Tag Archives: Anti-Gay

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


Pride House Announces Olympic Same-Sex Hand Holding Initiative

14 Aug

Olympics Day 4 - Gymnastics - Artistic Today, Pride House – an international coalition of LGBT sport and human rights groups announced their Same-Sex Hand-Holding Initiative, a campaign that is part of the group’s response to the International Olympic Committee’s choice of Russia as host nation for the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

While the International LGBT community has been searching for a way to respond to Russia’s anti-gay laws including boycotts of Russian products and calls to boycott the Olympic games in Sochi altogether, Pride House has been focused on finding a safe way for Olympic participants and fans to respond while in Russia.

“The very first thing the members of the Pride House International coalition did was to ask our Russian counterparts for their leadership on our campaign,” said Lou Englefield, Director of Pride Sports UK and PHI coordinator. “Any response, no matter how well-meaning, would be inappropriate without the input of LGBT sportspeople in Russia”. Konstanin Yablotskiy from the Russian LGBT Sports Federation is part of Pride House International, and was instrumental in conceptualizing the Same-Sex Hand-Holding Initiative.

As Yablotskiy explained, “Long after the 2014 Olympics, we in Russia will continue to live under this horrible law. For a few weeks we have the opportunity to bring the attention of the world to the situation in Russia. The Same-Sex Hand-Holding Initiative enables everyone to get involved with a simple yet iconic gesture. We know from gestures like Usain Bolt’s lightning stance the impact of such images that are simple, replicable, and identifiable”.

The campaign is simple: Pride House International is calling on everyone present in Sochi – athletes, staff, media, officials, spectators, sponsors, vendors, and fans – to take every opportunity to hold hands with a person of the same sex.

copy-phi-sshhi-header-1015x276“There are extreme restrictions on the uniforms and other items worn by athletes at any Olympic Games. Flags, badges, or pins are not allowed without IOC approval, a near-impossibility, and wearing something as seemingly innocuous as pink socks or shoelaces is very difficult for athletes to do, and complex to organise for other participants and spectators,” said the Federation of Gay Games’ Les Johnson. “But everyone can hold hands with their neighbour. Indeed, raising your rivals’ hands in camaraderie is an image we see on every podium at every sporting event.”

Pride House International does urge anyone wanting to participate in the campaign to exercise caution. Hand-holding should happen only in public view with as many witnesses as possible, media and otherwise.

Same-sex hand-holding has an Olympic tradition with the organization: A Day in Hand hosted a same-sex hand-holding relay through London as part of London 2012′s Inspire cultural program.

Materials in support of this campaign (posters, t-shirts, pins, and web badges) will be available starting by early October on the Pride House International website at pridehouseinternational.org.

Other supporting actions for the SSHHI campaign will be announced soon, as will other actions for visibility of LGBT sport during the Sochi Games.

FIFA Jumps on Olympic Russian Bandwagon

13 Aug

As we’ve been posting about here, the back and forth between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Russia’s government has been dizzying.

As it stands currently, not much has changed. IOC is telling the public that there’s nothing to worry about and that Olympians and fans will not be subject to their anti-gay law, while the Russian government in no uncertain terms is saying quite the opposite. Yesterday, the IOC seemed to begin conceding the fact that gay and lesbian athletes will indeed not be protected by their status as Olympians and what’s more – they will be punished by IOC if they DARE speak out and tell someone they’re gay.

As we’ve pointed out here, it’s clear that these draconian laws and the IOC’s implied support of them puts gay and lesbian athletes at a clear disadvantage. How well can a person perform when they’re worried constantly about hiding who they are? As we’ve seen with athletes who have come out, they always perform better with that weight being lifted from their shoulders. Here is the IOC demanding of gay & lesbian athletes that they carry that extra weight they’d left behind.

Spanish football player Mario Gomez encourages gay athletes to come out of the closet.

German football player Mario Gomez encourages gay athletes to come out of the closet.

