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December 31, 2008

"BUYCOTT" - A NEW TWIST ON AN OLD IDEA

We all know what a boycott is but this is a new and well deserved twist on that tactic.

As reported at Queers United, the infamous, homophobic American Family Association (AFA) has called for another boycott. This time the AFA is upset over the Campbell Soup Company's recent Swanson print ads in The Advocate that portray the GLBT community in a positive and inclusive way.

According to MediaDailyNews, the most contentious is a two-page ad for Swanson's broth that shows two lesbian proprietors and a young boy, identified in the ad as their son, in their Manhattan restaurant with a bowl of soup made with the broth. Other ads depict other gay chefs extolling the product's virtues.

The ads were designed by the staff of The Advocate for Campbell as part of a larger campaign crafted by Omnicom Group's BBDO, New York

In response to AFA's reaction, Queers United is calling for a BUYCOTT of all Campbell's products and are "urging pro-equality consumers to praise the company for showing a commitment to diversity. Your calls, letters, and emails are needed in the face of the thousands who have called the company with disapproving words."

Here's the Campbell's contact info:

Send an email to the Campbell Soup Company President Douglas Conant. Tell him you want his company to continue their commitment to diversity and support of LGBT people and families.

After sending your email, please call Campbell Soup Company (800-257-8443) and their Swanson division (1-800-442-7684) and let the company know you will continue to support them because of their gay and lesbian ads.

Forward this e-mail to your friends and family so they will know about Campbell's support of equality and LGBT issues.

December 30, 2008

NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST QUESTIONS OBAMA'S INVOCATION PICK

In his sunday op-ed piece, New York Times columnist Frank Rich questions Obama's decision to pick anti-gay pastor Rick Warren to give the coveted invocation at his inauguration.

Rich praises Obama for the contagious feelings of hope that his election has instilled in the overwhelming majority of Americans. And for the hope of a new sense of cooperation based on knowledge, integrity and forthrightness that our friends, allies and trade partners have expressed.

Rich said that he shares these hopes too but he also said that, "...for the first time a faint tinge of Bush crept into my Obama reveries this month."

As Rich explained in his column:

As we saw during primary season, our president-elect is not free of his own brand of hubris and arrogance, and sometimes it comes before a fall: “You’re likable enough, Hillary” was the prelude to his defeat in New Hampshire. He has hit this same note again by assigning the invocation at his inauguration to the Rev. Rick Warren, the Orange County, Calif., megachurch preacher who has likened committed gay relationships to incest, polygamy and “an older guy marrying a child.” Bestowing this honor on Warren was a conscious — and glib — decision by Obama to spend political capital. It was made with the certitude that a leader with a mandate can do no wrong.

Granted, Warren isn't quite as much of a fanatic as the homosexually obsessed family-values ayatollahs like James Dobson and Tony Perkins. In fact, he was viciously pounced on by the Phyllis Schlafly gang when he invited Obama to speak about AIDS at his Saddleback Church two years ago. That visit is pretty much why he was picked for the invocation.

But, as Frank Rich put it:
"There’s no reason why Obama shouldn’t return the favor by inviting him to Washington. But there’s a difference between including Warren among the cacophony of voices weighing in on policy and anointing him as the inaugural’s de facto pope. You can’t blame V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop and an early Obama booster, for feeling as if he’d been slapped in the face. “I’m all for Rick Warren being at the table,” he told The Times, but “we’re talking about putting someone up front and center at what will be the most-watched inauguration in history, and asking his blessing on the nation. And the God that he’s praying to is not the God that I know.”"

I, of course, share Bishop Robinson's feelings but I'm also hopeful that this shameful incident will become just a bad memory and not the defining point of a Barack Obama presidency. The only way that can happen is if Obama actually does follow through on the many promises he has made to our community.

The key to that is constant vigilance and a readiness to SPEAK OUT LOUDLY when it looks like he may veer from that course. I'm sure he wants to be reelected in 2012. And, if our newly formed activist groups continue to grow and become even more organized and the ranks of our straight allies continue to swell, NO politician is going to risk alienating a voting block that big and that vocal.

It's up to us what happens from here.

December 29, 2008

SIGOURNEY WEAVER STARS IN "PRAYERS FOR BOBBY"

Queers United posted this trailer for the must watch upcoming movie "Prayers For Bobby" on the Lifetime channel.

As you'll see by the clip, Sigourney Weaver delivers an awesome performance as the real life mother of a young man who comes out to his family. The inability of his religiously devout mother to accept who he is drives him to suicide and plunges the mother into an emotional, guilt-ridden free-fall that ultimately results in her conversion into an outspoken, fulltime activist for the GLBT community.

The movie will air on the Lifetime network on Saturday, January 24th at 9pm EST.

Pass the word on...

December 26, 2008

ARE DEMOCRATS BACKING DOWN ON "DON'T ASK DON'T TELL"

According to a story at Box Turtle Bulletin today, the Washington publication Roll Call reported that Congressional Democrats are now considering shelving debate on the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell."

The talk is that they're not just thinking of putting it aside for a few months to give the Obama administration and the new congress time to settle-in. That would be almost logical and, to some degree, maybe even acceptable. But no. They seem to want to shelve it for 2 YEARS! That would be after the 2010 midterm elections. By that time, if the Democrats continue in this direction, they may end up not even being the majority - just like they did in 1996. In fact, they may never again be in as strong a position to do this as they will be next year when all of the newly elected minions assume their positions.

Apparently key Democrats, including some openly gay representatives, are afraid of stirring up the same hornet's nest that Clinton caused in 1992 when he tried to open the military to the GLBT community shortly after he took office. As most of you will remember, congress and the military went ballistic and that frenzied homophobia is what created the DADT policy to begin with.

I'm sure that many Democrats blamed their 1996 loss on that debacle. They're wrong. What defeated them is that they had control of the house, the senate and the presidency (like now) but couldn't agree on just about anything and backed down on everything their party was supposed to stand for - defending the little guy and simply doing what's right.

Their logic now is absolutely mind-boggling to me. This is not 1992. This time around, the repeal has the expressed support of Colin Powell, who was then the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and was one of the most outspoken opponents of allowing gays to serve openly. It also has the support of a majority of the country (according to the lastest polls) as well as an impressive number of retired Generals and Admirals who served during those years and were just as opposed to it as Powell used to be.

All of them cite the reality that the country's attitudes have changed significantly since then. They also recognize that the countries that have allowed gays to serve openly in their ranks haven't experienced any of the doomsday effects they had all feared in 1992. They have all said publicly that NOW is the time to reconsider this policy.

What I would say to the Democrats is "tread lightly." The GLBT community spent a lot of time, a lot of manpower and A LOT OF MONEY to help get you elected. And, thanks to Proposition 8, we're a lot more organized and a lot more activist oriented down on the streets now than we were before the election. I haven't seen this much anger, activism and commitment since my involvement with the Gay Activist Alliance in New York in the early 70's.

The fire we all felt then has been reignited today and it's not going to dim anytime soon. In fact, if there isn't the substantial progress our community now expects, that fire is only going to grow hotter and brighter.

I'm hoping they'll come to their senses and reconsider their plans.

December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas
and
Happy Holidays

to all of my family...

December 24, 2008

OH REALLY...

In an obvious attempt at placating the GLBT community, Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin has been named as one of fifteen co-chairs for the inauguration.

Baldwin is an openly lesbian congresswoman from Wisconsin who I would, under any other circumstances, applaud for being appointed to anything within the Obama political sphere. She has distinguished herself in her service as a United States Congresswoman and is greatly admired for the example she has set.

