The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Back to the dark ages in Bessemer

When I came out (as a gay man) my children were young; 5 and 9. This was in 1995 and it was a scary time for LGBT parenting. I had the best attorney for gay issues in the city of Birmingham.

There was a two year period between when I came out and when my divorce was final. During that time, my children developed relationships with my partner (at the time). They got to know his family, they celebrated together, made or bought gifts for each other, basically, everything that a family member would and should do when families are joined.

When the judge ruled in the divorce case, I has hit with restricted visitation. I could not have my children (by that time aged 7 and 11) in the presence of my partner.

We appealed the decision (with the help of Lambda Legal, a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work). The Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's order.

For years we had to live under that draconian order. The injustice was hard to deal with, but the logistics and inconvenience made it almost impossible.

Fifteen years later society has changed. Research shows that children being raised in same-sex households perform as well or better than those raised in opposite-sex household or by single parents. In several states, gays and lesbians are allowed to marry the person they love. In other states, different degrees of domestic partnership are in place. The President of the United States has voiced his support for marriage equality.

But in Bessemer, Judge Eddie Vines has ignored fact and allowed his religious views to create an injustice similar to the one which I experienced in 1995.

A lesbian mother, who is married (in another jurisdiction) to another woman, has just been denied custody, and the child is being returned to an abusive father. On top of that, the child's other mom is not allowed to be present during visitation times.

"Custody and visitation of the minor child shall remain as previously ordered by this
Court, except that the Defendant is restrained from having ****** ****** present
when she is exercising visitation with the child."

The judge said the child would suffer "gender confusion" if allowed to be around ******.

Judge Vines told her point blank that he is a Southern Baptist deacon and that being a lesbian placed her child in an immoral environment.

The father admitted in court to abusing the child. Yet Judge Vines believes that sending a kid to live with his abusive father is better than living in a home where love comes from both parents.

In the past the father has been convicted of domestic abuse against the child's mother. Yet Judge Vines thinks that he provides a moral environment in which to raise a child.

One thing I know from experience. Children who are placed in this situation grow up learning about justice and discrimination and bigotry. They learn that in Alabama, religion trumps justice. 

And they continue to love the person they are separated from.

Again, this is 2012. We know a lot more about same-sex relationships and parenting than we did in 1995. But Judge Vines has let his own prejudices and ignorance (about sexuality and child well being) influence his ruling. 

This ruling should be appealed, but knowing the makeup of the Alabama Court of Appeals and their history on cases of this type, I wouldn't be too confident about the process. 

And let's start looking for someone to run against Judge Vines in 2014. Bessemer can be better than this.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Affordable Care Act in Alabama

The Affordable Care Act, the new health care law, is making a positive difference in our health care system. I have written about this before, but the following was sent by Jon Carson, Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Just this week, the Obama Administration made three announcements about how the new law is helping people in Alabama. Thanks to the health care law: 3.1 Million More Young Adults Have Health Insurance: Thanks to the health care law, young adults can stay on their parent's health plan until age 26. This week, we announced that 3.1 million people who would have been uninsured - including 49,000 in Alabama - have gained coverage through this new benefit. Learn more here.

Community Health Centers are Stronger: Community health centers work to improve the health of the nation by ensuring access to quality primary health care services. The health care law has helped community health centers serve millions of additional patients. This week, your state health centers received $2,808,333 in new grants that will help them serve 15,669 additional patients. Nationwide, these grants will ensure nearly 1.3 million more patients get high quality health care and will help support approximately 5,640 jobs. Learn more about these grants here.

You are Getting a Better Value for Your Health Care Dollar: The new health care law created the 80/20 rule, which requires that health insurers spend at least 80 percent of your health care premiums on health care or improvements to care or they must refund you the difference. This is also known as the medical loss ratio. In Alabama, 13,600 residents will benefit from a total of $4.2 million in rebates this summer, or an average of $518 for each family covered by a policy. Overall, 12.8 million Americans will be benefiting from $1.1 billion in rebates from insurance companies this summer. Learn more about this announcement here.
Republicans want to do away with all of these benefits and more.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Joe Biden - wow!

Rare day.

Two posts in Bessemer Opinions.

That has not happened in a long time.

But we haven't had a vice-president that told the truth in long time either.

VP Joe Biden went off yesterday talking about the middle class. I am posting this, because Bessemer needs to hear it. Not that the majority of Bessemer residents won't be voting for Barack Obama in November anyway, but because we need to move our city UP to middle class.

With our failing failed schools we are certainly not attracting the people we need to be into this city. More educated people, more creative people, more people with kids that will send them to school are what we need (but we have to have successful schools for this). That would also mean more tax revenue, etc, and a better city for all of us.

Joe! Come to Bessemer and give us a pep talk. OK?

(I'll see what I can do.)

Simple grilling - veggies

The Year of Bessemer Food

I've shared this with several friends this Spring. I discovered (with the help of two friends) Sweet Heat Seasoning at Freshfully in Avondale. I'm sure it is available elsewhere, but Freshfully is worth the drive to get fresh eggs, vegetables and other locally grown products.


Wash your okra, and skewer 3 or 4 with a short wooden skewer. Brush with olive oil, and sprinkle liberally with Sweet Heat. Place on hot grill for about 10 minutes, turning a couple of time, until browned, like in the picture.

Just serve them on the skewers. Even those who do not like okra will love these. The slime is cooked out of them. These are SO good.

(Hint: soak skewers in water to prevent them from burning.)


I use Sweet Heat on corn as well. Corn can certainly be grilled in their husks but I prefer to shuck them so I can clean the silks out well. Then I butter my aluminum foil. What?

It's easier than buttering the corn, just use a knife and spread on the flat foil. You'll get used to it.

(Here is where I insert a math lesson, valuable because I am afraid that Bessemer residents don't get this in school, with their 36% graduation rate and all. See my previous posts).

I use a soft butter and spread it in a rectangle starting at one edge (the length of the corn) and extending about 6.25 inches from the edge (corn is about 2 inches in diameter and about 6 inches long, so the area to be buttered is the length of the corn times the circumference of a piece of corn. The circumference (distance around a circle, or a piece of corn) is the diameter times π.

π of course, is 3.1416 (approximately) so 2 x π is (close to) 6.28. Therefore, the area to be buttered is ?

Then I sprinkle Sweet Heat seasoning on the butter, and roll them up (click on the picture to embiggen and see the Sweet Heat bottle)...

...until they are tight little corn on the cob packets. Now the butter and seasoning are in contact with the corn.

Cook these for about 10 minutes over a hot grill, rotating 1/4 turn every 2 or 3 minutes. The corn will come out hot and juicy, but with a little bit of brown on some of the kernels. Yum. Sorry I don't have a picture of the final product. We tore into them and were halfway done eating them when I thought about it.

Sweet Heat can be used on other veggies or poultry or in soups and other ways.

Enjoy the Summer Solstice and grill something today. It 's the longest day of the year.

Thought. We have Winter Solstice parties and music to set the tone on that cold night in December. Does anyone celebrate the Summer Solstice?