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US Gov’t Rips Man Away From AIDS-afflicted Spouse

9 Aug

Bradford Wells and his husband Anthony John Makk (photo by Noah Berger, Special to the SF Chronicle)

After some legal wins in the cases of bi-national gay and lesbian couples, this devastating story comes out of San Francisco.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports on Bradford Wells, a U.S. citizen, and Anthony John Makk, a citizen of Australia. The two were legally married in Massachusetts seven years ago and have lived together 19 years, primarily in San Fran’s Castro District.

On July 26th, the Obama administration made the decision to rip the couple apart and send Makk out of the country, citing the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act. Makk must leave the country by August 25th.

What makes this story even more heartbreaking and cruel is that Wells is suffering from AIDS and his husband is his primary caregiver. Wells told the SF Chronicle:

“I’m married just like any other married person in this country,” Wells said. “At this point, the government can come in and take my husband and deport him. It’s infuriating. It’s upsetting. I have no power, no right to keep my husband in this country. I love this country, I live here, I pay taxes and I have no right to share my home with the person I married.”

As we reported here at the end of June, the deportation case of Henry Valendia was dismissed following a series of questions asked by Attorney General Holder regarding another deportation case. Those questions were the reason Holder vacated an earlier decision to separate a family by deportation.

Unfortunately, the judge in the case of the Wells-Makk family did not see the Obama administration’s decision to no longer defend DOMA as reason enough to stop this injustice. Please read the entire heartbreaking story at the San Francisco Chronicle.

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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.

LGBT Immigrants Abused in US Custody

13 Apr

13 complaints were filed today alleging human rights abuses against LGBT immigrants in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers. The Heartland Alliance National Immigrant Justice Center is asking the Department of Homeland Security to investigate the treatment of LGBT people in DHS custody, craft policies to address violations and oversee implementation.

Some of the people being held are legal residents who were previously convicted of a crime – in some cases, just a misdemeanor. Some are felons who are transferred to ICE custody after longer prison sentences. Others may be undocumented aliens or people who have overstayed their visas. Regardless, all are held based on civil and not criminal offenses.

The alleged abuses against LGBT individuals include denial of medical care, discrimination and sexual assault. Steve, a gay Peruvian asylum seeker was held in solitary confinement for six weeks “on the sole basis that he is HIV-positive” according to the report. “Officers frequently prohibited Steve from leaving his cell to get his HIV medication. Steve was traumatized when he sought medical treatment and an officer refused to remove the shackles from his feet, waist, and hands despite pleas from his doctor.”

The report goes on to describe sexual assaults by fellow inmates followed by repeated denials for transfer from the victim as well as a transgender inmate being denied her hormone treatment, despite her use of hormones for ten years prior to detainment.

Heartland Alliance has set up a letter campaign to President Obama and DHS. Please take action by signing the letter and tell the President that LGBT immigrants cannot be treated like this in our country.

Two Dads, Two Boys and a Horse

24 Jan

A beautiful and sad story in this weekend’s New York Times.

Tim Mannion, Maurice and Rocky (Photo from Barista Kids)

When two gay men, Timothy Mannion and Timothy Vanover decided they wanted to adopt a child with specifically-difficult physical needs, they never realized they’d end up with a miracle.

Maurice Mannion-Vanover was born to a crack-addicted mother in Washington on September 11, 1990. The issues surrounding the birth of he and his twin sister meant she would only live 20 months. Maurice was born with AIDS and when “The Tims” as they came to be known, took Maurice home, they were told he wouldn’t live longer than 6 months. “We’d cry at night thinking we were going to lose him” Vanover said. But as Maurice grew older, his health improved greatly, He began to gain weight and thrive. He also wound up with a brother. Kindoo was adopted by the Tims in 1997, a year after Maurice’s adoption became official.

The family moved to New Jersey after Tim Vanover got a job in New York. They lived in the busy suburb of Montclair, NJ so what happened next was a bit of an improbability. You see, as a young man, Tim Vanover rode horses back in Goshen, Indiana and their son seemed to pick up the same fascination as his Dad. When lessons became too expensive for Maurice’s fathers, they surprised him with a horse of his own one Christmas. In 2002, Rocky became a part of Maurice’s life.