Unfortunately, her appointment as an inaugural co-chair is virtually meaningless. It is a ceremonial position with no actual power or influence over any aspect of the inauguration. I think it's a shame that she's being used as a mere figurehead to try and offset the building frustrations within the GLBT community over having had NONE of the GLBT candidates for cabinet positions actually appointed. And, in addition to that, having the double whammy of the slap-in-the-face announcement of virulently anti-gay pastor Rick Warren to offer the inaugural invocation and anti-gay marriage reverend Joseph Lowery to give the closing benediction.

In our current frustration, let's not forget about the appointment of lesbian Nancy Sutley as head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Although she is, so far, the only prominent member of the LGBT community to earn a senior role in the new administration, her appointment and the still possible appointment of openly gay William White as Secretary of the Navy, does give me hope that the GLBT rights initiatives that have been floundering around Washington for years under Bush will finally see the light of day and be passed by the new congress and signed into laws by the new President.

That being said however, I join with Box Turtle Bulletin in calling on Rep. Baldwin to resign this meaningless appointment as a show of unity with Rep. Barney Frank and a show of solidarity with the GLBT community's growing frustrations.

December 23, 2008

CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL REVERSES HIS POSITION

It's a very rare occurrence when a sitting state attorney general reverses his own position and argues against his state's legislature and a voter approved initiative. But that's what just happened.

When the successfully passed Proposition 8 was challenged and sent to the State Supreme Court, California Attorney General Jerry Brown vowed that he would defend the ballot measure on behalf of the state.

Well, according to a story published last Friday in the Sacramento Bee, Brown filed a legal brief with the court stating that the California constitutional amendment measure to limit marriage to a man and a woman is itself unconstitutional because it deprives a minority group of a fundamental right.

Brown said he reached a different conclusion "upon further reflection and a deeper probing into all the aspects of our Constitution."

"It became evident that the Article 1 provision guaranteeing basic liberty, which includes the right to marry, took precedence over the initiative," he said in an interview Friday night. "Based on my duty to defend the law and the entire Constitution, I concluded the court should protect the right to marry even in the face of the 52 percent vote."

The litigation over Proposition 8 is shaping up, Brown said, as a high-stakes conflict between the electorate's right to direct democracy and rights of minorities to equal treatment.

This whole election cycle is proving to be an intense, emotional roller coaster ride for our entire community.

From the elation of Obama's election to the disheartening successes of Props 8, 2 and 102. From earnest and excited hopes, fueled by politically leaked rumors, for GLBT inclusive participation in Obama's administration to the disappointment of having none of our cabinet level candidates appointed. Then hearing the incredibly frustrating news that an extreme anti-gay, rightwing religious fanatic was chosen to deliver the inaugural invocation. And now, to this latest, and welcomed move by Attorney General Brown that, once again, raises our hopes. This time for a Proposition 8 Supreme Court reversal.

It's amazing to me that so many of us even still care about politics anymore. But we do. Because we have to. It's our lives were talking about here and I'll be damned if I'm going to let this affect my drive and determination to FORCE FULL AND INCLUSIVE EQUAL RIGHTS for our community!

Ever seen a bipolar, schizophrenic gay person get mad? Trust me, you really don't want to!

December 21, 2008

AWARDS AND ACCOLADES BUT STILL NO CONTRACTS

In Beijing Matthew Mitcham became one of the world's truly outstanding, gold medal, olympic athletes. And he did it in the most dramatic, heart-stopping way possible for a world-class diver.

He's young, he's attractive, he has a winning smile and a warm, outgoing, exuberant personality. He's been named Australia's Sports Performer Of The Year and has even been immortalized on a 50c Australian postage stamp featuring his name, image and medal.

In fact, according to PinkNews.co.uk, last week, at a reception at the National Art School in Sydney, Matthew was named one of the top 25 most influential gay Australians.

So, considering all of his impressive accomplishments, why hasn't Matthew gotten a single endorsement contract? Not one - from anywhere in the world!

Considering the tens and even hundreds of millions of dollars that worldwide mega-corporations and local, home-grown businesses have showered on other olympic and non-olympic athletes, you would think that they could afford to acknowledge and support the accomplishments of this one exceptional Australian athlete.

Well, clearly - and shamefully - extremist homophobia trumps olympic gold medals. Apparently, it even trumps simple but outstanding, personal perseverance in overcoming seemingly impossible odds.

Being the only openly gay male athlete to ever compete in the world olympics does seem to carry with it a substantial price. All of the rosy rhetoric espoused by international corporations about diversity and inclusiveness certainly seems to ring very hollow right now, doesn't it?

What's amazing about all of this is Matthew's own extraordinarily mature attitude. Yes, of course, he's disappointed but his never-say-die optimism keeps pushing through. In a recent interview with the Sidney Morning Herald, Matthew said,

"It [coming out] has brought so much attention because it's put me out there, and people know who I am, but I'd like to think that it's not the most interesting thing about me.

"Like everything, there are pros and cons about it, but nothing bad has come out of coming out yet, and that's one of the best things of the whole experience."

"Yeah, I haven't got anything yet, but I'm working on stuff, and looking for stuff but, no, I haven't got anything yet."

How could anyone not like this guy? Come on everyone - pass the word around - get him some endorsement deals. He deserves it! And it's one of the only ways for him to raise enough money to finance his training and his next trip to the olympics.

Someone out there - STEP UP!!

December 19, 2008

DISTURBING DISAPPOINTMENTS

Amid the frustration and turmoil within our community over Obama's pick of rightwing, anti-gay evangelist Rick Warren to deliver the inaugural invocation was the hope that out lesbian and long-time labor activist Mary Beth Maxwell would be named Secretary of Labor. That appointment would make her the first openly gay member of the LGBT community to ever serve in a presidential cabinet. Certainly, she is eminently qualified.

Filling that labor position was left to the very last cabinet level appointment. Thus, raising hopes even further that Maxwell would be his pick. Some of us even thought that maybe he was delaying announcing her appointment until after he had made his selection of Warren public. This would have made political sense since the sting of that slap in the face would be softened by the excitement of Maxwell's appointment.

Unfortunately, less than a day after the Warren announcement, Representative Hilda Solis was named to that position.

There's no question that, like all of Obama's cabinet picks, Solis is highly qualified as well. However, the biting sting of a virulent anti-gay evangelist giving the inaugural invocation has been greatly exacerbated by the strong disappointment of Maxwell being passed-over.

In case some of you aren't aware of just who Rick Warren is, in an interview with Beliefnet.com, he equated allowing loving same-sex couples to get married with redefining marriage to permit incest and pedophilia. He has also repeatedly espoused the often used lie that allowing marriage equality would threatened the freedom of preachers like him to say what they thought about homosexuality.

In a CNN commentary piece, Kathryn Kolbert, president of People for the American Way (a nonprofit advocacy group that supports equality and freedom of speech and religion), said:

"Warren has been divisive and dishonest on the issues of marriage equality and religious freedom -- and on other issues important to many Obama supporters, as well.

He adamantly opposes a woman's legal right to abortion and dismisses common-ground efforts to reduce the need for abortion by comparing them to accommodating the Holocaust. He is disrespectful of progressive people of faith, suggesting that they are tools of the Democratic Party or more Marxist than Christian.

So much for the values of unity and respect, not to mention the constitutional principle of equality, on which President-elect Obama campaigned."

As much as I would emotionally like to dismiss Obama as just another two-faced politician who talks out of both sides of his mouth when he purports to be a supporter of our community, I'm biting my tongue and containing my extreme disappointment - for now.

I am still hopeful that he will follow through on his statements of support for acquiring fully equal rights for same-sex couples, repealing DOMA, passing ENDA and ending DADT.

