Wednesday, July 30, 2008

How do these things happen?

The news of the murders at the UU church in Tennessee was particularly disheartening for this blogger. One of the most wonderful things that has happened in my spiritual life is to be part of the newly formed Oil City branch of the Universalist Unitarian Congregation of Erie. Both in Oil City and at our parent church, I find peace and motivation to become a better citizen. It is an amazing group. "There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote: The inherent worth and dignity of every person; Justice, equity and compassion in human relations; Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations; A free and responsible search for truth and meaning; The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large; The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all; Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part." You can visit to learn more and to hear the response of the UU to the recent murders. I am certain, that if Jim Adkisson, the unemployed murder, had asked for assistance from the UU instead of hating them, they would have helped him. Instead he blamed them for the ills he suffered. These people were no more to blame than gays are to blame for perceived deteriorating "family values" that other anti-gay proponents spout about. We all need to be very careful not to wrongfully blame others for what may be our own failings. As a UU, I have felt challenged in recent weeks to seek a more positive path. Anti-gay messages are very loud in Venango County. Loud does not equal pervasive or dominent. It's just loud and I believe now, just a very few. My fear is that they do have a public platform that may reach that one very unstable person like Jim Adkisson. My fear is that they do deliver a message of hate and misinformation that implies that the GLBT community is a great danger. My fear is that they could be creating a Jim Adkisson here. There's much evidence to support the belief that repeated messages of any kind, do have an impact. Family protection organizations speak of it all the time - violence, sexuality, pornography... If this is true, they also know that their own messages of hate and danger, can have an impact as well. Do they not then feel responsible for the potential outcome?

Monday, July 28, 2008

What do GLBT folks want?

Peter Green asks an excellent question, "What do glbt folks in Venango County want?" As an answer, allow me to paraphrase from the recent HBO movie, "Steel Jawed Women."
Look into your heart, Mr Green, and see what you want: A place in the professions without fear of being fired because you are gay; an apartment without fear of being evicted because you are gay; a home without being subjected to vandalism by your neighbors because you are gay, access to the 1,000 plus federal rights, benefits, and privileges available to straight couples but denied because you are a gay couple, the right to visit a hospitalized partner unabridged because you are gay, a meal in a restaurant or a seat on public transportation without fear of being embarrassed by being told to leave because you are gay; an education without taunting, bullying, or physical attacks because you are gay; a quiet and peaceful life without being reviled, castigated, and denounced on the public air ways, in public meetings, or in the local newspaper as a threat to society because you are gay.
In short, Mr Green, the glbt community wants the same things you, and every other American wants: Equality, Fairness, Respect, and the right to live your life and pursue your career and your dreams as you choose free from discrimination and bigotry.
As one who has been actively involved in the Civil Rights Movement, the Women's Movement, and the Gay Equality Movement for well over 40 years, I know that change is slow and often difficult but I also know that change is inevitable and characteristic of vitality and life itself and that communities, schools, churches, and community leaders who embrace and practice equality and fairness thrive while those who persist in patterns of discrimination and hate shrivel and become moribund.
David L Martin

Friday, July 25, 2008

In the interest of Truth

This week a good friend - heterosexual - and supportive of GLBT issues told me she did not know about Diane Gramley until she read this blog. I felt great sadness that we actually brought this woman and her hatred to anyone's attention. I have come to believe that these people are small in number yet dangerous in their loudness. I wish to dismiss and ignore them, however, I also believe it is important for some voice to point out their misinformation and total misrepresentation of the truth.

On her website, Ms. Gramley says the following:

Last week’s decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to uphold the November 2007 ruling by the Commonwealth Court to declare the hate crimes law unconstitutional is being applauded by the original plaintiffs in the constitutional challenge. In June 2003 Diane Gramley, president of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, and Frances Bevan, president of the Pennsylvania Eagle Forum, as individuals, were named as plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the way in which H.B. 1493 was passed. In July 2005 the court ruled Bevan and Gramley did not have ‘standing’ to sue. Shortly after that, the lawsuit advanced with the names of seven members of the Philadelphia Eleven who were arrested in October 2004.

“The PA Supreme Court made the right decision in upholding the Commonwealth Court’s decision. The seven petitioners were all arrested in October 2004 and charged with a ‘hate crime’ for singing choruses and reading scripture at a homosexual event in Philadelphia. No crime was committed and their First Amendment rights were infringed,” commented Gramley.

Please follow the link to a true account of this event listed above and here.

The Inside Story of the Latonia

by Linda Henderson

One of the biggest mistakes we made in the weeks and months following Diane Gramley’s attacks on the Latonia was to believe she had an audience large enough to stop us. People throughout the community were telling us not to alter our plans and let these few small minded people affect us. I would have told you during those days that we were not allowing ourselves to be affected but as we reviewed our business plan recently, we discover that we did.
It was an emotional reaction to the ugly messages. We accepted the destructive message of the AFA.
Meanwhile, all around us good people have been quietly working to get us back on track. These are the mainstream Venango County people who represent the heart and soul of this region. Their focus is to build a stronger community not knock things down. All along they have been out there building. They never lost site of our mission. They never stopped believing in it.
And this week, as part of the Oil Heritage Festival, we felt the impact of it. About 1000 people, maybe more, came through the Latonia doors in 48 hours. They came to check out our progress in the last year during our tours on Thursday. Nearly as many people came as had visited last year. They shared their personal memories about movies seen there, live performances they enjoyed, and relatives that worked at the Latonia. They value our contribution and no AFA message can diminish their appreciation.
We were told to expect about 100 people or so for the Oil City idol auditions on Friday. The place was PACKED! People came and went. It was amazing. The first talent show at the Latonia in more than 40 years. Great talent was shared with an appreciative audience. The AFA could not keep them away nor diminish their appreciation of the event.
In the last month or so, other significant seeds have begun to sprout because of the behind the scenes work of good people. A wonderful group will be holding a Bridal show at the Latonia in September. They love the ballroom at the Latonia. The AFA cannot erase the work that has been done to create that space.
A new alliance is forming – the Northwest PA Performance Alliance – a group that will work to build bridges between the Venango County theatres and performance venues large or small. As performers seek places to share their talents, we will help them get booked at nearby locations.

This is how we end bigotry in Venango County. We build!

There are issues I want to see addressed. I want to know GLBT people will not be hurt and can expect the same rights and protections as anyone else. We do not. I believe the first step toward that end is actually taking place in Venango County. We are experiencing acceptance as equal, contributing members of the community. The next time Diane Gramley preaches her message that we are dangerous, maybe people will remember an enjoyable evening at the Latonia where two lesbians were working to make sure they had everything they needed. And maybe, the next time an opportunity comes to vote for equality, they will think of real people who have real feelings and will make real contributions to our community.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hyperbole and Its Discontents

from EBinVC

Thanks for all the comments on the Reign of Terror / New Day dawning piece.

We get the message that using over-the-top language may not be the most effective way to communicate with whatever audience this little blog site may have found.

So, chagrined, we go back to the drawing board.

