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September 13, 2009

A NOTE TO MY FRIENDS AND LOYAL READERS...

By now you've probably noticed that I've missed a number of regular postings.

Without going into too much detail, I just want you to know that I'm taking a little time off to take care of a couple of physical problems that I've dealt with over the past three decades but have intensified over the last few months. Hopefully these will be resolved in a short time and I'll be able to get back to regular postings.

In the meantime, I'll try to make a few postings here and there whenever I can and I want you all to know how much I've appreciated your loyalty since I started posting in May of 2008. If you want to check out any of my past postings, you can find them in my Archives just after my bio in the right-hand column. I hope that you'll save your subscription links so you'll be notified whenever I make a posting.

If you don't have a link, it's pretty easy to establish one - just click the little blue box in the URL address box at the top of your window or click on either the "Posts" or the "All Comments" link under "SUBSCRIBE HERE..." at the top of the right-hand column and then click one of the options for notification.

If you want to contact me other than through a published comment to one of my stories, you can still email me.

September 8, 2009

GAY MARRIAGES GOOD FOR STRAIGHT MARRIAGES

Remember all the yelling and screaming by right wing fanatics about how gay marriage is a threat to the institution of heterosexual marriage and threatens the very foundation of our society?

Well, it seems that they were wholly, completely and woefully wrong.

According to the following report by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, new government statistics released last week show that since same-sex marriages were legalized in Massachusetts in 2004, the divorce rate for heterosexual marriages have fallen steadily. In fact, the divorce rate in Massachusetts is not only the lowest in the nation, it is now at its lowest since pre-World War II days. That's some 69 years ago when the prevailing belief was that families stayed together through thick and thin. They were expected to work out their problems rather than run to a divorce attorney.

This is how Rachel put it...



Next time some fanatic tries to tell you that gay marriage is going to destroy our world, point them to the government's own findings about the effect we've had in Massachusetts. Clearly, the only way to save straight marriages is to legalize gay marriages nationwide. Now that would be a defense of marriage act!

September 2, 2009

TEXAS BAR RAID FOLLOW UP

Administrator Alan Steen of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) announced that the investigation into the Fort Worth Rainbow Lounge raid on June 28th has resulted in the firing of three TABC employees.

The investigation found numerous violations of TABC policies, most of which were outlined by Administrator Steen as early as last July in an interview with The Dallas Voice.

Steen said in that interview that if the agents had sought approval from the supervisor before the Rainbow Lounge inspection, it shouldn’t have been granted because he doesn’t think there was sufficient cause for the inspection. He also said that the eight law enforcement officers and the paddy wagon that were present likely constituted an excessive show of force.

In addition, some of the agents wore uniforms that read "STATE POLICE" on the back when, in fact, there is no State Police agency and those are “special events uniforms” which TABC policy prohibits during bar inspections. Agents are only supposed to dress in street clothes when conducting bar inspections.

Agent Trainee Jason Chapman and Agent Christopher Aller were both dismissed from service due to violations of department policy. And, facing the same fate, Sgt. Terry Parsons announced his retirement effective today, September 2nd.

“If our guys would have followed the damn policy, we wouldn’t even have been there," Steen said.

Numerous other internal changes have been instituted within the TABC including the complete overhaul of the cultural diversity training program to make it more effective, especially with regard to sexual orientation.

The Fort Worth police had already announced their intention to cease all such joint operations with the TABC and have instituted numerous policy changes within their department as well. They have also appointed a special liason to the LGBT community and the TABC said they're going to do the same thing.

There is still a separate investigation into the use of force that caused a serious head injury to bar patron Chad Gibson. As soon as the results of that investigation are announced, I'll let you know.


Thanks to Box Turtle Bulletin and LezGetReal for some of the information in this article.

August 31, 2009

VIGILANCE PAYS OFF & COSTS HOMOPHOBIC PERFORMER

Buju Banton is a Jamaican reggae performer whose music includes some of the most virulently violent lyrics ever written. Many of his songs advocate beating, torturing and killing gays, lesbians and transgenders.

Obviously, this is homophobia in its extreme. But given the culture Banton comes from, it's not really a very big surprise. As I've written about before, the current Jamaican government strongly supports and encourages violence towards anyone who is, or even just appears to be, gay. As many of you know, because of the intransigence of the government's position, Jamaica is still under a large scale boycott of the island and the island's exports.

Well now, because of his unwillingness to capitulate to the concerns of the worldwide GLBT community and other civil rights, humanitarian and anti-violence organizations, Buju Banton is paying the price. In fact, he may very well end up sacrificing his entire career to his homophobic hatreds.

According to a story at LezGetReal.com, Banton was scheduled to kickoff a US tour with appearances at House Of Blues locations in Chicago, Las Vegas, Dallas and Houston as well as a number of other venues throughout the country.

When news of this second attempt at a US tour reached the LA Gay & Lesbian Center, a campaign was organized, with help from the liberal website change.org, to stop the tour.

In a very short period of time, promoter Live Nation, which owns the House Of Blues venues, received nearly a thousand angry calls from the GLBT community and our supporters. They quickly issued a statement canceling all of Benton's US appearances.

To give you a little background as to why Benton is still shunned, LGR also reported:

Banton has drawn the anger of gay activist groups for years, in large part because of the violently homophobic lyrics of his 1992 single “Boom Bye Bye,” which proposes pouring acid on homosexuals and shooting them in the head.

In 2004 he was also tried and acquitted on charges that he participated in the beating of six gay men by a gang in Jamaica.

Two years ago, Banton signed up to the Reggae Compassionate Act, promising not to perform songs that advocate homophobia, in a deal brokered by Stop Murder Music activists.

He later denied that he had made any such commitment.


Lorri L. Jean, CEO of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center issued a statement that said:

“I hope this victory sends a deafeningly loud message to other promoters and concert venues that singers who glorify violence against LGBT people, or any group of people, should never be welcomed. It shouldn’t be necessary for us to pressure promoters to do the right thing; people like Banton should never have been booked in the first place.”

Box Turtle Bulletin is keeping a close eye on other scheduled performances by Banton. "In addition to the four House of Blues dates mentioned earlier, AEG Live/Goldenvoic have announced the cancellations of scheduled concerts in Los Angeles (Oct. 14), in San Francisco (Oct. 10), and Philadelphia (Sept. 12)."

Check out Box Turtle Bulletin's blog story. In it, they list dates and locations for other scheduled performances throughout the country.

As more of us find out about Banton and his US Tour, more pressure will be put on the remaining venues that haven't canceled his appearances yet. If you see your city listed in BTB's published itinerary, call or email that establishment and voice your concerns. It would also be very effective if you notified your local media and/or wrote a letter to the editors of your local newspapers letting them know the kind of person who's coming to their town to perform.

August 25, 2009

TEMPE AZ PASTOR CALLS FOR GAY EXECUTIONS AND MURDER OF PRESIDENT OBAMA

We've heard vile rhetoric from right wing religious fanatics before but this guy is so far over the edge, he's fallen off the cliff! If anyone deserves to be shattered off the rocks on his way down and splattered across the canyon floor, Pastor Steven L. Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist church here in Tempe, AZ is that person.

Yes, I know that statement sounds somewhat extreme and certainly doesn't show any kind of compassion for another human being, BUT - this guy is about as vile and as dangerous as any so-called human being could be.

When you publicly call for the wholesale execution (as in kill them dead) of a whole class of people who you just simply don't like because of nothing more than who they are, AND you call for the execution of the President of the United States because he supports reproductive freedoms and speaks out in support of the LGBT community, then you don't deserve any kind of compassion that would allow you to continue freely spewing such vitriolic hatred in public.

