Archive | 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

 

Advertisements

The very public, very desperate crumbling of the anti-gay Right

4 Jul

One week ago, I sat in front of the Supreme Court of the United States among hundred of others anxiously awaiting their decisions on marriage equality.

Interviewing the first openly gay person of color in Congress, Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA)

Interviewing the first openly gay person of color in Congress, Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) photo by Sarah Baker

It’s strange, because there in the sun, just a few hundred feet from where the decisions were being read, we actually found out quite a bit later than many of you at home reading SCOTUSblog. Phone service was sparse and in the bright, direct sunlight, I couldn’t see a thing on my screen. Not to mention, I was busy hosting streaming coverage and interviews for WeActRadio. While talking with Congressman Mark Takano (D-CA), the decision striking down Section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) came out.

I wanted to scream and hug the Congress member, but we didn’t quite have that kind of relationship yet. I continued covering the day’s events and followed up with several other interviews on radio stations around the country and finished up the day on SiriusXM Radio with my husband and another friend and her wife…and a bottle of champagne. What a day!

My husband, Sean and I standing with Brendon Ayanbadejo outside the Supreme Court in March

My husband, Sean and I standing with Brendon Ayanbadejo outside the Supreme Court in March

My husband Sean and I had helped to organize rallies that happened outside the Supreme Court back in March while the DOMA and Prop 8 arguments were being heard. So much of our time was spent considering what “the other side” would be planning while we rallied. Partly we wanted to know so that we could respond courteously and effectively to the things they said. But the other reason we wanted to be prepared for them was so we could protect the families we knew would be standing with us, from the hateful, toxic things the anti-gay right seems to spew when they’re angry. Our kids don’t need to hear that.

scotus-doma-010-f798ca1619d583e30e8b5dbb6ae7d58015612382-s6-c30

Last week at the Supreme Court

Last week in front of the court was different though. Despite hate groups like the National Organization for Marriage and Family Research Council calling for “days of prayer” and for their followers to stand with them that morning on the steps of the court, no one came. I could count on one hand the number of people standing their with anti-gay signs. The rest was a sea of rainbows and love. Maybe despite their screams to the press that they would win, they knew what was coming, what was inevitable.

What followed that amazing day when my husband and I woke up without equality and went to bed with 1,100 more rights, was truly dumbfounding.

The National Organization immediately began attacking the court for making an “Illegitimate” decision. In their first email/blog post, they asked for money and linked to their fundraising page 8 TIMES. As a person who works in digital media for a living, I can tell you with some certainty that 3-4 times is excessive when asking for money in one email, but 8?!? Not even street canvassers will bother you that many times.

NOM President Brian Brown’s initial response to the court’s decision was scathing:

“There is a stench coming from this case that has now stained the Supreme Court. They’ve allowed corrupt politicians and judges to betray the voters, rewarding them for their betrayal. It’s an illegitimate decision. We and millions of other Americans will refuse to accept this rogue decision rewarding corruption. “

NOM President Brian Brown

NOM President Brian Brown

Then came the emails. The angry, angry emails. NOM’s emails accused California lawmakers of participating in “lawlessness” when they began issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples (which was now legal following Prop 8 being struck down). Another email was filled with vitriol and borderline racist comments about CA Attorney General Kamala Harris. In this message, they refer to Harris’ “arrogance,” a term usually reserved for those we think don’t deserve a place in leadership. Additionally, they use the email to twist and misquote remarks made by the President about Harris a few months ago.

They followed with a tweet that said “Polygamists are actually celebrating the Supreme Court’s decisions this week as a personal victory for them” and linked to a blog post which of course, said nothing of the sort.

In other posts, they continued their usual outdated theme claiming that marriage equality is bad for children somehow. Yet they continue to ignore the fact that their argument completely discounts the millions of kids being raised by LGBT parents.

NOM wrapped up the week with a patriotic 4th of July email claiming that a person cannot be gay or a supporter of equality for gay people and an American at the same time.

ImageProxy.mvc

Graphic from NOM’s most recent email

The anti-gay Right is disintegrating before our eyes and the desperation with which they are clinging onto life has never been more apparent. They will never be gone forever, though. Just as we’ve seen with groups that fought integration and some in the South who are still fighting the Civil War, they’re never gone for good.

