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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.

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are!

11 Oct

Me and my brothers, I’m on the far right. Note the bevel.

October 11th is National Coming Out Day.

Coming Out in this country is something which has changed a great deal since I was a kid. For many young people today (though certainly not all), the process has become far less traumatic. The act of telling a friend or family member that you’re gay is now frequently met with a “so?” and a “cool, let’s go to a gay bar!”

While the reactions for some have changed, the process, the act of summoning the courage to say it, has remained the same. For me and for thousands of others, we spent years hiding – pretending to be something we  weren’t.

I dated girls in high school. Well, I hung out with girls in high school. At one point, one girl who was a good size larger than me, pushed me up against the band room lockers one afternoon. “I want you to go out with me.” she said. “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll say yes.” Ever the pacifist, I reluctantly agreed. Nothing ever happened outside of her falling asleep on my lap at a few parties (an action she had in common with my fiancé). Every moment with her was filled with fear. I wasn’t just afraid of getting my ass kicked, I was afraid of something happening where she would find out who I really was. And tell everyone about it.

My first beard, Beth. Note my happiness.

Another girl I dated – to this day, one of the sweetest people I know, I had one date with. We went to see Shadowlands in the movie theater. The event was plagued by 3 different delays due to a faulty projector, so the already painfully-long film was met with two 30-minute intermissions. As if things weren’t awkward enough.
A card I received a few days later, professing her “love” for me…yes, she said “I love you”, caused me to end that very quickly.

So when I finally came out to my best friend John (as bisexual of course, cuz that’s the natural progression of things, right?), I expected shock and surprise. I mean, who would expect a 19 year old who’d never seriously dated a girl and dreamed of moving to New York City and starring on Broadway to be gay? Instead John offered to host a coming out party for me at his dorm and offered zero of the shock and awe I hoped for.

And of course, coming home from my first rennaisance faire with my Dad. And he claimed not to know.

In all seriousness though, when a person comes out to you, act surprised – even if you’re not. We work really hard to hide who we are in many cases and if upon coming out we’re met with a “Oh, I know. We all know,” what you’re saying to that person is “We’ve known forever, you’re bad at hiding and we’ve been talking about you behind your back for years.” Not exactly the most supportive message to send to someone in easily the most vulnerable place they’ve ever been in.

So today, on National Coming Out Day, be yourself. If you’re gay, tell someone who didn’t know before – maybe even someone who probably doesn’t care. Tell your taxi driver, your banker, the guy holding the door open at 7-11. In honor of all those who can’t come out for fear they’ll be kicked out of their homes, lose their livelihood, or worse – come out to someone new. And have a gay day.

 

 

Did he see the stars over Laramie?

7 Oct

Every year, I re-post the same story about Matthew Shepard. It’s a brief reminder so that the people I know and love don’t forget who he is and the incredible moves forward we’ve made in memory of him.

Tonight, I ran across someone who re-blogged the story and they attached a video from YouTube. It’s a brief interview with Matthew which I’ve never seen. Actually, despite having worked with Matthew’s mom, Judy on several events I produced for their foundation, I’ve actually never seen video footage of Matt.

As brief as the footage is, it hit me hard. I’ve never seen Matt speaking, never heard his voice.

When the tragedy happened, I was starting my sophomore year in college. I wasn’t out to anyone. I remember watching the stories on a TV in my college campus center and so desperately wanting to tell someone how upset, how scared I was.

Let’s be honest, I was doing musicals and I’d never really dated any girls, so it was no surprise when I finally did come out but for me, I was still terrified someone might find out – especially after what happened to Matt. I know I wasn’t alone in that and that this is the reason for the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act. When something like this happens, it terrorizes more than just the victim of the crime.

Tonight, 14 years ago, Matt was laying in a field, tied to a fence, beaten and bloodied, staring at the stars over the Wyoming sky as he lost consciousness. I like to think that there was a moment before he closed his eyes, that the pain went away and he was able see the stars and know he was loved.

14 years ago today

6 Oct

On October 7, 1998, Aaron Kreifels was riding his bike through a field in Wyoming. He wasn’t expecting that day to be different from any other beautiful sunny afternoon in the vast plains surrounding Laramie, but that day would change many lives.

Aaron spotted what he initially thought was a scarecrow next to a fence. Then he noticed a glisten of blood. The sun sparkled on what he barely recognized as a face. What Aaron had discovered was the 22 year-old Matthew Shepard, clinging to life.

Most of you know what happened next. Matthew held on for five more days and as his parents held his hand and prayed, Matthew slipped away quietly on October 12th, leaving in his wake a new movement for equality.

The outcries for justice and for greater protections were immediate and resonating.

Since then, Matthew’s mother Judy has made it her personal mission to protect all young LGBT people from Matthew’s horrific fate. In founding the Matthew Shepard Foundation, she has created safe spaces in and outside of schools for kids, and worked with parents to ensure their children learn to erase hate from their lives.

But overwhelmingly what you saw in 1998 was a community ready to act, ready to change something. And Matthew’s story was the catalyst for that. Many of you have seen or read the Moises Kaufman play, The Laramie Project – Matthew’s story as told through interviews of those who were living in Laramie at the time – some of his friends and some who just happened to be riding a bike through the plains of Wyoming that day. If you think of nothing else today, please consider the importance of telling your story – how your story can change the world around you.

This young boy, unbeknownst to him, has changed the world with his.

What you don’t know about WWII hero Alan Turing

23 Jun

Today, Google is honoring Alan Turing with a new Google Doodle. It’s a puzzle on their search page. You see, some say Alan Turing was the code breaker most responsible for the defeat of Adolf Hitler and the end of World War II.

