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Thom Watson
Works at SF Bay Times
Attended Harvard University
Lives in Daly City, CA
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Powerfully moving and thorough, albeit bittersweet, nine-page photo-essay in Fort Lauderdale's Sun Sentinel newspaper of an elderly gay couple's last days together, and the indignities of inequality and bigotry. In addition to the beautiful and touching love story itself, I was also moved by the "overwhelmingly positive" response the paper's editors report to the story. Most days I find myself nearly overwhelmed by the ugly, hateful, anti-gay comments that invariably swamp online news articles involving LGBT people or their equality, but this story evoked a number of truly lovely and loving responses: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/opinion/letters/fl-gay-couple-letters-20140415,0,1743153,full.story
As a gay couple, marriage in Florida was never an option for Chris and Richard. As Richard fell sick, the couple faced challenges as Chris cared for his partner in sickness and in health.
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Another reason why it's so important to fight for LGBT equality and acceptance. It's quite literally a matter of life and death.

"A new study from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health has found that anti-gay stigma significantly shortens the life-spans of people who identity as gay, lesbian, or bisexual (LGB). The study compared LGB people who lived in communities with lots of anti-gay prejudice with those who lived in the most welcoming communities and found that those in the stigmatizing communities had a shorter life expectancy by an average of 12 years.

"....The study’s lead author, Mark Hatzenbuehler explains that these differences were independent of other factors that affect mortality:

"HATZENBUEHLER: Our findings indicate that sexual minorities living in communities with higher levels of prejudice die sooner than sexual minorities living in low-prejudice communities, and that these effects are independent of established risk factors for mortality, including household income, education, gender, ethnicity, and age, as well as the average income and education level of residents in the communities where the respondents lived...."
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LIVE NOW! Be among the first to see and share the new SHE4ME Marriage Equality PSA benefiting Marriage Equality USA.

SHE4ME: Love is Love Valentine's Day PSA
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First marriages to begin in New Jersey at 12:01 a.m. ET (just a few minutes from now). Watch live: http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/livenow?id=9294563
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BREAKING NEWS: The New Jersey Supreme Court has denied a stay on the lower court marriage equality ruling stating that marriages may begin on Monday, October 21. The Court still will hear the appeal to that ruling, but reportedly will allow couples to marry in the interim. These marriages could later be overturned, theoretically, but the refusal to issue a stay is a very good sign that the Supreme Court does not believe the state can prevail in its fight to continue banning marriage for same-sex couples.

In the meantime, while marriages will begin on Monday in New Jersey for now, it is imperative to continue calling and asking legislators there to overturn the governor's veto of their bill to recognize marriage equality, as a Supreme Court favorable ruling is not certain and is still a ways off, and a legislative victory could be accomplished first.
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Thom Watson

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We're placing an order for Honey Maid Grahams through Google Shopping Express RIGHT NOW. My family thanks you for loving and supporting all families.
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Another domino falls. Virginia's marriage equality ban has been found unconstitutional. The decision has been stayed pending appeal, so marriages can't begin, but it's just a matter of time. The day will come soon when Jeff and I will be as married in my home state as we are in his. Happy Valentine's Day, indeed.

"...The Court is compelled to conclude that Virginia's Marriage Laws unconstitutionally deny Virginia's gay and lesbian citizens the fundamental freedom to choose to marry. Government interests in perpetuating traditions, shielding state matters from federal interference, and favoring one model of parenting over others must yield to this country's cherished protections that ensure the exercise of the private choices of the individual citizen regarding love and family.

"Ultimately, this is consistent with our nation's traditions of freedom. '[T]he history of our Constitution ... is the story of the extension of constitutional rights and protections to people once ignored or excluded.' Our nation's uneven but dogged journey toward truer and more meaningful freedoms for our citizens has brought us continually to a deeper understanding of the first three words in our Constitution: we the people. 'We the People' have become a broader, more diverse family than once imagined.

