Friday, October 31, 2008

Evangelicals and Rural Americans Are Breaking Big For ...

from TomDispatch.com

A mass defection from the Republican Party may be underway in counties that were once GOP strongholds. Call it the reverse Bradley Effect.


There's clearly a new political landscape forming in the U.S. That's what the polls are telling us. It's not just that the first major-party black candidate for President is leading by significant margins in the national polls; it's not just that North Dakota, a state George W. Bush won in 2004 by 64%, is believed to be "in play"; it's not just that Virginia which, like North Dakota, was last carried by a Democrat in the sweep year of 1964, is, according to the most recent Washington Post poll and others, in the Obama camp by at least 8 points, or that he's leading in a remarkable number of states Bush took in 2004, or even that Democratic Senate and House candidates are making a run of it in previously ridiculous places.

Consider, instead, three recent polls in the context of the Bush years. Obama and McCain are now in a "statistical dead heat" among born-again evangelicals, those Rovian foot soldiers of two successful Bush elections, according to a recent survey; and the same seems to be true in Sarah Palin's "real America," those rural and small town areas she's praised to the skies. According to a poll commissioned by the Center for Rural Strategies, in those areas which Bush won in 2004 by 53%-41%, Obama now holds a statistically insignificant one point lead. To complete this little trifecta, Gallup has just released a poll showing that Jews are now likely to vote for Obama by a more than 3 to 1 majority (74% to 22%).

If present projections come close to holding, this could prove to be a rare reconfiguring or turning-point election -- as Wall Street expert Steve Fraser first suggested might be possible at TomDispatch way back in February 2007. If so, the Republican Party, only recently besotted by dreams of a generational Pax Republicana, might find itself driven back into the deep South and deep West for who knows how long, "an extremist rump, reduced to a few stronghold states and obsessed with causes that seem not to matter to the general public."

Among the remaining unknowns in this election, of course, are the intertwined issues of class and race. In this regard, few places have been more closely examined than parts of Pennsylvania, a battleground state in which polls show John McCain significantly behind, but which he must capture if he hopes to win this election, and a place where working-class, as well as possibly racist, "Hillary voters" were supposed to be especially strong. Ever since the primaries, reporters have been tromping the state in search of them. Today, TomDispatch has an interesting twist on such articles. We've sent a home-town boy back to Pennsylvania to offer a more personal view of the race there -- and the news isn't good for the future of the Republican Party.

Full Story HERE

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Be The Change You Wish To See In The World

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.



from Stopping the Hate

People in the Middle Against Bigotry and For Hope



by the PFAW Voters Alliance

FBI Reports Overall Hate Crimes Down In '07 But Anti-Gay Attacks Up


from the Washington Blade:

Hate crime incidents decreased slightly last year, despite a surge in crimes targeting gays and lesbians.

The FBI reported more than 7,600 hate crime incidents in 2007, down about 1 percent from last year. The decline was driven by decreases in the two largest categories of hate crimes — crimes against race and religion.

But prejudice against sexual orientation, the third-largest category, increased about 6 percent, the report found.

The FBI report does not compare its data from one year to the next because the number of law enforcement agencies participating in the annual count varies from year to year. More agencies contributed to the 2007 report than the 2006 report, however.

The data released Monday is consistent with previous years. Racial bias remained the most common motive, accounting for more than half of all reported hate crimes. Blacks, Jews and gays were the most frequent victims of hate crimes, the report found.

The FBI report is purely statistical and does not assign a cause for the slight overall decrease or increase in anti-gay hate crimes.

More than a third of all hate crime incidents were categorized as vandalism or property destruction. Intimidation was the second most common hate crime, followed by simple assault.

The report was based on data drawn from 13,241 law enforcement agencies nationwide, covering about 85 percent of the nation's population. By comparison, the broader crime report the FBI puts out every year draws data from about 17,000 law enforcement agencies.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Republicans Against California's Anti-Gay Prop 8 Launch Online PSA Campaign

from The Advocate:


The latest round of grassroots No on 8 public service announcements started with a simple conversation. Republicans Against 8 campaign director Scott Schmidt ran into Milk scribe Dustin Lance Black, who Schmidt says wanted to know if there was anything more than fund-raising he could do to fight Proposition 8, California's proposed ban on same-sex marriage.

With Black stepping in as director, the two started making some calls, got a bunch of people together, and combined efforts to create two new PSAs, which began making their way around the Web Monday.



“This community has many, many talents that run beyond phone banking and fund-raising,” Schmidt told Advocate.com.

Schmidt said the effort is an example of the “unprecedented cooperation in the gay community to beat Prop. 8. I am a Republican, Lance Black isn’t one. ... It doesn’t matter who you are -- Democrat, Republican, Trojan, Bruin -- we want to work together to accomplish the same goal.”

The two ads feature an impressive roster of everyday gay citizens, including a Vietnam veteran and a Boeing rocket scientist, two people who say they have devoted their careers to protecting the rights and lives of Americans. The ads urge Californians to now step up and return the favor on November 4.

Schmidt says several high-profile Republicans have been instrumental in fighting Prop. 8.



“Having Governor Schwarzenegger on board since the beginning made it easier to get other people,” he said. “San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders, L.A. sheriff Lee Baca. ... Big government shouldn’t be telling people who they can marry.”

Schmidt said having Black on board gave the effort an added bit of authenticity. The No on 8 logo that appears throughout the ads is a re-creation of a logo from San Francisco's 1978 No on 6 effort. Proposition 6, also known as the Briggs Initiative, would have prohibited gay people from teaching in California.

Schmidt said buttons featuring the No on 8 logo would be handed out at Monday's San Francisco premiere of Milk, the biopic about pioneering gay politician Harvey Milk. (Ross von Metzke, The Advocate)

The Straight FOR Equality Pledge


As a straight ally committed to supporting and advocating for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people, I will:

Come out.

I will acknowledge and work on any uncertainties I may have in “coming out” as a straight ally, and, as I grow in confidence, I’ll increasingly let my family, friends, and colleagues know that I support equality for GLBT people.

Speak up.

Whenever I have an opportunity, I’ll say something supportive of GLBT people, whether I’m responding to a homophobic joke or remark, commenting positively about a current event, or making the case for equality in a discussion.

Join in.

I will review the many recommended actions provided through Straight for Equality that will help me create change in big and small ways and incorporate those with which I am comfortable into my growth as a straight ally to help move equality forward.

=======================================================================================

10 Things To Do As An Ally

There are literally hundreds of ways that you can show support as a straight ally -- from the way that you respond in conversations to what companies you support to which legislators you elect.

Here are 10 simple ways to get started.

One:
Become informed about the realities, challenges and issues affecting the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people’s lives through websites, books, documentaries, and educational materials.

Two:
Be open about having gay friends, family or acquaintances that you value, respect, and are grateful to have in your life. When you talk about them, don’t omit the fact that they are GLBT.

Three:
Speak up when you hear derogatory slurs or jokes and don’t use them yourself.

Four:
Ask if you are unsure how a GLBT friend, family member or acquaintance would like their significant other to be referred to or introduced, rather than avoiding acknowledgment of the relationship.

Five:
Help your kids learn about and appreciate all different kinds of families. Be mindful of the day-to-day messages that they are receiving about gay and transgender people and issues in school, from friends, and on TV and talk about what they encounter with them.

Six:
Quit or don’t join organizations that overtly discriminate. Let them know why you are leaving or not joining in the first place.

Seven:
Support gay, lesbian, bi, and/or transgender-owned and
-friendly businesses.

Eight:
Encourage and support company policies and programs that promote a positive work environment for gay employees at your workplace. If your company has a GLBT network group, join and encourage them to include straight allies so more people can be openly supportive of their work.

