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Saturday, July 7, 2007

Spirituality Oy! The Wedding cont.

Sally to the left, then me, then the Rabbi Lippmann, then Sue-my beloved, then my cousin Janet, my Aunt Julie

When last we met, the rabbi Sharon said no to marriage between jews and "non-jews."

Sue and I had a date. We had a plan, sort of, but we had no officiant. this was very important to my beloved, to have a rabbi-a rabbi who was familiar to her, one she trusted to know her and her partner, to know her beliefs and to properly bless her union, to officiate at her wedding. Did I mention that the synagogue, the same one who's rabbi refused to marry us? They were happy to rent us their shul for the farbotn wedding. And I say her because this was primarily Sue's show. I never was the little girl who played wedding, (I was busy playing doctor.) I never particularly thought about what is repeatedly called the "happiest day of a woman's life." When I suddenly wanted to get married, it came as a surprise to me, and as I said, at the time, I was not particularly religious and I wanted to elope to Canada where I could be legally married and that's what I wanted. A piece of paper saying that we were married in the eyes of the living (and legal) world. Later we could have a big party and be celebrated -and recognized-by all of our friends as married. This would legitimize us in the spiritual sense. In the eyes of our friends and family.
So, the mad rush to find a lesbian rabbi-this was important and not so easy. We asked friends. We called the other rabbis that attended CBST. They all answered NO! The friends finally came through with a lovely woman, Ellen Lippman, who has a small shul in Brooklyn. We arranged to meet in a muffin cafe in Brooklyn. For me it was warmth at first sight. She was everything that Sharon was not. A good listener, empathic, warm, understanding, sympathetic, and once she understood that we would agree to her stipulations which had to do with keeping to keeping a Jewish home-which we were already doing-we were fine. We agreed to have several more counseling and planning sessions. I looked forward to every one and would have liked to have crawled into her lap during several of them when things got hectic, because she always seemed to make things seem calmer, our wedding was planned.
It was a lovely wedding. My Aunt Julie-85, I think, at the time, and ill, traveled from Ohio to walk me down the aisle. My godchild came from Turkey. Sue's family was WELL represented with cousins, brother and sister in law and niece and nephew. We had about 100-150 people-I can't remember as the group kept growing. We had students from Julliard to provide the music and the Huppah, which Sue made, was beautiful. The day was magical, truly. (to be continued.)

Friday, July 6, 2007

Five Friday Favorites

Feel Free to post yours in the comments section
Inspired by Ali Edwards's "Life Artist Challenges".
"Just the facts, Ma mm."
5 every day favorites
Ice Cream
4 mood-lifters
Logo TV
Taking a Walk
Going to a meeting
3 reasons to get out of bed
A new day
2 people you love
Aunt Julie
1 thing you love about yourself
My creativity
Now you do it
Five Favorites List:
5 everyday favorites
4 mood-lifters
3 reasons to get out of bed
2 people you love
1 thing you love about yourself

The Americans with Disabilites Act

  • In case you were wondering, this is the important part:

    Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. The ADA covers employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations. The ADA's nondiscrimination standards also apply to federal sector employees under section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, and its implementing rules.

    An individual with a disability is a person who:

    Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
    Has a record of such an impairment; or
    Is regarded as having such an impairment.

A qualified employee or applicant with a disability is an individual who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the job in question. Reasonable accommodation may include, but is not limited to:

Making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities.
Job restructuring, modifying work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position;
Acquiring or modifying equipment or devices, adjusting or modifying examinations, training materials, or policies, and providing qualified readers or interpreters.
An employer is required to make a reasonable accommodation to the known disability of a qualified applicant or employee if it would not impose an "undue hardship" on the operation of the employer's business. Undue hardship is defined as an action requiring significant difficulty or expense when considered in light of factors such as an employer's size, financial resources, and the nature and structure of its operation.
(How often have you seen reasonable accomodations used in you workplace?)

An employer is not required to lower quality or production standards to make an accommodation; nor is an employer obligated to provide personal use items such as glasses or hearing aids.

