Archive | Anti-Gay Discrimination RSS feed for this section

Altoona, Pennsylvania

20 Apr

Due to life, I haven’t written in quite some time. And I’m not sure when I’ll write again, but I noticed something tonight I wanted to let you know about.

I’m on the mailing list for the anti-gay hate group, the National Organization for Marriage, which I’ve written about several times. They’re known primarily for spreading lies about LGBT families and screwing up amicus briefs when marriage equality is discussed in our court system. They’re signature event is an anti-gay hate march they hold in Washington DC each year titled “The March for Marriage.” I’ve attended twice and taken photos to show just how few people are showing up for their hate marches. Both years, they’ve publicly inflated their numbers by 1000-2000%.

But today, I received an email from NOM stating:

“I just received a phone call from a lovely couple in Altoona, Pennsylvania, who have chartered a bus and gathered 30 of their friends to come to the March for Marriage next weekend! Isn’t that wonderful?”

It seems like your usual fib. A made up phone call trying to show that anyone from anywhere can bring people to this hate march – but there is something different about this one. Altoona, Pennsylvania. Altoona is a small city, with a population just under 50,000. Nothing to write home about. But to those of us who’ve studied the history of LGBT equality, or just to those of us who saw the movie, “MILK,” Altoona, Pennsylvania seems a touch familiar.

From the tape recording made by Harvey Milk, to be played in the event of his assassination:

“I ask for the movement to continue, for the movement to grow, because last week I got a phone call from Altoona, Pennsylvania, and my election gave somebody else, one more person, hope. And after all, that’s what this is all about. It’s not about personal gain, not about ego, not about power — it’s about giving those young people out there in the Altoona, Pennsylvanias, hope. You gotta give them hope.”

I’d never heard of Altoona, Pennsylvania before I saw a documentary about Harvey Milk. Is it coincidence that the young man who called Harvey Milk was from the same town that NOM got a mysterious call from as well? Or is NOM purposefully trying to troll LGBT equality organizers by throwing in a dog whistle from a very famous Harvey Milk quote? I’ve certainly got my suspicions.

Photo (c) Danny Nicoletta

Photo (c) Danny Nicoletta

 

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:

Screen Shot 2013-06-06 at 11.09.43 PM

“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:

Screen Shot 2013-06-06 at 11.10.35 PM

“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 Takes on HRC Viral Red Campaign

27 Mar

DSC_0493I’m not one to revel in the downfall of the anti-gay movement. LOL who am I kidding? It’s brilliant to see bigotry and discrimination going the way of the car phone.

After spending the past two days organizing and helping run the stage at the United for Marriage rallies at the Supreme Court, doing about a dozen radio interviews and holding my soon-to-be husband’s hand while Edie Windsor walked down the court steps, I’m tired.

Yesterday after the rally, Sean and I walked to the anti-gay rally and were surprised to find a remarkably tiny crowd and horrifically boring rally. The only fireworks were from a 15 year old gay activist being bullied by some adults in the crowd. I was able to take a few photos of the scant crowd before leaving (or being bored to tears). Thomas Peters of the National Organization for Marriage claimed 15,000 people attended the rally and NOM President Brian Brown claimed over 10,000. Of course, the pictures show otherwise and the Capitol Police count (you know – the people in charge of counting crowds) claimed between 1,500 and 2,000.

The stage at the anti-gay march

The stage at the anti-gay march

The view from the stage at the anti-gay march

The view from the stage at the anti-gay march

And then there’s science. You may have notice 1 or 2 or 1,000 of your Facebook friends have changed their profile photo to a red equal sign or some version of it. According to SpotCo’s media team:

7580_434351313319009_1554855818_nMarriage Equality ‘Red & Pink’ Logo Dominates Facebook 3/26/13-HRC’s Facebook timeline was visited by over 9 million people yesterday.

-The photo was shared over 77,000 times just from the organization’s Facebook page directly.

-Number of profile photo changes to HRC logo estimated in the over 1 million.

-Big Brands jump on board to support. (Madonna, Beyonce, Martha Stewart Bud Light, among others…).

-People from 26 other countries chimed in for support – Japan being at the top of the list.

-Photo remixes estimated over 3,000 just yesterday

And then tonight happened. After at least doubling the crowd of the anti-gay group marching on Tuesday, Thomas Peters, Spokesman for the anti-gay group National Organization for Marriage (and might I add, the worst Communications Director of all time) has launched his own little viral campaign.
Screen Shot 2013-03-27 at 10.33.33 PM
I can’t wait to see the stats.
In case you’re looking for a better version of their icon, please share this one:
image_1364436533901663

Is it Christian to be Anti-Gay?

