Unapologetic progressive. Fearless activist. Plucky liberal.

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“In my opinion, it’s still a choice”

That’s a quote today from Illinois State Rep. Will Davis, D-Homewood, regarding sexual orientation. It comes from a Chicago Tribune story (“Black lawmakers may hold key on gay marriage in Illinois”) that I’m unable to link to, but it caught my attention. Davis claims to be undecided on the subject of marriage equality, though his quote seems to indicate he’s against it. However, taking him at his word that he’s truly undecided, I wrote him a letter in the hope that all he needs is a new perspective. If you feel so inclined, you can contact him at williamd@ilga.gov.

Dear sir,

I read your quotes in the Chicago Tribune today regarding marriage equality in Illinois. I agree with you that there are many pressing issues facing both the legislature and the African-American community. However, that doesn’t mean that marriage equality isn’t important to the many couples and families who are denied basic rights that you and your family enjoy.

This quote of yours regarding sexual preference jumped out at me: “In my opinion, it’s still a choice.” I would ask, when did you decide to be straight? Your biography says you’re happily married with children. Congratulations; I’m glad to hear it. But unless you can point to a time in your life when you pondered various sexual preferences and “decided” to be heterosexual, I would urge you to consider that sexual orientation is an inherent, immutable part of each human being. Unless you think that tomorrow you could “decide” to be gay, please don’t say you think gay people could “decide” to be straight. If you have not already, I suggest you look at studies that have been done on so-called “gay conversion therapies,” their failure rates and the incredible harm they do.

In conclusion, I understand this is a difficult issue for you. Please remember that although you may have religious objections to marriage equality, gay couples and families are not asking to be married in your church or any other; they just want — and deserve — equal treatment under the law. They are just asking that the government recognize the love and commitment they have to each other. That is not different from what you have with your wife. Thank you for having an open mind.



Is there anywhere you can avoid a natural disaster?

Wherever you live, you accept some risk for the type of extreme weather your region is prone to: earthquakes in California; hurricanes in Florida; blizzards in Alaska; tornadoes in Oklahoma. Is there anywhere that’s completely safe? No, but according to the New York Times, some regions are safer than others. It analyzed data for the relative frequency of certain weather patterns and found that Dallas is the most dangerous place to live, while Corvallis, Ore., is the safest. The map below shows that the southeast U.S. is more likely to have extreme weather, and the West less likely. The Midwest and Atlantic Coast are somewhere in the middle. About the only thing you have to worry about in Hawaii is tsunamis, which, along with the natural beauty and lovely people, is a good incentive to move there.


Live video of baby eagles

Via Jezebel, there’s a live feed of baby eagles hatching in Iowa. Two of the three eggs have hatched and the third is expected to appear in the next couple of days. Sometimes all you see is one of the parents sitting on the nest, but I was lucky enough to catch a parent feeding the two babies. It’s one of the neatest things I’ve seen recently. To check it out, go here: Eagle nest

WHM Day 24: Birthdays

Because I ran out of time today, here are a couple of birthdays to celebrate via the National Women’s History Project:

  • March 24, 1826 (1898) — Matilda Joslyn Gage, suffragist, women’s rights and Native American rights activist, historian, founding member of the National Woman Suffrage Association. Read more about her here, where I found out she was also the mother-in-law of L. Frank Baum, author of the “Oz” books.
  • March 24, 1912 — Dorothy Height, served more than 40 years as president of the National Council of Negro Women. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell issued a proclamation to declare today “Dorothy Irene Height Day” to commemorate her accomplishments.

There are a bunch of awesome women who were born March 25, too, so I promise there will be a longer post tomorrow to honor them!

Canada refuses to authorize Fox News lies

In case you needed another reason to avoid Fox News, here’s the latest on the company’s efforts to broadcast in Canada as Sun TV News:

Canada regulators announced last week they would reject efforts by Canada’s right wing Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, to repeal a law that forbids lying on broadcast news.

