Archive | April, 2011

PHOTOS: Family Equality Council’s Night at the Pier and GLAAD’s NY TGIF

27 Apr

Last night, I had the opportunity to see what the Family Equality Council has been up to at their annual Night on the Pier. Outside of raising over $200,000 to continue their fight to change national and local policy to protect LGBT families, but they also managed to bring together a slew of Broadway celebs and some recently discovered heroes from the movement.

Most of you remember the 19-year old Iowan, Zach Wahls and the incredible speech he made before the Iowa House regarding his life as the son of two lesbian moms. The speech made him an instant youtube sensation and has garnered him a lot more attention than this engineering student ever thought he’d receive. He made his way to a few interviews during the day, including this one with MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts, and then showed up to the pier.

Also at the event were cast members from Broadway’s Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, Rosie O’Donnell, Broadway performers such as Kate Shindle, Audra McDonald, CAA’s Joe Machota, R Family Cruise’s Gregg Kaminsky and Kelli Carpenter and hundreds more. (Full disclosure: Talk About Equality Co-Founder Sean Carlson is the New Media Associate for Family Equality Council – and I was thrilled to share the evening with him!)

Another wonderful new event that is picking up speed in several cities is GLAAD’s TGIF ( Thank GLAAD It’s Friday) parties. I’ve been able to visit one in DC and now one in New York. The networking event has been set up by local chapters of GLAAD and seeks to expand membership and to educate about the important work GLAAD is doing throughout the US.

Please enjoy photos from these two events!

Miss New York Claire Buffie and Hugh Gallagher

Jonathan D. Lovitz from Logo's The Set-up Squad

Thomas Roberts, Claire Buffie and Patrick Abner

Family Equality Council's Jennifer Chrisler and Zach Wahls

Jennifer Chrisler and Kelli Carpenter

Kimberly Galberaith and Broadway's Jodi Capeless

Rosie O'Donnell and Jennifer Chrisler

Jack Mackenroth

Bishop Gene Robinson and Douglas Carter Beane

Tracy Kachtick-Anders and Rosie O'Donnell

Will Swenson and Audra McDonald

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn

Priscilla's Nick Adams

Wonderland's Kate Shindle and William Franzblau

Priscilla's Tony Sheldon, Will Swenson and Nick Adams

Virginia Fails to Protect Foster Children

21 Apr

Despite Virginia leading the country when it comes to kids living and aging out of the foster care system, a state board has voted to deny gay and lesbian couples the right to give these children a loving home.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli

The bigoted decision came down after the state’s historically anti-gay Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli sent a memo to the board advising that the proposed changes (of adding lesbian and gay couples as a protected class when it comes to adoption) “does not comport with applicable state law and public policy” and that the board “lacks the authority to adopt this proposed language.” Cuccinelli’s memo didn’t explain any details of the state laws or public policies he was describing, but the board was still swayed toward the homophobic and biased decision.

The Family Equality Council was one of the organizations leading the fight to convince Gov. Bob McDonnell to reconsider his stance against equality.

“Today’s decision by the board to eliminate language prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a bad decision for the children in Virginia’s foster care system,” said Jennifer Chrisler, Executive Director of the Family Equality Council. “In a state that is in dire need of adoptive families, this decision makes it more difficult for youth in foster care to find a loving, stable home”

Same-sex parent adoption is now legal in 17 countries including predominantly-Catholic countries such as Argentina, Brazil and Spain as well as 11 US States and Washington D.C. And while there are specific bans on same-sex couples adopting in some states, single LGBT parents can adopt in almost every state.

Christian Church Stops Signing Marriage Licenses – for EVERYONE

19 Apr

This past Sunday,  Douglass Boulevard Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) unanimously voted to stop issuing marriage licenses – to EVERYBODY. Seeing a major discrepancy in the fact that they would marry straight couples and then sign the civil marriage license required by the State of Tennessee and Lesbian and Gay couples would receive nothing but a pat on the back and a nice ceremony, the congregation decided it had no place in issuing a civil document.

