Better Bundo Book: How an Adorable Bunny (and John Oliver) Remind Us That Love is Love

Do you like bunnies? How about adorable illustrations? Are you in favor of marriage equality? Then you might appreciate this post…

…especially if you subscribe to the “Be Careful What You Wish For” school of Maybe Impeaching Trump Isn’t the Greatest Idea.

Here’s how all those concepts connect: in this crazy, sweet book.

OMG that is one cute bunny!!!

Quick back story, in case you are not a follower of comedian John Oliver’s show “Last Week Tonight”:

Back in March, Oliver did a show reminding the nation of our Vice President’s hostility to gay marriage. I won’t go into detail; you can watch the episode here.

Here’s where the adorably illustrated bunnies come in, if you don’t have time to watch the clip. Mike Pence’s daughter Charlotte wrote a children’s book from the perspective of the Pence family’s pet rabbit, Marlon Bundo (gotta admit–cute name, and cute rabbit too). Her mom, Second Lady Karen Pence, illustrated—very skillfully, I might add.

But John Oliver, in order to highlight the VP’s less-than-warm & fuzziness toward gays (and to cause trouble–he is, after all, a comedian), chose to commission and co-write his OWN bunny book. Only this one’s about Marlon Bundo himself.

Safe to say Pence is not the hero of this one.

And even more, it’s about Marlon’s Very Special Day, where he meets…


I won’t be a complete spoiler: please, buy your own copy of the book (which, by the way, has been massively outselling the original it’s spoofing). Buy several copies. It’s a great story, even better read aloud. Don’t believe me? You can practice right now with this final page:

Amen to that.

I Want to Celebrate the Gay Marriage Opinion Without Rubbing Opponents’ Noses in it; Can I?

My first thought on hearing the news that gay marriage is now the law of our land: “Hallelujah!”

My second, third, and fourth thoughts were more along the lines of “Praise be!” “Finally!” “What a joyous day!”

Only much later (these first four thoughts took up most of my morning) did this thought surface: “Take THAT, you small-hearted legislators who want to keep other people from celebrating their honest love the same way you get to!”

This NY photo's caption reads, "Pooja Mandagere and Natalie Thompson celebrate the Supreme Court's decision" (

This NY photo’s caption reads, “Pooja Mandagere and Natalie Thompson celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision” (

I struggled with Thought #5 most of my bike ride home. The better angels of my nature want to believe that people who oppose gay marriage aren’t really MEAN, they’re just one loved-one away from understanding that gay marriage is about LOVE, the same love that they believe flows from God–or IS God.

The worse angels (are there worse angels?) whisper, “Forget ’em. People like that have made gays second-class citizens for generations, and they’re finally on the losing side of history. Why waste time understanding?”

I got my answer from an unlikely source: President Obama.

Arriving home just past noon, I heard The Mate call, “You’re just in time to hear the end of the President’s speech.” He was watching the funeral for Reverend Clementa Pinckney, the pastor of Charleston’s Mother Emanuel AME Church who was gunned down last week with eight other prayerful souls.

So I watched, and listened. And something the President said resonated with the conversation I’d just been having with my angels–even though it had absolutely nothing to do with gay marriage.

Reverend Pinckney once said, “Across the south, we have a deep appreciation of history. We haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history.”

He was talking about the racial divide, about the way one barred and starred flag could be so revered and so despised by the people of one region. But I almost felt he–or Rev. Pinckney–was talking to me.

I don’t mean to suggest by this that people who push legislation restricting gay rights need me to look deeply into their eyes and “appreciate” them. I think they are wrong, and the laws they support are wrong. But I DO think I need to force myself not to gloat over the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.

I want to. Oh, I do. I want to dance down the Main Street of every town in every state that’s resisted this decision. But even more than that, just as in Charleston, I want to MOVE FORWARD, not create a backlash. Dylann Roof, the Charleston murderer, embodied the backlash against racial progress. I don’t want to help create the anti-gay version of that pathetic, hate-filled kid.

