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GLEE Star Cory Monteith Found Dead in Vancouver Hotel

14 Jul

1258494501_cory_monteith_lgWhile commiserating and being angry about tonight’s verdict and miscarriage of justice in the George Zimmerman trial, I caught a tweet from CTV British Columbia that stated:

“Sources tell CTV Glee star Cory #Monteith found dead today in Vancouver. Police expected to confirm at 10:30.”

The live feed of the press conference confirmed that Glee’s “Finn” was found dead today.

Shortly after noon today, Vancouver Police received a call of an incident on the 21st floor Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel in downtown Vancouver. The man was deceased. 31 year old actor Cory Monteith was found dead on the scene. His cause of death was not apparent on initial examination.

As his family was just notified hours ago, few details are being released to the public.

Our thoughts go out to his family, friends and of course the entire Glee family.

The very public, very desperate crumbling of the anti-gay Right

4 Jul

One week ago, I sat in front of the Supreme Court of the United States among hundred of others anxiously awaiting their decisions on marriage equality.

Interviewing the first openly gay person of color in Congress, Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA)

Interviewing the first openly gay person of color in Congress, Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) photo by Sarah Baker

It’s strange, because there in the sun, just a few hundred feet from where the decisions were being read, we actually found out quite a bit later than many of you at home reading SCOTUSblog. Phone service was sparse and in the bright, direct sunlight, I couldn’t see a thing on my screen. Not to mention, I was busy hosting streaming coverage and interviews for WeActRadio. While talking with Congressman Mark Takano (D-CA), the decision striking down Section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) came out.

I wanted to scream and hug the Congress member, but we didn’t quite have that kind of relationship yet. I continued covering the day’s events and followed up with several other interviews on radio stations around the country and finished up the day on SiriusXM Radio with my husband and another friend and her wife…and a bottle of champagne. What a day!

My husband, Sean and I standing with Brendon Ayanbadejo outside the Supreme Court in March

My husband, Sean and I standing with Brendon Ayanbadejo outside the Supreme Court in March

My husband Sean and I had helped to organize rallies that happened outside the Supreme Court back in March while the DOMA and Prop 8 arguments were being heard. So much of our time was spent considering what “the other side” would be planning while we rallied. Partly we wanted to know so that we could respond courteously and effectively to the things they said. But the other reason we wanted to be prepared for them was so we could protect the families we knew would be standing with us, from the hateful, toxic things the anti-gay right seems to spew when they’re angry. Our kids don’t need to hear that.

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Last week at the Supreme Court

Last week in front of the court was different though. Despite hate groups like the National Organization for Marriage and Family Research Council calling for “days of prayer” and for their followers to stand with them that morning on the steps of the court, no one came. I could count on one hand the number of people standing their with anti-gay signs. The rest was a sea of rainbows and love. Maybe despite their screams to the press that they would win, they knew what was coming, what was inevitable.

What followed that amazing day when my husband and I woke up without equality and went to bed with 1,100 more rights, was truly dumbfounding.

The National Organization immediately began attacking the court for making an “Illegitimate” decision. In their first email/blog post, they asked for money and linked to their fundraising page 8 TIMES. As a person who works in digital media for a living, I can tell you with some certainty that 3-4 times is excessive when asking for money in one email, but 8?!? Not even street canvassers will bother you that many times.

NOM President Brian Brown’s initial response to the court’s decision was scathing:

“There is a stench coming from this case that has now stained the Supreme Court. They’ve allowed corrupt politicians and judges to betray the voters, rewarding them for their betrayal. It’s an illegitimate decision. We and millions of other Americans will refuse to accept this rogue decision rewarding corruption. “

NOM President Brian Brown

NOM President Brian Brown

Then came the emails. The angry, angry emails. NOM’s emails accused California lawmakers of participating in “lawlessness” when they began issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples (which was now legal following Prop 8 being struck down). Another email was filled with vitriol and borderline racist comments about CA Attorney General Kamala Harris. In this message, they refer to Harris’ “arrogance,” a term usually reserved for those we think don’t deserve a place in leadership. Additionally, they use the email to twist and misquote remarks made by the President about Harris a few months ago.