“As an Open and Affirming Community of Faith, our membership is committed to treating homosexuals and heterosexuals equally. Our congregation believes it is unfair to provide different services and benefits to heterosexual couples than we can provide to gay and lesbian couples,” said associate minister Rev. Ryan Kemp-Pappan.

Taking a major step, following a local Unitarian congregation who recently stopped performing marriages in their church, the DBCC is making a clear statement that there should be a separation between church and state. Thank you to the leadership of DBCC for recognizing equality for all Americans.

Anti-Gay Campaigner Jumps Fence to Equality

13 Apr

Many of you have already heard the remarkable story of Louis J. Marinelli, a former campaigner against marriage equality who has since changed his mind. And so many incredible sites, especially our brilliant friend Jeremy Hooper at GoodAsYou.org have done brilliant work not only chronicling this story, but helping to make it happen.

Louis Marinelli in front of NOM's tour bus last summer

Tonight, Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC spoke about Louis’ story in a way that made me realize this is the perfect story for us to share at Talk About Equality. Louis once ran his own anti-gay organization called Protect Marriage: One Man, One Woman. And last summer, he became a strategist and organizer for the hate group, National Organization for Marriage (NOM). Louis helped organize the “Summer for Marriage Tour” for NOM and even drove the bus. This tour met with counter-protests which greatly outnumbered their attendees in nearly every city. The final stop on the tour was Washington D.C., where Talk About Equality’s Sean Carlson led a group of organizers to put together “The Big Commit,” which was one of the largest cooperative events among LGBT organizations ever seen.

Also along the tour, California’s Courage Campaign followed every move NOM made. They recorded their interactions and the counter-protests all along the route. Arisha and Anthony from the Courage Campaign interviewed attendees to NOM’s tour in addition to some of the big players on the tour – one of those players was Louis Marinelli. In Louis’ letter to supporters of the Courage Campaign today, he said:

“Throughout the summer tour, Courage Campaign’s Arisha and Anthony approached me several times. I remember sitting on a bench in St. Louis, Missouri alone with Anthony for a few minutes. It was then that I empathized with Anthony and who he was for the first time, although I did not tell him. I understood that my work wasn’t affecting faceless, nameless political targets but instead good people like Anthony who just wanted to participate in all that America is.”

Through many interviews Arisha and Anthony gave with Louis, Louis felt that he was seeing them as more than just a political opponent. This all stems back to our theory of how our country is changing. Through telling our stories through educating others, we can change the world. As Harvey Milk said, “They vote for us 2-to-1 if they know one of us.” It is our stories and specifically how we tell them which will cause the most change.

Please. Think for a moment and craft your story of self. Think about the moment when you realized who you are – be it a gay man, a lesbian, bisexual, transgender or an ally. Tell that story to a friend and work on it. Keep it short and keep it simple and remember the things that made you want to fight for equality. Then tell it to another person. And another. And another. It is YOUR story that is going to change things. It is your story that is going to make this country a place where all people live equally. Look at how many brave people are out there telling their stories now – look at the kids who are fighting to bring their same-sex partner to prom. Look at the kids who are suing to have gay-straight alliance clubs in their high schools and colleges. Look at kids like Will Phillips, a straight 11-year old from Arkansas who one day refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance because he didn’t feel it was true. Will believed the phrase “with liberty and justice for all” was incoherent with current laws because lesbians and gays were not allowed to marry. I’ll leave you with Will’s speech from “The Big Commit” in DC, where Will put NOM on notice.

LGBT Immigrants Abused in US Custody

13 Apr

13 complaints were filed today alleging human rights abuses against LGBT immigrants in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers. The Heartland Alliance National Immigrant Justice Center is asking the Department of Homeland Security to investigate the treatment of LGBT people in DHS custody, craft policies to address violations and oversee implementation.

