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April 30, 2009


The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, better known as the Matthew Shepard Act, passed the US House of Representatives yesterday by a vote of 249-175.

The Senate will now have to vote on their version of the bill which was introduced by Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and sponsored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and the now Democratic Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

President Barack Obama has vowed to sign the bill once it reaches his desk. Standing behind his campaign promise to do everything he can to get this bill passed, Obama released the following statement on Tuesday (the day before the House vote was taken):

This week, the House of Representatives is expected to consider H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. I urge members on both sides of the aisle to act on this important civil rights issue by passing this legislation to protect all of our citizens from violent acts of intolerance – legislation that will enhance civil rights protections, while also protecting our freedom of speech and association. I also urge the Senate to work with my Administration to finalize this bill and to take swift action.

There was one very unfortunate and astoundingly insensitive speech delivered on the floor of the House in opposition to HR1913 before the vote was taken.

Republican representative Virginia Foxx of North Carolina claimed that Matthew Shepard's murder was a hoax. She said that it was a simple robbery and not a hate crime and that the incident shouldn't be used as a reason to pass the Hate Crimes bill. She gave this speech while Matthew's mother was sitting in the gallery.

Below is Keith Olbermann's brilliant response to Foxx's pathetic and shameful speech. He named her as his "Worst Person In The World."


People like Foxx are disgusting, pathetic and shameful human being wanna-bes who need to be confronted and exposed at every possible opportunity. They are the epitome of wolves-in-sheep's-clothing.

April 28, 2009


Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter announced today that he is switching his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat.

This move will give the Democrats a filibuster proof majority once Al Franken is finally sworn in. Franken's opponent, former senator Norm Coleman, has made his last-ditch effort by appealing the vote results to the Minnesota state Supreme Court. They're now just waiting for the final decision. Franken's lead has increased with each successive recount and challenge and it is expected that the Supreme Court will find in his favor as well.

In a statement published in today's Washington Post, Specter said:

"I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary. I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election."

He added: "Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans."

Just minutes after the Senator's announcement, President Obama called and told him that he has his full support and that the Democrats were thrilled to have him in their party.

The Senator has served in the Senate since 1980 and has a reputation for being a moderate with conservative views on crime, national security, and 2nd Amendment Rights, and liberal views on abortion, illegal immigration and the environment.

His record on GLBT issues reflects his moderate, political duality. He voted to prohibit job discrimination based on sexual orientation but then voted against including sexual orientation in the definition of hate crimes. He is opposed to same-sex marriages but, like Obama, supports Civil Unions.

Given what's been happening around the country lately and given the Senator's demonstrated ability to change his mind on issues, I do expect him to eventually reconsider his more negative GLBT positions. As more and more polls continue to show steadily increasing support for gay marriage, ENDA, the hate crimes bill, repealing DOMA and DADT and the GLBT community in general, the Senator's positions will probably start changing sooner rather than later. He's NOT one of the fanatics. That's why he left the Republican Party.

April 27, 2009


This morning Melisa Keeton and Shelley Wolfe became the first legally married gay couple in the state of Iowa.

Although the new marriage law requires a 3 day waiting period after being granted a marriage license, Melisa and Shelley were able to successfully appeal that requirement earlier this morning and obtained a waiver from a local judge. The nuptials were performed by pastor Pat Esperanaza in a ceremony in front of the Polk County administrative offices in Des Moines.

Iowa also has no prohibition against out of state residents obtaining marriage licenses and getting married there. So, early this morning two Nebraskan women, Sarah Fentress and Bambi Smith, crossed into Iowa and were the first people in line at the Pottawattamie County Courthouse. They arrived around 6:15 a.m. and waited almost two hours for the Recorder Department to open for business.

“We’re very excited to be here,” Fentress said. “It means a lot to us, our children, our family as a whole.”

According to the Lincoln Journal Star:

The people waiting in line cheered at 8 a.m., when George Farrage, first deputy recorder, came out of the office with the signed Iowa Supreme Court order that states the Iowa statute limiting civil marriage to a union between a man and a woman violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution.

“Let’s go,” Smith said eagerly.

Fentress said she and Smith realized they were not Iowans, and their marriage would not be valid back in Nebraska.

“Maybe one day we’ll get sick of it and move to Iowa,” she said.

An AP story posted at Yahoo News reported that:

The Iowa Supreme Court's unanimous and emphatic decision on April 3 made Iowa the third state to allow same-sex marriage, joining Massachusetts and Connecticut. Vermont passed a law that will take effect in September.

...The court issued an order Monday [today] confirming that the appeals process in the case has officially concluded.

Gay marriage opponents have no other legal options to appeal the case to the state or federal level because they were not parties to the lawsuit, and there is no federal issue raised in the case.

Their only recourse appears to be a constitutional amendment, which couldn't get on the ballot until 2012 at the earliest. A constitutional convention could be called earlier, but is unlikely.

CONGRATULATIONS to all of the Iowan newlyweds and to Iowa itself for showing such a strong and unequivocal commitment to justice and equality.

