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Brian Brown EXPOSED in Covert Gay Activist Operation (sort of)

8 Jul

Brian Brown at DCA (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

So, I’m on my way to Fort Wayne, Indiana for an anime convention (for those who don’t know, I do voices for Pokemon, Yu Gi Oh! and a bunch of other animated things)…anyway…I’m going through the line at security and I recognize the man in front of me as Brian Brown, the President of the hate group, The National Organization for Marriage. Strangely, I thought he was taller. I also was surprised to see he was a smoker (Marlboro Lights). He almost forgot his plane ticket and passport on the conveyor belt, and like a good gay person, I handed it to him.

After that, we both happened to be in need of a place to charge our phones. I sat down at a small table and he stood at the phone charging station. How surprised was I when he picked up his phone, dialed and said “Hello Senator…” I went into stealth mode and immediately began transcribing.

It didn’t become clear until his next call that he was talking to Senator Ruben Diaz. He was begging Diaz to show up to a rally. Apparently Diaz was grilling him about who was going to be there and Brian told him that Archbishop Timothy Dolan would not be in attendance. Apparently, that’s when Diaz said he wasn’t going to come and Brian got noticeably upset. He started to raise his voice and told Diaz that his constituents were still very upset about the vote and he really needed to be there. The call ended. According to Jeremy hooper at GoodAsYou.org (the resident expert on all things NOM), This call more than likely had to do with the July 24th NY Family Research Foundation event. This is of course, the same day that New York plans to start recognizing marriage equality with the first marriage licenses handed out to same-sex partners.

Brian then called someone (presumably Maggie Gallagher) and mentioned he’d just spoken to Diaz and he wasn’t coming to the rally. he said he wasn’t worried though about the Hispanic turnout because “they love this stuff.” He turned his back a few times and became inaudible, but he did mention the recent Foxx Amendment to the Defense Bill regarding DOMA and said he’d picked up “16 Democrats.” He said he needed to “make a big deal about it today and on Monday.” He told whoever was on the phone that they should talk to Tom McClusky because he knows the most about it.

Then came the interesting part for me. He said he needed to talk to Justin about who to hire with regards to a “New York International” organization. He has a meeting planned with the Christian Institute of Scotland and then said he didn’t “have much faith in the Mexican group.” Again, Jeremy Hooper recognized that Thomas Peters (NOM staffer) has been tweeting about some of NOM’s “exciting new plans.” This could very well have to do with that.

I’m not sure if there’s any actual news here, other than the fact that NOM is planning some International work involving the Christian Institute of Scotland and that he doesn’t really care for the Mexican group. He certainly didn’t mind categorically assuming that Hispanic people love hating gay people. Jeremy Hooper also agreed that Brian Brown was much shorter than he expected.

NOM’s Anti-Gay Rally Speaker Screams Gays are “Worthy to Death”

15 May

Rev. Sen. Ruben Diaz and NOM President Brian Brown (photo: Jeremy Hooper, GoodAsYou.org)

Due to inclement weather and a knee injury, I was unfortunately unable to attend today’s “Rally to Defend Marriage” in the Bronx, but thanks to the unending work of blogger and activist, Jeremy Hooper at GoodAsYou, we’re learning a lot about the event.

The rally, first proposed and planned by Reverend Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. of New York, was supposed to bring more than 20,000 people to the Bronx to fight against marriage equality. Diaz is the most fiercely anti-gay politician in New York, despite having two gay brothers. This rally was planned after New York Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell introduced legislation (again) to bring marriage equality to New York State.

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) jumped on board to sponsor the march and pay for commercials and other event costs, thus endorsing the things being said in the rally by their guests. In the past, NOM has been very careful about speaking against the violence their rally attendees frequently endorse towards LGBT people. After Larry Adams attended a NOM rally in Indianapolis last summer carrying a sign indicating that the solution to gay marriage is to murder gay people, NOM tried to distance themselves from the message.

This time, it may not be so easy for NOM to distance itself from the message. Whereas previously the violent message was coming from rally attendees, at today’s rally in the Bronx, the quote from one of the rally’s speakers referred to gays and lesbians as “worthy to death.” Perhaps there was something lost in the Spanish to English translation, but it seems clear from the speakers as well as the crowd’s response that an endorsement of murder is the message being presented. Many thanks to Jeremy Hooper for this video. Please visit this link at GoodAsYou.org for the full disturbing video.

