Spilled Milk: Evolving Door
This post is the eighth in a series ofÂ Spilled MilkÂ columns by Emmy Award-winning writer and producerÂ William Lucas WalkerÂ that chronicle his journey through parenthood.Â Spilled Milk,Â which originates inÂ The Huffington Post, appears on these pages every Saturday.
This post was originally published on June 15, 2012.
Sunday is Father’s Day, which this year happens to fall (delightfully) on my fourth wedding anniversary. Which got me thinking:
You know how you can watch a movie, then forget everything about it except for one scene that somehow sticks in your head for decades after? There’s a special archive in my brain for scenes like that, wedged between Favorite Smells and Humiliations at Costco.
One movie scene that’s lodged permanently in my “Best Of” archive is from a forgotten black-and-white picture shot in the forties. All I remember is a glamorous couple (like Cary Grant and Jean Arthur, but not) celebrating someÂ huge piece of good news by tossing back their heads in laughter and toasting each other with martinis. Then digging into a couple of juicy, thick, perfectly-lit ribeye steaks.
I remember thinking, “One day, when I have something monumental to celebrate,Â that’sÂ how I’m going to do it.” Which is why, about a month ago, I felt the compelling urge to take my young children out for martinis.
I found myself experiencing the kind of spontaneous, up-from-your-toesÂ needÂ to celebrate that follows giddy, unexpected, life-changing news: You’re pregnant. You’ve beat cancer. You’ve won the Super Bowl or a Tony Award for best orchestrations.
President Obama had just appeared on television, unexpectedly and in the middle of the day. Oh Lord, I thought, bracing myself for a bad-news lockdown. What’s going on? Are we declaring war again? Then a bleaker thought crossed my mind and I braced myself for the worst: he’s divorcing Michelle.
But it was good news, huge news, completely unexpected and deeply personal: After years of hedging (Obama called it evolving), he was finally coming out and saying that he believes my family has a legal right to exist. That Kelly and I have a right to be married, like every other parent in America who hasn’t already divorced. Most astonishingly, our president said this in the middle of a contentious election year.
Brave? Undeniably. Foolish? Possibly. Leadership? Yes.
Obama’s long, circular journey to endorsing gay marriage (or as I like to call it, marriage) reminded me of another classic movie moment, the familiar scene that seems mandatory for half the films set in New York City: a character gets stuck in a revolving door, spinning dizzily around and around until he’s finally spat out onto the sidewalk, gasping for air.
Like the hapless hero of those movies, our president had been stuck for nearly four years in his own evolving door, politically trapped in its endless spin. Until the fine, sunny day last month when his conscience finally spat him out onto the sidewalk of the 21st century.
InÂ explainingÂ his decision to Robin Roberts of ABC News, Obama cited dinner conversations with his young daughters:
You know, Malia and Sasha, they’ve got friends whose parents are same-sex couples. And I — you know, there have been times where Michelle and I have been sittin’ around the dinner table. And we’ve been talkin’ and — about their friends and their parents. And Malia and Sasha would — it wouldn’t dawn on them that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated differently. It doesn’t make sense to them. And — and frankly — that’s the kind of thing that prompts — a change of perspective. You know, not wanting to somehow explain to your child why somebody should be treated — differently, when it comes to — the eyes of the law.
As I watched, my neck began to throb from emotional whiplash. As Obama was making his announcement on my TV, still sitting on the coffee table in front of me was that morning’s paper, its headline blaring that North Carolinians had overwhelmingly voted that my husband and I would forever be marital outlaws in their state, despite being legally married in our own.
It wasn’t just same-sex marriage they were outlawing. No, the Tar Heels went to great lengths on election day to erase families like mine from any sort of legal recognition or protection in North Carolina by adding these words to their state constitution:Â “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized,”Â banning in one fell swoop not only marriage, but civil unions and domestic partnerships too. They might as well have posted a sign outside the official North Carolina State Treehouse: No Homos Allowed. We. Don’t. Like. You.
On the Sunday after Obama made his historic announcement, a North Carolina minister named Charles Worley decried it,Â preaching thisÂ in his Sunday sermon:
I figured a way out. A way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers. Build a great big large fence. Fifty or a hundred miles long. Put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and homosexuals. And have that fence electrified ’til they can’t get out. Feed ’em. And you know what? In a few years, they’ll die out….
There were lots of amens and hallelujahs.