Oh, BTW - despite the strong-arm tactics of religious right-wingnuts who tried pressuring county recorders to join them and refuse to issue the new marriage licenses, there were no reports of even a single recorder refusing to issue the applications. Gay marriages - 1, wingnuts - 0!

April 24, 2009


Following last year's mandate from the Connecticut Supreme Court, lawmakers officially wrote gay marriage into the laws of the state.

Wednesday's vote, which passed 28-7 in the senate and 100-44 in the house, officially redefines marriage as being "the legal union of two people" instead of the previous definition of "a union between a man and a woman."

According to an article in The Advocate yesterday, Republican Governor M. Jodi Rell will sign the bill even though she stands by her personal belief that marriage should be between opposite-sex partners.

Interestingly, there were last minute amendments approved and adopted that defined the constitutional rights of religions to, among other things, reserve recognition of those marriages only to those of which they approve. All of the rights that were approved are already guaranteed under the US Constitution and not contested by any gay marriage proponent. None the less, it was seized upon by the National Organization for Marriage (the group that brought you the infamous "A Gathering Storm") as a victory for their side.

Apparently, after the tsunami of ridicule over that video, NOM is so desperate to regain their credibility that they'll latch onto anything and try claiming it as a victory for themselves. Even if that so-called victory was never in contention to begin with.

As Timothy Kincaid of Box Turtle Bulletin explained it:

The language adopted by the State of Connecticut seems reasonable to me. It exempts churches, religious societies and other religious non-profits from “services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges” if the refusal is based on their objection to a marriage which is “in violation of their religious beliefs and faith”. It also exempts religious fraternal benefit societies (eg. the Knights of Columbus) to deny membership and insurance benefits. The third provision would exempt religious organizations from recognizing marriages for purposes of adoption, foster care and other social services provided that they don’t receive public funds for those services.

I have no objection to these provisions and I dare say that most gay folk are just fine with them as well.

Contrary to giving them back any credibility, NOM's hollow claim of victory makes them look even more pathetic and impotent.


April 23, 2009


With hate crimes against gays, lesbians and transgenders rising at alarming rates across the country, it's more important than ever to get the federal hate crimes law (the Matthew Shepard Act) passed - NOW.

This morning I received an email from Joe Solmonese, the President of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), asking for immediate help in getting this legislation, which is up for a vote next week, passed once and for all.

According to Solmonese,

This week, the right-wing Traditional Values Coalition blanketed Congress with a "fact sheet" saying the Matthew Shepard Act would protect "bizarre sexual orientations" like bestiality and necrophilia.

Once again, facts have nothing to do with it. Dozens of states have hate crime laws, and none get into this nonsense.

But these arguments can make members of Congress uneasy about voting for the bill – and we've heard repeatedly that right-wing groups have been FLOODING Congress with calls.

Please take just a minute (or less) and call your Representative's Office. If you don't know who that is or what number to call, click here for help in finding that out. Just fill in the state and your zip code and the name and contact information (w/phone numbers) will come up.

When you call, just tell the staff member answering the phone where you're calling from, and that you'd like to urge your Representative to work hard to pass the Matthew Shepard Act next week. If you choose, you can also add:

•Hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are on the rise. One out of every six hate crimes is because of the victim's sexual orientation.

•Hate crimes have more than one victim. They are intended to create an atmosphere of fear and terrorize entire communities.

•The Matthew Shepard Act targets only violent acts – not speech. It does not tell any clergy member what he or she can or can't preach.

Solmonese is also requesting that after you hang up, please let them know that you made the call. That will help HRC track how many members of Congress have been reached.


According to Lez Get Real, the Matthew Shepard Act (HR 1913) was approved by the House Judiciary Committee yesterday (Thursday, 4/23/09) by a vote of 15-12. It will now move to the House floor for a vote expected to take place sometime next week.

If you haven't already, please email or call your representative and urge them to vote for this legislation when it does come up for a vote. See above for instructions.

April 22, 2009


I worked most of my life in marketing and advertising and I've come to appreciate strong, concise, well written visual messages that have high, professional production standards.

Usually, you would expect this kind of quality to come from places like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or other large metropolitan areas that have vast pools of young, eager, gifted talent to draw from. That's why the tepid TV ads produced in opposition to Prop 8 in California were so disappointing.

Well, maybe when GLBT rights groups are looking for that kind of impactful advertising for future rights battles, they should look to Iowa. The new activist group One Iowa, the group that was formed during the brilliantly executed campaign to bring gay marriage to that state, just released the following television ad to combat the right wing's underhanded efforts to derail that success.

Anyone who doubts the veracity of the passionate, bold, driven commitment of today's new, young activist should check out Iowa. Yes. I did say Iowa.

BTW - thanks to Queers United for posting this video.

April 21, 2009


In an article posted this morning, 365gay.com reported that public hearings on legislation that would allow gay marriages will begin tomorrow (4/22/09) at the Augusta Civic Center.