NY Dem Senator Diaz Ignores AIDS, Leads Anti-Gay Rally

13 May

As many of you know, there is a vote that is close to happening in New York for marriage equality. It happened in 2009 and failed after many Democrats bailed on promises and betrayed their progressive values because of pressure from influential money groups. One of those Democrats that voted against it, was only trying to hide his closeted behavior and his corrupt political behavior.

The NY Assembly (which has now voted and passed a marriage equality bill three times previously) is ready to vote again on the bill presented by openly-gay Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell. But as we can see, the Assembly is not the problem. The problem is the NY Senate, which clearly has issues of it’s own when it comes to a bill which a majority of New Yorker’s now support.

The primary opponent of marriage equality in the New York Senate is Democrat Ruben Diaz, Sr., a Pentecostal minister from the Bronx. This Sunday, instead of supporting the AIDS Walk, Diaz is holding an anti-gay rally in the Bronx.

According to studies, Sen. Diaz’ Borough leads the state in new HIV/AIDS cases amongst Latino men, yet clearly the Reverend feels it is more important to rally against gays and lesbians than to work to change these horrifying statistics. Diaz has gone so far as to ask Christians to not attend church on Sunday May 15th and instead attend his anti-gay rally.

Diaz has claimed that there will be more than 20,000 bigots at his rally. And this time, he has the support of the National Organization for Marriage – one of the country’s foremost hate groups – who has been sending out mailings and buying up millions of dollars worth of anti-gay television advertisements in NY these past few weeks.

We will be attending the anti-gay event to take photos and will be reporting back on Sunday evening with some coverage of the hateful event.

PHOTOS: Chelsea Clinton, Kristen Bell, Andy Cohen, Ken Mehlman, David Mixner, Mark Consuelos and More Come Out for Friendfactor

4 May

As we’ve talked about here before, there’s a new organization that has decided to make some new strides in a whole new direction for equality. Friendfactor is dedicated to winning our equality by utilizing our strong relationships with our straight allies.

Tonight, I was proud to take part in their launch event at Lavo on East 58th Street. Their guests of honor were the true image of working together. With a sold-out crowd and dozens of New Yorkers who have long fought the war for equality, Friendfactor’s founder Brian Elliott introduced some new campaigns hoping to help win marriage equality in New York in the next six weeks. Recently outed Gay Republican Ken Mahlman was in attendance as well as recently married Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of the man who signed both the Defense of Marriage Act and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell into law.

Other guests included Andy Cohen, Kristen Bell, Mark Consuelos, Miss New York Claire Buffie and Civil Rights legend, David Mixner. Please enjoy some photos from this evening and visit Friendfactor.org to find out what you can do to help win our equality! To order photos or to see more, visit Equality Photography. All photos copyright: Jamie McGonnigal.

Photos From a Big Gay Wedding

2 May

This weekend, it was my great honor to attend the wedding of our friends Jonathan Howard and Gregory Jones.

You might remember Jonathan and Gregory as the 2nd place winners in last year’s Crate & Barrel Ultimate Wedding contest. Not only did they enter the contest, but they sacrificed greatly to use their new-found celebrity status to expand the conversation on equality. Their work to promote our rights has been unending and I’m certain it will continue to be.

I’ve happily gotten to know Jonathan and Gregory over the past year and am personally looking forward to seeing them more after my move to DC in June and one thing I can say is that they are one of the most loving couples I’ve ever met. They compliment each other in wonderful and indescribable ways. They belong together and there’s no questioning it.

The wedding, held at a stunningly beautiful vineyard in Virginia (after being legally married in Washington D.C.), was filled with friends and family that could not have been happier than to see these two men together. The support, love and genuine emotion was unlike anything I’ve experienced at a wedding before. I’ve been to well over twenty weddings, but never one where the people being married had fought tooth and nail for the simple right to do so.

I was happy to share this day with so many friends who continue to work for our equality and it’s a day I won’t soon forget. Here are some photos from this extraordinary day. Congrats Jonathan & Gregory. We love you and we thank you.

You can see more at Equality Photography.

Anti-Gay Campaigner Jumps Fence to Equality

13 Apr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maggie Gallagher and her Son

11 Apr

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

Maggie Gallagher

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

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

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

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

Patrick Gallagher

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

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

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

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

h/t: Jeremy Hooper, GoodAsYou.org

Don’t Deport My Husband: An Update!