Please don't always assume, however, that right wing hyperbole is not having an effect in the community. Some may see it as the work of out-of-touch whack jobs, but when it comes from whack jobs who actually mobilize a constituency in support of their message, it does have an impact. And not a good one.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Despite Diane Gramley's Reign of Terror, A New Day is Dawning in Venango County

Submitted by A Collective

Amidst all of the wonderful and amazing stirrings in the arts revitalization movement in Oil City, Pennsylvania over the past year or so, something else, quite magical, was quietly afoot in fall ‘07 and early winter ’08.

Two local women had been putting their life savings, and their blood, sweat and tears, into a dream that had, and still has, the potential to contribute immeasurably to the reawakening of cultural and economic vitality in Oil City, Venango County and beyond.

These women had purchased, and along with a trove of incredibly supportive family, friends, neighbors, and other community members, been breathing life back in to one of Venango County’s, crown jewels: The Latonia, an historic art deco theatre in the center of Oil City with a 4,000 sq. ft. banquet / conference / performance space that had fallen out of use and into disrepair.

But, as excitement was building for the grand opening of the newly-renovated Latonia this past February, Venango County’s right-wing extremist extraordinaire, Diane Gramley of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, had a different idea.

She would seize on this highly visible moment to stir fear in the community and to stamp out any possibility of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Venango County being seen in a positive light.

Yes, in addition to being talented, hardworking, taxpaying individuals and dedicated members of the area’s arts and business communities, the new proprietors of The Latonia also happen to be a lesbian couple.

So, armed with that juicy non-secret, and the fact that The Latonia’s inaugural concert would be performed a few days later by Namoli Brennet, an amazingly talented singer/songwriter from Tucson who also happens to be transgendered, Diane Gramley began a campaign of terror.

Gramley distributed warnings on the American Family Association of Pennsylvania web site, in church bulletins, and through her underground gossip mill about an “effort to normalize the homosexual / transgender lifestyle” in Venango County.

Brennet is a man who thinks he is a woman!” … “Is the church ready to address this issue?” … “Should parents be leery of the Latonia?” … she perversely howled!

Gramley’s attacks were so cruel, so disturbing, so incendiary, that one of her own followers actually turned the “Action Alert (1/29/08)” over to local police who, concerned about the potential violence that might occur as a result, went directly to Gramley and told her to tone it down.

Sadly, there was no public condemnation of Gramley’s scare campaign … No effort by the area’s political or religious leadership to send a message of love and acceptance, let alone tolerance, to the broader community in this tense atmosphere.

That is how terror works, and why it is used by the likes of Diane Gramley. It distorts reality, makes people afraid and suspicious of fabricated threats, outsiders, and one another, and keeps otherwise good people from acting, from standing up and speaking out at critical moments in time … when those under attack are most in need of solidarity, support, and in this case, protection.

These forms of terror are also used to seek benefit for those who deliver the message, who claim to be speaking “the truth” and shielding “the local faithful” from outside dangers.

And true to form, at the end of her “Action Alert” Gramley wrote that “Homosexual activism is being brought to our backyard … by those who have been involved in such activism in other places, other cities.

She then made a PLEA for MONEY, “In His Service,” for her crusades on behalf of her, and apparently the American Family Association of Pennsylvania’s, understanding of Christianity.

Despite Gramley’s actions, however, something else, also quite magical, was beginning to happen in Venango County: The people who had long been in the trenches, envisioning and working to build a brighter future, rejected these shameless attacks and efforts to scare people.

Instead, the local business and arts community, members of the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce, and the community at-large turned out in huge numbers to help make The Latonia’s grand opening an enormous success. Many area residents also expressed their disgust with Gramley’s tactics in letters-to-the-editor in the local newspaper.

After all, is attempting to intimidate and ruin a local business, as Gramley and her allies would have it, really working “In His Service” ?

And, a few days later, hundreds of local residents, as well as travelers from Erie, Pittsburgh and other surrounding cities and towns, turned out for The Latonia’s inaugural concert to witness Namoli Brennet, a visiting artist and one of the targets of Gramley’s vicious attacks, demonstrate what courage, love and understanding, faith, family, values and in this case, forgiveness, are really all about.

While much work remains to be done, it seems as though a new day is dawning in Oil City, Venango County, and all of northwestern Pennsylvania.

Singer Shine Your Light !!

Here’s another view of the beautiful Thorn in Your Side:

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Religious Right Exhibits Disdain for Civil Law

Submitted by Dave

Once again members of the religious right exhibit their disdain and contempt for both civil law and the admonition of their founder by disrupting a Pride Rally in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. Sad isn't it that these so called christians choose to (#$@&!) the law to spread their message of hate?

Third Circuit: Anti-Gay Activists Can Demonstrate, Not Disrupt

July 15, 2008

Anti-homosexual activists arrested when they disobeyed police orders to move during Philadelphia's 2004 OutFest celebration had a right to demonstrate but not disrupt the coming-out festival, a federal appeals court ruled today.

The decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit came in a lawsuit brought by 11 protesters affiliated with Repent America, a Lansdowne-based group whose members preach the belief that homosexuality is sinful.

The activists were arrested at the 2004 festival after disobeying police orders to move as they proclaimed their anti-gay message, with one member of the group chastising a transgendered person as a "she-man."

All charges were dropped, and the activists filed suit, contending that police and the city violated their First Amendment rights and that police silenced them because of the content of their message.

But the Third Circuit said Philadelphia police "had ample justification" in directing the protesters to move when they "interfered" with event activities.

"The police action was not based on the content of [the activists'] message but on their conduct," wrote Judge Dolores K. Sloviter, who said a video of the event showed the Repent America group tried to "drown out" platform speakers and congregated in the middle of the walkway.

OutFest had been organized by Philly Pride Presents Inc. to celebrate "National Coming Out Day;" it is held every October.

Philly Pride had a permit for the event, and contended that it had a right to exclude the anti-gay activists.

The court said that the anti-homosexual group had a First Amendment right to communicate its message - but those rights "are not superior" to the rights of Philly Pride, as the permit holder, to effectively convey its message "that we're out and proud of who we are" and the public's ability to hear that message.

"The right of free speech does not encompass the right to cause disruption, and that is particularly true when those claiming protection of the First Amendment cause actual disruption of an event covered by a permit," wrote Sloviter.

When protesters "move from distributing literature and wearing signs to disruption of the permitted activities," she went on, "the existence of a permit tilts the balance in favor of the permit-holders."

Michael Marcavage, the founder of Repent America and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said the group had not been disruptive, but was merely trying to convey its message.

Lawyer Jeremy Frey, who represented Philly Pride, said the decision means that Repent America and any other protesters "may express their message" during the upcoming OutFest "only so long as that expression does not disrupt or interfere with the message of the event."

Marcavage said he was pleased the Third Circuit had ruled that his group had a right to attend the event.

"We'll be there in October," he said.

Lessons in Leadership

There's an interesting read over on the Venangoland blog on the subject of "leadership."

It's well worth a click.

