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What if this whole thing wasn’t about Chick-fil-A at all?

8 Aug

Over the years, corporations have at times been vocal about social issues. It takes courage to take a stand that is sometimes unpopular, but once in a while, a company takes that brave first step.

But a couple weeks ago, something shifted. Something happened that caused all anti-gay hell to break loose. Chick-fil-A‘s CEO came out against marriage equality. For years now, individuals and companies have expressed their opinions and those of us in the equality movement have tried to make it known. JCPenney was boycotted by anti-gay groups when they hired Ellen Degeneres as a spokesperson and published a catalog featuring a photo of lesbian moms and their kids. A few people noticed, but it didn’t become a national debate. A list of California’s anti-gay Proposition 8 supporters came out. Some people got hysterical and started small boycotts of some companies, but again – it didn’t really wind up on the news.

Then CFA’s CEO Dan Cathy spoke up and told the Baptist Press that the company was “guilty as charged” for backing “the biblical definition of a family.” In a later radio interview, he ratcheted up the rhetoric: “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.'” And everyone heard it.

I’ve now waded through tens of thousands of comments on Facebook, talked to dozens of people in real life and one thing has become clear. For some reason, something happened that made people stand up and take notice.

For many people in our community, we have those in our lives who we know might not be the most supportive of equality. For years we’ve gently nudged them and some have even taken great strides. And then there are some who have just remained quiet while we’ve posted things on Facebook about different stories of discrimination – some violent and horrific. But for some reason, this Chick-fil-A thing happens and EVERYONE has an opinion – and not a small-voiced one either.

I made a meme that wound up on George Takei’s Facebook wall. It didn’t mention CFA directly but featured The Muppets’ Kermit and Miss Piggy getting married. The text read: Thank you Jim Henson’s Muppets, Standing Up for Non-Traditional Marriage since 1984. The meme was shared 38,000 times, liked 121,000 times and had more than 3,000 comments.

I’ve found most are from people who are misinformed. Most who stand with Chick-fil-A think this is an issue of “free speech” trying to be squashed. Clearly they don’t have an understanding that free speech happens in both directions. Anyone can say whatever the hell they want. And when they say that thing, they have to be willing to face the consequences. And then the other side has free speech as well – to do things like arrange boycotts if you like, or educate the public.

Many think people are just upset because Dan Cathy expressed his opinion on something and some didn’t like that opinion. Some of us have been working to get the message out there that this is not at all about his opinion on marriage equality, it’s about the millions of CFA dollars he’s spent on anti-gay hate groups. As outlined in an earlier post, he’s given over $5 million to groups that (among many other things) try to cure gay people and fight to have gay people put to death in Uganda.

But back to my original question. What is it about this particular moment in history and this particular story that has caused the masses to speak out?

I was talking to a friend earlier who is not terribly active in the LGBT community. He’s gay and married, but doesn’t frequently post things even slightly political on Facebook. He’s shocked at how many friends he’s seen with bigoted opinions. Some who even came to his wedding. I too have seen many comments on things whose opinion I never knew until now.

Even people like Broadway reality performer Bailey Hanks has taken a side. Normally you would think that someone who spends most of their time surrounded by gay people onstage, offstage, in the audience and more than likely cutting her paychecks, would be supportive. But Bailey posted an image to her personal Facebook page clearly coming out in favor of the bigoted fast food chain.

So what is it? Is this really about Chick-fil-A or did we hit a tipping point where those who’ve secretly hated gay people for years feel like their chicken sandwich is worth more than the lives of their gay friends?

UPDATE******

Just a little update on the status of Bailey Hanks. Shortly after we tweeted the story to her, she replied that she is a “Proud Christian.” I replied and when I looked for a response, I discovered she’d blocked her account. Bailey, if you’re reading this, we just want to know if you believe it is “Christian” for Chick-fil-A to support anti-gay hate groups and if you believe your co-workers deserve the same rights as you do. It’s all we want to know.

Upon a little further research, Bailey also tweeted her love of the anti-gay fast food chain on Chick-fil-A Appreciation day! I guess it wasn’t just about her “dear friend” who works at CFA.