In explaining to his followers how gays are out to rape their children in order to recruit them Anderson said that the only way to stop them is to kill them:

You want to know who the biggest hypocrite in the world is? The biggest hypocrite in the world is the person who believes in the death penalty for murderers and not for homosexuals. Hypocrite. The same God who instituted the death penalty for murderers is the same God who instituted the death penalty for rapists and for homosexuals - sodomites, queers! That's what it was instituted for, okay? That's God, he hasn't changed. Oh, God doesn't feel that way in the New Testament ... God never "felt" anything about it, he commanded it and said they should be taken out and killed.

In a clear and unambiguous attempt to incite murder, he continued his rant with this:

You know why God wanted the sodomites in the Old Testament to be killed? You know why every good king of Israel, the Bible says they got rid of the sodomites in the land? You know, the good kings that came after the bad kings who had allowed the sodomites to infest their land, they had infiltrated ... King Asa got the sodomites out of the land, Jehoshaphat exterminated the sodomites that were left from the days of his father, Asa. Why? Because the sodomites are infectious, that's why. Because they're not reproducers, that goes without saying, they're recruiters.

Following up on that absurd statement, he said:

"The sodomites are recruiters and you know who they are after? Your children. They are being recruited by the sodomites. They are being molested by the sodomites. They recruit through rape, they recruit through molestation, they recruit through violation"

"Our country is run by faggots. You know who was the man who was the architect of the bailout? His name is Barney Frank, he is a pedophile..."

"That's who just sold our country into fascism. That's who just sold our corporations to the government. That's who sold out our country, a faggot!"

And about President Obama:

"God Hates Barack Obama, I hate Barack Obama. I hate Him. God wants me to Hate Barack Obama." "Someone who commits murder should get the death penalty."

That kind of public oratory is, at the very least, an attempt to incite weaker-minded individuals to violence. At worst, it's a blatant attempt to incite them to murder. Somehow, I just don't think the founding fathers intended for this kind of despicable elocution to be included under their concept of "freedom of speech." Or even, for that matter, "freedom of religion." What sane, rational person would?

I just hope that the Secret Service doesn't allow this idiot to use his church and religion as shields against prosecution. They should go after him with the same fervor they would go after anyone who threatens the life of the President of the United States. At the very least, his church's tax exempt status should be permanently revoked.

The three primary sources I used for this story are:

RightWingWatch.org
Part of Norman Lear's national organization, People For The American Way which was founded in 1981 as a civil liberties advocacy organization. It also energetically opposes the interjection of religion into politics.

This link also has two audio files of Anderson making these ridiculous, dangerous comments.

Pam'sHouseBlend.com
"An Online Magazine in the Reality-Based Community."

BoxTurtleBulletin.com
One of the most aggressive, intensive and in-depth LGBT news and commentary sources on the net.


UPDATE...
Yesterday, msnbc weighed in on Pastor Anderson's outrageous and dangerous comments. Here's what was said:


I'm glad they chose to devote air time to exposing this lunatic but I have to take exception to one of the commentator's comments. She said that she's "...not accusing him of taking action in any violent way, in any criminal way..." In my opinion, using words to incite deranged and unstable individuals to take violent action is the same thing as taking that action yourself. Culpability has got to be assigned to those who use their positions of power and authority to actively incite violence. They are as guilty as the actual perpetrators themselves and should be prosecuted as accessories before the fact.

If this isn't done with swift, sure and strong action against these people then this country is going to break down into violent and deadly enclaves pitted against each other. If that happens, then virtually all reason and all civil law will be lost.

CALL TO ACTION AGAINST DR PHIL

Yesterday morning I received an email from Queers United asking a group of us to blog about two upcoming Dr. Phil shows.

I haven't seen any of the past shows that dealt with LGBT topics but I do know from multiple past postings that on several occasions, especially when dealing with transgender/transsexual issues, his guests (some of whom were only in their early teens) were marginalized and even "blamed" for the way they were.

Even more disturbing was that the so called "experts" he had on to discuss these highly sensitive issues, supposedly from a "professional" viewpoint, were from the notoriously homophobic Focus On The Family so you can imagine the impression the viewer was left with. Dr. Phil even went so far as to include a link to FOTF on his show's website.

Well, now it seems that he's at it again. According to a Monday posting at Queers United,

His upcoming shows continue to raise a red flag merely by their title and description alone and considering his past actions we do not expect any change.

One show called Teen Experimenting With Bisexuality? has this description:

"Did your teenager recently tell you he/she is bisexual? Maybe you caught them engaging in same sex activity? Are you torn with how to react?

Do you feel that what your teenager is doing is just a phase? Or maybe you feel like girls kissing girls is the new teenage fad? Do you feel strongly opinionated on the subject?"

This insinuates that bisexuality is not a psychologically sound or stable orientation. We would applaud a show on bisexuality, but not one that gives credence to the myths surrounding it.

Another show that is alarming is called Struggling With Sexual Identity?

"Are you a woman struggling with sexual identity? Maybe it's causing problems with an addiction? Or maybe you feel you might be in denial about your sexuality?

Did you think you knew who you were but then something or someone opened your eyes to a new you?"

The shows title raises a red flag because proponents of "ex-gay therapy" often use the terms "struggling" and "sexual identity" to refer to GLBT people.

Queers United is asking that you send a message to the Dr. Phil show expressing your concerns about ensuring a balanced presentation of these topics. And especially a presentation that doesn't include the homophobic and discredited pseudoscience of so-called "experts" from organizations like Focus On The Family.

To send a message to the Dr. Phil producers, click here for their online contact form.

August 19, 2009

THE ALARMING TRUTH ABOUT THE TORTURE AND MURDER OF GAY IRAQIS

After toppling Saddam Hussein and his brutal police and military forces, hope ran high that finally people in that country would be free to be themselves. To not have to worry about being picked up on the streets or taken from their own homes to be jailed, tortured and frequently murdered at the whim of those in power.

It was hoped that the establishment of a free and democratic society would put an end to those brutal, barbaric tactics. And, for much of Iraq's populace, this seems to be the direction the country is moving towards. With one glaring exception. Homosexuals.

This past Monday, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a 67 page report titled "They Want Us Exterminated". The report documents a wide-reaching campaign of extrajudicial executions, kidnappings, and torture of gay men that began in early 2009.

The killings began in the vast Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City, a stronghold of Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, and spread to many cities across Iraq. Mahdi Army spokesmen have promoted fears about the "third sex" and the "feminization" of Iraq men, and suggested that militia action was the remedy. Some people told Human Rights Watch that Iraqi security forces have colluded and joined in the killing.

The Advocate reported:

The kidnappings, torture, and murder of gay men coincided with the downturn of violence in Iraq that occurred in 2008. That quiet signaled a weakening of power by militia and insurgent leaders, and the subsequent Westernization of Iraq: women ditching the long robes that once covered their entire bodies, the appearance of liquor stores, and gay men gathering together in public. Possibly in response to this, Shiite religious leaders issued decrees that condemned "unnatural" behavior.

The charge d'affaires of the U.S. Embassy wrote U.S. congressman Jared Polis, a gay politician, in April and spelled out the extreme level of violence occurring, including torture methods like injecting super glue into men's rectums. Polis visited Iraq that spring and addressed the issue with U.S. and Iraqi officials.

Below is one gay person's account that was published in HRW's report:

"They did many things to us, the Mahdi Army. ... They kidnapped [my partner] for six days. He will not talk about what they did to him. There were bruises on his side as if he was dragged on the street. They did things to him he can't describe, even to me. They wrote in the dust on the windshield of his car: ‘Death to the people of Lot and to collaborators.' They sent us veiled threats in text messages: ‘You are on the list.' They sent him a piece of paper in an envelope, to his home: there were three bullets wrapped in plastic, of different size. The note said, ‘Which one do you want in your heart?' ... I want to be a regular person, lead a normal life, walk around the city, drink coffee on the street. But because of who I am, I can't. There is no way out."
- Mohammad, in Iraq, April 21, 2009

As the report indicated, one of the most disturbing tactics was the injection of super glue into the anus of several suspected gays. This would make it impossible for the victim to defecate until the passage was reopened by very painful and often totally unsanitary "operations." Otherwise, the blockage would ultimately result in severe physical complications and even excruciatingly painful deaths. That's if the "operations" themselves didn't kill them by infections and botched procedures. According to many Iraqi gays, this kind of religiously motivated barbarism didn't occur under Saddam.