Here's a brief excerpt (hope you don't mind Mr. Greene):

Bad leadership can cause major dysfunction, but non-leadership can be the result of it.

For instance, we haven’t had much in the way of political leadership in Venangoland over the past several decades. Mostly we’ve had non-leadership—don’t rock the boat, don’t disturb the status quo, don’t try anything noticeably new or different.

That may be because we just haven’t had many people emerge who have had the vision or the skills to be local political leaders. Or it may be because the electorate hereabouts, for the most part, tends to greet new kinds of vision with as much enthusiasm as someone finding a pack of rabid weasels in their dishwasher.

More at Venangoland


Such insights help to set the context for a post to appear on this blog tomorrow, Monday July 21, about a recent moment in time that cried out for real leadership in Venango County.

And while there was a powerful and inspiring response, its sources may, or may not, surprise you.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Broad Majorities of the American Public Now Believe "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Is a Relic of the Past

Acceptance of Gay People in Military Grows Dramatically

By Kyle Dropp and Jon Cohen for the Washington Post
Saturday, July 19, 2008; A03

Public attitudes about gays in the military have shifted dramatically since President Bill Clinton unveiled what became his administration's "don't ask, don't tell" policy 15 years ago today.

Seventy-five percent of Americans in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll said gay people who are open about their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military, up from 62 percent in early 2001 and 44 percent in 1993.

Majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents alike now believe it is acceptable for openly gay people to serve in the U.S. armed forces. Shortly after he took office in 1993, Clinton faced strong resistance to his campaign pledge to lift the military's ban on allowing gay people to enlist. At that time, 67 percent of Republicans and 75 percent of conservatives opposed the idea. A majority of independents, 56 percent, and 45 percent of Democrats also opposed changing the policy.

Today, Americans have become more supportive of allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the armed forces. Support from Republicans has doubled over the past 15 years, from 32 to 64 percent. More than eight in 10 Democrats and more than three-quarters of independents now support the idea, as did nearly two-thirds of self-described conservatives.

Changing attitudes on the issue parallel broader swings in public views about homosexuality. In their recent review of 20 years of polling data, the Pew Research Center reported "a major shift away from highly negative attitudes toward gays and support for punitive actions against gays." In the 2007 Pew data, for example, 28 percent said local school boards should have the right to fire teachers known to be gay; that was down sharply from the 51 percent who said so in 1987.

In the new Post-ABC poll, military veterans are less apt than others to say gay people should be allowed in the military. While 71 percent of veterans said gay people who do not declare themselves as such should be allowed to serve, that number drops sharply, to 50 percent, for those who are open about their sexuality. Non-veterans, by contrast, are as likely to support those who "tell" as those who do not.

Fifty-seven percent of white evangelical Protestants now support allowing openly gay service members in the military, compared with 82 percent of white Catholics and 80 percent of those with no declared religious affiliation. Three-quarters of both married and single people support the idea, both significantly higher than in 1993.

Across all three periodic Post-ABC surveys on the issue, women have been more apt than men to support gays in the military. Today, more than eight in 10 women support allowing openly gay soldiers, compared with nearly two-thirds of men. Fifteen years ago, half of women supported this stance; nearly two-thirds of men opposed it.

Furthermore, large majorities across age and education categories now support allowing openly gay individuals to serve in the military.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted by telephone July 10 to 13, among a random national sample of 1,119 adults. The results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points. Error margins are larger for subgroups.

For More Info see the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network

Gay Bash

The following video was sent to EBinVC from Renewed Hope, a community organization providing safe space for GLBTQ youth in Tulsa, OK:

Friday, July 18, 2008

Many Stories, One Voice: The North American Convocation of Pro-LGBT Christians

Submitted by Anon. Christian

Registration is now open for Many Stories, One Voice, the premier gathering of pro-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians, which will be held in New Orleans, La., Sept. 4–7. Pro-LGBT faith leaders are urged to attend. Register online at

Many Stories, One Voice: The North American Convocation of Pro-LGBT Christians is a conference that will offer new tools and training in the areas of faith-based community organizing, media training, board development, fund-raising, research, biblical studies, theology, capacity-building and other concrete skills. Participants will also engage in discussions about issues of race, class, ability, age, embodiment, gender identity and sexual orientation.

Many Stories, One Voice is convened by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, in partnership with more than 30 pro-LGBT Christian organizations representing progressive, moderate and conservative traditions. For more information or to register, please visit

Dear AFAofPA and WAWN: Is This What You Mean By "Traditional Family Values?"

Submitted by Anon.

Anderson man chases gay son from home

— Violence broke out Sunday in Anderson when an 18-year-old man returned home from a gay pride parade and was assaulted by his father.

According to the Anderson County Sheriff's Office, the battering took place about 1 p.m. Sunday on P Street.

During the assault, the teen's 49-year-old father yelled, cursed, swung a baseball bat, prayed and tried to “cast the demon of homosexuality out of him,” according to the teen's version of events to Deputy S.C. Weymouth, the incident report states.

About 2 p.m. Wednesday, the teen said his father punched him when he returned to the house for clothes that he left on Sunday, the report states.

The teen told deputies that his father “has a problem with him being gay and that is why he hit him with the baseball bat Sunday,” Weymouth said in his report.

The teen filed both complaints about 10 p.m. Wednesday.

Deputies, who have not been able to make immediate contact with the teen's father, report that both incidents are under investigation.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Yeah, Well, At Least We're Not As Bad As Oklahoma

from The Gist, Submitted by Anon.

Satan Cartoons a New Tactic

You thought you'd seen everything when it comes to homophobic politicians pushing anti-gay propaganda on the public. Well, Towleroad has the low down -- complete with some sample illustrations -- on Brent Rhinehart, an Oklahoma County Commissioner who is putting out a 16-page reelection comic book filled with hateful homophobic bile. According to The Oklahoman, Rhinehart is very proud of the campaign, which he created:

"In one sequence, Satan says: 'If I can get the kids to believe homosexuality is normal!' The angel replies: 'Hey Satan, not with Brent around you won't!' Rinehart said he doesn't think the depiction is inappropriate and that he is proud of the comic. 'The history of my office is that I do expose the homosexual agenda, and that it does exist in the state of Oklahoma, and my history also would show that I am very much opposed to the homosexual agenda,' Rinehart said. Rinehart said he spent two months writing the comic."

Two months writing the comic book! Meanwhile, gas prices are out of control and a housing crisis is exploding across the country and in Oklahoma, all while the country is at war. How on earth do people vote for dangerous crackpots like this, you may wonder?

In fact, it's in these hard times when gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender people, immigrants, people of color and other "outsiders" become the scapegoats even more, allowing people to blame their problems on others, led by people like Rhinehart who point the fingers and take their votes.

She's a Poet, an Artist, and Oh Yeah, A Small Town Lesbian

Submitted by Anon.