In fact, speaking of DADT, in an article posted today at Advocate.com, openly gay William White, president of New York's Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum, is being named as a possible candidate for Secretary of the Navy in the Obama administration.

Obviously, an appointment of this magnitude would reverberate throughout congress and all branches of the military. It would also underscore Obama's commitment to end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

According to The Advocate,

White, who has been with the museum since 1992, according to Newsday, would be the first openly gay chief of a military branch. The secretary is a civilian position, meaning his appointment would not be a direct violation of the military's ban on openly gay and lesbian service members.

Members of Congress and retired members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have contacted Obama's transition team, urging him to pick White.

So I suggest we bite the bullet on Warren and continue to look towards the future with optimism. At least, that's what I'm going to try to do.

DON'T FORGET ABOUT THE CANDLELIGHT VIGIL TOMORROW!!

December 18, 2008

NATIONAL "LIGHT UP THE NIGHT" VIGIL SET FOR SATURDAY


On Saturday, December 20th at 5:00pm on the Mill Avenue bridge in downtown Tempe, Arizonans will join the rest of America in a nationwide candlelight vigil.

This national demonstration was organized by Join The Impact (the same people who put together the highly successful November 15th demonstrations) and planned locally by H.E.R.O. "Light Up The Night For Equality" is planned to honor the rights lost to Proposition 8 and the rights still nonexistent to 1 in 10 U.S. citizens. It is also intended to remind the general public that we're still here and we're not going away until equal rights are available to everyone.

In the words of Join The Impact:

There are still too many people in this country who do not understand what it is we are fighting for. Too many people believe the slanderous rumors about our community. They believe that we want “special” rights, that we already have equal rights, or that we are being “greedy.” IT’S TIME THIS STOPS! These people do not hate us, they just do not understand us. Many of them have gay friends. Many of them have gay family members. What they are missing, is awareness. On December 20th, we will SHED LIGHT ON OUR MOVEMENT AND GIVE THE GIFT OF AWARENESS TO ALL!

H.E.R.O. has posted the following instructions:

* Phoenix residents are encouraged to dress warm and report to the Mill Ave Bridge at Tempe Town Lake at 5 p.m., Saturday, December 20th.
* This will be a peaceful demonstration in the spirit of the holidays so be ready to sing.
* Bring candles! (They can be purchased 10 for $1 at Dollar Tree)
* Dress alike. Wear as much red as you can; scarves, hats, even pants if you have them. Join the Impact is asking people to make or wear 2nd Class Citizen t-shirts, but the message is optional.
* Be sure to wear a white ribbon in a double knot as a symbol of Marriage Equality. (The white represents marriage and the knots signify tying the knot)
* Bring any canned or boxed food you have collected as part of the National Food Drive. This will be the culmination of the National Food Drive for Equality

What will we be doing?

* Hosting a peaceful candlelight vigil in honor of those rights lost.
* We will stay silent unless asked a question or sing, we will not yell, instigate, or bear signs. Instead, we will let our shirts and flyers do the talking and our candles pay our respects. Again, bring candles please.
* Singing and/or silence encouraged...chanting is not....keep it peaceful and in the holiday spirit.
* We will also be drinking coffee gratefully donated by a local coffee shop.

The 5 W's of LUTN

Who: Anyone, gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, who wants to stand up and show the world that we will not sit back any longer while our rights are taken away and hate and discrimination is written into our constitution
What: A Candle Light Vigil
Where: The Mill Ave Bridge at Tempe Town Lake
When: December 20th at 5 p.m.
Why: Because we have sat by, in silence, for far too long waiting for our turn at equality and freedom. And now we will stand together, united within our community and with those communities who know the pain of inequality and segregation.

If you don't live in Arizona, click here to find a vigil location nearest you.

December 17, 2008

GAY-MARRIAGE IN MAINE?

It's beginning to look a lot like gay-marriage might become a reality in Maine.

With Connecticut adopting legal gay marriages and the recent unanimous recommendation of a New Jersey commission to dispense with civil unions and legalize gay marriages there, not to mention the very real possibility of New York, it seems that a sizable portion of Maine residents are becoming more comfortable with the idea of gay marriages for their state as well.

Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin reported :

It looks like Maine may emerge as the next battleground for same-sex marriage. Equality Maine had 250 volunteers at 86 polling places on election day asking voters to sign postcards supporting same-sex marriage to send to state legislators. Equality Maine’s goal was “only” 10,000 signatures; they collected 33,190. Meanwhile, the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry has been holding press conferences around the state to build support for same-sex marriage.

Of course, the religious right wingnut fanatics have already started to organize to try a Prop 8 style constitutional amendment campaign against this. But Maine isn't California. In Maine, a two-thirds vote of both houses of the legislature, followed by a majority vote of the people in a referendum is required before any amendments can become legal. With trends tracking the way they are, I don't think that's too likely.

I also believe that our community has learned some very important lessons from the November 4th fiascos in California, Arizona and Florida. Those defeats were probably the best thing to happen to the gay marriage struggle. They jolted and, in turn, energized a whole new activist movement that hasn't been seen in the GLBT community since the early seventies. We're simply not going to let that happen again.

December 16, 2008

OBAMA NAMES LESBIAN TO ENVIRONMENTAL TEAM

President-elect Barack Obama is holding true to his word. Yesterday, he named lesbian Nancy Sutley head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Sutley, 46, becomes the first prominent member of the LGBT community to earn a senior role in the Democrat’s new administration.

According to 365gay.com, Nancy was a special assistant to EPA administrator Carol Browner and then served, until 2005, as deputy secretary for policy and intergovernmental relations at the California Environmental Protection Agency and as energy adviser to former Governor Gray Davis. She is currently a Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles for Energy and Environment and a board member for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

“President-elect Obama’s nomination of Nancy Sutley is another step toward full equality for gay Americans,” Chuck Wolfe, president of the Gay & Lesbian Leadership Institute, said in a statement.

“It sends a signal to young people that they can participate in their government at its highest levels, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender or ethnicity.”

Other members of Obama's Environmental and Energy team are Nobel-prize winning physicist Steven Chu as energy secretary, former head of New Jersey’s environmental department, Lisa Jackson, as head of the Environmental Protection Agency and former head of the EPA under Clinton, Carol Browner, as head of a White House council on energy and climate. Browner also works closely with and is a personal confidante of former Vice President Al Gore.

In addition, Obama announced that he will nominate Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado to run the Interior Department.

These announcements clearly show that Obama is serious about the environment and they mark a stark departure from the failed and underhanded policies of the Bush administration.

With this team, Obama is demonstrating a far more aggressive approach in addressing global warming and in supporting much needed research into alternative energy sources.

“America must develop new forms of energy and new ways of using it,” he said.

It finally looks like America is, once again, going to work with the other coutries of the world instead of working against them.

December 15, 2008

GAY MARRIAGE STRUGGLE MARCHS ON

Chapel Hill NC Votes For Gay Marriage Rights...
According to Qnotes Online, less than a week after the town council of Carrboro voted to support marriage equality for same-sex couples, the Chapel Hill Town Council unanimously approved a similar resolution.

Tom Greene, a teacher at Chapel Hill High School who moved to North Carolina with his partner, submitted the resolution to the Town Council. Openly gay Councilman Mark Kleinschmidt urged the council to immediately endorse it instead of waiting for advice from counsel. They did.

The vote affirms the town’s long-standing vision for acceptance and equality. In part, the resolution asked the city to “endorse and support the rights of same-sex couples to share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities and commitments of civil marriage.”

The resolutions from Chapel Hill and Carrboro will be forwarded to state and federal legislators.

Chapel Hill, which is located near Durham and the state capital of Raleigh, is home to the University of North Carolina.



