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Read this letter from Obama to a little girl and try not to cry

4 Nov

On Tuesday, we have an extraordinarily important decision to make. Many look at the economy and wish the recovery was happening more rapidly. Some would like to see a larger return on their stocks. And a select few look at their family and hope each day for the same protections most every other family in the country currently has.

You might remember a letter I posted last week from young Sophia Bailey Klugh.

10 year-old Sophia penned a letter to President Barack Obama. In the letter, she told the President how happy she was that he agreed with her on the topic of marriage equality. You see, young Sophia has two dads.

She continued on and asked the President an important question.

“I am so glad that you agree two men can love each other because I have two dads and they love each other, but at school kids think that it’s gross and weird, but it really hurts my heart and feelings…If you were me and you had two dads that loved each other and kids at school teased you about it, what would you do?”

Well, lo and behold, in the middle of his fight to be re-elected, the President took some important time to share a little advice with a little girl.

Dear Sophia,

Thank you for writing me such a thoughtful letter about your family. Reading it made me proud to be your president and even more hopeful about the future of our nation.

In America, no two families look the same. We celebrate this diversity. And we recognize that whether you have two dads or one mom what matters above all is the love we show one another. You are very fortunate to have two parents who care deeply for you. They are lucky to have such an exceptional daughter in you.

Our differences unite us. you and I are blessed to live in a country where we are born equal no matter what we look like on the outside, where we grow up, ow who our parents are. A good rule is to treat others the way you hope they will treat you. Remind your friends at school about this rule if they say something that hurts your feelings.

Thanks again for taking the time to write me. I’m honored to have your support and inspired by your compassion. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it to dinner, but I’ll be sure to tell Sasha and Malia you say hello.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama

Governor Mitt Romney’s campaign recently stated that he believes gay and lesbian families visiting one another in the hospital is a privilege and not a right. Additionally, he has spoken out against gay parents adopting children. Finally, the Governor has pledged to write discrimination against LGBT people into the US Constitution.

I hope that young Sophia wakes up on Wednesday morning to find there’s someone in the White House who believes her family should have the same protections as every other family in the country.

10-year old shows us all why this election is so important

29 Oct

On May 9th, 2012, I was visiting New York. I was with my fiancé who works for the Family Equality Council and I was taking some pictures for them as they rang the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

No one knew until a few hours before it was going to happen that the first sitting President in U.S. history was about to come out in favor of marriage equality.

I was in a room off the NYSE floor with 7 or 8 families led by gay parents when the text came in. “He said it.” Sean said to me. scrambling for cell service in this marble room in the depths of Wall Street, finally I was able to pull up the text of the interview.

Jennifer Chrisler, Family Equality Council’s Executive Director spoke to the room and read the text of Barack Obama’s interview to all these moms and dads and they in turn, took a moment to tell their young children just how important this moment was. Then we walked across the floor, the kids and their parents climbed the steps and rang the bell to close the stock exchange for the day.

A lot has happened in these short few months since then, but one thing remains the same. President Obama hopes to fight for full equality for LGBT Americans, while the alternative has pledged to write discrimination against LGBT Americans into the U.S. Constitution.

Many don’t realize just the difference a President’s acknowledgment made when it comes to his recognition of our families. But one little girl sees the importance.

10-year old Sophia Bailey Klugh has written a letter to President Obama which is quickly making the rounds on Facebook. Sophia’s Dads Jonathan Bailey and Triton Klugh posted the unprompted letter with the comment:

I’ve refrained from all the political posts, but this is just too close to home to ignore. This is not about President Obama – it’s about what’s right. So frankly, if you don’t agree with the innocent, heartfelt and surprisingly straightforward position of my 10 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER, then please unfriend me because we don’t actually belong connected here in the first place.

Please take a look at just how much someone notices when someone everyone knows stands up and does the right thing.

Romney May Stop Hospital Visitation for Gay Couples

21 Oct

It’s known that Romney stands against rights for LGBT people. He signed the National Organization for Marriage pledge to stand against marriage equality, appoint Supreme Court Justices who would also stand against equal rights for gays and lesbians and fight to write discrimination against us into the US Constitution.

This, despite at one point saying he would be “better than Ted” Kennedy on gay rights.