Turing then went on to create one of the first designs for a stored-program computer.

In 1952, Turing met a man named Arnold Murray outside a cinema. The two had a date and Turing invited Murray over to his house – an invitation Murray accepted but didn’t show up for. The pair met a few more times and Murray wound up spending the night at Turing’s house.

A few weeks later, Murray helped an accomplice break in to Turing’s house. When Turing called the police, he himself became the victim of the interrogation. Turing acknowledged a sexual relationship with Murray – and seeing as homosexuality was still illegal in the UK at the time, Turing was arrested. He was then given the choice between prison time and probation under condition to undergo hormone therapy (chemical castration). Turing chose the latter.

Alan Turing

Two years later, Turing’s body was found by his house cleaner. Beside his body was a half-eaten apple. A coroner found he had died from cyanide poisoning and though other evidence didn’t seem to point to suicide, the coroner’s declared: “In a man of his type, one never knows what his mental processes are going to do next.”

The apple was never tested for cyanide, but today a report has come out challenging the idea Turing took his own life. Turing’s mother always argued that he was careless with chemicals in his house, with which he was experimenting and working with. A new report finds he may have died from “accidental inhalation.”

The most reasonable explanation in my opinion comes from Turing’s biographer David Hodges and author David Leavitt. Hodges believes that Turing was far too intelligent to accidentally inhale cyanide in his experiment room. He thinks Turing did so to give his mother some plausible deniability. He and Leavitt have stated that Turing’s was re-enacting his lifelong favorite fairytale, Snow White. Leavitt noted that Turing “took an especially keen pleasure in the scene where the Wicked Queen immerses her apple in the poisonous brew.”

Whatever the truth might be, it cannot be denied that the British government failed to recognize the contributions of a man responsible for the end of World War II. Instead, they chose to criminalize him and inhumanely force him to undergo chemical therapy for castration.

While students around the world may know Turing’s name for his incredible contributions to humanity – the rest of his story is seldom told by teachers. I certainly never learned it. If we’re to learn from our incredible mistakes, we must acknowledge they existed.

Happy Birthday, Alan.

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.

Oscar Wilde Arrested!

6 Apr

On this day in 1895, Oscar Wilde was arrested after losing libel case against the Marquess of Queensberry.

Wilde was in a long-term relationship with the son of the Marquess for nearly four years. This made the Marquess none too happy and she outed him as a homosexual. Since homosexuality was illegal at the time, Wilde sued the Marquess for libel. Since there was much evidence supporting the Marquess’ accusations, Wilde was found guilty and sentenced to two years of hard labor.

At this point, Wilde was already a well-known writer, having written brilliant and popular plays including The Importance of Being Ernest and his only novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. Additionally, Wilde was known among society for his flamboyant style and wit.

Following his release, Wilde fled to Paris where he wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol about his experiences in prison.

In honor of Oscar Wilde, here are some of his most memorable quotes.

“Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much.”

“Arguments are to be avoided: they are always vulgar and often convincing.”

“By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.”

“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.”

“I am not young enough to know everything.”

“I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their intellects. A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.”

“I have nothing to declare except my genius.”

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”

“n America the young are always ready to give to those who are older than themselves the full benefits of their inexperience.”

“It is better to be beautiful than to be good. But… it is better to be good than to be ugly.”

“There are only two kinds of people who are really fascinating – people who know absolutely everything, and people who know absolutely nothing.”

“What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

and my personal favorite:

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

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.

Arrested for a New Year’s Kiss

31 Dec

Tonight, after you finish the countdown, commemorate the moment with a tribute to what happened December 31, 1966. At the stroke of midnight, make sure you kiss him “on the mouth for three to five seconds.”

The men and women at San Francisco’s Black Cat, a small gay bar, were awaiting that magical moment – that second where men and women around the world make that declaration of love to enter the new year. The seconds ticked to zero, and like millions of others, the couples at the Black Cat locked lips and welcomed 1967.

At that moment, at least eight plainclothes officers emerged from the crowd and began viciously beating and arresting the kissing couples. As these kisses constituted criminal “lewd conduct,” the arrests and the raid on the bar were seen as legal. The officers refused to identify themselves as the violence escalated and they began ripping holiday decorations from the walls. A bartender was dragged by the police over and across the bar through broken shards of glass. A customer had his head bashed into a jukebox and was then arrested.

Nearby, at the New Faces bar, similar attacks and arrests were occurring. When the female co-owner and  asked police for identification, she was mistaken for a man in drag (another arrestable offense) and pistol whipped so badly that she had to be hospitalized. Robert Haas, a 120-pound waiter came from the back of the bar to help. He was dragged into the street and beaten so severely that his jaw was broken and his spleen ruptured. He was then booked and charged for felony assault against a police officer before being taken to Los Angeles County General Hospital for treatment.

Six Black Cat kissers were tried and convicted of “lewd or dissolute conduct in a public place”, which consisted of male couples hugging and kissing. According to the police report, one couple had “kissed on the mouth for three to five seconds.”

Two years prior to the Stonewall Uprising, these events energized the LGBT community to begin fighting back. They raised money for a legal defense fund and successfully fought the police and the charges in the courts. Additionally, they were able to get some of the mainstream media on their side. The telling of our stories in a public forum helped turn the tide for San Francisco to finally elect someone like Harvey Milk to public office.

As we enter 2012, spend some time being grateful for the enormous strides we’ve made – specifically in 2011. But don’t forget that we have a long way to go. Keep telling your stories as we move ahead and keep talking about equality.

Happy New Year!

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