As a parent, I wondered: When I’m saying prayers with my kids before they go to bed tonight, how am I going to explain that a minister of God who lives just a couple of hours from their grandparents’ house thinks we should all be dropped into a concentration camp and trapped behind an electric fence until we “die out”?
Answer: I’m not. I’m giving them ice cream instead. Three scoops each.
“You must feel awful about this,” friends had called to say. “You’re from North Carolina, right?”
“SouthÂ Carolina,” I corrected them. Emphatically. “I’m fromÂ SouthÂ Carolina. My home state wouldÂ neverenshrine that sort of discrimination into its constitution. Not in 2012.” Then I remembered, Oh yeah, South Carolina already did it. Six years ago.
Which, in a way, made the North Carolina news sort of nostalgic, in a queasy way. That sick sort of way you feel nostalgic when you run into someone you used to have feelings for, then remember the night they threw up on you.
Kelly and I travel to South Carolina with the kids to visit my family two or three times a year. I’m close to my family and love going home. Legally, though, it can be a mindbender. We fly out of Los Angeles as a legally married couple with two children and land at Columbia Airport as two unrelated strangers toting a couple of illegitimate who-knows-what-the-hell-they-are. Or as I prefer to call them, Elizabeth and James.
It can be genuinely nerve-wracking. When you’re a parent, in the back of your mind you’re forever planning contingencies for how you might handle emergencies that arise unexpectedly. It’s part of the job. For families like mine, it’s more complicated, especially in states that don’t recognize either our marriages or parental rights.
Say we happen to be in South Carolina (or North Carolina or any other state that proudly bans recognition of our family unit). And say the children and I are injured in a bad car accident. Will Kelly be recognized as my spouse? Or as our children’s parent? Would he be able to make medical or legal decisions for us? Or only the child he’s biologically related to? No way to know. It hasn’t been tested in the courts.
Outside the nine states that legally recognize our marriage, how our family might be treated in a crisis could easily come down to the luck of the draw. In other words, totally random. When laws are random or nonexistent, bad things can happen. In an emergency your fate can be determined by whatever law enforcement or medical authorities happened to show up that day. With whatever political and/or religious beliefs they happen to carry with them.
You’d like to believe their humanity would kick in, that they’d see your plight and be compassionate and helpful. That’s not always the case.
In 2007, Kelly’s college friendsÂ Jan and LisaÂ flew with their adopted children from Seattle to Miami to embark on a family vacation cruise. While Jan was below deck unpacking, Lisa suffered a brain aneurysm on the ship’s basketball court as their kids watched helplessly. Lisa was rushed to a hospital, a hospital that decided not to let Jan or the kids in to see her, because the women weren’t legally married and no federal or Florida law said they had to.
Lisa died that day, with the woman she loved and the kids they’d spent years raising together sitting helplessly not fifty feet away –Â for eight hoursÂ — on the other side of a wall. I remember standing in my living room in California a few days later, getting the call from Jan, still in shock, not just from Lisa’s sudden death, but the way she and their children had been treated in its aftermath.
I was stunned that such a thing could happen in America.
When Kelly and I return to South Carolina with the kids, I can’t help feeling iffy. These should be joyful trips to visit my parents and brothers for birthdays, graduations and holidays. But with no legal protections in place for the likes of us, anything could happen.
When we visited for Christmas a few years back, my brothers were also visiting with their wives and kids. We’re a big family and it was a very full house. Too full, so Kelly and I had made reservations to stay at a hotel near I-26. When my father heard this, he hesitated, then told us not to worry about that, saying we’d find a way to sleep everyone under his roof. But there aren’t enough beds, we pointed out. I assured him that we’d be fine sleeping, showering and changing clothes at a hotel.
“That’s not the problem,” he said after a moment, growing visibly uncomfortable. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll have George and his family stay at the hotel.”
“What difference does it make?” I persisted, thick as a board. It was a few seconds before he took off his glasses, rubbed his eyes and finally answered: “Bill, I can’t help being your dad. You’ll see when you’re my age. It never ends. I know you’re grown and you’ve got a family of your own. But you’re still my son and no matter how old I get it’s still my job to protect you. And I’m not willing to chance the wrong person in this town seeing you and Kelly check into a hotel room with your kids.” He paused. “This isn’t California.”
