Tuesday, January 2, 2007

The Colors of Our Movement (part 2)

The movement’s colors are not a rainbow; they are more nuanced and profound than black and white. Its colors are red, white, and blue—searing and forever.

Ours is not exclusively a fight for gay rights. To celebrate love between individuals who wish to wed is to be straight, gay, black, white, brown, yellow, red, male, female, Jewish, Catholic, Muslim—and everyone in between. Mission accomplished, the gay community will be just one beneficiary of our collective success.

Ours is the same fight that Martin Luther King strode for throughout the 1960s; the same fight that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom continues in 2006; the same fight that brought a Jew named Albert Einstein to Princeton seeking refuge in the 1940s; the same fight that brought Iranians to our ports in the 1980s and Russians in the 1990s; the same fight that brought Puritans to New England in 1620.

If the “huddled masses longing to be free” are welcome to join the American rabble, then shouldn’t rightfully proud U.S. citizens expect to live both unbranded and unhindered?

In 1892, the Supreme Court declared that separate could be equal (Plessy vs. Ferguson); in 1954, it acknowledged its mistake (Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education). But at the birth of the 21st century, even while our understanding of the world is broader, deeper, and more refined than our ancestors could have imagined, a supposedly enlightened nation is gripped in controversy over the definition of marriage—with a stark generation gap to boot. Even the Czech Republic has proven itself more progressive: on July 2, 2006, it joined Canada, Spain, Holland, and Belgium as just the world’s fifth country to legalization gay marriage outright.

Distinctions without differences are so often drawn among various “kinds” of weddings, as if the gender, race, origin, orientation—even the number—of loving parties involved somehow augments or diminishes the value of the commitment. Even respectful television programs like HBO’s Big Love—a series about polygamists in Utah—while entertaining and innovative, invariably diminish the hardship of living one’s chosen lifestyle underground for fear of retribution. To describe a “kind” of marriage is to box and objectify it counterproductively.
Marriage is marriage is marriage—as it should be.

Have we not yet realized that the “ghetto-ization” of any group leads not to flourishment or assimilation into the greater society, but rather, to resentment and disillusionment when fuller freedoms can be found elsewhere?

Do same-sex couples—loving, decent, law-abiding, privacy-cherishing couples—need to expatriate to have their equality acknowledged? Must they wear a “Rainbow Badge of Courage”?

Liberty should exist for them at home, if not for their American citizenship alone, then for the “inalienable” fact that “all men are created equal”—and women too. Nowhere in the incontrovertible truths of the Declaration of Independence is any notion of orientation—sexual, racial, religious, or otherwise—mentioned.

This was no accident: rare indeed were the Founding Fathers’ oversights. Plus we’ve had 217 years to grow up already.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Politics and Religion should not be ALLOWED to clash (Part 1)

Just before I wrote this editorial (about six months ago) for the prototype issue of With This Ring magazine, Washington State’s Supreme Court upheld a ban on gay marriages. A decade prior, Hawaii’s Supreme Court affirmed same-sex couples’ freedom to marry, only to have the decision overturned by a subsequently passed law that gave the state a newfound right to ban gay marriage.

In 2000, in something of a placation, the state of Vermont (under Howard Dean’s leadership) created a new matrimonial category—“civil unions”—that it has endowed with selected key rights and privileges of marriage; New Jersey followed suit just this past October. In May 2004, Massachusetts became the first state in the Union to legalize same-sex marriage (through judicial activism rather than the passage of an equalizing law) -- and it remains the only one to have done so.

One might rightly call me both imperialistic and patriotic, but the United States has long seen itself—and been positioned by so many counties around the world—as a “light unto the nations.” It’s with intended irony that I describe a country embroiled in a long-overdue Equal Marriage Rights Movement using a quote from the Hebrew Bible, for that same holy book defines homosexuality as an “abomination.”

In such light, perhaps it’s thankful that modern and flourishing statehood has proven itself, time and again, to be veritably irreconcilable with a religious view of the world. (An Evangelist President waging an unpopular war in the formerly theocratic nations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Jewish State battling its Arab-Muslim neighbors for the umpteenth time in its 58 year history should certainly stand as cases in point.)

The affirmation of religious faith was outlawed as part of the Pledge of Allegiance; yet no judge or citizen has publicly challenged the religious roots of American morality— the sanctity of marriage as a case-in-point.

“Any man who lies as a man as he lies with a woman—both have committed an abomination and shall surely be put to death.” Thus sayeth the Lord in Leviticus 20:13…but no divinity can hold sway on the sovereign territory of these United States. Or did we forget that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”?

Religion, it has been said, should unify people—still it tears our bonds asunder. Throughout history, religion has been pedestalled as the basis for curtailing freedoms, with abject disregard for the example it is supposed to set. So if it takes yet another movement to remind the leaders of this fine country that its citizens are exponentially smarter than even the Founding Fathers believed, and perfectly capable of wise tolerance, then With This Ring magazine is proud to carry the colors of the Equal Marriage Rights movement.

Introduction: Why Me? Why Now?

It's official: I've joined the blogosphere, the user-generated revolution. And while I'm a tad late to the party, I'd like to think my timing is perfect.

