The First Floor Is On Fire

But that's ok, because the second floor is flooded.

Mike Russell

Mike Russell
Portland, Maine, USA
July 16
baby vegetable murderer
The Yoko Ono Scream Catchers
I grew up in the country in Arkansas, spent 12 years in Philly, was widowed at 30, taught five years in a rough inner city high school in Philly, then moved to Maine in 2007 to be with my hubby. At this rate, we'll be living at the North Pole when we're 60. Being with my hubby Jason is the best thing that ever happened to me. I believe I've created a powerful novel and want to show it to the world. It's available on Kindle:


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NOVEMBER 4, 2009 1:59PM

Second-Class Citizens Loving and Fighting in Portland, Maine

Rate: 13 Flag

Hey all, I'm taking a temporary detour from blogging my novel.  A couple hours ago, I was sitting on the steps of Portland, Maine's City Hall, watching a press conference in response to the voters of Maine deciding against equality for all.  Alas, the microphones did not work, and we had to strain to hear the speakers, especially with late-morning traffic buzzing behind us.  But everyone behind the podium was nevertheless powerful and eloquent, refusing to give up hope.

 A lot of us were crying and hugging, but we will keep fighting.  We lost, but with smaller margins than with the anti-gay votes of 2004.  We are on the right side of history, and future generations will be as embarrassed for our time as we are now when thinking about past laws forbidding interracial marriage or women voting.

We feel a lot of anger but will not let it turn to bitterness.  While it is difficult not to burn with anger towards about half of my fellow Mainers for their ignorance, I will not turn away from them, but hope to keep talking and sharing with them until years from now, after my hubby Jason and I have gotten married, they will pretend they never opposed us in 2009. 

During the press conference, there was a solitary couple holding an anti-marriage sign gloating that the voters had spoken.  They reminded me of Nelson Muntz on The Simpsons pointing and exclaiming, "Ha ha!"  Both of them were making hateful remarks about us.  A group of No on 1 supporters, some of them still crying, locked arms and encircled the protestors with their backs turned to them.  That I approved of.  One supporter tried to cover up the hateful sign with her coat.  That I did not approve of, because as poisonous as the message is, censoring it is not the answer. 

 Fortunately, the coat soon came down, and the heterosexists were able to keep holding up their sign.  A local religious leader argued against them with brilliant restraint and class, explaining that Unitarians and many other churches are with us in our struggle.

 Afterward, I went to the farmer's market on Monument Square, and I talked about this week's events with several perfect strangers, all wonderful people who offered hugs and support and the hope that we will change things for the better in the near future.

To quote Yoko Ono, who knows something about being hated and demonized for no reason, "Have courage.  Have rage.  We're rising.  There's no confusion.  We're all together."


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Nicely said, Mike. Having lived through the pain and sadness and anger over Prop 8, we really admire your grace and restraint. This time last year, we spent many days in a kind of silent shock, sleepless and tearful. After about a week, a very powerful anger set in. As we stood against our opponents at rallies, it became harder and harder to hold on to the dignity that is necessary to win this fight... We hope you'll hold tight to these ideals. (You can always rant and rave with your honey behind closed doors. ;)

We're heading to a rally in San Francisco tonight to voice our upset over the decision in Maine. We're with you in spirit. xo
Thank you very much.

I'm slow to anger, so my harsher side might surface in a few days. I'm so sorry about what you went through last year, though I'm happy you got to be married first.

Ranting and raving behind closed doors sounds like good advice. I'll try not to hurt my honey's ears, though.

Thank you for the rally. Love to you both. xo
Rated, and I truly feel your pain. My spouse and I traveled to my home state of CT to get married, and it was a wondrous thing, but then we had to come back to our home in MD and be officially unmarried again (except when we're in nearby DC, which recognizes gay marriages from other states). Head-spinning stuff. Don't give up. We'll get there.
I am sorry you choose to feel like a second class citizen. You have decided to attempt the monumental task of redefining a social construct. This is the source of your frustration. You are not a second class citizen. You are a victim of your own "desires". Pun intended.

Your desire to call your relationship with a person of the same sex "marriage" challenges what many/most believe are the foundations of our society. You do not have to agree. But when the laws of a land have been so defined and the matter is so important to the moral/social fabric of the majority of those people, setbacks and failures will abound. Only when that moral/social fabric have changed will those laws change.

