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February 27, 2009


In a debate over a bill to extend health benefits to same-sex partners of state employees, Colorado state Senator Scott Renfroe equated homosexuality with murder.

LezGetReal.com reported:

Quoting the Bible on the Senate floor, Renfroe said gays are an “abomination” and an “offense to God” … “have committed a detestable act and they shall surely be put to death,” and then went on to compare homosexuality with murder - both sins, he said, that the state has no business making “legally OK.”

His outrageous comments caught the attention of several local church leaders. Rev. Richard Craft, interim pastor at Family of Christ Presbyterian Church of Greeley, said in a statement issued by the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado:

“As a Christian, I am profoundly saddened by the hate speech uttered by Sen. Renfroe in the name of God… Such speech is not simply an expression of neutral opinion; it emboldens attitudes of exclusion and even violence against our neighbors, whom we are called upon to love. And, it feeds the growing idea that Christianity is a religion of hate.”

The Rev. Dr. Dan Geslin, pastor at Sixth Avenue United Church of Christ in Denver added…
“I am concerned that the beliefs held by Senator Renfroe continue to be the proclamation of the Christian church and that all are left with the impression that this is Christianity’s view on the matter. As an ordained Christian minister, I follow Jesus’ way of love and understand Christianity not to be an imperialistic religion, but a spirituality of service. Senator Renfroe’s remarks demonstrate a belief system that is anything but loving.”

The Alliance's statement urged legislators to enact SB 88, which the Senate passed on Monday by an almost 2 to 1 margin of 22-12. The Alliance vowed to “work with” Gov. Bill Ritter to make sure it was signed into law.

BTW - last week the bill was also attacked in an advertising campaign that was financed and produced by the equally vitriolic and hate-filled Focus on the Family.

It's really great to see the other, more humane side of Christianity standing up to the religious, right-wing thugs.

If you want to hear Senator Refroe's full comment, check out the YouTube video below...

February 26, 2009


The pioneering GLBT magazine The Advocate reported today that the organizers of the upcoming National Equality Rally lauched a video on YouTube yesterday to promote the event.

The video is absolutely awesome. It's set to the music of Five for Fighting’s "What Kind of World Do You Want?" and begins with the image of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech then segues into images of gay rights rallies and marches from the first Philadelphia demonstrations in 1965 all the way through to today's fight for marriage equality. It really is an awesome video presentation and the music is just plain dynamite. Check it out...

The Rally is scheduled for May 3rd at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. I just wish may partner and I could afford to go because it looks like its going to be one of those incredibly memorable moments that you'll take with you for the rest of your life. What better setting could there be? The site our movement's first public demonstration and the birthplace of a country that dedicated itself to equality for all of its citizens.

According to National Equality Rally's website, the rally would serve as a call on Congress and our new president for:

• Passage of trans-inclusive hate crimes legislation

• Passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)

• Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)

• Support for GLBT health issues

• Equal benefits for same-sex families

• Same-sex marriage Equality

If you do plan to attend, I would strongly suggest that you call one of the downtown hotels as soon as you finish reading this. I have a feeling that they're going to get booked up pretty quick.

February 25, 2009


Pam Spaulding, of Pam's House Blend, a nationally recognized online magazine, has reported that the NAACP has come out in opposition to the legality of Proposition 8 in California.

Pam, referring to the NAACP press release, said, "Perhaps this will silence some of the critics who can't let go of the zombie meme that most blacks are homophobic -- and that leadership won't step up and say something. This hits all the right notes."

Following is the Press Release as quoted by Pam:

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People today announced support of measures before the California legislature challenging Proposition 8, which altered the California Constitution to deny same-sex couples the freedom to marry and equal protection under the law.
In a letter to legislative leaders, NAACP national board chair Julian Bond and President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous urged passage of House Resolution 5 and Senate Resolution 7 to put the legislature on record calling for invalidation of Prop. 8 as an improper and dangerous alteration of the California Constitution.

"The NAACP's mission is to help create a society where all Americans have equal protection and opportunity under the law," said President Jealous. "Our Mission Statement calls for the 'equality of rights of all persons.' Prop. 8 strips same-sex couples of a fundamental freedom, as defined by the California State Supreme Court. In so doing, it poses a serious threat to all Americans. Prop. 8 is a discriminatory, unprecedented change to the California Constitution that, if allowed to stand, would undermine the very purpose of a constitution and courts - assuring equal protection and opportunity for all and safeguarding minorities from the tyranny of the majority."

SR 7, sponsored by Equality California (EQCA), will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 24th and will proceed to the full Senate for a vote shortly thereafter. Its companion bill, HR 5, also sponsored by EQCA, passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Feb. 17th and is eligible for a vote before the full Assembly as early as today.

The California State Conference of the NAACP filed briefs with the California Supreme Court in the legal challenge against Prop. 8, arguing that the measure drastically alters the equal protection guarantee in California's Constitution and that the rights of a minority cannot be eliminated by a simple majority vote. Several other civil rights organizations, faith leaders, unions and leading corporations also filed briefs urging the invalidation of Prop. 8.

"The NAACP has long opposed any proposal that would alter the federal or state constitutions for the purpose of excluding any groups or individuals from guarantees of equal protection," said Chairman Bond. "We urge the legislature to declare that Proposition 8 did not follow the proper protective process and should be overturned as an invalid alteration that vitiated crucial constitutional safeguards and fundamental American values, threatening civil rights and all vulnerable minorities."