That means I need to listen, where I can, to voices I disagree with. I can argue–and I will. And I can pray for changes of heart, and hope that history will indeed be the judge of justice on this one. But I will try not to gloat. Gloating’s no way to achieve the amazing grace we are capable of reaching, now and then, even in this divided country.

And speaking of Amazing Grace, feel free to sing along with the Commander in Chief:

asfsaiwue oiu

The Final Four and “Religious Freedom”: Why I’m Grateful to Indiana

If you’re a fan of neither basketball nor equality, you won’t be interested in this post. But if you’re a fan of either, or like me, both, read on.

Dear Hoosier Legislature,

Thank you for passing your state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would, in its current form, allow Indiana businesses to refuse to serve LGBT citizens.

Thank you for doing so exactly when the nation’s sports mega-spotlight is trained on Indianapolis for the Final Four.

Thank you for bringing to the fore the moral fibre of folks known usually only for their defense patterns. Folks like the coach of defending national men’s basketball champion Connecticut, Kevin Ollie, who is boycotting the Final Four. Granted, Ollie was following the directive of Connecticut’s Governor Dan Malloy’s executive order banning state employees from traveling to Indiana on state money. But Ollie made it clear he was doing more than “caving” to his governor’s demand (as the Connecticut Post put it).

UConn’s University Herald states,

“In support of Governor Malloy’s travel ban to the state of Indiana, Kevin Ollie and other members of the UConn men’s basketball staff will not travel to Indianapolis for the NCAA Final Four and events surrounding it,” UConn President Susan Herbst said in a statement. “UConn is a community that values all of our members and treats each person with the same degree of respect, regardless of their background and beliefs and we will not tolerate any other behavior.”

Given the expected attention to himself and his program at this year’s Final Four, Ollie’s boycott carries great weight.

Another unlikely hero: University of Southern California’s Athletic Director Pat Haden, who announced he will boycott a national football meeting in Indiana in honor of his son.
To quote the Washington Post,

Pat Haden, the athletic director at the University of Southern California, will skip a meeting of the College Football Playoff committee this week in Indiana because of the state’s recent passage of a controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“I am the proud father of a gay son,” Haden announced on Twitter. “In his honor, I will not be attending the CFP committee meeting in Indy this week. #EmbraceDiversity”

All this attention is now turning to pressure on Indiana to do the right thing. In fact, Governor Pence, who signed the law while insisting it was never intended to discriminate, is right now working with the Legislature to rewrite Indiana’s RFRA and–one can only hope–rein it in.

(Orig. photo courtesy Mike Mozart, Flikr Creative Commons)

(Orig. photo courtesy Mike Mozart, Flikr Creative Commons)

When my Mate used to teach Constitutional Law, he helped his students remember the acronym RFRA by referring to it as “the noise made by a small, angry dog.” There are a lot of small, angry dogs in our country, apparently: people who feel themselves persecuted because they don’t happen to be taking part in the great national shift toward tolerance of LGBT rights.

I, personally, am grateful to the Indiana Legislature for highlighting that small-mindedness on a national scale, and forcing even those who would prefer not to have to take a stand to do just that.



Hunted: Why My Book Would Be Banned in Russia

If you’ve been paying the slightest attention, you would know that Russia is not a good place to be gay right now. If you have any doubts, Ben Steele’s documentary, Hunted: The War on Gays in Russia, clears those doubts right up.

I’m not going to post the trailer of that film here. It’s too disturbing. Go to the official website to see for yourself. But here is the synopsis:

In modern-day Russia, where it is estimated that just 1% of the LGBT population lives completely openly, a recent anti-gay amendment to a “propaganda” law has triggered a rising number of assaults on gay men and women by vigilantes who, more often than not, go unpunished for their crimes.

Directed by Ben Steele, the startling expose HUNTED: THE WAR AGAINST GAYS IN RUSSIA looks at this climate of hostility. Matt Bomer (Emmy® nominee for HBO’s “The Normal Heart”) narrates.