I started to protest, then stopped myself. When my dad talks I usually try to listen, especially when it comes to people. He’s a retired doctor who practiced in my hometown for over fifty years. He treated everyone from the president of the cotton mill to the janitor at the gas station. Rich, poor, black, white, he’s known them all. And delivered many of their babies, probably a quarter of the town’s adult population. More than anyone else I can imagine I’d say my dad knows the hearts and minds of the locals. And if he thinks something bad could happen to us if we ran into the wrong person, it probably could. Luck of the draw.
My brother’s family ended up in the hotel.
On the night of Obama’s announcement, I heeded my gut’s call that it was a night to celebrate. We phoned our friends Andrew and Jonathan and their two kids and agreed to meet for martinis and a fancy steak dinner. In the end, I opted not to poison my children with alcohol. They had Sprite. And chicken tenders off the kids’ menu. And I remembered IÂ hateÂ martinis. I ordered the drink I always order, because it’s a favorite of my dad’s, bourbon and ginger-ale. And a plate of ribs. You can take the boy out of the South….
Two dads means Father’s Day is always a double-header at our house. But as I mentioned, this year it’s an even bigger deal because it falls on June 17, the anniversary of our wedding four years ago. Gay couples were only allowed to marry in California for five months, until Prop 8 took that right away. But we married the first day it was possible, because Kelly had a feeling something like that might happen. So we have an officialÂ license, signed by a priest, real witnesses and emblazoned with the California state seal. A license the state Supreme Court, after a challenge from the Prop 8 folks, ruled that no majority vote can ever take way from us.
Which makes Kelly and me feel happy and the kids feel safe.
Married. It’s a good word. It rolls off the tongue, two easy syllables, much less cumbersome than the words some would have define us. Like civil-unioned, or domestic-partnered, or Sodomites-the-Bible-says-should-be-taken-to-the-edge-of-town-and-stoned-to-death.
For most of this Sunday, Kelly and I will spend Father’s Day with our kids, celebrating our own fathers and the many ways they shaped us. Hopefully, our own children, the ones we struggle daily not to screw up, will proudly slip us handmade cards and art made out of toilet paper rolls and elbow macaroni that keeps coming unglued.
But that night I’m stealing my husband away. In honor of our marriage and the President’s historic, public support of it, I’m taking Kelly out for steaks, which he won’t eat because he doesn’t like beef. And martinis, which I won’t drink because they taste like gasoline.
Just like in the movies.
William Lucas Walker is an Emmy Award-winning writer and producer whose television credits include Frasier, Will & Grace and Roseanne. He co-created the critically-acclaimed Showtime comedy The Chris Isaak Show. Bill and his husband Kelly are the parents of Elizabeth and James, born in 2001 and 2005. The children were gratified by the legal marriage of their parents in 2008, an event that rescued them from a life of ruinous bastardry.
Spilled Milk chronicles Bill’s misadventures in Daddyland. The first recurring humor column by a gay parent to appear in a mainstream American publication, Spilled Milk has regularly landed on the front page of The Huffington Post.
Follow William Lucas Walker on Twitter: @WmLucasWalker, @SpilledMilkWLW or Facebook: “Spilled Milk” by William Lucas Walker. Â Â Â Â
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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM
‘Fail’: Critics Blast Youngkin for Claim Trump Is a Victim of ‘Politically Motivated Actions’ Just Like ‘Parents in Virginia’
Virginia Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin, a possible 2024 presidential candidate, is under fire after remarks he made Friday morning defending Donald Trump after the ex-president was indicted on what has now been revealed to be 37 federal felony counts related to the Dept. of Justice’s criminal probe into his handling of hundreds of classified and top secret documents.
Youngkin Friday suggested that the prosecution of Donald Trump, which includes Espionage Act charges, conspiracy charges, and obstruction of justice charges among others, was just like the alleged prosecution of parents.
Gov. Youngkin, often wrongly portrayed in the media as a moderate Republican, may have been attempting to invoke the false yet viral far-right claim that Attorney General Merrick Garland was investigating and prosecuting parents for merely speaking at school board meetings. That claim came about after Garland issued a letter asking the Bureau to come up with strategies to address violence and violent threats directed at school board members. Some who have promoted that erroneous claim, including Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, have falsely claimed Garland called ordinary parents “terrorists.”
On Friday, Youngkin tweeted about the Trump indictment, saying, “These charges are unprecedented and it’s a sad day for our country, especially in light of what clearly appears to be a two-tiered justice system where some are selectively prosecuted, and others are not.”