This week, Romney apparently believes that when my husband is in the hospital, I do not have the right to visit him and that it should be up to each state to decide whether or not I am the next of kin. He believes that a lesbian spouse like Janice Langbehn visiting her dying wife in the hospital is a “privilege” and not a right.

In an interview with Buzzfeed today, Romney  adviser Bay Buchanan told Chris Geidner:

“Governor Romney also believes, consistent with the 10th Amendment, that it should be left to states to decide whether to grant same-sex couples certain benefits, such as hospital visitation rights and the ability to adopt children.”

In April of 2010, recognizing the extraordinary miscarriage of justice and horrifying stories of families being split apart while fathers, mothers, husbands and wives were barred from visiting one another in the hospital, Barack Obama signed an Executive Order stating that any hospital which receives government funding (including Medicare and Medicaid) shall recognize the relationships between gays and lesbians.

This was a simple move. There are truly very few Americans who believe any couple should be separated in their hours of need. But according to his advisers, Romney believes and will fight to make sure if (God forbid) I should need to visit my husband in the hospital, that my legal relationship is not recognized by hospital administration.

How cruel can a person be to leave a person potentially dying alone while their husband, wife, son or daughter sits in a sterile waiting room to hear their loved one has passed? And what kind of leader would support this kind of barbaric sentiment?

Please spread the word and understand why November 6th is such an important day. Please understand what is at risk for me, for you and for the people you love.

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

BULLY: The Only Thing That’s Changed is the Part in His Hair

11 May

When Mitt Romney was 18 years old, he was a bully. A story in the Washington Post goes into great detail about a time when a high school-aged Romney lead a screaming mob of students to chase, pin to the floor and then physically assault a fellow student they assumed to be gay. They took a pair of scissors and chopped off his hair after Romney observed “He can’t look like that. That’s wrong! Just look at him!”

We’ve heard this story all over the internet, on every news station and paper for the past few days. Romney has of course, brushed off the incident. “I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school, and some might have gone too far…” In another interview, Romney laughed through his responses when questioned on his participation in the anti-gay assault. He also found it funny when he was questioned about teasing a closeted gay student by responding “Atta Girl!” to the young man’s responses in the classroom. He impressively remembered the detail that he didn’t think of his fellow student as gay, but strangely couldn’t remember that time he chased him down and chopped off all his hair.

Those defending Romney are parroting his responses, passing off what a kid today would get arrested for as silly teenage pranks. And it’s true. Kids do stupid things. As a friend put it today, “that’s why kids are tried in court as kids.” It certainly doesn’t excuse their behavior, but we have a cultural understanding that growing up means maturing and evolving in your views and your actions. The problem here is that Romney hasn’t evolved. His bullying of gay people has continued well-into his adulthood. He may not be leading mobs to assault defenseless teenagers, but he’s certainly working to make sure we remain pinned to the floor, the scissors posed just next to our faces.

As Governor of Massachusetts, Romney had to make some compromises. On several occasions, he purported to support the LGBT community including the endorsement of an LGBT Youth Rally on Boston Common, his support of Gay Pride (which his campaign has thoroughly denied despite the evidence), and a declaration of support for full federal equality for gays & lesbians when he ran for Senate against Ted Kennedy.

What we didn’t see then though, according to a 2006 Boston Globe article, was a virulently anti-gay Romney seeking to curtail the state’s initiatives to support LGBT youth:

“Angered that his name appeared on a press release touting a gay pride parade, Governor Mitt Romney moved yesterday to curtail the activities of a 14-year-old advisory commission on gay and lesbian youth.

The commission chairwoman, Kathleen M. Henry, said she was called yesterday by Beth Myers, the governor’s chief of staff, who told her that the governor planned to issue an executive order ”revoking our existence” and creating another youth commission whose purview would be all of the state’s youth, not just gays and lesbians. The commission would have all new members, she said.”

His anti-gay actions as governor of Massachusetts didn’t end there. He went on to veto funding for “intervention services and crisis housing for sexual violence in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community,” according to a 2006 article in the Patriot Ledger. In 2003 & 2004, Romney also vetoed funding for suicide prevention and intervention efforts in the state, according to government documents.

As has also been recently discovered that Romney made a $10,000 contribution to the anti-gay hate group, National Organization for Marriage (NOM). The contribution was to aid NOM in their efforts to take marriage rights away from California citizens. Strangely enough, NOM failed to report the Governor’s contribution and an investigation has been demanded.