Pam finished her story with, "Needless to say, this is the message that needs to be spread throughout churches in the socially conservative black communities around the country."

Certainly, Martin Luther King's late wife, Coreta Scott King, made it abundantly clear in her numerous statements supporting GLBT rights across the board that the black community's leadership as well as many, many blacks themselves ARE NOT homophobic and DO support us. It's time we put this false, media-driven issue to bed.

February 24, 2009


So far, even though there have been several openly gay appointments to Obama's adminstration, there have been no cabinet appointments. It's certainly not because there haven't been any qualified gay candidates. There have been several. But clearly, this is a step that President Obama has chosen not to take.

I'm sure that the reasoning has been that such an appointment would seriously rile the right-wingers that Obama is trying so hard to include in his coalition of support. And this is probably true - to a point.

With more and more polls showing that even some christians and die-hard republicans are beginning to warm to the idea of openly gay people serving in high government positions, including the presidency, maybe now would be the ideal time to take that step.

Well, we have one more chance to try and persuade President Obama to make good on his promise of building a truly inclusive government.

Queers United reported yesterday on a campaign by Equalrep.com to have Fred Hochberg appointed as Commerce Secretary.

Here is what Queers United/Equal Rep said about Hochberg:

Fred Hochberg is extremely qualified to be Commerce Secretary. Although he has been tapped to become Chair of the Export-Import Bank, he is only being vetted and he hasn't been confirmed yet. We believe that Mr. Hochberg would be better utilized as Commerce Secretary.

Hochberg has more than 25 years of experience in business, government, civil rights activities, and philanthropy. From 1998 through 2000, he served as deputy then acting administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA), an agency elevated to cabinet rank by President Bill Clinton. He also served on President Clinton's Management Council.

Hochberg is also an Agency Review team leader on President-elect Obama's transition team. He has served on the boards of Playwrights Horizon, the Wolfsonian Art Museum, and on the Democratic National Committee. And he was appointed Dean of the Milano The New School for Management and Urban Policy in 2003.

From 1994 to 1998, Fred Hochberg worked as founder and president of Heyday Company, a private investment firm managing real estate, stock market investments, and venture capital projects. Prior to that, he was president and chief operating officer of the Lillian Vernon Corporation, where he led the transformation of a small family mail order company into a publicly traded direct marketing corporation.

Fred Hochberg also brings a lot to the table in terms of diversity. He would be the first EVER openly gay Cabinet member in the entire history of the United States. Mr. Hochberg is also Jewish.

Queers United is suggesting the following 3-step action plan starting tomorrow (Wednesday):

STEP 1. Call Obama 202-456-1111
STEP 2. Email Obama: comments@whitehouse.gov
STEP 3: Repeat on Thursday and Friday.

We've seen how effective our phone and email campaigns have been in the past (getting offensive TV commercials pulled, canceling right-wing propaganda TV shows, forcing offensive software programs off the market, etc., etc.). Let's try and do the same thing here.

February 23, 2009


Gene therapy and stem cell research are two of the most exciting and fastest growing sciences in the world today. Their applications are becoming more and more far-reaching with every passing day.

In fact, either or both of two different avenues of research in gene therapy alone could very well prove to have yielded the most important discoveries ever made in the seemingly endless battle against HIV/AIDS.

For decades now, scientists have known that some people who have been repeatedly exposed to the HIV virus through unprotected sex, never developed the disease. They've been baffled and frustrated by this phenomena because they weren't able to figure out why. Until now.

In a February 3rd posting at Wired.com, Aaron Rowe reported:

Most people have a gene called CCR5, which makes them vulnerable to HIV infections. The naturally resistant people have mutant CCR5 genes that inhibit HIV.

Previously, scientists found that by cutting the CCR5 gene out of white blood cells involved in the immune response known as T-cells, they could protect a tube full of human cells from the virus. The gene editing technique relies on proteins called zinc finger nucleases that can delete any gene from a living cell.

In theory, zinc finger nucleases could give that immunity to anyone.

When this story first broke, I decided not to cover it on my blog because I didn't want to, once again, get people's hopes up. I wanted to wait until there was at least a little more concrete proof that this was more than just another interesting theory.

Well, it seems that things really are "closer than they appear in your rearview mirror." In a February 18th story by Andy Coghlan in NewScientist magazine:

The story begins with a man in Germany who last week was reported to be free of HIV following a bone marrow transplant. The donor was known to have two copies of a gene that prevents HIV from invading white blood cells. For the first time, it may be possible to eliminate the virus from the body, as opposed to simply keeping it in check with antiretroviral therapies (ART).

The story went on to say:

Word first surfaced last November that a man had been "cured" of HIV through a bone marrow transplant, but this wasn't confirmed until last week, when the full results were published in The New England Journal of Medicine (vol 360, p 692). "It's now almost exactly two years ago that we treated him, and the virus is nowhere to be seen," says Gero Hütter of the Charité University of Medicine in Berlin, head of the team that treated the man.

