Archive | LGBT History RSS feed for this section

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

PHOTOS: Queer as Folk’s Clunie and Supermodel Kroell Visit DC for GLAAD Panel

13 Oct

Last night, at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium, GLAAD’s DC Leadership Council in cooperation with the Reel Affirmations LGBT Film Festival presented “Out of the Closet and on to the Screen: A Generation of Queer Film.”

The panel was moderated by award-winning journalist Chris Geidner and featured Ronnie Kroell – Star of Bravo’s Make Me a Supermodel, June 2010 Playgirl Cover Model, films – Eating Out: Drama Camp, Into the Lion’s Den, Michelle Clunie Queer as Folk, Make It or Break It, Brad Bell – star and writer of “Husbands,” Bob Mondello – National Public Radio’s Arts Critic, and Stephen L. Forssell – GWU Lecturer, LGBT Family Research Expert and GW student filmmaker of I Am Sara Snyder.

The discussion was thorough and covered everything from the first appearance of gay people on film to the evolution of gay film on the internet. Please enjoy our photos from last night. All photos copyright Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com.

How NBC’s ‘Playboy Club’ is the gayest thing on TV and why you should watch it

26 Sep

Did you happen to catch NBC’s The Playboy Club last Monday? If not, you best make your way over to Hulu and check it out. Then turn it on tonight at 10pm to watch episode 2.

Laura Benanti

You might ask what a new TV series about the 1960s Playboy Club in Chicago may have to do with LGBT equality and why the hell we might be writing about it. In the interest of fair reporting, I should start by saying I’m horrifically biased as my best friend Laura Benanti plays bunny mother, Carol-Lynne and is fabulous! Laura is also one of the best LGBT allies a person could ask for, constantly using her notoriety to further the conversation about our rights. So there’s that. But having a Tony Award-Winning Broadway musical star as one of the leads, isn’t the only thing that makes Playboy Club one of the gayest shows on television.

While watching the pilot and following some characters who seem somewhat mysterious but very likable, we couldn’t help but notice (and tell you about) one of the final scenes of the first episode. The two characters who they try to make us believe are a young attractive married couple happen to be gay. And not only that – they are running a meeting of the Chicago chapter of the Mattachine Society!

NBC's The Playboy Club features a scene at a Mattachine Society meeting

As we’ve written about here before, the Mattachine Society was among the first homophile organizations in the country and was founded in 1950. The characters in the Playboy Club (a lesbian Playboy Bunny and a gay man) are in what was referred to as a “lavender marriage.” This was a common occurrence and still exists today when someone feels the need to hide their sexuality by marrying someone of the opposite gender.

This marks the first reference we can think of where the Mattachine Society appears in the mainstream media.

Amber Heard

And if that weren’t enough of a reason for you to watch NBC’s The Playboy Club, please direct your attention to the gorgeous young Amber Heard – another one of the show’s stars. Amber came out as a lesbian last year. Amber, who has been seen in Zombieland and Pineapple Express came out in an interview to AfterEllen.com and had this to say:

“I think when I became aware of my role in the media, I had to ask myself an important question ‘Am I part of the problem?'” she told the the website. “And I think that when millions and millions of hard-working, tax paying Americans are denied their rights and denied their equality you have to ask yourself what are the factors that are an epidemic problem and that’s what this is.

“Injustice can never be stood for. It always must be fought against and I just was sick of it being a problem,” Heard said, adding, “I personally think that if you deny something or if you hide something you’re inadvertently admitting it’s wrong. I don’t feel like I’m wrong.”

The Playboy Club's Wes Ramsey

And as I was watching the pilot, I recognized the actor playing Max the bartender. I googled him and he’s the star of the gay mormon film, Latter Days in which he plays a hunky young gay man who falls in love with a Mormon missionary. He’s yet another reason to love this show.