Homosexuality was legalized in Russia 21 years ago, but gay people in the country have yet to win mainstream acceptance. In fact, attitudes in Russia appear to be moving backwards. With jobs and relationships at risk if their sexual orientation is exposed, most gay Russians remain closeted. As one gay man who lost sight in one eye during a recent unprovoked attack says ruefully, “Hunting season is open…and we are the hunted.”
HUNTED: THE WAR AGAINST GAYS IN RUSSIA features disturbing insider footage of homophobic Russians who, in the name of morality or religion, beat and torment gay people, posting graphic videos of their encounters online with few or no legal repercussions. These vigilantes see homosexuality as related to pedophilia, stating publicly that their justification for violence is protecting Russia’s children.



Mainstream US media like MSNBC agree with me, reporting on this phenomenon while choosing not to show the worst images from the documentary. Mainstream US media!

The original law in Russia focused on “practices.” But, according to Wikipedia’s unusually well-documented article on this subject, “The 2013 amendment, which added “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” as a class of harmful content under the law was, according to the Government of Russia, intended to protect children from being exposed to content that portrays homosexuality as being a “behavioral norm”. Emphasis was placed upon a goal to protect “traditional”family values; bill author Yelena Mizulina (the chair of the Duma’s Committee on Family, Women, and Children, who has been described by some as a “moral crusader”),[20][21][2]argued that “traditional” relations between a man and a woman required special protection under Russian law.”

Headwinds is not a book about gays. But two side characters are gay, and this author makes it very clear that sexual orientation, like flying, is a personal characteristic that others have no business trying to stifle.

That would be enough for Putin. Homosexuality a “behavioral norm”??!! I am officially “promoting” the “pedophile lifestyle.” Headwinds would be banned. I could be arrested.

(image by Lanphear Design)

(image by Lanphear Design)

That makes me feel equally proud and sick to my stomach.

Not sure what to do about this, other than what people are doing: keep talking. Keep the lines open. Listen to those on the front lines for their advice on what people who care about their Russian (or, for that matter, Arab, or African, or Asian, or American) neighbors can do to remind people that love is not a crime.

And go see that documentary. Maybe that will give you your own source of inspiration.

Thoughts? I don’t have a specific question here, but I’d like to hear what you have to say at this point, so I’ll stop. Sigh…


Why Michael Sam Makes My Husband Cry…OK, and Me Too

One of my favorite things about my Mate is that he’s a total softie when it comes to sentimental stories. The fact that most of his choke-up moments come while he’s watching TV sports means nothing; that’s pretty much all he watches.

Since I’m a total softie about almost everything, all he has to do is call me in, “Oh, you gotta see this,” and pretty soon we’re both wiping our eyes and laughing at each other.

The other night, Michael Sam got both of us. I blame the ESPYs.

For those of you who may not know: Michael Sam is the former University of Missouri linebacker who announced in February that he was gay. The ESPYs are ESPN’s version of the Oscars. “Best Athlete,” “Best Team,” “Best Moment,” yeah, those are fun, lots of great highlight film. But the real meat of the evening, for people like me (and I imagine most others, else why would ESPN devote so much time to them?), are the handful of inspirational awards.

Like the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage, awarded to Michael Sam. A mini-documentary walked the audience through Sam’s childhood–single mom, a brother and a sister dead, two brothers in prison–adversity that would be mind-boggling if it weren’t so wretchedly common among Black American boys.

Then, the clincher: in college, where he went to play a sport he identified as life-saving, a sport emblematic of macho, homophobic culture, Sam discovered the truth about himself. He was gay.

At the end of his junior year, Sam revealed his truth to his team. And they embraced him.

Sam played like a demon his senior year, a consensus All-American, winning the 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year. All through these months, he kept his truth within the Mizzou “family.” Until February, when, knowing the spotlight of the NFL draft would soon be upon him, Sam announced to the national media that he was gay.

