equal rights

FMLA & Gay Couples; PA Gay Minister Fired

FMLA & Gay Couples

This was something I learned this morning and never knew because it never directly affected me. By the time Tony was hospitalized in 2007 I’d already been in business for myself for years and working as a freelance writer. So I basically had to contact editors, let them know what was happening, and tell them I had to take an extended break from work and couldn’t meet all my deadlines. It was summer and things were slower. All the editors I worked with at the time offered me their support and told me I had nothing to worry about. But that’s not the case with all gay couples who don’t have the protection of legal same sex marriage. And unlike couples who are legally married and do fall under the guidelines of FMLA, many still have no protection whatsoever when a partner is taken ill for an extended period of time.

FMLA is the Family and Medical Leave Act. It covers spouses and family members. Here’s an overview from the .gov website.

The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. Eligible employees are entitled to:

  • Twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for:
    • the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;
    • the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
    • to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;
    • a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;
    • any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty;” or
  • Twenty-six workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the servicemember’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin (military caregiver leave).

I learned about this earlier today while reading through an update on social media from author, T.J. Klune. He’d been informed by his place of employment that because same sex marriage is not legal in his state he wouldn’t qualify for FMLA while is partner, Eric Arvin, is in the hospital. Fortunately for Klune, his employer was gracious enough to tell him it didn’t matter and that he/she would work with him each step of the way and that his job was not in jeopardy. But not all employers are as kind and it could have made a serious situation even more difficult to deal with.

So this is yet another reason why it’s so important for same sex couples to have legalized marriage on a federal level throughout the US. Right now, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania where I live, I wonder how many gay couples are dealing with issues like FMLA with nowhere to turn. It’s one of the smaller things we don’t see mentioned all the time in the fight for equality, but can be vital to those who are affected by it. And that has to change soon, because now it’s even more unfair to see that same sex couples in some states are protected and those unfortunate enough to live in other states aren’t. It’s actually gone beyond LGBT discrimination and now it’s become discrimination based on where you live.

You can read more here at the .gov web site.

PA Gay Minister Fired

I posted about the Pennsylvania minister who has recently come under fire for performing a marriage ceremony for his gay son and partner. And he didn’t even do this in PA. He did it in Massachusetts where gay marriage is legal and recognized on a federal level.

According to church officials, their “Book of Discipline” condemns Schaefer’s behavior, and he was told to resign by Thursday if he could not respect the rules.

Jurors who convicted him in a church trial told Schaefer he should take the month to decide if he agreed with the church’s belief that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Of course I think this is unfortunate, I’m not a fan of organized religion of any kind, and I know how these things work. The problem with this situation is that as horrible as it is and as much as these things are always a reflection on the so-called good Christian values to think that a church would deny a minister something like this, I do believe in the complete separation of church and state. Right down to the bottom line.

You can read more here.

My Equal Rights Blog Hop Prizes; Queer Town Abbey; Word Count in M/M Books

Equal Rights Blog Hop Prize

For those who don’t know, there’s a blog hop for equal rights beginning tomorrow, the Fourth of July, and along with posts written by bloggers about what it means to them to be part of the LGBT community, there will also be a few prizes given away. At first I didn’t think I’d have time, but then I reconsidered and I thought it was important enough to make the time. So I’m doing the hop, too. There’s a link to my blog at the link I provided above.

I’ll be posting my essay very late tonight on what it means to me to be part of the LGBT community, and I wanted to announce the prize today because my post is probably going to be long. I thought about giving away one of my books again, but this time, because of the nature of the blog hop, I wanted to do something a little different. So I’ll be giving away two prizes for this event. And unlike the give-aways they have on Goodreads.com, I am NOT limiting this to the US. Anyone anywhere in world is eligible to win.

The first prize will be a collection of books in a five volume series about Tom of Finland (photo above). It’s from my own extensive personal collection of gay culture and gay print books…and this will be a print collection that I will mail to your home…even if you live in the UK or Italy. The second prize will be a complimentary copy of my new upcoming anthology, The Women Who Love to Love Gay Romance, which will be an e-book. I’m thinking of releasing a print version of this book, too. I’m still on the fence about that because I think most of my readers will read the e-book. But this book is also something I would like to enter in next year’s Lambda awards and they only take print books.