Because, you see, rather than receding from the public consciousness, as so many opponents of Equal Marriage Rights expected following judicial and electoral setbacks in states like Washington, the object of my passion has only grown higher-profile -- and aims to stay in the headlines in burgeoning markets like New York and Arizona.

Never has my work lacked ambition, that's for sure. Indeed, the inspiration to finally sit and start this blog came from reading in Time Magazine's 2006 Person of the Year issue that it was Lane Hudson, author (formerly) of the Stop Sex Predators and (now) New for the Left blogs, who exposed ex-Congressman Mark Foley's indiscretions -- and in the process, changed the course of the 2006 elections (and perhaps, history).

But if I'm going to push -- and push, and push, using both new and old media as my club -- for the equalization of "Every Kind of of Wedding" in the public mindset, then in the interest of transparency, the reading public deserves to know who I am. It is in fact counterproductive to hide behind a veil of anonymity when the human faces behind the cause are what make them worth fighting for. Thus, I humbly introduce myself, and my cause celebre, to you:

My name -- first of all -- is Jonathon Feit, and I remain the youngest member of the American Society of Magazine Editors, that venerable "governing" body which oversees the integrity of magazines in the United States. A native of Los Angeles, I currently live in New York City.

Having trained at Boston University (where I received both graduate and undergraduate degrees, and taught for a year in the Journalism Department) with some of the country's best authors -- including Time Magazine's Lance Morrow and American Book Award winner Michael Walsh -- I loathe the use of the first-person singular ("I") in writing, firm in my conviction that writing is a sufficiently arrogant pursuit on its own. (Thus, if you'll permit me to break with "bloggish" traditions, then, following this post I'll avoid the use of "I" at all costs. After all, you shouldn't care about me; you should care about my point, and whether I've made it convincingly enough to justify your time.)

Here starts the good stuff, the challenging stuff, the stuff that determines my credibility (as I hope you'll see it):

"By day" I run an entrepreneurial publishing company called The Feit Family Ventures Corporation (named for my parents, who helped me fund the organization). The company was founded in June 2003, and began publishing Citizen Culture in August 2004 as the country's first magazine for Young Professionals. The Boston Herald called us "A New Yorker for a New Generation" -- which thrilled me to no end, and David Remnick, too, I'm sure -- and we ticked off Playboy just a bit (which is usually a good thing). Then, after five issues in print, we relaunched as the world's first all-digitally delivered magazine -- we were, after all, reaching Young Pros, who are ever at their computers -- and got named a "Digital Driver" by the Magazine Publishers of America for our efforts.

But we hadn't yet shaken the Earth.

Then, an opportunity came along that we couldn't resist, by way of a propitious contest held by Citizen Culture for our 9th issue. We were on the lookout for the best new magazine ideas, so we reached out across the country with press releases and invitations to the top journalism schools. We pulled together a panel of judges from around the publishing industry, true experts from the business, editorial, marketing, and design sides. The competition was fierce, and the entires were impressive, but one team's idea for an "alternative" weddings magazine took top prize. (I was particularly proud, as the team had completed from my own Boston University course.) We decided that, since the idea was so potent, we would forgo that top prize and instead work with the student team to make the magazine a reality.

The result is With This Ring magazine -- the world's first magazine explicitly dedicated to furthering the cause of Equal Marriage Rights, with particular focus on same-sex, interracial, and interfaith weddings, each of which faces unique social-acceptance challenges.

We believe -- and I know -- that the key to making magic happen is working with partners from around the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender community, the publishing and media industry, the non-profit sector, and the business world writ large. Together we will push the social needle in this country until it finally attains the only Manifest Destiny that really matters: the emergence of a single nation born from many, united in core equality, pulsing with the lifeblood of free opportunity.

It may matter to some -- though, I hope, to very few -- that I am not gay. In fact, I'm as straight as they come, and what the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce calls an "allied" member of the GLBT community. (True be told, some of my personal-life stories will make your head spin; this being the Internet, though, those will have to wait...)

Which is to say that my conviction comes not from a personal desire to marry someone whom I legally cannot. Nor does it come from purely commercial interests -- because believe me, even the potential of a lucrative venture scarcely justifies the head- and heart-ache of launching a print magazine with a poignant ideology during the heyday of on-demand mass media.

Rather, it comes from the searing duty of which I'm reminded every time I look in the mirror and see an American flag tattooed on me, staring back with the slogan "INTEGRITY" buried in my skin.

It comes from knowing -- and in With This Ring, reporting -- on the personal tragedies that can and do result from a dearth of equal rights, as loving families (friends of mine, and unfortunately, probably, friends of yours, too) are ripped apart on the basis of legal technicalities that are by definition antithetical to the pursuit of happiness.

Some of my colleagues make the news; others report on it. From time to time I'll aspire to do both. But my goal for this space will be to engage, to convince, to make the case from the outside-in and bridge the shores of stereotype and reality, of unexamined faith and reasoned practicality. I only hope and pray that you will see in me the same fortitude and reliance that black civil rights leaders saw in their white counterparts, who fought for things so much more lasting than personal gain.