15 Aug

Between Chick-fil-A and today’s shooting at the Family Research Council’s (FRC) offices, there’s been a lot of discussion about something called a “Hate Group.”

Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins

Groups such as FRC, the National Organization for Marriage, Focus on the Family, Public Advocate, American Family Association and many others frequently refer to themselves as “Pro-Family,” “Pro-Marriage” and sometimes “Christian” organizations. And when asked, the leaders of these groups will be the first to tell you they hold nothing against the gay community. It’s their actions though, that you need to take a look at. As I’d mentioned in some discussions last week, Richard Nixon can say “I’m not a crook” all he wants, that doesn’t mean he’s not one.

While these groups may do some excellent work with Christian charities, their primary focus is on fighting to have the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people denied. But over the years, they’ve been able to frame what it is they do with those “Pro-family” and “Christian” modifiers. It’s a frustrating fight for those of us seeking nothing more than equal treatment under the law, when these incorrectly-identified groups can lie by claiming they are being attacked by people who are “Anti-Christian” or “Anti-family.” Even today’s attack, though details are still not complete – it’s become clear that the suspect was angered over FRC’s anti-gay policies. If it was an organization that was simply hosting soup kitchens, running orphanages and caring for the poor, I can almost guarantee he wouldn’t be driven to opening fire in their offices.

That’s where the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) comes in. According to their website, “SPLC is dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Using litigation, education and other forms of advocacy, we work toward the day when the ideals of equal justice and equal opportunity will be a reality.” One of the ways they do this is by exhaustively researching the work of groups like the Ku Klux Klan, neo-nazis, racist skinheads,  black separatists and border vigilantes and identifying them as “hate groups.”

Identifying an anti-gay group as a “hate group” is based on their propagation of known falsehoods — claims about LGBT people that have been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities — and repeated, groundless name-calling. Viewing homosexuality as unbiblical does not qualify organizations for listing as hate groups. 

While identifying themselves as “pro-family” groups, they are actually fighting against more than 1 million American families with more than 2 million kids who are being raised by LGBT parents. Without marriage protections, some of these families are legal strangers to one another. Anti-gay adoption laws, which were lobbied for and won by these organizations keep kids from ever finding forever homes. And anti-gay marriage laws assure that these families will suffer from a crippling lack of legal protections. There is nothing “pro-family” or “Christian” about allowing families to be ripped apart or seeing children raised by a foster care system when there are thousands of loving couples ready to adopt.

In addition to the work of these groups in the U.S., some of them have been linked to anti-gay legislation in other countries. The Ugandan “Kill the Gays” bill would penalize acts of homosexuality with life imprisonment or in “aggravated” cases, gay people could be put to death. While the US Congress was preparing to pass a condemnation of the Ugandan legislation, FRC spent $25,000 on lobbyists to stop them from denouncing the law. They claim that they were only trying to change the language of the denouncement, but in prior lobbying documents from FRC, they’d indicated they were attempting “to amend” legislation, whereas the tax documents for this action contained no such itemization of amendments.

National Organization for Marriage’s        Brian Brown

These groups have painted themselves with bright colors to make people think they are fighting for tradition, for family, for morality and for freedom. But the truth of the matter is they don’t fight for anything. They are only fighting against LGBT people so that we can’t experience the same freedoms they do. How else can you explain the National Organization for Marriage, whose mission statement is “to protect marriage and the faith communities that sustain it,” attacking things like bathrooms for transgender people, gender identity in children, or children being taught that gay people even exist. They’ve even worked to falsely link gay people to pedophilia. None of those things have anything to do with “protecting marriage,” so why are they fighting them? Because they are not pro-anything, they are anti-gay.

Folks, none of this is about marriage and none of this is about “protecting” anything. These groups have spent years weaving a myth shrouded in flowery and false “pro-Christian” memes. Today’s attack on FRC is something that was perpetrated by a man who was clearly out of his mind. And just as these groups’ motivations have very little to do with marriage, I don’t beleive the shooter’s motivations did either.

Despite Family Research Council’s lobbying against the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, we believe that what happened today was a hate crime and should be investigated as such. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community understands all too well violence against people based on their political beliefs and personal lives.

And while nearly every group pro and anti-LGBT, took time today to condemn the shooting and call for sanity and non-violence in this debate, one group made the active decision to politicize the discussion. The National Organization for Marriage released statements and blog posts (long before anything was known about the shooter), to attack SPLC for identifying Family Research Council as a “hate group.” At a time when many people’s thoughts are with the victim of the shooting, NOM is once again spending their time on something other than marriage. If there was ever a question about their true motivations, that question has been answered.