Happily though, with support for marriage equality in this country hitting all time highs and a Gallup poll following last week’s rulings finding support at 55% for and 40% against legalizing same-sex marriages, these hate groups will continue to lose funding and support.

The fight is far from over, and as NOM is only too quick to recognize, there are still 37 states which do not recognize marriage equality. I think this number will drop quickly, but not without our work.

What if your parents were gay?

25 Oct
Our conversations that have been pushing our movement forward so expediently most frequently revolve around rights and protections for ourselves. The conversation is most always focuses on why we can’t get married, violence against us or own rejection from our families, friends and society. It’s time for the conversation to change.

The Family Equality Council and Center for American Progress released a new MAP (Movement Advancement Project) study today which is the first comprehensive and thorough study of LGBT-headed families in the United States. Their findings not only change the conversation, but they blow apart the last walls of defense for those who continue to propagate bigotry and hatred.

The most devastating conclusion found in the report, which needs to be shared around this country – is that the discriminatory laws of this country are actually harming children. Here is a sampling of some of the staggering statistics:

  • There are up to 2 million children in this country being raised by LGBT parents.
  • Across 18 years, sams-sex parents will have an added $219,262 financial burden which heterosexual parents will not have.
  • Children of binational parents live in fear that one of their parents may be deported.
  • Children of LGBT parents may be denied health insurance if a parent’s employer requires documentation of legal adoption in a state which does not allow same-sex parent adoption.
  • LGBT parents may not be able to take time off work to care for a sick child or spouse under the Family Medical Leave Act.
  • LGBT families are more than twice as likely to live in poverty.
  • 18 states treat LGBT partners and non-adoptive parents and their children as legal strangers. This means if a parent has to take a child to the hospital, they have no right to make medical decisions.
  • Children of LGBT parents are denied financial protections should a parent die or become disabled.

These and many other findings in this groundbreaking report have the capacity to become game-changers. With a half-million children in this country living in foster care and 30 years of competent research stating that children of same-sex parents are just as happy, healthy and well adjusted as those from heterosexual parents, the laws need to change.

Those who so frequently claim that they are “fighting to protect children” as their primary defense of heterosexual-only marriage, can no longer claim that. We now have the facts to support the opposite. This is no longer about us working for our equality. This is about our children who face devastating inequality through no action of their own.

The Family Equality Council has put together a comprehensive website which includes not only the findings of the report, but the next action steps we can take to be certain this report is getting the attention it needs.

On the site, there is a place for LGBT families to “Tell Your Story.” I highly recommend that if you or someone you know is an LGBT family, that you take advantage of this. It is through stories like these, that we will best see these gross inequalities represented. Nothing is going to change if no one knows something is wrong.

Please enjoy the photos below from this morning’s panel on LGBT families and please share the following video wherever you can:

Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler

Jeff Krehely, Center for American Progress

Jonathan Capehart

Bryan Samuels

Jennifer Chrisler, Family Equality Council

The panel on LGBT Families

Jonathan Capehart

Jennifer Chrisler, Family Equality Council

Bryan Samuels

Jennifer Chrisler, Family Equality Council

Ineke Mushovic, Movement Advancement Project (MAP)

Ineke Mushovic, Movement Advancement Project (MAP)

Jeff Krehely, Center for American Progress

Aisha Moodie-Mills, Center for American Progress, Jennifer Chrisler, Family Equality Council

Reverend Dennis Wiley

Jeff Friedman, Andrew Zwerin and their son Josh with Pulitzer Prize-winner Jonathan Capehart

GOP Triples Funding for Anti-Gay DOMA Defense

4 Oct

House Speaker John Boehner

While we don’t generally discuss how the government spends our money here at Talk About Equality, this seems a bit pertinent.

While the country continues along the road to further debt crisis, and while thousands are occupying Wall Street to demand changes to how big corporations do business, the Republicans have tripled the amount the government is spending to keep gay and lesbian couples apart.

DOMA has lost in federal court cases no fewer than 14 times, while the Department of Justice has spent millions in legal fees trying to fight to keep it. Earlier this year, after yet another blow to the constitutionality of the statute, Obama’s Department of Justice has decided to stop defending it. Within moments, John Boehner and House Republicans decided to take up the mantle of defending traditional marriage from the horrors of gays and lesbians being afforded the same rights as heterosexuals.