In any event, all you have to do to win one of the prizes is post a comment on the post I’m going to put up on the Fourth of July, tomorrow, about the blog hop. I’ll make that clear again tomorrow with my post, with a link to this post. At the end of the blog hop, which is July 7th, I will draw two names at random from the comment thread of the Fourth of July post like I did with the last blog hop. The first name I pick will receive the Tom of Finland print collection and the second name will receive the digital version of The Women Who Love to Love Gay Romance. And The Women Who Love to Love Gay Romance hasn’t even been published yet. The release date is set for August first. But the winner will be one of the first people to get the book pre-release date later this month.

If anyone has a question, e-mail me here rfieldj@aol.com

For those who would like to know more about Tom of Finland, you can read more here. It’s a very important part of gay culture…and some would even say pop culture in general.

Word Count In M/M Books 

I’m going to post more about this topic in the future, but I wanted to mention it now because this was one of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2013, and I’m actually going to make it happen.

For the past five years or so, it seems that the standard word count in any given M/M romance book has been around 50,000 words. That’s not a number set in stone by any means. I’ve written longer books, and I don’t think I’ve ever submitted a novel that was less than 52,000 words. In fact, I usually average around 60,000 words. I know other writers have also written longer books. But most seem to run around 50,000 words or less, as if there’s some kind of unspoken rule in digital publishing.

With some books 50,000 words is perfect. I’m not trying to put any word count limit on myself or anyone else. I even think 40,000 is right for some books. However, there have been times when I’ve written books that I wanted to be longer and I didn’t do it for several reasons. One, I wasn’t sure readers would want a longer book. Another reason is that e-publishers tend to contract books for 50,000 words. And yet another reason is there is a certain amount of challenge associated with writing a novel that only has 50,000 words. Although many would think it’s easier to write less words, that’s not always the case. I would go so far as to say it’s almost an art form in word economy…less is more.

But that’s not always how it works out. Sometimes a book should be longer and I’ve decided to make that decision with my books. And I’m going to be doing that with the final book in the Bad Boy Billionaire series with Ravenous Romance (they don’t know this yet :). The tentative title of the book is The Small Town Romance Writer, but that’s not set in stone either. I’m about forty thousand words into the book right now, and I honestly don’t see how I can stop at fifty or sixty thousand words this time. Not with the story or the characters. So this book will probably be around 100,000 words. I think my publisher might want to kill me. But it’s also the last book in the series, and I think readers will appreciate this when they read the book…they’ll see how I needed to do it this time.

And while I don’t think there should ever be a word count limit to any book because each book is different in that respect, and each book requires a different approach in that respect, I don’t think I’m going to be adhering the to industry standard anymore with word count. In other words, my books will most likely be a lot longer and run closer to 80,000 words than 50,000 in the future. As I said, this all depends on the book. But I do think readers are going to like this change, too.

Gay Civil Rights and Chick-fil-A


It seems there’s a problem with Chick-fil-A now. Evidently, they’ve allegedly contributed money to groups that don’t support same sex marriage…and groups allegedly considered anti-gay. I don’t know anything about Chick-fil-A. I’ve never been to one, so I can’t comment on the product.

But I’m in the minority here. I’ve had e-mails from friends locally who want to disassociate themselves and all local community events from Chick-fil-A. I’ve read other e-mails that take this to a national level.

If you read this article here, about the situation, it’s amazing how slanted it is on one direction.

Protests like the one aimed at Chick-fil-A are partly or even mostly attempts to exhibit the power of the protesters. That aim has nothing to do with winning the argument—is gay marriage a good social policy or a mistaken one?—and everything to do with controlling the narrative. Only those who agree with the protesters are granted a legitimate voice hereafter. Roar loud enough and you may intimidate the target, but that’s of less importance than pumping up excitement among followers and creating a secondary wave of self-censorship among others who correctly surmise that it is dangerous to disagree.

This makes little sense to me. Is this person saying people are dumb and can’t form their own opinions? The objective of protesting is, indeed, to gain power in numbers and to obtain a louder voice. Without protests, and groups protesting in large numbers, there wouldn’t be a glimmer of a chance to change things. As far as I know, no one in the LGBT community is telling anyone they have to agree. No one in the LGBT community is telling people how they should think. What I’m seeing and hearing is that those in the LGBT community and those who support same sex marriage simply aren’t going to support a corporation that supports organizations who are openly against same sex marriage. This is the risk any high profile business runs when it decides to support something that’s highly charged with politics and emotion.

In this article there’s more information, based on facts, and lists of anti-gay organizations that Chick-fil-A has supported.

