Archive | September, 2012

Why Did Chick-fil-A Cross the Road? Because Being Anti-Gay is Bad for Business

19 Sep

I have a rule. If everyone else is writing about something, I’m more than likely not going to write about it – unless three straight friends personally email me about it. So here it is-

Chicago Alerman Proco “Joe” Moreno made headlines a few months ago when he vowed to block the anti-gay fast food chain, Chick-fil-A from building its second Chicago store. People screamed about the corporation’s right to free speech, etc and attacked Moreno and other lawmakers who were vowing similar challenges. And while legally, no lawmaker can just decide someone can’t do business because of their beliefs – there are other ways of legislatively challenging new businesses from opening. These include discriminatory employment practices among other things. Point being, nothing ever happened and no one stopped any Chick-fil-A’s from selling their horrifically unhealthy chicken sandwiches.

One thing that needs to be made clear here – the reason gay people were up in arms about Chick-fil-A had very little to do with CEO Dan Cathy’s remarks regarding his anti-equality view on marriage. The tremors were caused by Chick-fil-A contributing more than $5 million to virulently anti-gay groups over the past several years. Some of those groups have even been linked to Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill which would mean life in prison and in some cases, execution for being gay. It even went so far as to punish those who didn’t report friends and family for being gay.

Flash forward, dozens of anti-gay groups have now hosted anti-gay “Chick-fil-A Days” and other homophobic actions supporting the chain. One anti-gay group has even gone so far as to declare every Wednesday “Chick-fil-A Day.”

Now it appears through several talks, Alderman Moreno has made some headway with the higher-ups and is declaring victory. It seems Chick-fil-A has agreed to stop funding these anti-gay groups and has sent around an internal memo to all franchisees and stakeholders that says the company must “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect-regardless of their beliefs, race, creed, sexual orientation and gender.”

This is quite clearly a win for us and proves that being anti-gay is bad for business. While we will have to wait to see their tax returns which disclose the groups they contribute to, and while Dan Cathy made a similar claim in January of 2011 that Chick-fil-A and their charitable arm, Winshape will “not champion any political agendas on marriage and family,” I think this is most definitely a win.

Upon revisitation, there are still quite a few things left up in the air that I want to caution about before we run back for our waffle fries:

  • This agreement was made between a Chicago politician and Chick-fil-A’s Director of Real Estate. I’m still trying to figure out what kind of clout a Director of Real Estate might have with regards to Chick-fil-A’s employment or giving practices.
  • The policy that’s being touted as a success is their philosophy that they don’t give to groups with political agendas is one that has been in place since the company was founded – what’s making them stick to that philosophy now and who at Chick-fil-A does the deciding on what is or is not a group with a political agenda.
  • Finally, No one at Chick-fil-A has corroborated or denied the reports in this press release. Until that happens, stick to KFC.

The full statement from The Civil Rights Agenda:

Chick-fil-A Ceases Anti-gay Donations, Clarifies Stance on

Gay Customers & Employees

September 18, 2012 – Chicago, Illinois – The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA), Illinois’ leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights advocacy organization, has learned that Alderman Moreno has finalized his negotiations with Chick-Fil-A.  Alderman Moreno has confirmed that Chick-fil-A will no longer give money to anti-gay organizations and that they have clarified in an internal document that the company will treat every person equally, regardless of sexual orientation. The Civil Rights Agenda worked closely with the Alderman in an advisory role as he negotiated these concessions with the executives at Chick-fil-A.  Additionally, members of TCRA spoke directly with executives at Chick-fil-A during negotiations to aid in educating their decision makers about anti-discrimination policies and issues affecting the LGBT community.

In a letter addressed to Alderman Moreno and signed by Chick-fil-A’s Senior Director of Real Estate, it states, “The WinShape Foundations is now taking a much closer look at the organizations it considers helping, and in that process will remain true to its stated philosophy of not supporting organizations with political agendas.”  Winshape, a non-profit funded by Chick-fil-a, has donated millions of dollars to anti-LGBT groups, including some classified as hate groups, such as Focus on the Family and the National Organization for Marriage.  In meetings the company executives clarified that they will no longer give to anti-gay organizations.

“We are very pleased with this outcome and thank Alderman Moreno for his work on this issue,” said Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda. “I think the most substantive part of this outcome is that Chick-fil-A has ceased donating to organizations that promote discrimination, specifically against LGBT civil rights.  It has taken months of discussion, both with our organization and with the Alderman, for Chick-fil-A to come forward with these concessions and we feel this is a strong step forward for Chick-fil-A and the LGBT community, although it is only a step.”