"Justice has often been forged from fires of indignities and prejudices suffered. Our triumphs that celebrate the freedom of choice are hallowed. We have arrived upon another moment in history when We the People becomes more inclusive, and our freedom more perfect."
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The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) just passed in the Senate. It will fail in the House, where it likely won't even get a vote, and it has overly broad exemptions. Still, it's an important day; it's taken nearly two decades to get the Senate to vote that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans shouldn't be fired just because of who they are. The American public has strongly held that position for years, and mistakenly think it's already the case. Actually, in 29 states -- including my original home state of Virginia -- people can be and are fired just for being LGBT. Sadly, the House of Republicans still is much more strongly in favor of discrimination than is the general public, so in more than half the states LGBT people will still go unprotected from such hateful discrimination.
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As a Repub, I can say I believe my party is hurting itself by advocating against socially progressive positions such as ENDA.  
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I also have a guest post on The Bilerico Project today about the Marriage Equality USA NEAT coalition's planned phonebanking action next week to help win the freedom to marry in Hawaii.
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My latest column for the SF Bay Times is out today.

Just-ly Married

In my previous column I noted I was about to get married. I hope you’ll forgive my ongoing self-indulgence as I write about my nuptials once more. One’s own wedding, after all, doesn’t happen every day. Admittedly, given California’s rollercoaster history regarding marriage equality, some of us have been married multiple times to the same person. Jeff and I even had a post-Prop 8 commitment ceremony that we called a wedding, in defiance of the amendment’s unconstitutional claim that we weren’t legally entitled to the term.

But Jeff and I legally wed just once.  At 2:00 p.m., Thursday, September 26 – three weeks ago today and four years to the day from that non-legal commitment ceremony – we made our vows to one another at San Francisco City Hall.

Originally, our congresswoman Jackie Speier was slated to officiate. However, due to the ongoing budget crisis in the federal government, the House of Representatives was called back from their recess originally scheduled for the week we were to marry, and Rep. Speier regretfully had to cancel.

With one week to go before the wedding, our very dear friends and my fellow Bay Times columnists John Lewis and Stuart Gaffney generously agreed to step in as co-officiants. Actually, knowing that John had officiated other weddings, and that he and Stuart were going to be there at our wedding – just as they’d been with us at City Hall after Judge Walker’s decision in August, 2010, when we hoped the stay would be lifted and we would be able to marry; on Valentine’s Day earlier this year when we spoke to a crowd at City Hall about the pain of still not being able to wed; and again at City Hall that joyful day this past June when we finally got our marriage license – we already had asked if he would be willing to officiate in the event the congresswoman were called back to D.C. We had planned to ask Stuart to be our witness.

When John and Stuart arrived at City Hall on the 26th, however, they surprised us  by asking if we’d mind if they performed the wedding together. We were touched by the suggestion, thrilled by the possibility, and particularly moved by the symbolism of having these two men stand together to pronounce the words that would make Jeff and me husbands. Four years ago we knew John and Stuart largely only as fellow marriage equality activists, heroes of the California marriage equality movement, and plaintiffs in the court case that first established the freedom to marry in California and set the stage for our own wedding this year. In the intervening time, though, they’d become our mentors, our comrades-in-arms, and our brothers. John and Stuart brought a deeply personal touch to the ceremony, and Jeff and I consider ourselves to be so very fortunate that in the end our two friends were the ones facing us on the balcony at City Hall.

Two days later we hosted a reception at the Cliff House, the location of our 2009 commitment ceremony. Four years ago we’d been joined by about 65 friends and family members. Last month over 110 of our friends and family were present; there were several dozen more people, including at least a half-dozen more kids, who might have been there but for other commitments, distance, or last-minute illness. Four years ago, there was one teenager present and no younger children. Last month nearly a dozen infants, toddlers, and pre-teens, along with a couple of teenagers, attended our reception. Several of these children call us “Uncle Thom” and “Uncle Jeff,” even though we have no biological connection, just a loving one that recognizes family ties beyond those of blood.

We live in a world where love and legal marriage between two men or two women increasingly is not something to hide or to “protect” kids from, but rather something to celebrate, truly a family affair. We live in a world where these kids will grow up to be able to marry whomever they love, regardless of sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Honestly, not too many years ago I would have said I wouldn’t expect to see that world in my lifetime. But at the Cliff House last month, I saw that it’s already arrived.

The increase in the number of people celebrating with us was due almost entirely to the new friends and allies we’ve made in the past four years through our marriage equality advocacy; we considered our reception, in fact, to be as much a day of celebration for the hard work of so many to return the freedom to marry to California as it was specifically for the two of us. To that end, we asked that in lieu of gifts attendees consider making a donation to Marriage Equality USA; I’m overwhelmed by our friends’ generosity and very proud to note that our equality registry to date has raised nearly $2,700 to help MEUSA in its efforts to win the freedom to marry for the 37 remaining states where couples like Jeff and me still are denied this important civil right.