Chick-Fil-A’s Employment Practices Are Hostile Towards “Sinful” Candidates. Chick-fil-A requires potential franchise operators to disclose their marital status, number of dependents, and involvement in social, church, and other organizations. Employees may be fired for engaging in “sinful” behavior, and Truett Cathy has said he aims to hire workers who are married.

And then here’s the controversy that sparked a lot of what’s been happening locally in the past few days.

In January, a local Chick-fil-A restaurant in Pennsylvania donated food to the group Family Life to put on an event called the “The Art of Marriage: Getting to the Heart of God’s Design.” Both Chick-fil-A and co-sponsor Pennsylvania Family Institute (PFI) were originally listed as sponsors of the “Art Of Marriage” event, although Chick-fil-A scrubbed its name from the event’s advertisements after the controversy began. Both PFI and Family life are virulently anti-gay. [New York Times,2/14/11; Joe. My. God., 1/4/11]

I haven’t heard anyone in the LGBT community try to stop this group. All I’ve heard is that anything even remotely associated with Chick-fil-A will now be boycotted by the LGBT community because of who Chick-fil-A chooses to support. That sounds fair enough to me. It’s called making a qualified decision based on the information given to you. And the LGBT community shouldn’t be expected to support a company that supports organizations that are outright against them.

This piece in the NYT describes the entire ordeal best. Check it out here. Some of the comments are interesting.

On the other hand, Rhonda Cline, a dental hygienist in Atlanta and a devout Christian, has only gotten more outspoken in her support. She was one of nearly a thousand people who logged onto the Chick-fil-A Facebook page to comment on the issue.

“I applaud a company that in this climate today will step out on a limb the way the Constitution allows them to,” Ms. Cline said in an interview. “This is the United States, so we should be able to practice our business the way we like.”

I couldn’t agree with Ms. Cline more. I applaud her. We all have these rights. And the LGBT community has the same right to back off from anything Chick-fil-A related. The only right the LGBT community doesn’t have is the ability for same sex couples to be joined in a legal union that protects them against all kinds of things that range from inheritance taxes to power of attorney.

If you want to read even more, there are tons of links out there. What I just posted is only the most basic information. All I know is that when any company in business for profit supports anything this controversial, they run the risk of losing business and they deserve what they get. And that’s just a plain hard fact of life.

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell…


Last night the l993 law, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, that’s existed since the Clinton administration, was repealed. In short, this law meant that gays could only be in the military if they were in the closet. News organizations tend to lighten the description of this. But I’d rather call it what it is: forcing gays to remain closeted and in a self-loathing state of mind designed to induce fear.

You can read the full article here. And below I’ve taken out a few important parts and commented so people fully understand what this means and how there are still a few unresolved issues. I’m thrilled about the appeal. But there is still a long way to go.

There also will be no immediate changes to eligibility standards for military benefits. All service members already are entitled to certain benefits and entitlements, such as designating a partner as one’s life insurance beneficiary or as designated caregiver in the Wounded Warrior program.

Gay marriage is one of the thornier issues. An initial move by the Navy earlier this year to train chaplains about same-sex civil unions in states where they are legal was halted after more than five dozen lawmakers objected. The Pentagon is reviewing the issue.

As you can see, this repeal still doesn’t grant complete equal rights to gays in the military. If you’re a gay couple in the military benefits are just as important to you as they are to straight couples. And, although legalizing same sex marriage in certain states has helped a great deal, gays in the military are still considered second class citizens and the military clearly won’t recognize them.

A leading advocate, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, said Monday the repeal is overdue.

“Our nation will finally close the door on a fundamental unfairness for gays and lesbians, and indeed affirm equality for all Americans,” the California Democrat said.

The key word in this statement is “a.” Because the door was only closed on one fundamental unfairness, not all…especially on a federal level. And while this repeal is certainly something to celebrate. It’s by no means time to stop fighting for complete equal rights. And the only way to do this is to let the politicians know it. In the next election our vote will count, so will our contributions. And I’ve changed the way I vote and contribute in the last four years.

Below is an e-mail I received from a gay friend. I asked his permission to post it here, verbatim, and he granted me that permission. I’m doing it to show how strongly gay people feel about this issue, and also because I doubt the mainstream media will print anything like this. There’s also a sense of cynicism here that worries me. And this isn’t the only friend I have who feels this way.