Additionally, they have sent an internal memo to franchisees and stakeholders that states that as a company, they will “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect-regardless of their beliefs, race, creed, sexual orientation and gender” and that their “intent is not to engage in political or social debates.”  This statement was placed into an official company document called “Chick-fil-A: Who We Are.”

“Although we are encouraged by their internal statement, we would still like for the company to adopt an anti-discrimination policy at the corporate level,” said Rick Garcia, policy advisor for The Civil Rights Agenda. “It is one thing for a company to say they respect everyone they serve and employ, it is quite another for them to put that into their policies and demand that all employees adhere to that behavior.  As we have heard from gay employees that work for Chick-fil-A, there is a culture of discrimination within the company and we would like to ensure that employees can speak out and call attention to those practices without fear of reprisal. It takes time to change the culture of any institution and steps like a corporate policy ensure that progress is made.”

Broadway Siblings Launch Broadway for Obama

18 Sep

The Broadway community is one that holds a very special place in my heart. For 12 years, I lived in New York and had the unique opportunity of working with hundreds of the most talented people who’ve ever grapevined across a stage.

Andrew & Celia Keenan-Bolger

What always amazed me though, was that these people who work harder than most people I know, were always willing to give more to help people who needed it. I produced over 200 Broadway concerts while I lived there and members of the community were always willing to go the extra mile, sparing precious time off and much-needed rest when it came to helping Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, The Matthew Shepard Foundation, The National AIDS Fund, marriage equality fights, hurricane victims, and whoever else needed their help.

The Presidential election is no different for those who believe in social justice. Sister and brother Broadway team Celia and Andrew Keenan-Bolger  have activated the Broadway community to take part in an election which stands to define at least the next four years.

The two Tony Award nominees, while not performing 8 shows a week in Peter and the Starcatcher or Newsies, have started “Broadway for Obama.” They’ve started engaging other members of the Broadway community and their fans to make sure they get out the vote for Obama.

As a young gay man, Andrew sees this work as vital due to the rights he and hundreds of other colleagues are being denied:

“We work in an industry that celebrates the contributions of thousands of gay people. Broadway would not be possible without its performers, directors, writers, choreographers, designers, dressers, ushers, crew members, administrators and musicians, a large percentage of whom are gay.

Millions of Americans come to New York every year to share in the art that these people create but many still believe that they shouldn’t have the same rights as everyone else. We want them to know where we stand.”

For his sister Celia, who was married two years ago to fellow Broadway performer John Ellison Conlee, she felt she needed to stand up for her LGBT family and friends. Four years ago, Celia left New York to campaign in Pennsylvania for then-candidate Barack Obama. Her resolve is made even stronger considering the advancement of LGBT rights made under the Obama administration:

“2 years ago my husband John Conlee and I decided to get married in Vermont because gay marriage was legal there and it was not yet in NY. We felt we couldn’t stand in front of our dearest friends and family (some of whom are LGBT) and ask them to support and celebrate us in a state where they did not have the same rights as us I want everyone I know and love to enjoy the same rights I do.

Gay marriage is just the beginning. My sister has educated me a lot about LGBT homelessness. I know under a Romney presidency not only would these issues lose forward momentum but we would probably move backwards. I want to do everything I can to make sure this doesn’t happen and I believe an Obama administration is better for ALL of us.”

Evita’s Max von Essen

Together, they’re working on organizing the Broadway community around different small things they can do to help the President get re-elected. One of their first actions is to get Broadway performers to make sure they’re wearing Obama T-shirts, pins or whatever they want. Saturday Obama Swag (or #SOS if you’re on the Twitter) will have stars exiting their stage doors hoping to find fans also wearing Obama swag and getting an extra few moments of their favorite performer’s time – with bragging rights to bring home.

Their efforts are already being rewarded with tweets from Evita’s Max von Essen and Tony Winner Audra McDonald promoting their work.

For more information about Broadway for Obama, visit www.facebook.com/BroadwayForObama

Anti-Gay Boy Scouts Find Some Skeletons in Their Closet

17 Sep

In light of the anticipated wave of emotion and anger over the upcoming release of more than twenty years of child molestation records from the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), we need to make one thing clear: the vast majority of child molesters are not gay men.

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times reported that the BSA failed to report allegations of sex abuse of scouts in hundreds of cases between 1970 and 1991. Additionally, there were some cases where the organization helped the accused “cover their tracks.”