Hütter exploited a finding a decade ago that some individuals naturally defy HIV. It turned out that they had inherited two copies of a "delta32" mutation in a gene called CCR5, one from each parent. That mutation means CD4 white blood cells can't make a protein on their surface that HIV uses as a "door handle" to invade the cells, so the virus can't get in.

Then, when a man with HIV developed leukaemia and needed a bone marrow transplant, Hütter reasoned that it might be possible to treat his cancer and also give him an HIV-resistant immune system, since his own would be destroyed by chemotherapy anyway. The hunt was on to find a donor with two delta32 mutations. From 80 potentials, he found one. After the transplant, HIV-resistant cells took over the man's immune system, "curing" him of HIV. "Every new immune cell that grew thereafter in the bone marrow had these deletions, and so was resistant," says Hütter.

Now, although these are very dramatic results, the reality of being able to find people with the CCR5 variant who would also be compatible bone marrow donors with each individual HIV/AIDS patient would be, to say the least, a challenge. That's where gene therapy, a way of mimicking the same result without a donor, comes in.

Sangamo Biosciences of Richmond, California, began the first human trial of a promising gene therapy last week. "The German patient is the definitive proof that if you replace patients' immune cells, it's sufficient to protect the patient," says Philip Gregory of Sangamo.

Sangamo makes artificial versions of natural enzymes called zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs), which zero in on and disrupt any genes you choose - in this case the CCR5 gene, so that it stops making the HIV door-handle protein.

The company plans to take blood samples from 12 patients and extract the CD4 cells. It will then add a harmless virus to the cell carrying genes that code for the ZFNs. The altered CD4 cells produce the ZFNs, which sabotage the CCR5 gene. The ZFNs and the virus are then washed away and the genetically modified cells injected back into the patient.

There are, of course, many other trials and tests that would have to be done but this whole avenue of research could finally be the real light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel we've all be waiting for and not just another fleeting reflection of our hopes.

The NewScientist article is a somewhat lengthy, in-depth piece that would be worth a few minutes of your time. If you would like to read the full report, go to: NewScientist.com

BTW - the report also talks about the possibility of using stem cells to accomplish the same result.

February 20, 2009


GLASS (Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services) is an organization that most people outside of California have never heard of. It provides vital services to GLBT youth who have already been marginalized, ignored and frequently abused.

Many of these children were homeless, alone and rejected by society just because of who they are. Most chose to live on the streets rather than continue to be attacked, raped and/or beaten while supposedly "under the care of" mainstream institutions.

Teresa (Terry) DeCrescenzo was a social worker for the Los Angeles County Probation Department. By 1984 she had seen one too many kids mistreated just because they acted differently, looked different or said they were different. So she decided to do something about it. She gathered her resolve, mortgaged her home, appealed to friends, neighbors and colleagues and founded the nation’s first ever long-term residential treatment program specifically structured for gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-gender youth.

In the 25 years since, GLASS has grown to six Residential Group Homes in Los Angeles, two in Long Beach, and one in Oakland with the capacity to provide housing for 80 boys and girls, ages twelve to seventeen.

The group also provides programs that range from a Family Preservation Program, Mobile Health Outreach Project (MoHOP), Stonewall Day Rehabilitation, Outpatient Clinic and Skills Center to a Mentoring Project and a Transitional Housing facility.

Over those 25 years GLASS has saved countless children from violent death or suicide. It has also shown itself to be a shining example of what can be done when just one person decides they've had enough and actually goes out and does something about it.

Now, because of the faltering economy's effect of diminished donations and dramatically reduced funding from the cash strapped California government (which accounted for 90% of their budget), GLASS has been force to declare Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

The group's Board of Directors choose to file a Chapter 7 because they didn't believe the organization would be able to secure a loan or obtain enough donations at this time. But, according the The Advocate, Terry, who is still the groups Executive Director, disagrees. She said, “The staff is very upset. They may physically go to court and petition the court to reject the Chapter 7 and give us a Chapter 11.” That would allow the group to continue operating while seeking additional funds through donations or loans.

Terry said, “We need two [million] to thrive. One [million] to survive.”

I'm definitely on Terry's side! If you would like to know how you can help, their contact page is at: http://glassla.org/wp/?page_id=42. You can either give them a call directly or fill out the comment form.

February 19, 2009


Queers United posted the following action alert from the Stonewall Democrats:

Most candidates President Obama is reportedly considering as his nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services are progressive leaders who will keep in mind the LGBT community's health-related needs, including respect for our families and inclusive data collection.

However, at least one of the candidates rumored to be in the running has been less than helpful to our community, so we need your help.

Please sign our petition urging President Obama to make sure an equality-minded progressive is in charge of the Department of Health and Human Services. This information will be shared with the White House.

When you click on the above link ("sign our petition), scroll down. The form for the petition is at the bottom of the page. It can't be accessed by clicking on the graphic on the right side ("Nominate A Strong Secretary").

February 18, 2009


When Colorado passed a constitutional same-sex marriage ban in 2006, it didn't prohibit civil unions or other forms of partner benefits.

That loophole left the door open for the state's House Judiciary Committee to pass, by a 7-3 vote, what they are calling a "Designated Beneficiary Agreements" bill.

Introduced by Democratic Rep. Mark Ferrandino from Denver, House Bill 09-1260 would allow "2 competent adults who are not married to enter into a designated beneficiary agreement, making each adult a designated beneficiary of the other."