This country owes it to every LGBT Iraqi citizen to do everything in its power to pressure the Iraqi government into bringing an end to this inhuman and unfathomable nightmare that our invasion helped bring about.

Why should American money and military power be used to support and facilitate any government that would allow these kinds of astounding atrocities to continue?

August 18, 2009

A SECOND DOMA BRIEF FILED BY JUSTICE DEPARTMENT

Last June, Obama's Department Of Justice (DOJ) filed a highly offensive brief in support of the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA). The reaction to the language used to justify maintaining DOMA was fierce and widespread.

Wide ranging objections were heard from GLBT community leaders to editorials in the New York Times and Washington Post to radio and television commentaries to countless blogs across the internet. All condemning the brief's language that, in essence, equated gay marriages to incest and pedophilia. It also stated that heterosexual marriage is "the traditional and universally recognized form" and "that awarding federal marriage benefits to gays would infringe on the rights of taxpayers in the 30 states that specifically prohibit same-sex marriages."

Well, according to an article in the Washington Post;

The Obama administration distanced itself Monday from legal arguments it had made earlier this summer, taking pains to remove and renounce language that had outraged advocates in the gay community in a case that centers on the constitutionality of a same-sex marriage law.

In a filing by the Justice Department, administration lawyers made it clear for the first time in court that the president thinks the 13-year-old Defense of Marriage Act, which denies benefits to domestic partners of federal employees and allows states to reject same-sex marriages performed in other states, discriminates against gays and should be repealed.

None of the language that was in the brief filed in June appeared anywhere in Monday's DOJ filing. And, in conjunction with that filing, Obama also issued a separate statement on Monday affirming that he would continue to seek repeal of DOMA.

This is certainly a step in the right direction but without a bill to repeal DOMA outright, it's still just a step.

August 13, 2009

HYPOCRISY ABOUNDS WITH SAN DIAGO HOTEL OWNER

San Diego hotelier and developer Doug Manchester was a very early financial supporter of Proposition 8. His $125,000 donation was a key factor in moving Prop 8 forward and sparked an on-going boycott of his hotels.

His reasoning in making such a large personal donation was, according to a New York Times interview at the time, because of “my Catholic faith and longtime affiliation with the Catholic Church.”

Of course we all know that the Catholic Church was one of the biggest and most aggressive forces behind Prop 8, second only to the extraordinary involvement of the Mormon Church. We also know that both religions are virulently homophobic, calling gays and gay marriages immoral and even an abomination against God.

They believe, and by logical extension so too does Doug Manchester, that gay marriage is evil and a direct threat to the very institution of marriage itself. They also believe that heterosexual divorce is just as immoral and just as much an abomination as same-sex marriage and therefore prohibit that as well.

Apparently Manchester's morality and commitment to his religion seems to be based solely on his own personal interests. Like most of the publicly avowed true believers, if there's a conflict between what he wants and what the Church will allow, then of course personal desire will instantly trump religious beliefs.

And here's the glaring hypocrisy of Douglas Manchester. After 43 years of marriage to Elizabeth Manchester, Doug decided that he was tired of it and simply moved out. This was in October of 2008 and was followed by Doug immediately filing for divorce and pushing very hard for a quick settlement of their multimillion dollar estate.

This is where it became a sad imitation of a bad soap opera. Obviously knowing the kind of man she was married too, Elizabeth hired her own lawyers as well as forensic accountants to fully assess Doug’s assets. From there, things devolved very quickly.

Doug apparently began shifting his finances around to make it harder to fully assess his worth. And, despicably, stripped their joint bank account and even stole an 8.2 million dollar tax refund check made out to both of them and deposited it his own private bank account in an attempt to force Elizabeth to agree to his terms.

This is one of those ugly divorces that is probably going to take a few more years to settle. But the actions of Doug Manchester throughout all of this ordeal has certainly spotlighted his true persona. For a man who tried to paint himself as a true and devout Christian when he gave $125,000 to defeat gay marriage in the name of protecting the institution of heterosexual marriage, he has clearly shown himself to be a crass hypocrite - completely dishonest, devious and wholly immoral.

This, to me, is the kind of person who is supporting and funding the fights against anything and everything that might, even remotely, benefit the LGBT community.

How long is it going to take the honest, rank and file religious believers to finally see the ugly, carnivorous wolves beneath the sheep's clothing?

August 12, 2009

DANIEL RADCLIFFE MAKES SIZABLE DONATION TO THE TREVOR PROJECT

Actor Daniel Radcliffe, a staunch supporter of the LGBT community and causes, made a sizable donation to The Trevor Project here in this country.

This non-profit organization was founded in 1998 by three filmmakers whose film 'Trevor,' about a gay teenager who attempts suicide, received an Oscar in 2004.

The Project works to prevent crises and suicides among LGBTQ youth through school workshops, educational materials, online resources and advocacy. It also maintains a free Trevor helpline which organisers say has received hundreds of thousands of calls since it began with calls increasing more than 300 per cent in just this past year.

Radcliffe is best known as Harry Potter in the wildly successful film series of the same name. He has also received critical acclaim for his sensitive and powerful performances as the troubled youth in both the London and New York productions of "Equus."

Although he maintains that he is not gay, he recently said that the gay rumours about him are "awesome." He strongly condemns homophobia and said in a statement quoted at pinknews.co.uk:

"I am very pleased to begin my support of The Trevor Project, which saves lives every day through its critical work.

It's extremely distressing to consider that in 2009 suicide is a top three killer of young people, and it's truly devastating to learn that LGBTQ youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.

I deeply hope my support can raise the organisation's visibility so even more despondent youth become aware of the Trevor helpline's highly trained counsellors and Trevor's many other resources.

It's vitally important that young people understand they are not alone and, perhaps even more important, that their young lives have real value."

Charles Robbins, executive director and chief executive officer of The Trevor Project said:
“We’re incredibly grateful to Daniel for his truly inspiring and historic generosity and support. He is setting a meaningful example for millions of young people around the world by embracing diversity and demonstrating that he cares deeply about the well-being of LGBTQ youth.”

This 20 year old certainly deserves all the praise and admiration he's received since starting his acting career at the ripe old age of 10 as the young David Copperfield in the 1999 film David Copperfield.

Whether or not he is or isn't gay really doesn't matter. Who he has shown himself to be is an extraordinary young man who is filled with a burning compassion for the world around him. For that, he should be incredibly proud!

August 10, 2009

RESULTS OF ONE RAINBOW LOUNGE INVESTIGATION NOW IN

The highly anticipated results of one of the investigations into the Fort Worth, Texas Rainbow Lounge raid that resulted in the hospitalization of one patron with serious head injuries, were just released this past week.

The investigation was conducted by the internal affairs division of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC). It found that two TABC agents and a supervising Sergeant committed a total on 19 policy violations while conducting their now infamous raid against the Rainbow Lounge.

According to the official media blog of the LGBT Dallas Voice, Agent Christopher Aller committed eight violations, Agent trainee Jason Chapman committed seven violations and Sgt. Terry Parsons committed four violations.

Violations committed by the two agents include participating in a joint operation with Fort Worth police without approval from a supervisor; failing to submit a complaint card against the Rainbow Lounge; conducting bar inspections in unapproved attire; failing to follow bar inspection procedures; failing to report the use of force and injuries involving Chad Gibson, a Rainbow Lounge patron who sustained serious head injuries; and disrupting business during a bar inspection.