Canada’s Radio Act requires that “a licenser may not broadcast….any false or misleading news.” The provision has kept Fox News and right wing talk radio out of Canada and helped make Canada a model for liberal democracy and freedom.

Another reason to love Canada. Good for them for refusing to compromise their principles.

Record snowfall doesn't disprove global warming

I adore Rachel Maddow for her witty, logical takedowns of conservative views. One of my favorite segments of hers aired last year, when record snowfalls had people ridiculing the idea of global warming. She answered with a monologue that included bits such as “When it rains in the desert, that does not disprove the existence of the desert. It’s still a desert, even in the place where it rained.” Or in other words, “Global warming isn’t the opposite of snow.”

It may not seem logical, but global warming actually increases snowfall because there’s more moisture in the air. Physics professor Michio Kaku explains this well in “Monster snowstorms still spell global warming.”

I would love for climate change deniers to be right that there’s nothing to worry about because frankly, the worst-case scenarios are terrifying. The effects we have seen just in the past year are devastating: Record flooding in Pakistan, Australia, Brazil, California. Record snowfall in the northeast United States. Some of the highest temperatures on record. It’s difficult to say with 100 percent certainty that climate change is responsible for all of those weather fluctuations, but it’s the most likely explanation.

So the next time 20 inches of snow falls in your area, don’t blame Mother Nature. Blame all of the cars on the roads and the huge factories and super farms that dominate so much of our landscape.

Mind your own beeswax

“This the line to get ice cream, young lady?”

The stranger questioned my mother as the three of us were standing in line. She answered yes, to which he said, “You getting ice cream for your granddaughters here?” Then he turned to me and my sister. “Maybe you should buy for grandma.”

Talk about awkward. My sister and I froze in disbelief, then my mother responded, “Try Mom.”

The man fell over himself trying to apologize. I couldn’t–and still can’t–understand what would prompt someone to make that comment to a perfect stranger. But he wasn’t the first to make that mistake and I’m sure he won’t be the last. Yes, my parents are old enough to be my grandparents. No, that isn’t any of your business, and you look like an ass when you assume otherwise.

It really amazes me the things people feel comfortable asking perfect strangers. My sister and I were taking a bus tour on our vacation last summer, and the woman sitting next to us was very chatty. She wanted to know why we were in Hawaii–we were celebrating my sister’s graduation from college.

“Oh, do you have any other siblings?”

Again–awkward. “Our older brother died a few years ago.” That shut her up pretty quickly. What kind of response was she expecting? “Yes, but we don’t love our brother enough to invite him along”?

In this day and age, not only is it rude, but it’s futile to try to decipher relationships among random people on the street. That white woman is likely the black children’s mother and not their nanny. The 60-year-old man could be the father, grandfather, uncle or cousin of the 8-year-old boy. And guess what?

It’s none of your business.

Unless a stranger offers you that information, you have no right to ask for it. It’s called “respecting people’s privacy.”

It’s not a coincidence these same people feel the need to pry into your personal life. “Do you have a girlfriend?” “When are you getting married?” “Do you have kids?” “When are you two having kids?” “When are you having another kid?” “When are you going to get a job?” “Why were you passed over for that promotion?”

I’m sure most people have been asked one of those questions at some point in their life. The thing is, if you’re the one asking, you are not entitled to that information. There is no relationship that entitles you to the most private details of a person’s life. Even if she’s been your best friend for 20 years, you shouldn’t ask her when she’s planning to get pregnant, for several reasons: 1) she might not want kids; 2) she might not be able to have kids; 3) it’s none of your business.

I watched the Golden Globes on Sunday, and I felt bad for the celebrities who were constantly asked about their personal lives. I don’t feel comfortable sharing some of that information with those closest to me, let alone millions of strangers.

Unfortunately, in the age of social media, people feel as if they have the right to know every little thing about your life. And some people don’t mind sharing those details, but a lot of people do. So before you ask an intensely personal question, ask yourself how you’d feel answering that question. If it would make you uncomfortable, change the subject.