A shout out to, and hopefully inspiration for, all the artists striving to help create a better world ... Especially the Artists of Venango County!

ps - How did the American "Family" Association let this one slip by without threatening, uh, something ... ?

from The New York Times, 7/17/08

Kay Ryan, Outsider With Sly Style, Named Poet Laureate

By Patricia Cohen

When Kay Ryan was a student at the University of California, Los Angeles, the poetry club rejected her application; she was perhaps too much of a loner, she recalls. Now Ms. Ryan is being inducted into one of the most elite poetry clubs around. She is to be named the country’s poet laureate on Thursday.

Known for her sly, compact poems that revel in wordplay and internal rhymes, Ms. Ryan has won a carriage full of poetry prizes for her funny and philosophical work, including awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and in 1994, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, worth $100,000.

Still, she has remained something of an outsider. More ...

And, from The Washington Post, 7/17/08

Verse of the Turtle
Taking On the Role of Poet Laureate, Kay Ryan Sticks Her Neck Out

By Bob Thompson

More than a decade and a half ago, despairing that her poems would ever find an audience, Kay Ryan found herself writing one about a turtle. It was about as personal as a Kay Ryan poem ever gets.

Ryan's appointment as the nation's new poet laureate, to be announced today by Librarian of Congress James Billington, will cap one of the most unusual careers in American letters. Hers is "a very original poetic voice," Billington says, "almost the antithesis of the things you hear booming at you every day."

Yet when she wrote the concluding lines of "Turtle," Ryan evoked a deeply pessimistic vision of her life's work:

. . . She lives

Below luck level, never imagining some lottery

Will change her load of pottery to wings.

Her only levity is patience,

The sport of truly chastened things.

Still a bit stunned to have risen so far above luck level, Ryan can't resist joking about her newly exalted status.

"I thought I might take it upon myself to prevent all bad poetry from being published during my reign," she says, speaking by phone from her home north of San Francisco, when asked if there is any special project she plans to undertake in her new role.

Then she tries to explain how a poet laureateship could happen to a 62-year-old woman who grew up in the small towns of central California ("the glamour-free zone"), learned to hide behind the role of class clown, got rejected by her college's poetry club, committed to writing poetry as a vocation only after she'd turned 30, refused to have anything to do with creative writing classes and has lived a deliberately quiet life in which she didn't cultivate connections within the literary establishment.

Her father was an oil well driller who died reading a get-rich-quick book when she was 19. Her mother did some elementary school teaching, but you couldn't describe the household as literary. Asked about the origin of her poetic impulse, Ryan talks about learning, as a child, that language "could have a powerful effect on others."

Take, for example, the time when, alone with a group of adults, she found herself describing "my sixth-grade teacher's bottom jiggling as she wrote on the blackboard."

"I caused a woman to spit her milk across the table," she recalls.

At UCLA, the poems she submitted were judged not to meet the poetry club's standards.

She "leaped away, mortally stung," and afterward "stayed pretty remote from the joining business." Bachelor's and master's degrees in hand, she ended up teaching remedial English part time at the College of Marin -- a job she would keep for decades because it allowed her time to write. She wasn't yet seeing herself as a true poet, however.

That changed when she took a cross-country bike trip in 1976.

She was 30. Poetry, she had started to realize, was possessing her mind. Sentences had started rhyming in her head -- "the machine was going without my permission" -- and she wasn't happy about it. She understood that writing poetry "means that one is totally exposed. It requires everything of the writer." She wasn't sure she wanted to be that exposed.

Mulling this as she pedaled up 3,500-foot Hoosier Pass in the Colorado Rockies, she found herself slipping into a kind of boundary-free mental state. There were "no borders to me, no borders to anything," she explains, and she seized the opportunity to pose the question that had been troubling her: "Should I be a writer?"

Back came an answering question that made everything clear: "Do you like it?"

Yes, she did.

This didn't mean, of course, that making it happen was going to be easy. Back in California, still shying away from difficult themes "like heart," Ryan assigned herself a task: She would get out a pack of tarot cards, turn one card over every day and write a poem from it. "So I had to start dealing with these abstractions like love, death, the wheel of fortune."

It took her eight years to get a poem accepted at a serious poetry magazine and 10 more to get into the New Yorker. Ryan says she doesn't know how she could have endured the rejection without Carol Adair, the woman with whom she's shared her life for close to 30 years. They met when both were teaching classes at San Quentin State Prison.

More …

Small Town Gay Bar

Submitted by Anon.

Here's another film that has lots of resonance with life in northwestern Pennsylvania.

New York Times Review Summary: Director Malcolm Ingram offers a poignant look at the struggle waged by rural gay Americans to find a place of their own in the heartland with a film that shows just how hard it can be to fit in when homophobia and intolerance are the status quo. In the Deep South, gay bars often provide a place of refuge to people who would otherwise be shunned as a result of their sexual orientation.

As the owners of two Mississippi gay bars speak candidly about their constant struggle to maintain their presence in hostile territory, what emerges is a telling tale about the ongoing struggle for equal rights in the rural United States and the role that these much-derided establishments play in giving their patrons a sense of community in a land where they are frequently made to feel like outcasts.

Small Town Gay Bar is a tribute to the resiliency of gays living in rural areas throughout America.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Maybe Venango County's 'Stonewall' is Coming in the Not-Too-Distant Future

Submitted by Anon.

These stories of what life was like for GLBT people in New York more than 40 years ago are sadly evocative of what life is still like today for many of us living in the shadows, in fear and isolation, in small towns and rural communities in Venango County and throughout the country.

But as these GLBT seniors talk about becoming more visible, finding their voices, and speaking out for their right to lives of dignity and respect, they also provide hope for those of us searching for our own way to full equality here in northwestern Pennsylvania in the dawn of the 21st Century.

GLBT Seniors Part I

GLBT Seniors Part II

Would a Domestic Partnership Registry Be Possible in Venango County?

Harrisburg Domestic Partnership Registry Ordinance Introduced

Harrisburg, July 15 – Domestic Partners in Harrisburg could soon have a more streamlined process for obtaining health care benefits and receive some of the same benefits in the City as married couples -- Equality Advocates Pennsylvania worked with City Council Vice President Dan Miller and Harrisburg Attorney Benjamin C. Dunlap, Jr. to draft the citywide domestic partnership registry legislation.

The ordinance was introduced by Councilman Miller today. He said the voluntary registry, created by Harrisburg City Ordinance No. 15 of 2008, will make it easier for businesses to determine domestic partners' eligibility for healthcare and other benefits, where offered. The designation also grants domestic partners, committed to each other's maintenance and well being, visitation rights in health care facilities located within the city limits.

Stacey Sobel, Equality Advocates Pennsylvania’s executive director, spoke at the press conference to announce the legislation’s introduction. She urged City Council to approve the legislation and stated that “the domestic partnership registry will aid many of Harrisburg's families by providing access to benefits that all families deserve. This type of legislation has strong support across the state.” Sobel noted that polling conducted by Susquehanna Polling and Research in November found that 91% of people polled supported hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples.

Eligible couples need to be over 18 years old and living in the same home. They also need to meet three of five financial criteria, such as sharing a mortgage, bank account or being designated as a beneficiary on their partners' life insurance policy. The measure now heads to the city council for consideration.