If passed by the legislature, this bill would allow designated beneficiaries to:

• Be a conservator or guardian for the other designated beneficiary;

• Be treated as a beneficiary under the other designated beneficiary's benefits for life insurance;

• Be treated as a dependent under the other designated beneficiary's benefits for health insurance if the designated beneficiary's employer elects to provide coverage to designated beneficiaries;

• Have the right to visit the other designated beneficiary in the hospital or in a nursing home;

• Inherit through intestate succession upon the death of the other designated beneficiary;

• Have standing to sue for wrongful death of the other designated beneficiary;

• Act as an agent to make, revoke, or object to anatomical gifts involving the other designated beneficiary;

• Direct the disposition of the other designated beneficiary's last remains.

The bill also states that:
"...domestic partners or parties in a civil union registered or recognized pursuant to another jurisdiction shall be deemed to have executed a designated beneficiary agreement if the parties otherwise qualify as designated beneficiaries. States that a legal contract pursuant to another jurisdiction's law which is not valid in Colorado pursuant to the state constitutional provision regarding the recognition of marriages shall be treated as a designated beneficiary agreement if the parties qualify to enter into a designated beneficiary agreement and both parties are present or reside in Colorado."

One thing that may help this bill's passage is the fact that the Designated Beneficiary Agreements are open to all unmarried couples and would benefit heterosexual and homosexual couples alike.

Regardless of the ultimate outcome, this is a bold step in the right direction and shows that there are still enough fair minded and very creative lawmakers in Colorado who are working very hard to provide legal partnership equality without violating the ban approved in 2006.

Yes, this would still be a "separate but equal" kind of structure but I have no doubt that fully equal marriage recognition WILL COME not only in Colorado but across the entire country as well. It's only a matter of time.

The right wing fanatics know this too. That's why they're becoming more and more frenetic in their frantic, feeble attempts to mislead the public with increasingly absurd lies and distortions.

February 17, 2009


Last Thursday, February 12th, was the one year anniversary of the tragic murder of 15 year old Lawrence "Larry" King in a Oxnard, CA classroom just as the school day was beginning.

Young King, who was openly gay, was shot twice in the back of the head in front of his entire class. Fellow eighth-grade student Brandon McInerney, who was 14 at the time, was arrested for the murder.

Over the past year, as the case has progressed, McInerney's lawyers have tried to portray him as the victim of Larry's harrassment and teasing. But multiple student accounts have shown just the opposite. McInerney was the one who was constantly harrassing King. King only started "teasing" McInerney as a defense against the relentless taunts. In fact, just before the shooting, McInerney even tried to enlist other students to help him "beat up" King. When that failed, McInerney instead decided to shoot King himself.

At first, McInerney's lawyers tried to portray him as an innocent, inexperienced 14 year old boy. But additional evidence has come out that not only shows that he was proficient with firearms and frequently went to firing ranges for target practice with his parents but there was also nazi and skinhead literature and a training video called “Shooting in Realistic Environments” found in his bedroom. This evidence, along with multiple accounts by other students of McInerney openly threatening to shoot King, prompted prosecutors to file their charges in adult court.

In response to the defendant's lawyer's objections to that filing, Deputy Dist. Atty. Maeve Fox said,

"It was an absolutely brutal crime, with premeditation and deliberation. "He was familiar with firearms and had fired that gun before. He knew what he was doing."

Now, the case has taken another ugly and surreal turn. According to a Box Turtle Bulletin story,

Lawrence King was adopted at age three by Gregory and Dawn King. According to the Kings, he never bonded with them. In November 2007 he was removed from their home and placed in a group home after he complained that Gregory King was physically abusive.

But none of that is stopping the Kings from seeking to be paid for their loss. And they are not above trashing Larry in order to get some cash.

To celebrate the one year anniversary of Larry’s death, Gregory and Dawn king have filed a wrongful death lawsuit assigning the blame for Larry’s murder on Larry himself and faulting everyone in sight. (SJ Merc)

This is beyond disgusting. Not only was Larry King victimized by McInerney but he was also apparently abused for years by his adoptive "family." And now, even in death, he is being used and abused by his ex-parents.

No matter how you look at this, it's a tragedy of monumental proportions all around.

It's a prime example of why in-school, gay-supportive and gay/straight alliances are so important. And why aggressive retraining of teachers and administrators is so vital to the health and well being of all students.

February 16, 2009


The internet is rapidly becoming the preferred way to meet new people. With Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, chat rooms, web cams and a host of other options being added almost daily, it's easier than ever to cruise the web for a date or a quick hook-up.

Many of us are finding it much more preferable to simply flip on the computer and cruise the internet. It's a lot more appealing than trying to brave the crushing, constantly circling crowds in darkly lit bars that blast ear-numbing music so loud that just trying to talk to someone becomes a shouting match.

Obviously, this is a trend that is only going to grow. But don't get me wrong. There will always be a place in our community for bars, clubs and social gatherings. The energy and excitement of being in crowd of people who are all there for the same reasons you are can't be matched by the quiet and solitude of being alone. Face to face social interaction is as important as eating, breathing and sleeping. It's a very real way of recharging and balancing our psyches. Especially if you live alone.

But, if you are going to use the internet to cruise for dates or quickies - BE CAREFUL!