And finally – if you have not already set your alarm for 10pm tonight, just today, the actor who is ironically playing the male half of the previously-mentioned lavender marriage has come out publicly. Sean Maher who also appeared in Fox’s Firefly, lives with his partner of 9 years, Paul and their two young children Sophia Rose, 4, and Liam Xavier, 14 months. He told Entertainment Weekly regarding being in the closet in Hollywood:

Sean Maher

“It was so exhausting, and I was so miserable,” Maher says. “I didn’t really have any life other than work and this façade I was putting on. So I kept my friends from college [where he was out] separate from my work friends, and that was very confusing. I just kept going on and on painting this picture of somebody I wasn’t. I didn’t have time for a personal relationship anyway. And you just don’t realize that it’s eating away at your soul.”

And when asked about his current job and what it’s like to be open about who he is at work, Maher said:

“Creatively, I feel so much more open and free, and I am so happy on The Playboy Club,” he says. “I think it’s because I’ve never been so open on set. All of the relationships that I have off-camera, I never would have allowed five years ago. It feels so liberating.”

We’d like to congratulate Sean, Amber, Wes and of course Laura for their success on The Playboy Club and we can’t wait to see where these storylines lead.

Hege and Toril: Why We Write

2 Aug

Hege Dalen and Toril Hansen. Photo: Maija Tammi

Yesterday, we posted a story of the heroic Hege Dalen and Toril Hansen, a married lesbian couple who rescued 40 teenagers after the Norway massacre last week. The story has happily drawn quite a bit of attention and I want to take a minute to clarify things following unprecedented traffic and comments on our blog, and to follow up on our first blog post from close to a year ago, Why Write?

Firstly, there was a large debate about how many people were killed. Reports on the internet range from somewhere in the 70’s to somewhere in the 90’s. As some commenters wrote, it doesn’t matter if there was one person killed or 200, the purpose of my post was to bring attention to this married lesbian couple who saved 40 kids from possible death. Facts matter, I agree – but in the new media age, facts are hard to come by – especially when there are so many conflicting reports. I have not called the Norwegian hospitals to find out precise counts, primarily because I do not speak the language and the long distance charges would be unbearable. Does this make this couple’s story any less compelling? No.

Secondly, this is a story I’ve seen around the internet for several days now – our blog cannot claim credit for breaking this news in any way – what we did do was ask the question about why it wasn’t getting covered by the mainstream media. Several people have asked why it’s necessary to report that it was a married lesbian couple that committed this heroic deed. You never hear “A straight firefighter saved a family from a burning building.” I agree. You don’t hear in the press when someone is straight and does something good. You also don’t hear when someone is straight and does something bad. But when someone who is LGBT does something bad, you can BET that their sexual orientation or gender identity is one of the first important facts of the story.

We live in an era when unprecedented numbers of kids are taking their own lives because of the simple fact that they feel alone and trapped. For generation, at least in the US, we have raised children in a world where it is okay to discriminate against LGBT people. We have told kids as they grow up that there is nothing worse than being gay, that if you are gay, you will have no friends, no family and you will probably die of AIDS. When a child who is gay, grows up with society instilling in him the belief that being gay is a fate worse than death, you incinerate their hope.

In California, the legislature recently passed a law that would require the inclusion of LGBT history in their textbooks and curricula. The amount of pushback and hatred this new law has already received is astounding and could very well see it repealed soon – all because people are afraid that by hearing that someone gay did something great, children might make the choice to be gay – which is of course completely contrary to science. The state of Tennessee is close to passing a piece of legislation that has been called the “Don’t say gay” law. Teachers in that state are not allowed to even mention homosexuality exists – because if you don’t say it, maybe it will disappear. This is the United States our kids are growing up in.

This is a story of not only a lesbian couple that did a heroic thing, but a married lesbian couple – something that is still illegal across this country. Even in the handful of places an American can get married in this country, that marriage is not recognized by the Federal government. That leaves heterosexual couples with more than 1,100 rights which lesbian and gay couples don’t have.

Norway is a world leader when it comes to protecting LGBT people. It was the first country to enact anti-discrimination laws. They decriminalized homosexuality a full 20 years before the US (the land of the free and the home of the brave) did. They’ve had nationally-recognized civil partnerships since 1993 and marriage equality became legal in January of 2009. So it may not be a big deal in Norway that this was a married lesbian couple, but it should be a big deal here.