"We think this is an important step toward assuring that those citizens who share a committed life partnership are granted the same rights as any other citizen in the same situation." Council Vice President Miller said. "This includes health care and visitation rights."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Diane Gramley, Helping to Put a Good Face on Venango County for All the World to See

Submitted by Anon.

While many people in Venango County are hard at work this week promoting the area as a good place to do business, live, make friends, raise a family, study, create, perform, etc., etc., Venango County's own Diane Gramley, under the guise of the American "Family" Association of Pennsylvania, will be joining Peter LaBarbera and other anti-gay extremists at a press conference in suburban Chicago.

There, in front of the glare of lights and cameras, they will stage a protest at McDonald's headquarters for its support of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and to remind the world that "pro-homosexual diversity is becoming a code word for anti-christian bigotry."

Yes, you read that correctly. These extremists are, once again, using religion to trick people into believing that support for basic human rights is bigotry.

But, just in case you want to see it for yourself, check out LaBarbera's web site: AFTAH

Thanks Diane, for being such a fantastic, and christian-like, Good Will Ambassador for Venango County!

Monday, July 14, 2008

GLBT Youths Coming Out Sooner, but Protections Against Harassment Lag

This may be a story from a far away urban area, but perhaps it's not so different from what some GLBT youth experience in Venango County, or anywhere.

Owning His Gay Identity -- at 15 Years Old

Youths Coming Out Sooner, but Protections Against Harassment Lag

By Theresa Vargas
The Washington Post
July 14, 2008

School's out, and Saro Harvey and his best friend, Samantha Sachs, are hanging out in his Arlington County bedroom. She is slouched across his bed, and he is poised on a chair, posture-perfect, wearing dark, skinny jeans and a ruffled shirt meant for a girl. A rust-orange purse he sometimes carries hangs behind the door.

The 15-year-olds were voted most popular last spring in their section of ninth grade at Wakefield High School. Still, Saro knows there are those on and off campus who don't like him, who never will.

He has grown so used to the stares and laughter of strangers that their insults slip off his 118-pound frame like an oversize shirt.

"I think I've dealt with it so much my whole life that it really doesn't bother me anymore, not as much as it used to," Saro says. "If you have a birthmark on your leg for so long, you don't even notice it."

Saro, who first said he liked boys to a classmate in sixth grade, is like many of today's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths who openly discuss their sexual orientation and identity with friends, and sometimes family, before entering high school. In doing so, experts say, these youths are escaping the isolation of generations before them but also finding themselves vulnerable to harassment -- or worse. A California eighth-grader who expressed interest in asking another boy to be his valentine was fatally shot in February in a case that drew national attention.

"Within any given school system, there may be a very accepting crowd and a very hateful crowd," said Robert-Jay Green, executive director of the Rockway Institute in San Francisco, a national center for LGBT research and public policy. "You have to find a way to avoid the people who will hurt you and keep close to the group that will accept you."

In recent years, 110 Gay Straight Alliance clubs, which are common in high schools nationwide, have sprouted in middle schools, including nine in Maryland and Virginia. Kevin Jennings, the founder of the first club, said he "never anticipated" they would also form in middle grades. His organization, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is creating age-appropriate pamphlets to respond to the trend.

This year, students in 1,046 middle schools took part in the Day of Silence, a protest against LGBT intolerance, organizers said, double the participation level of the previous year.

"Unlike people of my generation, where there was very little visibility and a great sense of sadness, these kids know gay people are out there," Jennings said. "They have a language now to understand their feelings."

The story continues here

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Pro-Family Scam

by Wayne Besen

The last few weeks have shown that so-called pro-family organizations are some of the most useless, money-sucking scams in the world. With real families suffering from economic hardship in America, a declining birthrate in Europe and Google doubling the price of daycare for employees, the only thing right wing family groups want to discuss is their bizarre and all-encompassing fagela fetish.

Recently, The Brooklyn Paper, had a huge headline, "SPLITSVILLE: Brooklyn divorces up 30%." The article cited a number of reasons including, "when the economy tanks, so do many marriages."

One would think this would alarm so-called pro-family organizations and they would be out in force repairing marriages - or at least looking for economic solutions to take the stress off couples. Unfortunately, as I walked around my Brooklyn neighborhood, I saw not one representative from the American Family Association.

Well, I take that back. I did encounter one of the group's representatives on CNN Headline News as we debated a Heinz mayonnaise ad in the United Kingdom that featured two men kissing. I'm sure the children of these broken marriages in Brooklyn will feel much better knowing Heinz pulled the ad and they can have gay-free mayonnaise at both mommy and daddy's separate houses.

A new study by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University showed that in 2006, for the first time in U.S. history, a majority of births to women under 30 - 50.4 percent - were out of wedlock. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert points out that, "By comparison, when John F. Kennedy was elected president in 1960, just 6 percent of all births were to unmarried women under 30.

One imagines that this report might have startled "pro-family" organizations and they would have put their millions of dollars towards stopping this trend. No such luck. Instead, they are investing huge piles of money and manpower to pass anti-gay marriage amendments in Florida, Arizona and California. The upshot for "pro-family" groups is that if heterosexuals keep screwing up marriage, by the time gay people finally win the right nationally, we won't want to use it.

"Evangelicals of the older generation have become obsessed in almost a technical psychological sense in opposing gay rights," David Weddle, a professor of religion at Colorado College told the Colorado Springs Gazette. "The irony is that homosexuality is not a biblical theme."

Right wing organizations and their flocks want to be taken seriously, but their priorities and actions are reprehensible. For example, a middle school teacher was fired in Mount Vernon, Ohio last month after preaching in the classroom, refusing to remove his Bible and burning crosses onto the arms of pupils. You read that correctly - he seared crosses on the body parts of impressionable students, as if it were a gang ritual.

Surely, reasonable people can agree that such behavior is inappropriate in the classroom. But, oh no, some of the yahoos in Mount Vernon believe their religion places them above the Constitution - so they are holding demonstrations in the town square. I wonder if these zealots would have the same reaction if a teacher were burning a Stars of David or Muslim crescents on the forearms of students?

A recent New York Times magazine article, "Childless Europe," explored why certain countries in Europe are losing population. The hopelessly out of touch Pope Benedict chimed in with his typically sunny advice. "Europe is infected by a strange lack of desire for the future," the Pontiff said. "Children, our future, are perceived as a threat to the present."

Instead of selfishness, as the Pope implied, it was the traditional values of the Pope that contributed to the problem. In societies that either offered a safety net or where men shared the burdens of child rearing, women were having more babies. However, when educated women were stuck at home and forced to do all the work - such as in Italy - they chose to have less children. Will the Pope now call on men to help out more at home or for countries to ensure daycare for families?

Finally, the Wall Street Wonder, Google, plans to raise the amount it charged for in-house day care by 75 percent. Under the revised plan, parents with two children in Google day care could see their yearly bill increase to more than $57,000 from around $33,000. This crushing blow to the family drove a few employees to tears.