Time for celebration? I don’t think so, maybe a little, maybe. Here we go again, this will be played up as a victory for gays, especially a political one, but let us NOT forget that we are NOT equal, not even with the repeal of DADT:

“There also will be no immediate changes to eligibility standards for military benefits. All service members already are entitled to certain benefits and entitlements, such as designating a partner as one’s life insurance beneficiary or as designated caregiver in the Wounded Warrior program.”

In simple terms, if you want your “partner” to live on a military base…NOPE

If you want your partner to have health benefits…..NOPE

If you want your partner to have counseling ……..NOPE

If you want your partner to get education benefits……NOPE

If you want to kiss your partner in public…….NOPE

All we got is being able to say “I’m gay” and assurance you will not get kicked out of the closet.

So, if you are straight in the military, you get everything. Being gay, you only get being a beneficiary to a life insurance policy.

Is it me or is this a “shut-up and go-away”? Gays to the back of the tank.

Go figure.

No Benefits for Gay Couples in the Military

Interesting.

No benefits for gay couples in the military. And even though I shouldn’t be surprised, I always am. The emotional/psychological aspects are bad enough. But a lot of people don’t realize the financial limitations of being a gay couple.

Read this article below for more info. It’s well written and far more detailed (and less emotional) than I would be.

(San Diego) – Gay service members from Army soldiers to Air Force officers are planning to celebrate the official end of the military’s 17-year policy that forced them to hide their sexual orientation with another official act – marriage.

A 27-year-old Air Force officer from Ohio said he can’t wait to wed his partner of two years and slip on a ring that he won’t have to take off or lie about when he goes to work each day once “don’t ask, don’t tell” is repealed. He plans to wed his boyfriend, a federal employee, in Washington D.C. where same-sex marriages are legal.

He asked not to be identified, following the advice of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a national organization representing gay troops, including the Air Force officer, that has cautioned those on active duty from coming out until the ban is off the books.

“I owe it to him and myself,” the officer said of getting married. “I don’t want to do it in the dark. I think that taints what it’s supposed to be about – which is us, our families, and our government.”

But in the eyes of the military the marriage will not be recognized and the couple will still be denied most of the benefits the Defense Department gives to heterosexual couples to ease the costs of medical care, travel, housing and other living expenses.

The Pentagon says the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act – which defines marriage for federal program purposes as a legal union between a man and woman – prohibits the Defense Department from extending those benefits to gay couples, even if they are married legally in certain states.

That means housing allowances and off-base living space for gay service members with partners could be decided as if they were living alone. Base transfers would not take into account their spouses. If two gay service members are married to each other they may be transferred to two different states or regions of the world. For heterosexual couples, the military tries to keep that from happening.

Gay activists and even some commanders say the discrepancy will create a two-tier system in an institution built on uniformity.

“It’s not going to work,” said Army Reserve Capt. R. Clarke Cooper, who heads up the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay rights group that sued the Justice Department to stop the enforcement of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. “Taking care of our soldiers is necessary to ensure morale and unit cohesion. This creates a glaring stratification in the disbursement of support services and benefits.”

Cooper said he also plans to marry his boyfriend, a former Navy officer, in a post-repeal era.

The Obama administration has said it believes the ban could be fully lifted within weeks. A federal appeals court ruling July 6 ordered the government to immediately cease its enforcement. After the Department of Justice filed an emergency motion asking the court to reconsider its order, the court on Friday reinstated the law but with a caveat that prevents the government from investigating or penalizing anyone who is openly gay.

The Justice Department in its motion argued ending the ban abruptly now would pre-empt the “orderly process” for rolling back the policy as outlined in the law passed and signed by the president in December.

The military’s staunchly traditional, tight-knit society, meanwhile, has been quickly adapting to the social revolution: Many gay officers say they have already come out to their commanders and fellow troops, and now discuss their weekend plans without a worry.

The Air Force officer says he has dropped the code words “Red Solo Cups” – the red plastic cups used at parties – that he slipped into conversations for years to tell his partner he loved him when troops were within earshot. He now feels comfortable saying “I love you” on the phone, no longer fearful he will be interrogated by peers.

One male soldier, who also asked not to be identified, said after Congress approved repealing the law, he listed his boyfriend on his Army forms as his emergency contact and primary beneficiary of his military life insurance in case he dies in Afghanistan.

He said when he was transferred to South Korea, he and his partner had to pay for his partner’s move.

“But we were able to stay together,” the soldier wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press from Afghanistan. “During the move, I realized I needed to make sure my partner in life was taken care of if something, the worst, ever happened to me, especially knowing I was about to deploy.”