This all comes on top of heightened scrutiny in past months when the BSA has come out in strong defense of it’s own policies discriminating against openly gay scouts and leaders. It’s hard not to notice the similarities between the BSA and the Catholic Church when it comes to their discriminatory policies against gay people and their long history of child sex abuse.

For generations, people have made an inappropriate and ignorant connection between homosexuality and pedophilia and the record must be set straight (so to speak). I’ve heard it as recently as a few months ago when an acquaintance actually said to me: “I think gay men should really only be allowed to raise girls.” He was implying that if there was a young boy in the house, gay parents might be tempted. He thought he was liberal in his thinking because hey, at least he’s okay with gay men raising a girl. He was ignoring the fact that what he’d said was far more insulting than discriminating against LGBT parenting altogether.

With last year’s Penn State tragedies and seemingly daily stories about child sex abuse within the Catholic Church, pedophilia is in the news and in the thoughts of many Americans. Anti-gay hate groups such as the Family Research Council (FRC) are constantly on the attack by lying about the false links between homosexuality and pedophilia.

FRC’s Peter Sprigg said in their brochure, “Debating Homosexuality: Understanding Two Views,”

“We believe the evidence shows … that relative to the size of their population, homosexual men are more likely to engage in child sexual abuse than are heterosexual men.”

And FRC President Tony Perkins claimed – again with no evidence whatsoever on their website:

“While activists like to claim that pedophilia is a completely distinct orientation from homosexuality, evidence shows a disproportionate overlap between the two. … It is a homosexual problem.”

Dr. Carole Jenny of Denver Children’s Hospital put together an exhaustive studyon this very topic. She took 352 children who were referred to a clinic for potential sexual abuse. 35 of these children were ruled out of the study as abuse seemed unlikely in these cases.

Of the remaining 317 cases…

74 children were abused by other children or teens under the age of 18.

9 children could not identify their abuser.

2 children were abused by someone identified as gay or lesbian.

232 children were sexually abused by the heterosexual partner of a close relative.

And if you’d like to discuss gay men in particular, the same doctor did a study of 50 boys who had been molested.

Of those 50 boys…

37 were abused by a man in a straight relationship with a relative.

3 were molested by their mother or grandmother.

5 were molested by both parents.

3 were molested by a male family friend who had no history of sex with men.

1 was molested by an uncle, also with no history of sex with men.

1 was molested by a man who was possibly, but not definitely a gay man.

The vast majority of men who abuse boys are either not attracted to adults of either gender or are straight men who are emotionally disturbed, frequently only involved because of the power they may have over a young boy. Additionally, the reason so many boys are molested by men is that men have greater access to boys than they do to girls.

Several studies have concluded that only a fraction of pedophiles have ever shown an attraction to other adult men – a fraction that is far below the ratio of openly gay men in society. Rob Tisinai has put together an excellent video outlining much of this data and raises perhaps the most important point about those people who choose to blame the gays for these horrific cases.

“When our opponents demonize openly gay men and falsely shine the spotlight on us, they’re letting the real abusers hide in the darkness…and continue their abuse.”

With every one of these statements from hate groups like the FRC, they are extending the myth that openly gay men are the ones to watch when it comes to the sexual abuse of children. And for every minute they spend penning the articles they do, a real predator is getting away with these horrific acts.

When they do this, they make the decision to prioritize their own anti-gay agendas over the lives and well-being of children. It is up to us to spread the truth and combat the lies and fear with scientifically-proven facts. This is not about defending our honor, this is about really protecting our children.

Where were you on 9/11? Cynicism, Humanity and Musical Theatre

11 Sep

First posted on 9/11/11:

To be honest, I’ve become a little jaded by the extreme overflow of coverage of the 10th Anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks. Having every major and minor news outlet asking me to write in and tell them “How 9/11 Changed My World” has hardened my heart and made me care very little about my or anyone else’s experience that day.

I’ve become sickened by the political football that 9/11 has become. The fake sentiment from everyone trying to sell a “World Trade Center Memorial Coin made from gold found at the site” or “a vile of dust taken from the streets of New York on that sad day” has trivialized what happened to a point where you forget that we were actually there that day. I look at 9/11 now as this foreign thing that was experienced by some politicians and insurance companies and not the people who were there.

I was there. I could have been working in the World Trade Center that day. I knew people who were killed. I have a right to my experience.