Title I of the ADA also covers:

Medical Examinations and Inquiries
Employers may not ask job applicants about the existence, nature, or severity of a disability. Applicants may be asked about their ability to perform specific job functions. A job offer may be conditioned on the results of a medical examination, but only if the examination is required for all entering employees in similar jobs. Medical examinations of employees must be job related and consistent with the employer's business needs.
Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Employees and applicants currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs are not covered by the ADA when an employer acts on the basis of such use. Tests for illegal drugs are not subject to the ADA's restrictions on medical examinations. Employers may hold illegal drug users and alcoholics to the same performance standards as other employees.
It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on disability or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under the ADA.
I started thinking about this as I discussed color coding dental tools for a client with our psychologist. It would be a simple accomodation costing little money but would take a long explanation and disclosure. It also would be beyond the time restraints of counselors with over 100 clients and limited resources.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Independence Day

So, as gay people, how far do we have to go before we can fully celebrate this national holiday. I know that marriage would give us 132 additional rights as married couples that we currently don't have. I visited the website of the 'National Gay and Lesbian Task Force" to see how far we need to go in some areas. What I was looking for was a concise list, but well, this will give you some idea. Thanks to the Task Force:


LGBT people face a number of particular challenges as they age. They often do not have access to adequate health care, affordable housing and other social services that they need due to institutionalized heterosexism and transphobia. Mainstream senior providers have limited information or training in how to appropriately work with and serve our diverse communities. Existing regulations and proposed policy changes in programs like Social Security or Medicare, which impact millions of LGBT elders, are discussed without our views and interests as part of the debate.

Anti Gay Industry
The anti-gay industry has made great gains over the past two decades, restricting family recognition in 39 states and parenting in at least seven. It continues to work feverishly to restrict the rights of LGBT people, among others. We must stand against these assaults, which are aimed to degrade and dehumanize LGBT people for political and financial gain. Ex-gay ministries increasingly focus on young people, targeting some of the most vulnerable members of our community.

Many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) campus members find that they must hide significant parts of their identity from peers and others, thereby isolating themselves socially or emotionally. Those who do not to hide their sexual orientation and/or gender identity might encounter discrimination, verbal or physical harassment, and subtle or outright silencing of their sexual identities.
A heterosexist climate has not only inhibited the acknowledgment and expression of LGBT perspectives, it has also limited curricular initiatives and research efforts, as seen in the lack of LGBT content in university course offerings. Furthermore, the contributions and concerns of LGBT people have often remained unrecognized.
Such challenges can prevent LGBT students from achieving their academic potential or participating fully in the campus community. Likewise, other campus community members, including LGBT faculty, staff and administrators may suffer as a result of the same prejudices, limiting their ability to achieve their career goals and to mentor or support students.

Election and Politics
Elected officials exercise enormous power over critical issues affecting LGBT people, including granting nondiscrimination protections and family recognition; allocating funding for health and human service needs; and appointing judges whose rulings could impact our community for generations to come. Elected officials need to know that LGBT people comprise a voting bloc that won’t sit on the sidelines as their rights and lives are being trampled upon.

Religion is often used to demonize and persecute lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals, just as religion has and continues to be used to justify oppression of other communities. Over the last 30 years, however, some mainstream denominations have made enormous strides in their attitudes, policies and practices concerning LGBT people. For example, the Episcopal Church (USA), Reform Judaism, United Churches of Christ and Unitarian Universalists welcome and affirm participation by LGBT people. Other major denominations — most notably Presbyterians and United Methodists — have hundreds of "welcoming and affirming" congregations and are struggling to determine their denominational views on LGBT people. These shifts have had a profound impact on the way in which Americans view homosexuality and have, in turn, provided the foundation for winning nondiscrimination protections and other rights in some parts of the country. Equally important, millions of LGBT people have been able to find community and exercise their faith in houses of worship.
Why It Matters:
Despite these advances, the use of religion and religious beliefs to oppose equal rights for LGBT people is escalating, not diminishing. For example, the leaders of the nation's largest Christian denominations, Christian fundamentalist congregations and huge evangelical-dominated organizations have joined forces and mobilized to respond to the supposed threat of same-sex marriage. Their organizing capacity is enormous, and spotlights how imperative it is that the LGBT rights advocates work with and within communities of faith to reclaim from the right wing the true meaning of moral values.