The people have spoken. Twenty-nine states have a constitutional ban restricting marriage to one man and one woman.
Those states are: * Alabama * Alaska * Arizona * Arkansas
* California (with the passage of Prop 8) * Colorado * Florida
* Georgia * Kansas * Kentucky * Idaho * Louisiana * Michigan
* Mississippi * Missouri * Montana * Nebraska * Nevada
* North Dakota * Ohio * Oklahoma * Oregon * South Carolina
* South Dakota * Tennessee * Texas * Utah * Virginia
* Wisconsin
The following states have laws that ban gay marriage and limit marriage to one man and one woman (but it is not in their constitutions): * Arizona * California * Connecticut * Delaware
* Florida * Hawaii * Illinois * Indiana * Iowa * Maine
* Maryland * Minnesota * New Hampshire * North Carolina
* Pennsylvania * Vermont * Washington * West Virginia
* Wyoming

There are 5 states where gay marriage has been made legal. None of those 5 states did this by a vote, but by either a court order, or by a state legislature. The peoples wills where thwarted and abused in those states.

Maine has now joined 30 other states. When the issue has been placed on a ballot, it is abundantly clear beyond all doubt that the vast and overwhelming majority of Americans believe that marriage should be defined as between one man and one woman.

For the sake of your cause, hope that it doesn't get put on a ballot in those other 5 states or it will likely be reversed. It looks like the only way this will ever be legal in the U.S. is by force and coercion. It is obvious that a vote is unlikely to accomplish your goal.

There are many laws in our country in which many Americans believe are unjust, unfair and inhumane. To call ourselves Americans, we submit to them and obey them. We use the power of the vote to change them. I find it unusual that in this particular case, the gay community supports fighting the uphill battle knowing full well that it is an "in your face" win to the vast, vast majority of Americans.

As a strong believer in democratic principle, and someone who believes that the people should have the power to define their own society, I believe that to somehow allow a very small minority of people to redefine marriage for everyone would be a miscarriage of democratic justice. Peace
Philos, would you have used the same argument in 1967 when the Supreme Court overturned laws against interracial marriage? At the time, a large majority wanted such relationships to remain illegal.

The majority should not have veto power over the rights of the minority. There's a reason for the phrase "the tyranny of the majority," and yesterday's vote was a clear example.

As for "in your face," millions of our fellow Americans regard the simple fact of our existence as being in their face. There's nothing we can do that would ever placate them.
My dyslexia was in full force when I read your title, and I thought, come on the Mariners are bad, but they aren't that bad.. okay they are..
But after I read the post :p
Really nicely written. :D
Haha, thanks, Teresa. I misread words like that sometimes, too. It's especially fun when my misreading accidentally improves the intended meaning.
Thank you Mike. :) We passed R-71 yesterday in Washington, and now we are onto full marriage rights.. there is some progress being made, it is just really slow. But my husband and children and I support full rights 100%! We will always fight with you. And we all vote...
You're welcome, Teresa, and thanks again. The world needs more people like you, LizG and JustMarriedUs. :)

And thank you, too, LizG, for your post.
I am sorry. Like Teresa, I voted for Referendum 71 here in Washington state. It's a step in the right direction, one short of full marriage rights. I believe that it is passing, though not all the votes are counted quite yet.

It's beginning to look like some incremental approach is what the meanies need to see that fire and brimstone won't consume them if they allow civil rights for all.
Mike writes: "Philos, would you have used the same argument in 1967 when the Supreme Court overturned laws against interracial marriage? At the time, a large majority wanted such relationships to remain illegal."

The difference is that the anti-miscegenation laws were part of an entire web of laws and practices designed to prevent black from having any significant participation in society. These issues included being able to register to vote, the right to vote, the right to travel, to have a jury of one's peers, to employment, to have have housing, to have an adequate education, etc., etc. In many cases blacks were even unable to vote or to organize in order to "petition for a redress of grievances."

The situation could hardly be more different today for gays. They are perfectly capable of organizing and campaigning for same-sex marriage. Thus far they have been unsuccessful in winning the popular vote, but some of the elections have been close.

I personally do not favor same-sex marriage, but if the people of a state voted for it I would have no basis for complaint. That's how democracy works, and my guess is that as the older generation dies off it's eventually going to go your way in the next 20 years.
Maine native, Portland resident, high school teacher weighing in here. Ashamed of 53% of my home state today. Kids at school were crying. My only consolation is that those same kids will remember today and work for a better outcome in the future.
With you all the way. Why do these measures get voted on in elections which have the least turn out and the median age of people voting is "old"? The youth of today are growing up differently and will indeed change the world. It is not enough to say that one believes in heterosexual marriage if one is fully aware that homosexuality is not a matter of choice, It is not enough to say that one will wait till the measure passes by vote to become the norm. How many generations must die never knowing the entire potential of what "man" can be in terms of gay rights. 20 years is a long long time. A very very long time. Shame!
Mishima, nowhere did I say that we suffer as much as African-Americans did under Jim Crow (apart from AA LGBTs, who are too often left out of any discussion). I don't believe in a circular firing squad Oppression Olympics, because all minority groups have a common enemy, and we should help each other more than we have. For example, African-Americans and Native Americans arguing over who suffered more would only benefit white racists, not themselves.