Nine:
Write letters to the editor of your newspaper to comment as a straight ally on why you support respectful and equal treatment for GLBT people.

Ten:
Call, write, e-mail, or visit public policy makers and let them know that as a straight person who votes, you support laws that extend equal rights and protections to all people.

Love, Sex and the Changing Landscape of Infidelity


A More Complex View of Love, Sex and the Changing Landscape of Infidelity Than The Right-Wing Would Like Us To Think About

By Tara Parker-Pope for The New York Times:


If you cheated on your spouse, would you admit it to a researcher?

That question is one of the biggest challenges in the scientific study of marriage, and it helps explain why different studies produce different estimates of infidelity rates in the United States.

Surveys conducted in person are likely to underestimate the real rate of adultery, because people are reluctant to admit such behavior not just to their spouses but to anyone.

In a study published last summer in The Journal of Family Psychology, for example, researchers from the University of Colorado and Texas A&M surveyed 4,884 married women, using face-to-face interviews and anonymous computer questionnaires. In the interviews, only 1 percent of women said they had been unfaithful to their husbands in the past year; on the computer questionnaire, more than 6 percent did.

At the same time, experts say that surveys appearing in sources like women’s magazines may overstate the adultery rate, because they suffer from what pollsters call selection bias: the respondents select themselves and may be more likely to report infidelity.

But a handful of new studies suggest surprising changes in the marital landscape. Infidelity appears to be on the rise, particularly among older men and young couples. Notably, women appear to be closing the adultery gap: younger women appear to be cheating on their spouses nearly as often as men.

“If you just ask whether infidelity is going up, you don’t see really impressive changes,” said David C. Atkins, research associate professor at the University of Washington Center for the Study of Health and Risk Behaviors. “But if you magnify the picture and you start looking at specific gender and age cohorts, we do start to see some pretty significant changes.”

The most consistent data on infidelity come from the General Social Survey, sponsored by the National Science Foundation and based at the University of Chicago, which has used a national representative sample to track the opinions and social behaviors of Americans since 1972. The survey data show that in any given year, about 10 percent of married people — 12 percent of men and 7 percent of women — say they have had sex outside their marriage.

But detailed analysis of the data from 1991 to 2006, to be presented next month by Dr. Atkins at the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies conference in Orlando, show some surprising shifts. University of Washington researchers have found that the lifetime rate of infidelity for men over 60 increased to 28 percent in 2006, up from 20 percent in 1991. For women over 60, the increase is more striking: to 15 percent, up from 5 percent in 1991.

The researchers also see big changes in relatively new marriages. About 20 percent of men and 15 percent of women under 35 say they have ever been unfaithful, up from about 15 and 12 percent respectively.

Theories vary about why more people appear to be cheating. Among older people, a host of newer drugs and treatments are making it easier to be sexual, and in some cases unfaithful — Viagra and other remedies for erectile dysfunction, estrogen and testosterone supplements to maintain women’s sex drive and vaginal health, even advances like better hip replacements.

“They’ve got the physical health to express their sexuality into old age,” said Helen E. Fisher, research professor of anthropology at Rutgers and the author of several books on the biological and evolutionary basis of love and sex.

In younger couples, the increasing availability of pornography on the Internet, which has been shown to affect sexual attitudes and perceptions of “normal” behavior, may be playing a role in rising infidelity.

But it is the apparent change in women’s fidelity that has sparked the most interest among relationship researchers. It is not entirely clear if the historical gap between men and women is real or if women have just been more likely to lie about it.

“Is it that men are bragging about it and women are lying to everybody including themselves?” Dr. Fisher asked. “Men want to think women don’t cheat, and women want men to think they don’t cheat, and therefore the sexes have been playing a little psychological game with each other.”

Dr. Fisher notes that infidelity is common across cultures, and that in hunting and gathering societies, there is no evidence that women are any less adulterous than men. The fidelity gap may be explained more by cultural pressures than any real difference in sex drives between men and women. Men with multiple partners typically are viewed as virile, while women are considered promiscuous. And historically, women have been isolated on farms or at home with children, giving them fewer opportunities to be unfaithful.

But today, married women are more likely to spend late hours at the office and travel on business. And even for women who stay home, cellphones, e-mail and instant messaging appear to be allowing them to form more intimate relationships, marriage therapists say. Dr. Frank Pittman, an Atlanta psychiatrist who specializes in family crisis and couples therapy, says he has noticed more women talking about affairs centered on “electronic” contact.

“I see a changing landscape in which the emphasis is less on the sex than it is on the openness and intimacy and the revelation of secrets,” said Dr. Pittman, the author of “Private Lies: Infidelity and the Betrayal of Intimacy” (Norton, 1990). “Everybody talks by cellphone and the relationship evolves because you become increasingly distant from whomever you lie to, and you become increasingly close to whomever you tell the truth to.”

While infidelity rates do appear to be rising, a vast majority of people still say adultery is wrong, and most men and women do not appear to be unfaithful. Another problem with the data is that it fails to discern when respondents cheat: in a troubled time in the marriage, or at the end of a failing relationship.

“It’s certainly plausible that women might have increased their relative rate of infidelity over time,” said Edward O. Laumann, professor of sociology at the University of Chicago. “But it isn’t going to be a huge number. The real thing to talk about is where are they in terms of their relationship and the marital bond.”

The General Social Survey data also show some encouraging trends, said John P. Robinson, professor of sociology and director of the Americans’ Use of Time project at the University of Maryland. One notable shift is that couples appear to be spending slightly more time together. And married men and women also appear to have the most active sex lives, reporting sex with their spouse 58 times a year, a little more than once a week.

“We’ve looked at that as good news,” Dr. Robinson said.

Red State Update: Gay Marriage



Background on the satirical Red State Update

Monday, October 27, 2008

Erie Times-News Publishes Gay Marriage Announcement


from Mike Mahler at the Erie Gay News:

The publication of a same-sex marriage announcement in Sunday's Erie Times-News may not be a first, but it is progress for northwestern Pennsylvania when local papers include announcements of all marriages equally.

To send a supportive letter-to-the-editor at the paper write to: letters@timesnews.com (include a phone number for verification purposes)


=======================================================================================
Weddings & Announcements
Erie Times-News, Sunday October 26, 2008

David Skovron and Jeff Rubin were married on Friday, Aug. 8, 2008, on the beach in Santa Monica, Calif. Chris Robinson officiated.

Mr. Skovron (right) is 53 and a playwright who is currently in collaboration with the novelist and filmmaker Clive Barker on a comedy, "The Secret Life of Cartoons," headed for Broadway. Mr. Skovron is the principal and creative force of DSA Productions, a New York-based company that creates product launches and media events worldwide. He is the son of Edwin J. Skovron and the late Catherine Doyle Skovron of Erie.

Dr. Rubin (left) is 55 and a vice president of behavioral operations for ACCOLADE. He is a psychologist and maintains a New York based practice. He received both a master's degree and doctorate from Teachers College, Columbia University. He is the son of the late Barbara and Jack Rubin of New York, N.Y.

A reception was held at their country home in upstate New York on Aug. 16, 2008. The couple resides in Manhattan.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Religious Right's View of Scripture is Deviously Skewed


This article by Peter J. Gomes, an American Baptist minister and professor of Christian morals at Harvard University, was originally published by The New York Times on August 17, 1992:


Opposition to gays’ civil rights has become one of the most visible symbols of American civic conflict this year (1992), and religion has become the weapon of choice. The army of the discontented, eager for clear villains and simple solutions and ready for a crusade in which political self-interest and social anxiety can be cloaked in morality, has found hatred of homosexuality to be the last respectable prejudice of the century.

Ballot initiatives in Oregon and Maine would deny homosexuals the protection of civil rights laws. The Pentagon has steadfastly refused to allow gays into the armed forces. Vice President Dan Quayle is crusading for “traditional family values.” And Pat Buchanan, who is scheduled to speak at the Republican National Convention this evening, regards homosexuality as a litmus test of moral purity.