They followed with a tweet that said “Polygamists are actually celebrating the Supreme Court’s decisions this week as a personal victory for them” and linked to a blog post which of course, said nothing of the sort.

In other posts, they continued their usual outdated theme claiming that marriage equality is bad for children somehow. Yet they continue to ignore the fact that their argument completely discounts the millions of kids being raised by LGBT parents.

NOM wrapped up the week with a patriotic 4th of July email claiming that a person cannot be gay or a supporter of equality for gay people and an American at the same time.

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Graphic from NOM’s most recent email

The anti-gay Right is disintegrating before our eyes and the desperation with which they are clinging onto life has never been more apparent. They will never be gone forever, though. Just as we’ve seen with groups that fought integration and some in the South who are still fighting the Civil War, they’re never gone for good.

Happily though, with support for marriage equality in this country hitting all time highs and a Gallup poll following last week’s rulings finding support at 55% for and 40% against legalizing same-sex marriages, these hate groups will continue to lose funding and support.

The fight is far from over, and as NOM is only too quick to recognize, there are still 37 states which do not recognize marriage equality. I think this number will drop quickly, but not without our work.

NOM breaks up the band

6 Jun
Former Scythian Drummer Andrew Toy

Former Scythian Drummer Andrew Toy

There’s some news in the world of Scythian, the band with three anti-gay members and two one pro-equality members.

You might remember that time when the anti-gay hate group, The National Organization for Marriage announced that an utterly unknown band called “Ultramontane” would be playing at their big anti-gay hate march in DC. Well, upon further digging, we discovered that “Ultramontane” was actually just 3/5 of Scythian. Alexander Fedoryka, Danylo Fedoryka and Ben-David Warner had made the decision to join the anti-gay group while members Josef Crosby and Andrew Toy decided to sit this one out, due to their fundamental beliefs that all people deserved to be treated equally under the law.

The piece I posted, titled “Will NOM be this band’s Yoko Ono” was never meant to actually be a prediction that NOM would cause the break-up of the band, but it’s appearing that it may have been a bit prophetic.

On Tuesday, Andrew posted to his Facebook page:

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“I want to let everyone know that I will no longer be performing with Scythian. I want to thank all of the great people that I have met along the way, whose support and friendship has been incredible. I’m looking forward to sharing with you all my future musical endeavors, whatever they may be!”

Two days later, Scythian followed up with:

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“After two years of fine drumming with Scythian, Andrew is moving on to pursue different musical endeavors, and we wanted to thank him for his great musicianship, hard work, and professionalism while traveling the country with us, and for truly making us into a better bunch of musicians. Please join us in wishing Andrew the very best as he moves ahead in his musical career! Thank you Andrew!”

I would like to think, based on these posts, that Andrew’s leaving was of his own accord. But upon some further research I discovered the band’s new drummer – Tim Hepburn, like the anti-gay members of the band – is hyper-Catholic and attended Franciscan University along with them.

Seeing as the anti-gay members of the band have remained cowardly and silent (except to the volunteers they depend on) leaving Josef Crosby and Andrew Toy to answer for their bigoted and naive decisions, I don’t expect to ever really know what happened. What I can say is that whether he left by choice, conscience or force, I believe Andrew will have a long and happy career without having to compromise his belief in a free and equal country for all Americans. We salute you, Andrew and thank you for standing with us on the right side of history.

NOM’s Anti-Gay No-Show Band “Apologizes” (to volunteers)

30 May

dsc_0493A few months ago, my now-husband and I were involved in helping to organize the United for Marriage rallies at the Supreme Court. Our events, in support of equality for all Americans brought thousands to the steps of the highest court in the land and brought together over 150 different organizations in solidarity.