Thirdly – why has this story been ignored by the mainstream media? I don’t know. That’s why I posted the article. Is it because the couple is lesbian? Perhaps. Is it because the news cycle in the US is being taken-up by the imaginary “debt-ceiling” debate? Perhaps. The only thing we know for sure is that this is a story that needs to be told.

And finally, please accept our personal thanks for sharing this story on behalf of kids growing up thinking they won’t amount to anything. Thank you for sharing this story and letting young people know that no matter who they are and no matter who they love, they too can be heroes.

If a Married Lesbian Couple Saves 40 Teens from the Norway Massacre and No One Writes About it, Did it Really Happen?

1 Aug

Hege Dalen and Toril Hansen. Photo: Maija Tammi

By this point, most of you have heard about the tragedy in Norway a few weeks ago when a Christian Fundamentalist* murdered 77** people and injured another 96. The story has been well-covered by International media and the mainstream press here in the US.

What you probably have not heard about is the married lesbian couple who rescued 40 teenagers during and after the bloody event. Several blogs and gay and lesbian publications are now picking up the story, but the heavy hitters who usually kill for hero stories like this, have remained silent.

The Finnish capital city’s largest daily newspaper, Helsingin Sanomatpublished this account (translated from Finnish):

Hege Dalen and her spouse, Toril Hansen were near Utöyan having dinner on the opposite shore across from the ill-fated campsite, when they began to hear gunfire and screaming on the island.

“We were eating. Then shooting and then the awful screaming. We saw how the young people ran in panic into the lake,” says Dale to HS in an interview.

The couple immediately took action and pushed the boat into Lake Tyrifjorden.

Dalen and Hansen drove the boat to the island, picked up from the water victims in shock in, the young and wounded, and transported them to the opposite shore to the mainland. Between runs they saw that the bullets had hit the right side of the boat.

Since there were so many and not all fit at once aboard, they returned to the island four times.

They were able to rescue 40 young people from the clutches of the killer.

“We did not sleep last night at all. Today, we have been together and talked about the events,” Dalen said.

Please share this story and make sure people know the heroism of Hege and Toril.

Check out our follow-up to this post here: Hege & Toril: Why We Write, which addresses many of your comments and questions about this article.

*The term “Christian Fundamentalist” has been disputed greatly in both the press and the comments section below this post. According to Norwegian police investigating the massacre, Anders Behrin Breivik was a “Christian Fundamentalist” as described by the New York Times and several Norwegian sources. There is a great post from CNN, which discusses at length, the use of the term being used for Breivik.

**Thank you to readers who have provided credible sources as to the actual number of deaths from this tragedy. We originally reported that 92 had been killed, but according to Norwegian sources, the total number is at 77, with many still in the hospital.

Please Follow us on Twitter @TalkEquality

Avenue Q’s Rod & Ricky Tie the Felt Knot in NYC

24 Jul

I was honored to attend the wedding of Avenue Q’s infamous Republican showtune-loving puppet, Rod and his partner of nearly 8 years now, Ricky. We were happy to get a brief interview with the couple that we will be sharing later, but in the meantime, please enjoy some photos of their nuptials.

Rod says, “To have this finally happen for us — especially so soon after Will and Kate — is unbelievable to me.  I realize there are a lot of broken hearts out there now that Ricky and I are off the market — step back, all you chorus boys! — but I’ve known since Day One that Ricky is the husband for me.  He’s the furry fellow I want to spend my life with both on and off the stage.”

Now in its 9th year in New York — and with productions in countries around the world — AVENUE Q is a three-time Tony Award-winning musical about people and puppets fresh out of college in search of their purposes in life, living as neighbors in an outer-borough of New York City.

In AVENUE Q, Rod, a Wall Street banker, and Ricky, a “Chelsea boy,” meet through an online personal ad placed by Rod’s best friend and slacker roommate Nicky.  It is love at first sight.  And the rest is soon to become history!!

Also in attendance at today’s marriage ceremony was Amy Hausman, an All Peoples Wedding Officiant for the Starlight Rainbow Wedding Initiative and AVENUE Q’s Jennifer Barnhart, Jed Resnick and Howie Michael Smith.