Everyone in the neighborhood noticed how fast Maurice and Rocky became friends. The children of the town would constantly be at the fence to visit Rocky, who was hard-to-miss, this being quite literally a one-horse town. The two were “like one” as Tim Vanover said. After Rocky came into Maurice’s life, his studies improved and his health was excellent. There were ups and downs of course, like when the Tims separated in 2003 (but remained living in the same house so as to raise the children together) and Maurice’s health wasn’t always perfect, but a change definitely occurred for the better with Rocky around.

Then in December, after receiving his black belt in karate, Maurice went to visit Toronto to see his beloved dog, Hunter. Then on December 29th, just before he was going to head back home to New Jersey, Maurice came down with a mysterious fever and was rushed to the hospital. After a few days there, he told Tim Mannion “Daddy, it’s time, the clock is ticking.” Within a few moments, Maurice was gone.

Later that same night, Maurice’s dog, Hunter wandered into the parlor hall alone and quietly passed away.

On Saturday, Maurice was laid to rest. On-foot, walking ahead of the hearse were Maurice’s Dads, Tim Mannion and Tim Vanover, his brother Kindoo, and Rocky. While standing there, Rocky used his head to pull Vanover’s head close to him as if sharing in the grief.

Tim Mannion, Tim Vanover, Rocky and Kindoo Mannion-Vanover (photo by Marcus Yam, NY Times)

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to: The Lake Logan Episcopal Center, 154 Suncrest Mill Road, Canton, N.C. 28716, or to The Shepard Schools, 10 Columba St., Morristown, N.J. 07960. Please indicate that your donation is for the Maurice Mannion-Vanover Scholarship Fund.

An additional tribute can be read at Barista Kids.

h/t: Kappy Griffith

A Gay and Lesbian Museum: There’s A Space For US

12 Jan

After a decade of searching, the Gay and Lesbian Historical Society has found a San Francisco location for the first ever LGBT History Museum in the United States. The Museum opening marks the 25th Anniversary of the Society and will feature two opening exhibits: Our Vast Queer Past: Celebrating GLBT History,” curated by historians Gerard Koskovich, Don Romesburg and Amy Sueyoshi; and in the front gallery, “Great Collections of the GLBT Historical Society Archives.”

We have written several times about the importance of history and about preserving and reflecting on our past. The opening of this museum is an important moment in our movement.  If we don’t do the hard work of educating younger generations on past struggles, victories, and personal stories, we allow someone else to revise our history.  We have our own stories to tell, remember, and cherish:

“Telling our stories transforms our lives and our society and takes us out of the margins,” said Don Romesburg, a curator and assistant professor of Sonoma State University‘s Department of Women’s and Gender Studies. “The museum is at the heart of that project.”

This is a great step for our community.

Miss America Goes Gay(er)

5 Jan

There are some (perhaps stereotypical) things which I feel would perhaps be nowhere without the support and/or participation of the LGBT Community. Among them are:

Musicals – I challenge you to put up a production of The Sound of Music with no Max, no Rolf, no Captain Von Trapp and no stage manager.

Figure Skating – WWBBD? (What Would Brian Boitano Do?)

Fashion – Project Runway is not all that far from Ru Paul’s Drag Race, let’s be honest.

And of course…

The Miss America Pageant. We make the gowns, teach the contestants how to walk, design the sets, choreograph the opening numbers and in some cases, they even let us judge (so long as we promise to play nice *cough* Perez Hilton *cough*). Sometimes we’re even mentioned ONstage.

Kate Shindle being crowned Miss America 1998

Back in 1998, the AIDS crisis took center stage at the pageant when outspoken equality advocate, Kate Shindle took home the crown. She took a chance in speaking up for those living with and dying from HIV/AIDS, and happily it has not been a cause she has ever  let go of. From 2003-2007, I was happy to found and produce the World AIDS Day Concerts in New York City with her and her passion for this cause is unlike any I’ve seen. Since then, Kate has been seen all over Broadway and is currently starring in Wonderland – a new Broadway musical based on Alice in Wonderland.