Actually, there are three bills dealing with same-sex unions that will be up for discussion. One is to repeal Maine's own 12 year old version of a Defense of Marriage Law which, like the federal DOMA law, bans same-sex marriages outright. Another would make all state laws and statutes gender neutral. Both of these bills are sponsored by Democratic Senator Dennis S. Damon of Trenton.

Although no more than 10 lawmakers are normally allowed to sign on as co-sponsors of a bill, Senator Damon said that 50 others sought to have their names added to the marriage bill. So now the bill has 60 co-sponsors that, according to Damon, represent both Democrats and Republicans and come from Maine’s smallest towns and largest cities.

Senator Damon was elected to the Maine Senate in 2002 and is currently serving his fourth and final term so, of course, passage of these two bills would be a great way for him to end his career.

The third bill up for discussion was filed by Republican Representative Leslie Fossel and it would create a domestic-partner registry but keep the Defense of Marriage Law in place.

According to the article:

Advocates and opponents of same-sex marriage have crisscrossed the state in recent weeks, drumming up support for their prospective sides.

Maine’s tourism industry has said legalizing same-sex marriage in the state could save them from disaster as the state’s economy continues to turn sour.

Industry spokespeople pointed to a recent study by the Williams Institute, a think tank at the University of California Los Angeles, that found extending marriage to same-sex couples would boost Maine’s economy by $60 million over three years, which would generate increases in state and local government tax and fee revenues by almost $3.6 million.

As expected, the very conservative Maine Marriage Alliance has threatened to press for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage outright if it looks like the bill is going to pass. If current trends continue however, the Alliance might find it a lot harder to just simply get the number of signatures needed to put that kind of amendment on the ballot.

Last November the Boston-based LGBT rights group, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), launched the “Six by Twelve” campaign to legalize gay marriage throughout all six New England states by 2012. GLAD mounted the successful legal challenges that lead to same-sex marriage in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Wouldn't it be great if they succeeded ahead of schedule?

If Maine's bill passes and is signed into law, it would leave only New Hampshire and Rhode Island as the remaining two New England states without equal marriage laws.

Right now, marriage equality legislation has already passed the New Hampshire House and is currently before the Senate.

April 20, 2009


In the afterglow of dual victories in Vermont and Iowa, it seems that GLBT causes are finally taking on a whole new perspective.

Many who have long been identified with right wing ideologies and homophobic hate rants have recently begun to publicly alter their supposedly long-held beliefs to reflect everything from a "subtle" reworking of their past statements to outright admissions of defeat.

A couple of weeks ago I ran a story on well-known conservative pundit, Cal Thomas' opinion piece that outright said that the battle against gay marriage was now all but lost. Since then, the chorus has been growing exponentially.

On Saturday, New York Times columnist Frank Rich wrote a brilliant comprehensive and insightful opinion piece that started off by lambasting the sad and pathetic idiocy of the anti-gay marriage video released last week by the right wing group, National Organization for Marriage. The video intended to portray homosexuality as a national threat second only to terrorism.

In his piece, Mr. Rich said:

Far from terrifying anyone, “Gathering Storm” has become, unsurprisingly, an Internet camp classic. On YouTube the original video must compete with countless homemade parodies it has inspired since first turning up some 10 days ago.

Yet easy to mock as “Gathering Storm” may be, it nonetheless bookmarks a historic turning point in the demise of America’s anti-gay movement.

What gives the ad its symbolic significance is not just that it’s idiotic but that its release was the only loud protest anywhere in America to the news that same-sex marriage had been legalized in Iowa and Vermont. If it advances any message, it’s mainly that homophobic activism is ever more depopulated and isolated as well as brain-dead.

Rich's piece is well worth taking a couple of minutes to read in it's entirety.

Add to these declarations of the demise of the frenzied anti-gay campaigns, the following:

At the recent Log Cabin Republican convention, Steve Schmidt, chief campaign strategist for John McCain and senior advisor to George Bush, gave a 20 minute speech in which he voiced his unequivocal support for marriage equality and said that denigrating gay people in any way is “un-American.”

He went on to say:

“It cannot be argued that marriage between people of the same sex is un-American or threatens the rights of others. On the contrary, it seems to me that denying two consenting adults of the same sex the right to form a lawful union that is protected and respected by the state denies them two of the most basic national rights affirmed in the preamble of our Declaration of Independence: liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

“I believe, and I think most Americans believe, you are born with your sexuality -- it is not a choice. It should offend us as Republicans and Americans when gays are denigrated as un-American or undeserving of the government’s protection of their rights. And the Republican Party should give voice to genuine outrage when anyone belittles the humanity of another person; it is offensive in the extreme to the values of this nation and we should be in the forefront of rejecting such truly un-American prejudice."

At the same convention, John McCain's wife and daughter, Cindy and Meghan, both made their support of gay marriage and GLBT rights in general very clear. In an opinion piece written for the Daily Beast, Meghan McCain, a strong supporter of gay marriage, said:

"Of all the causes I believe in and speak publicly about, this [gay marriage] is one of the ones closest to my hear. If the Republican Party has any hope of gaining substantial support from a wider, younger base, we need to get past our anti-gay rhetoric."