Romney also joked about the time his father shut down a factory in Michigan, leaving hundreds out of work.

Romney’s lack of respect for the life of those he sees beneath him doesn’t end with gay youth and those who wish to marry. Romney has also brushed off his actions as a dog owner when he strapped his Irish Setter’s crate to the roof of their station wagon for hours of driving. In 1983, the family drove from Boston to Ontario, Canada with the dog defacating all over himself and sitting in the crate for hours. The Romneys pulled over, hosed the dog off and put the now-wet Irish Setter back in the crate and continued their journey. When asked if he’d do it again, Romney laughed and responded “well, not with all the attention it’s received.”

Romney doesn’t mind actively harming others, whether it be pinning a person to the ground and assaulting him with scissors or  clearly taking the life of your own dog for granted. Romney’s responses to his horrific actions as both a young person and an adult clearly prove that he hasn’t grown up. Yes, kids can be horrible and people make mistakes, and we forgive them. But when a man who spends his entire life taking pleasure and even glee in seeing others suffer, we don’t excuse that. And we certainly don’t elect that man to be the most powerful bully person in the world.

Romney ‘Seeks to Establish Full Equality for America’s Gays & Lesbians’…in 1994

11 May

Photo by DonkeyHotey on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons.

The fact that Mitt Romney’s opinions change more frequently than a traffic light is no surprise to anyone. But as the marriage debate continues to heat up, and as he makes claims that his opposition to equality is somehow the same stance he’s always had, it seems we need to once again, check his record.

Yesterday, Romney said:

“When these issues were raised in my state of Massachusetts I indicated my view, which is I do not favor marriage between people of the same gender and I don’t favor civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than by name.”

Now, I’d like to ask Governor Romney what he thinks the definition of the word “equality” is. If it’s “the state or quality of being equal” as Dictionary.com tells us, it would seem these are not the same values he held before.

On October 6, 1994, when Romney was running against Ted Kennedy for Senate, he issued a rather heartfelt and supportive letter to the Members of the Log Cabin Club of Massachusetts.

“I am more convinced now than ever before that as we seek to establish full equality for America’s gays and lesbians, I will provide more effective leadership than my opponent.

“I believe we can and we must do better. If we are to achieve the goals we share, we must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern. My opponent cannot do this. I can and will.

As I mentioned, this is far from breaking news and this letter has been circulated far & wide at this point. I just couldn’t let yesterday’s comments go by without pointing out his apparent backwards evolution from support for “full equality” to no protections whatsoever.

The Men with the Pink Triangle

19 Apr

It’s Holocaust Remembrance Day.

While no person’s oppression is greater or lesser than another’s, a day like today cannot go by without acknowledging the estimated 15,000 gay men who were murdered in Nazi concentration camps.

The pink triangle, which in later years became a symbol of freedom for the lesbian and gay community, was created as a marker for gay men in WWII Germany. Treatment in concentration camps for gay men was frequently far more brutal than for other prisoners. They faced persecution not only from German soldiers, but from their fellow prisoners as well. Their pink triangles on their prison uniforms were frequently used as bull’s eyes when soldiers took prisoners out for target practice. Many died from beatings, frequently from fellow prisoners and some were used by doctors for scientific experiments – trying to locate a “gay gene.”

Following the war, those who escaped the horrible fates of the concentration camps found that they could then be re-improsoned for being gay. Under Paragraph 175, the anti-gay law in Germany which criminalized homosexuality, gay men could spend up to ten years in prison. From 1950-1994, when the law was finally abolished, 100,000 gay men were convicted under the law.

Memorials set up and reparations paid to survivors of the Holocaust did not include gay people. It was not until 2002, nearly 60 years after WWII that the German government officially apologized to the gay community. In 1984, the first memorial to gay Holocaust victims was built and there are now more than 25 around the world from Australia to Anchorage, Alaska.

Rudolf Brazda, believed to be the last surviving person who was sent to a Nazi concentration camp because of his homosexuality, died in France in August, 2011, aged 98. The Men With The Pink Triangle is a gripping account of one prisoner’s experience in the camps written by Hans Heger.

As we remember those lost in one of our history’s most violent and gruesome chapters, please take the time to remember everyone.

Maggie’s Flip-Flop on Immigration and Baiting of the Latino Community

5 Apr

NOM's Maggie Gallagher

In case you haven’t heard or are living under a rock, a couple weeks ago the National Organization for Marriage found themselves in hot water following the release of some internal documents.