27 Mar

As many of you know, a few weeks ago, President Obama made the surprisingly exciting announcement that his Department of Justice would no longer be defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the courts. This decision was made after many lower courts had found DOMA to be unconstitutional. Obama framed his change of tactics around the amount of money the administration would spend on defending a law which judges were ruling against. Obama made sure to say that he would continue enforcing the law until it was overturned, but the court battles would no longer be defended by his administration.

The religious right and the National Organization for Marriage were in an uproar. They lied and claimed that Obama had overturned the law, or that he was no longer enforcing it. And the usual rigamarole ensued.

Now, we’re happy to find that despite the fact that DOMA has not yet been overturned, in at least one instance, it is no longer being used to attack gay and lesbian families. One of the rights we are fighting so hard for, which heterosexual married people frequently take for granted, is that married bi-national couples can stay in this country and that foreign-born citizens married to US citizens will gain citizenship through that marriage.

Joshua Vandiver and Henry Valendia

A few months ago, we told you the story of Josh Vandiver, a graduate student at Princeton, and Henry Velandia, a Venezuelan dance instructor who was facing deportation despite their 2010 marriage in Connecticut.

Now, Newsweek/The Daily Beast has learned that the heads of two USCIS districts—Washington, D.C. and Baltimore—informed attorneys from the advocacy group American Immigration Lawyers Association that cases in their districts involving married gay and lesbian couples would be put on hold. The news could have far-reaching effects. People like Velandia might be safe from deportation while their cases are on hold.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that Henry and Josh will be together in the US permanently.

MILESTONE: Nationwide Majority Supports Marriage Equality

18 Mar

photo by Jamie McGonnigal, TalkAboutEquality.com

In a new poll conducted last week by ABC News/Washington Post, a milestone has been reported. For the first time since we’ve been measuring it, support for marriage equality has surpassed 50% nationwide.

From a 32% low in 2004, support has grown to 53%, up 18 points in just seven years. Our favorite part of the research though is this single passage:

“While younger adults and liberals remain at the forefront of support for gay marriage, the new results underscore its expansion. In an ABC/Post poll five and a half years ago, for example, under-30s were the sole age group to give majority support to gay marriage, at 57 percent. Today it’s 68 percent in that group – but also 65 percent among people in their 30s, up a remarkable 23 points from the 2005 level; and 52 percent among those in their 40s, up 17 points.”

This is truly exciting news. Let’s hope our elected representatives catch on to this wonderful trend and start voting with the conscience of the people.

Wedding Contests, Equality & Cheese Domes

16 Mar

Jonathan Howard and Gregory Jones speaking at The Big Commit last summer in DC

Contests. They’re honestly just silly tools for a company to advertise the hell out of itself. We all know that. When you enter a contest, you are either giving up some of your personal time by doing a survey hoping to win a $5,000 Best Buy shopping spree or you’re bringing as many people as possible to a company’s website so they might vote for you and spend money at the store. That’s what it’s truly all about.

But in our current political and social environment we find that contests may have another agenda, perhaps even hidden to the company that is sponsoring it.

Robbie & Allen from this year's Ultimate Wedding Contest (Click on the photo to vote for them!)

Last year, our friends Jonathan Howard and Gregory Jones entered the Crate & Barrel Ultimate Wedding Contest on a whim. They’d applied for their marriage license in DC and were only the 20th couple to do so. As the publicity surrounding the contest grew, Gregory and Jonathan saw the outpouring of support from the LGBT community and our allies to help them win votes. While in the end they came in second, the contest gave a lot of us hope that we could actually be seen as equals. While it doesn’t seem like a huge step to take – entering a contest – it was this seemingly innocuous move which put one of our stories in front of thousands.

This year, we have another gay couple in the top two – Robbie Cronrod and Allen Artcliff from Los Angeles. They have a wonderful story and have been together two years. They’re hoping for your votes.

What I’ve learned from watching Jonathan and Gregory and now Robbie and Allen – is that a contest isn’t just a contest. This particular contest is reaching out and telling our stories to everyone who will listen. And the many gay and lesbian couples who have registered for the contest are doing so bravely. Some may be announcing their relationship for the first time and some may have been together for decades. Either way, I hope we can throw some support behind Robbie and Allen to let them know that a community of support does exist.

 

The Cheese Dome won by Jonathan and Gregory in last year's Ultimate Wedding Contest

Hopefully Robbie & Allen will end up with a cheese dome too…and then some!

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