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July 18, 2009


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

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

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

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

July 16, 2009


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

According to the article, Oehlke also claimed that:

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

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

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

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

July 14, 2009


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 13, 2009


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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