As there are dozens of court challenges to DOMA in the works, the cost of defending it isn’t cheap. California Republican Rep. Dan Lungren signed off on a change order to the contract with outside counsel Paul Clement, who is handling the defense of the anti-gay 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). It allows Clement’s fees to triple to $1.5 million.

John Boehner and other House Republicans decided that after Obama refused to continueHouse Republicans, if you recall, decided that since the Justice Department and President Obama refused earlier this year to defend DOMA (calling the statute unconstitutional), Republicans would hire outside counsel to do so. The proliferation of court cases ensured this outsourced defense would get expensive. DOMA is expected to arrive at the Supreme Court within a couple of years. With same-sex marriage now legal in six states and the District of Columbia, DOMA conflicts are blossoming in areas of tax law, immigration law, Social Security and the like.

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, has urged the Department of Homeland Security to take same-sex families into consideration in deportation cases. Her constituents,Bradford Wells and Anthony John Makk are in Washington today, beginning a round of visits with congressional offices to highlight their case. They are married, gay and bi-national: Makk is a citizen of Australia who has been denied spousal immigration rights.

Pelosi today issued this statement on the GOP contract:

“It is absolutely unconscionable that Speaker Boehner is tripling the cost for his legal boondoggle to defend the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act. At a time when Americans are hurting and job creation should be the top priority, it just shows how out of touch House Republicans have become that they would spend up to $1.5 million dollars to defend discrimination in our country.”

 

Texas Teacher Harassed by “Christian” Student Claiming 1st Amendment Rights

28 Sep

Dakota Ary

Some of you may have heard about Dakota Ary, the Fort Worth high school student who claims he was suspended for expressing his religious beliefs. Ary claimed that his German teacher broached the topic of homosexuality and Christianity when Ary stated “I am a Christian and I believe that homosexuality is wrong.” Ary was then sent from the classroom and suspended for 3 days.

Up until today, the teacher in question had not been allowed to speak about the incident, but via the group LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S., a rather different story is being told. According to teacher Kristopher Franks, a group of four students, (of which Ary is one) has been harassing him based on their suspicion that he is gay. Franks’ version of the story follows:

On the particular day in which this incident occurred, Mr. Franks was opening class when the topic of Christianity in Germany was broached by one student, who asked what churches were there, another whether they read the Bible in English, etc. Franks asserts that the topic of homosexuality was not broached in any way, and that Ary‘s assertions to the contrary are entirely false. At this point, Ary declared, with a class audience, “Gays can’t be Christians; homosexuality is wrong,” looking directly at Mr. Franks. Franks says he understands and affirms students’ right to free speech, and that he is perfectly prepared to lead a respectful discussion on topics such as gay rights that allows for the assertion of opinions with which he disagrees. He has led such discussion in the past in his sociology classes. But in this case, hr feels the context makes it clear that this remark was made ad hominem, aimed specifically at him to devalue him and any information he might share on the topic of religion, on the basis of his perceived sexual orientation.

LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S. goes on to request assistance in making sure Franks’ side of the story is heard fully. The contact info will be at the end of this post. One can’t help but consider the case of another student who took it upon himself to spread his beliefs about homosexuality while still young, impressionable and naive. We’ve written about Ryan Miner here before and his crusade to keep a Gay Straight Alliance group from forming on his former college campus. Miner  said some rather vile things in the press and like former Senator Rick Santorum, he now finds himself with a Google problem.

When Miner has applied for jobs, he’s admittedly found a great deal of difficulty in getting hired due to his previous bigoted statements. In this day and age, let’s face it – unless you’re working at the National Organization for Marriage, you will have to work with some LGBT people – and who wants to hire someone who is a known bigot and will likely cause friction among their coworkers? Miner has recently issued an apology for the things he said, though in an effort to discover Miner’s earnestness, we requested he do more (i.e. volunteer for an LGBT charity, donate to LGBT causes, etc). Our requests for Miner to back-up his new found “respect” for the LGBT community have gone unanswered.

Please read the rest of the post from LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S and help in any way you can.

It would be very helpful, and a grace rendered to the threatened teacher, Mr. Franks, if you and other community members would write letters and/or email messages to the school board members, assistant superintendent, and Western Hills High School principal, calling on them to give a respectful, caring, and full hearing to Mr. Franks’ side of the story. Time is of the essence: He is being interrogated by an external investigations group today, though no specific allegations have yet been made against him by the ISD. I will post their names, phone numbers and email addresses below. Please keep all messages respectful and restrained, calling simply for a fair, respectful and caring hearing of Mr. Franks’ side of the story, unswayed by the public outcry generated by the slanted media coverage. Do not go into the speculations or reports of his side of the case; that is for him to present.