Nothing has illuminated this crusade more effectively than a work of fiction, “The Drowning of Stephen Jones,” by Bette Greene. Preparing for her novel, Ms. Greene interviewed more than 400 young men incarcerated for gay-bashing, and scrutinized their case studies. In an interview published in The Boston Globe this spring, she said she found that the gay-bashers generally saw nothing wrong in what they did, and, more often than not, said their religious leaders and traditions sanctioned their behavior. One convicted teen-age gay-basher told her that the pastor of his church had said, “Homosexuals represent the devil. Satan,” and that the Rev. Jerry Falwell had echoed that charge.

Christians opposed to political and social equality for homosexuals nearly always appeal to the moral injunctions of the Bible, claiming that Scripture, is very clear on the matter and citing verses that support their opinion. They accuse others of perverting end distorting texts contrary to their “clear” meaning. They do not, however, necessarily see quite as clear a meaning to biblical passages on economic conduct, the burdens of wealth and the sin of greed.

Nine biblical citations are customarily invoked as relating to homosexuality. Four (Deuteronomy 23:17, 1 Kings 14:24, I Kings 22:46 and II Kings 23:7) simply forbid prostitution by men and women.

Two others (Leviticus 18:19-23 and Leviticus 20:10-16) are part of what biblical scholars call the Holiness Code. The code explicitly bans homosexual acts. But it also prohibits eating raw meat, planting two different kinds of seed in the same field and wearing garments with two different kinds of yarn. Tattoos, adultery and sexual intercourse during a woman’s menstrual period are similarly outlawed.

There is no mention of homosexuality in the four Gospels of the New Testament. The moral teachings of Jesus are not concerned with the subject.

Story Continues HERE

Homophobic Bullying from the School Bus Driver


by Jennie Beeson at the National Youth Advocacy Coalition blog:


If you thought anti-LGBT bullying and assault was a problem that only occurred between students, think again.

Police reported that a 10 year old boy was bullied and assaulted by a mob of students that was prompted by the bus driver.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
(Bourbonnais, Illinois) An elementary school bus driver has been charged with leading a homophobic attack on a 10-year old student passenger.

The Kankakee Sheriff’s Police Department said that the boy was taunted by the driver who then encouraged other students to chase and beat the child.

Chief Deputy Ken McCabe said the incident occurred on a Bourbonnais Elementary School District bus which was returning students to their homes last Friday.

McCabe said the driver repeatedly called the boy “gay.”

”When the boy got off the bus, the driver encouraged several other students to go after him and tackle him. Our investigation shows that occurred,” McCabe told The Daily Journal.

He also said the driver is under investigation for joining the students in chasing the boy and grabbing him.

Bourbonnais School District officials would only say the driver has been terminated.

Charged with mob action, endangering the life of a child and battery is Russell A. Schmalz, 46.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

When school officials, faculty, and staff are not enforcing anti-bullying and assault policies (and those policies don't even exist in all schools), LGBT students may not be able to trust the adults at school, either. The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) reported in the 2007 National School Climate Survey that while teachers and school staff were less likely to make homophobic remarks in school, they were also least likely to intervene when homophobic remarks were made in schools. While we've been focusing on student-on-student bullying, maybe we should take a look at how these students' elders and role models treat LGBT people.

Coincidently enough, in many schools, this week is Ally Week, a week created by Gay-Straight Alliances across the country to encourage other students to be allies for LGBT people. Essentially, this means that students are organizing themselves to teach respect and responsibility to one another.

Now, maybe what schools really need is an Ally Week for adults.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

You're Invited! -- And Please Help Spread the Word!



Dream Up Your Wildest Costume for a Wonderful Night at The Latonia!

This is a BYOB event. But, friends have committed to donating a keg of beer, so free beer for those over 21 as long as it lasts. IDs will be checked.

The cost is just $5. Anyone in costume is eligible for prizes. DJ music, a few surprises, snacks and soft drinks.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Gender Bending: The Evolution of Homosexuality


Genes That Make Some People Gay Make Their Brothers And Sisters More Fertile

A new study indicates that a person's homosexuality may be genetically linked to the number of sexual partners his or her heterosexual siblings have. The soon-to-be-published paper by the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Brisbane, Australia, may explain how a "gay gene" can survive over time when gay people can't biologically reproduce, the Economist reports.

According to the magazine, Brendan Zietsch and his fellow researchers have found that gay people tend to have siblings with more sexual partners than average. If that's the case, a gay person's brothers or sisters may be passing on genes associated with both homosexuality and fecundity -- and thus besting natural selection.

The Zietsch study, to be published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, relied on a sample of 4,904 twins, not all of them identical, the Economist reports.

Read the Economist article HERE

Ads Target "That's So Gay!"

from CNN

A celebrity ad campaign including Hilary Duff aims to stamp out anti-gay language.

Night of the Living La La's at the Latonia!


Night of the Living La La’s November 1 at 8 PM at the Latonia.

Time for a reminder and an update about “Night of the Living La La’s”. This event has been widely publicized from Pittsburgh to Erie and beyond. Our response so far ensures a great event with wonderful costumes! What’s exciting is that this is a Gay/Straight alliance social and many straight allies are coming. At least one tells me he’s coming just to see the costumes!

The great thing is that if you are a GLBT person, a bit shy about being out in Venango County – no worries! Come in costume and be who you want to be. This event will not only be a lot of fun, but also very liberating for all who attend. Much laughter is planned!!!

This is a BYOB event. We will check ID’s. Also, friends have committed to donating a keg of beer, so free beer for those over 21 as long as it lasts.

The cost is just $5. Anyone in costume is eligible for prizes. DJ music, a few surprises, snacks and soft drinks.

Small Town Gay America



(A Five-Year-Old Article Worth Revisiting Today)

By ADAM GOODHEART for The New York Times back on Nov. 23, 2003

A year ago, I moved out of the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, the heart of the city's substantial ''gay ghetto,'' where I'd spent most of the past decade. In Dupont Circle -- a mile or so from the White House -- the sight of same-sex couples holding hands is a common one, and by the time I left, it no longer surprised me to see two men pushing a baby carriage.

When I resettled in a small town across the Chesapeake Bay, on the rural eastern shore of Maryland, some of my friends -- straight and gay alike -- worried that I was moving to enemy territory, to a place where, as an openly gay man, I'd be shunned, or worse. But I quickly discovered that there are plenty of gays and lesbians here, too. You won't see couples holding hands on High Street, but a quiet tolerance prevails; when two men held their commitment ceremony in a nearby farming town a few weeks ago, there were no protesters, just 200 guests on hand to celebrate.

Now, with both liberals and conservatives girding for a cultural Armageddon over gay marriage and gay rights, the battle lines are being staked out not just in the courts and legislatures, but also in places like this. Perhaps more than any other national political struggle since the Civil War, the fight for gay equality has been waged community by community and family by family. Last Tuesday's ruling by Massachusetts' highest court in favor of gay marriage will put personal relationships as well as political principles to an unprecedented test.

The rapidly growing acceptance and visibility of gays and lesbians over the past 30 years can be explained by simple exponential math: each person who comes out of the closet brings at least some of his friends and family over to the pro-gay camp, and this in turn makes it easier for others to live openly. It's a phenomenon alien to the politics of race; rarely, alas, does a racist wake up one morning to discover that he has an African-American son or brother.

The most difficult obstacle that the foes of gay marriage face is that no matter how they choose to frame their side of the debate -- ''traditional family values,'' ''defense of marriage,'' ''our Judeo-Christian heritage'' -- they will be pitting a mere abstraction against millions of very real people across America who have told their friends and relatives and co-workers that they are gay.