The first day of the rally, the virulently anti-gay group, The National Organization for Marriage had scheduled a rally to fight marriage equality. Their (sparsely-attended) rally was a topic of much discussion leading up to the events.

In working with GoodAsYou.org’s Jeremy Hooper, we immediately went on the lookout to find out just what they were planning. Jeremy did some incredible work to research the musicians slated to perform at the anti-gay event. One group backed out nearly immediately after being informed of NOM’s history and the truth behind their work. Another group, a band named “Ultramontane” was nowhere to be found. After some further research, we discovered “Ultramontane” was actually just 3 out of the 5 members of the band, Scythian.

NOM's "March for Marriage"

NOM’s “March for Marriage”

As we reported on this and as Scythian quickly removed all their online properties and social media to avoid the frustration of equality-minded fans, the two musicians who’d decided not to take part were left to deal with all the questions. To this day, 2 months later, the three bandmates who refused to do so much as state why they’d decided to support a hate group, have yet to make a public statement.

In the meantime, Josef Crosby and Andrew Toy have publicly and eloquently stated their support for equality.

The band is now back together after taking a bit of a hiatus while this all “blew over.” A rogue fan group upset about the band member’s actions started their own Facebook group. Many who belong to the group are also volunteers for the band’s “Street Team,” selling t-shirts and such at concerts.

It turns out the other three band members made a statement on their Street Team Facebook group back in April. I can’t help but feel a little amazed at how they manage to make themselves out to be victims or martyrs here – although that seems to be the main talking point of anti-gay Christianists nowadays. The truth of the matter is they never actually showed up to perform at the  anti-gay rally (something drummer Andrew Toy had no idea of even a week after the event). They explain why:

6a00d8341c503453ef017ee95bd88c970d“First of all, we wanted to let you know that we did not play the March for Marriage. Though still firm in our stance on traditional marriage, based in our deeply held faith as Catholics, upon researching the event, we decided that we did not want to be involved given its highly politically charged nature. Admittedly, there was some naivete involved on our part in accepting to play, and this was all a learning experience for us.

Those of you who civilly disagreed with our stance, we thank you for the respect you accorded us. You are true ambassadors of peace and much needed in this world. And we thank those who have respectfully shown support for us and assured us of their prayers.

We must say that we were deeply saddened by the ugly nature of the attacks leveled at us for expressing our convictions. We were especially alarmed when members of our family fell under these vicious attacks, wherein they were disparaged for their stance and wherein their personal information was disseminated. For this reason, as you might imagine, we were left with no choice but to shut down the main band page as we could not control what was posted. We choose not to respond in kind, and offer our prayers for those people, confident in the hope that love conquers, indeed has conquered all. We can’t help but believe that most of the ugly posts were not made by Scythian fans but by outsiders.

As far as the street team group goes, we wanted to address some of you who felt hurt in the past weeks. Due to the ugliness encountered, the band members stepped away entirely from the medium of Facebook, very much shaken by the ugliness that can be encountered through it. In the weeks since the turn of events, all administrative activity was taken care of by our friend and assistant. If some of you felt marginalized, we sincerely apologize. If there was any offense taken at her actions, please understand that she was in a difficult position, with no playbook in hand, and that if she erred, her actions were motivated from a place of protecting us. She too was shaken by what happened on the main page. We ask you for your understanding and forgiveness.

In all, this was a very disturbing and trying experience for us, and we hope to move on from it. Though tried by this experience, we sincerely believe that people can disagree and still have respect and love for each other. We hope you can understand where we are coming from and help us move on too. Our plan is to get the main Facebook page up and running soon. Stay tuned.”

Keep in mind this message was not sent to fans, but to volunteers they need to help promote their shows and sell their merch. The band has yet to actually publicly address why they chose to align themselves with an anti-gay hate group.

Our big gay wedding

21 May

On Saturday, May 18th I had the pleasure of marrying my best friend. In front of a hundred or so dear friends and family on a beach in Provincetown, MA., I did something I never ever imagined I’d be able to do legally in this country.