The violations committed by Parsons, who was not at the scene of the raid and has since reportedly retired from the agency, involve failing to take appropriate action against Aller and Chapman; failing to ensure Aller and Chapman filed the necessary reports; and failing to notify the sergeant’s supervisors of the raid.

Disciplinary action is pending because the three TABC employees have the right to file a written response to the report within five working days.

Fortunately, their problems won't end there because the TABC is also conducting a second investigation (still underway) into the use of force during the raid. It will take into account statements by TABC employees, Fort Worth police officers, other eyewitnesses and specialized expert witnesses. Because of the complexity and seriousness of this kind of investigation and because the force that was used resulted in serious head injuries for patron Chad Gibson, it will take longer to complete.

The Dallas Voice blog posted a verbatim copy of the actual report. If you want to check that out, go to: Dallas Voice

Thanks to the immediate and overwhelming response from the Ft. Worth community and the LGBT community throughout the country and around the world, this was one police harassment incident that was impossible to sweep under the rug. And yes, some of them did try to do just that in the very beginning - before the worldwide media descended on them.

Of course, I'll keep you posted as soon as the results from the second investigation are released.

August 6, 2009

CHICAGO HONORS LGBT VETERANS

In a ceremony held yesterday in downtown's Daley Plaza, Chicago honored all of the gay men and women who served their country proudly throughout America's march through history.

The Windy City Times, Chicago's oldest gay newspaper, reported that for the seventh year running, Chicago has held the only municipally sponsored ceremony in the country that recognizes and honors the service of GLBT veterans. It's called With Liberty And Justice For All and included the laying of a pink triangle wreath and a mayoral proclamation read by Dana Starks of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations.

The keynote speaker was Luke Visconti, a veteran, CEO of Diversity Inc, and a member of the U.S. Navy Diversity Senior Advisory Group. In his moving speech, he outlined what he believes defending the constitution means now. He said:

"Keeping liberty is disruptive. Ending slavery was disruptive, as was winning the vote for women, desegragating the military, integrating women into the military. Liberty is fragile and needs care.

I think it is time for veterans to come to the forefront to defend liberty. I don't mean just LGBT veterans but, I hate to tell you, it always is the oppressed ones who have to carry the water for the trest of us. Oppressed people have to bring society forward, it is the way it has always been. Emancipation of slaves didn't happen without a fight, women's sufferage didn't happen without a fight. People didn't get the civil rights act and voting rights without a fight and this isn't happening without a fight.


Below is a television report on the event by WSL-TV (Chicago's ABC affiliate).

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
SORRY ABOUT THE VIDEO THAT SHOULD BE HERE...
It was working until sometime over night. I've tried reembedding the coding but it's not working so I think it's corrupted at WSL-TV.
As soon as I can get it working, I'll remount it.
If you want to see it before then, go to:
http://abclocal.go.com/wls/video?id=6950460
•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••


I was born in Chicago but because I grew up in the country just north of the city, I never really saw that side of it. It was always obscured by the many political scandals that plagued that whole area. Since then, I've come to appreciate just how forward thinking most people there were - and obviously still are. Today, I couldn't be prouder of my birth city than I am right now. Congratulations Chicago - we've both come a long way.

August 4, 2009

18 YEAR DECORATED COMBAT PILOT MAY LOSE ALL RETIREMENT BENEFITS

Air Force Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach is a decorated pilot who has flown combat missions over Afghanistan, Iraq and Bosnia. Now serving as the assistant director of operations for an Air Force squadron in Idaho, he has an exemplary 18 year record of serving his country with unquestioned honor and a level of bravery that most of us could never know.

Now, after 18 years and nine Air Medals, including one for heroism under fire during an enemy ambush near Baghdad in 2003, Fehrenbach faces discharge because last year a civilian reported to military authorities that Fehrenbach is gay.

According to an in-depth piece published yesterday by Washington Post writer Steve Vogel, the Air Force launched its own all-out investigation based on nothing more than the hearsay quality and probably revenge instigated civilian report. The result was that last September the Air Force charged Fehrenbach with "damaging its good order and discipline." How despicably ironic is that? After 18 years of exemplary service they tell him that he damaged their "good order"! That's about as cruel and callous a statement as they could have come up with.

But wait - it gets even cruder...

In April, a review board ruled against Fehrenbach, and unless Air Force Secretary Michael Donley rejects the recommendation, he will be dismissed. If he is unable to retire with 20 years of service, Fehrenbach will lose nearly $50,000 a year in retirement pay as well as medical benefits.

If he is discharged and does lose all of the benefits he EARNED over the last 18 years, it's highly unlikely that, in today's marketplace, he would ever be able to recoup any of that - provided that he's even able to find work right now! And, given the damaging label the military has pinned on him, most employers who offer more than minimum wage positions would be very reluctant to hire someone who "damaged the good order and discipline" of the military.

This whole DADT thing is getting more despicable and uglier with every passing day. It's also fermenting deep seeded resentments and almost insurmountable distrust of the military and the political leaders who allow this to happen when a simple stop-loss order from the President or fast-tracked legislation by congress would put a humane end to this cruel and unsustainable policy.

As an Air Force veteran myself, I couldn't be more ashamed of and embarrassed by our military and political leaders than I am right now. This is a great and extraordinarily vibrant country but these power brokers are making it seem little better than our most ardent adversaries.

STOP THIS STUPID POLICY NOW before anymore dedicated and patriotic service members are slandered and discharged by the very same government they risked their lives to defend!!

August 3, 2009

GAY SLAUGHTER IN TEL AVIV

At approximately 11:00pm on Saturday, a man reportedly dressed in black and wearing a black ski mask entered the Gay Youth Center in Tel Aviv, Israel and immediately opened fire, spraying bullets indiscriminately around the room.

The teenagers, many of whom were very young and hadn't even come out to their parents yet, were gathered in a basement room of the Tel Aviv Gay and Lesbian Association for a group support meeting. Within minutes, two people were killed and more than a dozen where wounded.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Israel Radio identified a 17 year old girl from Holon and a 24-year-old guide from Givatayim as the two fatalities. Of those who where wounded, at least two are in critical condition, another six were badly hurt and several others had minor wounds. Unfortunately, regardless of the physical wounds, the psychological trauma of just being a target during such a horrendous attack like this is going to haunt everyone who was in that room for the rest of their lives.

Even though Tel Aviv has been a target of numerous terrorist's attacks, most agree that this one was not done by a terrorist. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that this was "most likely a criminal attack and not a terror attack."

Eyewitness Yaniv Weisman told Channel 10 TV that, "This was a hate crime, a premeditated attack." He said Cafe Noir (the basement club's name) was a popular spot with gay youth. The club is also a bit off the beaten path which means that you have to know where you were going to be able to find it. So this being a random terrorist's act seems unlikely.

Of course it won't be possible to know the real motives behind the gunman's attack until he is caught. But, it's well known throughout Israel that the Jewish right wing religious sects espouse the same hateful, homophobic, rabble-rousing rhetoric that our own right wing religious fanatics constantly blubber about here. It's not such a big leap to assume that that kind of shrill pomposity, especially "in the name of God," can easily lead an unstable mind to believe that they would be doing "God's work" by such horrendously evil acts like this shooting. Somewhere along the line, this needs to be stopped before more innocent people and children are killed because of those twisted beliefs.

Yes, there is the issue of freedom of expression. But even that has limits -- like it's unlawful to yell "FIRE" in a crowded theatre when there isn't any fire. Well, to me, this kind of religious rhetoric is exactly the same thing and shouldn't be protected by any law or constitution. And, I have no doubt that our founding fathers would agree.