“Parents in Virginia know firsthand what it’s like to be targeted by politically motivated actions,” he added.
“Regardless of your party, this undermines faith in our judicial system at exactly the time when we should be working to restore that trust,” Youngkin concluded, remarks that themselves could undermine faith in our judicial system.
Days before his election, Youngkin also promoted the false Garland claim, even after the Attorney General that same day explained to the Senate Judiciary Committee his letter directed the FBI to investigate not ordinary parents, but people who were organizing attacks on school board members.
Candidate Youngkin appeared on Fox News in October 0f 2021 (video below) and falsely told Tucker Carlson, “What happened today was, of course, Merrick Garland doubled down. He said, ‘No, I’m absolutely maintaining my position that the DOJ and the FBI should be investigating parents.’ Parents who are trying to stand up for their children when there’s been a sexual assault in a school bathroom. We have a board of education and in Loudoun County that tried to hide it from parents, hide it from hiding from the public, and they move this child into another school and then that child again committed another sexual assault.”
READ MORE: DOJ Unseals 37-Count Trump Criminal Indictment – Legal Expert Calls It ‘Egregious’ and ‘Devastating’ (Full Text)
Youngkin made education and “parents’ rights” a campaign issue when he ran in 2021. His opponent, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, during a debate said, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” While experts claim it didn’t swing the election for Youngkin, it at least established him nationally as focused on education and “parental rights,” a mantle Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis quickly co-opted.
The Washington Post, alternatively, on Friday focused on Youngkin’s “two-tiered justice” remarks, reporting: “Youngkin’s suggestion that a rich White man — he didn’t actually name Trump — had been victimized by a ‘two-tiered justice system’ drew fierce pushback, with many critics noting the governor’s opposition to the notion that racial and ethnic minorities face systemic racism. The Republican won the governorship on a promise to purge ‘critical race theory’ from K-12 classrooms, though it was not part of any curriculum. Once in office, Youngkin launched a tip line for parents to report on teachers discussing ‘inherently divisive’ concepts in schools.”
Youngkin, who technically is a “populist conservative” but swings far-right on social issues, was quickly chastised for his tweet.
“You know what you are staying is wrong and incendiary. Shame on you,” declared former CIA officer John Sipher. “These charges stemmed from a grand [jury] of Florida citizens. Trump will have access to a Fair process. But instead you spread information to anger and confuse people. You are stoking misinformation and violence.”
READ MORE: SCOTUS ‘Surprise’ Voting Rights Decision Could – and Did – Have Big Implications for Democrats, Legal Experts Say
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes took a different approach, mocking the Virginia Republican.
“It’s the pivot to ‘Parents in Virginia…’ in the third sentence that elevates this to art,” he wrote.
“The moderate, genial suburban dad in a fleece vest suggests that the only way to restore confidence in the justice system is to place Trump above the law,” wrote The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, also mocking Youngkin.
“Youngkin is pro-Trump, as usual–even though Virginia voted heavily AGAINST Trump in both 2016 and 2020. When it comes to Donald Trump, Liz Cheney has more courage in her pinky than Youngkin does in his whole body,” observed Larry Sabato, the well-known professor of politics, political analyst, and founder and director of University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
The vice president of research for the liberal super PAC American Bridge 21st Century, Liz Charboneau, called Youngkin’s tweet an “especially stupid statement when a large portion of your state has a security clearance, handles classified documents, and has never been charged under the espionage act.”
Conservative Mona Charen, a syndicated columnist and Policy Editor at The Bulwark: “So here’s our answer as to whether Youngkin is a man of character. Fail.”
The Lincoln Project’s Michelle Kinney tweeted, “Youngkin twisting himself into pretzel to weave a vaguebook repudiation of Trump indictment and his weirdo anti vaxx anti trans ‘parents rights’ obsession into one tweet. It reads like Veep dialogue.”
Historian, professor, Holocaust expert Dr. Waitman Wade Beorn tweeted, “Hey dude, the Pentagon is literally in your state. Maybe stop in and have a chat…”
Watch the video above or at this link.
Watch Live: Special Counsel Jack Smith Holds News Conference After Trump Criminal Indictment Unsealed
Special Counsel Jack Smith will hold a news conference Friday at 3:00 PM ET, after the U.S. Dept. of Justice unsealed its 49-page 37-criminal count indictment against Donald Trump. The indictment also names a Trump aide.