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Somebody’s getting married!

The ceremony, led by my my dear friend from high school, Shannon – was everything I’d hoped it would be. We started planning with the idea that we could subtly include some purpose – a few readings by LGBT writers, maybe a casual mention of marriage equality since that’s the work both of us do. Let’s just say subtlety has never been either of our best qualities.

Who could stay silent when you discover you’re getting married on the 43rd anniversary of the first gay marriage ever performed in the US? Or that you’re getting married on the 9th anniversary of the first state legalizing marriage equality – and you’re getting married in that state?! Casual mentions plus a reading of Harvey Milk’s “Hope” speech and a request of our guests that they throw fabulous parties when marriage equality becomes federal law made for quite the purpose-driven wedding ceremony.

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Our place cards – everyone had to find their photo!

On to the reception and we did something fun – instead of place cards, we found photos of nearly everyone in attendance. Since I’m a photographer and pictures are a big part of my life, it felt appropriate. People had to look for their photo to find out what table they were seated at.

Then came the tables. Each one was named after an LGBT hero or heroine and featured at the centerpiece, a large photo on one side and a brief bio on the other. It was important to us both that we recognize all those who’ve worked so hard before us to make what we were doing, possible.

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The “Sylvia Rivera” table, honoring the transgender activist and Stonewall veteran.

And of course, who doesn’t have a photo booth at their wedding nowadays? We just set up a simple backdrop and provided a trunk full of horrifically gay props including a rainbow umbrella, rainbow boas, mustaches, glasses, crowns and a blow-up rainbow unicorn.

And if all that wasn’t enough, moments after announcing on Facebook that I’d become engaged, my high school senior class president messaged me saying she wanted to make our cake. She’d started a small business making cakes and as you can see, she was incredible. Her company, Devilish Desserts, is clearly not one of those to avoid while planning a gay wedding!

Following dinner, we all went to the Wave Bar in downtown Provincetown where our very straight family and friends danced the night away with hundreds of lesbians and a few drag queens (it was single women’s weekend). We even met a lovely lesbian couple who got married the same day!

A huge thank you to all of you who helped with contributions to help make our big day possible!

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Taking advantage of our makeshift photobooth!

Overall, it was a marvelous day filled with tons of love and at the end of the day, Sean and I share a favorite memory – in the middle of the ceremony, Shannon asked everyone to be silent for a moment as they considered the vows we’d made and how they could support us in our new life together. And for a moment, after a week of hustle and bustle and frantically organizing the wedding, after driving 10 hours, dealing with family and everything in between, for one moment all you could hear was the gentle lapping of the waves over the sand. Simple, beautiful, and perfect.

A few people have asked us to publish our vows, so here they are. There may be a few insider references, but you get the idea…

Jamie’s vows:

Before our family and friends, and especially Eli, I take you Sean, to spend my days and nights with. To love you and to like you, to hold you tight when either of us need it and to give you the room you need to grow as we do so together. I promise to build our family in a way that honors our past and strengthens the future for those who come after us. I promise to continue to laugh with you, cry with you and continue posting photos of you an Eli sleeping on the internet. And this above all, as our lives blossom together and the winds take us in new directions, I promise to call any place you are, my home.

Sean’s vows:

I promise to be patient, to listen, and to remember that you’re usually right.
I promise to cheer you on when you’re doing great things and hold your hand through hard times.
I promise to make you laugh when you’d rather not, to make you slow down every now and then and live in the moment, and when I’m so very very mad at you to remember that we’re a team.
I promise to teach you how to drive if you’ll teach me how to swim, and to make you turn off Facebook sometimes.
I promise that no matter what comes next for us that we will face it together. Because without you I would be completely lost.
More than anything, I promise to love you. And when you’re old and wise and boring I’ll be right there too – maybe a little less wise, and I will love you still.