That includes states like Virginia, my birthplace and my home for over 35 years. Jeff and I left Virginia for California, his home, in no small part due to the extreme homophobia of Virginia’s government and the absolute lack of any protections there for LGBT people in public accommodations, housing, employment, or relationship status.

It remains legal in Virginia to fire an employee, even a state government employee, to refuse service at your place of business, or to refuse to rent or sell a home, for no reason other than that you disapprove of someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The current attorney general, once (though thankfully no longer) the front-runner to be the next governor, has called LGBT  people “destructive” and “soulless,” while the GOP candidate for lieutenant governor has made homophobic comments that make “destructive” and “soulless” sound almost like compliments in comparison.

Still, things are getting better, even back there in the Commonwealth, if more slowly than we might wish.

Recent news that the legal team headed by David Boies and Ted Olson that defeated Prop 8 is now challenging Virginia’s refusal to treat loving gay couples as anything more than strangers under the law is particularly welcome and heartening. Someday Jeff and I may be able to visit my birth family – his in-laws – with pride and optimism rather than the worry and dread based on the state considering our marriage invalid that so often accompanies our visits back there now. Thousands of couples like us, we hope, will before long have their own relationships treated with the legal recognition that is their human and civil right.

It would be fitting, certainly, if the state that in Loving v. Virginia fought anti-miscegenation laws all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and lost, thereby resulting in bans on interracial marriage being overturned nationwide, were to provide same-sex couples our own version of Loving and the same end to all laws banning same-sex marriages. It’s long past time for the Commonwealth fully to live up to its motto, “Virginia is for lovers,” without the invisible disclaimer, “Void where gay.”