Story Continues HERE

Focus on the Family Actually Targets Gays



from the Denver Post:


For a decade, Focus on the Family has delved into what it believes is the biblical truth about sexual behavior through its "Love Won Out" conferences.

Focus says the conferences started a national conversation on the origins of homosexuality and have nurtured thousands of troubled families and helped hundreds of former gays and lesbians "escape the lifestyle."

But pro-gay activists and many psychology experts denounce attempts to change people's sexual orientation through religious mediation or other so-called reparative therapies. They say it causes people great harm in an attempt to fix something that isn't broken.

The conservative Christian media ministry's 10th-anniversary conference is Sunday at its home base in Colorado Springs.

Although the program does not track the number of people who have made the decision to become ex-gays, Focus says more than 50,000 gay people and family members have attended 52 conferences around the country in the past decade.

"This is a struggle that can be overcome. A number of us have overcome," said Melissa Fryrear, a self-identified ex-gay and director of Focus' Gender Issues Department.

"God can radically change your life, whatever the issue is," said Fryrear, 42. "We're ministering to Christian families. They are devastated when a loved one is living homosexually. They can't condone what falls outside biblical truth."

But opponents say the conferences also cause harm.

"These programs give us the tools and weapons to go to war against ourselves," said Peterson Toscano, founder of the support group Beyond Ex-Gay.

Failed attempts to change sexual orientation take a tremendous toll on people's psychological, emotional, spiritual, financial and physical well-being, he said.

"I've talked to more than 1,000 ex- gay survivors whose lives have been devastated — their close relationships destroyed," Toscano said. "Because of one of these conferences, my mother died feeling she had failed me."

University of Minnesota researchers recently published a study in the Journal of Homosexuality showing that among homosexual men, the best predictor of poor mental and sexual health, including depression, drug use and sexually transmitted diseases, is a negative attitude toward homosexuality, not being a homosexual.

Focus on the Family founder and psychologist James Dobson has said that homosexuality is a disorder, despite the contrary opinion reached by the American Psychiatric Association in 1973.

Dobson also said there is no conclusive evidence that homosexuality is inherited, although he concedes there might be a biological predisposition.

Dobson said there are more than 800 known former gay and lesbian individuals who have found "wholeness in their newfound heterosexuality."

As evidence mounts for biological underpinnings to human sexual behavior, Christian conservatives increasingly argue science doesn't matter.

"Even if homosexuality is someday proven to be inborn, inborn does not necessarily mean normal, or divinely sanctioned," "Love Won Out" conference speaker Joe Dallas wrote. "Surely we're not going to say that obesity, violence, alcoholism and adultery are legitimate because they were inherited."

Christine Bakke, a 37-year-old Denver artist, moved to Colorado 10 years ago for the state's ex-gay programs and spent more than four years in two of them. She also underwent psychological counseling.

"I threw my whole heart and soul and life into changing," she said. "There was a period of time when I actually believed I was changing. Then there would be reminders — oh, no, still gay."

The whole time she suppressed her sexuality, her creativity disappeared.

She gave up transforming herself into a heterosexual, she said, after observing many gay people leading happy, healthy, vibrant lives.

"I still had to deal with a lot of feelings of shame, brokenness and failure that I had internalized from the ex-gay programs," Bakke said.

She no longer considers herself a Christian.

James Dobson Divided My Family

from Dump Dobson and Truth Wins Out:

Andrew is a 16 year old boy who came out to his mother in Colorado. She was an avid reader of Focus on the Family’s books and used them to try to get Andrew to change his sexual orientation. Focus on the Family sent books, videos and other ex-gay propaganda that told Andrew that there was something wrong with him. It convinced his mother that he could change from gay to straight. When he could not change, things got so tense in the house that he moved out to live with his father in Arizona.

Andrew is a real life example how Focus on the Family and James Dobson divide families. On this video, he urges the Radio Hall of Fame not to honor a man who has caused so much pain for his family.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

They Want People To Shun Us. Period!



from Good As You:

The above two video stills come from a new "Values Voters" video being circulated by some of the far-right's usual suspects (we got it from the American Family Association). If you want a two second primer on the arrogance of America's social conservatives, just use these graphics as your guidebook. For they tell you all you need to really need to know about the "pro-family" movement, and why we will NEVER, EVER brand them that fallacious label without putting the term in quotes!

In the first still, you see what is presumably a bride and groom. We know nothing more about the duo. We only know that they are in the process of getting hetero-married, and thus becoming a family. You know, the "good" kind of family. The type of family that should be "reinforced."

In the second still, we have what are presumably two grooms. Again, we know nothing about them. All we know is that they, via the graphic depiction of a gold ring-swapping, are pledging a commitment. And it's safe to assume that they are on their road to becoming their own family. You know, the "bad" kind of family. The kind of family that would "redefine" society.

Even if you aren't in favor of marriage equality, you have GOT to see how absolutely disgusting it is that these people think it's proper to denounce gay human beings using such a broad and nasty brush! The social conservatives always cry about "protecting marriage," and insist that their marriage bans are not about hurting anyone. But images like the above completely belie that idea. For they have not even used duplicitous imagery involving a frightened child or "freedom-stifled" parent (shorthand fear-mongering techniques that are popularly employed amongst these ranks). No, no -- in this instance, viewers are asked to judge this situation using nothing more than two pairs of male hands, touching in the same loving way as the heteros' phalanges. The gay love is what is meant to spark the rage -- nothing more. The hostility they are conjuring up within their ranks is towards gay couples' mere existence! That sort of unscrupulous hate-mongering is not "pro-family" -- it is cruelly, frighteningly, irresponsibly, ass-crazily ANTI-GAY!

We have to stop letting these people get away with this "pro-family" cover. For it is clear by their increasingly desperate attacks that their endgame is anti-any semblance of peace for our families!

Ellen and Palin on Gay Marriage

from Alternet.org

Last month, Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) told CBS that she wouldn't "judge people" based on their sexual preferences. However, just a few weeks later, she admitted that she nevertheless doesn't believe in marriage equality and voiced support for the Federal Marriage Amendment. Ellen DeGeneres responded to Palin's comments:



Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has come out against a federal ban on gay marriage. However, Palin reassured James Dobson that McCain has privately said that he will support far-right positions if he is elected president.

MILK: Never Blend In

His life changed history. His courage changed lives.



In 1977, Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, becoming the first openly gay man to be voted into public office in America. His victory was not just a victory for gay rights; he forged coalitions across the political spectrum. From senior citizens to union workers, Harvey Milk changed the very nature of what it means to be a fighter for human rights and became, before his untimely death in 1978, a hero for all Americans. Sean Penn stars as Harvey Milk under the direction of Gus Van Sant in Milk, filmed on location in San Francisco from an original screenplay by Dustin Lance Black, and produced by Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen.

Milk charts the last eight years of Harvey Milk’s life. While living in New York City, he turns 40. Looking for more purpose, Milk and his lover Scott Smith (James Franco) relocate to San Francisco, where they found a small business, Castro Camera, in the heart of a working-class neighborhood. With his beloved Castro neighborhood and beautiful city empowering him, Milk surprises Scott and himself by becoming an outspoken agent for change.

With vitalizing support from Scott and from new friends like young activist Cleve Jones (Emile Hirsch), Milk plunges headfirst into the choppy waters of politics. Bolstering his public profile with humor, Milk’s actions speak even louder than his gift-of-gab words.

When Milk is elected supervisor for the newly zoned District 5, he tries to coordinate his efforts with those of another newly elected supervisor, Dan White (Josh Brolin). But as White and Milk’s political agendas increasingly diverge, their personal destinies tragically converge.

Milk’s platform was and is one of hope – a hero’s legacy that resonates in the here and now.