Our cake, designed by Devilish Desserts - the inside was rainbow layer cake!

Our cake, designed by Devilish Desserts – the inside was rainbow layer cake!

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Walking down the aisle with our moms

Our first dance - there was a technical malfunction, so the whole crowd sang "Rainbow Connection" a cappella and we danced.

Our first dance – there was a technical malfunction, so the whole crowd sang “Rainbow Connection” a cappella and we danced.

After many arguments over clothing, Sean surprised me by showing up in a kilt like mine.

After many arguments over clothing, Sean surprised me by showing up in a kilt like mine.

The head table was of course - the Harvey Milk table!

The head table was of course – the Harvey Milk table!

Video

Somebody’s Getting Married Today…

18 May

:)

Church cancels NFL player’s appearance after his tweet of support for Jason Collins

1 May

leroy_butler_1996_09_01After NBA player Jason Collins came out this week, there was a flood of support for his courageous move. Everyone from his family members to President Barack Obama and the First Lady publicly showed their support.

Of course there were the detractors as there always are, but they were most definitely in the minority. Breitbart blogger Ben Shapiro showed his bigotry by claiming it was no big deal that Collins came out. Shapiro found himself on the same side as the Westboro Baptist Church when they announced they’d picket his games.

And right on cue, a church in Wisconsin has shown their true (intolerant and ignorant) colors. Former Green Bay Packers safety Leroy Butler was scheduled to speak at a Wisconsin area church, but when that church found out he tweeted four words this week “Congrats to Jason Collins,” they cancelled his appearance.

Butler took to Twitter to tell the story.

“Wow, I was schedule to speak at a church in WI, and a member said that the pastor wants to cancel my event, I said ok why?”

“Then I was told, because I said congrats to Jason Collins on twitter, I said really? we have a contract, he said check the moral clause,

“FYI the fee was 8500$, then I was told if I removed the tweet, and apologize and ask god forgiveness, I can have the even, I said no,

“Only god can judge,”

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So…who’s the bride?

18 Apr

gay_wedding_lo-713823It’s no secret that I’m getting married a month from today. The generally frazzled look, messy hair, hundreds of wedding planning Google docs open on my computer – there’s really no hiding it.

I’ve always heard that the three most stressful things in a person’s life are moving, depression and planning a wedding. I’ve dealt with the other two, but this is my first wedding. I can happily say that overall, it’s been a very happy event. A few minor disagreements here and there, but overall it’s been pretty smooth sailing. Except for one little thing.

We all know stories and maybe even have friends who’ve experienced direct discrimination when it comes to wedding planning. A good friend of ours just dealt with someone on Etsy who refused to make a guestbook for them because Jesus didn’t want her to or something. And then there’s the story of the Washington florist. A gay man went to her regularly, spending lots of money and developing a nice relationship with this florist – all of a sudden, when it came time for the man’s wedding – the woman could no longer take his money. Having zero to do with marriage equality of course, and everything to do with that state’s anti-discrimination laws, the woman is now being sued by the state for violating those laws.

Those are huge infractions and those business owners who choose to violate state laws banning discrimination against gay people should absolutely be held accountable for breaking those laws. But then there are the seemingly little things.

With nearly every vendor we’ve dealt with (with the exception of the caterer who is located in Provincetown and services more gay weddings than straight) has asked us “who’s the bride” at one point or another. It’s an understandable question as I realize that gay weddings are a relatively new phenomenon. But it’s nonetheless a constant reminder of the fact that we’re still not “normal.”

Luckily, we haven’t run into any outright bigotry with any of our wedding vendors – so we feel very fortunate. But every time I see a form, or am asked for the name of my soon-to-be wife, it’s another conversation I have to have. But instead of feeling that shame I spent much of my 20s trying to get rid of, I take it to the next step and ask to speak to a manager. Or I simply make a formal request for that company to change the form and educate their employees.