New Jersey Commission Backs Gay Marriage Rights...
The New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission unanimously recommended that state legislators allow gays and lesbians to marry.

The commission, mandated to evaluate the state's two-year-old civil unions law, determined that full marriage recognition was superior.

"This commission finds that the separate categorization established by the Civil Union Act invites and encourages unequal treatment of same-sex couples and their children."

AP reported that the commission was made up of LGBT leaders, government officials, a Republican and two clergy members. The commission found that in addition to being unequal, the rights afforded same-sex couples under civil unions aren't always well understood. Citing just one example, the commission documented cases in which people in civil unions had been prevented from visiting their partners in the hospital.

According to an article in The Advocate, Steven Goldstein, head of Garden State Equality and the vice chairman of the commission, told the New Jersey Star-Ledger, "The report is a sweeping indictment of the failure of the civil union law and asks Governor Corzine and the legislature: Do you want equality or not? If so, there is only one way to go."

Governor Corzine said that he wouldn't comment until he had reviewed the report. However, the Governor has said in the past that he would sign a bill allowing gay marriage.

If this happens, New Jersey could become the first state to legalize same-sex marriage by passing a law on their own rather than by a forced court ruling.

December 11, 2008

JON STEWART CONFRONTS MIKE HUCKABEE ON GAY MARRIAGE

Jon Stewart has always been a strong ally of the gay community and he's never hesitated to speak out against homophobic prejudices. Last tuesday he had failed presidential candidate Mike Huckabee on The Daily Show to promote his new book, Do the Right Thing: Inside the Movement That’s Bringing Common Sense Back to America.

In the book Huckabee states that all people are created equal, so for the last half of the interview Stewart confronted the conservative politician by saying that, for gay people, Huckabee believes “it is corrosive to society to allow them to have the privileges that all humans enjoy.” (see the interview below)

In the course of trying to defend his position, Huckabee said, for the first time publicly, that because homosexuals choose their lifestyle, their struggle for marriage equality can't be compared to the mixed-race marriage issues of the past.

Stewart interrupted him...“This gets to the crux of it,” saying the difference in opinion is “between what you believe gay people are and what I do.”

“I'll tell you this,” he continued. “Religion is far more of a choice than homosexuality. And the protections that we have, for religion -- we protect religion -- and talk about a lifestyle choice! That is absolutely a choice. Gay people don't choose to be gay." He then quickly asked, "At what age did you choose not to be gay?"

Here's that portion of the interview...


As the Courage Campaign points out, "The passage of Prop 8 in California has catalyzed a national discussion of same-sex marriage. And Jon Stewart's discussion with Mike Huckabee...may become one of the more significant developments in the ongoing debate over the fundamental right to marriage.

NY SENATE LEADER FINDS HIS CONSCIENCE OVER GAY MARRIAGE

It's no secret that the New York Senate has been the road block for gay marriage legislation. A bill passed by the State Assembly and endorsed by Governor Paterson was buried in committee by the republican controlled senate - effectively killing the measure.

With the November 4th election of a majority of democrats to the senate, it looked like that legislation would finally be moved forward.

Unfortunately, Senator Rubén Díaz Sr. led a rebellion of three Democratic Senators who refused to support their own leadership unless their conditions were met. Diaz's "conditions" included, among other things, that no vote could be brought to the floor that would advance marriage equality.

With the support of these three senators, democrats would once again regain control, by a 32-30 majority, after decades of republican domination. Without their support, it would be very difficult for Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith to effectively advance any democratic initiatives.

Well, with politics being what it is and gay issues always being considered expendable for political expediency, it looked like Smith was going to acquiesce to these three renegades and remove the gay marriage bill from consideration. Even in spite of the substantial amount of money donated to the democrats by gays and gay allies during the pre-election campaigns.

It now seems that Senator Smith has, with a lot of coaxing from fellow democrats, once again found his conscience. According to a story at Newsday.com:

Senate Democratic leader Malcolm Smith said Wednesday any deal with three dissidents to secure his party's hold on the chamber majority is officially off.

Smith said he has the support of the Democratic Caucus and has ceased negotiations with the three, Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. and Sen.-elect Pedro Espada Jr., both of the Bronx, and Sen. Carl Kruger of Brooklyn. Their support would give the party a 32-30 majority beginning Jan. 1 after decades of Republican control.

"We're prepared to wait if we have to to come into the majority," Smith said. He was flanked by senators Neil Breslin of Albany and Liz Krueger of Manhattan when he made the announcement.

Smith said the three renegades were motivated by "personal interests." He also said he wouldn't subject civil rights issues to negotiation, referring to a proposal backed by many Democrats to legalize gay marriage.

The ball is now in the dissident's court. They can either follow through on their threat and side with the republicans, which would, in most expert's opinions, very likely result in political suicide or they can sit down with Smith and renegotiate their positions.

In either case, it's really great to see a politician stand up to intimidation and do the right thing. Thanks to Smith and the other democrats, legal gay marriage in New York State once again has a very real chance of happening.

I've always loved New York and I'll love it even more if this goes through. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

December 10, 2008

"THAT'S SO GAY" AD CAMPAIGN WINS AD COUNCIL AWARD

The "Think Before You Speak" TV commercial series, which point out the harm in homophobic language, won the Best Public Service Advertising Campaign award from the industry's prestigious Ad Council.

The commercials feature celebrities like pop star Hilary Duff and gay comedian Wanda Sykes. They zero-in on the all to often used phrase "that's so gay" and point out the hurtful and demeaning effects that the homophobic phrase has on people. The hope is to discourage young people from saying "that's so gay" when they're describing something they think is negative or dumb.

The Arnold Agency, which created the series in collaboration with the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, took home the Gold Bell award for excellence.

Below are the three commercials in the series:







My source for this article was The Advocate

December 9, 2008

THE FIGHT CONTINUES...

People For The American Way Launches Campaign Against DOMA...

The organization that was founded by writer/producer Norman Lear (All in the Family, Sanford and Son, One Day at a Time, The Jeffersons, Good Times and Maude) and dedicated to fighting prejudice and injustice since 1981, has launched a petition campaign for the repeal of DOMA (Defense Of Marriage Act) called DUMP DOMA.

President-elect Obama has said that he supports the repeal of DOMA but already, the anti-gay Right has launched a campaign to "protect DOMA."

Don't let that happen. It's time for the federal government to stop punishing loving same-sex couples. It's time to repeal DOMA.


Click here to take action right now to make sure Congress sends President-elect Obama the legislation he needs to sign after he takes office.


While states across the country have different laws regarding marriage equality and civil unions, and far too many states currently have bans on same-sex marriage, repealing DOMA would be a huge step in the direction of equality.

* It would be a repudiation of the forces of hate and division who have long pushed to enshrine discrimination further in federal law.


* It would mean federal recognition of all marriages in states like Massachusetts and Connecticut which have full marriage equality for same-sex couples.


* Repealing DOMA would stop the government from selectively withholding the 1,300 or so legal protections that only legal civil marriage affords.


* It would remove a discriminatory blemish from federal law, sending a powerful moral message.


Don't Tell Me Who To Love...

Ray Boltz was a highly successful contemporary Christian music singer-songwriter. During his 20 year career he became a household name in evangelical circles and was widely praised for his inspirational music. He was also married to his wife Carol for over 30 years and had four children — three daughters and a son who are now between the ages of 22 and 32.

In a Washington Blade interview on September 12th, Ray finally came out publicly as a gay man.

“I didn’t make a big deal of it,” Boltz says during a 90-minute phone interview from his home in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. “But I was trembling. I’d kind of had two identities since I moved to Florida where I kind of had this other life and I’d never merged the two lives. This was the first time I was taking my old life as Ray Boltz, the gospel singer, and merging it with my new life. Emotionally it was kind of a big deal to think about that.