Was the American Family Association in Silicon Valley raising hell and standing up for families? No, they ignored grimacing parents, so they could punish Ronald and Grimace by launching a boycott against McDonalds for supposedly having a gay agenda. Maybe the delusional scolds at the AFA thought they saw rainbow color fries, in much the same way they once accused the cartoon character Mighty Mouse of snorting cocaine.

Right wing organizations can be considered many things - but certainly not advocates for the family. They inhale money, exhale anti-gay pollution and have done absolutely nothing for the traditional families they claim to represent. It seems the more such groups proliferate, the more the family deteriorates.

Anything But Straight |

Thursday, July 10, 2008

re: Are Gramley & WAWN Pushing a More Nefarious Agenda in Venango County?

Submitted by Anon.

I sincerely hope that enough curious people who sadly listen to this woman and cohorts are paying attention to this blog and seeing the reality of their madness.

On a positive note, as I talk to people in the community, I'm learning that many totally ignore these people. That's the one tough part of this blog for me - looking at and hearing their garbage.

But I realize it's important to directly confront the bigotry and be sure that good people are not unwittingly drawn in to their plans. It appears, in their minds, the end justifies the means.

It's difficult sometimes to express real change - a real example of bigotry ending.

As with any huge project, we need milestones. I'd love for one of them to be that these bigots see the evils of their ways...but, let's seek some realistic ones until then.

Are Diane Gramley & Franklin Radio Station WAWN 89.5 FM Pushing a More Nefarious Agenda in Venango County?

Diane Gramley's most recent broadcast on American "Family" Radio Network Station WAWN 89.5 FM in Franklin is a CHILLING in-the-face reminder of just how serious the fight against bigotry and discrimination remains in Venango County.

On this program, which aired on July 9, Gramley engaged in conversation with notorious anti-gay extremist Peter LaBarbera.

It truly is beyond description, and listening is the only way to grasp what these efforts are really about. Sorry.

Here's a link:

The language used to discuss people's lives, in this case the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people, is shocking, frightening, repulsive, offensive, etc., etc. And that in and of itself must be challenged.

But, by providing a platform for and chumming it up and bashing the humanity of GLBT people with the likes of LaBarbera, are Gramley and WAWN up to something even more disturbing, with the potential to bring even more shame and harm to Venango County by association?

A recent article published on the Southern Poverty Law Center blog exposes LaBarbera's links to radical Anti-Semite Ted Pike ... article below:

Anti-Gay ‘Christian’ Activist Cites Radical Anti-Semite

By Casey Sanchez for the Southern Poverty Law Center, (May 20, 2008)

Peter LaBarbera has spent more than 20 years on the hard edge of the religious right, ranging from a stint as a reporter for The Washington Times to a whole career as what he calls a “conservative critic of the homosexual activist movement.” He has been an official of far-right groups like Concerned Women for America, the Family Research Council, the Illinois Family Institute, and Accuracy in Media. The founder of the gay-bashing Lambda Report, LaBarbera is now president of Naperville, Ill.-based “Americans for Truth about Homosexuality.”

Labarbera is no friend of gay people, whose lifestyles he characterizes as “aberrant” and whom he accuses of working diligently to “penetrate” the schools. But up until now, he hasn’t relied on the help of radical anti-Semites.

That ended the other day when LaBarbera — who claims to operate “in a spirit of love and truth” — posted portions of an article by one Ted Pike, the Oregon-based reverend who heads the National Prayer Network and who was described by LaBarbera as simply a “pro-family advocate.” (Pike’s article described an April 12 encounter in Champaign, Ill., which ended with one college student charged with an anti-gay hate crime for attacking another.) Pike may or may not be pro-family — but he is most definitely anti-Jew, as reflected in his endless rants about the “Jewish origins of Bolshevism, Jewish dominance of Hollywood and the media, [and] Jewish control of Congress.”

Last year, Pike said that the Jewish holy book, the Talmud, “is full of moral filth” and attacked mainstream Christian evangelical leaders for “carefully concealing the Jewish identity of those who corrupt Christian culture.”

Perhaps there’s a reason LaBarbera didn’t provide a link to Pike’s website.

Pike doesn’t go into his theories about “evil Jewish leadership” in his website posting.

But right up there with the story in his site’s archives are headlines like these: “Jewish Media Corrupts Teen Girls,” “Jews Pressure Bush to Sign Hate Crime Bill.” “Jews Attack National Day of Prayer Committee,” and “Jews Behind ‘the Ten’.”

The incident that enraged both LaBarbera and Pike, the “pro-family advocate,” occurred on April 12, when University of Illinois student Steven Velasquez was walking with a group of friends. Another student, Brett VanAsdlen, yelled something at Velasquez and the two had a physical confrontation that ended with Velasquez hospitalized for a head injury overnight. Pike and LaBarbera claim to have spoken to the mother of VanAsdlen — who LaBarbera describes as “a strapping, clean-cut, All-American looking young man” — and heard assertions that throw doubt on officials’ contention that Velasquez was victimized.

LaBarbera wasn’t the only activist who latched on to Pike’s essay. So did David Duke, the notorious neo-Nazi and former Klan leader, who posted the article on his website under this banner headline: “Zionist-Inspired ‘Hate Legislation’ Railroading Christian Teenagers in Illinois.”


For information on Soulforce, the organization challenging religion-based oppression that Gramley and LaBarbera denigrate on the radio broadcast, you can check out their web site here:

Withstanding the Lie of Bigotry

Submitted by Sharon

I'm happy to find this blog too.

Any form of bigotry is wrong and some people are trying to address it by passing certain kinds of legislation. Although the legislation doesn't always address the immediate problems there is some attempt at doing the right thing.

What is not being addressed, however, is the hurt, humiliation and loss of self-esteem that bigotry causes. My husband and daughter have written a book that addresses this question.

You might want to check out their website: or their blog: and see what you think.

Excerpt from the Withstanding the Lie of Bigotry blog:

"What you can do to protect yourself from the loss of self-esteem and other mental and emotional harm due to the bigotry of others. All forms of bigotry can benefit from the practices and principles we discuss. If you have been hurt because of your religion, ethnic background, gender, age, race, sexual orientation, economic status, weight, height, complexion, physical ability, or other similar attributes, let's talk."

Another Voice for Fairness & Equality in Venango County

Submitted by Nathan Edmondson

I grew up in Franklin.

I love coming home for visits.

When I'm away, I miss the countryside.

I enjoy introducing new people to this beautiful, little town and the surrounding area.

Ending Bigotry in Venango County, that's something I strongly support.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

What Kind of "Truth" is Being Promoted by Venango County's Fishermen's Net?

Submitted by Anon.

Fishermen's Net, "a Communications tool for Venango Co. and area churches" that is operated by Lighthouse Ministries of Franklin, Inc., which also operates Radio Station WAWN 89.5 FM, is heavily promoting something called the "Truth Project," designed by infamous anti-gay zealot James Dobson of Focus on the Family.