The NOM papers, which had been released as part of a court agreement in Maine revealed some rather atrocious plans to divide the LGBT, African American and Latino communities. I don’t need to rehash the story here, but if you haven’t read about it, you can check it out here, here and in the New York Times.

I want to focus for a second though on one of the divisions NOM tried to make. In the released papers, NOM states:

“The Latino vote in America is a key swing vote, and will be so even more so in the future, both because of demographic growth and inherent uncertainty: Will the process of assimilation to the dominant Anglo culture lead Hispanics to abandon traditional family values?” the document asks. “We must interrupt this process of assimilation by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity – a symbol of resistance to inappropriate assimilation.”

Maggie Gallagher, former President and Chairman of the the board for NOM more than likely helped craft much of this messaging. So I thought I’d do a little research into Maggie’s stance on immigration. At first I was really pleasantly surprised by a 1995 column written by Maggie. It was titled “America’s Meltdown Can’t be Blamed on Immigrants.” Of course, this is from 1995, before immigration was such a hot-button issue. In the column, she acknowledges her own status as a 2nd generation American and even goes on to mention how the post-60s immigration wave helped her “snag a husband.”

“Immigration is an easy scapegoat for our own cultural meltdown, our failure to maintain and transmit to our children a unified and vigorous vision of American history, institutions and heritage. Our system of government is under assault and our way of life threatened by ignorance, crime and social disorder. But grind immigration to a total halt, and you’ve done nothing about this real cancer eating away at the heart of American civilization.

The fault… lies not in our immigrants but in ourselves.”

Me…dumbfounded. Did Maggie just write something I agree with and goes utterly against her own party’s platform? Did she really just use our own pro-immigration argument to say that our country’s history and very founding depended on immigration? Wait…no. She didn’t “just” say it. She said it in 1995.

Upon further Googling, I find Maggie’s column from 10 years later, after George W. Bush, (her former employer) made immigration a “thing.” Maggie has clearly changed her tune and taken on the mantle of a racist, “illegals” hater.

“For me, personally, illegal Mexican immigration means that when a foot of snow falls, two nice guys show up and offer to shovel the driveway for $25.

But for my friend “Mary,” the whole issue looks different. She cleans houses and baby-sits for a living. Her son paints houses. In both cases, they are competing directly with a new flood of immigrants who don’t mind living doubled or quadrupled up (changing the character of neighborhoods) and for whom $10 bucks an hour is a premium wage.”

Happily though, Maggie’s opinions and her organization’s racist tactics don’t seem to be making much of a difference. According to a poll released yesterday from Pew Hispanic Center, Latinos support LGBT equality by a number of 59% to 30% who oppose it. Another takeaway from the study is that 3 out of 10 Latinos consider themselves “liberal,” compared to just 21% of the general population.

LGBT equality should not be a Republican or Democratic issue as all people should share in the equality offered by our Constitution. Immigration is similar in that our country is a country made up entirely of immigrants. Outside of indigenous peoples, we all came from another country…not so long ago in the grand scheme of things. It is utterly hypocritical of Americans to be anti-immigration.

Ten States* Where I Can Get Married?!?

25 Jan

There is a whole lot going on around marriage equality in this country right now and it seemed like as good a time as any to review what’s going on! As of right now, as I’m planning my wedding, there are 7 places I can get married. Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont (gotta love New England), Iowa, New York and Washington D.C.. While 7 weddings would be fun, wouldn’t 10 be funner?

Washington State: Our friends in the northwest are poised to become the 7th state to legalize marriage equality! The measure was proposed by Democratic Governor Christine Gregoire and immediately, we began counting the votes. In the past few weeks, it was seeming more and more likely as we counted. Then after several undecideds had taken a stand on the right side of history, we stood just one vote shy before stating conclusively that we could win this. Then Democratic Senator Mary Margaret Haugen, after having taken time to listen to her constituents and consider her own beliefs and values, she announced that she would be supporting the bill.

“For me personally, I have always believed in traditional marriage between a man and a woman,” Ms. Haugen said in a statement. “That is what I believe, to this day. But this issue isn’t about just what I believe. It’s about respecting others, including people who may believe differently than I. It’s about whether everyone has the same opportunities for love and companionship and family and security that I have enjoyed.”