Same Sex Marriage: The Worst Argument in the World


by Howard Schweber for The Huffington Post



Last week the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that the state must extend the legal status of marriage to same-sex couples. Their argument involved a determination that homosexuals constitute a quasi-suspect class -- a question the U.S. Supreme Court has gone to nearly incredible lengths to avoid addressing -- but I'm not really interested in that at the moment. Instead, it's the dissenting arguments that intrigue me. Debates about same-sex marriage seem to inspire really, really bad arguments, and I thought I would take a moment to review a couple of them.

One of these Really Bad Arguments is captured in the phrase "Defense of Marriage." The idea, of course, is that allowing same sex couples to marry threatens the marriages of mixed-sex couples. As a member of a mixed-sex marriage myself, I have to confess that I have never been able to ascertain the nature of the threat. (The only explanation I can come with, actually, is one that I call the "wow, I could have had a V-8!" principle.)

An equally silly version says that I will take my own marriage less seriously if too many other kinds of people are allowed to have them. The idea, of course, is the idea of exclusivity: who wants to be a member of a club if just anybody can join? The further assumption is that the mixed-sex couples around me are all the Right Kind of People, while the same-sex couples clamoring to get married are not the sort of people with whom I would want to be associated. Okay, never mind any thoughts about the average intelligence, decency, and good will of same-sex couples seeking to marry. Trust me: as I look about the country, there is absolutely no danger that extending the prerogative of marriage to new classes of people can possibly diminish the regard I have for the class of Married Americans.

Then there is the argument from "nature." This one is bad on so many levels. For one thing, homosexuality is difficult to describe as "unnatural" given that animals practice it with some regularity. But another, more serious, argument is this: animals are governed by nature. Humans are governed by reason, and law. The Hebrew Bible God gives the Israelite a single injunction: "Justice, justice, you shall pursue," not "Nature, nature, you shall pursue" (a rather more Aristotelian position, and one forever diminished by Hume's demolition of the is/ought distinction. "There is a special place in Hell," said Bertrand Russell, "for those philosophers who have refuted Hume." It was in a different context, but Russell had a point.

But the Really, Really Bad Arguments are the ones that try to define marriage as being about having children and the reason from there. To see just how bad these arguments are, one has to go through it step by step, in each of its two iterations.

Continue article HERE

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Another Conservative Smear Campaign

Brave New Films released a new short film yesterday debunking the McCain campaign's smears against ACORN. The film argues that spurious charges against the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now are part of a larger Republican strategy to depress the turn out of low income, minority, and young voters in battleground states. If the propaganda onslaught succeeds, the Republicans could steal the election. If it fails, the GOP has laid the groundwork to contest the legitimacy of an Obama victory.

Watch the clip and pass it on. Please do your part to defuse these poisonous allegations before they hurt more people.

Though Much Left To Do, LGBT People Make Great Strides in Pennsylvania


by Jake Kaskey and Andy Hoover


As the election nears and as many people’s thoughts and efforts begin to be geared toward November 4, we feel it is critically important to look back at the state of LGBT issues in Pennsylvania and the historic progress the LGBT community has made in Harrisburg this legislative session.

In early 2007, a record number of bipartisan co-sponsors came together to introduce House Bill 1400 and Senate Bill 761, legislation to amend the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations based upon one’s sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

Representative Dan Frankel (D-Pittsburgh) and Representative Chris Ross (R-Chester County) as well as Senator Patrick Browne (R-Allentown) worked tirelessly to promote these bills to fellow legislators and enlist support across the aisle, and from every corner of the state. Local activists and organizations, such as Erie PFLAG, called and met with their officials, and as a result brought unprecedented visibility to this issue.

While the bill stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee, State Government Committee Chairwoman Babette Josephs (D-Philadelphia) committed unprecedented resources to educating her committee on the need for this legislation. Public hearings were held in Erie, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia in the fall of 2007, which brought together people of all backgrounds to testify in support of this legislation, including representatives from the Philadelphia Bar Association, Womens Law Project, ACLU, Equality Advocates, the clergy, and countless others. These hearings marked the very first time LGBT non-discrimination legislation was discussed in this setting, and brought tremendous momentum, as well as the spotlight, to an issue vitally important to LGBT people.

As momentum grew to move non-discrimination legislation forward in the House, opponents introduced Senate Bill 1250, an amendment to the Pennsylvania constitution that would have defined marriage as solely between one man and one woman, as well as prohibit civil unions. Thousands of people, both LGBT and heterosexual, from every part of the state jumped into action, and let their legislators know there is no place in our constitution for discrimination. As the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings on the ill-conceived bill, hundreds of people from the LGBT community traveled to Harrisburg to rally on the steps of the Capitol Rotunda, and in one loud voice sent a strong and clear message to our elected officials- do not harm our families. With House Leadership vocally pushing back against the bill, it was withdrawn from consideration in the Senate. Together, as one community, we again stopped this discriminatory action dead in its tracks, and protected same-sex and unmarried heterosexual relationships across the state.

Over the course of the past two years, thousands of people have become involved in unprecedented ways- attending advocacy trainings, e-mailing and calling their legislators, rallying in the capitol, and sitting down with their elected officials. Organizations committed to equality for the LGBT community came together through the Value All Families Coalition and Faith Coalition for Pennsylvania Families, and worked with legislators to promote fairness for LGBT people.

Obviously, as this session ends and another lies just months ahead, there is much work to do. This summer the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down hate crime protections for LGBT people, and we must continue to push hard to pass protections against discrimination in the workplace and in housing; but as one community, with committed and hard-working members of the legislature, we have laid a strong foundation and built momentum to make tremendous strides in the coming year. A new legislative session brings incredible potential to improve the lives of LGBT people across this state, and together, as one community, we will move forward toward full equality.


Jake Kaskey is Education and Outreach Coordinator of Equality Advocates Pennsylvania. Andy Hoover is Legislative Director of American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

An "Ex-Gay" Divorce! What Would Jesus Think?


by Wayne Besen at Truth Wins Out:


Ex-Gay Watch reported today that anti-gay activist Greg Quinlan’s wife of three years, Cheryl Quinlan, appears to have received a decree of divorce in May of 2007, having filed the initial complaint seventeen months earlier.

Who can blame her? From my personal experience, Greg Quinlan is one of the most insufferable, dishonest and phony anti-gay zealots in the nation.

The Quinlan family shamelessly paraded their marriage through the media to prove that people could pray away the gay. Greg exploited his union in a successful political effort to ban gay people from marrying in Ohio. He and Cheryl also capitalized on their wedding by appearing in Dr. Warren Throckmorton’s (Grove City College) hopeless “ex-gay” movie, “I Do Exist.” That Throckmorton hasn’t burned the remaining copies of this humiliating train wreck in a giant bonfire (or, more appropriately, Hellfire) says all you need to know about his values and morality.

Now, instead of being honest about his failed marriage to an “ex-lesbian,” Quinlan, also an ex-gay poster boy, slunk out of Ohio in the dead of night and went to work for the New Jersey Family Policy Council. When you go to the group’s website, they have much to say about gay people. However, notably missing from the “issues” section of the site are editorials about divorce. Perhaps, now that Quinlan has personal experience in this arena, he can contribute to the commentary. He can begin by writing an essay on why Jesus never mentioned homosexuality, but was quite clear that divorce was unacceptable.

I want to know why Quinlan is still working for a “pro-family” organization, when the one family unit he was responsible for - he destroyed. Who does this hypocrite think he is to tell me or anyone else how to run their family? Aside from wrecking a marriage, what makes this holier-than-thou busybody an expert? It seems he would get his own house in order before preaching to others. But, unfortunately, these types who fight their inner-demons by attacking others on the public stage can never mind their own business.