I got home at around 1am after recording for the anime series, Magic User’s Club with Michael Sinterniklaas. I got a call from my temp agency at about 6:30am asking me to go work for Cantor Fitzgerald – a place I had temped before. They were located on the 102nd floor of One World Trade Center.

There was an open audition at the York Theatre – a reputable off-Broadway musical theatre company that I really wanted to go to. Unfortunately, I hadn’t worked in 3 weeks and needed to pay the rent. I thought about it, realized I moved to NYC to be an actor and not a temp and I called the agency back and told them no.

A few hours later, I was sitting in the basement of the York with a few hundred other out-of-work actors waiting to line-up and get our scheduled times for the day of auditions. A girl ran into the room and screamed “The World Trade Center’s just been hit by a plane!” The jaded New Yorkers stayed in their seats except for one or two people who got up and ran out.

Someone had a small handheld orange radio they turned up to full volume and held above their head in the middle of the room. It was quiet as we all strained to listen. I kept thinking (and to this day, I don’t know why this is where my head went), that this must be some kind of War of the Worlds situation and someone was punking us.

News of the second plane hitting got people the tiniest bit more upset – not enough to abandon the audition, but certainly some gasps. Moments later, we lined up, got our audition cards and times for later in the day and headed out of the building.

The streets were in pandemonium. People screaming, running, trying to catch cabs. We were in midtown on the east side and the theatre wasn’t too far from a building I’d spent several weeks temping at. They were on a high floor and I recalled the view of WTC from the office windows. I shot up the elevator to see if I could catch what was going on from there. It was an extraordinarily clear day and the view was remarkably crisp. They had a TV playing the news stories with closeups of the towers and moments after I arrived, we watched one, then the other tower collapse. The room was silent.

After what happened, I was both terrified and sad. I don’t remember fearing another attack or thinking something else might happen, but there was certainly some shock that was setting in. My brother managed to get through to me on my cell phone to make sure I was okay. He posted that I was okay on some website that listed “survivors” of the attacks. For years after, that was one of the only things that came up when I’d Google myself.

I didn’t know where to go or what to do next. It quickly dawned on me though, that the audition wouldn’t be happening. The trains weren’t running. The buses were all packed to capacity and I lived at 204th Street in upper Manhattan, so walking would have been tough. So I wandered around midtown for a while. I remember sitting in WorldWide Plaza with some friends. None of us knew what to think.

I looked up Broadway and there was this massive sea of people – just walking. So I joined them in my long walk home. As we walked, I stopped at a McDonald’ss on 56th and Broadway and met and had a chat with Rocco Landesman – a fairly legendary Broadway producer. Then I headed back up Broadway. Thousands of us – trying to use our cell phones, in shock walking uptown.

My boyfriend at the time was in college in Boston, but he was raised in Brooklyn. His father was a firefighter and his mother was trying desperately to get in touch with him. He was able to get through on my land line and asked me to call his family, which I did. I couldn’t tell them who I was when I called, but it turns out his father was okay. His mother’s car had broken down and he had to drive her to work before heading to the fire station, which was among the first to respond. He ended up losing most of his colleagues.

The following few days were spent volunteering, temping down in Union Square, and taking frantic phone calls from my roommate. He didn’t take the whole “don’t panic” thing too well. Every time they’d raise the threat level, he’d go buy 5 more gallons of distilled water – at one point we had 22 gallons in our kitchen. He’d call me every time he saw some cops with AK-47s to let me know his location so I could tell his family where to look for his body. I, on the other hand – I think in reaction to his sheer terror – stayed pretty calm.

What I remember most in those weeks – the images that remain strongest in my memory are the “Missing” posters plastered all over the city – particularly Union Square, which was undergoing some renovation. There were literally thousands of pieces of paper with photos attached – taped to anything standing. As the days turned into a week and then two, these walls of posters turned into memorials. Flowers and candles strewn all over the ground, quotes in chalk on the sidewalk “We Remember,” and the now-trite “Never Forget.”

It only lasted about a month, but for that month, New York City was the kindest, gentlest place you could imagine. People all held doors for one another. If you saw a police or fireman on the subway, hat in hand, you’d go over and say “Thank you” or “I hope you’re okay.” This feeling of great humanity informed every step we took. Then the politics of it all settled in and we were at war. The humanity transformed into fear. The cops with the AK-47s hit every corner and every subway station and we lived in a police state. The raising and lowering of threat levels coincided with elections and polls and it became clear to me that “We Remember…the people” had forever become “Never Forget…the attacks.”

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