Since this incident occurred there have been dozens of stories in mainstream medias, blogs across the internet and radio and television stations around the world. If you would like to read more, the links I've provided below are the sites I used to compile this report:

The Jerusalem Post
The Huffington Post
The Advocate.com
365gay.com
PinkNews.co.uk
BoxTurtleBulletin.com

And here's a recent article about the continuing manhunt for the gunman...
LezGetReal.com

July 30, 2009

WHITE HOUSE PRESSURES CONGRESSMAN TO WITHDRAW ANTI-DADT FUNDING BILL

This is both disturbing and encouraging news at the same time.

Congressman Alcee Hastings introduced a bill to withhold from the DOD funding bill specific funds that are used to carry out the DADT policy discharges. The next day, Hastings was pressured (read, forced) by White House representatives and other congressional colleagues to withdraw his bill.

Yesterday, Representative Hastings appeared on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show to explain his reason for introducing and then withdrawing his bill. Below is that interview:



The encouraging parts are the comments made by Secretary of Defense Gates and others. Hastings' bill not withstanding, it's clearly becoming more and more obvious with every passing day that DADT's days are numbered. The disturbing part is that Hastings had to withdraw his bill. Even more frustrating is the fact that every day that passes means more and more gay and lesbian service members are discharged.

What I still don't understand (because it's never been made clear) is why the President wouldn't want those needless discharges stopped before anymore lives are disrupted and anymore dreams of honorably serving their country are smashed.

BTW - for those of you who may not know, Rachel Maddow the is first openly gay anchor to be hired to host a prime-time news program in the United States.

July 28, 2009

MOVING CLOSER TO DADT REPEAL

According to a July 25th Associated Press article by Kristen Wyatt, Speaker Of The House Nancy Pelosi appointed openly gay Representative Jared Polis (D Colorado) to the U.S. Air Force Academy's Board of Visitors.

Polis, who took office in January as the first openly gay non-incumbent ever elected to congress, is now also the first openly gay member to serve on an oversight board at any of the military service academies. This, of course, immediately set off waves of speculation about the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy itself.

People on both sides of the DADT policy are openly wondering if Polis' appointment is a signal that change is coming.

"We're all reading the tea leaves here," said Tricia Heller, a Class of '87 Air Force Academy graduate who flew C-9 jets for the Air Force before the leaving the service four years ago and coming out.

"I'm not saying 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is going away. We can't say that. But this is a good sign."

For the supporters of DADT, this appointment signals the policy''s undoing.

"This is more than a signal," said Elaine Donnelly, president of the Washington-based Center For Military Readiness, a group of mostly civilians that favors banning gays from service. "I think when you're talking about the service academies, you're talking about the future of the military leadership. So this appointment, it appears to be advocacy."

Polis said that he doesn't plan to push for a change through the Board. But when asked about the future of DADT, he said that he expects that Congress could start debating its repeal as early as this fall. He added:

"We expect that [DADT] to end shortly, and I look forward to being a value to the Academy in making the transition."

I truly hope that he's right. This is one of the most destructive, cruel and idiotic military policies politicians have ever passed and it's end can't come soon enough.


In A Related Story...
The Advocate reported yesterday that newly appointed Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York announced Monday that the Senate Armed Services Committee will hold hearings this fall on DADT.

“This policy is wrong for our national security and wrong for the moral foundation upon which our country was founded,” Senator Gillibrand said in a statement. “I thank Chairman Levin for agreeing to hold this important hearing. Numerous military leaders are telling us that the times have changed. ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is an unfair, outdated measure that violates the civil rights of some of our bravest, most heroic men and women. By repealing this policy, we will increase America’s strength -- both militarily and morally.”

Although no repeal bill has been submitted yet, it is expected that Senator Edward Kennedy, who has been a long-time champion of repealing DADT, will introduce his bill as soon as he can find a Republican co-sponsor.

Gillibrand said that her effort to build support for a temporary moratorium on DADT discharges had helped push the ball forward.

Finally! Now, if we can just get the repeal of DOMA moving forward...

July 27, 2009

GAY BRITISH SOLDIER ON COVER OF MILITARY MAGAZINE

Trooper James Wharton of the British Army is now the new face of gays in the military.

Nine years ago the European Court of Human Rights issued a ruling that pressured Britain and other member countries to allow openly gay men and women to serve in their militaries. This month, the July issue of the British Military's own official magazine, Soldier, featured a cover photo of openly gay Army Trooper James Wharton with the word "PRIDE" highlighted from the subdued background of the military's credo.

In the accompanying article, Wharton said that instead of being oppressed and driven to hiding as gays had been forced to do in the past (which is, sadly, still our present), gay and lesbian Army personnel are now given full support.


“I came out to the Army before I told my parents, so that says a lot for the Armed Forces,” said the 22-year-old.

“I told the Army in March 2003, after all my initial training was over – I was 18. I have always known I was gay but it wasn’t until then that I told anyone.”

In 1999, in ruling on two landmark cases, the European Court of Human Rights found that the policy of banning openly gay people from serving in the military was "not sustainable." Following that ruling, in 2000 the British military (along with other European member nations) dropped its ban and opened it doors to all gay and lesbian applicants.

2000 was also the year that George W. Bush was "installed" as President by our Supreme Court. So, of course, the ban on gays in our military was kept staunchly in place thanks in large part to the ensuing rise of religious fanaticism here.

Wharton said of our own baffling and persistant policy:

“I still can’t get my head round the US’ ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy.”

“Luckily I don’t have to deal with it, but clearly there will be gay soldiers in the US Army who are not being themselves – they aren’t allowed to be.”

Granted, there have been some problems with the implementation of and adherence to the British policy but, as Wharton put it:

“Obviously there are people who are set in their ways and aren’t in favour of the changed policy, but the whole attitude is different.”

...

“I think there is room for improvement as far as the Army is concerned because there are still people who can’t accept the changes – but it’s 1,000 times better than ten years ago.”


In fact, British military attitudes have changed so much that at last year's London Gay Pride March, gay men and women in the military were allowed to march in the parade in full military uniforms for the first time.

I wholeheartedly agree with Pennsylvania Representative Patrick Murphy, who is spearheading a bill to repeal DADT. The idea that the American armed forces would suffer morale and recruiting problems if they followed suit is incredibly partronizing. As Murphy put it, "To say that other countries' soldiers are professional enough to handle this and American soldiers aren't is really a slap in the face."

For a country that is supposed to be the shining beacon of hope for justice and equality, it's embarrassing just how far behind we are when compared to our european allies.

July 23, 2009

JAMAICA STILL ENDORSES BRUTALITY AGAINST GAYS AND LESBIANS

As stunningly beautiful as Jamaica is, it still has a very dark, brutal and dangerous underbelly.

On March 10, 2009 I posted a report on a State Department Travel Advisory warning of the dangers to our community of traveling to Jamaica. On March 29th I ran a story about a call for an outright boycott of all Jamaican products. Obviously the continuing homophobic violence in Jamaica caught the attention of GLBT activist who called for that boycott. Then on April 1st I published a follow up story responding to an impassioned plea from the Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, Allsexuals and Gays (JFLAG) that asked us to reconsider that boycott.

I told them in my posting that although I certainly am empathetic to their situation, I feel that because I now know of the horrific violence and injustices that the Jamaican government has so willingly inflicted on our Jamaican brothers and sisters I can't, in good conscience, participate in or condone shoring-up that government by pouring money into it.

Well, it seems that the Jamaican government still prefers to wallow in their violent homophobia rather than acknowledge the problem and try to do something about it. Now however, they're attracting the attention of the mainstream media.

On Monday, David McFadden of the Associate Press wrote an excellent piece entitled "Gays Live And Die In Fear In Jamaica". McFadden jumps right in with a first hand account of the kind of violence faced by all Jamaican gays and lesbians.