But what kind of "truth" is the Fishermen's Net referring to, and what impacts might this effort have on Venango County residents?

And why are polarizing figures from Colorado (Dobson) and Mississippi (Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association) and their minions setting the agenda for the communities of northwestern Pennsylvania?

Fortunately, an organization called Truth Wins Out is helping to shine a light on the situation.

Truth Wins Out is a non-profit think tank and educational organization that counters right-wing disinformation campaigns, debunks the ex-gay myth, and provides accurate information about the lives of GLBT people.

Below is a recent article by Truth Wins Out about James Dobson:

By Wayne Besen, Truth Wins Out (6/24/08)

It is remarkable that Focus on the Family’s James Dobson would accuse anyone of “distortions” considering his ignoble record. But, that is exactly what the right wing ideologue did this week when he said on his daily radio show that democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama distorted the Bible.

“I think he’s deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology,” Dobson said.” “… He is dragging biblical understanding through the gutter.”

Why do people still listen to what this serial liar has to say? In the past two years, at least seven researchers have accused Dobson of manipulating or cherry picking their results to back his anti-gay teachings. Letters and videos documenting the concerns of these respected professors can be viewed at

The first researcher to step forward was New York University educational psychologist Carol Gilligan, PhD. On Sept. 14, 2006 Gilligan wrote a letter to Dobson that stated: “I was mortified to learn that you had distorted my work this week in a guest column you wrote in Time Magazine…What you wrote was not truthful and I ask that you refrain from ever quoting me again and that you apologize for twisting my work.”

The most recent scientist to claim Double-Talk Dobson distorted his work was University of Minnesota’s Gary Remafedi, M.D., M.P.H. In a letter to Dobson, dated April 28, 2008, he wrote, “I want to draw your attention to a gross misrepresentation of our research at the website of ‘Focus on the Family.’”

Other leading researchers who have taken issue with Dobson’s use of their work include: Dr. Kyle Pruett, Professor of child psychiatry, the Yale University School of Medicine; Dr. Robert Spitzer, Professor of Psychiatry, Columbia University; Angela Phillips, Professor, Goldsmiths College in London; Dr. Elizabeth Saewyc, Associate Professor, school of nursing, University of British Columbia; and Dr. Judith Stacy, Professor of Sociology, New York University.

Never before has such an array of venerated professors courageously stood up and turned the ivory tower into a watchtower to protect scientific integrity. What each doctor has in common is that he or she was shocked and outraged when informed how his or her work was used and abused.

While the sheer number of professors who have already stepped forward is unprecedented, it is clearly the tip of the iceberg. James Dobson’s bastardization of the truth is so immense and complete that one would have to build and staff a laboratory and a library to fully investigate and document his legion of lies.

Yet, the wonderful “liberal media” continues to treat this man as if he is a God-fearing grandfather. What disturbs me, is that the one time Dobson was truly exposed as a kook was when he suggested Sponge Bob Square Pants might be gay. This was worthy of laughs, but when some of the brightest minds in the world take Dobson to task for manipulating years of hard work, the media is largely MIA. Isn’t it time the media paint a full and accurate portrait of a man who has had the ear of many presidents?

The reason Dobson is so facile with the facts and believes he can pick and choose who is a “real Christian” is because he has a God complex. The Associated Press’ Eric Gorski reports that, “A McCain campaign staffer offered Dobson a meeting with McCain recently in Denver. Dobson declined because he prefers that candidates visit the Focus on the Family campus to learn more about the organization.”

Can you believe this egomaniac? He tells John McCain, a possible leader of the free world, that he must take a detour from the campaign trail to Colorado Springs to bow at the feet of King James. What next, McCain has to agree to roll a red carpet and feed Dobson fresh grapes?

What is clear, is that the Democrat’s strategy of more God talk, following John Kerry’s defeat in 2004, is unnerving religious conservatives. Obama can speak the language of Scripture and is comfortable in the walls of a church. His genuine connection to people of faith will likely peel away a portion of churchgoers who are disillusioned by the broken promises and endemic corruption of the Republican party. Dobson’s latest tantrum highlights his fear that the religious right is losing its grip as the face of faith in America.

Dobson is not an ordained minister, nor is he a religious scholar. His is just a loud mouth, self-righteous manipulator who screams and hollers. Until King James can explain why the world’s top professors keep giving him F’s in religion, ethics and science, the media should stop quoting him. While, I appreciate the need for balance, accuracy is the higher journalistic value – even when it comes to the charlatan of family values.


And here's a video Truth Wins Out released last year about Dobson's, and Venango County's own American Family Association of Pennsylvania's, efforts to undermine the National Day of Silence.

Political Representation and Leadership for a Vibrant Culture and a Thriving Economy in Venango County

Submitted by Anon.

Elected officials, public servants, should be working to promote the interests, protect the rights, and address the needs of ALL of their constituents.

They are, after all, employed by ALL of the taxpayers of their respective jurisdictions.

A quick glance at the Project Vote Smart web site, however, raises some questions about whether or not all of the citizens of Venango County are being served by those elected to represent them in Harrisburg.

For one thing, both State Rep. Scott Hutchinson (R-PA64) and State Sen. Mary Jo White (R-PA21), are on record as opposing proposed legislation to add the protected classes of "sexual orientation and gender identity or expression" to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

For another, both Rep. Hutchinson and Sen. White are on record as supporting a proposed discriminatory constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage, civil unions, and could eliminate benefits that unmarried couples currently have in Pennsylvania.

Project Vote Smart, as a non-profit, non-partisan research organization that collects and distributes information on public officials in the U.S., also administers something called the Political Courage Test, aimed at making the views of all candidates for presidential, congressional, gubernatorial, and state legislative offices known to constituents and potential voters.

The issues included in the Political Courage Test are those that are both consistently the top concerns of the American people and also likely to come up in the next legislative session.

According to Project Vote Smart, “Rep. Scott Hutchinson and Sen. Mary Jo White repeatedly refused to provide any responses to citizens on the issues through the 2008 Political Courage Test when asked to do so by national leaders of the political parties, prominent members of the media, Project Vote Smart President Richard Kimball, and Project Vote Smart staff.”

As growing numbers of Venango County’s hard-working, taxpaying, overlooked, excluded, and/or underrepresented individuals and communities are beginning to find our voice(s), perhaps it would be good for us to take a harder look at how our contributions are recognized and how our interests and concerns are considered and addressed by our elected representatives.

Perhaps it is time for us to become better organized and to participate more fully and intentionally in the political process that helps to shape the communities, and the world, in which we live.

Perhaps the emergence of true political participation, representation and leadership, in the interest of fairness and equality for all, will also bring about the death of a blog known as EBinVC (End Bigotry in Venango County) and the birth of a new effort known as VCEB, a Venango County in which Everyone Belongs!

But, as Frederick Douglass once said: "Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them."

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Even Bill O'Reilly Says: "Opposing Marriage Equality is Bigoted"

Submitted by Anon.