I compared race-based marriage laws with gender-based marriage laws to point out that if civil rights had been put up to a vote in the 60s, they would have lost. No more, no less.
Thanks to everyone else who sent a supportive message. It's wonderful that adversity can help us reach out to each other.
We should all be equal under the law. Any other choice is the wrong choice.

I for one cannot wait until we can look back and see this dismal period of time gone. I agree that, as the older generation passes away, this too shall pass. I'm sorry that you have to go through this.
Mike, I don’t want to be sorry I engaged you. Forgive me. Sometime when people who disagree, voice their views, the communication breaks down. I hope this comment to your post doesn’t get misinterpreted. I will fight for your right to engage in any peaceful behavior you choose to with another consenting adult.

I want you to know that I am one of those "ignorant" people who comprise the vast majority. Us “ignorant” people understand the current science that is homosexual behavior, unlike race, is chosen. There is no valid widespread science that proves otherwise.

The struggle you chose to compare yours with is not a very fair or appropriate example.

The civil rights movement was within a relatively short period in world history. It happened over a period of +-350 years in a small portion of the world. America was a small sparsely populated country. It wasn't world wide and the whole world didn't agree with America. The brits had outlawed slavery in the late 18th century. So "enlightenment" was a world trend. Slavery was marked with brutality and severe oppression.

Your situation and the conditions whereby you are "persecuted" are so slight in comparison; you should rethink your argument. The relatively few examples of violence towards gays are fewer and fewer. The rights you enjoy and tolerance towards what most Americans still think is abhorrent behavior is mainstream. Very few people reject your right to engage in homosexual behavior. It's the constant drone of acceptance into that same mainstream that is becoming more and more of a threat.

Cutivate all of the affections you want for whomever you want, but please try to understand what you are asking for. To try to make the world accept the premise that your affections are out of your control is unacceptable to most people.

To compare what you are trying to accomplish, changing the moral foundation of the majority of the world, to the struggle of African Americans is unfair and misleading. To allow the homosexual community to redefine marriage for the rest of the country is not right.
I will support you on the other sides of world.Give more naked hugs and kiss to my big brother.
I have total admiration and respect for your wisdom in knowing how to be angry without becoming bitter. It is the only way to have a chance at getting people to listen to you. I loved the movie "Milk" (saw it several times) and Harvey Milk was a stellar and stunning example of how to reach to people's hearts, and that was through the personal stories of the people they loved. “More people have been slaughtered in the name of religion than for any other single reason. That, my friends, that is true perversion.”
Harvey Milk
Thanks for your bravely written and incredibly thoughtful post. You are on the right side of history.

Yesterday was a dark day for all citizens. Enticing folks to believe that denying equal rights to some citizens is somehow defending the greater good is a seductive method of corralling them into a position to have their own rights stripped away one day using the same justification.

“We feel a lot of anger but will not let it turn to bitterness.”

That statement reveals the kind grace that some - even religious folks - merely profess. I admire that you embrace it fully as is evident in your words.

Rated and appreociated.
Thank you, Dennis, Mary and Odette, for your eloquent and sweet words of support. All of you brightened my day.

I'm glad that this post has gotten so much attention, but I'm wondering if I should take it as a hint that far fewer people have looked at the novel I've been blogging here. A few friends have told me that it begins too harshly. If anyone here has seen my other posts, please tell me what you think.
Many many heteros and families (like mine!) are with you. Small wonder, considering where I live, but my dots would be civil rights activists even if we lived in the midwest.

Change is hard, and slow, but it's coming.

- Con
It's sad how much unnecessary hate there is in this world. I like Yoko's words: have courage!
Mike, well written!

To Philos777:

You know, you come off as a deeply closeted, self-hating gay man. You should really try to come to accept yourself. You are just fine the way you are. You'll be much happier for it, too, and so will the people around you. It takes a lot of time and energy to be that ignorant, so just imagine what you could do with the reapplication of all those resources. The places you could go!
Thank you, Diable4.

And belated thanks to Karin and Connie.
Just have to say LOL for the "oppression olympics" comment. Good one.

The rest of the objectors really aren't worth bothering with. Despite the rhetoric, they ARE the minority and their numbers are shrinking daily, hourly, minute by minute