The soldier said when he added his boyfriend’s name to the paperwork as a primary beneficiary and identified him as a friend, the non-commissioned officer in charge shut his office door and told him: “Unlike the inherent benefits to being married in the Army, such as housing and sustenance allowances, our life insurance and will don’t discriminate.”

Same-sex partners can be listed as the person to be notified in case a service member is killed, injured, or missing, but current regulations prevent anyone other than immediate family – not same-sex spouses – from learning the details of the death. Same-sex spouses also will not be eligible for travel allowances to attend repatriation ceremonies if their military spouses are killed in action.

Gay spouses also will be denied military ID cards. That means they will not be allowed on bases unless they are accompanied by a service member and they cannot shop at commissaries or exchanges that have reduced prices for groceries and clothing, nor can they be treated at military medical facilities. They also will be excluded from base programs providing recreation and other such kinds of support.

Military officials say some hardship cases may be handled on an individual basis. Activists warn such an approach will create an administrative nightmare and leave the military vulnerable to accusations of making inconsistent decisions that favor some and not others.

Military families enjoy assistance from the Defense Department to compensate for the hardship of having a mother or father or both deployed to war zones and moved frequently.

“It strains a relationship when you’re gone for over a year,” said Navy medical corpsman Andrew James, 27, who lived two years apart from his same-sex partner, who could not afford to move with him when he was transferred from San Diego to Washington. “But straight couples have support so their spouses are able to be taken care of, with financial issues, and also they are able to talk to the chain of command, whereas gays can’t. They don’t have any support at all financially or emotionally, and that is really devastating.”

He said he was lucky that his relationship survived and now that he is in the Reserves, they are together again in San Diego.

The benefits issue came up repeatedly during training sessions to prepare troops for the policy change.

“There are inconsistencies,” Maj. Daryl Desimone told a class of Marines at Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego, after being asked about benefits for gay military personnel. “Anyone who looks at it logically will see there are some things that need to be worked out in the future.”

The military’s policy denying benefits to same-sex couples could change if legal challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act prove successful. The Obama administration has said it will not defend DOMA in court.

Earlier this month, the Justice Department filed a legal brief in federal court in San Francisco in support of a lesbian federal employee’s lawsuit claiming the government wrongly denied health coverage to her same-sex spouse. The brief said the lawsuit should not be dismissed because DOMA violates the constitution’s guarantee of equal protection and was motivated by hostility toward gays and lesbians.

Eight Things Gays Still Can’t Do…

Rather than post something long here, I’m linking to the article and listing the 8 things gay men still can’t do below.

This is what I’m talking about when I get annoyed, slightly, when I hear people in the m/m fiction world tell me how wonderful things are and how many choices gay men still have. Yes, we do have more choices than ever before. But we’re far from equal.

I’ve added my own comments beside the titles. But I think it’s worth reading the entire article. And I could probably come up with 8 other things if I really wanted to.

No Legal Equal Employment…This has been around as long as I can remember. And, women are still fighting for the same rights. So we’re not alone.

Can’t donate blood…This one amazes me, as if gay men are the only people who can transmit the HIV virus. As far as I know, anyone can.

Still can’t adopt in some states…If you met my hideous ex-sister-in-law (my poor straight brother made a huge mistake back when), and you saw the way she screws up her kids, you’d be happy to have to stable gay men adopting kids.

Educational discrimination based on sexual orientation…This one made me wonder at first. But if you read the article, you’ll see it’s valid.

Housing Discrimination: LGBTs Can’t Live In Certain Communities…Well, trust me, there are certain communities I don’t want to live in either. I think the right address is important. But no one should be cast aside for any reason. This is America.

Same sex marriage not allowed in most states…It would be great if all states passed same sex marriage. But we need it more in a federal level, not just on a state level. Those inheritance taxes are brutal.

Gay men can’t be scout leaders…I’ve never even wanted to be a scout. But I’m sure there are gay men who’d get into this, and how unfair to see they can’t.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repealed!… In A Year?…This doesn’t surprise me in the least. It shows how our politicians are always more interested in campaigning than fighting for equality. Mark my words, one of these days a smart politicain is going to come along and promise change…real change…and he or she is going to go down in history.

Freedom to Marry

If you’re interested in lgbt equal rights, especially the right to marry, please take the time to check out the web site below. There’s always something positive going on over there, and it’s always something important.

The more people who get on board the better it is for all of us. And nowadays it’s the online word that spreads the fastest.

Thanks…

http://www.freedomtomarry.org/page/s/i_do