Walter Dansby
Interim Superintendent
Fort Worth ISD
Email: walter.dansby@fwisd.org
Phone: 817.871.2000

James Wellman
Principal
Western Hills High School
Fort Worth ISD
Email: james.wellman@fwisd.org
Phone: 817.815.6000

Ray Dickerson
President
Board of Education
Fort Worth ISD
Email: ray.Dickerson@fwisd.org

Carlos Vasquez
Board Member, District 1
Board of Education
Fort Worth ISD
Email: carlos.vasquez@fwisd.org

Norman Robbins
Board Member, District 7
Board of Education
Fort Worth ISD
Email: norman.robbins@fwisd.org

Alabama Teen Censored for Supporting Gays

31 Aug

More bravery from a teenager standing up for equality! 15-year old Sara Couvillon, a student at Hoover High School in Alabama, has been told she can’t wear a t-shirt she happens to like.

The t-shirt, which states in big letters – “gay? fine by me” – is a shirt that Sara wore to school last year without any issue. This year however, her school administrators told her that the shirt causes them “concern for her safety” according to the Birmingham News.

The civil rights group, The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has sent a letter to the school demanding that they stop censoring students by September 12th or a suit will be filed against them.

Well done, Sara and thank you to SPLC for supporting a child who knows better than the adults surrounding her.

NJ Bridal Shop Denies Lesbian Bride Over ‘Illegal’ Wedding

18 Aug

Alix Genter is getting married next July. She lives in New Jersey and is going to get a civil union there, followed by a wedding in New York City (where marriage equality is now a reality).

Alix spoke to the Philadelphia Daily News all about her impending nuptials as she completed her PhD in history.

Last Saturday, Alix’s whole family joined her as she tried on her wedding dress at a store called “Here Comes the Bride” in Somers’ Point, NJ. Her mom and dad, her aunt, her cousin and two friends were there to cheer her on during this incredible time in her life by watching her don the dress and veil she thought she may never get to wear.

She tried on several gowns and finally found the one she loved – which if you’ve ever watched “Say Yes to the Dress” you’d know how trying a chore this can be. She asked Donna, the store manager if the designer might make the gown with a more lightweight fabric for her wedding next summer, and Donna agreed to look into it. It seemed to be a very happy smiling endeavor for all involved.

So naturally, Alix was floored to receive a call from Donna a few days later saying she would not be getting that dress. On the customer information sheet, Alix had crossed out the word “groom,” written in “partner” and put down her fiancee’s name. That didn’t sit well with Donna, who called Alix and told her she would not work with her because she is gay. She told her “There’s right. There’s wrong. And this is wrong.”

Donna went on in the voicemail to say that what Alix was doing was “illegal” and that the store would “not participate in any illegal actions.” The author of the article, Ronnie Polaneczky, called Donna back and they had quite the conversation.

“When I called Donna yesterday to get her side of the story, she both confirmed your version of events and accused you of “stirring up drama.” She said that your writing the word “partner” was basically a provocation, evidence of a need “to show that she’s different.”

“They get that way,” she told me.

By “they,” she meant women who were fed up with men because “men can be difficult,” and so now they “experiment” with female relationships because they’re tired of having men boss them around.

“She told me about a friend whose wife left him for another woman. And about a young family member who was molested by a same-sex adult male. And about a gay man who once plunged a knife into a chair in the restaurant where she worked. And – she finally lost me here – something about the Navy SEALs.”

According to New Jersey’s State Judiciary website, it is illegal to refuse service to someone based on their sexual orientation in that state. We’d like to refer Alix (and anyone else who has experienced discrimination there) to visit http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/factsheets/fact_sexordis.pdf. Please read the passage below on places of public accomodation:

“Examples of places of public accommodation in which sexual orientation discrimination is not allowed include places generally open to the public where goods and services are provided. This includes restaurants, movie theaters, stores, camps, organizations, schools, professional offices (such as doctors and lawyers), and other facilities.”

Please check out the shop’s Yelp review page and feel free to let them know how you feel about discrimination. And make sure you read the original poignant article here.