Today, Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) jumped on the very popular bandwagon of asking Russia to clarify their anti-gay laws. You see, FIFA’s World Cup is scheduled to take place in Russia in 2018. The chair of that event, Alexey Sorokin has been quoted defending Russia’s law:

“It is designed against active propaganda of homosexuality, not against homosexuality itself. That is a big difference…Would you like a World Cup where naked people are running around displaying their homosexuality? The answer to that is quite obvious.”

The explanation that we are just somehow confusing what the law is about is ridiculous. No one is being arrested in Russia for running around naked, displaying their homosexuality. They are being arrested for making films about gay people in Russia, marching in a pride parade, and Russian police stand by and watch when gay people are beaten and killed.

There’s more to the story here though. Last year, FIFA announced that the 2022 World Cup will be held in Qatar, which goes a good deal further in banning homosexuality. Any homosexual acts are considered illegal in the Gulf nation and is punishable with prison time. When FIFA President Sepp Blatter was asked about Qatar’s anti-gay laws, he replied that gay soccer fans could just “refrain from any sexual activities” while there.

You have to wonder why FIFA is attempting to go after Russia on their laws but excusing Qatar for their own? Perhaps with all the attention focused on the Olympics, they’re hoping to share a little of that spotlight themselves.

International Olympic Committee May Join Russia in Punishing Gay Athletes

12 Aug
Openly Gay Olympic New Zealand Speed Skater Blake Skjellerup

Openly Gay Olympic New Zealand Speed Skater Blake Skjellerup

Most of you know what’s been going on between the Stoli boycotts and statements from athletes around the world with regards to the Olympics and anti-gay, draconian Russian laws.

For those who don’t, the short version is this: earlier this year, Russia passed some horrifically anti-gay laws making it illegal to “promote” homosexuality. Apparently you can BE gay, you just can’t ever tell anyone about it for fear you’ll be reported and go to prison. These laws have given cover to Neo-Nazi groups and others to take the law into their own hands by beating and murdering any person they think doesn’t measure up to their standard of heterosexuality.

Many have called on the Olympics to make strong statements against these laws and some have even called them to move the 2103 Winter Olympics out of Sochi to a place more accepting of all athletes.

The International Olympic Committee began by assuring athletes and fans that they’d spoken to Russian authorities and that Sochi athletes and fans would be exempt from the law.

Not so fast, said Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, making it clear that athletes and fans must respect the host country’s bigoted law.

Playing a media game of ping-pong, it’s left Olympic participants without any actual information regarding the situation in Russia. The truth of the matter is that no matter what kinds of assurances are made, LGBT people are not welcome and not safe in Russia. The IOC can say whatever they want to, but it will not stop some thug in a bar from kidnapping, beating and potentially murdering someone they perceive as gay.

Today, instead of actually standing up for LGBT athletes, the IOC is essentially siding with Russia and now warning lesbian and gay athletes.

Under rule 50 of the IOC’s charter: ‘No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.’

Gay Star News had asked what the global Olympic chiefs thought about plans for athletes to wear rainbow pins or hold hands during the opening and closing ceremonies.

They also asked if the IOC would provide a safe space – or Pride House – for LGBT athletes, spectators, dignitaries and others during the games to celebrate gay sport and community, as has been done in previous years.

But their spokeswoman told us: ‘Regarding your suggestions, the IOC has a clear rule laid out in the Olympic Charter (Rule 50) which states that the venues of the Olympic Games are not a place for proactive political or religious demonstration.

‘This rule has been in place for many years and applied when necessary.’

With this report, the IOC has made it clear that they have a double standard when it comes to accepting all athletes. The Pride House in Vancouver was historic in that it provided a safe space for LGBT athletes from around the world. The IOC clearly didn’t see this as a violation of Rule 50 a few years ago, but it seems as though athletes must now be forced to step back into the closet for the 2013 Sochi Olympics.