Also at that convention, former Republican Governor of New Jersey Christine Whitman called for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and for the Republican party to remove their opposition to same-sex marriage from the GOP platform.

Queers United reported:

She [Governor Whitman] argued that "civil marriage should be for everyone, and that gay couples marrying does not threaten her marriage". She went on to say that she respects that "there is a place for Conservative Christians in the party, but said that there should be a place for pro-equality Republicans as well".

Christine Whitman along with other moderate Republicans have created the Republican Leadership Council which seeks to get back to the fundamentals of the Republican party while striving for pro-LGBT, pro-choice, eco-friendly, and racial justice legislation.

Add to all of this the recent comments by the "previously" ultra homophobic Dr. Laura Schlessinger and the ambiguously confusing on-the-bandwagon/off-the-bandwagon, Pastor Rick Warren.

According to Box Turtle Bulletin, Schlessinger said on Larry King Live that committed gay and lesbian couples were a “beautiful thing,” totally contradicting all of her past statements. And Warren told Larry King, on a different show, that he “never once even gave an endorsement” of Proposition 8 which, of course, we all know is a flat-out lie.

Clearly Schlessinger and Warren both see the same writing on the wall and are now trying to remake their public images into the likenesses of today's emerging realities. They're not stupid (well, maybe Dr. Laura - a little), they both know that if they don't, their respective careers and healthy incomes will soon vanish.

This is all very heady, feel-good stuff BUT let's remember two very important things...

One - four states is only a beginning and you can bet that there are still A LOT of other right wingnut fanatics out there who aren't going to give up that easily. They're already raising money and planning strategies to defeat ANY pro-gay legislation that comes up anywhere in the country. And, they still have strong enough support to do exactly that if we let our guard down even a little.

And two - I've said this many times before but it needs to be repeated again because with the economic meltdown and the added pressures of so many people losing their jobs, there are more and more people running around out there who are already pushed to their emotional limits - please remember that the more we win, the more desperate and the more violent the unstable fanatic fringe will become - so, please, BE CAREFUL OUT THERE!!

April 17, 2009


In 2007, Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire signed the state's first Domestic Partner bill into law. That bill was a domestic partner registry that provided some of the same rights bestowed on straight marriages to lesbian and gay couples and their families. In 2008, the Governor signed legislation that expanded those domestic partner rights to include 160 of the more than 400 rights and responsibilities afforded to married couples.

A couple of days ago, the Kirkland Reporter announced that on April 15th, the Washington State House of Representatives voted to expand those rights once again.

The new Domestic Partnership Expansion bill was passed in the House by a margin of 62-35 and in the Senate several weeks ago by a margin of 30-18. This new expansion now grants approximately 250 additional rights and responsibilities to registered domestic partners.

“We applaud the Washington state legislature for providing these important protections under Washington state law to committed lesbian and gay couples and we thank Senators Ed Murray and Joe McDermott and Representatives Jamie Pedersen, Dave Upthegrove, Jim Moeller and Marko Liias, as well as Equal Rights Washington for their leadership on this civil rights issue,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “This is another important step toward full equality, and it will provide tangible, much needed legal protections for families in Washington.”

Of course, the religious, right-wingnuts trotted out their old favorite scare tactics by saying that the bill would infringe upon religious freedom, cause social upheaval and that children who came from homes that didn't have both a mother and a father were more likely to become "delinquents".

Fortunately, thanks to the active and very public support of child care professionals around the world, most people - and, more importantly, most legislators are beginning to realize that all of those bogus arguments never were true.

The bill now goes to Governor Gregoire who is expected to sign it into law.

Congratulations to all those in Washington state who worked so tirelessly for this victory. I have no doubt that eventually the term "Domestic Partnership" will simply morph into "Marriage."

April 15, 2009


The seemingly surprising victory in Iowa was actually a seven year long, brilliantly strategized campaign.

This morning, I read an interesting, Washington Post account of how the Iowa Supreme Court came to the unanimous decision to legalize gay marriage in the middle of our country's "heartland."

Against all odds and in defiance of many GLBT leaders who objected to pouring time, money and resources into a marriage equality fight in a staunchly conservative, unwinnable state, Camilla Taylor, a Chicago-based lawyer for the gay rights group Lambda Legal since 2002, stood by her beliefs.

Camilla, who is a straight, married mother, calls same-sex marriage "the civil rights cause of my generation." The 38-year-old Cleveland native and Columbia Law School graduate added, "I was brought up to think there's nothing more fulfilling than trying to achieve social change and do something right for society."

For seven years, Camilla traveled regularly from Chicago to Iowa to do research and lay the groundwork for her landmark case. When she immersed herself in Iowa's politics and history, she learned about its progressive past, including how the Hawkeye State was a pioneer in school desegregation, the first to admit a woman to its bar, and among the earliest to allow interracial marriage. The more she learned, the stronger she felt about Iowa being a winnable state. Even it's flag carried an encouraging motto: "Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain."