The first time I heard of Quinlan is when I worked for the Human Rights Campaign in 1998. The ambitious ex-gay activist tried to climb the career ladder by lying about his past. He said that he had worked for HRC, when in reality, no one had ever heard of him. Instead of apologizing, he kept repeating this lie, as if by mere repetition it would become true.

My next run-in with Quinlan came on a television show when he seemed a little “off” and tried to shout me down. After the show, I pointed out that he still seemed stereotypically gay, which sent him into a tizzy. For a decade, Quinlan has been railing at me for pointing out the obvious – he does not appear to be heterosexual. Of course, there is nothing wrong with this, unless you are Quinlan and make your living as an ex-gay activist who strives (and fails) to appear as a beacon of masculinity and heterosexuality.

My saga with Quinlan continued in 2006, when he was working with the bizarre group, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX), which sponsored an “Ex-Gay Educators Caucus” booth at the National Education Association’s annual convention in Orlando. After Truth Wins Out held a press conference condemning the Ex-Gay Educators Caucus (which is a front and Trojan Horse for anti-gay political organizations), I peacefully walked into the exhibition hall and up to their booth.

I asked one simple question to the activists, “How many educators were part of the ex-gay caucus?” Upon asking, I was physically accosted by Quinlan. Ironically, he had called security on me, even though he was the hostile party. When security arrived, he made up a fake story and I was forced to leave the conference. (It is important to make clear that I had previously and subsequently been to dozens of ex-gay and anti-gay conferences without incident.)

This Orwellian scenario was to become a pattern with PFOX and Quinlan. They would intentionally inflame a situation and then call security and act as if they were innocent actors, when they were really the instigators. Their perverse goal is to portray ex-gays as victims and create phony martyrs that could be shamelessly flogged in the media – much like Quinlan’s marriage.

PFOX pulled this unseemly stunt last year at a Virginia fair – claiming that an ex-gay at their booth was assaulted, when the incident likely never took place. After weeks of denying an incident occurred at the fair, the police belatedly said that something happened. However, the police have no perpetrator, no arrests, no witnesses and simply repeated PFOX’s uncorroborated claims.

Only weeks after the alleged fair incident, PFOX and Quinlan badly undermined their credibility and martyr strategy. PFOX had another booth at a fair in Falls Church, Virginia. Curious, the publisher of the Falls Church News Press, Nicholas Benton, (disclosure, I write a column for the newspaper) came up to the PFOX booth to photograph it for his next edition. Quinlan did not know who Benton was – and preceded to threaten to have him arrested for inciting violence and a hate crime. The embarrassing incident exposed the PFOX strategy of crying wolf and showed Quinlan’s propensity for storytelling.

Last week, PFOX allegedly filed a lawsuit with the DC Office of Human Rights, once again falsely portraying ex-gays as victims who needed legal protection. Furthermore, it now appears that PFOX may not have even filed a real lawsuit, making their claim to have done so their latest, empty publicity stunt.

PFOX and Quinlan are the bottom of the barrel of ex-gay activists. His divorce – and cover up of the incident – speaks to his lack of character and utter hypocrisy. It is time Quinlan step down and get a real job, because his twisted morality play has come to an end. He now has been reduced to a self-righteous sinner who makes a living browbeating others into living up to a standard in which he notably failed.

What would Jesus think?

Breeders' Cup Challenge to Feature First Openly Gay Racehorse

from The Onion


Breeders� Cup Challenge To Feature First Openly Gay Racehorse

New Kids Show for Alternative Families Tops Wish Lists This Holiday Season

from Gay NewsNet

PORTLAND, Ore., -- Dottie's Magic Pockets -- the first children's program for the tens of thousands of kids in gay and lesbian families and their friends -- is the hot gift for kids this holiday season. The Dottie's Magic Pockets DVD contains two 25-minute episodes and is available for purchase ONLY online.

"We're thrilled to be able to offer families the gift of diversity this holiday season. Dottie's Magic Pockets was inspired by my own son -- I wanted him to have a fun show that reflects his family. I know the DVD will make a very special gift for all the children on your holiday list," said Tammy Stoner, Creator of Dottie's Magic Pockets.

Created by independent production company Pink Pea, Dottie's Magic Pockets features Dottie, a lesbian mom, who leads her puppet friends as they sing, laugh, and help each other through wacky adventures. Dottie's Magic Pockets also includes cartoons that represent gay families -- such as purplish-pink Princess and her two Dads -- and catchy, original songs. The show's trailer and clips can be viewed here.

Curve Magazine calls Dottie's Magic Pockets "a hip and zippy show that overflows with imagination ..." CoolMomPicks.com says that Dottie is "... just plain fun" and OUT.com says, "Dottie is charming, the set, the songs, and the performances are full of whimsy ..."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Decent Citizens Electing Decent Officials To Do The Decent Thing




By Anne Stockwell for The Advocate


Love Story: Tony Kushner and Mark Harris
Married: August 15, 2008
Together: 10 years

If there’s one man who is essential to the gay brain trust, it’s Tony Kushner. His towering, Pulitzer Prize–winning drama Angels in America galvanized Americans to make a deeper political and emotional commitment to the value of a gay life. Kushner found that same commitment with author and columnist Mark Harris. In 2003, five years after they met and fell in love, the couple held what Kushner describes as a “big fancy wedding” for friends and family in New York City.

This summer they planned to marry legally in California, but the presence of antigay Proposition 8 on the California ballot gave them pause. “It’s kind of a scary situation,” Kushner says. “I’m assuming that marriages will remain legal in California, but they could, of course, be taken away.”

Just then -- in what could be called perfect theatrical timing -- Massachusetts decided to recognize same-sex marriages for out-of-state couples. “They hadn’t even created new paperwork to accommodate that by the time we went there and got married,” Harris says. Kushner and Harris made it legal in Provincetown on August 15 -- just the two of them. “We were married by a nice lady cop in the town hall,” Kushner says.

The importance of their marriage took a bit of time to sink in. “The ceremony itself was just this nice person reading these vows and filling out the marriage license form,” Kushner says. “But when we went back a week later and actually picked up the certificate itself, it was really moving because it’s legal recognition of our status as a married couple, and it’s one step closer to actual citizenship, to actually being a recognized person in our own country. It was something that I never really imagined would happen.”

Harris adds, “The great thing about this is, it’s not something that was accomplished by artists or accomplished by visionaries. It was accomplished by decent citizens electing decent state officials who did the decent thing. It doesn’t take a giant leap into the stratosphere, it just takes good citizenship to recognize that this is something that gay people deserve and should be able to participate in.”

There are still a few details of being married that haven’t become second nature just yet. “It’s so much easier to say ‘partner,’ ” Kushner says, “but I want to try to force myself to say ‘my husband, Mark,’ because those words matter.” And monogamy? “For us, it’s monogamy,” Kushner says, “but we’re not Republicans -- we’re not in the business of prescribing what [marriage] should be.”

“It’s hard to believe that a lot of straight couples are actually monogamous,” Harris adds. Kushner laughs, saying, “There’d be no literature or drama or movies if they were.”

During Gay History Month, We Have To Make Sure Gay and Lesbian Citizens Count


By Heather Gilligan, for The Progressive magazine

We’re in the midst of Gay History Month, an ideal time for this question: How much progress has been made in the 40 years since the gay liberation movement began?

Gays and lesbians entered American public life in the late 1960s, with the Stonewall Rebellion in New York City, sparked by a police raid on a gay bar. Since then, an intense campaign, marked by academic study, political lobbying and anti-defamation work has demanded recognition and respect for gays and lesbians.

Much has changed; much has stayed the same.

When Gallup began polling Americans in the 1970s about their views on gays and lesbians, 43 percent agreed that “homosexual sex should be legal.” As of Gallup’s 2008 poll, 57 percent agreed that gay sex should be legal.

