Something’s Gotta Change!

February 10, 2009, by Melissa Howden

Dancing with a devil...  iPhone photo by Kris Perry

Dancing with a devil... iPhone photo by Kris Perry

Did you hear the one about the Justice Department attorney Leslie Hagen who was not re-hired in her position because she was rumored to be a lesbian?

Under the ever-so-questionable leadership of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, it seems his senior counsel, Monica Goodling, took it upon herself, after hearing the rumor of lesbianism, to remove Ms. Hagen from her position. This action was taken despite the fact that Ms. Hagen had consistently performed at the highest levels with the notation “Outstanding” on every category of her performance review.

“The problem it was suggested during the conversation was sexual orientation or what was rumored to be Hagen’s sexual orientation.” —Ari Shapiro, NPR

Whatever happened to “innocent until proven guilty”—in the U.S. Justice Department no less! Or how about this, being gay is not a crime. It’s well documented that we don’t have all the rights accorded to others, however this does not de facto criminalize gays and lesbians or rumored gays and lesbians for that matter. Condi Rice wasn’t removed from her position due to rumored lesbianism!

The good news is after several years and thousands of dollars worth of legal fees, Ms. Hagen is now back in her old job but she had to re-apply!  In so doing, she was found, out of hundreds of applicants, to be the most qualified attorney. And lest you go away thinking this was a partisan issue, Ms. Hagen is known to be a GOP party loyalist, but as one source noted, “to some people that’s worse than being a Democrat.” Talk amongst yourselves.

Here in the Land of Enchantment, the legislature is in session. This week, Senate Bill 12 (Domestic Partners Rights and Responsibilities Act) stalled in a tie vote. This is simply a domestic partnership bill, which extends the same legal benefits that married couples enjoy under New Mexico law to unmarried couples (both homosexual and heterosexual). No party loyalty here. Democratic Senator Richard Martinez joined with four Republicans to vote against the bill and Democratic Senator Bernadette Sanchez left the room right before the vote to take an “important phone call.”

In my house we always say that we have to “cowboy up” when challenges present themselves. I tend to take the long view where social change is concerned, but my version of “cowboying up” is soon going to involve six shooters because this s*%# has got to change. A protestor outside the state legislature wore a sign, which read, “We’re Here, We’re Queer. WE PAY TAXE$ EVERY YEAR.”

On the flip side, my fearless girlfriend recently took me dancing at an old cowboy bar. I was a bit hesitant to be the only two women two-stepping together in a cowboy bar. Reassured that I don’t need to worry about Taos cowboys, “It’s the Texas cowboys we need to be concerned with,” we danced the night away.

Later the same week we went out to hear a musician friend and dance. On arriving at the restaurant we were greeted by our friend who beseeched my girlfriend to behave herself because it seems we were to be seated right next to former Secretary of Defense (did anybody say war criminal?) Donald Rumsfeld. In fact we were so close I could’ve backhanded him with ease. (Woulda, coulda, shoulda.) This development sufficiently bummed my fun-loving girlfriend out so much that she said she didn’t feel like dancing. “OH NO,” I said, “We are going to dance together tonight.” And when Mr. and Mrs. Rumsfeld got up to dance, I said, “Right now is when we are going to dance,” tossing my iPhone to our friend Kris as we went, instructing her to “document this”. When the Rumsfelds realized there was a camera involved they kept moving away from us. Though my girlfriend was leading I kept pulling her back so, in effect, we were following the Rumsfelds around the floor. If I was going to dance with the devil, the Rumsfelds were going to dance with lesbians dammit!

Some things change and some things are changed. And sometimes that change comes simply from standing up and taking our rightful place,
over
and over
and over
again.

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12 Responses to “Something’s Gotta Change!”

  1. Barb Says:

    Melissa, Finally figured out your blog. I am a bit slow!!
    Loved your dance with Rumsfeld. Really loved Jill Bolte Taylor.
    Have some chile for me christmas style!

  2. Conz Says:

    A person’s sexuality, like their hair color, should be a blip on no one’s radar, much less a reason for a qualified atorney to lose her job. Chase the bastards down, Melissa. Public humiliation is a great motivator.

  3. Karen Says:

    Whoopeee! You go girl!

  4. Lila Says:

    wow!

  5. cfinhollywood Says:

    In effect, I think we’re going to need a lot of patience. I’m so exhausted from being outraged at all the injustice. Deep breath. Start over from the beginning and keep on going.

  6. Christie Says:

    What a crying shame that we lost the talents of Ms. Hagen, and I am sure many others who have performed brilliantly in their careers, through the colossal wrong-mindedness of the few. Dancing with the devil indeed, now if you go down to crossroads and Rumsfeld is there as well…

  7. dearpru Says:

    There were several CIA, NSA or FBI translators fired for being gay…even though it’s about as easy to find someone who fluent in Arabic as it is to find a parking spot in New York City. Who knows what our intelligence community is missing because of this assinine decision? The rightwing anti-gay grip on America is literally killing Americans. Now that creep, Ken Starr (who brought down Clinton for a blowjob) has joined forces with California’s Keep Prop 8 folks. He’s even filed a brief with the Supreme Court! When is the gay community, joined by their supporters, families and friends, going to march on Pepperdine University, where Starr is the Dean of the Law School, and demand he be fired? I think Pacific Coast Highway needs to be brought to a standstill until Prop 8 is overturned.

  8. mellimel Says:

    As Carine alludes, its a long road. The irony of Prop 8 I believe is that if it had come up in another election year
    (i.e. when we weren’t all working our asses off to get Barak in office) the outcome would likely have been different. Talents, time and money had to be delegated. I think Christie may have missed that Ms. Hagen got her job back. That’s something. I wonder how she voted this year? Still a GOP supporter. Regardless of one’s opinion on the film Milk it does remind how far we’ve come, and still a young movement with a distance to travel. Just sometimes these pieces come all together and I have to rant. Here in NM the Senior Senator Cisneros was going to not suport the Domestic Partnership Bill. This was brought to light at a benefit for our local Human Rights Alliance. His number was passed out and he was deluged with calls to the point where he asked my “fearless girlfriend” the radio talk show host
    (Breakfast with Nancy – http://www.ktao.com streaming live on the web) to call people off. He then went on her show and told people he did not realize until he received all the calls that his constituents felt the way they did and reversed his decision. The Bill is still stalled but the point is, the calls and letters and noise making works especially when organized.

  9. Penelope Else Says:

    Ha ha, Bigot-Stalking – that’s so funny, well done!

    An attorney who is lesbian? What on earth does it matter? I shall start firing people who are rumoured to like the colour purple. Daft beggars.

  10. Lala Says:

    He knows no change who knows the true,
    and on it keeps his eye
    Who always still the unseen doth view;
    Only the false & the apparent die.

    Things change, both change not far
    From what they are not but to what they are,
    Or rather ’tis our ignorance that dies;
    Forever lives the knowledge of the wise.

    Henry David Thoreau

  11. Cathy Says:

    When President Obama won on election night I was soo happy, but my joy was dampened by the passing of Prop 8. At the same time I was thinking we’ve come so far, yet we have far to go.

  12. Emily Says:

    What Cathy said.

    And you showed great restraint in Rumsfeld’s presence. I would’ve had a hard time not belting him. But your dance floor stalking was far more effective.

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