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Christian College Freshman Harassed By Students and Professors

9 May

Isaia Thomas (photo by John C. Whitehead for The Patriot News)

Openly gay freshman Isaiah Thomas has discovered Messiah College in Grantham, PA is not quite a good fit. According to PennLive, The student has been through hell at the Christian College – from having his wallet, room key and student ID stolen just a month after school started to having a professor call him “an abomination” in class to receiving a death threat on his facebook page. Isaiah has decided to transfer at the end of the semester.

The Christian College requires all students to sign a “Community Covenant” which forbids homosexual behavior, according to school provost Randy Bassinger. he also claimed the school had a very strict harassment policy and has investigated the claims from Isaiah, but they refuse to release the results of any of those findings.

What we find most interesting about Isaiah though is not that he was harassed and is leaving, but he actively worked to change the school’s policies. He is the secretary of the multicultural council, a member of the black student union and by invitation, vice president of the Middle Eastern Student Association. And when Isaiah learned about the Covenant, he actively worked for more inclusion, but each teacher he spoke to defended the covenant.

Back in March, we reported that another Christian school, Harding University was under fire from LGBT bloggers and press after they blocked an HU gay student website from being accessed from on-campus. The University defended it’s bigotry and it’s censorship of several students continues.

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.

New Hate Group Needs a Lesson in Symbolism

24 Mar

So there’s a new hate group out there (apparently the ones we have weren’t doing enough). It’s called The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family & Property (ASDTFP). Although their website says they’ve been around since 1971, they haven’t done much to gain any notoriety until 2006,when they launched some protests of the Dan Brown novel, The DaVinci Code.

The ASDTFP has been slowly gaining some notoriety and they are making sure you know exactly who they are. While the Westboro Baptist Church is now synonymous with their “God Hates Fags” signs, The ASDTFP has taken to wearing all black with a large red sash and – putting the good ole KKK to shame when it comes to fashion and vibrancy.

But what is most interesting to this 2nd-generation Scottish-American gay man, is their use of the Scottish lion as their emblem. The Scottish lion, also known as the Lion Rampant- is the royal symbol of Scotland, can be found on the Royal Standard of Scotland or Scottish Royal Flag and has been a symbol of strength for the Scottish people for nearly 1000 years. While the flag was in use beginning as early as 1222, the most famous Scottish King the flag represented, and the first Scottish King to take the British thrown was James the IV and I.

King James IV and I

While King James was known for a lot of things, most notably for printing the most commonly-used edition of the Bible, he is also commonly thought of as being the first gay king of England. From a young age, James was enamored with his second cousin, Esme Stuart d’Aubigny and reportedly a long romance ensued. This was followed by the King’s romantic relationship with young Robert Carr shortly after James was crowned King of England. During a festival, Carr fell off his horse and broke his leg. Famously, James came running to his side, carried him to safety and personally saw to it that Carr had the best medical attention. Their affair continued off and on for years and both Carr and James had other romances with men as well.

As for present-day Scotland, well – it has a much better record of LGBT protections than say, America. They decriminalized homosexuality in 1981. The U.S. did it in 2003. In 2009, the national law stated that gay couples could adopt children. We still have no federal protection for that in the US. Gays and lesbians have been legally allowed to serve openly in the military since 2000, and while Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has been repealed, it has still not been implemented. Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity are protected classes in Scotland, we are still awaiting that in the U.S. Additionally, though ASDTFP espouses to spread Catholicism through their actions (called “Crusades” on their website), I find it interesting that less than 16% of Scotland’s people self-identify as Roman Catholic.

So in conclusion, though ASDTFP may think they are using a strong symbol of what they believe to be anti-gay, pro-heterosexual “values,” the truth of the matter is they are carrying around a symbol which represents a socially-advanced country that represents all its citizens.

Scotland and it’s children would be ashamed to see the Lion Rampant being carried as a banner to discriminate and hate others. Might we recommend another flag to co-opt for your cause? Both the animal symbol and the country itself have a bit more in common with the bigotry you’re pushing.

The Flag of Uganda