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July 23, 2009


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

McFadden goes on to say:

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

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

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

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

July 22, 2009


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

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

He opened the article by saying:

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

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

Boies went on to say:

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

Near the end of his piece, he said:

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

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

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

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

July 20, 2009


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

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

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

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

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

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

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