365gay.com reported last week that a 21 year old Army veteran was brutally and fatally stabbed in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania while on a second "date" with someone he met in an online chat room.

According to the report, Michael Goucher had been reported missing by his uncle. His car was found abandoned on a rural road in Price Township and his body was discovered in a nearby wooded area. He had been stabbed more than 20 times.

19 year old Shawn Freemore was found by police from evidence they had recovered from Goucher's car.

Freemore confessed to the murder and told police that he met Goucher in a chat room and the two men agreed to have sex. He said they had the liaison in Goucher’s car. Later, on a second date (again in Goucher's car) Freemore changed his mind at the last minute. Armed with a knife, he ordered Goucher out of the car and then stabbed him in the neck. Groucher fell to the ground and, as he tried to get up, Freemore stabbed him 19 more times in the stomach.

Police said that Freemore has a criminal record for burglary, shoplifting and drug paraphernalia possession.

Goucher was out to his family and his uncle, William Searfoss, who initially reported Goucher missing, told The Pocono Record, “If there’s a lesson to be taken from this tragedy, it’s to warn kids, especially the younger kids, about the danger of getting together with strangers they meet online."

I would strongly suggest that if you do decide to set up a date with someone you meet online, that you let someone else know what you're doing and who you're going to be with. That way, at least, if something does go wrong, not only will someone else know where you are and who you're with but you would also have a pretty strong deterrent to violence by telling your date, should he/she suddenly decide to turn on you, that other people know who you're with.

Taking a few self-defense classes wouldn't be a bad idea either.

Be careful out there...

February 12, 2009


The infamous group that loves to hate gay people, the American Family Association (AFA), lost its promised 1 hour of airtime on a Grand Rapids, Michigan television station.

The AFA, which regularly fights LGBT civil rights legislation, originally bought time to broadcast an anti-gay infomercial on Monday at 7 p.m. But the station decided to move the broadcast when President Obama announced an 8 p.m. news conference.

WOOD-TV program director Craig Cole said, “We didn’t feel that it was the appropriate place, leading into the presidential event."

The station then offered to run the infomercial on Wednesday. But when opposition mounted and hundreds of e-mails began flooding the station, Cole suggested to the AFA that it run on Saturday at 2 p.m.

By late Wednesday, the AFA had not responded to Cole's offer so the decision was made to pull the show.

Station manager Diane Kniowski said:

“We made a gesture of the 2-3 p.m. Saturday time period. It’s been 24 hours and we had no response. Our station is being bombarded with calls and messages, and we find ourselves in the middle of someone else’s fight. Ours was a fair offer and we are removing ourselves from this matter.”

365gay.com reported that:

The infomercial, “Speechless: Silencing Christians,” is hosted by conservative talk show host Janet Parshall. In a 2006 appearance on the Larry King show on CNN, Parshall suggested Matthew Shepard’s “lifestyle” was responsible for his murder and called gay adoption “state-sanctioned child abuse.”

“‘Speechless’ purposely promote lies and distortions,” the national LGBT rights group Human Rights Campaign said in a statement to its members which led to the e-mail campaign to the TV station.

The program says that if hate crimes laws are passed, pastors will be prosecuted for preaching what the Bible says about homosexuality. It also claims that legislation providing employment protection based on sexual orientation or gender identity will force churches to hire homosexuals.

In addition to a litany of other lies and distortions, the AFA's production also claims that allowing the government to redefine marriage hurts children because studies show children need a mother and father to do well in life.

The reality is that every reputable study involving accredited and respected psychiatrists, psychologist and professional social workers has shown conclusively that not only do children of same-sex relationships do just as well as any other children, most also show a higher level of tolerance and compassion for people who are "different" from themselves. And, because of that, they're much more capable of adapting to and being comfortable with diversities of all kinds.

Speculation is that the AFA is attempting to negotiate with other stations across the country to carry the hour-long program.

We'll keep our eyes and ears open. If anyone does hear anything about the rescheduling of this travesty, please let me know.

February 11, 2009


Matthew Mitcham never expected to win a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics. In fact, his biggest dream was that he might be able to go home with a bronze. “That was the ultimate,” he says, “the very pinnacle of what I thought I could achieve in Beijing.”

In a far reaching, in-depth article slated for publication in the March issue and posted at Advocate.com, Mitcham recalled what was going through his mind when he shattered Olympic world records with his final, heart-stopping dive.

“I remember the things that I was thinking on the platform before the dive, and I remember what happened as soon as I hit the water. The dive itself is a bit vague. It felt good, although I wasn’t exactly sure. I did wait underneath the water a bit, thinking, I wonder…I wonder…I wonder… Then I popped my head out and the crowd was going wild. I looked over at Chava and he looked excited. It was the most far-out experience. It just completely took me over and I just lost it.”

For those of us who were lucky enough to be watching, his very real and very open and unguarded reaction is what made his mind-boggling accomplishment so totally human and so overwhelmingly emotional.

Here was a guy who had just stunned the World but came off as just one of us. He was like the kid in a candy store who was just told that he could have anything he wanted. And through all of that, you never got the feeling that he thought he was better than or above anyone else. You couldn't help but love this guy.

That's why it was so disheartening when month after month passed without any kind of sponsorship offer. Clearly, his unintentional, matter-of-fact coming out as a gay man before the olympics was costing him.