That’s an improvement, but I would have expected more after 40 years of work for gay rights.

What doesn’t seem to be improving is polarization. “Homosexuality emerges as the most divisive of 16 major social and cultural issues,” Gallup says. More Americans agree about abortion and doctor-assisted suicide than gay rights.

One possible source of this continued divisiveness: Gays and lesbians are still written out of the official record of life in the United States, the constitutionally mandated, once a decade census.

The 2000 census did count households with unmarried same-sex couples. But it did not count single gay people, and the Census Bureau says it has no plans to count married same-sex couples in Massachusetts, California and Connecticut in the 2010 census.

Even still, the 2000 census succeeded in challenging some stereotypes about gay and lesbian life in the United States. Did you know that the largest number of same-sex couples with children lives in Mississippi? And did you know that gay men make less than straight men, on average?

Such information challenges misperceptions that gay men are largely wealthy, or that most same-sex couples with children live in accepting places like San Francisco. These stereotypes wrongly suggest that gays and lesbians don’t need protections of their rights because they are already protected or already powerful.

Facts refute other stereotypes just as well. Not until this year could a study based on civil unions in Vermont prove that legal status renders gay couples as stable and happy as heterosexual couples. This study concretely refutes the idea that same-sex relationships are pathological, says Esther Rothblum, Ph.D., one of its authors.

We need more solid data like this, and the best way to obtain it is for the Census Bureau to stop erasing gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people.

Surely we can agree at least that all U.S. citizens, gay or not, should be equally counted.

Marriage Equality in Peril


‘Prayer warriors’ battle to pass state referendums banning gays and lesbians from marrying.

By John Ireland for In These Times magazine

Chuck Colson, evangelical powerbroker and founder of Prison Fellow Ministries, called the coming battle over marriage equality, ‘the Armageddon of the culture war.’

If the Religious Right seemed suspiciously quiet recently in the fight against same-sex marriage — get ready for a battle royale.

Conservative groups like Focus on the Family and the American Family Association put up a relatively weak fight when Massachusetts established same-sex marriage rights. Even San Francisco’s attempt at marriage equality in 2004 yielded mostly tame and disjointed protests.

But now that the California Supreme Court has ruled that barring same-sex couples from marriage is unconstitutional, the Religious Right’s top brass is galvanizing its funding base. It has reportedly summoned vast armies of “prayer warriors” to win the battle once and for all.

Groups from across the country are spearheading efforts in Arizona, California and Florida to amend those state constitutions to permanently restrict civil marriage to opposite-sex couples.

California’s Proposition 8 — a referendum on November’s ballot — would add the following language to its state constitution: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” A Field Poll released in July found that, by a 51 percent-to-42 percent margin, California voters opposed the proposition, with the greatest opposition coming from voters under 30.

Arizona’s Proposition 102 states, “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state.” A February poll taken by Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication found that 49 percent of residents would vote in favor of a marriage amendment if it didn’t affect domestic partner benefits. Residents who said they’d vote against it accounted for 40 percent, while 11 percent said they were undecided. A majority vote is needed to approve the measure.

Meanwhile, Florida’s Amendment 2 would insert the following language: “Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.” A June 3 Quinnipiac University poll found that 58 percent of Florida voters would support the proposition while 37 percent would oppose it. The amendment needs the approval of 60 percent of voters to become part of the state constitution.

The Religious Right is using these last months leading up to the election to amplify the debate nationally.

Story continues HERE

Friday, October 17, 2008

Pennsylvania State Police Won't Document LGBT Contacts



by Timothy Cwiek for the Philadelphia Gay News

One evening in May, William M. Granatt was driving to Center City to socialize at a gay bar when a state police trooper stopped him on Vine Street near 15th for allegedly swerving on the Schuylkill Expressway.

Granatt, 56, a resident of Bala Cynwyd, denies swerving, and insists he consumed no alcohol that night.

Nevertheless, he said, Trooper Christopher O’Brien cited him for swerving, arrested him on suspicion of drunk driving, and had his car impounded.

Upon the recommendation of O’Brien, local authorities charged Granatt with driving under the influence of alcohol — even though a breathalyzer test wasn’t administered, and prior to the completion of Granatt’s blood-alcohol test results.

Granatt was required to spend 12 hours in a holding cell at the Police Administration Building, then released on his own recognizance — but not before being ordered to appear in court for future proceedings.

In July, a trial commissioner withdrew the DUI charge due to lack of evidence. Later that summer, Granatt’s traffic citation also was dismissed.

Granatt, a school teacher, feels vindicated by the court victories. “I was never arrested before in my life,” he said.

In his opinion, he was “profiled” as a criminal by O’Brien due to his sexual orientation. He says materials inside his vehicle, along with other identifying characteristics, conveyed his sexual orientation to the trooper.

O’Brien declined to comment for this story.

Whether Granatt’s story is isolated, or part of a larger pattern, is difficult to ascertain — partly because state police officials do not document their trooper-initiated contacts with LGBT citizens.

State police officials generate about 300,000 citizen-contact forms each year, documenting trooper-initiated motorist stops on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, age and ZIP code.

Subcategories for ethnicity include white, black, Native American, Asian Pacific Islander, White Hispanic, Black Hispanic, Middle Eastern and Unknown.

Methods of gathering information include relying on the perceptions of the trooper, utilizing information yielded from a driver’s license or receiving information volunteered by the citizen.

Jack Lewis, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania State Police, said the agency has no plans to add categories for sexual orientation or gender identity on the contact forms.

“We don’t feel it’s necessary,” Lewis said. “There’s no reason for it.”

He acknowledged there’s no law preventing the agency from adding the categories.

“The categories ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ could be added to the Pennsylvania State Police citizen-contact forms, but the department does not believe that would be beneficial and could result in legal action against the department,” Lewis said.

He didn’t elaborate on the potential legal action that’s feared by state police officials.

Kathleen R. Padilla, a transgender activist, disagrees with Lewis. She believes it’s only fair to add categories that would cover the LGBT communities.

“If the purpose is to get documentation on how different groups are being treated by the authorities, then why not add these groups?” Padilla said. “To do otherwise gives the impression that this type of discrimination is unimportant to them. They appear to be sweeping the problem under the rug.”

The citizen-contact forms are anonymous, and individual forms aren’t released to the public. Aggregate information from the forms is made public in an analysis that’s done by the state police to determine whether troopers are “profiling” certain groups for disparate treatment.

Even with these layers of confidentiality, Padilla said she realized that some LGBT citizens may choose to withhold personal information from the forms.

But she said the withholding of personal information might be occurring within the existing categories as well.

“Adding ‘gender identity’ and ‘sexual orientation’ won’t capture all of the people with those characteristics,” Padilla continued. “But at least these groups will be treated equally in the process.”

She also rejected the argument that adding the categories might prompt a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania State Police.

“Couldn’t that argument be used against the whole concept of documenting racial profiling — that it shouldn’t be done because it might result in a lawsuit?” Padilla posed.

Lewis pointed out that troopers receive ongoing training against biased-based policing.

“Training regarding biased-based policing is provided to state police cadets while they are in the State Police Academy, and through yearly required training programs for all troopers,” Lewis said. “Rules regarding biased-based policing are part of state police regulations that all troopers are required to follow. In addition, each trooper must swear to ‘obey the law and to enforce it without any consideration of class, color, creed or condition.’”

Lewis also emphasized that Granatt has the right to file a complaint with the State Policy Bureau of Integrity and Professional Standards if he believes his arrest was improper.

Granatt said he plans to file an internal complaint, but he’s also considering other legal options. “It was terrible how I was treated,” he said.