Hate Crimes:
Anti-LGBT leaders argue that hate crimes laws punish unpopular but constitutionally protected thought and speech. But hate crimes laws are designed to punish actions, not thought or speech. These critics also focus on intent, claiming that all violence is motivated based on some kind of hate, or that it is hard to prove whether a perpetrator is specifically choosing a victim because of his or her real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The fact is, however, that the criminal justice system focuses on intent or motive all the time, particularly in sentencing. For example, the legal distinction between murder and manslaughter rests on whether the killer intended to kill and whether the killing was premeditated.
In 1993, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that hate crimes laws, and enhanced sentences based upon intent, are constitutional. In his decision, Chief Justice William Rehnquist specifically noted that judges have traditionally been allowed to consider the motivation of defendants when imposing sentences. Justice Rehnquist also noted that hate crimes inflict distinct emotional harm on their victims and can trigger greater social instability.
Hate crimes send a message of terror to an entire group and are therefore unlike a random act of violence. For example, the brutal murder of James Byrd, who was chained to the bumper of a truck and dragged down a street in Texas, sent a chilling message to African-Americans that racial violence and murder remain continued threats. Likewise, LGBT people wonder whether they will be the next Matthew Shepard. Hate crimes laws recognize the particular social threat of bias-motivated violence. Unfortunately, anti-LGBT groups like the Traditional Values Coalition and Focus on the Family oppose hate crimes laws.
Those who murder police officers face higher penalties than people who murder civilians, and terrorists who target federal buildings face higher penalties. In 1999, Congress passed a law that created harsher sanctions for countries that persecute religious freedoms. Such laws are not viewed as valuing some lives more than others. Instead, they send a message that certain crimes that strike at this country’s core values, such as the freedom to live free of persecution, will be punished and deterred by both enhanced penalties and federal involvement in the investigation and prosecution of the crime.

Marriage/Partner Recognition
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) families deserve the same respect, recognition and protection as all other families. Family recognition and the many rights and protections it provides is essential to the well-being of our families.
Why It Matters:
Legally recognized partnership such as marriage in Massachusetts and civil unions in Connecticut must, and in those cases do, secure essential rights and protections for our families and children. But same-sex couples, even those legally recognized by their states, are denied the 1,138 federal benefits available to or required of married opposite-sex couples. The denial of those benefits hurts our families.

Why It Matters:
Think the presence of gay characters on TV makes life easy for young people? True, youth are coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) at younger ages than ever before. Meanwhile:
Ex-gay ministries have decisively shifted their focus to young people.
There is a epidemic of homelessness among LGBT youth.
Children of LGBT parents are harmed by restrictions on parenting, foster parenting and adoption.
LGBT students encounter widespread harassment and alienation on campus."

This is just the tip of the iceberg, Thought we have much to be thankful for, we have a lot to work for to achieve full equality. Keep up the good fight and don't be lulled into a false sense of security.

Monday, July 2, 2007

A meme for a day a the beach

Your Lucky Underwear is Blue

You are caring and extroverted. You've made relationships your number one focus, and your lucky blue underwear can bring some balance to them.

You thrive in one-on-one situations. You are a good listener and a natural born therapist.

Sometimes you let the concerns of others become too important in your life, leading to stress and worry.

If you want more balance, put on your blue underpants. They'll help you take care of yourself first.

Ocean Grove

What's to say? Beach, Ocean, B&B (lesbian owned) a block from the beach. Good dinners out. Lunch on the beach. Naps. Reading. Blogging. Ice cream. Quality time with my honey! Well, I guess I said it

Sunday, July 1, 2007

And a meme for July 1, My Birthday month

Your Personality Cluster is Introverted Sensing

You are:

Responsible, ethical, and trustworthy

Loyal, with a sense of roots in your community

Someone who treasures and remembers the past

Adverse to surprises and the unknown

The Methodists have their problems, too

In this beautiful seaside hamlet of Ocean Grove a controversy is raging. Apparently, and this I did not know, the Methodist Church owns all the land and the homeowners only rent the land to on which to build their homes. How awkward! Well, NJ has now has passed a Civil Union Law that lets Gay and Lesbian People marry or their version ofit, but not in Ocean Grove! The residents say that the ban applys to the entire village, but I was only able to find an article that referred to the beach pavillion. The church also says that I cannot go to the beach befoew 12:00PM on Sundays and the town cannot sell alcohol.
Civil union law has first test on boardwalk
Lesbian couple fights religious group's denial of Ocean Grove pavilion
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Star-Ledger Staff
On summer Sunday mornings, the boardwalk pavilion in Ocean Grove serves as a place of worship. At other times, it has been a venue for bands and gospel choirs, a shelter from sun and rain for beachgoers and an idyllic seaside setting for weddings.

But when Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster tried to book it for their civil union ceremony, they say they were turned down by the Camp Meeting Association, the Methodist organization that owns all land in the Ocean Grove section of Neptune Township, including the pavilion.

"I was shocked," said Bernstein, who has lived in Ocean Grove for a decade. "It was the first time in all my years living here that I suddenly felt marginalized."

On Tuesday, Bernstein and Paster filed a formal complaint with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. It contends the Camp Meeting Association violated their rights under the law that created civil unions and banned discrimination against persons entering them. That act took effect Feb. 19.

The case appears to be the first of its kind brought to the Division on Civil Rights under the new civil union act, division Director J. Frank Vespa-Papaleo said. He said he knew of no similar case in the courts.

Bernstein said she and Paster have been together more than seven years, formed a domestic partnership as soon as they became available in 2004 and have planned their civil union ceremony for Sept. 30.

The boardwalk pavilion, which heterosexual couples have rented for weddings for a fee of $250, seemed the perfect spot, Bernstein said.

"We wanted to have it in Ocean Grove because that's where we live," Bernstein said. "We wanted to be near the ocean because we love the ocean; that's why we live here. It also offers some shelter in case of inclement weather."

According to their complaint, in March they filed a rental application along with a $75 deposit. It was returned, they said, with the explanation that the Camp Meeting Association "would not permit its facilities to be used for civil union ceremonies."

Scott Hoffman, chief administrative officer of the Camp Meeting Association, said it stopped renting the pavilion for weddings as of April 1. Beyond that, he said the complaint was being reviewed with the association's lawyer.

"Because it's a legal proceeding, that's about the extent of what we can do in talking about it," Hoffman said.

John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, a Charlottesville, Va.-based organization that defends religious liberty, said the Camp Meeting Association is "in the twilight zone of a new area of the law."

"Laws like this should have exceptions for religious organizations and religiously owned property. That avoids the conflict," he said.

Vespa-Papaleo said New Jersey's law contains an exception for religious organizations when they act as employers, but not when they offer accommodations to the public.

"We have taken it as a public accommodation case," Vespa-Papaleo said.

Although mayors who opt to perform marriages must also perform civil unions, Attorney General Stuart Rabner ruled clergy members have discretion "in accordance with their sincerely held religious beliefs."

But Stephen Hyland, a lawyer from Westmont in Camden County who handles legal problems of same-sex couples, said that does not resolve the Ocean Grove case because it is about where the ceremony will be held, not who will officiate. Bernstein said Neptune's deputy mayor, Randy Bishop, agreed to perform the civil union.

Vespa-Papaleo said his office will attempt to mediate the dispute, as it does with all complaints.

"We hope the parties will agree to mediation," he said. "If that does not occur, we will certainly investigate, and if we find there is a violation of the law, we will aggressively prosecute."

Robert Schwaneberg may be reached at or (609) 989-0324.