According to the Post article,

Camilla and her colleagues crisscrossed Iowa meeting gay and lesbian couples and organizing workshops and panels on issues that concerned them. She usually spoke as part of a panel that might include community members or the parents of a gay or lesbian child. Her colleagues did the same.

Sometimes it was lonely in those early days, Taylor recalled. At one event, just seven people showed up.

By December 2005, three years after she took on the cause, Taylor decided the foundation in Iowa was set and she filed a case for six gay couples. She selected them strategically, finding those who were representative and picking a pair from every region of the state.

Following her carefully planned strategy, she chose local lawyer Dennis Johnson, a former solicitor general who was heading the litigation department at a prominent Des Moines firm to be her co-council.

She had never met Johnson before and she took a big risk in approaching him because she wanted to keep her plans to file a lawsuit a secret until she actually filed it.

"I had never heard of Lambda Legal, or her," Johnson said. "I had never been involved in gay rights at all." But he said his firm was always interested in having its lawyers do pro bono work, so he agreed to look at the case.

After deciding to take on the case as co-council and getting to know Camilla, Johnson was quoted as saying,

"I've never felt so strongly about a case in my entire career." He credits Taylor as the one who really got the case moving. "She came up with the strategy, she researched Iowa law, she was the primary author of all the briefs. . . . I think she wrote briefs as best as I've seen in my career.

Numerous other carefully planned strategies were carried out, including adding the children of the gay couples as plaintiffs and working with local GLBT groups. Up until the filing, the existing local groups were more focused on being resource centers for health care, social networking, etc.. They weren't really geared for political activism.

Shortly after Camilla filed suit on behalf of the six couples, Sharon Malheiro founded the group One Iowa and began coordinating with Taylor and Lambda Legal. "There wasn't a strong local group that would be the go-to group for organizing a campaign for marriage equality," said Malheiro. "If we we're going to do this in Iowa, it had to be Iowans talking to Iowans." One Iowa took over much of the public education effort, leaving Camilla and her team to concentrate on the legal aspects.

The Washington Post Article is an excellent, 3-page piece and I strongly urge anyone who is already involved in or who wants to become involved in the struggle for any or all of the remaining GLBT rights and protections yet to be granted, to read the full article.

Nothing ever happens just because we want it to. We have to work hard and we have to work smart to MAKE IT HAPPEN. And this is a great example of how to go about it.

April 14, 2009


This morning, I received the following email from Amazon. It was in response to my signing the letter at change.org protesting their new and discriminatory reclassification policy.


This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.

It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles - in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon's main product search.

Many books have now been fixed and we're in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future.

Thanks for contacting us. We hope to see you again soon.

Please let us know if this e-mail resolved your question:

In my posting yesterday, I said that I hoped this whole thing was an unintentional glitch in their system or, if not, that it was orchestrated by a small, right-wing faction within Amazon without the knowledge of the company's top leadership.

Today, I think it's a little of both. I doubt that the top echelon of Amazon would be stupid enough to even consider jeopardizing the worldwide reputation and good will they've built-up over the years with the GLBT community just to placate a few religious zealots in this country. I think they were caught off-guard and offered that email explanation because they didn't want to admit that something like this could happen in their company.

I do, however, still believe that it very well could have been a small group of religious zealots who were in a position to pull this off and just couldn't resist. As we all know by now, these people aren't playing with a full deck and could easily have deluded themselves into thinking they were smart enough.

My skepticism with Amazon's official explanation seems to be shared by others as well. In a NY Times article, Daniel Mendelsohn, an author whose memoir “The Elusive Embrace” lost its sales ranking over the weekend, said:

“There are mistakes and there are mistakes. At some point in this process, which I don’t understand because I’m not a computer genius, the words gay and lesbian were clearly flagged, as well as some kind of porno tag. I say, do I want my book in anyone’s mind to be equivalent to a porno? And the answer is no.”

In the same article, playwright, author and long-time gay activist, Larry Kramer was quoted as saying:

“I don’t think for one second that this was a glitch. We have to now keep a more diligent eye on Amazon and how they handle the world’s cultural heritage.”

I agree with Larry, from now on, we have to keep a very watchful eye on Amazon and other companies that offer GLBT books and/or merchandise as a part of their overall inventories.

April 12, 2009


A disturbing new report seems to indicate that Amazon.com is becoming a bit homophobic in their online rankings.

According to a Box Turtle Bulletin report, Amazon is engaged in an inventory-wide program to reclassify a large number of GLBT titles as "Adult" books. Why is this so important to GLBT authors and our community in general? Well, a posting yesterday at the LA Times blog section Jacket Copy, which covers book news and information, put it this way:

"American Psycho" is Bret Easton Ellis' story of a sadistic murderer. "Unfriendly Fire" is a well-reviewed empirical analysis of military policy. But it's "Unfriendly Fire" that does not have a sales rank -- which means it would not show up in Amazon's bestseller lists, even if it sold more copies than the "Twilight" series. In some cases, being de-ranked also means being removed from Amazon's search results.

Amazon's policy of removing "adult" content from its rankings seems to be both new and unevenly implemented. On Saturday, self-published author Mark R. Probst noticed that his book had lost its ranking, and made inquiries. The response he got from Amazon's customer service explained:

"In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude “adult” material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature."