Well, I'm happy to report that Matthew finally signed his first major sponsorship deal.

According to today's Advocate.com, he has been appointed an ambassador for Telstra, Australia's largest telecommunications company that is the number one provider of phone and broadband service in the nation. His contract runs until December 31, 2009.

Amanda Johnston-Pell, executive director of brands and marketing communications for the company, says in a press release, "Matthew's performance at the Olympics last year was sensational, and he demonstrated all the characteristics that we look for in our ambassadors -- confidence, passion, and excellence in his sport. Matthew is a positive role model for all Australians, and we look forward to working with him as his diving career progresses."

It's about time! I only hope that other deals are in the works. Mitcham certainly deserves them.

February 10, 2009


When New York Senate Majority Leader Malcolm A. Smith took to the podium in a hotel ballroom in Manhattan last Saturday, expectations were very, very high. The room was packed with hundreds of gay-rights advocates, fund-raisers and politicians.

Hopes that he would announce that a gay marriage bill was finally being reintroduced to a now friendly senate and a ready-to-sign, friendly Governor had reached an almost fevered pitch. And justifiably so. The GLBT community had worked very long and very hard to change the dominate make-up of the senate from anti-gay Republicans to gay-friendly Democrats. Huge amounts of campaign monies were raised from our community to make sure that that battle would be won. And it was.

When Smith was finally able to speak after quieting anticipatory applause and cheers, his message was a resounding blow to the fervently unbridled optimism that filled the room.

“Although we do not have the number of votes at this time needed to pass the marriage equality gender bill this legislative session, we are committed to pursuing its passage.”

Smith's assessment was a sobering dose of reality for all of the gay rights supporters who had helped Democrats win control of the Senate for the first time since 1965.

As The New York Times reported:

“It’s very disappointing,” said Matthew Titone, a Democratic assemblyman who represents Staten Island and who listened to Mr. Smith’s speech, which was delivered at a fund-raiser for the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights organization.

“Even if they don’t have the votes, that’s really no excuse for the leader not to crack the whip, get them in line and remind them that the only reason they’re in the majority is because of the gay community,” Mr. Titone said.

Even though Titone's sentiments were completely understandable, not everyone was quite as angry or pessimistic.

“I haven’t given up hope that it’s going to happen,” said Senator Thomas K. Duane, a Manhattan Democrat. “We’re still counting votes and lobbying. I’d say the situation is very fluid.”

Mr. Duane added, “I think he’s conservatively estimating next year.”

Indeed, some pointed to the experience in the Assembly in 2007, when supporters of a same-sex marriage bill initially fell far short of the votes they needed.

“We didn’t have the votes in February of 2007,” said Assemblyman Daniel J. O’Donnell, who represents the Upper West Side. “But by June of 2007, we’d passed it. And people said we wouldn’t be able to do it.”

Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Empire State Pride group said,

“I think we are closer than most people think.” He also said that he viewed Mr. Smith’s remarks as a way to “manage expectations” of those who expected a quick victory.

He added: “I think it’s a good wake-up call for the L.G.B.T. community to understand that it’s not the majority leader’s job to get the votes. It’s our job.”

If you live in New York, contact the Empire State Pride Agenda at prideagenda.org and find out what you can do to help this happen THIS year.

February 9, 2009


In Vermont...
Nine years ago Vermont became the first state to legalize civil unions after it lost a discrimination lawsuit bought by Lois Farnham and Holly Puterbaugh. At the time, many opponents of these unions warned of dire consequences ranging from irreversible damage to traditional marriages to the destruction of the moral fiber of Vermont itself.

Well, nine years later, Vermonters have come to realize that those fears were unfounded. None of the dreaded consequences ever occurred. Traditional marriages live on unaffected, the moral fiber hasn't been destroyed and the sky didn't fall. If anything, the state's moral fiber has been considerably strengthened.

So, last Friday, acting on the belief that the time is right to go the final step, Representatives David Zuckerman and Mark Larson, both of Burlington, introduced a bill that would allow same-sex unions.

According to an AP release, co-sponsor Larson said, "This really is a great day and a part of moving forward to a time when all Vermont couples will be treated equally under our laws."

Larson also said that the bill has broad support in the house. It has 59 sponsors and although none are Republican, some have said they would support it if it comes up for a vote.

Democratic House Speaker Shap Smith, who supports the bill, said "We're still trying to decide whether it's something that we would do this year." The states fiscal crisis has already led to voluntary pay cuts, court closings and Gov. Jim Douglas's proposal to lay off more than 600 state workers.

But, this time around, there's much more support and a very different climate. Almost no one expects the kind of raucous debate that the civil unions bill prompted nine years ago.

In Wyoming...
Last Friday, the Wyoming House defeated two anti-gay marriage bills. One would have allowed voters to decided whether or not to amend the state constitution to deny state recognition of same-sex marriages. The other would have banned the state from recognizing out-of-state gay marriages.

Both were soundly defeated by a vote of 35 to 25.

According to Box Turtle Bulletin,

This is especially encouraging when one considers that Republicans have a 41 to 19 advantage over Democrats in the House.

According to the roll call vote, 16 Republicans joined all 19 Democrats.

Score another victory for our team.

