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The Byrne Report

Family Values


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IN DOWNTOWN NAPA, there is a renovated farmhouse set off by a white picket fence. An American flag waves in the breeze. Inside the house on a Saturday morning, twin babies laugh and play while their parents do chores and talk to a reporter about what it's like to be moms.

Gap Inc. marketing executive Margo McShane, 40, and her wife, Alexandra D'Amario, 35, have been a couple for about five years. When they got married at City Hall in February 2004, D'Amario was pregnant with the twins, Luca and Isabella. They are a happy family, so traditionally normal that one expects Jimmy Stewart to peer through the window looking at their wonderful life.

In California, there are more than 100,000 same-sex couples, raising 70,000 children, according to the Williams Project at the UCLA School of Law. The McShane-D'Amario household is wealthier and whiter than most of these couples, who tend to be racial minorities with lower household incomes than heterosexual couples. Nonetheless, they are not immune from being targeted as objects of irrational hatred.

According to U.S. Census data, there are nearly 600,000 lesbian and gay families in the country. While California has 11 percent of all households in the country, 16 percent of same-sex couples live here. In San Francisco, same-sex mates make up 7 percent of the total population of couples. In Napa county, it is 1.2 percent.

Lesbian and gay families are increasingly visible. But in the North Bay last week, a disproportionate amount of media attention was lavished on a handful of emotionally tortured Rancho Cotate high school students who marched around carrying signs saying that gay marriage is evil. The youngsters are Svengalied by a local right-wing gun nut. Fortunately, the anti­human rights demonstrators were opposed and vastly outnumbered by members of the Gay-Straight Alliance, a remarkable club with chapters in high schools around the nation.

McShane comments, "Young people are not intuitively anti-gay. Teenagers are vulnerable. Someone in a position of authority taught them that." Although McShane is wigged out by the homophobic antics of the likes of Congressman Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and President Bush, she professes faith in the U.S. Constitution to carry the nation through the crisis of neoconservative power-mongering and sexual intimidation.

DeLay, of course, is calling for the impeachment of judges that uphold the rule of law and the concept of democracy. And he is joined in his perverse jihad by such widely syndicated columnists as Cal Thomas, who regularly compares homosexuality to bestiality, and whose columns appear in the Op-Ed pages of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, thereby lending the country's leading homophobe whatever credibility that paper has to offer. (A spokesperson for the PD says they do not buy all of his columns, although giving him any forum is akin to subsidizing the Jew-bashing Nazi ideologue, Julius Streicher.)

Teenagers searching for social identity--and perhaps confused and shamed by the power of their own sexual attraction to members of the same sex--may gravitate toward the gender-fascist rhetoric of Thomas, DeLay and some of our local "Christian" preachers as an easy way out of the dilemma of finding one's self mired in a sex-obsessed culture controlled by public-relations algorithms. But the so-called conservative youth expose their ignorance when they call upon the state and federal constitutions as justifications of their self-hating diatribe against gay marriage.

In March, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer ruled in the City and County of San Francisco v. State of California that the state constitution guarantees that civil marriage is a fundamental right that must be open to all people, regardless of sexual orientation.

In a cogent brief, Kramer states there is no "rational" basis for abridging the rights of due process, equal protection and privacy accorded to all individuals by the state Constitution just because an individual is homosexual. The logic of the lawsuit, well worth reading in a high school social studies class (hint, hint), is built upon a series of declarations by experts in the history of marriage and the oppression of homosexuals. Gender is a social construct, and marriage, they assert, is an evolving institution. Prohibiting same-sex unions is akin to the "separate but equal" segregation of blacks and whites, and statutes forbidding interracial marriage, which were struck down in the last century by the U.S. Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

And in downtown Napa, there is at least one family that has proudly taken a stand, not only to live the life that they have freely chosen, but to come out and proclaim their human right to do so--regardless of the attention paid by the media to the theological babble and sexual confusion of some teenagers and their psycho mentors in Washington, D.C.

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From the April 20-26, 2005 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

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