Probst's novel was set in the old West with gay characters and was written for young adults. He was rightfully concerned that gay-friendly books were being unfairly targeted.

The obviously flawed and astoundingly arbitrary logic used to determine that a violent and gruesome story about a sadistic killer is somehow NOT considered an "adult content" tome while a thoughtful, reasoned exploration of a national military policy (DADT) IS sounds strangely like the same twisted logic that the radical, right-wing religious zealots have been using against our community for years.

When I first read about this story at Queers United over the weekend, it wasn't clear whether or not this was an intentional effort on the part of Amazon Books or simply a glitch in a new classification system that they were trying to institute. Since I have been ordering from Amazon for years and they've always proven to be GLBT friendly, I really wanted this whole thing to be an innocent administrative mistake. Now, however, after reading BTB's story, the LA Times blog post and a second posting today by QU as well as Amazon's own response to Mark Probst, I'm beginning to think that this is an intentional effort to, once again, undermine the credibility and stature of GLBT publications.

I'm hoping that if this is intentional, that it's being perpetrated by a small, right-wing faction within the megalithic corporate structure of Amazon. In either case, we can't really let this slide. Immediate, responsive action is the only way this is going to be stopped and corrected.

In their posting today, Queers United provided the following link to change.org. Once you go there, the only thing you have to do is fill-in your name, address and email to have your letter sent to Amazon Customer Service and Jeff Bezos (CEO, Amazon.com). The letter is prewritten for you but does have a space for you to add your own, personal comment.

If you don't want your name to be visible to the general community, there is a box at the bottom of the form that gives you the option to not have your petition letter seen by other community members. The box will already be checked to allow visibility so make sure you UNCLICK the box to hide your letter.

April 8, 2009


In an Opinion piece published at the Christian news sight WORLDmag.com, well known conservative pundit Cal Thomas admitted that the battle against gay marriage is all but lost.

Using the classic movie musical The Music Man as a metaphor, Thomas cited lead character Harold Hill's proclamation to worried town folks that trouble had come to River City, Iowa in the form of a pool hall. A pool hall that would corrupt young people unless the local citizens bought the musical instruments he was selling and got their kids into a marching band. He promised that playing music would keep kids from “fritterin’ away their mealtime, suppertime, chore time, too” and going to the track to watch “some stuck-up jockey boy sittin’ on Dan Patch.”

I'm not sure if Thomas was aware of the boatload of ironies swirling around his choice of this American classic as the metaphor for his argument. For one, the movie and its Broadway counterpart were, at least in my generation, considered icons of entertainment within the GLBT community. The story was fun, campy and hilarious. And the would-be swindler finally sees the error of his ways and everyone lives happily everafter.

For a few others, substitute "gay marriage" for "pool hall", "religious doctrine" for "musical instruments", "church" for "marching band" and "praying" for "playing music" and you have the all-to-familiar rantings of the religious right wing fanatics we've all become accustomed to.

However, whether or not Mr. Thomas was or wasn't consciously aware of those ironies (I just found them to be personally entertaining), I do have to give him credit where credit is due. In his piece, after the usual rants about gay marriage leading to polygamy, God only intended man/woman couplings, etc. etc., he did say the following:

To those on the political and religious right who are intent on continuing the battle to preserve “traditional marriage” in a nation that is rapidly discarding its traditions, I would ask this question: What poses a greater threat to our remaining moral underpinnings? Is it two homosexuals living together, or is it the number of heterosexuals who are divorcing and the increasing number of children born to unmarried women, now at nearly 40 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention?

Most of those who are disturbed about same-sex marriage are not as exercised about preserving heterosexual marriage. That’s because it doesn’t raise money and won’t get them on TV. Some preachers would rather demonize gays than oppose heterosexuals who violate their vows by divorcing, often causing harm to their children. That’s because so many in their congregations have been divorced and preaching against divorce might cause some to leave and take their contributions with them.

The battle over same-sex marriage is on the way to being lost. For conservatives who still have faith in the political system to reverse the momentum, you are—to recall Harold Hill—“closing your eyes to a situation you do not wish to acknowledge.”

Clearly, the right wing is finally beginning to see the writing on the wall and they're now looking for other issues to rally their minions around while they still have minions to rally.

Let's make one thing very, very clear here though. Our fight for marriage equality and equal protection under the law is, by no means, over yet. Although we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel you can bet that the diehard religious fanatics who are making millions of dollars and thousands of converts from the false emotionalism of gay rights issues are going to continue sending trainloads full of lies barreling through that tunnel in hopes of blocking out that light.

Yes. WE WILL WIN - and soon. But not if we start acting like we already have.


My thanks to Box Turtle Bulletin for the link to Thomas' piece.

April 7, 2009


It was announced this morning that with a House vote of 100-49 and a Senate vote of 23-5 the Vermont legislature did, indeed, have enough votes to override Republican Governor Jim Douglas's promised veto. This makes Vermont the fourth state to legalize gay marriage, joining Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa.