Even now, about three years after a near-fatal gay bashing, Sherman gets jittery at dusk. On bad days, his blood quickens, his eyes dart, and he seeks refuge indoors.

A group of men kicked him and slashed him with knives for being a "batty boy" — a slang term for gay men — after he left a party before dawn in October 2006. They sliced his throat, torso, and back, hissed anti-gay epithets, and left him for dead on a Kingston corner.

"It gets like five, six o'clock, my heart begins to race. I just need to go home, I start to get nervous," said the 36-year-old outside the secret office of Jamaica's sole gay rights group. Like many other gays, Sherman won't give his full name for fear of retribution.

McFadden goes on to say:

Despite the easygoing image propagated by tourist boards, gays and their advocates agree that Jamaica is by far the most hostile island toward homosexuals in the already conservative Caribbean. They say gays, especially those in poor communities, suffer frequent abuse. But they have little recourse because of rampant anti-gay stigma and a sodomy law banning sex between men in Jamaica and 10 other former British colonies in the Caribbean.

The whole article is a lengthy, in-depth accounting of just how bad things are for the GLBT community there and is well worth taking a few minutes to read in its entirety.

Clearly, the Jamaican government still hasn't gotten the message. According to Jamaican gays themselves, "homophobia is pervasive across the sun-soaked island, from the pulpit to the floor of the Parliament." It is for this reason that I strongly urge you and everyone you know to join the boycott. In addition to the obvious of not traveling there for a vacation, don't buy any Jamaican products, including Jamaican Rum and Red Stripe beer.


Apparently, the only thing that's going to move these people is to threaten their livelihood. So spread the word around as much as you can through blogs, twitter, myspace, facebook or just old fashioned word of mouth - put the story out there to as many people as you can.

July 22, 2009

DAVID BOIES EXPLAINS REASONS FOR OVERTURNING PROPOSITION 8

The announcement last May that attorneys David Boies (left) and Ted Olson will be filing a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8 was met with strong skepticism and resistance from some in the GLBT community. Many felt that a lawsuit now, with the current make-up of the Supreme Court, could not be successful and might even hurt efforts to put a measure to overturn Prop 8 on the 2010 ballot. The arguments/discussions have been ongoing ever since.

To explain the reasoning behind their lawsuit, Mr. Boies wrote an excellent opinion piece in the July 20th edition of the Wall Street Journal.

He opened the article by saying:

When I got married in California in 1959 there were almost 20 states where marriage was limited to two people of different sexes and the same race. Eight years later the Supreme Court unanimously declared state bans on interracial marriage unconstitutional.

For those of you who forgot or may not know, Boies and Olson are the two opposing lead attorneys who argued the cases of the election results in the now infamous 2000 presidential election.

Boies went on to say:

Recently, Ted Olson and I brought a lawsuit asking the courts to now declare unconstitutional California's Proposition 8 limitation of marriage to people of the opposite sex. We acted together because of our mutual commitment to the importance of this cause, and to emphasize that this is not a Republican or Democratic issue, not a liberal or conservative issue, but an issue of enforcing our Constitution's guarantee of equal protection and due process to all citizens.

Near the end of his piece, he said:

There are those who sincerely believe that homosexuality is inconsistent with their religion -- and the First Amendment guarantees their freedom of belief. However, the same First Amendment, as well as the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses, preclude the enshrinement of their religious-based disapproval in state law.

Gays and lesbians are our brothers and sisters, our teachers and doctors, our friends and neighbors, our parents and children. It is time, indeed past time, that we accord them the basic human right to marry the person they love. It is time, indeed past time, that our Constitution fulfill its promise of equal protection and due process for all citizens by now eliminating the last remnant of centuries of misguided state discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Overall, this is one of the strongest and most cogent arguments for allowing gay marriages I've ever seen. It's well worth taking a few minutes of your time to read the whole article. Click here to go there.

I couldn't agree with him more and I wholeheartedly support their efforts.

July 20, 2009

WHEN THE CHURCH CONTROLS THE GOVERNMENT

On July 9th Matt Aune and Derek Jones say they were holding hands and occasionally kissed while walking through the Main Street Plaza in downtown Salt Lake City. For that, they were arrested, handcuffed and charged with trespassing even though many heterosexual couples have done the same thing in the same plaza without incident.


In response to that homophobic episode, two "kiss-ins" were held in the plaza on two separate weekends protesting what happened to Matt and Derek. In fact, a number of the protesters were heterosexual members of the LDS church who not only disagreed with what the church did with Prop 8 in California but also with the church's stand on homosexuality in general. Some were even passing out fliers promoting an online petition for reconciliation between the church and the gay and lesbian community highlighting the growing rift within the church itself between its leaders and many of it members. The story was picked up by mainstream media outlets around the country and flashed its way around the world through countless blogs on the internet.

The Plaza is in downtown Salt Lake City and was thought by many to be public property with all of the freedom of expression rights afforded by the U.S. Constitution. The reality is however that in 1999, the City Council (which was overwhelmingly dominated by LDS members) voted to sell the Plaza grounds to the LDS Church. The only two votes against the sale were by the only two non-LDS members on the council.

Since then, the back and forth battle between easement rights and public expression on the Plaza has involved civic groups and even the ACLU in a seemingly never-ending struggle over the Church's self-proclaimed right to control what goes on in and what is said publicly in the Plaza.

Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson said in a Salt Lake Tribue article today, "What we're seeing now is a manifestation of what should have been obvious from the very beginning. This block of Main Street never should have been conveyed to the LDS Church. It was a recipe for ongoing resentments between the LDS Church and those who are not members."

How public property ended up in the possession and control of the Mormon Church has been a continuing 10 year saga. It strikingly illustrates how the tentacles of a rich and powerful religion can work their way into the very veins and arteries of government itself.

The whole affair has become known to many as the "Main Street Plaza Saga." The Salt Lake Tribune published a concise time-line of just how this whole thing has played out from it's inception in 1998 through to this year. It's a very interesting overview and you can see a stand alone version of it by clicking here.

July 18, 2009

OBAMA INCLUDES GAYS IN NAACP'S 100TH ANNIVERSARY SPEECH

I have written quite a bit about President Obama lately. Especially about his inaction in stopping the cruel and harmful DADT discharges. I am still disgruntled over this continuing issue but there does seem to be a couple of very bright lights at the end of that tunnel thanks to New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's 18 month moratorium bill on DADT discharges and Pennsylvania Representative Patrick Murphy's introduction of a bill to outright repeal DADT.

Having said that, I still do believe that this President does mean what he says about the LGBT community's struggles and is doing what he can behind the scenes. What he is doing publicly however, is something we shouldn't ignore. If we want fairness from him then we need to reciprocate in kind.

The latest example of his persistent and consistent public support was evident in his historic speech at the 100th Anniversay of the NAACP. Several news and blog sites have shown only the section that mentions our community specifically (which comes at 11:46 minutes into the almost 40 minute speech). But I watched the whole thing and was, once again, blown away by what he said (which he wrote himself) and his skill in saying it.

This was a speech that clearly moved everyone there and to put us in the same context as the black movements struggles for fairness and equality is a very powerful statement. Below is his entire speech and I would suggest that you watch it from the beginning to the end instead of just skipping to his comment about us. It's worth your time.

July 16, 2009

IS MILWAUKEE'S POST OFFICE HOMOPHOBIC?

The United State Post Office claims that "diversity means building an inclusive environment that respects the uniqueness of every individual and encourages the contributions of people from different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives."

They also claim that their "commitment to diversity is unwavering. The United States Postal Service has been recognized for its commitment to creating an inclusive work environment. We have been ranked among the "50 Best Companies for Minorities" by Fortune magazine."