Obama Talks, McCain Balks


exclusive to Outonline Pittsburgh's Out Newspaper

by Mark Segal


Gay History Project

In this election season, the Gay History Project attempted to bring you the views of both the Democratic and Republican candidates for president—just as we attempted to bring you the views of the top two candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination for the spring primary. The format for both candidates was to be the same: the same questions, with no follow-up questions, and the same time limit.

Since April, we have repeatedly reached out to Republican Sen. John McCain's press representative Jill Hazelbaker by phone, letter and e-mail.

Once it became clear that McCain would not participate, Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign put no conditions on the interview.

Obama spoke to Mark Segal by phone Aug. 16; an audio version of the interview will be posted at Philadelphia Gay News. In his first interview with gay press since he officially took the Democratic nomination, here’s what Obama had to say.

Out: You are the most LGBT-friendly candidate running for president in history. Are you concerned that John McCain and the Republicans might use this as a divisive issue as they did in 2004?

Barack Obama: No. I think they can try but I don’t think it will work for a couple of reasons. Number one, I think that the American peoples’ attitudes with respect to LGBT issues are continuing to evolve. I think people are becoming more and more aware of the need to treat all people equally regardless of sexual orientation. There are some people who disagree with that, but frankly those folks—and many of them—probably have already made their minds up about this election earlier.

You’ve talked about your many gay friends. Would you and Michelle be comfortable attending their commitment ceremony?

We would. But I’ll be honest with you that, these days, I can’t go anywhere.

The current President Bush has used signing orders to change military rules and regulations. If White House counsel advised you that you could end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by attaching a signing order to a military appropriations bill, would you?

I would not do it that way. The reason is because I want to make sure that when we revert “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” it’s gone through a process and we’ve built a consensus or at least a clarity of that, of what my expectations are, so that it works.

My first obligation as the president is to make sure that I keep the American people safe and that our military is functioning effectively. Although I have consistently said I would repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” I believe that the way to do it is make sure that we are working through a process, getting the Joint Chiefs of Staff clear in terms of what our priorities are going to be. That’s how we were able to integrate the armed services to get women more actively involved in the armed services. At some point, you’ve got to make a decision that that’s the right thing to do, but you always want to make sure that you are doing it in a way that maintains our core mission in our military.

Many lawyers contend that the Defense of Marriage Act passed by Congress is unconstitutional. It takes away over 1,100 rights, including IRS joint filings. If a suit is filed in federal court, would you expect or instruct your attorney general to join in that suit with an amicus brief questioning its legality?

I would want to review carefully any lawsuit that was filed. This is probably my carryover from being a constitutional lawyer. Here’s where I can tell you [what] my principle is: DOMA was an unnecessary encroachment by the federal government in an area traditionally reserved for the state. I think that it was primarily sent as a message to score political points instead of work through these difficult issues. I recognize why it was done. I’m sympathetic to the political pressures involved, but I think that we need to bring it to a close and my preference would be to work through a legislative solution.

I would also point out that if it’s going before this court, I’m not sure what chances it would have to be overturned. I think we’re going to have to take a different approach, but I am absolutely committed to the concept it is not necessary.

In last year’s [Gay] History Project, Elaine Noble, who was one of the first elected [gay] officials in the country, referring to her discussions with Harvey Milk, said “I think we both knew that one of us was going to die.” Milk, of course, was killed. As the first African-American president, have you and Michelle discussed this?

We don’t spend time worrying about security issues. We have Secret Service protection, which is the best in the world. Obviously we take precautions and listen to them, but what I spend the day thinking about is how do I get my message out that we need to change this country to make it more just and more fair, to make sure the economy is growing on behalf of middle-class Americans, make sure kids can go to college and bringing this war in Iraq to an end. That’s what I spend my time thinking about.

In the wake of the torture murder of Matthew Shepard [in 1998], Sen. McCain voted against adding sexual orientation to the definition of hate crimes and says he’ll vote against it again. Isn’t this inconsistent for a man who knows torture?

You’ll have to ask Sen. McCain that. Here’s what I can say. There is no doubt that hate crimes based on sexual orientation are all too prevalent. It is something that we have to hit back hard against and identify these vicious crimes for what they are: hate crimes. This is something that I believe in and will continue to believe in when I am president.

President Reagan, President Bush and President Clinton, when meeting world leaders, have raised human-rights questions. Amnesty International has documented countries that imprison, torture and kill gay men, some of which are very close U.S. allies. Would you be willing to raise that question when meeting with those leaders?

I think that the treatment of gays, lesbians and transgender persons is part of this broader human-rights discussion. I think it is not acceptable that we would in any way carve out exceptions for our broader human-rights advocacy to exclude violations of human rights based on sexual orientation. I think that has to be part and parcel of any conversations we have about human rights.

Mark Segal is publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News. He can be reached at mark@epgn.com.

Discrimination in Pennsylvania


from the Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondent blog:

There's something brewing in the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals and it is important for every LGBTQ person to pay attention.

Brian Prowel is appealing a federal district decision stating that the discrimination he experienced in his workplace was due to sexual orientation which is not a federally protected class.

Prowel and his attorney argue that the discrimination was based on his sex. In essence, Prowell did not act like a man and was subjected to gender stereotyping which should be covered by Title VII, the federal law that prohibits such discrimination. From the Post-Gazette:

Brian Prowel is effeminate. He crosses his legs and swings his foot. He files his nails if one has a snag. He has a high-pitched voice.

He is also gay. He has a rainbow decal on his car and he talked about the men he was dating at work.

On Feb. 23, 2006, Mr. Prowel filed a federal lawsuit against his former employer, Wise Business Forms Inc. in Butler County, alleging sex discrimination.

He argued that he was discriminated against because he did not live up to his co-workers' stereotypes of how a man should look and act.

It seems that whether you are gay or straight, if you don't conform to gender expectations you can be harassed in the workplace. If the decision stands, you have no recourse. There are many heterosexual men and women who do not behave or dress consistently with gender expectations. In essence, a woman working in a non-traditional environment could be fired for acting too much like a man.

Ledcat thinks this "could be a disaster" because an employer could use your dress, your words, your actions against you if they don't meet her or his expectations. All they would have to do is be sure to call you a dyke or a fag to cover their trail. Bam. Women are locked out of workplaces where we are already struggling to gain a foothold.

Sue Frietsche of the Women's Law Project wrote a friend of the court brief:

"Simply stated, employers cannot immunize themselves against sex discrimination claims by hiding behind their anti-gay or anti-lesbian prejudice,"

What's important to note is that no one is denying the Mr. Prowel was the victim of discrimination based on his sexual orientation. Rather, they argue that the discrimination was intertwined with that based on his sex. They may have perceived him as being gay, but that perception is based on his acting too effeminate.

This is super important. If you live outside of Pittsburgh, this could impact you in your workplace. Legislation is pending before Allegheny County Council that would extend workplace protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender presentation. Dan Frankel and his allies have been working on the state level for the same thing, in vain this year.

This court decision could set us all back, especially women. It is important that we push for the legislation on the local and state levels. It is important that the federal government pass ENDA legislation that includes gender identity and gender presentation.

It is also important that we support organizations like the Women's Law Project who are on the front lines watching out for us.

For information about legal services for the LGBT community in Pennsylvania visit Equality Advocates.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

So You Want to Fight for Equality? Speak Out!


We are living in a time like no other for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) Americans. Never have the stakes been so high and never have the opportunities for real change been within our reach.

The current generation is smart, driven and dynamic - and, straight or gay, they are more accepting of difference, and GLBT people in particular, than any generation before them. There is a wonderful world ahead if only we can outlive the bias, ignorance and prejudice that have riddled our nation for decades.

But wait it out? No way! There are many things you can do right now that would have MAJOR IMPACT in helping to eradicate the vestiges of bias in your community, your state, your Congress and your country.

Check out the ACTION GUIDE for GLBT EQUALITY for more info.