255414_313640668743948_771725876_nFrom the time I was a little kid – every movie I saw, every book I read, every TV show I watched – featured straight couples, causing me to think there was something wrong with me. If by asking a company to correct a form or change their phrasing to “what’s the name of the other party?” or “what is your fiancé’s name?”, I can help stop someone from recalling those unfortunate feelings of inadequacy, I’m happy to do it.

At the end of the day, we’re in a very exciting time – it means more work for us – more calling out of the things that make us feel less than, and most importantly, more patience and assumption of good intent.

The guy who works at Men’s Wearhouse who asks me the bride’s name isn’t intentionally trying to make me feel bad that I’m not straight. But if I take a moment to calmly tell him that there’s no bride, but I’m happy to tell him the other groom’s name, he may stumble and feel awkward for a moment – but I bet he’ll think twice next time he makes that assumption.

Look, it sometimes sucks to have to be the ones who forge new territory, but at the end of the day we have an awesome opportunity to make the next generation of LGBT people feel more comfortable through some really easy conversations. Speak out when someone says one of those things that makes you feel less than. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to change their form so that it’s inclusive of you and your family.

Again, most often, there’s no ill-intent, just a lack of education or experience. It’s up to us to make it easier for the next generation.

 

Man Arrested for Refusing to Leave Husband’s Hospital Bedside

11 Apr

When it comes to marriage, one of the final arguments of the anti-gay movement is “Why not civil unions?”

This is why.

wdaf_hospital_rights_130411a-615x345This week, Roger Gorley was visiting his husband’s bedside at Research Medical Center in Kansas City. When the ill man’s family demanded Roger be ejected from the room, Roger refused. He and his husband took part in a civil union ceremony 5 years ago and they also holds Power of Attorney for one another.

When the nurse was informed of this, she didn’t even bother going to look for the paperwork, she merely called security and had Roger removed from his partner’s bedside in handcuffs. Furthermore, the hospital has now taken out a restraining order keeping him from visiting his husband in the hospital.

The hospital released a statement which insinuates Roger was somehow putting people in danger or perhaps even reacting violently to being asked to leave his husband’s room.

“We believe involving the family is an important part of the patient care process. And, the patient’s needs are always our first priority. When anyone becomes disruptive to providing the necessary patient care, we involve our security team to help calm the situation and to protect our patients and staff. If the situation continues to escalate, we have no choice but to request police assistance.”

In 2010 President Obama mandated that any hospital that receives federal funding such as Medicare or Medicaid must allow visitation privileges for same-sex partners.

The fact of the matter is that not everyone knows what “civil union” means and this story is not isolated. For every story like this which makes it to the news, there are a dozen more for gay and lesbian couples who don’t have the resources to get their story out there. And in most states, if a story like that were to get out – someone could lose their job or be evicted from their home for being gay.

I live in Washington D.C. and I’m getting married in a month. If Sean were in the hospital and someone in his family were to try to make me leave, you can bet they’d have to arrest me too.

An Open Letter to the Church from My Generation

8 Apr

Jamie McGonnigal:

This is beautiful!

Originally posted on "I Said I Don't Know."--and Other Answers to Hard Questions:

Church,

I got to go to the Macklemore concert on Friday night. If you want to hear about how that went, ask me, seriously, I want to talk about it until I die. The whole thing was great; but the best part was when Macklemore sang “Same Love.” Augustana’s gym was filled to the ceiling with 5,000 people, mostly aged 18-25, and decked out in thrift store gear (American flag bro-tanks, neon Nikes, MC Hammer pants. My Cowboy boyfriend wore Cowboy boots…not ironically….). The arena was brimming with excitement and adrenaline during every song, but when he started to play “Same Love,” the place about collapsed. Why? While the song is popular everywhere, no one, maybe not even Macklemore, feels its true tension like we do in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. If you’re not familiar, here’s the song:

Stop–did you watch it? Watch it.

Before the song, Macklemore spoke really…

View original 976 more words

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