Column appears online in the Bay Times at http://www.sfbaytimes.com/?sec=article&article_id=18053 and on the MEUSA blog at http://marriageequalityusa.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/just-ly-married/
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People
In his circles
115 people
Have him in circles
124 people
Maria L Gaycheck's profile photo
Christine Allen's profile photo
David D. Levine's profile photo
Hannah Walsh's profile photo
Work
Occupation
Social media director, Marriage Equality USA, and columnist, SF Bay Times
Skills
Electronic and Online Communications, Social Media | Verbal and Written Communication | Education and Training | Internet, Intranet, and Web Services | Project and Program Management | Strategic and Operational Planning
Employment
  • SF Bay Times
    Columnist, 2013 - present
    For this bi-weekly San Francisco Bay Area LGBT newspaper, I write a column devoted to marriage equality and related issues. My columns appear in print once to twice monthly.
  • Marriage Equality USA
    Social media director, 2010 - present
    Marriage Equality USA is a volunteer-driven national grassroots organization whose mission is to secure legally recognized civil marriage equality for all, at the federal and state level, without regard to gender identity or sexual orientation. In a full-time but unpaid capacity, I develop the organization’s social media strategies and oversee its social media presence; write and edit articles, blog and social media posts, and other published materials; and provide supplemental editorial, design, and technical support to the media, web, news, and policy staff. I also speak to local audiences and to local and national media about civil marriage equality.
  • Golden Gate University (GGU)
    Website product manager, 2007 - 2008
    Golden Gate University (GGU) specializes in taxation, business, law, and accounting education for professionals entering or advancing their careers. At GGU, I oversaw the University’s e-commerce web site, product planning, and day-to-day site operations; chartered and oversaw, with the CIO, the University’s web governance committee; chartered and oversaw an initiative to plan GGU’s next-generation web site, updating the University’s web site positioning, content strategy, and necessary features and functionality; created strategic and tactical plans for future direction of web application development; led product management, application development, and customer experience design; managed a team of developers and led cross-functional team coordination with other IT department managers, and marketing, operations, and academic departments.
  • University of California San Francisco (UCSF)
    Web communications manager, 2006 - 2007
    UCSF, the only UC campus in the statewide system dedicated exclusively to the health sciences, is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide. At UCSF I was responsible for managerial oversight for the official University web site, and for all Public Affairs web sites and services as well. Specifically, I managed expansion and development of new products, including Science Café, an award-winning podcast on the conduct, communication, and culture of science; planned web development strategy and managed various content-rich projects; oversaw evaluation and adoption of web applications; advised on proper information architecture; managed a team of developers and content providers, guiding the unit toward adoption of best practices with an eye toward increasing traffic, analyzing impact of content, gathering audience data, and raising the level of user satisfaction; and developed and promoted University-wide web policies and procedures.
  • U. S. Department of State Foreign Service Institute
    Management and program analyst, 2002 - 2006
    The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) is the division of the U.S. Department of State that trains American diplomats for service abroad, both in face-to-face classroom settings and via multimedia and online computer-based instruction. In addition to my responsibilities as a management analyst at FSI, I also oversaw the development and operation of the Institute’s web sites, six digital multimedia language learning labs, and a digital audio recording studio. Specifically, I identified, developed, and led projects concerning development of web policy and procedures, and advised on regulations pursuant to Internet usage in the agency; analyzed and interpreted quantitative and qualitative data and produced analytical reports on training effectiveness, customer satisfaction, appropriate use of technology for training, etc.; planned and coordinated design and development of web-based educational projects and training programs; and managed the civil service and government contractor staff responsible for technical and procedural administration of the web sites, multimedia labs, and studio. At FSI, I received six awards for services on behalf of the Institute’s schools and the Executive Office for Management, and “for implementing innovative approaches for leveraging technology, allowing FSI to rapidly produce online surveys, assessments, and course evaluations.”
  • MDLinx.com
    Chief Technology Officer (CTO), 2000 - 2001
    As an original member of the executive management team for this healthcare information start-up company providing daily clinical news and research information to physicians and other healthcare professionals, I was heavily involved in the company’s strategic direction, with particular responsibility for the planning, development, and oversight of new technology products and services. During my tenure, I was responsible for designing, building, and delivering a network of web sites and specialty newsletters more than a year earlier than projected by outside consultants, through the development of an integrated in-house platform. This platform permitted monthly increases for specialty web site development by 400-500% and for new newsletters by as much as 4,000-8,000%. Even these figures were limited only by editorial staffing constraints; incremental technology costs to develop and launch sites had become almost negligible with the new platform. I also was responsible for dramatic increases in web traffic (1,800% over 18 months), email newsletter delivery (over 1,750%), number of monthly newsletters, and registered users, despite concurrent decreases in the IT departmental budget.
  • Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)
    Director, Electronic Communications, 1999 - 2000
    For the nationwide U.S. public television system, I led the strategic development and growth of electronic communications services and directed ongoing operations to meet communications and information management needs; proposed, developed, communicated, and administered system policies; analyzed trends in order to identify, develop, and maintain training and support mechanisms; developed and administered budget; managed staff and their ongoing development; and served as chief spokesperson and ombudsman for PBS electronic communications services, representing PBS at conferences, identifying and developing communication vehicles and feedback mechanisms among stations and between stations and PBS, and facilitating resolution of issues.
  • Assoc. of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)
    Director of Web Resources, 1996 - 1999
    For the trade association representing U.S. medical schools, I participated in the leadership and management of the Office of Information Resources and was an active member of a task force charged with the articulation, development, and evolution of an architectural framework and appropriate strategies for development, use, and support of electronic information resources and services. I oversaw the technical design and implementation, staff development, and management for the AAMC public Internet, a private staff-only Intranet, and multiple private constituent web sites. I was promoted from Electronic Information Specialist to Manager of Web Resources in May 1997 and from Manager to Director in September 1998.
  • Assoc. of America's Public Television Stations (APTS)
    Information and Computer Services Manager
  • Community Therapeutic Day School (CTDS)
  • Harvard Medical School Department of Psychopharmacology
Places
Map of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has lived
Currently
Daly City, CA
Previously
Covington, VA - Cambridge, MA - Somerville, MA - Boston, MA - Alexandria, VA - Washington, DC - Arlington, VA
Story
Tagline
Queer, atheist, progressive, mid-century enthusiast, gaymer, amateur baker & marriage equality advocate living in the fog belt with soulmate Jeff Tabaco
Education
  • Harvard University
  • Alleghany County High School
  • Falling Spring Elementary
Basic Information
Gender
Male
Other names
Burlen Watson, Tom Watson, Tommy Watson