DADT Repeal Stay Lifted – “No Reason to Delay Certification” Says Former Marine

6 Jul

DADT Repeal Rally at The White House - May 2, 2011 (Photo by Jamie McGonnigal, Equalityphotography.com)

Last year, before Congress voted to repeal the military’s discriminatory Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, there was a federal district court which had already found the policy to be unconstitutional. The lawsuit, filed by the Log Cabin Republicans was what lit the fire under the Administration and Congress to pass the repeal as quickly as possible.

This was all happening while the highly controversial and very questionable “study” on military readiness was being handed out to service members and their families. Among the questions in the study were:  “If don’t ask, don’t tell is repealed and you are working with a service member in your immediate unit who has said he or she is gay or lesbian, how would that affect your own ability to fulfill your mission during combat?” Respondents answered with a range of responses from “very positively” to “very negatively,” as well as “no effect” or “don’t know.” What I always found most interesting is that troops were being polled about who I have a relationship with and how that affects their daily routine, but when it comes to something actually important, like…say…”Do you believe we should send you off to an unjust war for which the country can find no actual motivation – where you will more than likely lose your life or at least one of your limbs?” the military sees no need to poll troops.

Either way, the government asked for a stay so that the legislative  moves could be made and that the law could be repealed. But what happened is that many concessions were made on the repeal and the condition on which final repeal would be approved would be that the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Defense Secretary and the President would need to sign off on the repeal once the necessary training was completed to allow for gays and lesbians to serve openly. Naturally, they’ve been dragging their feet on this certification.

But today, an order from the lower court that initially found in favor of the Log Cabin Republicans and found DADT to be unconstitutional has lifted the stay on implementation of repeal.

Alex Nicholson, Executive Director for Servicemembers United, the nation’s largest organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans and the lead plaintiff in the Log Cabin Republicans vs. USA case told Talk About Equality:

“With the wait for certification dragging out beyond a reasonable time frame, the Court has once again stepped in to require the Pentagon to stop enforcing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and this time it very well may be for good. I am proud to have worked personally worked with Log Cabin on this case for more than five years now and to have represented the gay military community as the sole named veteran in this lawsuit. Despite the criticisms and years of waiting, this case has yet again successfully eviscerated this outdated, harmful, and discriminatory law.”

Fmr US Army Captain Tonya Domi and Fmr Marine Justin Crockett Elzie (Photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

And Justin Elzie, the first Marine to be fired under the discriminatory law, and author of “Playing By the Rules” told us:

“I think it is a great thing and since DADT Training is nearly complete, then now is the time for the Obama administration to do the right thing and not continue to fight against repeal in the courts and let this stand and certify repeal immediately.  There is no reason to delay certification or fight this ruling.”

Nicholson added:

Nicholson added, “Servicemembers should still remain extremely cautious with information regarding their sexual orientation for the time being. The issue remains in a state of flux, although guarded optimism is certainly warranted.”
For more information about Servicemembers United and the gay military community, please visit their new home on the web at www.servicemembers.org.

NY Marriage Equality: How Did We Get There? A Photo Retrospective

26 Jun

I moved from New York to Washington DC three weeks ago to be with my boyfriend. It’s hard not to still consider New York City home after nearly 13 years living there, but after last night – my struggle to move on became even more difficult. For the past several years, I’ve proudly fought alongside some incredible activists, lobbyists, politicians and allies in the struggle for equality. And last night in New York, we finally won.

I thought of writing a diatribe about how much we have to learn from this victory – how for one of the first times in our movement’s history, we worked together to accomplish something. I could be heavy-handed and speak endlessly at the incredible work done by this partnership of several organizations all working towards the same thing. I could even go so far as to reflect on the fact that even though we have this beautiful victory at long last, that there are still 1,138 rights not afforded to legally married gay and lesbian couples and that we MUST focus on equality on the federal level. But instead, I decided to post some photos.

For the past 3+ years, I’ve discovered a love for photography and in my own way, I’ve been documenting some of the movement from my perspective as a New Yorker. So please enjoy these photos which reflect some of my favorite moments and people involved in the recent part of our struggle for equality. Please note: there are photos here from swanky cocktail parties, from pride marches, from rallies, protests, political speeches, phone banks and even a living room or two. New York Marriage Equality happened because of ALL of it, not some.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All photos copyright Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com

UPDATED: Will Sen. Grisanti Decide NY Marriage Equality?