I’d denied it ever since I was a kid. I became a Christian, I thought that was the way to deal with this and I prayed hard and tried for 30-some years and then at the end, I was just going, ‘I’m still gay. I know I am.’ And I just got to the place where I couldn’t take it anymore … when I was going through all this darkness, I thought, ‘Just end this.’”

He thought he was able to hide his depression from his family but on December 26, 2004 - the same day as the Indian Ocean tsunami, while sitting around the kitchen table at his daughter’s house, Boltz’s son, Philip, asked him what was wrong.

At that point, he was very, very tired of living a lie and he thought, "Well, I can just do what I always do and hide the truth or I can take a risk and be honest. That day, with the tsunami, has become very symbolic in our family.”

It took a while for his family to come to terms with his revelation but, in the end, they adjusted. "It was a very tough time for them too, but the bottom line was they loved me and they still love me," Boltz said. "It’s been an amazing journey of acceptance on their part … I was offered support and love from each member of my family, including my wife.”

Moved by the passion of the Prop 8 struggle, Ray just released his latest "inspirational" song - actually, it's more of an anthem. It's very moving and right on the mark. I include it below:



DON'T FORGET - Sign the petition against DOMA!

UPDATE...
I just discovered, thanks to Box Turtle Bulletin, that Ray's wife, Carol Boltz, has a blog herself. On it, she gives a running commentary on her sometimes difficult and sometimes rewarding journey to understanding, compassion and acceptance. She is a very interesting and clearly, very loving person. Her postings are informative, captivating and fascinating to read.

Check out Carol's blog at: My Heart Goes Out

December 8, 2008

IOWA SUPREME COURT TO HEAR GAY MARRIAGE CASE

According to USA Today, the Iowa Supreme Court is scheduled to begin hearing arguments tomorrow in a closely watched gay marriage case. Legal experts say that the outcome of this case could have ramifications throughout the nation and would be far more difficult to challenge at the ballot box.

The lawsuit, Varnum v. Brien, was filed by six same-sex couples and could make Iowa the first state in the Midwest to legalize gay marriage. And, in Iowa, state laws governing the procedure for amending the Iowa constitution requires a majority approval of the Iowa House and Senate during two consecutive legislative sessions and then it would also have to be approved by a majority of voters in the next general election.

In 1998, the state legislators approved the Iowa Defense of Marriage Act. However, last year, Polk County District Court Judge Robert Hanson declared the ban unconstitutional.

Onwuachi-Willig, who signed a court brief supporting gay-marriage rights, said, "This is the heartland of America — a place where family values are revered. It would be an incredibly strong signal for the Iowa Supreme Court to find that same-sex marriages are legal."

Kate Varnum said, "I think Iowa has been ahead of the curve on civil rights. I'm proud to live here. I think Iowans are very fair minded."

December 5, 2008

ARIZONA STATEWIDE GLBT & ALLIES TOWN HALL AT TEMPE ASU

The first ever, Arizona Statewide GLBT & Allies Town Hall meeting will be held tomorrow on the ASU campus in Tempe.

According to organizers, there will be large group sessions, break-out workshop sessions, activism and organizing training sessions and a lot more.

Equality Arizona reported today that over 400 people have already signed up so if you're interested in attending, reserve a seat by registering at: http://eqfed.org/ahrf/events/townhall08/register.tcl?

Judging from the response so far, this looks like it's going to be an exciting, groundbreaking event. And, considering that Governor Napolitano is going to Washington and republican Secretary of State Jan Brewer is taking over, giving us a TOTALLY REPUBLICAN CONTROLLED GOVERNMENT, it's even more important for us to get organized and get active!

Here are the details:

Location:
Arizona State University - Life Science Building A, Room 191, Tempe, AZ

Parking:
SPECIAL NOTE: Tempe Art festival is also this weekend so DO NOT attempt to drive down Mill, you'll only be redirected into the middle of nowhere.

The best place to park would be in the Fulton Bldg. garage on College Avenue. The entrance is on the east side of College Ave., north of University and just past the first bus stops. After you park, just walk south to University. ASU's entrance is right across the street and the Life Sciences Lecture Hall is behind the "Old Main" landmark bldg. See ASU map.

UPDATE...
Below is a much more dtailed updated listing of the events schedule that I just got from Equality AZ:

Town Hall Schedule

Keynote Address: (10:00-11:00 Main Lecture Hall)
Peri Jude Radecic, Executive Director, Arizona Center for Disability Law

Brainstorm Session: Marriage, Civil Unions, Domestic Partnerships (11:00-12:30 Main Hall)
Panelists: Barbara McCullough-Jones, Jason Cianciotto, Frankie Reynolds, Ken Jacobs, Cynthia Leigh Lewis; Facilitator: Elizabeth Burden
Join in a dialogue with community leaders from across the state with opportunities for questions and answers. This is time for healing and looking forward, a time to address and voice concerns from the past election, and a time to turn our eyes to the future.

Brainstorm Session: Campaign Strategies (1:30-3:00 Main Lecture Hall)
Facilitators: Barbara McCullough-Jones Equality Arizona, Ken Jacobs Pima County Democratic Party
How do national campaigns affect local issues? Are national issues like "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and ENDA affecting our state political structure? Join this discussion to discuss the ramifications of national political issues and how they affect Arizona.

Brainstorm Session: Politics and Religion (1:30-3:00 Classroom 1)
Facilitators: Julie Roberts, Equality Arizona, Steve Wayles, First Congregational UCC
Opening level planning session designed to organize a statewide interfaith coalition to openly approach Equality through communities of faith. We will look at what has happened in the past, both successes and failures and look to the future in Arizona. We want to create an effective and unified campaign to activate our allies and engage in productive discussions to change the hearts and minds of the more conservative and less inclusive communities of Faith in Arizona.

Workshop Session: Being a Citizen Lobbyist (1:30-3:00 OR 3:30-5:00 Classroom 2)
Presenter: Sam Holdren, Equality Arizona
A workshop designed to lead a personal activist through the twists and turns of the Legislature. Discover effective methods to influence legislative ideas and actions. Learn how one person can make a difference.

Workshop Session: Families You Know (1:30-3:00 Classroom 3)
Presenter: Jason Cianciotto, Wingspan
The Families You Know? campaign profiles families in which one or more members is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Families where children, siblings, parents, grandparents and friends are loved, respected, cared for and nurtured. By utilizing social media, this campaign is community-focused and community-driven. Its goal is to raise awareness, confront prejudice, and begin a conversation where all families are respected, valued, and not exploited for short-term political gain.

Brainstorm Session: Hate Crimes (1:30-3:00 Classroom 4)
Facilitators: Nathan Treanor, HRC, Mikho Jenamie, Wingspan, Tambra Williams, City of Phoenix Police Department
Hate Crimes affect not only the victim but the community as a whole. Do you have ideas about effective responses to hate crimes? What measures for prevention do you think are important? Is the answer legislation, prevention or enhanced community response?

Brainstorm Session: Engaging Our Allies (1:30-3:00 Classroom 5)
Facilitator: Nora Ranney, ACLU
Do you have ideas for building bridges into the Allied community? Are you a straight ally looking for opportunities to get involved? Join this conversation to help identify new partnerships or ways to think outside the box.

Brainstorm/Workshop Session: Legal Protections for Partners and Families (Main Hall 3:30-5:00)
Presenter/Facilitator: Kathie Gummere, Esq.
A discussion regarding current alternatives to marriage, with an eye towards short term or existing family protections such as second parent adoption, hospital visitation and medical power of attorney. Workshop portion is a Q&A with Kathie.

Brainstorm Session: Transgender Inclusiveness-(3:30-5:00 Classroom 1)
Facilitators: Abigail Jensen, Attorney and Transgender activist, Steven Tran, Equality Arizona
Join a discussion about current issues affecting the transgender community, how those issues are different from and similar to the issues affecting the larger LGBT community, and how and where to focus our efforts to achieve change in Arizona.

Workshop Session: Engaging Youth (3:30-5:00 Classroom 3)
Presenters: Matthew Heil , GLSEN, Micheal Weakley , 1N10
We will come from the two perspectives of youth and youth activism to educate the participants on how to best interact with LGBTQ youth and youth leaders, their rights and abilities within GSA's in schools, how faculty and non-faculty can get involved with LGBTQ youth leaders and the progress and needs of LGBTQ youth leaders from our community.

Brainstorm Session: Equality Through the Arts (3:30-5:00 Classroom 4)
Facilitators: Julie Roberts, Equality Arizona, Aaron Wilder, Sandra McCullough-Jones
Got a song to sing? A dance to dance or a poem to be read? Turn your talent toward Equality and bring together all the arts for a sharing and collaborative planning session to see what path we are on, the paths we want to continue down and what new paths we can forge together to create new ground.

Bring your guitars and your dancing shoes, creative & collaborative ideas, and your willingness to learn, share and grow together as an artistic community for Equality!

Brainstorm: Health Issues (3:30-5:00 Classroom 5)
Facilitator: Hilllary Pinney, Planned Parenthood
Which LGBT health issues are currently under-addressed or underserved? How are LGBT people being excluded? Do you have ideas about engaging the health care community to create better policies or practices for the community?

The event is being hosted by Equality Arizona, 1n10, the Amancio Project, ACLU of Arizona, GLSEN Phoenix, Human Rights Campaign, Northern Arizona Pride Association, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, Prescott Pride Center, and Wingspan.

This is your chance to have a voice in shaping the future of Arizona's equality movement so come on over and help us make a difference.

December 4, 2008

LESBIAN MAY BE NAMED SECRETARY OF LABOR

According to PageOneQ.com, long-time labor activist Mary Beth Maxwell is in the running for Barack Obama's Secretary of Labor.

Maxwell is the founding Executive Director of American Rights at Work. Its mission is to modernize and reform the United States’ labor laws to better meet the needs of 21st century employers and workers.

Mary Beth's work has garnered national news coverage in the pages of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and countless other news outlets. She is credited with dramatically altering the public debate about the need for employers and workers to have access to a fair collective bargaining process. She is also widely acknowledged as the leading voice for improving the effectiveness of the National Labor Relations Board.

Her previous positions have included National Field Director for Jobs with Justice and Deputy Field Director for NARAL Pro-Choice America. She also sits on the Board of Directors for American Families United and The Discount Foundation.

If appointed and confirmed, Mary Beth would be the first openly gay cabinet secretary ever to serve in the history of our government.


A Great Star-studded Video...

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

December 3, 2008

VATICAN ADVOCATES FOR HOMOSEXUAL DEATH PENALTIES

This has got to be one the most twisted and disturbing things the Catholic Church has ever done!

According to an article posted at Lez Get Real, the Vatican's permanent observer to the United Nations said the Holy See would oppose a resolution that would protect gays from being killed just because they are gay.

Their extraordinarily twisted reasoning is that the resolution would "add new categories of those protected from discrimination" and could lead to reverse discrimination against traditional heterosexual marriage.

This is far beyond any conceivable concept of a religion that is supposedly founded on the benevolence, compassion and unconditional love of a God they purport to believe in. A God that, according to their own bible, commanded, "Thou shalt not kill."

The resolution, to be proposed this week by the French delegation and introduced to the UN on behalf of the European Union, recommends protecting Gays and Lesbians from being jailed or killed for no other reason than their sexual orientation.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore said that if the resolution were adopted, it would create “new and implacable discriminations" and that states which do not recognize same-sex unions as 'matrimony' will be pilloried and made objects of pressure.

However, the fact is that the French resolution, supported by all 27 members of the European Union, says absolutely nothing about gay marriage. It is about ending jail and death penalty sentences that gays face in more than 85 countries including Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen where you can still be legally murdered just for being gay.

An editorial in Italy's mainstream La Stampa newspaper said the Vatican's reasoning was "grotesque." Another editorial in Rome's La Repubblica newspaper said the Vatican's position "leaves one dumbstruck."

Gay rights activist’s in Italy and in other European Union countries said that the Vatican’s reasoning smacked of "total idiocy and madness" and what the Vatican really feared was a "chain reaction in favor of legally recognized homosexual unions in countries, like Italy, where there is currently no legislation."

How can anyone in their right mind support and even contribute money to a church that advocates the murder and torture of any human being? Especially when that advocacy is based solely on bigotry and/or, at best, gross misunderstandings that would unquestionably lead to death?

This time the Catholic Church has gone way over the edge and they should be taken to task for that inhumane and psychotic decision.

December 2, 2008

OBAMA PROMISES TO EXPAND DOMESTIC HIV/AIDS PROGRAMS

President-Elect Barack Obama has pledged to change and expand domestic and international HIV/AIDS programs.

In a video address to the Saddleback Civil Forum on Global Health, Obama said, "We must also recommit ourselves to addressing the AIDS crisis here in the United States, with a strong national strategy of education, prevention, and treatment, focusing on those communities at greatest risk. This strategy must be based on the best available science, and built on the foundation of a strong health care system."

Promising to rely on "the best available science" is already a welcome departure from the politically blinded policies of the Bush disaster that withdrew funding from organizations that did not teach abstinence-only education.

During the entire eight years of the Bush fiasco, there was never a specific and/or coherent domestic, national approach for combating HIV/AIDS in this country. In contrast, Obama's plan would implement national strategies to decrease the rate of HIV transmission, establish a universal health care system, begin a more aggressive targeting of minority communities, begin comprehensive, age-appropriate sexual education and fully support the Ryan White CARE Act..

On an international scale, Obama also pledged to provide at least $50 billion by 2013 to fight AIDS around the world which could at least double the number of people who are treated for the virus. In addition, he promised to push for distribution of less-expensive generic drugs and invest in other nations' infrastructure problems that have increased the rate of transmissions such as poor water conditions and debt reduction.

I have to say that, so far, Obama is clearly trying to live up to the promises he made in his campaign. His picks for cabinet and other top-level positions certainly demonstrates his pledge to fill the government with the most qualified people available regardless of party affiliations or ideological differences.

The stark contrasts between the political approaches and levels of intelligence of Obama and Bush is a more than welcome change. Now I'm hoping that the democrat-controlled congress and senate will be able to find a way of working together instead of repeating the disastrous bickering and inertia during the first four years of Clinton's presidency when they also had control the presidency, congress and senate. They would do well to remember that the ineptitude shown by that congress led to the embarrassing hand-over of power to the Republicans in 1996 - just four short years after acquiring it.

Let's keep our fingers crossed and our eyes open. We all have a stake in and responsibility for what happens next.

December 1, 2008

WEEKEND ROUNDUP...

Matthew Mitcham Named Sports Performer Of The Year...


Olympic gold medalist Matthew Mitcham caps off his stunning victory in Beijing by winning Australia's coveted athletics award as Sports Performer Of The Year.

20 year old Matthew was up against 8 other outstanding Australian athletes but when his dramatic final dive on the 10m platform scored a world-record-breaking 4 perfect tens, beating out the overwhelming Chinese favorites, he forever became a major part of the Olympic's illustrious athletic history.

The great, and now immortal Olympian, Michael Phelps was also honored as the International Performer of the Year.