Some of the people being held are legal residents who were previously convicted of a crime – in some cases, just a misdemeanor. Some are felons who are transferred to ICE custody after longer prison sentences. Others may be undocumented aliens or people who have overstayed their visas. Regardless, all are held based on civil and not criminal offenses.

The alleged abuses against LGBT individuals include denial of medical care, discrimination and sexual assault. Steve, a gay Peruvian asylum seeker was held in solitary confinement for six weeks “on the sole basis that he is HIV-positive” according to the report. “Officers frequently prohibited Steve from leaving his cell to get his HIV medication. Steve was traumatized when he sought medical treatment and an officer refused to remove the shackles from his feet, waist, and hands despite pleas from his doctor.”

The report goes on to describe sexual assaults by fellow inmates followed by repeated denials for transfer from the victim as well as a transgender inmate being denied her hormone treatment, despite her use of hormones for ten years prior to detainment.

Heartland Alliance has set up a letter campaign to President Obama and DHS. Please take action by signing the letter and tell the President that LGBT immigrants cannot be treated like this in our country.

Gay Man’s Brother Discovers his Ally-ness

12 Apr

The following is a post by Chelsea Kleven on Central Michigan Life, it’s an important and simple story of how a brother of a gay man discovered that he is an ally. Enjoy and share:

Brother’s sexuality should be a non-issue, not only reason to stand for gay rights

I found out that my older brother was gay by accident.

In high school, I had an “identity book” project, and I was having a hard time coming up with things to write about. I decided to look though my brother’s old project to gain some inspiration. While flipping through it, I came across an entry where he wrote about being gay and struggling with his sexuality.

I vividly remember reading the first few lines, before slamming the book shut, throwing it back into the box and gasping as I left his old room. I think I may have even cried. I did not know what to do, but I kept the secret to myself for more than a week.

Looking back, that is what makes me so disgusted with the situation: I made it all about me. At that time I was already having a pretty big pity-party since this was also the year my parents had decided to separate. Finding out my brother was gay seemed to be the icing on the cake.

I remember walking down the hall at school the next day fighting back tears, feeling like no one could possibly understand how difficult my situation was.

But it didn’t have anything to do with me; it was something my brother was facing, not me.

I worked up the courage to ask my mom about it a few days later and we talked about everything. She told me about how my brother came out to her when he was 13, and how she regretted her reaction.

Pieces of the puzzle I never understood before began to come together. Now my dad’s sudden interest in religion did not seem so unwarranted, and my brother’s urge to move out immediately after graduating made a lot more sense.

It was not until I asked him if it was OK to write this column that I spoke to him about his sexuality directly, and it was via text messages. I had sometimes wished he would talk to me about it, but when I think about it, there’s not really much to talk about. He’s gay, so what?

It’s not an unspoken topic in my family. We all love and accept my brother, but talking about him being gay is still awkward sometimes. I think knowing has actually made my relationship with my brother a lot easier, because it’s easier to understand him and the life he lives.

Through all of this I’ve learned that I should never make the situation about me, though. Playing the “I have a gay brother” card when people say something offensive isn’t the right way to go about it.

I stand up in defense of the gay community because we should all treat each other fairly as human beings, not just because I have a family member who is gay. Being related to a gay person doesn’t mean I have more of a vested interest in gay rights, it just means I have a brother who can lend me all the seasons of “Sex and the City.”

 

Maggie Gallagher and her Son

11 Apr

Several years ago, I would leave my apartment in Washington Heights to head to whatever day job I wound up in for the week. I’d drop my quarter and pick up the New York Post for the 30-minute ride downtown. I knew the paper was a conservative one and I’d get more and more frustrated with each turn of the page. But there was one thing that always made me angrier than anything else.