These are the vocal organization who are out in the media every day claiming to represent Christians and Christian morality. If you are a Christian and know that what they are doing is decidedly against the things you’ve learned, it’s up to you to speak up. Tell them and tell your religious leaders that the bigotry being taught is not representative of you.

In closing, I wanted to share my own motivation in writing this. A comment from someone named Leslie McLafferty on my previous post about today’s shooting:

Guard Shot at Anti-Gay Hate Group DC Offices

15 Aug

Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins

Hours ago, according to news reports, someone walked into the offices of the Family Research Council in Washington DC and opened fire on a security guard. According to Fox News, “the suspect ‘made statements regarding their policies, and then opened fire with a gun striking a security guard.'”

Already, politicizing has begun with Tweets & Facebook posts from either side making vicious accusations. The bottom line however is that someone was shot and our thoughts are with him and his family as he recovers.

Whether or not the shooting suspect was a gay activist, we must remember that as much as our community is beaten and sometimes killed for who we love, we cannot respond to such atrocities with more hatred. As stated in a post earlier this week, “Be pissed, be hurt, but let your desire for change be stronger than your desire to scream at someone.”

While none of us can condone this kind of violence against another human being, it cannot be left unsaid that Family Research Council has been at the forefront of some of the most hateful anti-gay legislation and sentiment we’ve ever encountered. The following is Southern Poverty Law Center‘s (SPLC) rundown of some of Family Research Council’s history. In 2010, SPLC designated FRC as an anti-gay hate group for “propagation of known falsehoods — claims about [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] people that have been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities — and repeated.”

Started as a small think tank in 1983, the Family Research Council (FRC) merged in 1988 with the much larger religious-right group Focus on the Family in 1988, and brought on Gary Bauer, former U.S. undersecretary of education under Ronald Reagan, as president. In 1992, the two groups legally separated to protect Focus on the Family’s tax-exempt status, although Focus founder James Dobson and two other Focus officials were placed on the FRC’s newly independent board. By that time, FRC had become a powerful group on its own.

Headed since 2003 by former Louisiana State Rep. Tony Perkins, the FRC has been a font of anti-gay propaganda throughout its history. It relies on the work of Robert Knight, who also worked at Concerned Women for America but now is at Coral Ridge Ministries (see above for both), along with that of FRC senior research fellows Tim Dailey (hired in 1999) and Peter Sprigg (2001). Both Dailey and Sprigg have pushed false accusations linking gay men to pedophilia: Sprigg has written that most men who engage in same-sex child molestation “identify themselves as homosexual or bisexual,” and Dailey and Sprigg devoted an entire chapter of their 2004 book Getting It Straight to similar material. The men claimed that “homosexuals are overrepresented in child sex offenses” and similarly asserted that “homosexuals are attracted in inordinate numbers to boys.”

That’s the least of it. In a 1999 publication (Homosexual Activists Work to Normalize Sex With Boys) that has since disappeared from its website, the FRC claimed that “one of the primary goals of the homosexual rights movement is to abolish all age of consent laws and to eventually recognize pedophiles as the ‘prophets’ of a new sexual order,” according to unrefuted research by AMERICAblog. The same publication argued that “homosexual activists publicly disassociate themselves from pedophiles as part of a public relations strategy.” FRC offered no evidence for these remarkable assertions, and has never publicly retracted the allegations. (The American Psychological Association, among others, has concluded that “homosexual men are not more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexual men are.”)

In fact, in a Nov. 30, 2010, debate on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews” between Perkins and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mark Potok, Perkins defended FRC’s association of gay men with pedophilia, saying: “If you look at the American College of Pediatricians, they say the research is overwhelming that homosexuality poses a danger to children. So Mark is wrong. He needs to go back and do his own research.” In fact, the college, despite its hifalutin name, is a tiny, explicitly religious-right breakaway group from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the 60,000-member association of the profession. Publications of the American College of Pediatricians, which has some 200 members, have been roundly attacked by leading scientific authorities who say they are baseless and accuse the college of distorting and misrepresenting their work.

Elsewhere, according to AMERICAblog, Knight, while working at the FRC, claimed that “[t]here is a strong current of pedophilia in the homosexual subculture. … [T]hey want to promote a promiscuous society.” AMERICAblog also reported that then-FRC official Yvette Cantu, in an interview published on Americans for Truth About Homosexuality’s website, said, “If they [gays and lesbians] had children, what would happen when they were too busy having their sex parties?”