Fox News' Bill O’Reilly, in this Factor Follow-Up clip, asks a simple question that we should ask of all our elected officials - note the response from California family law attorney Don Schweizer:

re: From the Berkshires to the Oil Region

Submitted by Jim

Well that about sums it up.

It's been shown over and again that communities that promote art and human diversity thrive.

These Republicans who pound on the Bible of Fiscal Conservatism ignore this basic fact.

If you are intolerant of people, it hurts business.

If your every word is an edict from God, no one wants to do business with you.

From the Berkshires to the Oil Region

Submitted by Anon.

Similar to the Oil Region of Northwestern Pennsylvania, the Berkshire Region of Western Massachusetts is a post-industrial-age area rich in history, with glorious architecture and tremendous natural beauty.

Welcoming to all, including GLBT people, the Berkshire Region has become an incredible center of art and tourism.

Perhaps the story of one its towns, North Adams, remarkably similar to Oil City, could provide some inspiration:,_Massachusetts

PS - There is NO American Family Association affiliate opposing cultural or economic progress in Massachusetts.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Message to Venango County Residents from the Chairperson of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission

Submitted by Stephen A. Glassman, Chairperson of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) is on record as having passed a resolution unanimously supporting legislation (HB 1400 in the PA House of Representatives with 76 cosponsors and SB 761 in the PA State Senate with 22 cosponsors) which will add the protected classes of "sexual orientation and gender identity or expression" to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. Governor Rendell has consistently supported this legislation and has long advocated for full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals in our state and federal civil rights laws.

The PHRC has jurisdiction over discrimination and bias complaints in employment, housing and commercial property, credit and lending, public accommodations, and education in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Twenty-one states already have laws in place which offer statewide protections with regard to "Sexual Orientation" and fourteen states additionally include "Gender Identity or Expression" in their civil rights statutes. Pennsylvania is considerably overdue in its legal recognition of LGBT people at the statewide level in various pieces of legislation.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission has worked with Equality Advocates PA to draught legislative language for 14 local jurisdictions in the state which have already passed their own non-discrimination ordinances and established local human relations commissions. These cities, counties, and boroughs now ensure protections against discrimination for LGBT people in addition to those who are already recognized by the State of Pennsylvania in the PA Human Relations Act.

The PHRC continues to work with communities and schools across the Commonwealth to eradicate discrimination and bias and to address civil tension, bullying, and harassment wherever it arises.

We are particularly concerned about allegations of discrimination and harassment in the Franklin School district and the Oil City School district in Venago County, and we have been closely monitoring incidents that have been reported to our agency for a number of years.

We would like the residents of Venango County to know that the PHRC is here to act on any complaints of discrimination and to resolve tension situations that arise in your community. Please contact us through our Pittsburgh Regional Office at 412 565 5395. Our Regional Director is George Simmons (412 565 7561), and our Supervisor of Education and Community Outreach is Robert Flipping (412 565 7560).

I offer my own strong support for your efforts to achieve full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender residents of Venango County. Please call on me for any assistance I might offer in our common struggle to advance the cause of Civil Rights for all Americans.

Stephen A. Glassman, Chairperson

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission

Office of Governor Edward G. Rendell

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Transgendered People Have Family Values

Submitted by Jim Ru

Thomas Beatie, the 34-year-old transgender man, gave birth Thursday to a healthy girl, ABC News reported.

The rest of the story....

The American Family Association is Promoting the Use of Bigotry & Discrimination Against GLBT Americans as a Tool for Political Gain

Shockingly, or perhaps not, the following article actually appeared on the "news" feed promoted on the web sites of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania and radio station WAWN 89.5 FM ...

Still feel like Diane Gramley, Jane Richey and cohorts are a benign presence in Venango County?

Will Homosexual Marriage Save the GOP?
by Jim Brown - OneNewsNow - 7/5/2008 5:15:00 AM

A former Republican presidential candidate says the issue of homosexual marriage could save the GOP again on Election Day like it did in 2004.

Following the Supreme Court's decision striking down the Texas sodomy law in 2003, and a ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Court legalizing homosexual marriage, conservative activists worked to implement state marriage protection amendments.

In a recent column for, Gary Bauer says the marriage amendments helped get President Bush and other conservative candidates elected and drove to the polls many voters who otherwise might have stayed home. He contends the legalization of homosexual marriage in California may oddly be a blessing in disguise for Republicans.

"There could be great benefit to conservative candidates if they've got the courage and the energy to stand up against the popular culture and the radical gay rights movement and make the case for normal marriage," he says. "[B]ecause the evidence is overwhelming that the American people do not want the definition of marriage to be changed."

Bauer notes that a "little-discussed" academic paper titled "Did Gay Marriage Elect George W. Bush?" concluded that "gay marriage may very well have put Bush over the top" in 2004 in the key battleground state of Ohio.

Ignoring homosexual marriage, says Bauer, would be "incredibly destructive" for the Republican Party. "In fact, the evidence is very clear that defending marriage as the union of one man and one woman is a much more politically popular position to take than some of the other things on the Republican agenda that I happen to support but which, in some cases, the American people are very divided over...," adds Bauer.

On the issue of homosexual marriage, Bauer says the people are not divided.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Let's Do A Movie Together, As A Community!

Submitted by Anon.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could bring the new film FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO to Venango County and host a community dialogue and discussion about the issues?


Can the love between two people ever be an abomination? Is the chasm separating gays and lesbians and Christianity too wide to cross? Is the Bible an excuse to hate?

Winner of the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Seattle International Film Festival, Dan Karslake's provocative, entertaining documentary brilliantly reconciles homosexuality and Biblical scripture, and in the process reveals that Church-sanctioned anti-gay bias is based almost solely upon a significant (and often malicious) misinterpretation of the Bible. As the film notes, most Christians live their lives today without feeling obliged to kill anyone who works on the Sabbath or eats shrimp (as a literal reading of scripture dictates).

Through the experiences of five very normal, very Christian, very American families -- including those of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson -- we discover how insightful people of faith handle the realization of having a gay child. Informed by such respected voices as Bishop Desmond Tutu, Harvard's Peter Gomes, Orthodox Rabbi Steve Greenberg and Reverend Jimmy Creech, FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO offers healing, clarity and understanding to anyone caught in the crosshairs of scripture and sexual identity.

The American Family Association's Business of Bigotry

Submitted by Anon.

The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to expanding the economic opportunities and advancements of the GLBT business community.

Most rational people understand that trying to promote success by eliminating bigotry & discrimination in the economy is a good thing and that communities as a whole, and the business sector in particular, are better off when the people who live and work in those communities, particularly the creative and risk-taking entrepreneurs, including GLBT people, are supported and encouraged to innovate.

Unfortunately, the American Family Association is not rational.

No, this master of Venango County’s own advocate of biblical literalism, Diane Gramley, is now launching a boycott against the Golden Arches of McDonalds because the fast food chain supports and is a corporate member of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

Fortunately, McDonalds rebuked AFA founder Donald Wildmon’s demands that it withdraw such support, telling him the corporation has a commitment to diversity.

Here's a link to Truth Wins Out's press release about the whole affair: