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Brian Brown Pulls Strings with Sen. Ruben Diaz for NY Hate Fest

13 Jul

Brian Brown, President of hate group, National Organization for Marriage (photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

As discussed during last week’s covert operation (sort-of), where I secretly transcribed a phone call that anti-gay activist and president of the National Organization for Marriage, Brian Brown was having, it seems the hate rallies are indeed headed to New York.

While Brown was on the phone with NY Sen. Ruben Diaz, he became noticeably upset when Diaz told him he wouldn’t be going to the July 24th rally. Diaz made this decision apparently after Brown informed him that the Archbishop would not be attending.

It seems Diaz has changed his mind and has written a letter to Archbishop Dolan to try to get him to attend the hate anti-equality hate rally at the end of the month. One must wonder what Brown did to change Diaz’ mind on the topic.

“In the great spirit of interfaith unity, I invite you to join me and my fellow ministers on Sunday, July 24th at 3PM at a March for Marriage that has been organized by the National Organization for Marriage to be held outside Governor Andrew Cuomo’s midtown office at 633 Third Avenue.”

“Our peaceful and prayerful rally will protest the redefinition of marriage and demand that all New Yorkers have the right to vote on this very serious social issue.”

“You know that I have tremendous respect for you and I am most hopeful that you and your fellow bishops and clergy will join us on the 24th.”

Sen. Rev. Ruben Diaz

This comes a day after Brown made waves by claiming that the NY Legislature “stole” the right of New Yorker’s to vote. Of course, Brown chooses to ignore that we have a representative government and we vote to give certain legislators the right to vote for us. He also said that the vote wasn’t transparent or fair, despite unprecedented media coverage and literally dozens of emails from Brown’s own National Organization for Marriage – not sure how a topic can be less transparent or fair. Unless of course it’s just not fair when Brown loses. Perhaps it’s more fair to ignore election laws in states like Maine and Minnesota and more transparent to not report the names of contributors as required by law. Seems Brown needs some lessons in transparency and fairness.

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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.

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All photos copyright Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com

NOM’s Anti-Gay Rally Speaker Screams Gays are “Worthy to Death”

15 May

Rev. Sen. Ruben Diaz and NOM President Brian Brown (photo: Jeremy Hooper, GoodAsYou.org)

Due to inclement weather and a knee injury, I was unfortunately unable to attend today’s “Rally to Defend Marriage” in the Bronx, but thanks to the unending work of blogger and activist, Jeremy Hooper at GoodAsYou, we’re learning a lot about the event.

The rally, first proposed and planned by Reverend Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. of New York, was supposed to bring more than 20,000 people to the Bronx to fight against marriage equality. Diaz is the most fiercely anti-gay politician in New York, despite having two gay brothers. This rally was planned after New York Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell introduced legislation (again) to bring marriage equality to New York State.

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) jumped on board to sponsor the march and pay for commercials and other event costs, thus endorsing the things being said in the rally by their guests. In the past, NOM has been very careful about speaking against the violence their rally attendees frequently endorse towards LGBT people. After Larry Adams attended a NOM rally in Indianapolis last summer carrying a sign indicating that the solution to gay marriage is to murder gay people, NOM tried to distance themselves from the message.

This time, it may not be so easy for NOM to distance itself from the message. Whereas previously the violent message was coming from rally attendees, at today’s rally in the Bronx, the quote from one of the rally’s speakers referred to gays and lesbians as “worthy to death.” Perhaps there was something lost in the Spanish to English translation, but it seems clear from the speakers as well as the crowd’s response that an endorsement of murder is the message being presented. Many thanks to Jeremy Hooper for this video. Please visit this link at GoodAsYou.org for the full disturbing video.

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.

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.




The Ghosts of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Moving Forward

15 Nov

In a historic protest at the White House moments ago, 13 people were arrested after chaining themselves to the White House fence.  Three generations of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell activists participated in this monumental action.  Present among the demonstrators were several men and women who’ve been arrested in similar demonstrations over the decades, including the first famous Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell protest in the 90’s, and this year’s subsequent White House DADT protests.

Former Servicemembers who were arrested in April during protests at the same location, spoke to Talk About Equality about why they were returning:

“I feel we have come to a critical juncture where we need leadership from Obama and Senator Reid to get rid of this horrible policy.  I am here today because being the first Marine discharged under this policy I feel we need to send a signal to the White House and the Senate to finally do the right thing for LGBT servicemembers and pass the repeal in the Defense Authorization Bill.” Says Justin Elzie, the first Marine discharged under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, to Talk About Equality.

Here is the full list of demonstrators who were arrested today:

Lt. Dan Choi, Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen,Cpl. Evelyn Thomas, and Cadet Mara Boyd.  All four were arrested in front of the White house in April protesting Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Robin McGehee, co-founder and director of GetEQUAL.

Former U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Miriam Ben-Shalom, who was discharged in 1976 and was the first LGBT servicemember reinstated to her position in the U.S. Military, by a U.S. Federal District Court. On July 30th, 1993, Miriam and 26 other protesters were arrested at the White House fence for protesting Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Former U.S. Marine Corps Sergean, Justin Elzie who, in 1993, became the first Marine ever investigated and discharged under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.

Former Army Arabic Linguist Ian Finkenbinder, who was discharged from the Army in December 2004.

U.S. Army Veteran and Repeal Advocate Rob Smith, who was deployed to both Iraq and Kuwait before being honorably discharged after deciding not to re-enlist in the U.S. Army due to the added pressure of living under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.

Father Geoff Farrow, a Catholic priest who spoke out against the church’s official stance in support of California’s Proposition 8, removing the rights of same-sex couples to marry.

Scott Wooledge, a New York-based LGBT civil rights advocate and blogger who has written extensively on the movement to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” at Daily Kos and Pam’s House Blend.

Michael Bedwell, long-time LGBT civil rights advocate, close friend of Leonard Matlovich, and administrator of the site www.leonardmatlovich.com

Dan Fotou, an Organizer with GetEqual.

Civil rights activist, writer and speaker David Mixner told LGBTPOV upon the 17th Anniversary of the first DADT White House arrests:

“There was no question among those of us arrested that DADT was a horrible policy.  Am extremely proud of doing the right thing then and extremely proud of those doing the right thing today.”

This action culminates one day of advocacy for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal.  The big push needs to come from all of us in the remaining few weeks of this Congressional calendar.  Don’t let these 13 have sacrificed in vain.