For those of you who may not know, Matthew came out as a gay man in a Sydney Morning Herald interview prior to gong to Beijing, making him the first and only openly gay Olympic Medalist to ever compete.

There is, unfortunately, an aspect of all of this that the Australian, and even the international, business and advertising industries should be very embarrassed about. Although most of the multinational, mega-corporations have gone out of their way to proudly tout their corporate policies of supporting diversity in an effort to attract GLBT employees and GLBT dollars, the fact is that while Michael Phelps has been deservedly inundated with national and international sponsorship deals, none of those supposedly diverse companies have knocked on Matthew Mitcham's door.

What's wrong with this picture?


Proposition 8 is becoming a PR fiasco for Mormons...

According to a story in the Salt Lake Tribune, the backlash from the Mormon's extensive involvement in the Yes On 8 campaign is beginning to look like a major fiasco for the church.

LDS Church members Gregory and JaLynn Prince, of Washington, D.C., thousands of miles away from California, have felt the sting of their church's actions.

Their daughter, a student at Boston University, has lost friends over the issue and their son, who is doing LDS missionary recruiting work in San Bernardino, Calif., has had a disproportionate number of potential converts cancel appointments.

At a first-ever class on Mormonism at Wesley Theological Seminary, where the Princes have been trying to build bridges for years, students pointedly asked them: "What was your church thinking?"

JaLynn Prince said,
"We are not taking sides on the issue, but the way this was done has hurt our people and the church's image. It reminds me of the naive public relations strategy we had regarding the Equal Rights Amendment."

According to the Tribune:
Just 10 months after the death of LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley, who spent nearly 70 years burnishing his church's public image, goodwill toward Mormonism that culminated during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games seems to have faded in a haze of misunderstanding and outright hostility.

All of this has come on the heals of Mitt Romney's unsuccessful presidential campaign and persistent news-media reports linking the Church of Latter-day Saints to the FLDS polygamous sect raided by Texas authorities.

Add to that the almost continuous demonstrations outside Mormon churches throughout the country accusing them of bigotry, lies and stripping gay American citizens of their civil rights. Civil rights that not only had already been granted to us but, according to the CA Supreme Court decision, should have always been ours to begin with.

In the words of Sarah Barringer Gordon of the University of Pennsylvania, who studies LDS history and culture...
"The Olympics had this nice afterglow for Mormons and, boy, is that gone."



British Rugby League Fights Homophobia...

According to the blog Lez Get Real the British Rugby League is taking bold, very visible steps to combat homophobia in sports.
Inspired by former Australian rugby league player and actor, Ian Roberts, who came out in 1995, the Rugby Football League of Britain is hoping to promote LGBT equality in sport.

League officials say posters and logos carrying the message, "Some people are gay. Get over it!" will be displayed at rugby league grounds, in programs and fan areas, as a bid to promote LGBT integration in the sport.

Forums will also be set up for gay, lesbian and bisexual players and staff.

This will make the RFL the first national governing body of a major sport to sign up and support an anti-homophobia campaign.

Now if some of our major league sports organizations did the same thing here, imagine what kind of long-term effect that would have on sports in our country.

Yes, of course, in the beginning there would be strong resistance to that kind of effort. But, as has been shown over and over again, the more people are exposed to the GLBT community the more they learn about who we are and the less threatened and more accepting they become. It's all about visibility and education.


Finally - Lest We Lump All Catholics Together...

I found this uplifting story at Box Turtle Bulletin. It reminds us not to always automatically think that all Catholics are against us.

Roman Catholic Bishops in the United Kingdom have issued the following instructions to priests and worshippers alike:
Roman Catholic priests have been banned from using ‘heterosexist’ language in their churches in case they offend gay worshipers. They have been told by their bishops not to assume that every churchgoer is a heterosexual and to reflect this ‘in language and conversation’. ‘Remember that homophobic jokes and asides can be cruel and hurtful - a careless word can mean another experience of rejection and pain,’ say the bishops in a leaflet advising priests and worshippers how to be more welcoming to gay people.

As a popular Bob Dylan song says, "The Times They Are a-Changin'"

November 28, 2008

WHY A WHITE KNOT RIBBON?

As you can see above, I've added a new banner to my blog. It represents a new symbol in the fight for equality.

According to Brooks Barnes of the New York Times Politics Blog and a story posted on Queers United, which first drew my attention to the White Knot Ribbon Campaign, the symbol represents our ongoing struggle for marriage equality.

Frank Voci, whose primary job is running a consultancy for interactive media companies, created the ribbon design two weeks ago in response to the passage of Proposition 8 in California. He got the idea after the prop 8 protests died down. “We needed a symbol, something to keep the conversation going,” Frank said.

His ultimate goal is to use the website, whiteknot.org, to recruit people sympathetic to the cause in less liberal locales.

Brook Barnes wrote:

The entertainment industry and celebrities — gay friendly but also a group that rarely turns down a ride on good bandwagon — are already jumping on board. At the recent premiere of the movie “Twilight” about two dozen of the knotted ribbons could be seen dangling from designer bags and pinned to suit lapels. Celebrities like Ricki Lake, Lucy Lawless (a.k.a. “Xena: Warrior Princess”) and T.R. Knight (of “Grey’s Anatomy”) have been photographed wearing them.

November 27, 2008

Just want to wish all of my readers a very

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thank you for your continued support. Enjoy.

November 26, 2008

CALIFORNIA INVESTIGATING MORMON CHURCH DONATIONS

The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) has agreed to investigate unreported, nonmonetary contributions to the Yes on Proposition 8 campaign by the Mormon Church.

Roman Porter, the Commission’s executive director, said that the commission is acting on a complaint filed by Californians Against Hate which accuses the Mormon Church of failing to report the value of work it did to support Proposition 8. Porter said that the complaint does merit further inquiry.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Californians Against Hate, which is an independent nonprofit organization formed to track Prop 8 donations, charges that the LDS church failed to report money invested to organize phone banks, send out direct mailers, provide transportation to California, mobilize a speakers bureau, send out satellite simulcasts and develop Web sites as well as numerous commercials and video broadcasts.

Fred Karger, a retired political consultant and head of Californians Against Hate, said that this step by the commission is a good sign since the commission normally takes on less than 5% of complaints they recieve. "I'm hopeful that the LDS Church will cooperate and share all the records and all the information they have about their activities in the Proposition 8 campaign."

If the FPPC determines fault, the commission could fine up to $5,000 per violation and may also file a civil lawsuit, which could lead to remedies amounting to three times the amount of unreported or misreported contributions.

November 25, 2008

FLORIDA'S GAY ADOPTION BAN RULED UNCONSTITUTIONAL

According to an article in today's Miami Herald, Florida's 50-year-old ban on gay adoptions has been declared unconstitutional.

In a 53-page ruling, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman said, "It is clear that sexual orientation is not a predictor of a person's ability to parent."

Judge Lederman's ruling would allow Frank Gill, a gay man from North Miami, to adopt two foster children he has been raising since 2004. The two boys are half-brothers ages 4 and 8. Gill said he was ''elated'' by the ruling. He added, "I cried tears of joy for the first time in my life."

Of course Florida's irrational, homophobic politics being what they are, the state plans on appealing the ruling. Assistant Attorney General Valerie Martin released a statement saying, "We respect the court's decision." Which, in legalize doublespeak, is always a precursor to an action that shows no respect whatsoever. And, sure enough, she went on to say, "Based upon the wishes of our client, the Department of Children & Families, we will file an appeal."

Hopefully, their higher court system is a little more rational and intelligent than their politicians. If it is, then the massive and overwhelming evidence from virtually all segments of the professional childcare community, from psychologists to psychiatrists to caregivers, will convince them that gay adoptions aren't the "dangerous threat" to children that those fanatics keep screaming about.