16 Jun

Judge James Wilson

On July, 2, 1776, the greatest question of American liberty was posed to the 2nd Continental Congress in Philadelphia. After weeks of debate, it had been decided that the vote to declare independence from England, the 13 colonies had to vote unanimously. James Wilson of Pennsylvania had joined with more conservative colleagues, Edward Rutledge of South Carolina, Robert Livingston of New York, and John Dickinson of Pennsylvania. Together, they successfully caused a 3-week delay in the vote for independence. Wilson didn’t feel that we were ready for this change. As a country, he didn’t believe we were “ripe” enough to be on our own.

When the time came for the vote that would forever change the course of our history, Wilson arguably became the deciding vote when Pennsylvania voted 3-2 to declare our independence from England. When faced with the question of what this country was about, Wilson saw that his vote could be the deciding factor between oppression and freedom. He chose freedom.

Today, the New York State Senate will again debate marriage equality after the Assembly passed it last night with an 80-63 vote. In order for New York to pass the Marriage Equality Bill, which would mean freedom for all New Yorkers to marry and be protected equally under our laws, the bill must garner 32 votes. As of right now, there are 31 votes and several undecided senators. With so many undecided Republican senators, it’s hard to find someone who will be a real leader and break from the pack to truly represent all their constituents.

Senator Mark Grisanti, (R) Buffalo, NY

For months now, Senator Mark Grisanti of Buffalo, NY has said that he would vote against the marriage equality bill, but now he has declared that he is “undecided.” Grisanti is clearly wrestling with the idea and met with Governor Cuomo on Tuesday night to discuss the bill. While he has still not said how he will vote, some see him as the deciding vote on marriage equality in New York.

So over the next 24-48 hours, Grisanti will continue to balance out the weight of this important decision. He must ask himself if he wants to be remembered as a bold leader who bravely chose to protect all New Yorkers or if he wants to stick with the status quo, leaving his LGBT constituents to flounder in inequality. This is no small decision for Grisanti, but we can hope that he will take a page out of James Wilson’s book. We can hope that he will see that New York and America are more than ready to live up to the standards set forth in the Declaration of Independence – that all men are created equal.

Stand on the right side of history, Senator Grisanti.

UPDATE: Last night, in a vote of 33 to 29, the New York Senate voted to approve marriage equality in the state. Senator Mark Grisanti of Buffalo said to his Republican colleagues who were voting against the bill:

“The issue of same-sex marriage was never a strong topic of discussion among family and friends. I simply opposed it in the Catholic sense of my upbringing.”

“As a Catholic, I was raised to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. I’m not here, however, as a senator who is just Catholic. I’m also here with a background as an attorney. To which I look at things and I apply reason.”

“I have studied this issue. To those who know me, they know I have struggled with it.”

“I cannot legally come up with an argument against same-sex marriage. Who am I to say that someone does not have the same rights that I have with my wife, who I love, or to have the 1300-plus rights that I share with her”

Openly Gay Maine Couple Crowned Prom King & Queen

30 May

A beautiful story out of southern Maine (one of only two New England States not recognizing marriage equality). 17 year-old Christian Nelsen was just crowned Sanford High School’s Prom Queen.

Christian and his boyfriend, Caleb Jett decided to put their names in the running as Prom King and Queen to change minds across their community and in their state. With the help of his friends, Christian got enough votes to win Prom Queen. Happily, his boyfriend Caleb won King. The two wore suits and proudly showed off their tiara and crown and shared a King and Queen dance.

Here’s an interesting point. This interview from WNTW News 8 mentions that while some were very happy for the results of the election, others were very unhappy. News 8 tried to interview dozens of people and those who were against it declined to comment on camera – one even said he was afraid of offending someone. How wonderful is it when those who are on the wrong side of history and humanity can acknowledge their ignorance and bigotry through their silence.

Many Congrats to Christian and Caleb and many thanks to them and their friends for doing something so courageous. Please know that your work now will make all the difference in the world to LGBT kids for generations to come.