Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dallas mayor's refusal to join other big-city leaders in signing marriage equality pledge sets off protest


The signing of the “Freedom to Marry” pledge by some 80 mayors attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ recent meeting in Washington, D.C, represents a powerful, almost astounding stride in the LGBT community’s march to equality.

Only one big-city mayor created a controversy by refusing to sign the pledge, and that unfortunately was Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who probably regrets the decision now. His decision not to sign the pledge – even though he later claimed he personally supports marriage equality – set off a bone-jolting controversy in Dallas as LGBT activists reacted to the news.

Dallas appears to be the first city where a mayor’s failure to sign the pledge set off a protest by LGBT residents.

Dallas’ Rawlings cancelled a planned appearance at a neighborhood meeting because of activists’ plans to demonstrate against him, and all of the city’s newspapers and television stations began covering the story. The Dallas Morning News, which is infamous for its conservative takes on many progressive measures, praised Rawlings for resisting pressure to sign the pledge.

As a result of Rawlings thwarting activists’ plans to confront him at the neighborhood meeting, GetEqual held a “Sign the Pledge” rally at City Hall.

Then a week later the same group scheduled a similar protest in Fort Worth because that city’s mayor,  Betty Price, also refused to sign the pledge. She also had signaled support of the LGBT community previously.

There was a time when LGBT activists would have given the mayor a pass on the marriage equality issue, but that has long since passed. In declining to sign the pledge, Rawlings used the excuse that he was practicing a policy of avoiding social issues unrelated to city government.

That excuse had previously worked for former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller when she chose not to address the issue of marriage equality. At the same time, she managed to achieve something close to sainthood in the eyes of Dallas’ LGBT community because of her support of a nondiscrimination ordinance addressing sexual orientation and gender identity passed in 2002.

When Miller first campaigned for mayor she and all of her opponents declared in a candidate’s forum that they opposed same-sex marriage, but they all declared support for the nondiscrimination ordinance. That apparently was enough at the time to gain the trust and support of LGBT activists, especially after it was learned she had a gay uncle and a lesbian stepsister she loved and supported.

Miller, who served as mayor from 2002 to 2007, later gave more support to the LGBT community’s pursuit of marriage equality by speaking out against the Texas Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage that voters approved in 2005. She also began supporting marriage equality during her speeches at Dallas’ glittering Black Tie Dinner.

Today, Miller says that she “supports gay marriage 100 percent,” and she adds that “it will be legal nationwide sooner than later. Young people today don’t give it a second thought and support it fully.”

As the mother of two daughters and one son, Miller knows her stuff.  She declined to comment on Rawlings’ decision not to sign the pledge, but it’s a pretty good bet that if Miller were in his shoes today she would have signed that pledge -- policy or no policy.

Rawlings made a terrible error in judgment when he refused to sign the pledge along with the mayors of other big cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Seattle, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Boston, San Diego, Portland, Denver and the list goes on and on. What’s worse, Rawlings’ fellow-Texas mayors of Austin, Houston and San Antonio signed the pledge.

If Rawlings had simply signed the pledge, it likely would have been reported by the Dallas media, there would have been a few stones thrown at him by conservative conscientious objectors and then it would have been forgotten. But now, it will continue to rage as a full-scale controversy for an undetermined amount of time.

At this point it seems like the best course of action for Rawlings to take would be to just sign the pledge, seeing as how he is already on record as supporting marriage equality. That action might stir up resentment among conservative constituents, but at least it would put Rawlings on the winning side of the debate.

The fact of the matter is that marriage equality will indeed one day be the law of the land, no matter how much that irks those who would prevent it if they could.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Famous little Texas gay bar closes, sparking final episode of 'As the Lake Churns'; charity shows to be missed



CEDAR CREEK LAKE, TEXAS – For 15 years Friends was the little gay bar that stood out proudly in the most unlikely of settings, but it came to a sad end just before Christmas.

Friends owner Leo Bartlett sent out a message on Facebook Dec. 20 saying he was closing the iconic gay bar, and he never unlocked the doors for business again. Situated in the middle of one of the most conservative areas of the state, the humble little private club had featured charity drag shows and raised many tens of thousands of dollars benefiting homeless animals, the elderly, the poor and HIV patients for years.

Known not only throughout Texas but literally around the world, Friends often saw visitors dropping from far away who had read or heard about the bar. Reporters for major mainstream U.S. newspapers like the Washington Post contacted the bar’s management for comments on LGBT issues. In 2007 Out Magazine named it one of the top 50 gay bars in the world, saying the atmosphere was the friendliest in the state, the fish tank was filled with well water and the drag queens’ hairdos tended to be big, much like they were.

In a clever complement to the drag shows a local theater group known as Friends Players put on variety shows that were well attended by the lake’s gay and straight community. The entire cast, including performers in full drag, traveled down the road to the American Legion Club a couple of times each year to put on performances for its members.

But now, the music, acting, dancing and laughing is just a memory for Bartlett, who opened the bar door late one afternoon this week to allow a few customers to retrieve several pieces of personal property. The walls that once were covered with pictures of bewigged drag queens wearing tiaras are now bare.

The bar’s closing and the chatter about it that followed could be viewed as the final episode of what Bartlett liked to call “As the Lake Churns” when he referred to the local LGBT community’s fondness of gossip and intrigue. The bar served as a stage not only for singing and dancing, but almost also daily emotional scenes that rivaled the most dramatic of afternoon television soap operas.

“It’s all over,” Bartlett said as he stood in the sunlight flowing through the open door into the dark bar. “I said my goodbyes on Facebook. It’s all there to read. I’ve thanked everyone. There’s really nothing else to say.”
Bartlett said sending out the Facebook message was painful for him, and he didn’t want to have one last party in the bar to mark its closing, although many former customers had hoped he would.

“It would just be a funeral for me,” said Bartlett, who noted the bar’s net revenue had been on the decline for about three years, just as it has with many other lake businesses. “I didn’t see any point in that. I’ve already said my goodbyes.”

Bartlett said economic conditions on the lake led to Friend’s closing, and he didn’t blame it on the competition from a new gay bar, Garlow’s, that opened nearby two years ago. He also disputed the popular opinion among some members of the lake’s LGBT community that there weren’t enough customers on the lake for two gay bars, and that the newer, more attractive Garlow’s had stolen his customers.

“There were enough customers,” Bartlett said. “There just wasn’t enough participation. If you talk to the owners of the straight bars, you will hear the same thing from them. Everybody is having trouble.”

The lake has a sizable full-time LGBT community made up of retirees, Dallas commuters, and natives, but many just don’t enjoy the bar scene. The gay and lesbian population increases greatly on weekends, holidays and during the summers when LGBT second-home owners are in residence, but many of them also prefer not to go out to the nightclubs.

This summer the drought that caused the lake to drop almost eight feet, leaving boat docks sitting in sand and beaches where water once stood, finished Friends off, Bartlett said. People avoided the lake, and that made all of the lake’s businesses suffer, resulting in several businesses shutting down in 2011, he said.

“It was time for me to close,” said Bartlett, who took on a featured role in the soap opera when he separated last year from his longtime life partner who had helped him run the bar. “It was 15 good years. That’s what is important.”

For many customers though, the closing has left a void, and some seem almost resentful about it. Many of Bartlett’s customers would not go to Garlow’s out of loyalty to Friends, but others who went to both bars are also disappointed. And some who didn’t go to Friends at all also expressed dismay.

Friends’ closing is a loss to the lake’s LGBT community, said Troy Luethe, who with his life partner, owns a bed and breakfast in nearby Ben Wheeler. The couple once participated in the Friends Players productions and visited it socially as well.

“I think it is sad,” Luethe said. “I never like to see a business fail, and it was part of the history of the area and held a lot of memories for me and others.”

For Jennie Morris, another former member of Friends Players, it is more personal. She also went there socially to meet with her friends.

“I feel like I lost a good friend, really, and one of my major connections to the community,” Morris said. “As a member of Friends Players it has left a pretty big hole there, too. Friends was my ‘Cheers,’ I guess,  a place where everybody knows your name. Friends was safe, comfortable, and like an old flannel shirt –just home.”

Several former customers of Friends declined to comment for the story, saying they had mixed emotions. Some people complained that Bartlett ran the bar too much like a nonprofit organization rather than a business, and blamed its closing on that.

