Life After DOMA: It Gets Better (And More Real)

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After DOMA was overturned by the United States Supreme Court in Windsor, a good friend (and extraordinary advocate) Mary Bonauto asked my wife Robbie Kaplan if she felt personally different after the decision.
After DOMA

Robbie Kaplan and Rachel Lavine at the White House

Meaning that, while everyone understands that the overturn of DOMA legally affects every married gay and lesbian individual and couple, granting us a multitude of hitherto withheld economic, social and legal rights, did that legal/social change make Robbie feel differently as a person? Robbie said yes. And I certainly feel yes.

Yes, after DOMA there is the sudden and shocking relief of real rights, real respect.  It’s as if  having been used to living in a cramped, dark, airless space- so familiar it didn’t even feel confining, the door was opened and your sense of dignity and self-worth, which you didn’t even realize had felt imprisoned and distorted, was set free. Because we didn’t know what we didn’t know: we had never received the automatic respect and recognition of our marriages and families that are afforded to all other married U.S. citizens, so we didn’t really understand on a cellular level what it felt like to have that respect withheld from us. We knew what homophobia felt like: what dislike, contempt, disrespect, discrimination, fear, anger, lack of security, anxiety for our children – we all knew what that felt like.

But we couldn’t really understand the inverse: the automatic sense of self, of comfort and safety that is afforded to you and your family when your government and your society recognize you. When it states with its full authority that you and your family are equal, that you are the same as every other American citizen. We just didn’t know what that joy and relief and self-respect would feel like.


Obscure Politics

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that-kind-of-liberal Rachel LavineObscure politics of State Committee members are little known to most people but do they count?  In a recent article published by The Villager , Rachel Lavine offered some good examples.  Here’s an excerpt, or click on the link to read the full article.

What does it mean to be the New York Democratic State Committeewoman for the 66th Assembly District, a long title for a political position whose duties are obscure to most voters? It entails two principal duties.

The first is voting for candidates for statewide office at the New York State Democratic Convention; this allows them to bypass the onerous (and expensive) process of collecting the required number of signatures of registered Democratic voters, county by county, throughout the state.

The second duty, equally dear to the hearts of policy wonks like myself, is the drafting, promulgating and passing of resolutions by the 360-member body of the Democratic State Committee. These resolutions help to shape the State Democratic Committee position on current political issues, as well as serve to educate and lobby Democrat leadership, on a range of current concerns, such as fracking.

As the State Committeewoman for the New York 66th A.D., I am fortunate in having a particularly important vote, because in the State Committee not all votes are created equal. Those of us who represent heavily Democratic districts such as ours have the “weight” of our vote correlated to the number of Democratic voters who cast ballots during the most recent gubernatorial election. Since our Assembly District has one of the state’s highest Democratic turnouts, I, thanks to my fellow voters, have one of the “heaviest” votes — equal to or greater in weight than the combined vote of some Upstate counties! Which means that when Democratic candidates for statewide office are seeking to obtain the required minimum of 25 percent of the total State Committee vote, they actively seek the votes of State Committee members such as myself.

I am particularly proud of my role as the major force in getting the State Committee to support, after many years of opposition, first domestic partnership, and then same-sex marriage, many years prior to Governor Cuomo’s historic advocacy of marriage equality and the passage of that important legislation.

My most recent political work has been in opposition to hydrofracking. I have twice drafted resolutions, which I put forward at two separate Democratic State Committee meetings, demanding that there be a ban on hydrofracking in New York. Both resolutions garnered substantial support from the State Committee membership, from both Upstate and Downstate. The first time the resolution was killed in the Executive Committee, based on a voice vote, despite calls for a roll-call vote. As a result, the second time I brought in members of the Sierra Club and of Upstate communities who have been adversely affected by fracking; they explained what the environmental consequences would be, and rebutted some of the economic arguments made about fracking — in particular, the argument that fracking is good for economically stagnant or depressed areas….read more at


Judge to FDA: Get the Pharmacy Off the Farm!

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Drug-free meat for all sounds like the punchline of some David Brooks’ joke about neurotic, upper-middle-class professionals.
And it’s true that such meat is often exorbitantly expensive and hard to access, except at whole paycheck-like grocery stores or a farmer’s market with an affluent customer-base.  But unfortunately, adding antibiotics to livestock feed – to promote rapid growth, as well as to counter-act inhumane and unsanitary farming conditions – is now common practice.  And that’s a threat to human health, because when we eat antibiotic-saturated meat, those drugs are far less effective when we really need them to treat, say, pneumonia or tuberculosis.
The FDA’s enforcement of current regulations restricting the use of such drugs in livestock feed has been tepid at best.  Instead it has looked to the meat industry to self-regulate, with predictable results.
A federal judge finally got fed up, and told the agency to stop expecting the foxes to guard the hen house.   Healthy food for all: it’s shocking that something so basic has been defined as something that is either a luxury or a radical demand.