Maggie Gallagher

Once a week or so, I’d read an article about the assault of gay people on the “traditional” family. The picture of the woman who wrote the articles always made me sick to my stomach. I knew whenever I saw that photo, that I would be reading something horrible and untrue about me, making assumptions about who I was and what I was looking for when it came to living equally. I was so astounded that this woman who didn’t know me could write such horrific lies about who she thought I was.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I read an article about this woman having been in trouble because she was getting paid by the Bush administration to fight marriage equality, while at the same time using her position as a columnist to do that work – meaning she was being paid by the government to spout her bigoted opinions, while failing to recognize the clear ethical breach of journalistic integrity one would hope a columnist might have.

Now Maggie Gallagher is a part of our everyday lives as we pursue our fight to be seen as equals by a government that promises it. For those who don’t know, Maggie is the President of the National Organization for Marriage – a very well-funded anti-gay hate group. Over the years, they’ve claimed only to be interested in protecting “traditional” marriage, but their fight against civil unions and now gay parent adoption in Virginia, leads us to believe they are indeed anti-gay and not “pro-traditional marriage.”

Maggie has railed and ranted against gay people for so many years, it’s amazing that so many have failed to see the hypocrisy in her own life. Her primary argument against marriage equality is that she believes children are better off when raised by a biological mother and biological father. This is the crux of her argument. What many don’t know is that Maggie raised her son Patrick as a single mother.

Patrick Gallagher

Patrick is now a young adult, writing musicals in New York City. He identifies as straight, and given his chosen occupation, he spends a great deal of time with LGBT people. We offered Patrick the opportunity to tell his side of things, but given the obvious personal conflict he feels about the situation, he declined. Though Patrick doesn’t want to comment directly, it has become clear that his views differ from his mother’s. According to Patrick, Maggie has been very supportive of his career and has not obstructed her son’s goals and dreams – like a mother should. One thing Patrick did say, which I don’t think he’d mind sharing is “Maybe one day I’ll write a hell of a musical about this.” Patrick’s a good guy who doesn’t deserve to be in the middle of this – but we feel that his and Maggie’s story is an important one that demonstrates the strength of a “non-traditional” family.

Maggie had the opportunity to raise Patrick lovingly and to be a good mother to him and support him even now, unconditionally. Also being the son of a single Mom, I understand the struggle it was for her to make ends meet. I understand how much of a challenge it is for a Mom to blindly support a son trying to do something with his life that has absolutely zero security. And for that, I appreciate what Maggie has done for Patrick. My mom did the same.

I am at a loss however, to understand how Maggie Gallagher is so able to separate her compassionate, unconditionally supportive self from the woman who spends her life hating and hoping to take so much happiness and love from other people simply because they are gay. How does a woman who clearly had to face so much hardship and so many challenges in raising a son on her own, justify her work in ripping other families apart?

Maybe one day, she will see and understand the utter disconnect there is between who she was as a struggling single mom and who she is now as a crusader against others’ families.

h/t: Jeremy Hooper, GoodAsYou.org

Gay Ugandan Man Facing US Deportation

9 Apr

Joseph Bocombe (10news.com)

The fight for amnesty from Uganda has come to the United States. Earlier this year – after the gruesome murder of Ugandan gay rights activist, David Kato, a fight to stop the deportation of Ugandan Brenda Namigadde from the UK was successful after a great deal of publicity was brought to the situation.

Uganda’s parliament, after shelving the “Kill the Gays” Bill, is bringing it back to the table. One of the bill’s authors David Bahati gathered 2 million signatures to keep the bill alive. The bill, introduced in 2009, could bring a death sentence to repeat homosexual “offenders,” as well as HIV+ gays and lesbians.

When the news of Brenda’s story reached Bahati, he said:

“Brenda is welcome in Uganda if she will abandon or repent her behaviour. Here in Uganda, homosexuality is not a human right. It is behaviour that is learned and it can be unlearned. We wouldn’t want Brenda to be painting a wrong picture of Uganda, that we are harassing homosexuals.”