Michael Slingerland, owner of Garlow’s said he was shocked when he first heard about Bartlett announcing the closing of Friends. Slingerland formerly worked part-time at Friends as a bartender before opening his own business, and it appears to be doing well.

“We’ve talked about it a lot here,” Slingerland said. “It’s really sad.”

Slingerland said he had always hoped for a cooperative effort between the two bars that would have helped both prosper, but that never happened.

“We could have helped each other out a lot,” said Slingerland, who had hoped for back and forth traffic between the two clubs.

Regardless of what factors led to the closing of Friends, it is now a reality that the bar is gone for good. Bartlett said that he has no plans to return to his native Arkansas, and that he is exploring options for his continued life in Texas.

“I’m thinking about a number of things,” said Bartlett, who acknowledged he had been a “hermit” since he announced the closing.

In the meantime Bartlett has listed the nightclub building for sale or lease with a gay Cedar Creek Lake real estate agent. The ad might run something like this: “Little private club with an unusually intriguing past available for new operator and members.”

Friday, January 20, 2012

Texas Gov. 'Oops' Perry heads home with $3 million presidential campaign trail security bill for taxpayers to foot



After months of holding their breaths in dread of what Rick Perry might do or say next on the national stage, Texans are now witnessing the ignominious return of their governor to the state.

And LGBT residents nationwide are breathing a sigh of relief to see Perry and his anti-gay rhetoric depart from the national debate. As one gay man put it in a comment posted on an LGBT newspaper Website, “Please don’t send any more of your governors to be president.”

Everyone knew Perry would eventually be on his way back, but clarity suddenly and inexplicably came to the befuddled candidate earlier than expected. Just two days before the South Carolina primary Perry announced in a press conference he was finally giving up his fruitless bid for the presidency. “There is no viable path forward for me in the 2012 campaign,” he said to a national audience that undoubtedly chanted back to the television screen, “It’s about time.”

When "Oops" Perry gets back to the $10,000-per-month rented house afforded him by state taxpayers, he will be regarded by most Texans in a vastly different light from when he left after announcing his presidential political ambitions in August. Once the pride and joy of conservative Texans, Perry’s rating among Texans as a presidential favorite dropped from 49 percent in Texas to a dumbfounding 18 percent, according to Public Policy Polling, a Democratic group that polled 559 Texas Republican primary voters Jan. 12-15.

The same poll results suggest that for once Republicans and Democrats agree strongly on something – Perry has fractured the state’s image with a multitude of missteps and misstatements that often bordered on the surreal. Of Republican voters 39 percent view Perry’s candidacy as having cast the state in a negative light, in comparison to 13 percent that viewed it as a positive, according to the poll.

In contrast Texas Congressman Ron Paul, whose Libertarian philosophy led to his being pegged as a “fringe” candidate by the media, fared much better than Perry. Only 28 percent of Republican voters thought his candidacy hurt the state’s image, while 19 percent thought it was an enhancement.

No one will ever forget Perry declaring, "Oops," when he failed during a debate to remember the name of one of the three federal agencies he planned to eliminate if he was elected president. It was just the start of many blunders, including him not knowing the legal age, 18,  for a person to first vote in an election.

As a practical matter, the poll results only confirmed what had already became obvious to many people who were accustomed to hearing strong support for Perry during casual political debates. The most ardent of former Perry supporters apparently were too embarrassed to speak up for him anymore. Many people clearly were wondering how Perry’s inability to think and talk at the same time had gone undetected for so long before God told him to run for president.

Even prominent gay Dallas Republican Rob Schlein -- who vowed early on he would vote for Perry if he was the Republican nominee for president regardless of the governor’s legendary anti-gay rhetoric – took to bashing Perry on Facebook because of the candidate’s poor performance. The loss of support by Schlein – who recently vowed he would vote for ultra-conservative Republican Rick Santorum if he became the nominee – illustrated just how far Perry’s political fortunes had sunk.

To make the situation even more annoying, Perry’s candidacy has cost Texas taxpayers quite a bit of money for his protection while on the campaign trail. Security costs for Perry incurred by the Texas Department of Public Safety amounted to about $400,000 per month, according to a Texas Tribune examination of the agency’s records.