Despite confusing messages from the IOC, today Russia’s Interior Ministry has unequivocally stated that they will be enforcing their anti-gay law during the 2013 Sochi Olympic games.

Either way, if the Olympics remain in Sochi, LGBT athletes are automatically at a disadvantage. It’s really hard to perform to one’s full capabilities when one is spending part or most of their day in actual fear for their lives.

Out gay New Zealand speedskater Blake Skjellerup, told USA TODAY:

“I don’t want to have to tone myself down about who I am,” Skjellerup said. “That wasn’t very fun and there’s no way I’m going back in the closet. I just want to be myself and I hate to think that being myself would get me in trouble.”

I don’t think you’ll find a single athlete out there who’d disagree with the notion that you perform better when you don’t have to hide who you are. In fact, many said as much when basketball player Jason Collins came out last year.

At this point, I can’t imagine there is anything IOC can say to actually ensure the safety of their participants or fans – whether it be from the actual Russian government or vigilantes who are rarely if ever prosecuted for their crimes against LGBT people. While boycotts and news stories have been effective at getting the word out about the atrocities being carried out against LGBT people, none of this will actually make anyone safer in Russia. And none of it will stop LGBT athletes from constantly having to look over their shoulder as they compete for Olympic gold.

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.


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.


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.

NOM breaks up the band

6 Jun
Former Scythian Drummer Andrew Toy

Former Scythian Drummer Andrew Toy

There’s some news in the world of Scythian, the band with three anti-gay members and two one pro-equality members.

You might remember that time when the anti-gay hate group, The National Organization for Marriage announced that an utterly unknown band called “Ultramontane” would be playing at their big anti-gay hate march in DC. Well, upon further digging, we discovered that “Ultramontane” was actually just 3/5 of Scythian. Alexander Fedoryka, Danylo Fedoryka and Ben-David Warner had made the decision to join the anti-gay group while members Josef Crosby and Andrew Toy decided to sit this one out, due to their fundamental beliefs that all people deserved to be treated equally under the law.

The piece I posted, titled “Will NOM be this band’s Yoko Ono” was never meant to actually be a prediction that NOM would cause the break-up of the band, but it’s appearing that it may have been a bit prophetic.

On Tuesday, Andrew posted to his Facebook page:

Screen Shot 2013-06-06 at 11.09.43 PM

“I want to let everyone know that I will no longer be performing with Scythian. I want to thank all of the great people that I have met along the way, whose support and friendship has been incredible. I’m looking forward to sharing with you all my future musical endeavors, whatever they may be!”

Two days later, Scythian followed up with:

Screen Shot 2013-06-06 at 11.10.35 PM

“After two years of fine drumming with Scythian, Andrew is moving on to pursue different musical endeavors, and we wanted to thank him for his great musicianship, hard work, and professionalism while traveling the country with us, and for truly making us into a better bunch of musicians. Please join us in wishing Andrew the very best as he moves ahead in his musical career! Thank you Andrew!”

I would like to think, based on these posts, that Andrew’s leaving was of his own accord. But upon some further research I discovered the band’s new drummer – Tim Hepburn, like the anti-gay members of the band – is hyper-Catholic and attended Franciscan University along with them.

Seeing as the anti-gay members of the band have remained cowardly and silent (except to the volunteers they depend on) leaving Josef Crosby and Andrew Toy to answer for their bigoted and naive decisions, I don’t expect to ever really know what happened. What I can say is that whether he left by choice, conscience or force, I believe Andrew will have a long and happy career without having to compromise his belief in a free and equal country for all Americans. We salute you, Andrew and thank you for standing with us on the right side of history.

Will Anti-Gay Group NOM be one band’s Yoko Ono?

15 Mar

It’s been a rough week for the anti-gay group, National Organization for Marriage (NOM) – actually, a really rough two days to be specific.

