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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.