The financial analysis would suggest that Perry’s decision to continue on with his presidential campaign after coming in fifth-place in the Iowa caucus cost Texans another needless several hundred thousand dollars in security costs. His resolve to proceed in New Hampshire and South Carolina after strongly hinting following the Iowa thrashing that he was about to give up and head home left many Texans bewildered and ultimately responsible for an estimated $3 million in expenses for his security.

In Perry’s campaign speeches he pointed toward the South Carolina primary as the deal breaker for him if he could not get the state’s conservative religious voters behind him. Presumably it finally dawned on Perry that he was in store for another humiliating failure, seeing as how he was in last place in the polls with only about 6 percent of voters supporting him and the conservative religious establishment decided in a meeting in Texas recently to throw its support behind Santorum.

In making the announcement he would drop out of the race and that he would endorse Newt Gingrich, Perry said, “I know when it is time to make a strategic retreat.” That was a statement that many will likely view as humorous, given the governor’s apparent long delay in coming to that realization.

In fairness to the governor, it’s no doubt a difficult task for a political candidate who has never before lost an election to return home in disgrace. It doesn’t help matters much that while Perry was on the campaign trail a former gay Texas legislator, Glen Maxey, published a book with anonymous sources claiming the governor is a closeted hypocrite who engaged in a past secret homosexual life. The governor’s campaign denounced the book as a pack of lies, but the publication of a book expanding on the rumors that have plagued him for six years must at the very least be frustrating – even if they possibly did happen to be true.

It was somewhat ironic that Perry, who has long fought rumors that he cheated on his wife with both men and women, would choose to endorse his good friend Gingrich on the very day the second Mrs. Gingrich would go on national television to claim the former speaker of the house had asked her for an open marriage when he was dating the third Mrs. Gingrich, who is now his wife.

As the longest-serving governor in Texas history with 11 years under his cowboy buckle belt, Perry destroyed his reputation as a strong governor on the presidential campaign trail. He went from double-digit frontrunner status ahead of Mitt Romney -- the likely nominee barring a new surge by one of the other three candidates in the up-and-down race -- to last place.

Ever the optimist, Perry declared with his wife and son by his side that he wasn’t disenchanted and he wasn’t discouraged to be packing up and heading home. He declared that he felt rewarded for having followed the “calling” to run for president. “And this I know, I’m not done fighting for the cause of conservatism,” Perry said. “As a matter of fact, I have just begun to fight.”

It appeared that at the end of the announcement Perry was again drifting off into that mindset that got him into the race in the first place. It was unclear where Perry planned to wage that fight now that his campaign is over, but he assured viewers, “Things are going to be good no matter what I do.”

Maybe he was referring to the luxury in which he and wife Anita undoubtedly will be living for the rest of their lives because it’s not likely to be a continuation of his successful political career.  Or maybe he is hoping for some sort of political appointment or an opportunity from the business leaders he has courted as governor.

One thing is for sure, the “God and Country,” Bible-thumping proclamations that kept winning Perry re-elections to the governor’s office failed him on the national stage for president, and it’s a pretty good bet that it will never again serve him quite as well in Texas politics. And it’s a good thing for the governor that he became wealthy as a career office-holder because his political eulogy is now being drafted by pundits nationwide.

Monday, January 16, 2012

2012 Presidential Election could be best-smelling ever for LGBT Republicans; Romney pledges support in debate



The results of the New Hampshire primary must seem like political nirvana for LGBT Republicans who have held their noses while pulling voting machine levers during past presidential elections.

The presidential candidates who in recent weeks and during the televised weekend debates expressed the most tolerant views toward LGBT issues came out on top in the primary, and the ones who didn’t wound up in last places. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whose  anti-gay messages border on the absurd, finished dead last with less than 1 percent of the vote -- just where many gay and straight Republicans  and Democrats think he belongs in an enlightened society.

It’s doubtful that many voters chose former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as the frontrunner because he said in the debates he would champion LGBT rights -- with the exception of marriage equality.  But it is possible New Hampshire voters sent a message that they are tired of candidates pandering to conservative extremists who can’t think beyond antiquated religious teachings while the country’s economy collapses around them.