In May, the St. Louis Rams drafted Sam…just barely. He was the among the final eight of over 200 players drafted. His emotional reaction, sobbing into the phone when he finally, finally–after three days of waiting!–got the call, had me and the Mate in tears.

But that was nothing compared to his acceptance speech of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. I’m going to let Sam’s words say it all:

“This year I have a lot of experience being part of something a lot bigger than myself. At times I’ve felt like I’ve been living in a massive storm, and I know the storm will end. I’m here tonight to tell you that the lessons I learned about love, respect, and being true to yourself will never leave me.

The late great Arthur Ashe wasn’t just courageous, he was brilliant too. He put all the wisdom in the world into three great sentences: ‘Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.’ Those are words to live by whether you’re black or white, young or old, straight or gay.

…’Use what you have.’ What I have is the privilege to play a game I love with all my heart. Football raised me, taught me about hard work, about discipline, and about teamwork. Whatever passion or talent you have, follow it. I followed mine and it got me all the way to this stage here tonight so I can look out and see so many of my heroes looking back at me.

Finally, Arthur Ashe said ‘do what you can.’ Those have been very meaningful words to me, and the way I see it, my responsibility at this moment in history is to stand up for everybody out there who wants nothing more than to be themselves openly.

To anyone out there, especially young people feeling like they don’t fit in and will never be accepted, please know this, great things can happen when you have the courage to be yourself.

 Recently a friend asked me to talk to his sister, a young woman who was considering killing herself, rather than sharing with her loved ones the fact that she was gay. When we spoke she told me she would never consider hurting herself again and that somehow my example had helped her. It’s amazing to think just doing what we can we can call touch, change, and even save lives.”

The day after watching this speech and analyzing my own emotional reaction, I came up with these truths:

1. Seeing other people suffer makes me cry. For far too many, for far too long, gay and lesbian folks have had to suffer rather than be themselves. Sometimes the suffering is emotional, sometimes physical. It’s suffering, either way.

2. Seeing a wrong finally righted makes me cry. The fact that the Missouri Tigers and their fans, then the St. Louis Rams, and then the larger, glitzy, TV sports community itself, celebrate Michael Sam’s courage instead of bashing him…it’s right. Just like Jackie Robinson slowly becoming a hero for breaking the color barrier, something wrong is finally becoming right.

3. Redemption makes me cry. Knowing suffering has not been in vain, knowing all those gay kids’ futures will be easier because people like Michael Sam have stepped forward…I feel hope for my country.

The Mate and I weren’t crying about football. We weren’t crying about sexual identity. We cry about freedom, love, acceptance, harmony, possibility. If a Black, gay football player is honored for courage–what else can we accomplish together? That’s OUR America.

Do you cry from joy? Hope? Relief? Or are The Mate and I just weird that way? (It’s okay; we already know.)


I Now Pronounce You…Equal: A New Kind of Pride and Joy At the Altar

If you’ve attended many weddings, you know the applause line: “I now pronounce you husband and wife; you may kiss the bride.” Since December of 2012 when Washington State’s Marriage Equality initiative took effect, thousands of marriage officiants have spoken varying versions of that line all over our state. But, as I noticed the other day at a wedding of some old friends who have really been “married” for 24 years, the applause has moved up a little earlier in the ceremony.

The officiant said, “By the authority vested in me by the State of Washington–” and we all busted out applauding.

We were happy. We were proud. We were relieved. And we were hopeful.

Happy that our dear friends could fully celebrate their love and commitment at last. Proud that our state has become one of only 16 that offers that opportunity to same-sex couples. Relieved that this right cannot be taken away, as it was in Oregon in 2004, when a voter initiative nullified our friends’ Multnomah County marriage license. And hopeful that one day in the not too distant future, Oregonians like our friends will not have to cross the Columbia River to marry their partner.



Love is beautiful. Commitment is beautiful. Pride is beautiful. Combining them all together? Makes me want to applaud again just thinking about it.

How about you? When’s the last time you’ve been able to feel pride or joy in watching a step of progress be made? Please do share. These are the best stories of all.