Although Vermont isn't the first state to officially legalize gay marriage, IT IS the first state in the Union to do it willingly by a vote of its legislators! As you may recall from past articles, in 2000 Vermont also became the first state in the country to offer Civil Unions.

Unfortunately (or maybe in this case - fortunately), those Civil Unions only offered some of the benefits automatically given to straight couples. Now, according to PinkNews.co.uk, although Vermont can not guarantee federal benefits to same-sex couples, it does grant access to the same Social Security benefits available to straight married couples. It also makes it possible to claim joint health insurance and make emergency medical decisions on behalf of their partners, among many other benefits and privileges not possible under Civil Unions.

Of course, opponents argued that the bill would undermine traditional marriage, render men and women interchangeable and destroy the connection between children and marriage. Their usual litany of lies and fear tactics so often repeated over and over again. But, thanks to the examples set by Massachusetts and the other nation-states around the world that have had gay marriage in place for years, fewer and fewer people are listening.

In fact, polls taken in Vermont have shown that citizens were in favor of the move.

Just this past March, a poll of 7,000 Vermont citizens showed that 54 per cent supported gay marriage, while only 37 per cent were opposed. A smaller survey taken in January suggested that 58 per cent were in favour of or leaning towards gay marriage.

Let's all take a moment right now to close our eyes and concentrate very deeply on projecting these last two amazing marriage victories directly into the minds of the California State Supreme Court Justices. Who knows - the power of mind over matter and all that. Certainly, strangers things have happened this year - and we're not even half way through it yet!

April 6, 2009


Yesterday, CNN reported that 6 gay men were murdered over the last 10 days in Iraq.

According to that report, two men were killed last Thursday in the Sadr City area of Baghdad after they were disowned by relatives. The shootings came after a tribal meeting was held and the members decided to go after the victims.

Prior to these killings, on March 26th, four additional men were fatally shot in the same city. They had also been disowned by their relatives because they were gay. According to a report by 365gay.com, the four men were buried near Sadr City with the words “pervert” and “puppies” written on their chests. "Puppy" is a derogatory word used by residents in Sadr City to refer to homosexuals.

Witnesses told CNN that a Sadr City cafe, which was a popular gathering spot for gays, was also set on fire.

All of these most recent incidents came after a stepped-up campaign by Shiite cleric Sattar al-Battat who repeatedly condemned homosexuality during recent Friday prayers, saying Islam prohibits homosexuality. By Iraq's current law, homosexual acts are punishable by up to seven years in prison.

As horrendous as these acts are, they are not confined to Iraq or the mideast alone. They are being encouraged and inflamed throughout the world by the hate-filled, homophobic rhetoric of religious fanatics from Sadr City to the Vatican to Mormon tabernacles to the extreme, right-wing, evangelical churches in this country. All with the same disheartening and highly disturbing results that culminate in everything from verbal taunts to outright, brutal, mind-numbing murders.

In this country, all of this has been graphically demonstrated by the latest hate crimes statistics showing that over the last few years, ever since our own home-grown religious extremists stepped up their homophobic rhetoric here, violence against gays has increased dramatically. In fact, the increase in violence against gays has now surpassed all other groups.

Now, I know that in a country where free speech is guaranteed, it's very difficult to stop hate speech. There are, however, exceptions to that guarantee.

In 1859, John Stuart Mill introduced what is known as the "harm principle" which placed the following limitation on free expression: "the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others." If ever I heard of a situation that fits that exception like a glove, it's the unbridled rantings of religious fanaticism. Clearly there is now proof that their kind of rhetoric does, indeed, lead to harming others. Perhaps this is an avenue that should be pursued by the ACLU and/or the many Lambda Legal type organizations in our own community.

Maybe a few strategically chosen lawsuits brought by victims of anti-gay violence against a few religious groups and/or institutions would serve as a wake-up call to these groups.

In the meantime, as I've said in several articles in the past, the more successful we become, the more frustrated and desperate our enemies become. And the more desperate they become, the more they turn to violence.

So, once again --- LET'S BE CAREFUL OUT THERE!

April 3, 2009


In a stunning unanimous decision, the Iowa State Supreme Court declared that banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

Iowa is considered to be the "heart" of the heartland and the decision to allow gay marriage in this state is truly significant. It mirrors Iowa's long history of commitment to the concepts of equal justice and equal treatment under the law. In 1839, years before slavery was outlawed across the country, the Iowa Supreme Court's first-ever decision was one that struck down all slavery laws within the state.

According to the Des Moines Register, Supreme Court Justice Mark Cady, who wrote the unanimous decision, said in his 69 page opinion that:

Iowa’s gay marriage ban “is unconstitutional, because the county has been unable to identify a constitutionally adequate justification for excluding plaintiffs from the institution of civil marriage.”

He also addressed the alternative suggestions of civil unions by saying:

“A new distinction based on sexual orientation would be equally suspect and difficult to square with the fundamental principles of equal protection embodied in our constitution.”