Incredibly, while Romney vowed he would never discriminate against LGBT people or “suggest they don’t have full rights in this country,” and that they should have the right to form long-term committed relationships in some form, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, and Perry couldn’t resist the opportunity to throw scraps to their conservative religious bases.

The three outspoken anti-gay candidates finished fourth, fifth and sixth respectively, if not as a result of their bigotry then perhaps as just desserts for it.

In a similar vein as Romney, Congressman Ron Paul and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman made statements indicating tolerance and support. Paul said he objected to the use of the term “gay rights” by candidates on the stage, saying it leads to divisiveness and punishment of LGBT people who are entitled to individual liberty along with everyone else. Huntsman said he supported civil unions, and he also accused most of the other candidates of all “having something nasty to say” about LGBT people.

In his response to the moderator’s question about  what gay people who want to form long-term relations should do, Gingrich said he advocated allowing contact that is “intimately human between friends,” such as hospital visits. Then he accused LGBT people who want to get married of trying to make straight people “miserable.”

Similarly, Santorum condemned same-sex marriage and adoptions by gay parents while making some conciliatory statements about “respect and dignity” for all people. When asked what he would do if one of his sons told him he was gay, Santorum said he would tell him that he still loved him. But that statement left some LGBT viewers wondering if in such as case the son would soon find himself shipped off to a homosexual rehabilitation treatment center.

Gingrich, who has a lesbian sister who won’t support him politically, later asked for the floor during the debate to accuse the media moderators of asking the questions about marriage equality because they are biased in favor of LGBT rights and against Christian religious institutions.

But as usual it was Perry out of the six candidates who made the biggest ass of himself by claiming President Barrack Obama’s decision not to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act in court as a “war against religion” that would stop if he was elected president. Perry who has long fought rumors that he has engaged in secret homosexual activity and has seemingly gone out of his way to offend LGBT Texans during his tenure as governor, had no other comment on the subject.

Of course, not everyone in the LGBT community reacted favorably to Romney’s comments about LGBT rights because they did seem contradictory. Although Romney said he would stand up for LGBT rights, it’s hardly full rights if one of the most valuable – the right to marriage and its legal protections -- is being withheld.

None of the Republican candidates support LGBT issues as fervently as gay and lesbian activists would like to see, but last weekend’s debates marked yet another milestone in the American Gay Rights Movement. During both days of the presidential debate LGBT rights were discussed for a total of 13 minutes in more favorable terms than anyone might have been expected. With the exception of Perry, all of the candidates apparently tried to sound at the very least humane.

In the Republican candidates’ defense, it must be noted that even President Obama, who has done more in the area of LGBT rights advancement than any other American presidents, still does not support marriage equality. That could come, but it hasn’t yet.

 In fact, to win the 2011 Election with the full support of the nation’s LGBT voters it may be necessary for President Obama to take an affirmative stand on marriage equality, given Republican frontrunner Romney’s remarks in New Hampshire.

Now, all of the Republican candidates are headed for South Carolina for that state’s primary on Jan. 21, and it will be interesting to hear what gets said about LGBT rights in the conservative state. Perry is already there blathering away, but barring a miracle happening for him he will be headed home to Texas for good the day after the primary at the very latest.

Romney on the other hand, having won in both Iowa and New Hampshire, appears destined to a run for president on the Republican ticket this year if he continues his winning streak in South Carolina.

So far, the race for the Republican presidential nomination has made for some of the most interesting political theater in modern times and in no small part because of the recent focus on LGBT issues. The prospect of the ensuing debates between the Republican nominee and President Obama promise to make this one of the most exciting political years ever for the LGBT community and its many straight friends.

It’s a good bet the LGBT-voter turnout could be the biggest ever seen.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Reluctant champions in landmark Supreme Court case overturning sodomy law lived, died in obscurity



Deceased Houston residents John Lawrence and Tyron Garner couldn’t possibly have realized 13 years ago that one of the most mortifying events of their lives would wind up changing the course of history for a society of people.

The two gay men, who arguably were the unlikeliest pair of gay advocates to ever play high-profile roles in the U.S. LGBT rights movement, turned out to be the catalysts for striking down centuries of oppressive American law and establishing homosexual relations as a basic civil right. Prior to the filing of a landmark LGBT rights lawsuit on their behalf, the men had no involvement with gay rights organizations.

In June 2003 the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the 1973 Texas Homosexual Conduct Law in its review of Lawrence v. Texas, effectively striking down the 14 remaining state anti-sodomy laws that prohibited sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex. In doing so the high court reversed its 1986 decision in Bowers v. Hardwick upholding Georgia’s anti-sodomy law.

In rendering the decision the justices wrote that gay men and lesbians were entitled to privacy, and that states had no right to restrict their personal sexual lives, a startling contrast from the ruling in the Georgia law that maintained there was no fundamental right to homosexual relations.

Even Justice Antonin Scalia, a dissenting voice in the court’s 6 to 3 vote, acknowledged that the Lawrence decision by the high court supported a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

It was a remarkable turn of events sparked by unremarkable men who apparently had never entertained any ideas of gay activism prior to their arrest in Lawrence’s Houston-area apartment in 1998 when a sheriff’s deputy entered the apartment to investigate a false crime report. The deputy claimed he saw the pair engaged in a sex act rather than the disturbance that was reported, and he arrested them on deviant sex charges.

Despite the horror of being humiliated, arrested, taken out of the apartment virtually undressed and jailed, the case had a relatively quick initial disposition. Lawrence and Garner paid fines of $125 and court costs of $141.25 for the Class C Misdemeanors while pleading no contest. Robert R. Eubanks, the also now-deceased boyfriend of Lawrence who in a fit of jealously called 911 with the false crime report, spent two weeks in jail as punishment for his part in the fiasco.

It was there the story could have taken a much different turn than it did, but Lawrence and Garner ultimately decided on a course of action that the arresting law enforcement authorities probably never dreamed might occur. The two gay men resisted the oppression by following the advice of Lambda Legal Defense Fund attorneys who wanted to wage a legal battle against the antiquated, discriminatory law, which was rarely enforced.

At that point Lawrence and Garner became to the LGBT community what Rosa Parks represented to the nation’s African-American community in 1955 in Montgomery, AL, when she refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. Her civil disobedience against the city regulation sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and it became a major symbolic force in propelling the civil rights movement forward.

The success of the Lawrence case had a similar impact on the nation’s LGBT community, and the gains have been monumental during the past eight years.

Although Parks was active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People as secretary at the time, she was just a seamstress in a local department store. She lost her job over the incident and eventually moved to Detroit to find similar work.

It would be years later before Parks was honored for her bravery and became known as the “first lady of the civil rights movement” and the “mother of the freedom movement.” Parks lived another 50 years and received many honors during that time.

The parallel between Lawrence, a white man, and Garner, a black man, and Parks is their insignificant socio-economic status and ordinariness at the times they made decisions that would have such far-reaching effects upon their communities.

Lawrence, who was 68 when he died on Nov. 20, 2011, was a medical technologist until his retirement in 2009. His death from a heart condition apparently went unnoticed for at least a month by the media, legal advocates and the LGBT community until his Houston lawyer Michael Kitrane reportedly tried to invite him to a commemorative event for the court ruling.

Garner, who was 39 when he died Sept. 11, 2006 of meningitis, was unemployed at the time of the arrest in 1998. He had worked at a number of different types of jobs, and he had a criminal record that included two convictions for assault in 1995 and 2000.

Both Lawrence and Garner were “quiet, passive” men who preferred to avoid public scrutiny, according to their Houston attorney. Lawrence reportedly was intimidated because he was still closeted to so many, but his outrage over being taken to jail in his underwear motivated him to push forward as one of the faces of the legal challenge.

The pair, who had been occasional sex partners but never lovers, lived out their lives separately. Lawrence lived with a partner at the time of this death, and Garner was being cared for by his brother when he died.
Eubanks, who introduced Lawrence and Garner to each other and put everything in motion by making the false 911 call, was beaten to death in 2000. The case was never solved.

It probably was more by design on the part of Lawrence and Garner that their contributions to the LGBT rights movement have largely gone uncelebrated during the past 8 years, but it might be a good time to pay them more respect.

After all, they could just have easily just paid the fines and walked back into the obscurity of their lives rather than stepping into the glare of public scrutiny and the pages of history. If that had happened we might still be where we were when they were first arrested.