Moments before her flight was to depart for Uganda, our work, led by LezGetReal’s Melanie Nathan and ALL OUT, stopped Brenda’s deportation.

Now Joseph Bokombe, an openly gay Ugandan musician who came to the US five years ago on a cultural exchange visa, is now fighting deportation. His visa has long since expired, but friends say he was afraid to go home and decided to stay. Bokombe is now in detention awaiting his deportation.

A friend of Bokombe’s and a Ugandan native, Awichu Akwanya said “Actually I don’t think even past the airport. They just get him and then put him in detention. In detention, he can get poisoned or [they will] hire some people in jail to kill him.”

This led Hector Martinez to start a petition to keep his friend here. Bokombe volunteers at a church and for several local groups, including Mental Health America of San Diego County, which is the mental health non-profit Martinez works at.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement released this statement to 10News:

“Over the course of the last year, Mr. Bukombe’s immigration case has undergone extensive review by judges at multiple levels of our legal system. In those proceedings, the courts have held that he has failed to establish a legal basis to remain in the United States. ICE is now in the process of seeking to carry out the deportation order handed down by the immigration court.”

I ask fellow activists, bloggers and readers to please forward this story to anyone you know, tell Joseph’s story and get people to sign this petition. This is your opportunity to save someone’s life.


VA’s Gov. McDonnell Playing Politics with Children

7 Apr

The state of Virginia is known historically for leading the way among the southern colonies so that our country could declare our independence from a tyrannical King George.

VA Gov. Bob McDonnell

A few centuries later, the great state of Virginia is now behind the times with the actions of bigoted Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who tried to force VA’s colleges to rescind their LGBT-inclusive policies and now GOP Gov Bob McDonnell is set to stop VA’s adoption policies from including lesbian and gay families.

Family Equality Council is leading the fight to educate the Governor on some terrifying statistics. 1 in 3 youth in Virginia’s foster care system wind up aging out of it before ever finding a permanent home. Nearly half of the kids in the system have been in 3 or more homes. Research shows us that youth who age out of foster care without ever finding permanency are at a high risk for poverty, homelessness, incarceration, and early parenthood.

McDonnell is claiming that his decision is to “protect” Catholic charities and other faith-based adoption agencies from being “forced” to give gay parents children. One should note: the current adoption laws include single parents who could be gay or straight.

Family Equality asks the important question: With all of these problems facing the Virginia foster care system, why is the Governor intentionally limiting the number of loving families ready and waiting to adopt?

Please take a moment to visit Family Equality Council’s website here, sign this urgent petition to help these kids and pass it along to your friends.

Not Like the Other Cavemen: Gay or Transgender Stone Ager Unearthed

6 Apr

He’s not like the other cavemen.

According to the Daily Mail, in the Czech Republic, a late Stone Age era skeleton was found in excellent condition. While that’s a pretty neat find on it’s own, archaeologists were a bit confused by the burial of this fine gentleman. Due to the importance of funerals at the time, experts believe that what they found was no coincidence.

Apparently, men were always buried lying on their right side, with their heads facing west, while women of the time were always buried on their left side with their heads facing east. This man was found buried on his left side, with his head facing west. While this aloneis enough to raise eyebrows, archaeologists also noted a difference in the artifacts buried with him.

Men of the time were normally buried with weapons, swords and such as well as portions of food and drink to accompany them to the other side, while women were primarily buried with household objects such as jugs or an egg-shaped pot at their feet. Our man was found not with weapons, but with household jugs and pots as women were. Lead researcher Kamila Remisova said

“Far more likely is that he was a man with a different sexual  orientation, homosexual or transvestite. What we see here does not add up to traditional Corded Ware cultural norms.”

Whether he was gay, bisexual, transgender or “third-gender” as another researcher put it, it sure is nice to know that not only have we been around a while, but there may have been Stone Age societies that may have recognized and honored us for who we were. I think he needs a name. If Lucy gets one, so does our boy. Thoughts?

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