Legal experts reviewing the indictment were stunned at not only the level of detail but the manner in which Trump treated classified documents, including allegedly storing them in boxes on the stage at Mar-a-Lago, in a bathroom, a shower, and a bedroom.
Former Dept. of Defense special Counsel Ryan Goodman, now an NYU professor of law, calls the indictment “devastating,” and concludes: “Extraordinary risks to U.S. national security. Foreign adversaries would pay tens of millions for that info.”
READ MORE: ‘Disgraced’ Trump-Appointed Florida Judge Initially Assigned to Oversee Ex-President’s Criminal Case: Report
Smith, who was appointed by Donald Trump as an acting U.S. Attorney, also prosecuted war crimes cases at The Hague. he also was the head of the DOJ’s Public Integrity Section.
Watch video of his full news conference below or at this link.
WATCH: Complete statement from Special Counsel Jack Smith: “Today an indictment was unsealed charging Donald J. Trump with felony violations of our national security laws as well as participating in a conspiracy to obstruct justice.” pic.twitter.com/llUlrvpVe4
— CSPAN (@cspan) June 9, 2023
This article has been updated to include full video of the completed news conference.
'EXTRAORDINARY RISKS TO U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY'
DOJ Unseals 37-Count Trump Criminal Indictment – Legal Expert Calls It ‘Egregious’ and ‘Devastating’ (Full Text)
The U.S. Dept. of Justice has unsealed its 37-criminal count, 49-page indictment in its case against Donald J. Trump, which includes the previously unknown and damning charge that the ex-president showed classified information to people who were not authorized to see them. One legal expert says America’s enemies would pay “tens of millions of dollars” for the classified documents.”
The indictment includes a Trump aide known in previous news reports as Walt Nauta.
“Dissemination is a much more serious crime,” former top DOJ official Andrew Weissmann said on MSNBC, referring to even allowing someone to see classified information.
READ MORE: ‘Disgraced’ Trump-Appointed Florida Judge Initially Assigned to Oversee Ex-President’s Criminal Case: Report
Two of the critical passages alleging dissemination:
“In July 2021, at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey (‘The Bedminster Club’), during an audio-recorded meeting with a writer, a publisher, and two members of his staff, none of whom possessed a security clearance, TRUMP showed and described a ‘plan of attack’ that TRUMP said was prepared for him by the Department of Defense and a senior military official. TRUMP told the individuals that the plan was ‘highly confidential’ and ‘secret.’ TRUMP also said, ‘as president I could have declassified it,’ and, ‘Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret.'”
“In August or September 2021, at The Bedminster Club, TRUMP showed a representative of his political action committee who did not possess a security clearance a classified map related to a military operation and told the representative that he should not be showing it to the representative and that the representative should not get too close.”
Politico’s Sam Stein points to this photo in the indictment that allegedly shows dozens of boxes of documents “stacked on the ballroom stage at Mar-a-Lago.”
Trump, for a period of time, stacked boxes from his time at the White House on a ballroom stage at Mar-a-Lago pic.twitter.com/uEO9WMrH2j
— Sam Stein (@samstein) June 9, 2023
Another damning passage of the indictment states:
“The classified documents TRUMP stored in his boxes included information regarding defense and weapons capabilities of both the United States and foreign countries; United States nuclear programs; potential vulnerabilities of the United States and its allies to military attack; and plans for possible retaliation in response to a foreign attack. The unauthorized disclosure of these classified documents could put at risk the national security of the United States, foreign relations, the safety of the United States military, and human sources and the continued viability of sensitive intelligence collection methods.”
Former Dept. of Defense special Counsel Ryan Goodman, now an NYU professor of law, calls the indictment “devastating.”
“I have looked at all prior prosecutions under the Espionage Act and have never seen egregious facts like this,” hew writes. “Trump ‘stored his boxes containing classified documents .. in a ballroom, a bathroom and shower, an office space, his bedroom, and a storage room.'”
Goodman concludes, “Extraordinary risks to U.S. national security. Foreign adversaries would pay tens of millions for that info.”
Special Counsel Jack Smith will speak to the media at 3 PM ET.
Read the full indictment below or at this link.
The United States of Americ… by ABC News Politics
This is a breaking news and developing story. Details may change.
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