So why then was the gay pride display in the lobby of Milwaukee's downtown post office taken down just 4 hours after it had been installed?

According to a story published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, letter carrier Dale J. Schuster, chairman of the post office diversity team, had written permission from the post office's diversity manager to put up a Gay Pride exhibit, so long as the display didn't contain anything too controversial or political. So Schuster contacted Maggi Cage, head of the Milwaukee Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center, with the idea of collaborating on the exhibit.

The display was created the morning of June 1, the very day President Barack Obama proclaimed LGBT Pride Month in America. It included photos of famous gay people, historical information and a giant AIDS awareness stamp in glass cases.

Four hours later, Maggi Cage said that she started getting calls saying, 'I can't find that exhibit at the post office,' so she sent some of her staff down there, and the cases were empty.

Marge Oehlke, spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service in the Milwaukee area, had the exhibit taken down saying, "It did not fit our qualifications."

When Schuster showed the written permission from the diversity manager, Oehlke said that he wasn't high enough up the chain of command and that the Postmaster had to approve it.

According to the article, Oehlke also claimed that:

The post office operations manual spells out that these exhibits must be "revenue related," meaning something about stamp purchases, stamp collecting, packaging, new products and such. The AIDS stamp isn't for sale anymore, and therefore doesn't count.

Ironically, Oehlke also serves on the diversity team but she denied that the removal was because of the gay theme. The Journal Sentinel writer, Jim Stingl, asked to be put in touch with Postmaster Charles Miller, but that never happened.

Because of this incident, Schuster resigned his position as Diversity chairman and, because postal rules say he can't talk to the media, he said in an e-mail to Cage, "In light of the controversy over the pride month display being taken down, I had no other recourse than to resign. I believe it is important that everybody is treated with dignity and respect, and that nobody should feel excluded."

"I think it's plain and simple homophobia," Cage said. "I really do think it's a case of discrimination."

July 14, 2009

TO BALLOT OR NOT TO BALLOT

Immediately after Proposition 8 was passed in California, many gay activists and GLBT groups vowed to take the issue back to the ballot in 2010. Emotions were intense and determination to overcome the homophobia that Prop 8 represented where at an all time high.

It was the shock and anger over Prop 8's success that spawned a whole new activist movement throughout the country. It galvanized the GLBT community and our supporters into an energetic cohesiveness not seen since the early 70's.

In fact, the stunning victories in Vermont and Iowa were, I'm sure, due in large part to the determination and tireless campaigning of a lot of those "new" activists as well as the change of hearts and minds that the Prop 8 fiasco inspired.

Now, the effects of the national financial meltdown and the virtual bankruptcy of California has caused a number of the GLBT leaders to rethink the feasibility of a 2010 target date. Trying to mount an expensive and manpower intensive campaign at a time when so many people and businesses have had their finances and their lives thrown into a tailspin just doesn't seem logical. Not only would it be harder to raise the millions of dollars necessary but it would also be harder to get any kind of substantial time commitment from people who are already intensely focused on either finding new jobs or keeping the ones they have.

According to a story run in the Los Angeles Times today:

"Going back to the ballot . . . in 2010 would be rushed and risky," read a joint statement issued Monday by three gay-rights groups and signed by more than two dozen other groups and individuals. "We should proceed with a costly, demanding, and high-stakes electoral campaign of this sort only when we are confident we can win."

Jim Key, spokesman for the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, also worried that a 2010 political campaign might tap the same donors that service organizations rely on to fund HIV care, services for homeless youths and other programs at a time when, because of the economy, those programs are needed the most.

Of course the emotions and anger over Prop 8 are still running very high and not everyone agrees with delaying a ballot measure until 2012.

"There is a majority of the community . . . that favors going forward in 2010," said John Henning, executive director of the pro-same-sex-marriage group Love Honor Cherish. "The fact that some favor waiting should mean only one thing: They can wait, if they need to wait, but we are going to go ahead."

Marc Solomon, marriage director for Equality California, one of the state's biggest gay-rights groups said that they initially believed that 2010 was the right time to go back to the ballot. But that they "also made it very clear we will only move forward if we have a clear road map to victory. . . . The last thing we want to do is go back to the ballot and lose."

Solomon said that they were in the process of seeking advice from political consultants and polling experts and would make their position public later this month.

July 13, 2009

IS "DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL" MAKING FOOLS OF THE U.S. MILITARY?

In an excellent article published yesterday in Monterey County's (CA) The Herald, a powerful contrast was drawn between the countries that have allowed gay service members to serve openly for years and the United State's persistent and harmful Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy.

Since 1994, the most recent accounts have stated that more than 13,500 US service men and women have been discharged just for being gay. That includes dozens of Arabic linguist who were critical to the success of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and who the military admits were vital because of the difficulties of finding qualified replacements.

Contrast that to England where gay and lesbian service members proudly marched in uniform in the annual London Pride Parade this July 4th. Or to Australia where soldiers and sailors had their own float in Sydney's Gay Mardi Gras parade. Or to Israel, which is acknowledged to have one of the fiercest and best trained militaries in the world, where the army's own magazine earlier this year featured two male soldiers on the cover, hugging one another.

One of the arguments for keeping DADT in place has always been that allowing gays to serve openly would severally harm unit morale and cohesion. Another, more recent argument is that it would hurt recruitment efforts and drive scores of active duty personnel out of the military completely. But others see it differently...

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, the first Iraq war veteran elected to Congress, has just launched a campaign for a bill to repeal "don't ask, don't tell." He observed British troops in Iraq operating smoothly with a serve-openly policy and bristles at the contention that America's armed forces would suffer morale and recruiting problems if they followed suit.

"I take it as a personal affront to our warriors," said the Pennsylvania Democrat. "To say that other countries' soldiers are professional enough to handle this and American soldiers aren't is really a slap in the face."

In Israel where gays and lesbians have been proudly serving since 1993 (the same year DADT was approved), the open policy is now considered "thoroughly uncontroversial." In fact, their army recognizes the partners of gay officers as their bereaved next-of-kin after their deaths, eligible for the same benefits straight officer's next-of-kin receive. At promotions and other ceremonies, gay officers often have their partners by their sides.

I do understand that in this country, where homosexuality is still a hot button issue primarily because of the intrusive and manipulative tactics of some of the more fanatical religions, transition to an open military would be a little more problematic. BUT, it would be no more difficult than the readjustment the military had to go through when blacks were allowed to serve as integral parts within all units of the military.

It would be now, as it was then, up to the generals, commanders and sergeants to make sure that the transition is handled professionally. I agree with Representative Murphy, to think that this country's service men and women are incapable of doing what many of our allies have already done is a very big slap in the face to them.

It's long past time to get over this and move on.

UPDATE...
According to a list compiled by the Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the following countries allow gays to serve openly in their militaries:

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Uruguay.

Also today, Jason Bellini reported in the Daily Beast that New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand intends to introduce an amendment that would put an 18-month moratorium on the discharge of gays serving in the military.

This would give congress time to work out the details of repealing DADT without harming the reputations of any more patriotic gay American soldiers. It would also be the first time since 1993 that senators will be forced to declare their position on the gay ban.

BTW - the latest discharges under DADT are West Point graduate and Iraq war veteran, Army National Guard Lt. Dan Choi, and a veteran of combat missions over Iraq and Afghanistan, Air Force Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach.

July 9, 2009

ENCOURAGING MORMON VIDEO

I've written a lot about the Mormon church in the past. Their outright hostility, their hypocritical, immoral and unethical tactics, especially during California's Proposition 8 battle, have been recurring themes in most of my posts. I've also seen, first hand, how easily and willingly my partner's family has frequently put their Mormon beliefs above their love for their own gay son.

That's why it's always reassuring and heartwarming to come across a Mormon family that doesn't put religion above their love for their children. The following YouTube video shows such a family...



As positive and uplifting as this video is, it's also a little difficult for my partner to watch without feeling a sense of loss himself. However, our closest friend and myself have made it clear to him that he does have a family who loves him unconditionally. And my own family has also made it clear that they feel the same.

If you know someone who's struggling with issues of little or no family support, let that person know that they're not alone and that they do, indeed, have a whole new family that loves them for who they are - not who they expect them to be.

July 8, 2009

BRUTAL MURDERER SERVES LESS THAN ONE YEAR

There is something seriously wrong with a society that allows a brutal murderer to serve less time than someone who abuses an animal. In this case, it's the state of South Carolina that allowed this travesty.

On the night of May 16, 2007 at about 3:45 am, 20 year old Sean William Kennedy was murdered in a brutal, homophobic attack outside a Greenville County, S.C. bar.

During his trial, it was argued that because Sean hit his head on the pavement after being hit hard enough in his face to break facial bones, his murderer was only charged with involuntary manslaughter. The prosecutor's logic was that even though Sean's brain stem was separated from his brain by the impact of his fall and even though his murderer left a message on the answering machine of Sean's friend telling him that the "f***ing faggot owes me $500.00 for breaking my goddamn hand on his teeth that f***ing bitch!” - Sean's murder was still unintentional and that a long prison sentence could hurt the murderer. Totally ignoring the fact the he already had a history of violent behavior.

Sean's murderer, Stephen Andrew Moller, was convicted of Sean's murder on the reduced charge of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to only three years, minus seven months for time served.

That, by itself, was a travesty but to make matters worse, Moller was just released one week early on July 1st for good behavior because he got his GED while he was incarcerated.

According to Elke Kennedy's blog (Sean's mother):

He was supposed to stay in prison till September 7th 2009, however he received 2 month credit for good behaviour by getting his GED while in prison.

He was eligable for early parole on December 28th 2008 already. In a early parole hearing on February 11 2009 he was denied parole and his release date was set to July 7th 2009.

In a final act of callous insensitivity by the state of South Carolina, Mrs. Kennedy wasn't even given the courtesy of a personal phone call. Instead, she received an automated phone message telling her that Sean's murderer was given a one week early release.

South Carolina is one of the many states that don't have a hate crimes law in place and this tragic case dramatically demonstrates why federal hate crimes legislation is so important. Not only would it give state and local governments greatly enhanced tools, including FBI involvement, for investigating these crimes and apprehending the guilty parties, but it would also insure that perpetrators of these heinous crimes would receive the type of sentencing their actions deserve.


Thanks to Womanist Musings for supplying additional information for this story.

July 6, 2009

MORE INJURIES REPORTED FROM FT WORTH GAY BAR RAID

In an excellent, in-depth piece in Saturday's edition of the New York Times, James McKinley Jr reported that in addition to Chad Gibson's serious head injury, another patron of the Rainbow Lounge raid suffered broken ribs and a third had a broken thumb.

Also, according to a Box Turtle Bulletin post today, another man, George Armstrong, suffered severe bruising and muscle strain when he was arrested on the tenuously ambiguous charge of public intoxication even though he claimed that he was not drunk.

In a telephone interview with the Dallas Voice Armstrong said that he had gotten to the bar about 12:45 a.m. and had only been there about 30 minutes when Fort Worth officers and TABC agents swept in and began arresting people.

"I looked up and there was this swarm of police coming in.

I saw them making their way through the crowd, and I just kind of smiled at one of the officers and flashed him a ‘peace’ sign,” he added. “The next thing I know, he was coming at me. He tackled me to the ground, twisted my arms up really hard behind my back. I just kept saying, ‘What is wrong? Why are you doing this? Why are you touching me?’”

Armstrong said the officer told him he was being arrested for public intoxication, then took him outside and had him sit on the sidewalk until he was placed in the nearby van and taken to the police station. Officers outside, he said, “apparently found it really humorous. There was a lot of smirking and smiling going on.”

“When the guy tackled me in the bar, I landed on my shoulder. My shoulder and back took all the force of the fall. I was lucky that I didn’t hit my head like [Gibson] did. But I was hurt. I was in a lot of pain,” Armstrong said. “I told them at the police station that I was really hurt, but they just ignored me.”

After pleading not guilty before a judge, Armstrong was released around noon and drove straight to the emergency room at Baylor All-Saints Hospital where doctors treated him for severe bruising and muscle strain in his shoulder and back.

Since the incident occurred, Ft Worth Police Chief Jeffrey W. Halstead has backed off his initial support of the officers involved and has suspended joint operations with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC). Under intense public and political pressure, he has also ordered a full police department investigation and promised to give police officers “multicultural training.”

Also, the Dallas/Ft Worth Television News has reported that the TABC has instituted it's own internal investigation of the incident and has reassigned the two TABC agents involved to desk duty pending the outcome of the investigation.

The incident has had wide coverage in the mainstream media and several demonstrations have already taken place - with more planned. There have also been calls from GLBT activists and state and local politicians for broader, outside investigations of the TABC and Ft Worth Police Department actions.

BTW - Chad Gibson remains at JPS Hospital but his family said he is improving and his condition was upgraded from serious to fair. His doctors have said however, that he will still suffer from severe, recurring headaches for at least the next couple of years.

UPDATE 7/8/09...
365.com reported that Chad Gibson was released from the hospital and is now at home.

The police are still trying to claim that Gibson feel to the ground causing his head injury but multiple eyewitnesses continue to refute that saying that Gibson was slammed into the wall and then down to the floor by out of control police officers.

In an interview following his release, Gibson also denied the police claim that he grabbed at the crotch of one of the officers. He was backed up by other eyewitnesses who said that neither he nor anyone else grabbed at anyone's crotch.

Several investigations are being conducted but however it turns out, it won't change that fact that Gibson will most likely suffer from severe recurring headaches from that incident for several years to come.

July 2, 2009

UPDATE ON FT WORTH GAY BAR RAID

Chad Gibson's mother spoke out about her son's injuries and the incident at the Rainbow Lounge to Dallas' Channel 8 news. Here's the piece that ran yesteday...



Also, on Instant Tea, which is the official weblog of the Dallas Voice, reporter Tammye Nash posted the following comment yesterday:

I just had a phone conversation with a source close to Chad Gibson’s family. I was told that yes, the bleeding has stopped, but that he has been having severe headaches today.

And just a note about Instant Tea poster “Pro Police”: I don’t know who this person is, or what his/her source of information is. I do know that people are not kept in the hospital in ICU for four days for a simple concussion. And I am pretty sure that the doctors at JPS Hospital are in a much better position to determine the extent of Chad Gibson’s injury.

For those who may think that Chad was, as the police claimed, suffering from alcohol poisoning, the Dallas/Ft Worth Channel 11 News ran an article yesterday that quoted Chad's sister Kristy Morgan's answer to that question. She said that "her brother's alcohol level was at .2 [and that] .08 is the legal limit. He was at .2. You have to be at .4 to have true alcohol poisoning and he was not close to that."

Although Chad was intoxicated, he certainly wasn't even close to the level of alcohol poisoning. He was also with a group who had a designated driver who would take them home which showed a great deal of personal responsibility on their part.

What makes no sense to me is why was anyone arrested for "public intoxication" when they were inside a bar and not creating any kind of "public nuisance" outside?

I suppose it's only a matter of time before people start getting arrested inside restaurants for contributing to the problem of "public obesity!"

I am aware that an overwhelming majority of police officers are good, law-abiding citizens who have very difficult and very dangerous jobs to do everyday. But there is clearly something seriously wrong with some of our country's law enforcement officials and if something isn't done soon and those individuals are allowed to continue with callous and illegal tactics that show others how easy it is to get away with, we WILL end up with a Third Reich style police force.