More recently, in March 2008, Sprigg, responding to a question about uniting gay partners during the immigration process, said: “I would much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them.” He later apologized, but then went on, last February, to tell MSNBC host Chris Matthews, “I think there would be a place for criminal sanctions on homosexual behavior.” “So we should outlaw gay behavior?” Matthews asked. “Yes,” Sprigg replied. At around the same time, Sprigg claimed that allowing gay people to serve openly in the military would lead to an increase in gay-on-straight sexual assaults.

Perkins has his own unusual history. In 1996, while managing the U.S. Senate campaign of Republican State Rep. Louis “Woody” Jenkins of Louisiana, Perkins paid $82,500 to use the mailing list of former Klan chieftain David Duke. The campaign was fined $3,000 (reduced from $82,500) after Perkins and Jenkins filed false disclosure forms in a bid to hide the link to Duke. Five years later, on May 17, 2001, Perkins gave a speech to the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a white supremacist group that has described black people as a “retrograde species of humanity.” Perkins claimed not to know the group’s ideology at the time, but it had been widely publicized in Louisiana and the nation. In 1999, after Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott was embroiled in a national scandal over his ties to the group, GOP chairman Jim Nicholson urged Republicans to quit the CCC because of its “racist views.” That statement and the nationally publicized Lott controversy came two years before Perkins’ 2001 speech.

What happens when a Broadway star supports Chick-fil-A?

9 Aug

Yesterday, I wrote about Broadway star and Chick-fil-A fan, Bailey Hanks as part of a broader discussion. Today, I feel as though it deserves it’s own post.

Bailey, who was cast to take over the starring role in Broadway’s Legally Blonde following a MTV reality contest, has been playing Elle Woods on the road for years now. While I’m sure she’s a talented young lady, I can’t help but wonder how the presumably dozens of gay people who work with her must feel about her support of an anti-gay corporation.

Yesterday upon finding out she had touted her support for Chick-fil-A on Facebook, I added an image to a piece I’d already been working on about the greater conversation regarding people’s reaction to the whole controversy. I also tweeted my disappointment to Bailey herself. Upon responding that she was a “Proud Christian” and not responding to my questions regarding her support for a company that gave millions to anti-gay hate groups, she quickly blocked her public twitter feed. Additionally, she quickly removed the image she’d posted on Facebook.

While everyone has the right to do and say what they please – it’s still a free country after all – it surprises me to see someone who spends every day surrounded by gay people, yet still believe they don’t deserve the same rights and protections  that she does. It reminds me of the drama surrounding Scott Eckern – the Artistic Director at the Sacramento Music Circus a few years back. Scott had contributed to the Yes on 8 campaign, supporting a California Amendment that would strip LGBT couples of their right to marry. 18,000 couples had already been married at that point and the hateful proposition halted those marriages from happening. I was heavily involved with communications with Scott at the time and Marc Shaiman (composer of Broadway’s Hairspray) and Susan Egan (Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast) also played a heavy part in leading the charge against someone who would make all their money because of gay people, but then work to have their rights taken away. In the interest of not damaging the reputation of his organization, Eckern resigned.

And while Bailey Hanks is hardly a household name, her opinion is one that is seen by lots of young gay people. What does it say to a young teen struggling with their identity when they see someone they look up to supporting something so hateful? What does it say to coworkers who are gay when they are working with someone who not only doesn’t believe in their rights to equal protections under the law, but posts it on her Facebook page?

Look, I don’t believe Bailey is a bigot. I think she’s terrifically uninformed and ignorant on the facts.

Bailey – if you’re listening, this is not about someone’s personal beliefs. This is about the fact that Chick-fil-A has given millions to anti-gay groups who are fighting to have gay people put to death in some countries. This is about the groups they support who are working to have homosexuality criminalized here in the U.S.. These are organizations who believe children are better off spending their whole lives in a foster care system instead of having two loving same-sex parents. They spread lies that gay people are child molesters (when every credible study has proven the opposite). They tell people that we are unable to be in committed relationships, that we are trying to harm the church or damaging heterosexual marriage and families. None of these things are true of course, but your words and your support of Chick-fil-A says to your friends, your co-workers and your young gay fans that you believe they are worth less than you. It says that you believe they shouldn’t be allowed to have families. I don’t think that’s what you feel. In my heart of hearts, without even really knowing you, I believe your experience tells you something different.