And In California...
The California Supreme Court will begin hearing oral arguments about the constitutional same-sex marriage ban (the now infamous Prop. 8) on March 5th.

According to The Advocate,

California attorney general Jerry Brown -- who has voiced interest in running for governor of the Golden State -- is also asking the court to invalidate Prop. 8 on the grounds that certain fundamental rights, including the right to marry, are inalienable and cannot be put up for a vote.

On January 15, 43 friend-of-the-court briefs -- from bar associations, religious groups, and legal scholars -- urging the court to invalidate Prop. 8 were filed, arguing that Prop. 8 drastically alters the equal-protection guarantee in California’s constitution and that the rights of a minority cannot be eliminated by a simple majority vote.

The court is obligated to issue its decisions within 90 days after all oral arguments have been presented. This is going to be one of the most closely watched cases in history. Not only in our country but around the world as well.

Given the way the court worded it's decision to allow same-sex marriages last year (which now seems like centuries ago) and the fact that the legality of Prop. 8 is highly dubious, I am personally very optimistic about their decisions this time.

With virtually every state in the union having a constitutional guarantee of equal treatment, the court's decision this time could open the floodgates across the nation.

Let's all keep our fingers crossed.

February 6, 2009


Queers United reported yesterday that Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has declared the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional.

The case stems from a suit brought by Deputy Federal Public Defender Brad Levenson, who married Tony Sears last July 12, and 9th Circuit staff lawyer Karen Golinski, who married Amy Cunninghis last year.

According to an article by Pam Spaulding at Pam's House Blend,

Both orders are internal employee grievance decisions. Both found in favor of the gay employees, directing court administrators to give health insurance benefits to their spouses. The orders also represent direct challenges to DOMA, the 1996 act that forbids the federal government from treating same-sex relationships as marriages for any purpose.

A lawyer for the staff attorney said this is believed to be the first time federal employees will get benefits covering a same-sex spouse.

Judge Reinhardt said in his ruling:

"The denial of federal benefits to same-sex spouses cannot be justified simply by a distaste for or disapproval of same-sex marriage or a desire to deprive same-sex spouses benefits available to other spouses in order to discourage exercising a legal right afforded them by the state."

In A Related Story...

At a town hall meeting at the Dean Acheson Auditorium in Washington, DC this past Wednesday, our new Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, told participants that equalizing the treatment of the State Department's LGBT employees and their partners is being reviewed and "is on a fast timeline" to be remedied.

Clinton was responding to a question posed by Ralan Hill, a foreign service officer with a same-sex partner, who noted that in an emergency situation abroad, the State Department would be responsible for evacuating him but would have no such obligation to his partner. The department does, however, provide evacuation assistance to heterosexual spouses of officers stationed overseas. She went on to say:

"We are reviewing what would need to be changed, what we can legally change," Secretary Clinton said. "A lot of things we cannot legally change by a decision in the State Department. But let's see what we can determine is within our realm of responsibility, and we are moving on that expeditiously."

"This is an issue of real concern to me. And even though, as you pointed out, all of our personnel share the same service requirements, the partners in same-sex relationships are not offered the same training, the same benefits, and the same protections that other family members receive when you serve abroad. So I view this as an issue of workplace fairness, employee retention, and the safety and effectiveness of our embassy communities worldwide."

This is why we need to keep reminding President Obama that the repeal of DOMA (as promised in his campaign) is of the utmost importance.

You can express your feelings about this by going to the White House E-Contact Form.

Or you can call the White House directly to express your opinion personally at either of these numbers...

Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414

February 5, 2009


On Monday, NPR's All Things Considered reported that attorney Leslie Hagen was finally rehired after being wrongfully fired under the Gonzales regime.

Her dismissal was over an unsubstantiated rumor that Ms. Hagen was a lesbian. It was carried out in violation of an executive order issued by President Clinton, and left in place by President Bush, that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation.

However, using the sleazy tactics that the Gonzales Justice Department has become famous for, the firing was never directly attributed to Hagen's supposed lesbianism. But since then, the Justice Department's own inspector general corroborated that she was, indeed, fired because of that rumor. And based on her glowing performance reviews, there could have been no other reason.

According to the NPR report:

Last year, the Justice Department posted Hagen's old job again. The department conducted a national search. Applications came in from around the country. After several rounds of interviews, Hagen eventually won the job.

The paperwork makes it official as of Monday, Feb. 2. Hagen now has her old position back, but this time it's a little different. Her contract no longer comes up for renewal every year. Now, the job is permanent.

Unfortunately, nobody from the DOJ has ever officially apologized for what happened to her. She also still owes thousands of dollars in attorney fees which, so far, the Justice Department has refused to pay. But Hagen and her attorney are hopeful that the new attorney general will take a different view.

Let's hope they do.

February 4, 2009


Though the issue has been off the public radar for awhile now, the Boy Scouts' anti-gay policies have apparently been having a severe impact on their finances. This has caused them to turn to solutions that would have been unthinkable before they took their hard and discriminatory stand against gay scouts.

In a desperate attempt to find new ways to generate income and dollar-value privileges they've lost because of those anti-gay policies, they have turned to wholesale logging in previously pristine forests on lands that they own throughout the country. These are tens of thousands of acres that they once vigorously and adamantly protected for exclusive use as camps and environmental learning grounds for young scouts.

