly transmissible virus of concern, the same category that includes the Delta variant



:President Joe Biden (Blade file photo)

NANTUCKETT, Ma. – The World Health Organization declared a new variant of the mutated coronavirus it named Omicron as a variant of concern Friday. The variant is classified as a highly transmissible virus of concern, the same category that includes the Delta variant, the world’s most prevalent.

“This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning,” the WHO said in a statement Friday afternoon.

“Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa. Current SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnostics continue to detect this variant. Several labs have indicated that for one widely used PCR test, [has shown] this variant has been detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage,” the WHO noted.

The Omicron variant has already caused countries across Europe and Asia to implement travel restrictions.

President Joe Biden, spending the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend with his family on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts off Cape Cod, on Friday issued a directive ordering additional air travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other countries. These new restrictions will take effect on November 29.

Bloomberg reported that one of Biden’s top medical advisers said earlier Friday that officials would act after reviewing scientific data with counterparts in South Africa.

American health officials spoke with their South African counterparts midday New York time on Friday to gather medical and scientific data about the newly discovered variant.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of Biden’s top health advisers, said they’d use that data in deciding whether to join the European Union, the U.K. and others in restricting travel.

The White House issued the President’s statement Friday afternoon:

“This morning I was briefed by my chief medical advisor, Dr. Tony Fauci, and the members of our COVID response team, about the Omicron variant, which is spreading through Southern Africa. As a precautionary measure until we have more information, I am ordering additional air travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other countries. These new restrictions will take effect on November 29. As we move forward, we will continue to be guided by what the science and my medical team advises. 

For now, I have two important messages for the American people, and one for the world community.

First, for those Americans who are fully vaccinated against severe COVID illness – fortunately, for the vast majority of our adults — the best way to strengthen your protection is to get a booster shot, as soon as you are eligible.  Boosters are approved for all adults over 18, six months past their vaccination and are available at 80,000 locations coast-to-coast.  They are safe, free, and convenient.  Get your booster shot now, so you can have this additional protection during the holiday season.

Second, for those not yet fully vaccinated: get vaccinated today.  This includes both children and adults.  America is leading the world in vaccinating children ages 5-11, and has been vaccinating teens for many months now – but we need more Americans in all age groups to get this life-saving protection. If you have not gotten vaccinated, or have not taken your children to get vaccinated, now is the time.

Finally, for the world community: the news about this new variant should make clearer than ever why this pandemic will not end until we have global vaccinations. The United States has already donated more vaccines to other countries than every other country combined. It is time for other countries to match America’s speed and generosity.   

In addition, I call on the nations gathering next week for the World Trade Organization ministerial meeting to meet the U.S. challenge to waive intellectual property protections for COVID vaccines, so these vaccines can be manufactured globally.  I endorsed this position in April; this news today reiterates the importance of moving on this quickly.”

Dr. Fauci Warns Americans To Take New Omicron Variant Seriously

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