UPDATE***

It turns out Hanks isn’t completely alone. Broadway performer Wallace Smith (Godspell) also tweeted out his support for Chick-fil-A. While not quite the same ringing endorsement Hanks gave, it’s still troubling to see someone whose lifestyle and career is dependent on the work of LGBT people not coming out against such a bigoted corporation. It seems our out Broadway friends and allies need to step up the education in the community. Your chicken sandwich is not more valuable than the lives of gay people that are threatened in other countries.

UPDATE 2****

Following this same post being published at HuffingtonPost, Bailey started receiving some negative attention on her Twitter account. While some of it was most certainly uncalled for and rude, most people just wanted some kind of reply from her. Instead of replying, Bailey deleted her Twitter account. There may have been something she wrote during all that, but as she’d blocked me yesterday for asking questions, I can’t tell you what she may have written.

On her public Facebook fan page, some people had written very thoughtful replies and requests for an apology from Bailey. To my knowledge, she hasn’t offered any kind of apology and the only real response she has posted has been on her private Facebook page.

As I said above, I didn’t think she was a bigot and I truly believed she just needed some education on the matter. I don’t know that I think that’s true any longer. She has now had several opportunities to offer an apology and instead she has taken to her private Facebook to compare her plight to that of Jesus on the cross. I’m sorry, dear Bailey, but you are no martyr. You ate a chicken sandwich, some waffle fries and a brownie and then put a photo of your food on Twitter so all your gay friends and fans could see that you didn’t believe they deserved the same rights as you. That doesn’t make you a martyr, it makes you a bigot.

School Board Bans Book for Mentioning Gay Families Exist

4 Jun

Me, circa 1982.

I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts and I knew from a very young age that I was different from the other kids. My story starts off like many of yours. I read all the storybooks you read, saw all the Disney Princess movies you saw and I knew there was a reason I liked Bo & Luke so much more than Daisy.

When I was 10, I started performing in musicals and at 11, I was in a Longwood Opera production of Gianni Schicchi. At the cast party, a very tall slender African American man was talking to my mother. Another man came up next to him and was introduced as his “lover.” Of course I knew what they meant, but I’d never seen someone who was gay. Not in any book, or Disney movie or TV show. This was a first for me. It was the first time in my childhood I didn’t think there was something wrong with me.

In Erie, IL yesterday, the Erie School Board voted to ban Todd Parr’s “The Family Book” from it’s elementary school. The book tells young children that families are different. It speaks of large and small families, families with of different ethnicities, single-parent families, families with adopted children and then of course…the most terrifying of all “Some families have two moms or two dads.” It’s this single line which caused such a stir in Erie, Illinois, that the school board has taken the book off the shelves. Parents called and complained that children that young should not be taught this kind of material. It’s okay if it’s taught to older children, but not younger kids who are potentially picking on other kids because they have two moms or two dads.

It seems that due to the complaints of just 4 parents, the Erie School Board, led by School Board President Charlie Brown decided to ban the book.

Brown additionally took to Facebook to endorse putting “the Bible back in schools,” as seen here in the screenshot:


I spoke with Zach Wahls, the young man from Iowa who courageously defended his own lesbian parents and their family about this story and he responded:

“As the grown son of a lesbian couple who attended public K-12, this is both frustrating and frightening. For the board of a school district to say that my family structure is an ‘issue’ that shouldn’t be included ‘at the elementary school level’ not only fails to explain why that’s the case but also alienates the students in that district who do have two moms or dads. This is another startling reminder of the fact that not all bullies are just adolescent kids: some of them grow up to be school board presidents”

Erie School Board President Charles Brown

Additionally some educators from the elementary school where the book was banned made statements. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they feared they couldn’t do so publicly without risking their jobs.

“As an educator at the elementary, I am very disappointed that the GLSEN materials and Todd Parr books won’t be used again. They were excellent resources for the diversity unit and completely age appropriate. At no time was there anything mentioned that was inappropriate. The elementary level is the perfect time to teach acceptance and respect for everyone and all types of families. I am also very disappointed that these materials were taken away from everyone due to a small group of parents that opposed it. The best option would have been to leave the materials in place and those that wanted their children to opt out do so. By banning materials and books, we are not moving in the right direction. I am very saddened by the whole situation!”

Sean Leeds, a former student in the district, has started a petition at Change.org. In it, he requests that the school board reconsider their actions. Please tell School Board President Charles Brown that all families matter. As of now, more than 100 Erie parents have signed another petition asking for the reinstatement of both the book and other anti-bullying educational materials.