Eugene Grant, president of the Portland, Ore., Cascade Pacific Council's board of directors, said to the San Francisco Chronicle, "There's no question that the Scouts' anti-gay, anti-atheist stance has cost the organization money. As a result every council has looked at ways to generate funds ... and logging is one of them."

The Chronicle went on to report:

The scouts insist they manage the wild lands they own with sensitivity and care.

But the investigation - a nationwide review by five newspapers of more than 400 timber harvests, court papers, property records, tax filings and other documents since 1990 - also found that:

-- Scout councils have ordered the logging of more than 34,000 acres of forests - perhaps far more, as forestry records nationwide are incomplete.

-- More than 100 scout groups - one-third of all Boy Scouts councils nationwide - have conducted timber harvests.

-- Councils logged in or near protected wildlife habitat at least 53 times.

-- Councils have authorized at least 60 clear-cutting operations and 35 salvage harvests, logging practices that some experts say harm the environment but maximize profits.

I was, as were most of my childhood friends, a boy scout. I loved the camping trips and jamborees. They were a lot of fun and provided a lifetime of good memories.

Unfortunately, the actions of today's scout leadership is a tragedy and a travesty of the core fundamentals that scouts are taught to believe in. But then, I'm not really surprised by the duplicity and hypocrisy they've demonstrated since today's Boy Scouts are so heavily financed by the Mormon church.

If you want to read the full, in-depth story, go to: SFGate.com

February 3, 2009


Faced with an ongoing investigation by California's Fair Political Practices Commission, mormon church officials reluctantly admitted that they failed to report almost $200,000 in campaign contributions to the Yes On 8 campaign.

According to San Francisco Chronicle's SFGate:

The report, filed with the secretary of state's office, listed a variety of California travel expenses for high-ranking members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and included $20,575 for use of facilities and equipment at the church's Salt Lake City headquarters and a $96,849 charge for "compensated staff time" for church employees who worked on matters pertaining to Prop. 8.

The Commission's investigation was prompted by a lawsuit filed by Fred Karger of Californians Against Hate, which is a group opposed to the same-sex marriage ban.

Karger's suit, filed on Nov. 13, 2008, alleged that the Mormon church had produced radio and television commercials, set up Web sites, conducted simulcasts and sent church leaders to California to support Prop 8 and never reported any of these contributions as required by law.

SFGate reported that all the way up until their recent admission last Friday, the Mormon church consistently denied any direct financial support for the campaign beyond a reported $2,078 spent for bringing church Elder L. Whitney Clayton to California.

In fact, when notified of the investigation, Mormon church officials grumbled that Karger's complaint was full of errors and that the church had "fully complied" with California law. Clearly, they knew they were lying. But then, that's nothing new for the Mormon church. Their dishonesty throughout the Prop 8 campaign was staggering.

I wouldn't be surprised if the real amount that the church itself spent on that campaign turned out to be much, much more than the $190,000 they were forced to report last Friday. And that's not even counting the millions of dollars that were donated by individual mormons who were "encouraged" by their revered leaders to send their hard-earned money to the Yes On 8 campaign - even though many of them couldn't really afford it.

I really hope the commission does a lot more than just give them a half-hearted little slap on the wrist.

My thanks also to Queers United and Box Turtle Bulletin for information in this story.

February 1, 2009


The web blog Queers United reported Sunday that the global shipping giant FedEx refused to provide equal family benefits to a legally married, same-sex couple.

According to HRC Back Story FedEx actually invoked the Defense of Marriage Act to justify why it wouldn’t provide benefits to the Massachusetts couple. As Back Story reported, FedEx’s tortured legal argument goes something like this:

We have a federally regulated health insurance plan and since the federal government defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman we are free to ignore your marriage in the provision of employee benefits.

What makes this an even more frustrating story is the fact that FedEx apparently lied to Fortune magazine in order to get a spot on Fortune's coveted "100 Best Companies to Work For In 2009." This listing is highly coveted by corporate recruiters who frequently use it to entice top talent to join their company.

To help determine company rankings, Fortune sent out a questionnaire that included questions about benefits, work-life and diversity, among other categories.

FedEx answered the question about offering domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples with a "Yes" and won the 90th position in the listing. But, according to HRC Back Story,

FedEx has never offered domestic partner benefits firm-wide. The only unit of the company that provides benefits to gay employees’ families is FedEx Office, formerly known as Kinko’s.


Kinko’s was already providing domestic partner benefits when FedEx acquired it in 2004. FedEx actually refused to extend the benefits to its other units. The fact that FedEx did not flat out cancel the benefits at Kinko’s is certainly no consolation to its thousands of other employees.

Many other top US companies of FedEx's size and stature have had no problem offering domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples throughout the country so why is FedEx trying so hard to deny those benefits to the rest of their gay employees?

The answer to that seems to be money. They simply don't want to pay for the additional coverages. They obviously calculated that since they already have the Fortune Magazine listing, why spend the additional funds when they can still reap the benefits of Fortune's prestigious listing?

If you want to express your feelings directly to FedEx, click here to go to their customer service form.

When the form opens just fill-in your name and email address and then skip the other boxes and scroll down to the comments section and enter what you want to say there. Then just click "Send Request" at the bottom and that's it.

I sent one saying, among other things, that I would never use FedEx again.