Now, in 2011, there’s a new crown-hopeful who is making waves. Miss New York, our very own Claire Buffie has chosen as her platform, LGBT Equality. This is the first time in 90 years that a contestant is standing up for the equal rights of a community that has helped make the Miss America Pageant what it is today.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet Claire on a few occasions

Miss New York 2010, Claire Buffie (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, TalkAboutEquality.com)

and am happy to report that she is not only stunningly beautiful (as is expected), but she is well-spoken, articulate and has the same passion for equality, that our friend Kate Shindle continues to have for those living with HIV/AIDS. She marched in the NYC Pride March this June and walked over the Brooklyn Bridge as part of Marriage Equality New York’s Wedding March this past fall. And at any event she attends, she can almost always be seen having one-on-one discussions with LGBT people, young and old about their experiences.

We frequently talk about the need for advocacy outside the LGBT Community. And here we have a marvelous representation being given a nationwide television platform on Saturday, January 15th. As we know, the Miss America contest is going to be seen in televisions all across the country and I for one am very proud that New York is being represented by someone who can speak so eloquently about who we are.

Good luck, Claire! No matter what happens next week, we got your back girl. Come to think of it – who BETTER to have on your side at a Miss America Pageant? We promise not to go all “Drop Dead Gorgeous” on anyone, but our brothers and sisters backstage will certainly be there with some extra spray glue and glitter should you need it.

Taylor Proffitt, Claire Buffie and Ronnie Kroell (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, TalkAboutEquality.com)

Transformer Gallery: Not Tonight, Boehner

4 Dec

The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC is currently presenting a groundbreaking LGBT arts exhibit, Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture.  The Gallery describes the exhibit as “the first major exhibition to examine the influence of gay and lesbian artists in creating modern American portraiture.” As we’ve written, right-wing critics have attacked the exhibit and manufactured a controversy over a video installation by David Wojnarowicz (who died from AIDS-related illness in 1992). The video, created in 1987, is titled “A Fire in My Belly,” made in honor of Peter Hujar, an artist-colleague and lover of Wojnarowicz who had died of AIDS complications in 1987.

After Rep. John Boehner, Rep. Eric Cantor, Glenn Beck, and William Donohue misrepresented the work and whipped up a smear campaign against the installation, the Smithsonian backed off and removed the video.

Now one brave local gallery has taken a stand against censorship and began showing the video in its public space just up the road almost immediately after the video was removed.

The Transformer Gallery has been leading the charge against the blatant mischaracterization of the work and standing up for the integrity of Art, freedom of expression, and the need for dialog about culturally sensitive issues like this.

After displaying the video the gallery owners and management organized an artistic response to the censorship, leading a march and silent protest on the steps of the National Portrait Gallery.

As a response to the censorship by the Smithsonian of Wojnarowicz’swork, and in honor of World AIDS Day & Day With(out) Art, the many alternative art spaces, visual arts organizations, artists, and activists around the world that have paved the path for freedom of expression & the existence of experimental arts venues like Transformer, we feel it is our job to champion all artists’ creative expression without constraints,and to continue the important dialogue Wojnarowicz’s work generates about aggression, hunger, community, love, loss, as well as religion” states Victoria Reis, co-Founder, Executive & Artistic Director of Transformer

The Gallery plans to continue to show the full video, with permission from the estate of the artist.  In addition, they will further dialog around the work by organizing a large-scale public presentation and a panel discussion on the work.

This is an amazing example of the arts community fighting back against anti-intellectual bullying from lawmakers and fear mongering pundits. The turnout was great for such a spontaneous demonstration and it was wonderful to see the larger progressive and artistic community rallying around a LGBT issue.  The Transformer Gallery has taken an immediate and aggressive stance against ignorance and injustice.  They are doing fantastic work to highlight the issue and further dialog in the absence of such integrity from the Smithsonian.

See what people like John Boehner don’t understand is that censorship can’t silence our community anymore.  The video may not be in the Portrait Gallery but more people have seen this work as a direct result of their intervention, and the message has gone further than even the curators of the exhibit could have foreseen. In the age of the internet, and with savvy and courageous arts organizations like Transformer, they can’t stop creative expression and arrogantly bully us into silence.