Gays applaud Supreme Court ruling

It’s been three months since two landmark decisions turned the gay and lesbian communities upside down.

About enough time to let it sink in.

In June, the United States Supreme Court quashed state laws banning homosexual behavior; and Canada OK’d gay marriage.

In the U.S., Vermont has also OK’d gay marriage.

What was long thought a minority “problem” suddenly seemed on-track to the mainstream.

Gays, lesbians, transgendered, bisexuals and other sexual minorities have long complained of the inequity between their relationships and typical marriages between a man and a woman. Inequities in taxes and health insurance coverage, mainly. Plus the ever present disapproval of gay couples by many of an overwhelmingly non-gay majority.

“Part of our mission statement is that sexual orientation does not justify discrimination,” said Leif Bentsen, executive director of the Kitsap County Council on Human Rights. He said recent decisions on the Supreme Court and in Canada are big steps in the right direction. Bentsen, who is not gay, said the council has suffered from a lack of gay and lesbian representation lately.

Members of PFLAG, an acronym that stands for “Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays,” but which has been broadened to include transgendered, transvestites, bisexuals and other sexual variations, were overjoyed.

“We started the (local) PFLAG chapter 10 years ago,” said Elaine Woodland, interim co-chair with husband Art. “We’re trying to work ourselves out of a job,” she said. “Nothing would make us happier than to have (sexual minorities) fully accepted and given all the rights the rest of us have.”

The gay community in Kitsap is large and well organized. Many have come “out” through OUTKITSAP. But others are still reluctant. A number of gays are beaten or killed each year around the country.

The Rev. J. Henry and wife Sherry Pangborn were former co-chairs of PFLAG until their recent retirement. The reverend was a chaplain in the Navy. The couple have a gay son.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” said Sherry Pangborn. “It’s a process of taking one step at a time. Then there’s always a backlash ... I just hope people remember we all deserve the same civil rights.”

At a recent “Gay Bingo” night, hosted monthly by OUTKITSAP and St. Paul’s Church, there was a large turnout who were invited to be interviewed for this article. Newspaper business cards were distributed.

Only one person responded.

Logan Chrysler, 40, of Seabeck, spoke his mind in a later phone call:

“I feel (the Supreme Court’s decision) was an honorable move. And I feel Canada has entered the 21st Century.”

Although he added that he watches Canadian news regularly, having been born there, and has discovered Canadian citizens are still split on the issue.

In general, “younger (gays and lesbians), 16 to 24, are in favor of being able to marry,” he said. “Older gays may not be as concerned.”

But “Things are changing for the good,” he said. “We’ve got to stop treating (gays) as second-class citizens ... I’m happy my country has become a little more modern.”

Chrysler works as a test driver in Portland. He’s in the first six months of what he hopes will be a permanent relationship.

“We’re taking it day by day.”

He moved here from San Diego in 2001. When he was asked about Vermont, he said, “I’m thinking of buying property in that state.”

He was born and raised Canadian, with a Cree father and black mother.

When asked about his friends at Gay Bingo, he said “They’re open in certain areas ... but many don’t want to rock the boat — might endanger their jobs.”

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