Keep your fingers crossed.

November 24, 2008

FROM FRIDAY TO SUNDAY...

Because I missed getting a posting up last Friday, I am posting below several stories and a commentary that I believe would be of interest to everyone who reads my blog. Most are new but some are stories that I haven't been able to post yet and want to get published before they become too dated.

San Diego Hotel Owner In Hot Water Again...
Last July I wrote about a boycott of the Manchester Grand Hyatt hotel because of a $124,000 donation that owner Douglas Manchester made to the Yes On 8 campaign. Well, it seems that Mr. Manchester has, once again, caused another call for another boycott.

This time, it's a labor dispute involving unfair labor practices. According to a story in The Advocate, the boycott is supported by an LGBT group affiliated with labor issues, local unions, Hyatt employees and 300 members of the National Communication Association (NCA) -- an association of collegiate speakers -- who object to their national convention being held at the contentious Hyatt.

Dana Cloud, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and an NCA member participating in the boycott said, "I'm supporting the boycott because in our country we're forced to feel like second-class citizens. I'm also part of this because of the participation of the unions. The solidarity between the labor movement and the gay rights groups is unprecedented… It demonstrates that working people need the benefits and rights that marriage allows."


San Diego's Other Side...
According to a posting at the blog site san diego:dialed in, blogger Rosemary was on her way to Bar Pink when she spotted the following billboard at the corner of University & 30th, above the Union Bank:


Since some of the words are obscured by the lighting, Rosemary translated for us. It reads:

Mission Gathering Christian Church
Is Sorry
For The Narrow-Minded, Judgmental, Deceptive, Manipulative
Actions Of Those Who
Took Away The Rights And Equality
Of So Many
In The Name Of God.

As Max, one of the postings commenters, put it, "Beautiful! It's refreshing to see a Church get it right. If only all christians had this much morality and good judgement..."


Vermont Lawmaker And His Family Threatened...
Because Vermont Senate Majority Leader John Campbell (D-Windsor) announced that he intended to introduce legislation to legalize same-sex marriages, his life and the lives of his family were threatened.

According to Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin, a St. Albans woman was so upset with his announcement that she called the state house and threaten to blow up Sen. Campbell’s home.

Burroway said:

Officer Dale Manning, who took the call, says that police do not take threats like this lightly and are investigating. The caller did not identify herself.

Sen. Campbell characterized the call as disturbing, saying, “This wasn’t directed just at me, but at my family, which is quite unfortunate.”


Vermont was the first state in the country to offer civil unions on July 1, 2000.

Unfortunately, the Republican Governor, Jim Douglas has since announced that he considers the civil unions to be adequate for his state and he will not support Senator Campbell's legislation. Since Campbell has said that without the governor's support, the bill would have no chance of winning, it's unlikely that he'll go through with the introduction.

Between the homophobia of Governor Douglas and the extreme, violent homophobia of that anonymous woman, Vermont has had its once positive image and reputation severely tarnished.

What a shame. It's a beautiful state.


New York Times Columnist Maureen Dowd Speaks Out...
Renowned columnist Maureen Dowd speaks out about the upcoming film "Milk;" about and with Senator Dianne Feinstein, who found Harvey Milk's bullet-ridden body; about the sadly ironic similarities of the gay rights movement then and now and about Proposition 8.

In her Op-Ed piece published on Sunday, Dowd said:
The movie, chronicling the rancorous California fight of gay activists against church-backed forces in the ’70s to prevent discrimination against gays, is opening amid a rancorous California fight of gay activists against church-backed forces to prevent discrimination against gays.

For those of you who don't know too much about gay history, Harvey Milk was a strong-willed and very outspoken gay activist of the early seventies in San Francisco. He became the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

He was gunned down by Dan White, who had served on the board with Milk and Feinstein. White was an Irish Catholic former policeman and Vietnam vet who opposed Milk’s equal rights initiatives for gays. In a moment of frenetic emotion he resigned his position and then immediately wanted his seat back. Milk helped persuade the mayor, George Moscone, to reject White's request which later caused an irrational White to climb through a City Hall basement window with a loaded gun and shoot down Moscone and Milk. At his trial, White tried to use the now infamous “Twinkie defense,” arguing that junk food had left him stressed out. It didn't work and he was convicted.

I have always admired Maureen Dowd for her insightful and well written observations but this particular Op-Ed piece really struck a cord and I highly recommend that you take a few minutes to read it in it's entirety. It's really not that long and I guarantee that you'll be glad you did.

In case you missed the link above, you can find Dowd's piece at: New York Times

November 20, 2008

TRANSGENDER DAY OF REMEMBRANCE

I just received the following from Equality Arizona:

In November of 1998, Rita Hester, a transgender woman in Boston, Massachusetts, answered a knock at her door. Instead of a friend, however, the person at the door was an assailant who forced entry into her apartment and stabbed her over twenty times. Rita's death that night proved to be the event that focused the attention of transgender people everywhere on the terrible violence often inflicted on trans people.

Today, November 20th, is Transgender Day of Remembrance. This day honors the memory of persons murdered during the past year. Transgender Day of Remembrance is a time to stand up against this violence and say "NO MORE."

Come remember and support our community at these upcoming events:

TEMPE
- Today, November 20th, at 6:30pm hosted by the LGBTQ Coalition at Arizona State University
- The event will be on the university campus in Tempe, Arizona, on Hayden Lawn.
- For more information, contact lgbtq.coalition@asu.edu

TUCSON
- Today, November 20th, hosted by Southern Arazona Gender Alliance
- Interfaith Service at 4:30pm at the Quaker House (931 N. 5th Avenue), followed by a vigil and procession at 5:30pm, Catalina Park (309 E. 1st Street) and a Puertas Abiertas Reception w/ Keynote Sylvia Guerrero at 6:45pm, Wingspan.
- For more information, please visit their website at: http://sagatucson.org/saga/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=159&Itemid=2

PHOENIX
- Observed on Sunday, November 23rd at 5:00 P.M. at the Arizona State Capitol located on 1700 West Washington Street.
- For more information, visit www.azdor.org or email at Transforum@gmail.com

CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT AGREES TO HEAR ARGUMENTS AGAINST PROP 8

According to today's LA Times, the California Supreme Court voted 6-1 to hear arguments against proposition 8, the now infamous anti-gay marriage amendment.

The fact that the court agreed to hear arguments does, on one hand, seem to be a good sign that the proposition may be overturned. The easiest thing for them to do if they were sure they would let proposition 8 stand, would have been to simply refuse to hear the case at all. But, since they refused a concurrent request to stay the proposition and allow same-sex marriages to continue until a final decision is made, makes it very difficult to read their intentions.

UC Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu said "A stay is an extraordinary measure," and the court's refusal to put Proposition 8 on hold pending a ruling did not suggest that the court would eventually uphold the measure.

UCLA law professor Brad Sears, an expert on sexual orientation law, said "If the justices were really leaning towards upholding Prop. 8, and that was clear, they would have wanted to do it as quickly as possible and put the issue to rest." The delay, he said, could indicate that the justices were divided and needed time to resolve the issues.

The court did say that they would expedite the proceedings and it's possible that they could hold hearings on the lawsuits as early as March. That's a timetable law scholars said was swift considering the complexity and importance of the legal issues.

When propostion 8 passed, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said that he expected the court to overturn the proposition and indicated that he favored that outcome. A terse statement made through an aide today said, "The governor believes the Supreme Court ought to bring clarity to this issue."

I couldn't agree more. I am personally, albiet guardedly, optimistic that they will end up overturning it. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

To read the full story, go to: LA Times