A vote there has not yet been scheduled, but when it passes, opponents are expected to challenge it with a voter referendum in the fall.

Maryland: The Free State has grappled with marriage on several occasions before. In 2004, a lawsuit was filed by the ACLU and Equality Maryland on behalf of 10 gay and lesbian couples. The suit claimed that the anti-gay marriage law on the books was unconstitutional because it discriminated based on sex. The judge found in favor of the plaintiffs, but her decision was immediately taken to appeals, where it was overturned.

Anti-gay legislators spent the next few years going crazy, trying to pass additional amendments to the constitution to make sure the discrimination was enshrined in their laws. They even went so far as to have the judge who first found in favor of the plaintiffs impeached for her decision.

Then last year, a new marriage equality bill was widely expected to pass. With Catholic Governor Martin O’Malley announcing he would sign it into law, things looked good. The Senate (which was seen as the biggest hurdle) passed the measure and then it was sent to the House. That’s when the religious groups and the out-of-state National Organization “for” Marriage jumped in and began lobbying legislators to vote against it. The bill was sent back to committee as it was clear it would not pass if brought for a vote.

This month, a new bill which contains the most explicit religious protections of any in the nation, was introduced by the Governor. Keep your fingers crossed!

New Jersey: Having moved from New Jersey to DC just this past year, I have particular interest in this race. You see – when anti-gay Republican Governor Chris Christie was elected, it was made clear that NJ would not be seeing marriage equality anytime soon. Christie made an election promise that he would veto any marriage equality bill that landed on his desk.

In recent weeks though, as discussions of a marriage equality bill made their way around, Christie seemed to hedge. There were some thoughts that he might let the bill pass without actually signing it. There’s a rule that says if it sits on his desk for 30 days without him signing it, then it becomes a law. But just in time for the debate to start, Christie announced he would stick with his homophobic decision to veto the bill should it be given to him.

But then this happened. State Senator Steve Sweeney was asked by a reporter why they were still going through with a debate and vote if the Governor had already promised a veto? What followed was one of the most poignant and clear arguments I’ve ever heard from a legislator:

Reporter:Senator Sweeney, would you comment on this veto promise of the Governor as to what the point is of even going through this exercise?Senator Sweeney: The point of going through a fight for civil rights? Are you kidding me? For standing up for people to give them the same rights? I’m offended by that.

The Governor’s a governor. He’s got his opinion. But there are many Republicans — because I’ve spoken to them — that want to vote for this bill. Now, if the Governor wants to stifle and silence his colleagues that’s one thing, but he’s not going to stifle or silence us. Someone has to stand up for equality and fairness.

You know, I apologized in the past, but I’m telling you right now, I’m fighting to get this done. And if we have to go for an override we’ll work every angle we possibly have to. But right now it’s about getting it onto his desk.

And it’s offensive for anyone to think, why bother if the Governor doesn’t want to do it. Well guess what? He’s wrong on this one.

You know his announcement today was to try to put a damper on what we’re trying to do. It’s not happening. We’re not walking away, we’re not backing down, we’re not giving up. This is about civil rights, period.”

* – About the asterisk – While Washington D.C. is not technically a state, it is still a US locale where I can get married. Some of you may not realize that D.C. has no representation in the Congress or Senate, which means we are fighting the same thing the U.S. fought in the American Revolution. We still pay local and federal taxes but have no representation. For more information on this, visit DC Vote.

I Said Yes: The Video

2 Jan

It’s been a little more than 36 hours since my boyfriend got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.

Since then, more than a thousand people have commented, liked, called, texted or sent smoke signals congratulating us. We couldn’t be more happy at the outpouring of love and support.

I’m still in so much shock every time I look at my finger. I just keep jumping back to when I was a kid thinking this wasn’t something that would ever happen for me because I was gay. Even when I was older and I’d become more comfortable with myself, I would rent gay movies like Maurice or Beautiful Thing,  and while it was certainly encouraging to see our stories being told on film, there was rarely a “happily ever after.”

Our friend, Tom captured the moment on his iPhone and just posted it to youtube this morning and we wanted to share it. To be honest, I don’t recall it being that loud or 3/4 of the things that were said, but it certainly is nice to have this record of it. Please watch and share if you like.

Maybe some kid out there will watch this and realize that their prince or princess is out there looking for their fairytale ending too.

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