Let’s review:

In an AP interview on Thursday, John Eastman, chair of NOM blasted families with adopted children and specifically the family of Chief Justice John Roberts (who has two adopted children):

“You’re looking at what is the best course societywide to get you the optimal result in the widest variety of cases. That often is not open to people in individual cases. Certainly adoption in families headed, like Chief Roberts’ family is, by a heterosexual couple, is by far the second-best option.

Next, NOM released a commercial for their hate march happening March 26th the same day as the United for Marriage rally outside the Supreme Court. As with any anti-gay propaganda they release, it was full of lies which have been debunked dozens of times – and were debunked again by our friend Jeremy Hooper at GoodAsYou.org.

Then last night, NOM proudly announced the talent they’d acquired for their big gay-hate fest. Two musical groups were announced, The Lee Boys – a “sacred steel ensemble,” and an adorable celtic fiddle-playing boyband called Ultramontane.

The Lee Boys were set to perform at NOM's anti-gay march until they learned it was an anti-gay march.

The Lee Boys were set to perform at NOM’s anti-gay march until they learned it was an anti-gay march.

This morning, Jeremy Hooper started reaching out. In the first few hours of the day, he discovered that Katie Herzig, the writer of the song used in NOM’s hate march video is actually a big fan of marriage equality. Additionally, NOM stole her song without permission – apparently ignoring one of the Ten Commandments. Katie is now demanding it be taken down.

Following that, it seems the Lee Boys weren’t aware that NOM was an anti-gay group and immediately upon finding out, pulled out of the rally. One band member told Jeremy “Music is about love.”

"Ultramontane" according to NOM's website

“Ultramontane” according to NOM’s website

So what was up with these attractive young men and their fiddles? Jeremy had done enough great work, so I took this one on myself. After googling Ultramontane for hours, I discovered this band clearly didn’t exist. Then Jeremy swooped in again and found the photo NOM had used on another band’s website. It seems this band was known as “Scythian” just moments ago…well 4 out of 5 of them anyway.


The band, Scythian (which looks alarmingly like the band Utramontane) (from r to l) Ben-David Warner, Alexander Fedoryka, Danylo Fedoryka, Andrew Toy and Josef Crosby.

Why would they change their name and cut that poor sweet boy with the beard out of their little fiddle club? The band had plenty of recent concert dates and upcoming ones as well, had they split up?

Upon further research, it seems they have not split up and actually only 3 of these guys will be playing for the anti-gay march. Alexander Fedoryka, Danylo Fedoryka and Ben-David Warner apparently have no problem aligning themselves with the hate group, while drummer Andrew Toy and Josef Crosby apparently didn’t want any part of the bigoted goings-on.

The band’s representation, Skyline Music LLC released the following statement:

“Like this country, the members of Scythian are divided on the definition of marriage, but, remaining great friends, they have the utmost respect for each other’s’ freedoms of speech and assembly.”

While of course no one can argue that when disagreeing, we should do so respectfully, I can’t help but wonder how Andrew and Josef feel about the other members of the band using their photos to help promote this hate march. Though I hadn’t heard of this group before yesterday, it’s a DC area band I would have loved to see play some time. But after this, I certainly can’t see myself supporting the livelihoods of young men aligning themselves with people who think I’m “worthy of death.”

The band has since removed this photo from their website, assumingly so they won’t be associated with the new anti-gay band “Ultramontane,” but one must wonder if the anti-gay NOM will be the Yoko Ono of Scythian. Apparently NOM isn’t happy just breaking up gay and lesbian families.


Following an announcement on Friday evening of the band’s intent about the rally (that three members were playing it and 2 were staying out), as of Monday morning their facebook page and twitter accounts have both disappeared.

Before now, none of the band members had publicly acknowledged their support of the LGBT community. But on drummer Andrew Toy‘s facebook page, he replied to one thankful commenter:

“I have always been and will always be an LGBT ally and supporter of marriage equality!”

Thank you, Andrew for your support!

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