The ruling recognized the “religious undercurrent propelling the same-sex marriage debate,” and said judges must remain outside the fray.

“Our constitution does not permit any branch of government to resolve these types of religious debates and entrusts to courts the task of ensuring that government avoids them.”

The justices also stressed that the ruling explicitly does not affect “the freedom of a religious organization to define marriage it solemnizes as unions between a man and a woman.” Churches would still be free to decide that for themselves.

Camilla Taylor of Lambda Legal excitedly exclaimed, “We won! It is unanimous! Today the dream becomes reality … and Iowa constitution’s promise of equality is fulfilled. Iowans have never waited for others to do the right thing. Iowa took its place in the vanguard of the civil rights struggle, and we couldn’t be more proud to be part of this.”

Richard Socarides, a former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton on gay civil rights and a senior political assistant for Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, said today’s decision could mean as much to gay couples outside Iowa.

“I think it’s significant because Iowa is considered a Midwest state in the mainstream of American thought. Unlike states on the coasts, there’s nothing more American than Iowa. As they say during the presidential caucuses, ‘As Iowa goes, so goes the nation.’”

This is a great day for our community! Let's hope Socarides is right and we see this spread across our country like a rising sun.

April 2, 2009


Sweden just became the seventh country to legalize fully equal gay marriage in an overwhelmingly strong vote of 261 to 22 with just 16 abstentions.

According to PinkNews.co.uk:

The new legislation comes into effect as of May 1st, replacing the current legislation established in 1995 approving registered partnership much like civil partnerships in the UK.

Couples with a 'registered partnership' can either retain this status or apply to the relevant authorities to have it amended.

Soren Juvas, president of the Swedish Federation for LGBT Rights, called the ruling “a great victory” and Evon Frid of the Left Party said it was “a positive change."

The Christian Democrats were the only party that opposed the ruling. They said that they wanted to keep the "several hundred-year-old concept" of marriage.

A January 2008 Sifo Institute poll found that 71 per cent of Swedes approve of gay marriage.

Sweden now joins the Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Spain, Canada, and South Africa.

It seems that the United States is rapidly becoming isolated as one of the most backward, supposedly free countries in the world - at least on any issues that deal with GLBT rights and protections. How sadly ironic is that?

April 1, 2009


Since my monday posting on the Jamaican Boycott a couple of things have happened.

First, JFLAG (Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, Allsexuals and Gays) published a posting on their website that both thanked everyone for their support and then asked that the boycott be at least reconsidered.

While I appreciate the support in the cause for justice and tolerance towards everyone here despite their sexual orientation, groups planning or who have planned these events must be mindful of the repercussions such actions may have on an already marginalized grouping as we are here.

Members of the public and by extension select public opinion shapers will consider this as interference by foreigners and hence push for more hatred and opposition towards gays. Not to mention the increase in violence that occurs when a situation like this becomes public knowledge. As we have seen before during the planned Canadian group EGALE's boycott early last year many persons including lesbians suffered attacks, we saw a spike in the numbers that was never so for lesbians especially before. The stories told to us by many victims included hints that we (gays) were getting foreigners to force their nasty lifestyle on Jamaica and other derogatory remarks so the attackers felt justified in their actions.

The posting went on to say:

Let us remember too that it was Red Stripe, one of the targets of this ban campaign that withdrew financial backing for events and artists who promote violence of any sort against Jamaicans some time ago, we wouldn't want to erode that small gain now, small as it was it was a step in the right direction.

Although I can certainly empathize with the sentiments expressed in the posting, I have to agree with Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin:

I mentioned my reluctance in joining the call for a boycott, and this was one of the main reasons. It continues to give me great pause, and I do not take these concerns lightly. But when I read the State Department Human Rights Report on Jamaica, it is clear that violence against LGBT people is already at a crisis level. Jamaica is a small country. It’s estimated population of 2,804,332 is similar to the populations of Kansas, Arkansas or Mississippi. Imagine the outcry we would be hearing if any one of those three states were experiencing the scale of violence that LGBT people in Jamaica are experiencing already without the boycott.

As I see it, it’s damned-if-you-do/damned-if-you-don’t. What do you do in the face of this scale of violence, and how do you weigh taking action against the threat of more violence? Do you take the modest step of declaring that you won’t spend your money on that nation, or do you remain silent and hope for the best?

We’re not demanding that Jamaica changes its laws. We’re not asking Jamaicans to change their religious views. And we’re not asking Jamaican politicians to “embrace” anyone. In fact, there’s nothing the least bit radical or controversial in either of these goals. All we’re asking is that Jamaican officials defend the lives and safety of Jamaican people.

Personally, 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.

Jamaica is uniquely susceptible to a boycott of this kind because of its overwhelming dependence on the monies generated by both its limited exports and its primary tourism trade. If that flow of dollars is interrupted because of its politician's conscious and intentional actions against the GLBT community, it's a pretty good bet that the financial powers that fuel their economy will put enormous pressure on those politicians to change or leave office.

As is the case with any boycott, it ultimately comes down to a personal decision whether or not to participate. I, for one, don't see any other moral alternative.